SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Golden State on Thursday is expected to announce it will ban all new gasoline-powered automobiles by 2035, according to press reports.
The ambitious plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes was welcomed by clean energy and climate advocates. It will be a critical move as California and other states rush to adopt policies to stave off the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
Transportation is the leading contributor to climate pollution in the U.S. So it is critical that auto industry and policymakers make the investments needed to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road while also making sure they are financially accessible to working- and middle-class families.
But it will be a complex policy to implement.
One of the most pressing challenges the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom and future leaders will face is making sure there is enough power to charge all the new electric automobiles that will fill driveways, garages and parking lots throughout the most populous state in the country. The new demand can only be met by dramatic expansions to rooftop solar.
The new plan to boost electric vehicles comes as another proposal backed by the state’s big three investor-owned utilities awaits a decision by regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission. The commission is weighing whether to slash the financial incentives provided to homeowners, including working- and middle-class families, who install rooftop solar plus battery storage to their homes. These incentives include allowing homeowners to sell back to the grid surplus electricity they generate, which helps pay for the panels and batteries.
The utilities are also asking regulators to replace those incentives, known as net metering, with a steep monthly solar tax of up to $60.
The energy and electricity industry analyst firm Wood Mackenzie estimates the California solar market would be cut in half by 2024 if the utility-backed proposal were adopted by the commission.
“The ambitious plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars is exactly the kind of climate solutions California and the rest of the country should be adopting,” said EWG President and Bay Area resident Ken Cook.
“But it will require the state to dramatically ramp up investments in residential and commercial solar that will be needed to charge the millions of electric vehicles in the coming decade,” said Cook. “I don’t see how Gov. Newsom can achieve what his administration would like to do on clean transportation without the most robust rooftop and community solar programs the state can support.”
“And that’s certainly not the plan PG&E and the other utilities are pressuring regulators to adopt,” he added.
There are now more than 1.3 million households, schools and small businesses taking part in the state’s popular rooftop solar program.
According to data collected from the U.S. Department of Energy and analyzed by the online news site electrek, there are already more than 560,000 electric vehicles registered in California. With the state’s population reaching 40 million, the coordinated planning required to reach the 2035 goal is a huge undertaking and will require an all-in approach.
Amid the net metering debate and this new announcement, the governor is also calling for extending the life of the aging, expensive and unsafe Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. The extension is proposed to last until 2035, when the state’s percentage of renewable power will be well over 60 percent, according to existing mandates.
“The EV market expansion shouldn’t be an excuse to keep the plant running,” said Cook. “Earthquake and other safety concerns have been raised for years. And, as expressed by several key lawmakers of late, public safety should be the paramount issue when considering the fate of the plant.”
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.