Dams still can't count toward the state's clean-energy quotas

icon of a dam

A proposal that environmentalists warned would inadvertently undercut solar and wind energy development was shelved by its author.

The bill would have created a small exception to rules that, for now, prevent hydropower from counting toward an ambitious state target: deriving 60% of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Under SB 386, by Salinas Democratic Sen. Anna Caballero, two Central Valley irrigation districts could have saved money by applying electricity produced by the Don Pedro Dam towards their clean energy quotas.

Opponents complained that the tiny exemption would prompt similar pushes to count hydropower produced by dams across the state—ultimately encouraging dependence on an energy source that’s less reliable during droughts, while reducing incentives to invest in new solar and wind outfits.

“It’s kind of a get-out-of jail free card for them from having to procure more renewable technology,” said Ethan Elkind, director of the climate program at UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment.

Caballero could resurrect the bill next year. “California’s renewable energy goals are laudable,” she said in a statement, “but they should take into account the different ways in which our most disadvantaged communities are affected.”

—Rachel Becker