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Testimony: Moving past fossil fuels for energy resilience

Electric vehicle (EV) charging. Photo by Canva.
Electric vehicle (EV) charging. Photo by Canva.

On July 12, 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 Energy and Utilities Committee by a vote of ten 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 debated in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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

Good afternoon Chair Garcia and committee members. I am Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center.

SB 233 makes possible a much cleaner, cheaper, and more equitable electricity system, and offers a chance to move past fossil fuels as our core strategy for energy resilience and reliability.

Last week was the hottest week globally in history. This week, we’ve seen record-breaking flooding in the Northeast, extreme heat in the South, and now, that same deadly heatwave is coming to us here in California. We cannot afford to continue relying on outdated and polluting fossil fuel technologies to keep our lights on and keep our grid from failing.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.

In the past few years, California has extended the life of fossil fuel power plants and invested in diesel generators and other fossil-fuel-based energy reliability assets. Recently, utilities have sent emails to customers encouraging them to purchase fossil fuel backup generators. We have invested billions of state dollars into these resources. SB 233 provides the opportunity to tap into a cleaner and cheaper alternative — electric vehicles (EVs) — to provide the same benefits.

We are just embarking on massive, once-in-a-generation investments in EVs as California phases out gas vehicles by 2035, using both federal and state dollars. The question before the committee today is: will we use these taxpayer investments to also build a cleaner and more reliable electricity grid?

Right now, California has about 1.5 million EVs on the road. Officials estimate we will have 8 million by 2030 and 12 million by 2035. If they are bidirectional per SB 233, just a tiny fraction of these vehicles could become a foundational energy storage asset for a more resilient and reliable grid for California.

SB 233 sends a critical market signal. It helps California leverage this massive EV energy capacity — and the billions of federal and state dollars being invested in EVs right now. And it helps ensure energy resilience is available to all Californians at every EV price point.

With more than 200 organizations in support, I respectfully ask for your “aye” vote. Thank you!