Hydropower projects are a renewable form of energy, but not without impacts to our wild and scenic rivers that should be accounted for when legislation is crafted regarding renewable energy. SYRCL volunteer Peter Burnes travelled to Sacramento on April 7, 2015 to attend the California Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee hearing on SB 350 where other supporters of the bill included a broad coalition of environmental justice and environmental protection organizations and alternative energy companies. SYRCL was joined by fellow partners in the California Hydropower Reform Coalition (CHRC), including American Whitewater, Friends of the River, and CalTrout.
Senate Bill 350 updates California’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) and raises the RPS target from 33% to 50% by 2030. The main interest of SYRCL and CHRC is to reinforce that large hydropower projects do not qualify as renewable energy and that ‘small’ hydropower projects (less than 30 megawatts) must meet stringent requirements eliminating impacts on anadromous fisheries in order to be considered ‘renewable’. This means that the energy market must continue to invest in truly renewable energy sources, including sources to meet peak energy demand which do not rely on dams. The bill also increases energy efficiency requirements for buildings and encourages shifts to non-petroleum based transportation.
Peter reports from the hearing that the Senators were overwhelmingly interested in jobs. The job creation component of the bill is a key consideration for the legislators, and they want to see more jobs in disadvantaged communities in particular. As expected, opposition to the bill generally raised the “jobs versus environment” canard that is losing impact as the alternative energy market continues to thrive throughout California and the west.
SB 350 passed out of committee with no amendments and is on its way to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. To learn more, see the goals of SB 350.