Moment of truth arrives for California legislators as clean energy bills clear final amendment hurdles

By Tim O'Connor and Lauren Navarro

The California legislative session closes this Friday, and two important pieces of clean energy and climate legislation (AB 813 and SB 100) hang in the balance.

After months of negotiations and amendments, AB 813 is in the California Senate and is ready for Senate President pro Temp Toni Atkins to assign it to a vote. SB 100 has already passed the Senate and is being considered in the Assembly. Lawmakers should pass both and supercharge the region’s clean energy efforts.

One of the biggest reliability and air quality initiatives in the West, AB 813 would create a regional electric grid and empower Western states to buy and sell more clean energy with each other. That would be good for clean energy efforts in each state, but it would be particularly helpful in California, where we could export our excess clean energy instead of wasting (or curtailing) it. As a result, the region would rely less on local fossil fuel plants to power homes and businesses.

With recent amendments – the current version of AB 813 has taken final form – demonstrating a commitment to address key concerns raised by legislators and interest groups.

Changes made by the bill author Chris Holden’s office include adding a 270 day waiting period before a framework to regionalize can go into effect. The bill also includes a clear right to withdraw for any California utility, and protections against federal government overreach. As a result, those following the bill who may have worried about California going down a one-way road with no ability to make a U-turn if needed, should feel secure in the state’s ability to protect and serve California ratepayers and energy companies.

In tandem with the state’s effort to regionalize the energy grid, California is also pursuing SB 100 to put the state on a path toward 100 percent clean energy by increasing the renewable portfolio standard and establishing a new 100 percent clean energy policy for California.

With these two bills comes a gut-check for state leadership: will they create an integrated electric grid with other states in pursuit of a 100 percent clean energy goal, or will we let the Trump administration set the agenda for our nation as it cancels the Clean Power Plan and replaces it with a sham plan to support the coal industry?

California’s legislative leadership regularly stands up for clean energy and the environment, and the two-bill package represented by AB 813 and SB 100 is one of the biggest opportunities to come around in years. With final forms of both bills in print – and hours until the final gavel in Governor Brown’s administration – now is our opportunity to chart our own energy future.

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