A Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free California Is Within Reach

California's well-earned reputation as a leader in developing and deploying renewable energy just got a new boost. In recent years, the state has set many impressive goals for the future, such as a goal to get 50 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030. In April 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order that requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. But the most promising move of all came recently with the announcement that Diablo Canyon, California's lone remaining nuclear power plant, will close by 2025, once its remaining federal licenses expire. This long-awaited decision is a tremendous victory for supporters of safe, renewable energy.

California's path toward greater uptake of renewable energy has not been without its ups and downs. Some - like the state's legislative counsel - believe that Governor Jerry Brown exceeded his executive authority with his move that pushes for emissions targets beyond 2020, when AB32, California's global landmark warming bill, expires. Others believe it is only commonsense to push for more aggressive targets. After all, the entire point of this exercise is to get and keep greenhouse gas emissions curving downward as rapidly as possible. Ambitious targets help focus the mind and many believe they aren't ambitious enough. For example, Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, believes that a 50 percent renewable energy target by 2030 is "not really a challenge," and, in fact, suggests that a 100 percent renewable energy California is readily achievable.

A recent report from Stanford Engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson concurs: Jacobson's report shows that California and other U.S. states could easily get to 100% renewable energy by 2050 while realizing numerous economic and public health gains. Germany, with an economy much larger than California's, recently produced 90 percent of its power from renewable energy. But, despite these facts, renewables still face pushback, particularly from pro-nuclear advocates who are determined to keep decades-old plants operational, to the detriment of renewable energy.

Some argue that the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant should remain open-- despite the nuclear plant's proximity to earthquake faults, the potential for monumental costs related to plant upgrades, and the fact that deployment of renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage to fill the 2,240 megawatt gap is a far cheaper and safer alternative.

Critically, organized labor is on board the shuttering of Diablo. That's because, under the proposal, PG&E would provide a retraining and development program to transition some workers to Diablo Canyon's decommissioning, or to other positions at the company. Rep. Lois Capps (CA-24) said in a statement that she was pleased that the company was working with stakeholders "to ensure a responsible transition." Overall, this proposal is a model way to close the chapter on nuclear power in California.

Renewable energy targets of 50 percent were clearly a decisive factor when these diverse groups joined together to take a stand for California's energy future. With this proposal, the support of a state government that has demonstrated a commitment to the environment, and a civically-engaged public, California's energy future is looking cleaner and safer by the day.

With the recent State Lands Commission decision to authorize issuance of a general lease until 2025, we are, now, one step closer to realizing a carbon-free, nuclear-free California. If the remaining regulatory hurdles are cleared, Diablo's closure will be something for all of us to truly celebrate.