The two clean energy bills that could take California’s climate action to the next level

Lawmakers recently addressed many critical issues for California: the housing shortage, parks bond, and early on in this year’s legislative session, climate change.

We urge Governor Brown to sign the important pieces of clean energy legislation that made it to his desk, including AB 1239 to support electric vehicle charging and AB 523 to protect clean energy funding for disadvantaged communities).

We are thrilled about three recent enactments: AB 1400 disallows Energy Commission funding of diesel generators in microgrids, and SB 242 and AB 1284, which standardize best practice guidelines for third parties administering Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) projects that finance energy efficiency upgrades or renewables installation for homes and businesses.

However, we can’t help but note that the biggest issues in electricity were left on the table to be further developed and voted on this fall and in 2018: SB 100, and AB 813. This extra time will give us the full, transparent, and deliberate legislative process that stakeholders were looking for in the last few weeks of session. So, what would these bills do?

Two important clean energy bills

  • SB 100, authored by Sen. Kevin de León, would have increased the state’s current Renewable Portfolio Standard (the amount of electricity utilities have to provide with renewables) from 50 percent to 60 percent by 2030 and created a 100 percent renewables and zero-carbon electricity policy target for 2045. Updating this policy is important because the state is well ahead of meeting its current goal of 50 percent renewables by 2030, with the major utilities on target to reach an average of 43 percent by 2020. If we don’t raise the target, it could lead to a slowdown in clean energy development and the sector’s associated jobs.
  • AB 813, authored by Assemblymember Chris Holden, was introduced very late in the legislative session and would have integrated our electric grid with other states. With more legislative deliberation, an integrated Western energy grid can help California meet existing and future clean energy goals by creating a broader footprint in which California utilities could easily trade electricity with their counterparts in other western states with high levels of renewables. California has a considerable amount of solar power, largely only available when the sun is shining. When the sun sets, electricity has to come from somewhere else – and just as California could sell its excess solar to other states, these states can help fill in the gaps for California. In doing so, California can help its nearby neighbors meet their climate and clean energy goals at a lower cost, while saving money for its citizens.

These policies would not only help secure California’s position as the North Star of policies that promote clean energy and policies that combat climate change, but would directly help the people of California, as well.

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Increasing clean energy goals brings major benefits

Pursuing large, ambitious clean energy policies could continue to benefit the Golden State in the following ways: 

California’s clean energy targets have fostered billions of dollars of economic activity in our state.

  • Keeping our energy system affordable by taking steps to better integrate renewables, like connecting the Western grid. Californians pay less for electricity each month compared to people in all but seven other U.S. states, but our monthly bills matter to us. So, to keep costs low, SB 100 includes language to prevent unreasonable bill impacts. Renewables are already cost-competitive with fossil-fuel energy resources, and because their fuels come from the wind and the sun, their prices don’t go up and down, avoiding the price spikes associated with fossil fuels. But how they are built into the grid influences how they affect our costs. This is why connecting our grid with utilities in nearby states is so important. In combination with solutions like demand response and energy storage, sharing energy with our neighbors can help us bring more renewables online at a lower cost.
  • Clean energy creates jobs. While organized labor opposed SB 100 very late in the legislative session, they had been supportive during the rest of year for a good reason. California’s clean energy targets have fostered billions of dollars of economic activity in our state, and hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs. Now is not the time to give up on defining the next step of this policy, but instead, to keep working towards strong clean energy legislation that creates good, clean jobs and elevates our economy.
  • Cleaner air for Californians. Renewables help to reduce pollution, even as they create jobs. Moving to an electric grid that relies on higher amounts of renewable resources, that are integrated well, will reduce harmful fossil-fuel pollution in California. As we move forward on these polices, we need to ensure local job benefits and that emissions from fossil fuel power plants go down swiftly in California’s pollution hotspots.

Fortunately, we are entering the second year of a two-year legislative session, and have another year to set a high target for clean energy. There are vital issues to work out amongst stakeholders, and we should focus on finding solutions, something embedded in Environmental Defense Fund’s DNA. Empowered by those solutions, California will once again rise as a clean energy leader.

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One Comment

  1. Bob Meinetz
    Posted October 12, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Lauren, no doubt residents of Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, and now Santa Rosa, CA are starting to understand, after more than half a century, the failure of solar panels and wind turbines to replace coal and natural gas can have real (and local) impacts:

    “It’s very clear that the increasingly hot summers are the product of climate change,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “And it’s clear that human influence has an impact on the climate system in the American West and more broadly. That increases the risk of fire and the overall acreage burned when we get these conditions.”

    Now that Santa Rosa looks more like Hiro-shima than Fuku-shima, maybe Jerry Brown will be induced to reconsider closing Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.