Massachussetts and California to Join Hawaii?
By Chris Gillespie
While the new presidential administration and congressional majority are hard at work in Washington D.C. stripping environmental agencies of their federal funding, some state leaders, bolstered by economic evidence, are already busy introducing legislation to lessen and abolish their states’ use of fossil fuels.
Legislators in California, for instance, are working towards setting up a timeline for drastically reducing, and ultimately eliminating, fossil fuels from the state’s electric “grid.” California Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) recently introduced SB 584, which requires the Golden State to have a carbon-free grid by 2045 and accelerates the state’s current goal of powering 50% of the total carried by the grid with renewable energy by 2030.
De León, who pushed SB 350—the state’s initial ‘50% renewable by 2030’ law—into effect in 2015, recently suggested to the Los Angeles Times that aiming for a half-renewable grid by 2030 was a modest goal, saying that he and his colleagues should have “reached for the stars” when it came to laying out California’s renewable future. The newly proposed SB 584 is a big step forward from SB 350 and has received praise from clean energy leaders and experts, including Academy Award-winning actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio who tweeted his support for the mandate.
Although SB 584 stands to be an improvement on SB 350, the success of SB 350’s ‘50% renewable by 2030’ timeline suggests that powering a state with nearly 12% of the national population without using fossil fuels by 2045 is an obtainable goal. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a leading energy provider in California, announced in 2016 that they are well ahead of schedule in meeting the state’s current 33% renewable target by 2020, and followed up in March 2017 by announcing that nearly 70% of the electricity they delivered to customers in 2016 came from greenhouse gas-free resources.
“Delivering this amount of renewable electricity strongly confirms PG&E’s continued commitment to a cleaner energy future for our customers and all of California,” said Geisha Williams, CEO and President of Pacific Gas and Electric in the recent press release. “We embrace our role as our leader in renewable energy, and we are full speed ahead in reaching our next targets.”
Across the country, legislators in Massachusetts have also proposed laws that would put their state on track for reaching 100% renewable energy in the coming decades. State representatives Sean Barballey (D-23rd Middlesex) and Marjorie Decker (D-25th Middlesex) introduced HD. 3357 in the House while State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Middlesex and Worcester) introduced SD. 1932 in the Senate. Together, the legislation would require the Bay State to get 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035 and all of its other energy needs, such as heating and transportation, from renewable sources by 2050.
A key component of HD. 3357 is the Clean Energy Workforce Development Fund, which provides economic benefits by increasing access to employment opportunities working with solar, offshore wind, and other clean energy technology.
“This legislation provides a bold step by placing the Commonwealth on a path to a cleaner and more sustainable future,” said Representative Garballey in a recent statement. “It encourages job creation, protects and sustains our natural resources, reduces our carbon footprint and would benefit the health and well-being of our citizens in immeasurable ways.”
“More importantly,” Garballey adds. “It signals to the country our commitment to long-term solutions in meeting the very real challenges of climate change, and lights the way for similar efforts across the nation.”
If passed, HD. 3357 and SD. 1932 would join Massachusetts’ current commitments to clean energy, such as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008, which requires the state to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2025. Massachusetts is also a founding member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program that has reduced carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 15% since 2011, saving $460 million in electricity bills across nine states in the Northeast.
If their propositions are passed, California and Massachusetts will join Hawaii in being legally held to a 100%-renewable-energy standard. In 2015, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to pass legislation to commit to obtaining a carbon-free energy grid with HB. 623, which requires all of Hawaii’s electricity to come from renewable sources no later than 2045. Given the drastic growth of Hawaii’s clean energy resources, however, the Blue Planet Foundation has said that Hawaii could reach 100% renewables as early as 2030.
Chris Gillespie is a freelance writer based in southern New Hampshire.