Riverside County board backs resoluton asserting need for local energy independence

Diane Sieker photo

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted in support of a resolution asserting that utilities operating within the county should have the freedom to select how best to achieve “balanced energy solutions” that cut greenhouse gas emissions – without the state dictating every aspect of powering the grid. In a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Chuck Washington abstaining, the board backed Supervisor Jeff Hewitt’s proposal to express to the state the need for less intrusive regulation of utilities delivering service within the county.

“Riverside County, its residents and businesses value local control and the right to choose the policies and investments that most affordably and efficiently enable them to comply with state requirements,” according to Hewitt’s resolution. “The county understands the need to mitigate the impacts of climate change and is committed to doing its part to help (the state) achieve its goals, but requires the flexibility to do so in a manner that best serves the needs of residents and businesses.”

Hewitt, a Libertarian who has made his dislike of governmental heavy- handedness known since he took his seat on the board in January, drew up the resolution in response to Senate Bill 100, written by former Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and signed into law by former Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2018.

The legislation established revised mandates for shifting the state’s electrical generation to all-renewable sources.

The law requires that power suppliers rely on wind, solar, hydro and similar non-fossil fuel mechanisms for 50% of electrical delivery by Dec. 31, 2026, and 60% by Dec. 31, 2030. The target, underscored in the bill, is to achieve “zero-carbon resources (supplying) 100% of retail sales of electricity … by Dec. 31, 2045.”

Natural gas providers are among those concerned about being cut out of the supply chain.

“Berkeley voted no gas for homes or businesses, and they’re being sued because it will pretty much wipe out the restaurant industry,” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said. “I support this resolution.”

Washington said he was uncomfortable with it because he did not believe “accurate information” was available concerning the impacts of SB 100.

Critics contend the bill’s targets will only swell consumers’ utility costs, which are particularly hard on the budgets of low-income households. U.S. Energy Information Administration data show California is among the top 10 states with the highest average per-kilowatt-hour prices.

Supporters of the legislation argue the targets are needed to forge ahead with a “green” economy that protects the environment.

The bill limits or removes former provisions that gave utilities leeway in determining how to package renewable portfolios, and it grants wide latitude to the Air Resources Board, California Public Utilities Commission and other agencies in creating a framework for implementation of the revised requirements.

Hewitt’s resolution acknowledges that “relying on a single energy delivery system” is no longer feasible, and it recognizes the potential for “clean, affordable and reliable energy to attract and retain businesses, create jobs and spur economic development.”

However, the supervisor insisted that giving the state bureaucracy too much authority over local power generation sources will have a negative impact going forward.

“(We) support balanced energy solutions … and oppose state legislation and policy that eliminate local control by mandating technologies that can be used to power buildings and fuel vehicles, and also meet or exceed emissions reduction regulations,” according to the resolution.