Open Letter to Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Get REAL! New Solar Family Farm Ballot Initiative Vaults Over Barriers to Rapidly Accelerate Renewable Energy

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In 2018, I joined the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) to be part of a grassroots effort to accelerate the urgently needed transition away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy.

This week, when I read about California’s new Renewable Energy Acceleration Law (REAL) ballot initiative, the genius of its decentralized, grid-bypassing “solar family farm” approach was immediately obvious.  

Much more solar energy, more quickly, bringing billions of renewable energy investment to our state without a dime of California taxpayer money. 

My favorable impression has solidified, based upon REAL research, and confirmation of my understanding from the initiative’s authors.

What REAL is calling for is limited but powerful changes to the Public Utility Code, allowing for straightforward implementation. REAL can double the output of solar farms during the next year to empower California to meet our mandated 2045 decarbonization goals. It could achieve this urgently needed goal simply by adding a few hundred words to the California Public Utility Code that enable property owners of up to 100 acres of underutilized or fallowed agriculturally zoned land anywhere in the state to sell solar electricity “over the fence” to neighbors within a two mile radius over their own reductant distribution microgrid.

REAL would be profitable for the generators and could provide neighbors within 8,000 surrounding acres of a solar farm with an immediate cut in electric bills of more than 30%. It builds community and provides much-needed resilience from blackouts.

The REAL solution avoids all the barriers to the rapid installation of solar farms. It is smaller scale, and allows for hyper-local sale of clean energy off the grid, thereby bypassing the need for construction of long transmission lines, which is the primary bottleneck for building out solar energy quickly. It reduces local air pollution as it serves to accelerate retirement of coal or gas-fired power plants and can support green transportation. 

This creativity is exactly the kind of thing that a society-wide effort to address the climate crisis requires!  This is why I am calling on every California Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) to publicly support the most potentially transformative climate solution legislation ever considered in our state.

The grassroots, all-volunteer organizers of the Get REAL campaign are asking for expressions of organizational and individual support to be sent to info@RealClimateSolution.com to present on their website.

They are also seeking online contributions, which can be donated here. 

There are two major barriers to this legislative effort: utility pushback and “not invented here” thinking. The utility companies do not benefit from a major increase in off-grid electrical generation, since it cuts into the profits they make from electrical transmission with guaranteed rates. 

The utilities’ approach is more akin to a corporation protecting its turf, rather than as a government agency dedicated to promoting the general welfare. This resistance is epitomized in the utilities’ recent attempts to hobble the solar industry’s progress with rooftop solar, promoting an alteration in the pricing formula that makes it uneconomic for the homeowner. One can fully expect exaggerated claims of risk and high cost, which are inaccurate as well as cynical, given that the risks of failing to address climate change make other concerns fade into irrelevance by comparison. 

The utilities, on the contrary, should welcome the REAL increase in clean power. Without new grid-bypassing generation of renewable energy, it will be impossible for the state’s utility companies to meet the doubling of demand, during the next 20 years, that it will take to transition 30 million fossil fuel burning cars, trucks, buses and farm vehicles transition from burning diesel and gas to using renewable electricity.

The second risk is the knee-jerk response of organizations with overlapping climate goals of electrification and environmental protection to decline to participate in advocacy for the REAL Solar Family Farm bill because it’s just not “their” cause. This is not the time for climate-friendly activists to erect protective perimeters around their goals, or wear blinders that prevent recognition of kindred spirit work worthy of support.

In the case of CCL, for example, one of its four focus areas is “permitting reform.” This is necessary “to speed up the pace at which we build and connect new clean energy projects.” The permitting process for major energy projects “adds hefty time and expense to projects of all kinds”, particularly wind and solar, where there is a massive backlog of projects. The REAL Family Farm Solar bill literally checks all the boxes at CCL: “necessary to meet America’s climate goals”, “removes a backlog of clean energy projects”, “creates jobs in rural areas” and “improves air quality in disadvantaged communities.” 

I call upon the leadership of CCL to become intimately familiar with the REAL Climate Solution, and conclude that it deserves a place in CCL’s advocacy.

Here are some videos that explain how the REAL legislation works-and why it is worthy of our support.

 

 

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Gary Stewart

Dr. Stewart, a native of St. Petersburg, Florida, stopped in Nashville and St. Louis for education before arriving in Southern California in 1977. A happily married internal medicine physician with three accomplished children, he is equally enthusiastic about the arts (piano player, art collector, bachelor’s in English, widely read), the sciences (physician, climate activist with Citizens’ Climate Lobby) and fun.

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