While Trump is fueling climate change denial, slashing regulations, and threatening a withdrawal from the Paris Agreements, California is considering legislation that seeks to mitigate climate change by mandating a switch to 100% renewable energy within the next few decades. Upon introducing SB 100 in May, Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) told the Sacramento Bee “It’s like jiu jitsu…They [the federal government] go back, we go forward.”

Why set higher standards for our energy mix?

SB 100 sets a target of achieving 100% renewable and zero-carbon energy for California by the end of 2045, establishing new benchmark goals of generating 50% renewable energy by 2026 and 60% renewable energy by 2030. These interim goals accelerate the previous target enacted by SB 350, which mandates that California obtain 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.  

In introducing SB 100, de Leon was motivated by the ease with which investor-owned utilities were able to transition to meet the renewable energy the mandates put in place by SB 350. As de Leon explained, “I made a mistake with SB 350…I realized that the investor-owned utilities are going to hit 50 percent by the early-to-mid 2020s without breaking a sweat. So, we should accelerate this process and demonstrate to the entire world that we can actually generate 100 percent of our electricity with clean energy and put people to work.” De Leon’s optimism is reflected by a report put out by the California Energy Commission, which estimates that the state is actually “ahead of schedule for meeting the RPS (Renewables Portfolio Standard) requirements,” with 27% of its electricity coming from renewable sources in 2016.

How will more clean energy affect our economy?

Jobs are growing across the renewables energy sector, with solar leading the way. According to the nonprofit the Solar Foundation, the solar industry in America currently employs over a quarter of a million people, saw 25% growth in 2016, and added $84 billion to the nation’s GDP last year.  In fact, the solar industry has been able to add workers 17 times faster than industries that make up the rest of the national economy. As Andrea Luecke, executive director of the Solar Foundation, highlights “The solar industry currently has more (U.S.) workers than Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon combined.” According to a report released by the Department of Energy in January of this year, solar is currently employing more people nationally than coal or natural gas, and is the largest employer in the Electric Power Generation sector at 43%.

Over 100,000 Californians work in the solar industry, making California the state with the greatest number of solar jobs in the nation.  It is further estimated that if California were to transition to 100% renewable energy, over 450,000 jobs would be created in construction and operations from wind, water, and solar by 2050.

The switch to renewables could also benefit Californians by lowering the cost of energy and reducing health impacts from air pollution.  Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University engineering professor, has studied the effects of transitioning to clean energy and created the Solutions Project to outline his findings.  He found that if California made the switch to 100% renewable energy, the cost of electricity would decrease and the average person would save $161 annually by 2050. If the medical costs incurred by air pollution are accounted for, then California would save over $127 billion per year and approximately 12,500 fewer people would die each year.  Altogether, the energy, health, and climate cost savings in 2050 would be $7,395 per person each year.

Since California is home to over 39 million people and is the world’s 6th largest economy, transitioning to 100% renewable energy would be a particularly inspiring achievement.  If the Golden State can commit to this goal, it would show the rest of the country and the world that it is possible to create both a strong economy and a sustainable future.

What can you do?

  • SB 100 passed the Senate and moved to the Assembly on May 31.  Call your assemblymember and tell them to vote ‘yes’ on SB 100.  Let them know that climate change is an important issue to you.
  • SB 100 will be heard in the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee on July 5 (likely will pass). The bill will also be heard in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, hearing date not yet set.
  • Join 350 Bay Area’s clean energy campaign and help us work towards 100% clean energy.

Sources

“100% California.”  The Solutions Project.  http://thesolutionsproject.org/infographic/#ca.  Accessed 5/15/2017.   

“National Solar Jobs Census”  The Solar Foundation.  http://www.thesolarfoundation.org/national/.  Accessed 5/15/2017.  

“Renewable Energy Overview.”  California Energy Commission.  December 22 2016. http://www.energy.ca.gov/renewables/tracking_progress/documents/renewable.pdf.  Accessed 5/15/2017.  

“Solar Jobs Census — 2016 Economic Impact Analysis.”  The Solar Foundation.  http://www.thesolarfoundation.org/solar-jobs-census/economic-impacts-report-2016/.    Accessed 5/15/2017.

De Leon, Kevin. “SB 100 — California Renewable Portfolio Standard Program.”  Legislative Information.  May 17 2017. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB100.  Accessed 5/15/2017.

De Leon, Kevin. “SB 350 — Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015.”  Legislative Information.  September 11 2015.  https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB100.  Accessed 5/15/2017.

Johnson, Hans.  “California’s Population.”  Public Policy Institute of California.  March 2017. http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_show.asp?i=259.  Accessed 5/25/2017.

Kasler, Dave.  “Can state run on sun and wind alone?  California weighs aggressive climate change measures.” Sacramento Bee.  May 4 2017.  http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/environment/article148503269.html.  Accessed 5/15/2017

Luna, Taryn. “Green California may become even greener.”  Sacramento Bee.  May 2 2017. http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article147971884.html.  Accessed 5/15/2017.  

Roth, Sammy.  “California hits 100,000 solar jobs as industry grows at record pace.”  The Desert Sun.  February 7 2017. http://www.desertsun.com/story/tech/science/energy/2017/02/07/california-hits-100000-solar-jobs-industry-grows-record-pace/97448780/.  Accessed 5/15/2017.  

Vekshin, Alison.  “California overtakes France to become sixth-largest economy.”  Bloomberg.  June 14 2016. https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-06-14/california-overtakes-france-to-become-sixth-largest-economy. Accessed 5/25/2017.

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