California legislature aims for 90% clean electricity by 2035 as part of sweeping climate package

Source: By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive • Posted: Monday, September 5, 2022

California state flag and state capitol building in SacramentoDustyPixel via Getty Images

Dive Brief:

  • California lawmakers passed a series of climate-related bills this week, including legislation that codifies the state’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality economywide by 2045 and a bill that sets a goal of 90% clean electricity by 2035.
  • The proposals will add a multibillion-dollar boost to California’s clean energy industry following federal investments from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act and last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, trade association Advanced Energy Economy noted in a statement.
  • The California legislature also approved SB 846, legislation that provides funding and authorization for the state to delay the retirement of its last nuclear plant, the 2.2-GW Diablo Canyon facility, by another five years.

Dive Insight:

Among the bills that passed through the California legislature this week were Assembly Bill 1279, which codified the state’s plan to reach economywide carbon neutrality by 2045, originally outlined by former Gov. Jerry Brown, D, in 2018. 

“This is a pretty extreme ask — but it’s an extreme ask to deal with extreme circumstances,” Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D, said during the Wednesday vote. 

In addition, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1020, which puts the state on the path to achieving 90% renewable energy and zero-carbon electricity by the end of 2035 and 95% by the end of 2040 as milestones to an eventual target of 100% by 2045. 

Separately, the legislature also passed SB 529 and SB 1174, which, according to American Clean Power’s California chapter, will streamline transmission upgrade approvals and reduce bottlenecks to bring new clean energy resources online. 

Clean energy groups hailed the legislative package.

“As California combats dangerous heat waves and the high energy costs that come with them, the need to modernize our electricity system has never been clearer,” Emilie Olson, AEE policy principal, said in a statement.

“This year’s budget deal invests in short- and long-term solutions to California’s energy challenges, like programs that save households money and quickly reduce stress to the power grid on our hottest days…” Olson added.

“We applaud our lawmakers for accelerating our path to 100% clean electricity, protecting communities from pollution from oil drilling, and making a major investment in clean cars, trucks and buses,” Laura Deehan, state director of Environment California, said in a statement. 

Meanwhile, the legislature also approved SB 846, a bill reflecting a proposal from the Newsom administration to extend the life of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant’s two units through the end of the decade. The proposal prompted strong reactions from California stakeholders: While policymakers say the state needs the 2.2-GW facility to ensure grid reliability, ratepayer advocates and other groups have raised concerns about the proposal. 

Sen. Bill Dodd, D, told other lawmakers during the early morning vote Thursday that the bill is “an essential tool in the toolbox to prevent widespread rolling blackouts.” California’s current clean energy and storage capacity is not sufficient to backfill the energy production from the Diablo Canyon plant, he said.

“Scrambling to buy costly and dirty out-of-state power isn’t the answer,” Dodd added. 

Other lawmakers, however, questioned why the bill was brought to the floor at the last minute.

“I’m befuddled that we have a matter of such importance coming to us at this late hour, at this date,” Sen. Andreas Borgeas, R, said.