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Testimony: California can leverage electric vehicles to keep the lights on

With bidirectional charging, EVs like this one can be used back up homes when the power grid goes down. Photo via Canva.

On April 18, 2023, SB 233, introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and sponsored by The Climate Center, advanced out of the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee. The bill aims to unlock the potential for California’s millions of electric vehicles to power homes during outages, lower energy bills for Californians, and make the whole electricity grid more reliable. The bill will require most new electric vehicles (EVs) sold in California to have bidirectional charging capability by 2027.

The bill will next be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee on April 25, 2023.

The following testimony was given to the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Transportation Committee by Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center:

Thank you, Chair Bradford and committee members. I am Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center, which is sponsoring SB 233. Many thanks to Senator Skinner for leading on this key legislation.

As the climate crisis rapidly worsens and we face more extremes, we will face more power outages. The current plan to avoid blackouts is to fire up natural gas peaker plants —located primarily in lower-income, working-class communities — and to use propane or diesel generators, which further pollute our neighborhoods and climate.

California can and must do better by using electric vehicles (EVs) as batteries on wheels. We can keep the lights on by using the EVs in our driveways, schoolyards, and city parking lots, and by paying EV owners for that power.  

This bill is supported by more than 60 organizations, including environmental and environmental justice groups, EV industry leaders, and local governmental organizations. 

The California Energy Commission projects we will have upwards of 8 million EVs by 2030 with a combined power of at least 60 gigawatts. What does that mean? That exceeds the highest electricity demand ever recorded in California: 52 gigawatts on September 6, 2022, during that dangerous heat wave. If we use even a tiny percentage of that EV capacity, we can secure a more reliable power grid.

This bill sends a critical market signal. It helps California leverage our massive EV energy capacity. And it helps ensure energy resilience is available to every Californian at every EV price point. 

We urge you to vote aye in support of SB 233, a key unlock to the Grid for the Future — one that is clean, affordable, reliable, equitable, and safe. Thank you very much.

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