As California released its fourth Climate Change Assessment, which predicts two-thirds less water from snowpack, more intense wildfires, a loss of at least one-third of the state’s beaches from erosion caused by sea-level rise, the inundation of at least $18 billion in commercial buildings, and a tripling of deaths from heat waves, among other impacts, the State Assembly passed a landmark bill Tuesday setting a goal of getting 100 percent of the state’s retail electricity by 2045. Just 27 years away. Only one other state, Hawai’i, has set such an ambitious goal for the near future. Combined with existing legislation—notably AB32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act passed in 2006—the transformation of the electricity sector would greatly reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Thanks to state Sen. Kevin De León and the relentless work of scores of climate activists, notably RL Miller—a long-time member of Daily Kos, founder of Climate Hawks, and chair of the California Democratic Environmental Caucus—the 100 Percent Clean Energy Act of 2018 (SB100) was approved by a vote of 43-32 in the heavily Democratic assembly.
De León said of the vote: “This is a huge victory for the state of California. It’s a victory for clean air. It’s a victory to tackle climate change and the devastation that it’s leaving in its wake.”
Despite that final total, the win was anything but a slam dunk. Although the majority of the opposition came from Republicans, 13 Democratic fence-straddlers held off voting for it. In the first tally Tuesday, the bill fell four short of passage. But De León, who is also running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, spent the afternoon working on those reluctant legislators, ultimately convincing enough of them to support the bill.
Miller, De León and other advocates had been determined not to let happen this year what happened in 2017 when the bill was defeated in the legislature by public utilities and a powerful northern California union citing costs and feasibility issues. Organizers enlisted activists ranging from barely old enough to vote college freshmen all the way to Al Gore to put the squeeze on legislators still reluctant to vote aye. The Climate Reality Project, Gore’s organization, is in Los Angeles this week, focusing on teaching some 2,200 people how to push for green policies on the local and federal levels. They got one quick-and-easy lesson when Gore urged them to call California legislators to spur a yes vote on SB100.
In a Friday letter to lawmakers Friday, Gore wrote: “I hope California will once again rise to the occasion and put the Golden State on a path to 100% clean energy by the middle of the century. This action will be seen around the world as a major step forward on our path toward a sustainable future.”
It wasn’t so long ago many naysayers argued that even getting to 20 percent renewables would be a struggle, and anything above that would destabilize California’s energy grid, cause retail electricity prices to soar, and otherwise put reliable electricity at risk in what would be the world’s 5th largest economy if California were a nation.
But in 2002, the state set the 20 percent goal for its Renewable Portfolio Standard, with a 2017 deadline. That was soon reset for achievement by 2010, and a renewables goal of 33 percent by 2020 was set in 2011. The state is expected to meet that goal a year ahead of schedule. In addition to the 2045 deadline, SB100 resets California’s goal of 50 percent renewables by 2030 to 60 percent.
A crucial matter is how to achieve the 100 percent goal while taking an activist stance on environmental justice. The transformation of our energy system must not be built on the backs of the poor and people of color who have suffered most from environmental hazards associated with the fossil fuel industries and gained the least so far from the spread of renewables. Dealing with these injustices ought not to be an add-on but an integral part of the transformation.
Gov. Jerry Brown has been noticeably quiet about the bill. But he’s widely expected to sign it. He may, however, seek to gain support from a bill on grid regionalization that many climate and energy activists, including Miller, don’t want to see passed.
Nobody is suggesting the path to all renewables will be a smooth one without hiccups. A key element of making this work is storing energy to fill the need for electricity during those times when the sun doesn’t shine and wind doesn’t blow. Storage in batteries or other means is expensive now, but costs are on a downward trajectory not unlike that of solar panels over the past decade. And while much of the state’s renewable energy will come from rooftop solar, distributive instead of centralized energy, the state’s creaky energy grid will need upgrading too for the 2045 goal to be achieved.
Nonetheless, fewer and fewer people are arguing that 100 percent can’t be done. The idea that this is a project of California loonies is falling by the wayside as scores of American cities—and cities around the world—set their own 100 percent goals and many state leaders from coast to coast are doing the same. California and Hawai’i will likely be the first in achieving these goals, but clearly not the last.
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“In reality, Republicans have long been at war with clean energy. They have ridiculed investments in solar and wind power, bashed energy-efficiency standards, attacked state moves to promote renewable energy and championed laws that would enshrine taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuels while stripping them from wind and solar.”
~~Jeff Goodell, "Mitt Romney's Disastrous Energy Plan," Rolling Stone, Sept. 14, 2012
TWEET OF THE DAY
BLAST FROM THE PAST
On this date at Daily Kos in 2008—Not “Yes We Can,” but rather We Have To:
As a highly partisan Dem who has been wishing and hoping and waiting for Obama to do what we in the blogosphere have been asking for for so long from our Dem leadership--draw a sharp contrast with the Republicans and bring the fight to them--I'm a satisfied customer tonight.
Barack Obama left behind some of the more squishy "post-partisan" rhetoric and did what he had to do--define McCain as Bush's third term. "Eight is enough" might be a slightly cheesy tag line, but it works. You'll remember it and you'll say "Yeah, eight IS enough," and we can't afford Republican rule any more.
This was the speech from someone who is ready to roll up his sleeves and get in the fight. Good show.
On today’s Kagro in the Morning show: Surprise! Kavanaugh's a legal Gimmetarian. Maybe Trump hates Bruce Ohr because he’s spent his career busting Russian mobsters. NЯA: Ban headphones! Recognizing Trump's "full-spectrum" corruption means recognizing where it came from, too.