The path to carbon-free electricity

Electrical power transmitted to a large urban area. (Photo: urbans, via Shutterstock)

Powering our state with entirely clean energy is not a pipe dream. At a time when the Trump administration is making harmful and backward decisions on our climate and energy future, Senate Bill 100 presents a golden opportunity for California to lead the nation.

California already sources over a quarter of our electricity from wind and solar sources, empowering us to reach 50 percent renewable energy well before 2030. Solar energy prices have dropped 78 percent between 2009 and 2014 and renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels. Most of all, innovation in the energy storage sector will soon be able to store and provide affordable renewable energy, literally rain or shine.

More than 90 percent of Californians suffer from unhealthy air pollution at some point during the year.

We can jumpstart that transition to a clean grid with SB100, which is now making its way through the Capitol in Sacramento. This bill spurs California’s renewable goals, pushing our current goal to achieve 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 to a 60 percent target, and setting California on a path to a 100 percent zero-carbon grid by 2045.

It’s about time. Clean energy benefits our climate, as well as our health and our wallets.

SB100 can ease asthma and other health problems for the Californian communities living in some of the worst air quality in the nation. California is home to six out of the top ten most polluted cities in the United States. More than 90 percent of Californians suffer from unhealthy air pollution at some point during the year. Further investments in natural gas will only make this worse.

If lawmakers fail to pass SB100, California will continue investing in polluting energy sourced from natural gas, leaving impacted communities behind.

California should no longer consider natural gas a clean energy option. Leaking natural gas pipelines and crumbling storage facilities pose safety risks for communities living nearby. Eight Californians died in the San Bruno gas explosion in 2010, and thousands were sickened and displaced from their homes in the 2015 Aliso Canyon gas leak in Porter Ranch.

Natural gas operations also leak methane throughout the production pipeline, during its extraction, transportation and storage. Methane is 86 times stronger than carbon dioxide at trapping heat over a 20-year period—meaning that damage done to our climate is more rapid and intense. And furthermore, natural gas worsens California’s already dire air quality problem – natural gas combustion contributes to ozone and particulate matter pollution.

While the Trump administration feeds an addiction to fossil fuels that harms public health and damages our environment, Californians know better than to continue down this dangerous path. Now that clean, healthy and safe energy alternatives are available and affordable, investing in more natural gas for our energy future is inexcusable.

As we wean California off fossil fuels and switch to 100 percent clean energy, SB100 will lead to the closure of polluting fossil fuel facilities that damage our climate and the health of our communities.

Not only will a transition to 100 percent zero-carbon energy restore our communities’ health and our climate, it will also boost clean energy careers throughout the state. In the Inland Empire alone, clean energy programs built 106 renewable energy power plants and created 41,000 jobs since 2010.

To put it in perspective, California has more jobs in clean energy than all the coal jobs in the entire United States.

Our goal of 100 percent zero emissions cannot be accomplished without leadership with integrity. Earthjustice urges our state government leaders to keep SB100 clean of handouts to those special interest groups that seek to expand the fossil fuel industry rather than curtail it. Let’s not add poison pills to hallmark clean energy legislation.

We stand behind California’s elected officials who are prepared make the right, easy and smart choice for our energy future by supporting SB100 and helping us to achieve 100 percent clean, zero-carbon energy.

Come on California, let’s get to 100 percent zero.

Erica Martinez is Earthjustice’s California Policy Advocate on the Right to Zero campaign


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