100% zero pollution cars mandate requires a different approach to energy; fuel sources need to be local, reliable & clean

California Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order on September 23 mandating that all new cars and trucks sold in California have zero emissions by 2035. Given the fact that electric charged batteries are the primary fuel for emission-free vehicles today and are likely to remain the predominant fuel in the future, this executive order would increase California’s electricity needs 25% over the next fifteen years, adding 72 terawatt-hours of demand by 2035.

Such an increase in demand on the state’s already stressed electric grid adds urgency and importance to making the state’s energy supplies safer, more affordable, and more reliable. The blackouts of the past four weeks, and the wildfires and electricity shut offs of the past few years, make plain the need to rethink California’s approach to energy.   

To bring California consumers safe, affordable, and reliable electricity to power our increasingly decarbonized buildings as well as millions of cars and trucks over the next fifteen years, California must simultaneously build-out local clean energy resources such as distributed solar and energy storage systems in and around where people live, work, and fuel their cars. California would serve itself and its climate goals well if it aimed to cover at least 50% of the increased electricity load resulting from this order with distributed energy resources, including building a million grid-tied solar-charged batteries in the next ten years. 

Given the role that high-voltage power lines have played in sparking catastrophic wildfires, as well as their environmental footprint and huge ratepayer price tag to build and maintain, California cannot get to 100% by relying solely on a supersized grid. California must prioritize building local energy resources steadily and deliberately over the next ten years if we hope to succeed in the fight against climate change.

Over the past several years, the build out of clean, local solar and energy storage systems, of which there are 1.2 million solar roofs and 30,000 batteries, saved ratepayers $3 billion in avoided transmission costs according to CAISO. 

Future actions by Governor Newsom, in coordination with today’s Executive Order, should prioritize the following five actions:

  1. Launch the One Million Batteries Initiative by 2030 to create economies of scale for energy storage devices and keep the lights on for everyday California homes and businesses in the face of ongoing blackouts and wildfires. 
  2. Launch a statewide Virtual Power Plants policy to tie those million batteries together into clean distributed power plants powerful enough to avoid California-sized blackouts like what occurred in mid-August.  
  3. Supercharge the state’s efforts to cut red tape and costs for consumers by streamlining and standardizing the construction of those million solar batteries across all building departments throughout the state, speeding up the deployment of safe, reliable, local energy. 
  4. Equip 1,000 K-12 schools with onsite solar and energy storage systems to provide backup power in emergencies and save money year-round. 
  5. Maintain existing policies and programs designed to build a sustainable local clean energy market in California such as net energy metering and building codes around homes and businesses. 
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Bernadette Del Chiaro came to the California Solar & Storage Association in July 2013 and has built the organization into the largest clean energy business group in the state. Prior to her work with CALSSA, Ms. Del Chiaro served as the Director of Clean Energy and Global Warming Programs at Environment California as well as the Western States Regional Director for Environment America. Over the past seventeen years, Bernadette has been a leading voice on several California clean energy initiatives including the Million Solar Roofs Initiative (SB 1), the Solar Water Heating Initiative (AB 1470), the continued expansion of Net Energy Metering, the establishment of streamlined solar permitting (AB 2188), and the expansion of consumer incentives for energy storage (SB 700), among other victories.  She's authored several clean energy reports and has been quoted widely in the media including MSNBC, NPR, BBC, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and dozens of local and trade outlets. Del Chiaro, a California native, graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1995. She lives in Sacramento with her husband, Steve, and two children, Oliver and Willa.   

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