SB-100 California Renewables Portfolio Standard Program: emissions of greenhouse gases, also known as “The 100 Percent Clean Energy Act of 2017,” is an ambitious climate plan set forth by Senate President Kevin de León which was approved 25-13 in the California State Senate in May, but was delayed for final vote until 2018. The proposed plan “would set limits on California’s electrical grid hydrocarbon consumption and aim to gradually increase renewable energy consumption in the coming decades. It would set in place a goal to produce 60% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% renewable energy by 2045 within California’s electricity grid.” The bill would “accelerate the state’s primary renewable energy program—the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS)” which aims to reduce fossil fuel reliance and improve air quality by directing the “Public Utilities Commission, State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission, and State Air Resources Board” to plan for 100% generation of electricity to come from eligible renewable energy sources and amends the Public Utilities Code. This bill would radically restructure California’s economy and alter its energy consumption practices and has comes at an important time when the Trump administration is aggressively rolling back environmental protections. Given that California is the world’s sixth largest economy, it serves as a “model for its ambitious environmental policy” not only in the United States, but globally.
The primary point of disagreement within the California Senate is between the proponents of the bill arguing that it reduces emissions and benefits the environment versus opponents of the bill arguing it costs jobs, increases electricity prices, and results in a less reliable grid. After the Senate passed the bill, de León championed the necessity of this bill. He said: “When it comes to our clean air and climate change, we are not backing down. Today, we passed the most ambitious target in the world to expand clean energy and put Californians to work. Now more than ever, it is critical that we double down on climate leadership as we learn that the President intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement. Regardless of what Washington does, California will show the way forward. We are sending a clear message to the rest of the world that no president, no matter how desperately the try to ignore reality, can halt our progress.” Kathryn Phillips, Sierra Club California Director, claims that “Senate Bill 100 reflects not only our state’s commitment to reduce climate and air pollution, it builds on our ingenuity and the strength of our workforce.” While opposition to renewable energy writ large comes primarily from the federal level, the largest wall of opposition to this bill in California was composed of the “state’s massive, publicly owned utilities and from a labor union representing electrical workers in Northern California.” The unions opposed the bill because the bill did not adequately “protect union jobs” and could result in a “less-reliable, less-regulated electricity grid.” Major public utilities companies like Pacific Gas & Electric Company and Southern California Edison wrote in a “joint letter that the bill did not do enough to protect consumers, should the use of non-fossil fuels lead to higher electric rates.” Darren Bouton, the SCE’s director of state public affairs, wrote in a letter to de León that a 100% RPS target “could have a significant negative impact on system reliability and customer bills.”
I believe that the California State Senate should pass Senate Bill 100 and strive towards eliminating emissions from the electricity sector as soon as possible. It should join Hawaii as one of the only states with a zero emissions goal. While logistical challenges and objections remain, SB100 will, as a whole, benefit the climate and the economy of California and the United States.