Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that will see California obtain 100% of its electricity from renewable power sources by 2045. The bill which was signed on Monday has been regarded as a major environmental milestone for California.
This new law has not only put California on the map for addressing climate change, it has also committed the state’s economy, which is the fifth largest in the world, to a phase out of fossil fuels. As per the bill, renewable energy will account for up to 50% of the state’s electricity by 2026 and 60% by 2030. Its current level stands at 32%.
During the signing of the bill at a ceremony held at the State Capitol, Brown stated that implementing the bill would not be easy or immediate but was a move that has to be done. This action comes at a time when a majority of the world’s leaders and influential personalities are attending the Global Climate Action Summit that is being held in San Francisco. This summit is looking to come to an agreement with various corporations, nations and cities to bring down the level of global greenhouse emissions.
This new law is the latest step made by California against the Trump administration when it comes to environmental issues. The Trump administration has not only refused to acknowledge climate science, it has also begun steps of withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Agreement. It is also working towards expanding coal use, which is among the most polluting fuels.
Environmentalists have cheered the news saying that the new law will not only reduce smog but has also set a benchmark to be emulated by other states and countries.
Sierra Club California’s director, Kathryn Phillips, has said that the bill will ensure that every child born in California will reach adulthood in an environment free of smokestacks. She added that she was proud of being a Californian and is proud of everyone in the country who is actively fighting against climate pollution even without the federal government’s support.
Renewable energy trade associations are among the supporters of the bill as well as some of the state’s leading environmental groups among them the American Lung Association, the League of Women Voters and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Supportive business groups include Adobe, the Silicon Valley Leadership Council, Nike and Levi Strauss.
Opponents of the bill included utility giants such as Electric and Southern California Edison, the California Chamber of Commerce, and oil based organizations like the Western States Petroleum Association.
Critics say that the bill will bring higher electricity prices.
In the Assembly debate Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, said that though he state has been able to reach great goals with renewable energy, it has come at a price as families have experienced an increase in their annual electricity bills.
PG&E echoed that concern Monday saying that what the bill proposes was neither affordable nor sustainable. The utility added that customers have to be shielded from rate and bill impacts.
Opponents have noted that transportation generates 41% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than double the 16% that power plants produce.
The bill passed the state Assembly by a 44-33 vote, and the state Senate by 25-13. Almost all yes votes were from Democrats with Catharine Baker, R-San Ramon being the only Republican to vote yes. Prior to the final vote being taken, former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger registered his support.
He said that Californians should take a stand to show the world that they would not be deterred by those looking to stop their progress. He added that as a state California will continue progressing and that by passing the bill it will contribute to saving the climate and protecting the way of life.
Generally, Californians seem to be in favour of the bill. In a poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, 67% of likely voters were in support of the 100% clean energy measure while only 21% were opposing it.
This rule is the result of a 16 year movement which began when Gray Davis, the former Governor signed the initial “renewable portfolio standard” which required 20% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources. This target has been ratcheted up severally leading to the construction of bigger solar farms and extensive wind facilities.
With bigger projects and more efficient technologies, the cost of green energy has gone down. According to the California Public Utilities Commission, the period between 2008 and 2015 saw the price of solar energy drop by 77% and wind contracts by 47%.
Tom Steyer, businessman and former hedge fund manager, has said that the prices of wind and solar energy have fallen, and will continue to, to where they are more affordable than gas fired electricity mainly due to technological advances.
With renewable energy booming, California has seen a reduction in its gas emissions. As from 2004 the state has seen a 13% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions even as its economy has grown by 26%.
This new law has dealt with the main problem when it comes to renewable energy which is how to have a steady supply of electricity even when there isn’t a constant supply of wind power or solar energy. The bill goes further to state that 40% of the 100% total can be from carbon-free sources such as nuclear power and natural gas-fired plants as long as the producers will be able to capture and store the carbon underground. California currently only has one nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo County.
Steyer, however, has registered his uncertainties about whether nuclear power would be seeing a comeback as a result of the newly passed bill by California. He said that they not only have a real waste issue but also a safety issue as well as huge cost implications. He also stated that nuclear power would only work once the significant engineering challenges that it comes with have been worked out.