Published: March 28, 2017
By Sammy Roth, Desert Sun
President Donald Trump took a major step toward removing the United States from global efforts to fight climate change Tuesday, ordering federal officials to start dismantling Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. But even as Trump signed that executive order in Washington, renewable energy advocates out West were doubling down on their efforts to clean up the power grid.
At stake is the future of solar farms, wind turbines and coal plants across 11 western states, and a proposal from California Gov. Jerry Brown to bring them all under the umbrella of a unified power grid. Brown thinks a unified grid would bolster clean energy and reduce electricity rates, by making it easier for California to sell excess solar power to other states and import cheap wind power from Wyoming and New Mexico. But his plan has divided environmentalists, some of whom fear it would actually help the coal industry, or give Trump an opportunity to attack California’s climate policies.
Many climate advocates support Brown’s proposal. A coalition including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Silicon Valley tech companies and clean energy firms launched a new push for the governor’s western grid plan Tuesday, urging Golden States lawmakers to authorize the expansion of the California Independent System Operator, which runs most of the state’s electric grid.
Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of NRDC’s energy program, said the Trump administration’s backsliding on climate change makes it more important than ever for California to work with other states.
“At a time when the Clean Power Plan is under threat, the fastest and cheapest way to enhance renewable energy across the West is full western grid integration,” Cavanagh said in a conference call with reporters. “It’s something we can do regardless of federal policy to advance a clean energy expansion across the West that’s already well underway.”
But critics see Trump’s love affair with fossil fuels as a reason to be wary of Brown’s plan.