CA Innovation Leads with EVs, Renewable Energy Policy and Law

By Suzanne Maxx 

Up the coast at the Informational Hearing on Renewable Energy at California State University, Channel Islands (CSU-CI) and down at The City of Santa Monica’s annual AltCar Expo, the opportunities to test drive numerous EVs were abundant— read more from a young WTN intern’s perspective here.

These events and others set the stage for some much needed support, policy, and action from the Nation’s leading state of clean energy. Together these events contribute to the public education and adoption that is now needed for renewable energy sources, energy storage, electric vehicles and charging infrastructure for the public.

Senator Fran Pavley and Senator Lou Correa at the Special Hearing for Energy Security

California is the largest clean energy economy in the nation. Sustainable energy and security transcend partisanship and State Senator Fran Pavley, who chairs the Select Committee on the Environment, the Economy, and Climate and Senator Lou Correa, who chairs the Committee on Veteran Affairs, mingled with some of the key stake holders of renewable energy projects outside on CSU-CI’s campus where we were among the many alternative vehicles; including hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells, and electric vehicles (EVs)  such as;  Nissan’s Leaf, Chevy’s Volt, Mitsubishi’s iMi-EV, BMW’s Active E and more that were available to test drive prior to the Informational Hearing titled “Energy Security: California, Business and Military Partnerships”. Video of the hearing is here.

Tesla’s Model X SUV

A significant contribution of much needed jobs have been created by innovative automotive electric vehicle manufacturers that established their headquarters and manufacturing plants in the State of California such as;  Tesla (who alone brought in more than 1500 new jobs), Coda and Fisker.  So significant of an impact that, just yesterday, the California Energy Commission (CEC) agreed to grant Tesla 10 million dollars  so they will be able to hire an additional 500-700 workers and manufacture not just a sports vehicle or the sedan (Model S), but also this SUV (Model X) with all of their vehicles touting a 250 mile battery range. Tesla committed to providing $50.2 million for the project and adding the jobs to qualify for the grant that’s funded by vehicle registration and smog fees. Tesla’s Gen 3 vehicle which is expected to sell for around $30,000, will help meet the company’s goals to provide electric vehicles to the masses by making it not just “eco”-logically friendly but also “eco”-nomically friendly. This may be one of the game changers needed for EVs (besides improved battery technology and charging infrastructure) that will also affect the big picture of air quality and public health— benefiting not just some people, but potentially us all.

The senators asked the panel on Building an Energy Secure Economy; Creating Jobs, which included Diarmuid O’Connell Tesla’s VP of Business Development, Dave Barthmuss of GM, and others, what they can to do for the OEM’s to forward the EV movement and public adoption.  All agreed the popular carpool sticker now given to EVs, which saves time, has incentivized many— but the challenge was still public education, which seemed to be the common thread all discussed, and public perception. From the panelists’ point of view, the biggest challenge now is many people don’t know the vehicles are out there, that the infrastructure is ramping up with public and private charging stations plus simple things like the fact that you can charge your vehicle to any household outlet with the cord that comes with your car.  People tend not to know about the total $7,500 in rebates, nor do they consider the freedom from the cost of maintenance of the lifetime of the vehicle— compared to a standard fossil fuel combustion engine. However they do seem to understand that value of not paying for gas, and some people care about the implications for our next generation and energy security from independence on foreign oil.

During the public comment, and also privately with the senators, I was able to ask, “What about taking the rebate off of the sticker price at the dealership to lower the cost immediately?”  I also was able to inquire into DC fast charging plus some of the other renewable energy policy questions regarding wind and tidal energy that World Team Now supports. Fran Pavely is renowned for really listening to and interacting well with her public constituency and for that we are pleased.

Yesterday CEC decision to invest $20 million which will also contribute towards 5,000 charging stations, and more for local governments’ planning for EVs, and  projects like The Bay Area’s “eTaxi” Program using Better Place’s model to swap out batteries in all electric taxi cabs, while funding  “switch” stations in key places (like the airports) to ultimately achieve unlimited range. The all-electric motorcycle, “Zero” is also a beneficiary of the CECs’ support as they moved their manufacturing plant from Asia to California.   Progress was made not just for EVs but also for energy storage, state wide charging infrastructure and other renewable energy projects in general, for more read the CEC’s press release here.

The Informational Hearing provided more than the panel’s two agendas.   National security and renewable energy had a boost with the public who seemed to be pleasantly surprised to hear more about the active stand the military now takes to demonstrate and deploy renewable energy and environmentally sustainable actions— such as the installation of LED street lights on the 3 local military bases and in Ventura County (VC).  It was encouraging to learn veterans are leaving the military with trained skills and technical expertise in the installation of renewable energy systems such as solar.  We were overwhelmed by the depth of military adoption of renewable energy in VC bases with projects ranging from wind to concentrated solar energy, along with energy storage technology.  Renewable energy plays a powerful role in the game of security, with both offensive and defensive operations in the military.

Senator Pavley was able to share the morning’s news— the bill, SB1409, she wrote which was passed by all parties unanimously in the Senate, and was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 27th 2012, and became The Energy Security Coordination Act of 2013.

This bill supports the state and the federal military to work together on renewable energy research, development and planning, not only for efficiency but also for security.  It supports the work of the Department of Defense (DOD) with VC and helps to ensure the permanence of the military bases and thus the jobs in the local economy.  Coverage of the military’s local renewable energy initiatives, plus the panel discussion on the “DOD’s Clean Energy Achievements in CA,” will be continued in an upcoming blog post.

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