On the last day of the legislative session, California lawmakers took significant action, passing some of the most extensive energy and climate bills seen at the state level.
The state legislature passed bills on Aug. 31 that include $54 billion in funding for clean energy, a framework for implementing carbon capture, removal, and storage, as well as financing to keep its last nuclear power plant open through 2035. All are a step toward the state’s goal of becoming net-zero by 2045, and took place against the backdrop of the electrical grid facing pressure from a significant heatwave.
The legislative decisions also come about a month after Gov. Gavin Newsom said net-zero targets need to be accelerated. In a July 22 letter to the California Air Resources Board, he suggested new targets such as increasing offshore wind energy capacity by at least 20 gigawatts by 2045, as well as installing 100 million metric tons of carbon capture capacity.
One of the pieces of legislation that passed both the California Senate and Assembly includes targets to implement 90% clean energy by 2030, 95% by 2035, and 100% by 2045. Previous laws called for the use of 60% renewable energy by 2030.
Of the extensive funding allocated by lawmakers, $8 billion will go toward the decarbonization of the electric grid and $6 billion toward electric vehicles. There is also nearly $15 billion earmarked for public transportation. Another $5 billion will go toward drought and climate resiliency programs, specifically targeting wildfires and water conservation.
Carbon capture legislation was approved that requires the state to develop programs and set regulations by 2025. Legislation to come up with carbon removal targets for natural and working lands was also passed.
To keep the nuclear power plant open in San Luis Obispo County open until 2035, lawmakers approved a $1.4 billion loan to Pacific Gas & Electric. The New York Times reported the utility is also expected to apply for money from a $6 billion government program designed to keep nuclear power plants open.
The plant produces around 6% of the state’s electricity and was set to close in 2025. That move was supported by Newsom as he declared a state of emergency regarding grid reliability amid an extreme-heat event across California.
Failed Sustainability Bill
Another sustainability bill, which called for new emissions reduction targets by 2030, did not get enough votes on the Assembly floor. It aimed to reduce emissions by 55% based on 1990 levels.
Earlier in the summer of 2022 California passed the nation’s toughest law on plastic waste. All of the new state legislation also comes weeks after the federal government committed a record $370 billion in financing and incentives to energy programs in the Inflation Reduction Act.
Additionally, California worked this year on a bill implementing community renewable energy projects, which received final approval by the Assembly on Aug. 30. Newsom has until Sept. 30 to sign the approved bills into law.