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California Assembly Approves 100 Percent Renewable Energy Goal

Chuck Coker

Chuck Coker

After three attempts Tuesday, a bill that would require California to pursue 100 percent zero-emission energy by mid-century has passed the state Assembly.

It would be the fourth major augmentation to California’s climate change policies in four years. Lawmakers have approved higher renewable energy use, tighter greenhouse gas targets, and extension of the cap-and-trade program.

“We are seeing famine, war, disruption, refugees, disease, all directly related to climate change. All over the planet,” said Democratic Asm. Laura Friedman, advocating for the bill before the vote.

The measure would further cut emissions from the electricity sector in two ways. First, it requires utilities to use 60 percent renewable energy by 2030, rather than the current 50 percent.

Second, it directs state energy regulators to figure out how to achieve entirely zero-carbon electric generation by 2045 and to begin planning for it.

Utilites are on track to hit current renewable energy goals, but scientists debate whether cost-efficient 100 percent clean energy is feasible or if it would require new technological advances.

Assembly Republicans opposed the policy for raising costs, while acknowledging the threat of climate change.

“I accept science. I think climate change needs to be addressed,” said Republican Asm. Jordan Cunningham. “But other things have to be addressed too, including economics. I ask you to hit the pause button. Let’s go back to work on this. Next year let’s enact something that the entire world will look at as a model.”

Lawmakers first debated the measure in the morning, but could not initially garner the 41-vote majority needed to pass it. They ultimately brought the bill up two more times, before it reached that threshold.

The measure heads to the state Senate for a final vote, before it will reach Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Brown has not taken a stance on the bill, but has called the state’s current renewable energy goals “quite daunting.” While in China last year at a clean energy summit, he declined to support the measure.

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