SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California took a step closer toward clean energy on Wednesday, after the state Senate passed a bill mandating 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
“When it comes to our clean air and climate change, we are not backing down.” Senate Leader Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said. “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.”
He added, “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 they try to ignore reality, can halt our progress.”
Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 100 with a 25-13 vote. The bill next heads to the Assembly.
What SB 100 means for the more than 30 gas-fired power plants in the state is not clear. In recent years, several gas-fired and nuclear plants have shut down due to lack of demand, while rates have risen as power companies attempt to recover the cost of building new generation facilities. According to the Los Angeles Times, Californians pay about 50 percent more than the rest of the nation to keep the lights on, even as supply has increased and the state has become more efficient.
Proponents believe these costs are temporary. Strela Cervas, co-director of the California Environmental Justice Alliance, said the measure will even help California’s poor.
“SB 100 will transition our state away from fossil fuels that have disproportionately impacted the most disadvantaged communities and communities of color,” Cervas said. “The bill charts a pathway for the public health and economic benefits of local renewable energy to reach communities that need it the most. CEJA applauds the leadership of President pro Tem de Leon and California to lead the nation in aggressive and equitable energy policies in a time when our national leaders are moving backwards on climate change and renewable energy.”
Currently, more than half a million Californians work in the clean-energy sector, 10 times more than coal power employs nationally. Many of these jobs relate to the construction of new facilities, primarily wind and solar – the two largest segments of clean-energy jobs in the United States.
“Increasing the requirements of California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard over the next 13 years will improve air quality, boost our economy and provide the necessary market signals for additional clean-energy investments in California,” said Laura Wisland, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“Today, our state is a world leader on clean energy investment and adoption. SB 100 would continue creating momentum for California to dramatically transition away from the use of fossil fuels and reduce the emissions that are warming our planet,” Wisland said.
While these sources of electricity do help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they are not without problems. California has vast deserts that see 300 days of sun annually, but many of the best locations are also home to the endangered California desert tortoise. Relocating these animals can be difficult, as they tend to stay within a small area their entire lives and will often die if moved. A recent solar project gained permits to build before the environmental study was completed, and independent auditors found 35 percent more tortoises existed there than the approved study declared.
Similarly, wind turbines wreak havoc on migratory and carrion birds, like the highly endangered California condor and the California golden eagle. National estimates find between 1.4 million and 44 million birds are killed each year by wind turbines. The death toll to bats, one of the best bug controllers for farmers, is likely in the tens of millions.
Hydroelectric facilities also create major environmental issues. Declining salmon populations due to has been a years-long issue that continues to elude solutions.
Despite the drawbacks, many major environmental organizations remain committed to increasing clean energy in California.
“Getting 100 percent renewable is 100 percent possible and 200 percent necessary,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. “SB 100 responds to what survey after survey shows that Californians want: clean energy, clean air and a future for the next generation.”
“We applaud Sen. De León’s vision of a rapid, steady transition from the dirty electricity that has been polluting our environment and our communities for far too long to clean, renewable electricity,” said Dan Jacobson, Environment California’s state director. “Environment California is committed to a 100 percent renewable-energy future and we support this bill 100 percent.”