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California should go all in on clean energy

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks before signing into law Senate Bill 350, legislation to increase renewable energy, during a October 2015 ceremony at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks before signing into law Senate Bill 350, legislation to increase renewable energy, during a October 2015 ceremony at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times

I remember when California set its first clean energy goal. In 2002, the Legislature set the nation’s highest goal for renewable energy: 20 percent of electricity generated by 2017.

It is now 2017, and our state is relying far more on clean energy than many could have imagined. We blew past the 20 percent goal, set a 33 percent milestone by 2020 and in 2015 established a goal of 50 percent clean energy by 2030.

 
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Right now the need for fossil-fuel-free energy and climate leadership couldn’t be higher. Any day, the state Assembly will consider Senate Bill 100, which would commit us to 100 percent clean energy by 2045. We will be the largest economy in the world to set this goal.

For those who question whether or not this is achievable, I have to take us back to 2002 when Enron’s manipulation of natural gas prices led to an energy crisis that left thousands of people without power. Many people concluded that the best way to avoid another energy disaster was to diversify and stabilize the grid by adopting more renewable energy.

Making a commitment to more renewable energy has not only protected us from blackouts of massive proportions, but it has also created thousands of jobs, grown our economy and reduced air pollution.

Since 2002, Los Angeles has cut its ties with coal power and 11 California cities have committed to 100 percent clean energy. Thirteen companies headquartered in California, including Apple and Google, are cutting off fossil fuels completely.

Almost 500,000 Californians work in the clean energy industry, including 100,000 just in solar. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently declared that wind technician is the fastest growing job category in the nation.

But our clean energy progress isn’t enough. Nine out of every ten Californians breathe air considered unhealthy by the American Lung Association. Dirty power plants hold much of the blame, and they are overwhelmingly located in low-income and minority communities. No one should have to fight asthma or struggle to breathe because of their income level or how we power our state.

It’s time for us to go all in on clean energy for the sake of our health, economy and environment. By powering California with 100 percent clean energy, we can further bolster the world’s sixth biggest economy. There’s already a job-providing renewable energy site in all 58 counties and SB 100 promises many more.

Time after time, the Legislature has demonstrated that lawmakers can come together to advance renewable energy. California is already on track to surpass the existing goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Our lawmakers can boldly declare that we are ready for 100 percent clean electricity in California by 2045.

Kathryn Phillips is director of Sierra Club California. She can be contacted at kathryn.phillips@sierraclub.org.

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