Jason Hopkins on September 10, 2018
California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday that mandates the state obtain 100 percent of its electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2045, marking a major win for the environmental movement.
“California is committed to doing whatever is necessary to meet the existential threat of climate change,” Brown stated as he signed the bill, SB 100, into law. “This bill, and others I will sign this week, help us go in that direction. But have no illusions, California and the rest of the world have miles to go before we achieve zero-carbon emissions.”
Brown’s signature came only days after the California State Legislature passed the zero-carbon mandate by wide margins in late August.
The bill is a major step up from California’s previous energy standard — which targeted 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. California must obtain 60 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 under SB 100’s guidelines. The state’s electricity generation must then be completely carbon free by 2045. Much of the 2045 mandate will rely on renewable energy, such as wind and solar. However, it also encompasses other zero-carbon sources such as nuclear and hydro.
“In California, Democrats and Republicans know climate change is real, it’s affecting our lives right now, and unless we take action immediately – it may become irreversible,” Democratic state Sen. Kevin de León, the author of the bill, said at the signing ceremony. “Today, with Governor Brown’s support, California sent a message to the rest of the world that we are taking the future into our own hands; refusing to be the victims of its uncertainty.”
California’s new mandate is an unprecedented move in the country toward renewable energy.
Hawaii has already passed similar legislation. The lowly populated group of islands sits thousands of miles away from the U.S. mainland and already pays higher than average rates for electricity. California, on the other hand, is the fifth largest economy in the world and maintains a population of 40 million, many of whom currently depend on fossil fuels on a daily basis. Environmentalists hope California will serve as an example for other state governments on how to transition away from coal, oil and natural gas.
However, opponents argue that the mandate will lead to higher electricity bills, hurting low-income earners the most. Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric, Sempra Energy, the Western States Petroleum Association and the California Chamber of Commerce were some of the major groups that stand opposed to the legislation.
Natural gas currently makes up about a third of the state’s electricity — meaning such a dramatic transition won’t be easy.
In order to meet its target, California would have to install over 200 times as much energy storage capacity, batteries, than the state currently has to make up for the loss of gas plants, according to an analysis by the Clean Air Task Force. The entire mandate signed by Brown hinges on the assumption that battery costs will plummet.
Nuclear energy makes up nine percent of the state’s electricity. However, California’s only nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, will close by 2025.
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