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California Gov. Signs Climate Bills Related to AVs, Wind Power

Legislation aimed at requiring the electrification of autonomous vehicles and bolstering offshore wind power have cleared the governor’s office, as the state pushes to be a leader in the transportation and energy sectors.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed two climate-oriented bills: one opening the state to offshore wind energy production, and another establishing zero-emission requirements for autonomous vehicles.

Assembly Bill 525 requires the California Energy Commission to set offshore wind goals for 2030 and 2045, under the 100 Percent Clean Energy Act of 2018.

“California does need to diversify its clean energy sources to meet our clean energy goals,” said Jennifer Kwart, communications director for Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, who introduced the legislation.

“Additionally, offshore wind is a good complement to solar energy” she added. “When the sun sets and solar stops producing, the wind picks up, allowing offshore wind turbines to produce energy throughout the night and late afternoon during peak demand hours.”

The governor also signed legislation requiring autonomous vehicles to be zero-emission vehicles by 2030. The law, known as Senate Bill 500, will require that all new light-duty AVs be zero emission by 2030, affecting 2031 model years and beyond. The regulation follows California’s aim to put five million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. Newsom has already signed an executive order to require that all new passenger vehicles sold in the state be zero emissions by 2035.

AVs are already evolving as electric vehicles, with roughly half the vehicles being tested in the country being electric, said Mollie D’Agostino, policy director at the University California, Davis, Policy Institute where she focuses on the evolution of shared, electric and automated vehicles.

“That’s pretty good. The AV industry is forward-looking,” said D’Agostino last month during a webinar to discuss the intersection between electric vehicles and autonomous technology. The webinar was organized by Veloz, a Sacramento-based EV advocacy group.

“But given the fact that these are expected to be high-mileage vehicles, I think we can do better than that,” she added.

The legislation to include offshore wind power generation as part of the state’s mix of renewable energy is part of a policy goal to have California relying on renewables for 100 percent of its electricity needs by 2045.

Research has indicated the world needs significantly more renewable energy capacity by 2050, if it is to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change. The International Energy Agency’s “Net Zero by 2050” report estimates about 150 gigawatts of offshore wind energy will need to be online by then, which is 25 times more than what is produced today.

“We've seen more and more interest and investment in offshore wind energy, nationally and internationally,” said Kwart in an email.

California agencies, along with the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal agencies signed an agreement in July to advance offshore wind lease areas off of California coasts, with the potential to generate 4.6 GW of energy, according to the Business Network for Offshore Wind.

And research by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) has focused on the potential of developing floating offshore wind farms. The technology is similar to that used to support deep-water oil-drilling platforms.

“Globally, as of 2019, a total of 65.7 MW of floating offshore wind was installed, with projects sized up to 250 MW under construction and larger projects — 750-plus MW — in development,” said Kwart.

Research has shown, however, that floating wind turbine technology is expensive, with prices ranging from $110 per megawatt hour to $175 per megawatt hour in 2019.

California and other western states may be turning to new sources of renewable power as drought — driven by climate change — draws down reservoir levels and casts doubt on the future of existing hydroelectric operations.

“It seems logical that if there is less water, we won’t be able to rely on hydropower as we have in the past,” said Kwart, but cautioned that Chiu’s office is not prepared to offer any larger analysis on this issue.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.

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