California Needs to Jump Start Clean Energy Procurement to Meet SB 100 Mission
As California energy regulators prepare for a major decision on clean energy procurement to meet the state’s 100% clean electricity goal, Vote Solar stands together with the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice against policies and regulatory decisions that would add a greater fossil fuel pollution burden to any of California’s communities.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is set to make a monumental decision at the end of June on procuring new solar, battery and other renewable energy resources. The Commission’s legal staff has issued a proposed decision (PD) that calls for procuring 10,000 megawatts of zero-emitting resources by 2026. To put that number in context, it’s equal to 5% of all of the coal generation capacity currently available in the United States.
The upcoming CPUC decision has the potential to double the amount of utility-scale solar connected to the grid in California as well as quadrupling the amount of battery storage. Follow through on the procurement will put California on the path to meeting the goal of 100% clean electricity by 2045 as set by California’s landmark bill SB 100.
Most of the new zero-emitting resources in California will likely be solar paired with battery storage. Fortunately, there is a lot of potential supply of these hybrid resources under development across California. However, as written, the PD does not guarantee that the zero-emitting resources will be hybrid projects that would generate sufficient electricity to quickly meet California’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A shortfall in GHG emission reductions could occur if the new resources that are procured to replace California’s last operating nuclear plant are not mostly hybrid solar plus storage projects.
Since the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is set to permanently close in 2025, now runs around the clock, it produces an enormous quantity of carbon-free electricity. It is possible that investor-owned utilities and community choice agencies that will be procuring new power capacity could contract for standalone battery storage systems that would end up being charged by fossil fuel power plants.
Vote Solar and our allies at the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) are making the case that the final decision taken by the CPUC must assure reductions of GHG emissions every year through 2030, which is the target year for evaluating progress towards eliminating GHG emissions in the electric sector.
CCAEJ uses the lens of environmental health to achieve social change, bringing communities together to participate in decisions and drive solutions that improve the social and natural environment and empower residents. With a long history of organizing for the leadership of working class communities and communities of color in securing clean air and healthy neighborhoods, they hold polluting industries and energy decision makers accountable for the harms caused to the health and quality of life of residents in the Inland Valley.
After years of frontline community activism, they won a major victory in May when the South Coast Air Quality Management District passed the Warehouse Indirect Source Rule to address the region’s serious air quality problems by cutting pollution from the trucks traveling to and from warehouses, electrifying warehouses, and creating local clean energy jobs. Vote Solar stands together with CCAEJ against policies and regulatory decisions that would add a greater fossil fuel pollution burden to any of California’s communities.
The CPUC believes that if GHG emissions in the electric sector can be reduced to 38 million metric tons (MMT) by 2030 that California will be on course to achieving zero emissions for all retail electric sales in California by 2045. While that target represents major progress, it is not enough to protect the climate for future generations. Vote Solar and CCAEJ are calling on the CPUC to adopt a 30 MMT target by 2030 in anticipation that the 2045 date for eliminating GHG emissions will be brought forward.
While Vote Solar very much appreciates the CPUC commitment to procure 10,000 megawatts of zero-emitting resources, we are distressed that the PD also would allow the state’s investor-owned utilities to procure up to 1,500 megawatts of additional fossil gas generation. The CPUC staff claims these incremental gas resources may be needed as an “insurance policy” in the near term to assure electric system reliability. Vote Solar has reviewed the arguments for the so-called insurance policy and found they do not justify further polluting California’s communities as we move toward a carbon-free grid. Therefore, we will be working together with CCAEJ and others to make sure that no additional fossil generation is built in California, including expansion of existing gas plants.