In summary

We need the CPUC to formalize a regulatory framework for microgrids and what could be a clean and reliable energy future.

By P.J. Quesada, Special to CalMatters

P.J. Quesada is vice president of operations of Ramar Foods, a third-generation, family owned and operated Filipino food company headquartered in Pittsburg, pj@ramarfoods.com.

When I was diagnosed with severe asthma at the age of 5, my mom asked the doctor what could be done. He basically said, “Move out of California to avoid pollution.”

For those who don’t know how hard it is to have asthma, take a breath. Then another. Now imagine you cannot take that breath because an invisible evil is squeezing your lungs. People like me never take any breath for granted.    

Even though climate science and the dangers of global warming were well understood back when I was 5, here we are 30 years later not much further along.

As Californians look out their windows to brown, smoky skies, it is clear the state must do more and do it faster to transition us to cleaner energy sources. 

We need the California Public Utilities Commission to formalize a regulatory framework that will guide the reimagining of what could be a clean, reliable and more equitable energy future for our state, especially local communities hit hardest by poor air quality and the health crisis. Specifically, this guidance would encourage the installation and use of clean energy servers, what are essentially “microgrids.”

By utilizing a clean energy server to power our operations, Ramar Foods’ “microgrid” has prevented nearly 1 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions since 2013. With recent upgrades, we’ll offset 330,000 pounds of CO2 annually, the equivalent of planting 2,475 trees each year. This is the clean energy that enables our 290 employees to make the products that help feed families and communities with confidence and a clear conscience that we are doing the right thing.

While we do our part to reduce emissions and reimagine energy power with other forward thinkers, we need the CPUC to formalize the regulations that should stop penalizing and start enabling more essential businesses like ours to do the same.

Indeed, we see the red-tape, unnecessary utility-imposed fees, and the exhausting review process plaguing the CPUC. We need an opportunity to improve resilience and the ability to generate our own electricity in a clean, sustainable way. By doing so, public safety power shut-offs and rolling blackouts could all be a thing of the past.

Then, recently “a green” light was given through an emergency declaration allowing diesel generators to be used – without limitations normally tied to air pollution – for back-up power to avoid blackouts.

Using diesel over clean options shows how far off course California is and how much good work there is yet to do.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has lamented his impatience for climate deniers as he briefed the state on one wildfire after another calling the state’s plight a  “climate damn emergency.” The governor rightly said the state must “step up our game. As we lead the nation in low-carbon green growth, we’ll have to fast track our efforts.”

The legislation enabling businesses to invest in their own power generation passed and was signed into law in 2018. Let us not breathe our own exhaust, as the saying goes, and take massive steps backward in what is by far one of the most important directions we should go.

Every step taken this fall by the state regulator to formalize a rate structure and regulations will empower and encourage local communities and governments to cooperate on what a clean energy future really means, then make it happen.

I’m glad we didn’t heed my doctor’s suggestion to move, and I remain a proud Californian to this day. But we cannot wait any longer to put solutions in place that will lead to a clean-air future. I urge the CPUC to approve the necessary regulations without further delay so we can all breathe easier.

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