California's bold new climate action law
Published on 16 Sep, 2018 by Michael Bishop
On September 10th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the most significant bill in the history of climate legislation. Senate Bill 100 (SB 100) requires that California have 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045.
True, California is only one of 50 states, and the U.S is only one of 195 countries. On the other hand, California is the world's 5th largest economy (after the U.S, China, Japan, and Germany).
The bill's signing coincided with the Global Climate Action Summit, held in San Francisco from September 12th to 14th. The summit was co-chaired by Governor Brown, and included over 200 high-profile speakers from around the world. Along with a formal commitment by 17 states and 400 cities, the summit was meant to signal to other countries that political leadership across the United States is "still in" the Paris Climate Agreement (which President Trump withdrew the United States from in June 2017).
On the same day that Governor Brown signed SB 100 into law, he also signed an executive order (B-55-18) that commits California to have a carbon-free economy by 2045. This is vastly more ambitious than SB 100 — SB 100 is specific to electricity, which accounts for only 16% of California's overall carbon emissions (transportion accounts for 40%). But unlike SB 100, the executive order isn't legally binding...it's more of a declaration of intention. Still, it makes for an extremely bold rallying cry.
Will California Really Have Carbon-Free Electricity by 2045?
We think so! The three major California utilities are already getting over a third of their electricity from renewable sources. And according to a recent report by the California Energy Commission, their cost for renewable energy is only half a cent higher than their cost for other energy sources (10.1¢ vs 10.05¢). And renewable energy keeps getting cheaper.
Some argue that 100% carbon free isn't feasible, because, unlike fossil-fuel sources and nuclear, solar energy and wind energy isn't reliable (and the sun never shines at night). Many believe that we'll hit serious turbulence once renewable energy makes up 60% of the overall energy mix. But proponents counter that we're in the early stages of an energy-storage revolution. Batteries (such as Tesla's popular residential Powerwall battery) make renewable energy much more reliable, because they can store renewable energy and control when it powers a home or business, or when it goes back to the grid. Following the same trajectory as solar energy, the cost of energy storage has come down dramatically in recent years.
Senate Bill 100 is good for the planet — Is it good for my wallet too?
Yup. This mandate is a call-to-action for California's technology community (California is sort of the geek capital of the world). Achieving 100% carbon-free electricity will require big new ideas and bold technology innovation. It intentionally keeps the route flexible to allow for "any creative, innovative technologies that have yet to be invented" (words of SB 100's author California Senator Kevin de León).
Whether or not you live in California, the better products and services that come out of this groundbreaking endeavour should make their way to you. This will help you take control and cut your electric bill. And perhaps cut your natural-gas heating bill by "electrifying" your home. And cut your car gas bill by swapping it out for an electric car. ...This will add up to big savings on your monthly expenses! (But solar energy is already a great investment for millions of Americans — start the conversation with a first-class installer in your area today.)