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JUICE: Falling Off the Clean Energy Wagon

By Elizabeth McCarthy | June 9, 2020 | California Current
Updated June 11

Since the start of this century, California has been working to wean the electricity sector off addictive and harmful fossil-fueled generation. A homegrown 12-step recovery program has produced impressive strides. But key players, and Pacific Gas & Electric in particular, are allowed to fall off the wagon.

State energy regulators approved June 11 PG&E’s installation of diesel powered-backup systems for use during threatening fire conditions. Like those who return to binge drinking, this latest approval will harm more than the utility. The community impact is magnified during this pandemic, especially for those with compromised systems who cannot afford an extra dose of dangerous diesel exhaust. It also undermines California’s nearly two decades of work to slash carbon pollution from the electricity sector. And, it exacerbates the underlying condition that worsens wildfires: climate pollution.

California took its first big green energy step with the creation of a renewable portfolio standard for electric utilities in 2002. The legendary Sen. Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto) authored legislation mandating that 20% of a utility supply portfolio come from solar, wind and other qualifying alternative energy resources by 2017. Subsequently, the mandate was upped to 33%, then 50% and now 60% by 2030, under SB 100 passed in 2018. The remaining 40% of resources under SB 100 is expected to be supplied by large hydropower so California’s electricity is carbon free by 2045. In addition, former Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order in September 2018 directing California’s economy attain carbon neutrality by 2045.

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