California Debates Going ‘Carbon Neutral’ As Grid Worries Mount

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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California lawmakers are considering a slate of clean energy bills, but passage could further agitate an energy crisis already brewing in the deep blue state.

Three different energy bills failed to pass the California state legislature in 2017. A bill requiring California power to become carbon neutral by 2045, a different bill to regionalize the state’s grid system and another bill that would have established a longterm funding program for energy storage were all stalled during the 2017 legislative session.

However, all three bills have been placed back on the hearing agenda in June, and there is increasing likelihood that they could be turned into law as previous opposition wanes and outgoing Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown looks to cement his climate legacy.

Democratic Sen. Kevin de León is pushing SB 100, legislation that calls for the state’s renewable energy portfolio to reach 60 percent by 2030 and requires that all electricity originate from renewable sources by 2045. Notably, León is also running a progressive campaign to unseat longtime Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, earning him accolades among environmentalists and liberal activists. León’s bill has also earned the support of Brown.

While opposition groups — such as utility workers’ unions — typically seek to stymie green energy measures that threaten their jobs, considerable opposition to the bill has yet to foment in 2018. SB 100 is scheduled for a committee hearing on July 3.

“I’m cautiously optimistic — I think we have a shot of continuing California’s leadership on clean energy and working with all parties to make it happen,” said Dan Jacobson, the state director for Environment California, in a statement to GreenTech Media.

However, as these energy-related proposals make their way through the state legislature, concerns over grid reliability in California continue to mount. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the country’s grid reliability watchdog, warned that California is at potential risk of rolling blackouts during summer heat waves. NERC officials said in May that the state has “potential reliability concerns” stemming from “a resource shortfall or a diminishing resource surplus.”

California’s grid issues are largely due to shuttered power plants and a lack of energy storage. Adding to the problem, traditional utilities have been hesitant to sign long-term contracts as alternative energy distributors become increasingly popular among residents — creating uncertainty as to how many customers investor-owned utilities will have. (RELATED: REPORT: California, Texas Face Rolling Blackouts If Summer Heat Stresses The Grid)

If SB 100 bill is signed into law, California will follow Hawaii in setting a 100-percent carbon neutral standard by 2045. California, however, did make history by becoming the first state in the U.S. to mandate solar panels for every new home.

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