California Assembly Passes Carbon-Free Energy Bill

Jason Hopkins | Energy Investigator

Legislators in the California Assembly passed a zero-carbon bill on Tuesday, putting the state one step closer toward an unprecedented new mandate for emissions-free electricity.

By a vote of 44 to 33, lawmakers in the California State Assembly passed SB 100, a bill that calls for the state to transition to emissions-free electricity production in less than three decades. Under the guidelines of the legislation, California must obtain 60 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. The state’s electricity generation must be completely carbon free by 2045. (RELATED: California Lawmakers To Vote For Major Renewable Energy Shift)

Before heading to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, the California state Senate must pass the measure by Friday. Both the state Senate and Brown are expected to give their approval.

“This is a huge victory for the state of California,” exclaimed state Sen. Kevin de León, the bill’s author and a Democrat currently running for the U.S. Senate. “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.”

If passed and signed into law, California would be one of only two states that has established a 100 percent carbon free mandate, with the other being Hawaii. However, Hawaii’s mandate is different in that its standard relies solely on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Beyond reaching the 60 percent renewable threshold by 2030, the California bill leaves room for other carbon-free sources such as nuclear and hydropower.

The sheer size difference between California and Hawaii makes SB 100 more relevant to a national audience. As a small group of islands that lacks its own energy resources and sits thousands of miles away from the U.S. mainland, distributed energy makes more sense for Hawaii. The implementation of clean energy legislation in the world’s fifth largest economy, on the other hand, will serve much more as a barometer for lawmakers elsewhere.

Not everyone in California is supportive of the bill. Many lawmakers questioned how such a sweeping energy mandate will affect the cost of living in California, a state where the cost of living is already well above national average.

“Why would this body come out now and further increase costs on struggling California families?” Steven Choi, a Republican assemblyman, said about the bill. Choi was joined by a number of Republicans — and Democrats — who voted against the bill chiefly for economic reasons. Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray called the measure “discriminatory” to the poor communities he represents.

Brown has refused to answer whether or not he will sign the bill into law, however, it is widely assumed that he will. The outgoing California governor has been a huge proponent of climate change legislation during his time in office, and there is speculation that he will sign it ahead of the Global Climate Summit Action conference he is due to host in September.

California made history in May when state regulators enacted a sweeping solar panel rule, becoming the first state to require nearly every new home to include solar panel installation. That mandate is set to go into effect in January 2020.

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