CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. (KERO) — California Governor Gavin Newsom continued to detail his strategy for the state's transition from oil and gas to more green and renewable energy options. The governor spoke Thursday at the headquarters of a clean energy storage tech facility in Contra Costa County.
Newsom announced that the threat of power shut-offs on hot California days is likely to be kept at bay from now on thanks in large part to thousands of megawatts of new battery storage being added to the electrical grid this year.
Newsom says the increased storage capacity has allowed the state to collect excess power during times of low demand and discharge it when needed. He added that winter rains have boosted hydropower generation at dams this year, prompting officials to anticipate a power surplus this summer.
According to Newsom, the state has so far been meeting its clean energy project goals, but more still needs to be done.
"We need to build. We need to get things done. This is not an ideological exercise. We're running against time. Mother Nature bats last. She bats 1,000. She's chemistry, she's biology, she's physics. She doesn't mess around," said Newsom. "We don't have time to hold hands and talk about the way the world should be. We got to go."
Critics of the governor's plan say all that new development will cost money, which is likely to fall onto ratepayers who are already burdened with some of the nation's highest energy costs.
Newsom says the ongoing debt ceiling talks in Washington are also causing concern when it comes to funding for green energy projects, directly calling out who he sees as the responsible party.
"This is a manmade problem by a Californian, Kevin McCarthy. He's created the stress, he's created this anxiety. He's responsible for Fitch's [credit rating] downgrade - at least prospective downgrade - that was announced today. One man: Kevin McCarthy," said Newsom.
Critics of the governor's plan say there's one issue that hasn't been addressed, and that's what happens to oil workers and their jobs when the transition is completed.
Newsom says there will be jobs for these workers.
"We already have six times more green energy jobs in the state of California than we have fossil fuel jobs. We've already transitioned. We're well under the way in this transition. This was an old industrial site. Heck, this was where the Model T was built. Before we advanced our manufacturing might during World War Two, this is just part of this larger narrative as it relates to that transition and these are good paying jobs. These are career opportunities. This is an opportunity for all of us to be included. And we're not here to leave people behind."
However, critics point out that pair of pilot programs launched in 2022 to offer financial support and job training to thousands of oil industry workers at risk of losing their jobs are not slated for any new investment by the state in the coming fiscal year. The state's previous budget established a $40 million workforce displacement fund, as well as a $20 million pilot program for training displaced oil and gas workers in Kern and Los Angeles Counties to help cap abandoned wells.
Newsom's new budget proposal does not provide any new funding for the programs, meaning they could expire once the money dries up.
This concern about the fate of the oil industry and its employees is front and center for the Western States Petroleum Association. WSPA Vice President of Strategic Communications Kevin Slagle says the transition plan is not working for oil workers.
WATCH MARC BLAINE'S 23ABC NEWS INTERVIEW WITH WSPA'S KEVIN SLAGLE:
"Yes, let's be clear, there is no such thing as a just transition. You cannot take somebody who's invested their lifetime in a career in the oil industry or other parts of our industry and then say, 'Look, we're going to train you to put in solar panels or do something else that people already are doing,'" said Slagle. "So we need to be honest. We need to know that communities, Kern County for example, will be majorly impacted by this push to all-electric, and there just simply is no replacing the types of life-changing, family-changing careers that this industry provides. We need a reality check."
Slagle adds that he understands the need for the transition, but says WSPA and others in the oil industry just with the governor would slow down and rethink the target dates for his goals, saying the state needs time to get everything in order, especially when it comes to the oil industry.
IN-DEPTH: CALIFORNIA'S CLIMATE PROGRESS
Governor Newsom has said that the state is meeting and surpassing target goals when it comes to clean energy, and brought some numbers out to demonstrate.
- In 2010, only 661 all-electric vehicles were sold in California. In just the first quarter of 2023, more than 124,000 have been sold.
- The California Energy Commission has reported that more than 37 percent of the state's electricity in 2021 came from solar and wind, which is up 2.7 percent from 2020.
- The CEC also reports that the state had already met the clean energy target set for 2020 by 2017.
- The CEC also highlighted the growth in power storage capacity, including adding battery capacity to the state's power grid. According to regulators, the state today has almost 20 times the capacity as it had in 2019.