California’s pitch for 100 percent renewable energy is dead. In the past months of its legislative session California bills that laid out plans for a 100% renewable grid by 2045, and a remake of the state’s grid into a regional system foundered. Legislators’ failure to move the bills through, could add fuel to the larger 100% renewable energy debate, in which a variety of stakeholders have questioned the speed, feasibility, pathway, and, ultimately, the need for converting to 100%.
The struggle raises an important question: If California can’t make 100 percent a reality, can other large economies? The downfall of California’s 100 % renewables bill, SB 100, came shortly after unions representing about 120,000 electric and utility workers, which had previously supported the bill, turned their backs on the legislation amid worries over job loss and grid security. “There s a lot in all the bills that we like,” said Dalzell Thomas, business manager at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, based outside of Sacramento. “Our interest was protecting the distribution system, and the jobs of our members that work on the distribution system.” Before the Brotherhood came out against the bill, California lawmakers had already shifted the initiative from 100 percent renewables to a “100 percent greenhouse-gas-free” energy goal, with a mandate to reach a lower 60 percent renewables target instead.
Even with the added flexibility, SB 100 failed to advance and has been tabled until next year. Among the bills that slipped through the cracks this session was a proposal from Assembly member Chris Holden to revamp California’s grid by regionalizing the authority of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). The proposal, introduced just last summer, was meant to allow California to more easily coordinate transfers of renewable energy across state lines in the West when the state has excess supply or not enough.