Bill Promoting Offshore Wind Advances

6 Jul 2021

Legislation to kick-start offshore wind development in California and fund new low-emissions biomass generating facilities passed the Senate Energy, Communications & Utilities Committee July 5.

AB 525 by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), approved on a 13-0 vote, aims to launch an offshore wind industry in California by directing the California Energy Commission to develop a plan for one by 2022. Chiu said installing floating turbines 20-30 miles offshore is a “once in a generation opportunity that will address climate change and put people back to work.”

Funding provided by the Biden Administration is expected to help make a state offshore wind industry a reality.

Chiu noted that the East Coast already has 29 GW of offshore wind in development while California has none. His bill originally set a goal of 3 GW by 2030 and 10 GW by 2040, but the targets were stripped out earlier this year.

Offshore wind development is expected to create thousands of well-paying jobs–including for struggling Californians–in the supply chain, construction, and operation and maintenance of the floating turbines. The bill also aims to protect marine ecosystems and ensure turbines are located in areas of the least conflict, including avoiding ones used by the military.

Job diversity promise remains unfulfilled

Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) supported the bill but said the promise of job diversity in the clean energy sector remains out of reach. Chiu said he was committed to a diverse workforce and would monitor the issue if the measure succeeds.

Offshore wind could provide one and half times the amount of energy resources needed in 2019, Laura Deehan, California Environment state director, told the committee.

Sen. Josh Becker (D-San Mateo) added that offshore wind is critical to meeting California’s goal of 100% clean energy round the clock, and will be less costly than other options.

The federal agency that handles leases for offshore wind development announced it would start selling leases for up to 4.6 GW of floating wind turbines in designated deep waters off the coasts of Humboldt and Morro Bays by next summer.

Also approved by the committee late Monday afternoon was AB 322 by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), which directs CEC funding to the development of “innovative” biomass facilities. The emerging technology is projected to have a fraction of the emissions of existing plants that convert agricultural waste and tree debris into energy.

Farms generate millions of tons of organic waste. Often it is burned in open fields, exacerbating air pollution. Biomass advocates also say that leaving dead and dying trees in the forest increases fire dangers.

AB 322, passed 12-1, seeks an unspecified amount of ratepayer-funded Energy Program Investment Charge dollars to fund the next generation of biomass plants to help improve air quality.

98% emissions reduction

Sen. Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) said he supported the bill even though the power would not be 100% emissions free. “I’d rather have a 98% reduction instead of opening burning.”

The committee also passed AB 641 by Chris Holden, Chair of the Assembly Utilities & Energy Committee. It seeks to ensure that one million shared EV chargers are installed by the end of this decade across the state by ensuring that publicly-owned utilities help fill the charging gap in their territories. 

Munis removed their opposition after the bill was amended to allow them to decide how to reach the charging goal by 2030.

AB 641 passed on a 11-1 vote.

The final bill passed early this week was AB 1389 by Assemblymember Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-San Bernardino) extending California Energy Commission clean transportation program funding to the development of zero emission medium- and heavy-duty trucks and freight. Half of the funds for “technology-neutral” clean vehicles from the $100 million annual pot would have to go towards slashing criteria pollutants and climate gases in overburdened communities.

Hydrogen vehicles advocates opposed the bill because of concerns that diversions of the EPIC funds would undermine the installation of hydrogen fueled vehicles.

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