August 20, 2018

World-Renowned Scientists: California Must Operate on 100 Percent Clean Electricity

OAKLAND, Calif. (August 20, 2018)—Amid a summer of record-setting heat and wildfires exacerbated by climate change, 37 scientists signed a letter published today in the Sacramento Bee, calling on state legislators to pass Senate Bill 100, the “100 Percent Clean Energy Act of 2018.” The signers include world-renowned experts in climate, water, energy and health, including Gretchen Daily, the director of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford; Alex Hall, the director of the Center for Climate Science at the University of California Los Angeles; James McCarthy, past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Mario Molina, recipient of a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering that chlorofluorocarbon gases were threatening the ozone hole; and Benjamin Santer, a National Academy of Sciences member.

The California Legislature is likely to vote this month on the bill, which would set a goal that all of California’s electricity come from carbon-free resources by 2045. 

Representatives from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) presented the letter to state legislators today. 

“The scientists are right,” said Jason Barbose, Western states policy manager. “Achieving 100 percent clean electricity is bold, but within reach. The state has proven that when it sets ambitious climate and clean energy goals it achieves them in record time.” 

Last month, the state announced it had reached another key goal—cutting carbon emissions back to 1990 levels—four years ahead of schedule. The goal had been set for 2020 but was achieved in 2016. California investor-owned utilities are on track to reach a 50 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 2030, also ahead of schedule. 

According to the letter, “clean energy is among the most urgent solutions needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.” SB 100 would accelerate California’s RPS to 60 percent by 2030 and allow for flexibility in how the remaining 40 percent of electricity is supplied. In 2017, California received about 29 percent of its electricity from renewable resources, such as solar and wind, and another 24 percent came from a combination of nuclear and large hydropower, both of which are carbon-free. 

“Human-caused climate change is real, is serious, and is happening now,” said Ben Santer, climate scientist and fellow with the National Academy of Sciences. “Failure to adopt clean energy solutions would be unconscionable, exposing future generations to unacceptable climate risks. We can’t move fast enough.” 

If SB 100 passes, California would be the second state, behind Hawaii, to commit to generate all its electricity from carbon-free resources. Hawaii passed a 100 percent renewable energy mandate in 2015. 

“This hot and fiery summer has exasperated and motivated Californians,” said Barbose. “What better time than now and what better place than California to show the world how a gigantic, diverse economy and 40 million people can wean themselves off fossil fuels? If they vote yes, state legislators will prove to the world that climate leadership is alive and well in California, even if it’s absent in D.C.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.