Opinion

Leadership must act now on climate change

Solar panels arrayed in the Mojave Desert. (Photo: Andrei Orlov, via Shutterstock)

As firefighters from across the West come together to battle wildfires, and legislators meet for their last week of this year’s legislative session, our state’s leadership has before them a real opportunity to take decisive action to help mitigate the climate trends that are weighing on our state today.

Through measures that they can pass and sign this week, the Legislature and governor should assure the long-term health of our state’s utilities as agents for action on climate. They should further direct the utilities to accelerate the procurement and construction of more renewable energy in the state.

The Legislature should act to ensure that the utilities who are our principal providers of power remain financially healthy,

Doing so now will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thus mitigating causes for future climate-induced wildfires. It will also create jobs and cost-savings for California’s citizens.

First, state leaders should direct California’s utilities to procure more low-cost wind and solar energy in 2019 by passing AB 893, bringing billions of dollars of investment and green jobs to our state.

While SB100 sets the admirable goal of getting 100 percent of California’s electricity from climate-friendly sources by 2045, AB 893 would launch the state faster on that path by enabling investments on that road map that would take the highest advantage of cost-reducing tax incentives.

Moreover, AB 893 would assure that we emit fewer greenhouse gases on the way to that goal by bringing more renewable generation online sooner. Even though we’ve made great progress in California over the last two decades, 47 percent of our electricity still comes from carbon emitting sources. And accelerated procurement of more cost-competitive wind and solar in 2019 through AB 893 can bring that percentage down quickly and at lowest cost to ratepayers.

Second, the Legislature should act to ensure that the utilities who are our principal providers of power remain financially healthy, so that they can continue making the investments needed to make our electric grid sustainable and resilient.

Costs incurred by the utilities as a result of wildfires in the state are sadly a growing part of their finances. And while utilities should absolutely continue to be held accountable for their actions and performance, they can only make the investments toward better reliability and environmental footprint that our state needs from them if they are on sound financial footing.

California’s leaders should be proud of their work on clean energy policies, but the wildfires unfolding in our state’s communities are a stark reminder that there is no time like the present to scale up our efforts. Today, the technological and market solutions are in place to allow rapid, affordable, and job creating expansion of clean electricity in California.

We urge the California Legislature and Gov. Brown to act now – before the legislative session ends tomorrow – on the actionable solutions before them now to drive carbon reductions and new jobs in the State.

Ed’s Note: Craig Cornelius is the president of NRG Renewables, one of the largest United States-based renewable energy companies. George Hershman is president of  Swinerton Renewable Energy, one of the nation’s largest providers of engineering, procurement and contracting services for utility and commercial solar projects.


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