By Robert Perry
California lawmakers passed critical environmental legislation last week, burnishing the state’s reputation as a progressive leader in the fight against climate change and shining a spotlight on the federal administration’s disdain for climate science.
Here’s what will be waiting for Gov. Brown’s signature:
SB100 – The Big Kahuna: SB100 sets California on a path to a 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. While this move is sure to expand the output of the world’s fifth largest economy, reaching the 100 percent renewable target won’t be an easy undertaking. The complexity of this challenge ultimately led to the defeat of AB813, which would have established a multi-state regional grid, and there are many ongoing debates concerning this objective.
SB901 – Managing California’s Greatest Climate Change Threat: Largely a result of utility lobbying efforts to limit liability for wildfires, this bill also (i) creates timber management plans and resilience programs, (ii) requires landowners to maintain and improve forest health on lands subject to conservation easements, (iii) expands fire safety regulations, and most importantly (v) incentivizes fuel reduction practices and the harvesting of dead timber (of particular interest to me). My only criticism is the absence of a provision that addresses the need for the removal of 129 million dead trees!
The cost? Under the bill, the Public Utilities Commission is authorized to allow for “just and reasonable” causes for cost recovery by utilities for damages from future wildfires. Although utility companies are required to maintain areas in and around power lines, this means we as ratepayers, are more likely to be on the hook for future costs of wildfire damage, starting in 2019.
SB1339 – Incentivizing Microgrid Development as the New Energy Paradigm: This one is a huge advance in the fight-for-distributed-energy by advocates like the Academy and Clean Coalition. The bill requires the development of rates and tariffs to support microgrids, streamlined interconnection and service standards, and cost reduction practices – all in support of microgrid deployment.
I can’t overstate the critical importance of this bill. California has been holding scores of meetings, conferences, and workshops on integrating distributed energy into our infrastructure, and this bill is the green light that could lead to a tsunami of investment by the private sector.
AB2127 and AB2061 – Adding Transportation to the Climate Change Equation: California must electrify the transportation sector in order to truly claim 100 percent renewable energy status, which now accounts for 41% of all GHG emissions. AB 2127 requires the California Energy Commission to assess and implement the EV infrastructure needed to deploy five million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the roads, and reduce GHG emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Of particular interest is an annual allocation of $20 million to construct hydrogen fueling stations to bring the total to 100, which should allow any FCEV driver to traverse most of the state without encountering “range anxiety.”
These bills facilitate California’s progress towards the audacious 100 percent renewable energy goal, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. Governor Brown must still sign these bills into law, and he must be urged by the public to secure his legacy as one of the greatest U.S. leaders who never occupied the Oval Office.
As a grid regionalization champion, he is understandably disappointed that AB813 failed to reach his desk. It is a complex and nuanced issue, and the truth is that we will need to utilize all forms of renewable energy technologies to reach the 100 percent mark by 2045. In the meantime, we need to commit to developing resources at home and find ways to integrate transmission delivery costs into the price of energy generated out of state.
As Justin Gillis of the New York Times noted, “California could well be the place where the electric grid of the future gets invented.” Of course, Mr. Gillis is right, but our diligence is required to get there. I think I speak for many of us when I say I’ll never forget what happened in 2016, the last time our collective consciousness took a nap.
Urgent Action Needed: Please Contact Governor Brown to Sign These Bills into Law!
Please deliver a message to Governor Brown by clicking this link and urging him to do the right thing by helping this country lead the charge to solve the greatest environmental crisis humanity has ever faced. There’s still time to turn back climate change, but we have to act quickly and work together to achieve our common goal.