Kerri Timmer: California’s next governor must prioritize clean energy economy | SierraSun.com

Kerri Timmer: California’s next governor must prioritize clean energy economy

Other Voices
Kerri Timmer

It is vitally important to California's economy, the success of our businesses, and our reputation as a leader on the world stage that the state's next governor champion clean energy and continue the trend toward 100 percent renewable energy.

This is the consensus of much of California's business community, and it is a concept backed by convincing data. That's why the Sierra Business Council is joining other business associations across the state to launch the #CleanEconomyGovernor campaign. Regardless of which candidate you support for Governor, the next head of our state must consider himself a #CleanEconomyGovernor. Below, I'll dig into why.

First, the advanced energy economy is a boon for jobs. Today, California has approximately 542,000 people working in renewable energy all across the state, with a projected growth of 10 percent this year alone. From solar to wind to biomass and beyond, the variety of advanced energy types requires a wide range of workforce skills and an array of job types. And following the passage of SB 100, which commits California to emissions-free electricity by 2045, the demand is only going to grow.

Second — and perhaps most important for rural forested regions like the Sierra-Cascade — a statewide commitment to renewable energy helps increase the pace and scale of sustainable forest management practices, which state and federal agencies say are critical to addressing California's growing tree mortality and wildfire problems.

Through sound forest management, fuel load reduction, and biomass utilization, California can maintain the carbon sequestration benefits of healthy forests while reducing the detrimental impacts and emissions of wildfires. Sustainable forest management, in turn, encourages expansion of innovative wood products manufacturing and advanced woody bioenergy development, providing local jobs and other benefits.

Third, California already has a proven track record in the effort to transition away from fossil fuels. The state has established a successful cap and trade program and surpassed goals for greenhouse gas reductions; it would be incredibly shortsighted to slow our momentum now.

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In 2002, when California established its Renewables Portfolio Standard, it required that 20 percent of electric utilities' retail sales be from renewable energy by 2017. California made so much progress that in 2006, the legislature accelerated the goal to 20 percent renewables by 2010. Three years ago, the goalpost moved to 50 percent renewables by 2030. And just this month, Gov. Brown signed SB 100 and committed California to 100 percent emission-free energy by 2045.

California has succeeded in meeting and accelerating RPS goals through the innovation and commitment of the publicly-owned utilities, and through the work of a business community that understands the opportunity the clean energy market offers and the value of working as quickly as possible to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. The state has truly benefitted from the advanced energy leadership of these two sectors. In fact, as of last year, nearly 30 percent of California's energy generation came from renewable resources — at the same time California was overtaking the United Kingdom to become the fifth-largest economy in the world.

Finally, it's essential to recognize that there is so much work left to be done. Take transportation, which is California's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Our next governor must establish a comprehensive vision for zero-emission transportation, including expanded access to zero emission vehicles (ZEVs), financing strategies for developing ZEV infrastructure such as charging stations, and advancement of alternative transportation for all communities, both urban and rural.

California's advanced energy future also requires a modern grid. We need a smart grid that minimizes energy waste and facilitates the secure, integrated and responsive flow of clean energy.

In our part of the state, as in others, Californians are already experiencing the toll that climate change can take on our beloved communities, treasured natural lands, and essential infrastructure. We know that more extreme weather, water scarcity, and wildfire risk are all ready to meet us in the coming years.

If we are committed to mitigating climate change and procuring the vast benefits that come with the clean energy economy, we have to ensure that California will continue to lead the nation — and the world — through continued commitments to climate action and clean energy. We're going to need a #CleanEconomyGovernor to make that happen.

Kerri Timmer is vice president of Climate and Energy for the Sierra Business Council. More information on SBC can be found at http://www.sierrabusiness.org.