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Testimony: How to avoid power outages using EV batteries

California State Capitol. Photo by Canva.

On July 5, 2023, SB 233, introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and sponsored by The Climate Center, Nuvve, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, advanced out of the Assembly Transportation Committee by a vote of nine to four. 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 2030.

The bill will next be voted on in the Assembly Energy and Utilities Committee.

The following testimony was given to the committee by Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center:

Good afternoon, Chair Friedman and committee members. I am Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center. Many thanks to Senator Skinner for leading this pioneering legislation.

As we face growing climate extremes, we cannot afford to continue relying on outdated and polluting technologies to keep our lights on and avoid power outages. Polluting gas peaker plants and dirty diesel generators disproportionately harm lower-income and working-class communities, exacerbating environmental injustices.

We have a better option. By making electric vehicles bidirectional, we can use these batteries on wheels to store energy when it’s plentiful and send power back to our homes, businesses, and the grid when needed. This can benefit everyone, from rural areas to cities, and help ensure that energy resilience is available to every Californian, regardless of income.

Tesla is making all of its vehicles bidirectional by 2025 and bidirectionality is standard for Nissan Leafs. Making EVs bidirectional is a simple, inexpensive software upgrade, and doable now as standards already exist. And bidirectional charging can be managed to maintain battery life. Using even a tiny percentage of our growing EV capacity, we can avoid blackouts, secure a more reliable power grid, and support climate justice by providing clean power generation during peak periods.

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.

SB 233 will help unlock the full potential of EVs and clean energy. It is supported by nearly 100 organizations including environmental and environmental justice groups, EV industry leaders, and local governmental organizations.

We urge your aye vote in support of SB 233 to help California build the Grid for the Future — one that is clean, affordable, reliable, equitable, and safe. Thank you.