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Testimony: Making electricity more affordable and reliable using EVs

Person charging EV
Person plugging in an electric vehicle. Photo by Canva.

On July 1, 2024, SB 59 passed out of the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee by a vote of 12-3. Introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner and sponsored by The Climate Center, SB 59 aims to unlock the potential for California’s millions of electric vehicles to shore up the electric grid, power homes during outages, and lower energy bills for Californians. The bill would authorize the California Air Resources Board to require that electric vehicles (EVs) sold in California have bidirectional capability.

The following testimony was given to the committee by Kendra Harris, Government Affairs Manager for The Climate Center:

Good afternoon, Chair Petrie-Norris and committee members. I am Kendra Harris, Government Affairs Manager for The Climate Center.

Right now in California, we have an electricity affordability problem and an energy resilience problem.

The acceleration of bidirectional electric vehicle (EV) deployment, as called for in SB 59, is an elegant solution to both of these problems. Existing California policy already calls for all sales of new, light-duty passenger vehicles and school buses to be zero-emission by 2035. SB 59 takes the next step and points toward a future in which our current, once-in-a-generation, multi-billion dollar investments in electric vehicles also help to build a more resilient and reliable electrical grid.

We cannot afford to continue relying on outdated and polluting fossil technologies to keep our lights on and keep our grid from failing. Polluting gas peaker plants and dirty diesel backup generators disproportionately harm lower-income and working-class communities, exacerbating environmental injustices.

Right now, California has almost 2 million EVs on the road. The CEC estimates we will have 8 million by 2030 and 15 million by 2035. If they are bidirectional, just a tiny fraction of these vehicles could help create a more resilient and reliable grid. Achieving our goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 will require a massive increase in energy storage in order to store intermittent wind and solar. SB 59 would help California use the currently-untapped battery storage sitting in driveways and fleet parking lots.

This approach saves California ratepayers money. In fact, the Electric Power Research Institute has estimated it could save a billion dollars per year. Recent research from Deloitte showed how using a wide variety of distributed energy resources, including EVs, could save California $30 billion.

SB 59 sends a market signal that the grid for the future needs to plan how to leverage this massive EV energy capacity to help meet our affordability, resilience, and emissions reduction goals. And it helps ensure energy resilience is available to all Californians at every EV price point.

Sixty years ago, it might have seemed radical that the government would require automobiles to include seatbelts, or that the government of California would impose pollution reduction mandates on automakers in order to reduce smog in Southern California. In retrospect, these are viewed as no-brainers.

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board called Senator Skinner’s previous bidirectional EV bill, SB 233, a no-brainer, as well.

I respectfully ask for your “aye” vote, thank you!