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California residents should be able to keep their lights on during disaster-driven power outages without having to rely on carbon-emitting generators, state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, said in his new piece of climate legislation titled the Community Energy Resilience Act.

Introduced on Tuesday, Jan. 4, Senate Bill 833 would help local governments develop clean energy community infrastructure, like solar panels and ample battery storage, by providing technical and financial assistance from the California Energy Commission.

Dodd said planning for clean energy investments can attract private and public entities and curate a community-wide resilience strategy that prioritizes the most essential facilities in a disaster.

As wildfires and heat waves occur more often and with greater intensity, Dodd hopes to diminish the role of diesel generators during ever-frequent power shutoffs.

“Not only have recent power outages cost California billions of dollars, but emissions from backup generators have exacted a heavy toll on our environment,” Dodd said in a statement. “I want to prioritize development of clean energy sources, especially in low-income communities, so we minimize the environmental threat and keep the lights on for everyone.”

For essential public service providers or residents dependent on electric medical devices, diesel backup engines often serve as a lifeline in temporary outages. The California Air Resources Board said this short-term use can still have harmful effects in air quality and public health, however.

In a January 2020 impact assessment, CARB concluded that almost 973,000 customers across California were affected by 806 power shutoff events in October 2019 alone. During this time, generators added an estimated 8.9 tons of diesel particulate matter into the atmosphere, which the board said is almost the equivalent of 29,000 heavy trucks driving on state roadways for a month.

Environmental, community and industry groups like The Climate Center and the California State Association of Counties expressed support for Dodd’s legislation.

“Climate impacts from wildfires to extreme heat waves are disrupting lives and businesses across California,” Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center, said in a statement. “The Community Energy Resilience Act represents an important step toward a clean energy future for the state. We look forward to working with Sen. Dodd to pass this commonsense legislation and ensure that California’s most vulnerable communities benefit first.”