Labor and solar companies must compromise on clean energy

Gov. Jerry Brown is shown an exhibition at an international clean energy conference in Beijing, China on June 7.
Gov. Jerry Brown is shown an exhibition at an international clean energy conference in Beijing, China on June 7. AP

When I tell people I work as a clean energy advocate in California, folks assume it must be simple to pass ambitious climate policy here, given all the visionaries and progressive leaders.

While we do have an impressive track record, California is really a conglomeration of various stakeholders with important interests. This can lead to stalemates, but if we focus on our common goals – such as a prosperous economy and a healthy environment for future generations – we can genuinely hear and respect each other.


As the state Legislature reconvened Wednesday, all eyes will be on Senate Bill 100. Authored by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, SB 100 would raise the state’s renewable energy target from 50 percent to 60 percent by 2030 and set a goal of 100 percent renewable and other clean energy by 2045.

This important piece of legislation would clear the path for California to continue establishing an innovative clean energy economy that creates good jobs and sets an example for the nation and the world. However, last year it didn’t quite make it to the finish line, not getting to a vote on the Assembly floor.

In part, there were important unresolved issues between labor unions and companies that make and sell solar panels and other clean energy solutions. The nuances of the issues are complex, difficult and have a long history. While coming to the negotiating table can be difficult, we can work together to create a better outcome for everyone.

The truth is that there are major roles for utility-scale renewable energy projects as well as smaller, distributed energy resources in California’s clean energy future – for large solar farms and wind turbines and demand response and rooftop solar.

Over time, labor interests and distributed energy providers have to agree on best labor practices. In the short term, they need to work together on SB 100. We can all work toward a clean and prosperous future for California – or go it alone and put our state’s clean energy and climate leadership in jeopardy.

Lauren Navarro is senior policy manager at the Environmental Defense Fund in San Francisco. She can be contacted at