California Could Pass Innovative Legislation on Key Climate, Energy and Transportation Issues

, Western states policy manager | May 16, 2018, 11:26 am EDT
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California has a well-earned reputation as a world leader in promoting clean energy and other solutions to climate change. However, as anyone paying attention to the climate crisis knows, we have far more work to do. Fortunately, the California Legislature is considering many bills in 2018 that would further address climate change. With three and half months until the Legislature adjourns for the year, UCS is working with lawmakers to make progress on a suite of policy prescriptions to promote renewable energy, clean transportation, and better preparedness for climate change impacts.

Create a clean electricity system

California has made great progress adding renewable energy to the grid. To meet our climate goals, we must continue our clean energy momentum and work to reduce reliance on natural gas power plants. This year UCS is working to:

  • Establish a goal of 100 percent clean energy. Achieving 100 percent clean energy is an ambitious goal we must reach for to create a cleaner and healthier future, and to continue California’s tremendous momentum advancing clean energy.
  • Establish standards for California electricity providers to join a western regional electricity grid. UCS is working to help pass AB 813 (Holden) to prepare the ground for a regional grid that would make it easier and more cost-effective to integrate renewable energy by sharing electricity generation across a larger area.
  • Reduce reliance on natural gas power plants. California needs to study the fleet of natural gas power plants to create a strategy to reduce the use of natural gas electricity generation in an orderly, cost-effective, and equitable manner. In addition, UCS is supporting work to limit the use of the dirtiest natural gas power plants at times and in locations with bad air quality.

Create a clean transportation system

For decades California has led the nation with policies to reduce pollution from vehicles and promote clean fuel and vehicle technologies. As our transportation system faces dramatic changes in coming years—electrification, car-sharing, automation—we must ensure these changes result in reduced emissions and other key objectives (such as safety and accessibility). In 2018, UCS is working to:

  • Pass a state budget that includes much-needed incentives for electric cars, trucks, and buses. Incentives for electric vehicles are critical to overcome higher upfront costs that still exist and to increase consumer interest in this new technology. Each year lawmakers must appropriate funding for important incentive programs for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles and UCS is working to make sure adequate funding is appropriated for the year ahead.
  • Ensure autonomous vehicles (AVs) reduce pollution and congestion and enhance access to mobility. AVs may become the most significant innovation in transportation since the mass introduction of automobiles early last century. However, public policy needs to guide the safe introduction of this emerging technology for widespread adoption of AVs to result in positive outcomes in the years ahead. UCS supports SB 936 (Allen), which will create an expert task force to make recommendations to provide guidance for how we can shape this new transportation technology to achieve these public benefits.
  • Increase use of electric vehicles by ride-hailing services. Ride hailing services—like Uber and Lyft—are a rapidly growing part of our transportation system. As these services grow and carry more and more passengers, it will become increasingly important that they move toward vehicle electrification to reduce pollution—just as electrification is important for personal vehicle use and transit buses alike. SB 1014 (Skinner) looks to address this issue. While UCS supports the concept of this bill, there are important details that remain to be resolved.

Better prepare California for a changing climate

California is facing a “new normal” of increasing variability and extremes in climate conditions with enormous impacts on people, communities, and the infrastructure on which our safety and economies depend. We must start to plan, design and build California’s infrastructure to be “climate-smart” and withstand the new reality of climate change. This year UCS is working to:

  • Create a state adaptation center to support decision-making on state infrastructure projects. The state should establish an office within the state government to provide various state agencies with actionable climate-related information and real-time guidance on specific analytical approaches and data choices as they grapple with decisions about planning and designing infrastructure projects.

I look forward to working on these and other issues on behalf of UCS and our supporters and Science Network members. Hopefully the Legislature will pass legislation advancing many of these priorities this year, keeping California on a path to a safe and sustainable future that utilizes science as a foundation for policy-making.

Posted in: Energy, Global Warming, Vehicles Tags:

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  • artnouveau

    I believe the introduction of the automobile happened during the mid-to-late 1800s, which means the mode has been around from between 150 and 175 years. Earliest example of an electric car, meanwhile, hit the road circa 1834. It took another half century before practical electric car production was in vogue in London, England.

  • justhinkin

    AB 813 absolutely dissolves California’s leadership role in impacting climate change, as the predominate market in the west with renewable mandates. California is surrounded by states that extract the majority of American coal, and generate electricity with a majority of coal and other fossil fuel generating plants. 7 of these states have sued the EPA over climate change plans, and local emission mitigation. The Supreme Court has ruled 9-0 that States interfere with FERCs authority when they implement actions that affect rates determined by FERC, and other states interests. Regionalization while we have government with a heavy hand on the coal scale would be insane.

    • solodoctor

      There are some organizations that have voiced these concerns about AB 813 as well. States that rely on/endorse the use of coal include Wyoming. States that employ a lot of nat gas include New Mexico.

      Admittedly, these are ‘small’ states population wise. But why should Calif coordinate with any state whose leaders want to perpetuate, if not increase, the use of fossil fuels? Does not make sense to me.

      • justhinkin

        Yes, true. They are small populations, but sovereign states that would have full equal representation as stakeholders. Every challenge to a FERC or RTO decision by a state to date has been rejected.

      • Jason Barbose

        Thank you both for your comments. UCS appreciates those concerns, although we still see more upside to a regional market than downside. Here is a blog post my colleague Laura Wisland penned on the topic if you are interested: https://blog.ucsusa.org/laura-wisland/california-regional-electricity-market