Here in California we are climate heroes, right? Just this week, several California agencies including the Energy Commission, the PUC, and the Air Resources Board hosted a public workshop on implementation of SB-100 which lays out California’s clean energy target of 100 percent by 2050.
There was a lot of good discussion surrounding challenges to meeting this goal. Here are just a few: Many of the technologies proposed do not exist yet. Many of the low-carbon resources will be expensive to build and maintain. We have made progress with efficiency and conservation, but we will need a lot more electricity if we want to electrify other sectors to reduce emissions.
But one topic was suspiciously missing from all discussion — our single largest source of carbon-free electricity, nuclear.
While California claims to be at the forefront of energy policy and environmental leadership, our electricity sector is still 60 percent natural gas. That means that our electric cars are really 60 percent natural gas cars, and our electric stoves are really 60 percent natural gas stoves. And, yes, if you use grid power this applies to you — even if you have solar panels on your roof, even if you have no natural gas appliances in your house (gasp). Getting off of natural gas means we need to have a clean electricity supply in the wait, not a 60 percent natural gas electricity grid spewing carbon and methane into our atmosphere.
It is clear that we need more carbon-free energy, and we need it now. While the climate crisis worsens and air pollution continues to kill millions of people every year, we see the premature closure of carbon-free nuclear energy as a step in the wrong direction.
We applaud Assemblymember Cunningham for taking a bold step to save California’s single largest source of carbon-free energy. By including nuclear in California’s definition of “renewables,” Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham’s proposed Assembly Constitutional Amendment will help expand and protect California’s options for reducing emissions. And by making this proposal, he acknowledges that we don’t have to wait until 2030 to start trying.
Kristin Zaitz and Heather Matteson are cofounders of Mothers for Nuclear, and The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and don’t reflect the official position of their employer, PG&E.