More rooftop solar, less port pollution: Here’s what the $369 billion climate bill could mean for San Diego

August 29, 2022

The Inflation Reduction Act will invest in San Diego’s clean energy transition while supporting families and businesses. Funding for port improvements, EV stations, energy incentives, and more innovation will put our region on track to be a leader in reducing harmful emissions.

Read more about it in this August 8th piece from the San Diego Union Tribune, posted below:

More rooftop solar, less port pollution: Here’s what the $369 billion climate bill could mean for San Diego

By Deborah Sullivan Brennan

August 8, 2022

The $369 billion climate package approved by the Senate on Sunday could bring San Diego a cash infusion that could move major climate projects off of wish lists and into construction — from more rooftop solar and zero-emission vehicles to electrifying buildings and port facilities.

The legislation, which would be the largest federal investment in climate action to date, could accelerate projects that political and environmental leaders say are urgently needed to curb worsening impacts of global warming.

It could also help pay for the complex and costly measures needed for the region to meet its own ambitious goals, local leaders say.

“We’ve been experiencing record drought, wildfires, rising sea level, and we know we have to take aggressive action now to protect our planet,” said Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano.

California has already set ambitious climate goals, pledging a deadline of 2045 for achieving net carbon zero — the point at which the state will remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as it emits.

San Diego has moved that goalpost even closer, aiming for net zero emissions by 2035. The city passed its new Climate Action Plan last week, and this week the county will release its sweeping blueprint for cutting emissions countywide.

“So many of our (climate action) levers here are local, but it’s really expensive to fund that and move that without federal dollars,” said San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer.

A summary by Senate Democrats concluded that the legislation would reduce climate emissions by 40 percent over 2005 levels by 2030; the federal target is 50 percent by that date.

The Senate package includes a number of incentives for Americans to invest in cleaner energy, including $9 billion in home energy rebates, tax credits of $7,500 for new clean-energy vehicles and $4,000 for used ones, and tax credits for improving homes’ energy efficiency with systems such as rooftop solar and heat pumps.

It would also encourage renewable energy development and offer $30 billion in grants and loans for states and electric utilities to convert to clean electricity. And it allocates $60 billion for environmental-justice efforts, $20 billion for “climate-smart agriculture,” $3 billion for port emissions reduction programs and $2.6 billion for coastal restoration.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, said San Diego could get funding to speed the construction of electric vehicle charging networks and needed port improvements, including electric dock equipment and shore power systems that allow ships to plug in at harbor instead of idling on diesel fuel.

He said that both public agencies and private companies in San Diego’s technology sector could benefit from the bill’s grants and incentives.

“That (funding) is largely for innovation, and a lot of that innovation happens in California,” Peters said. “When San Diego is able to compete for money, we punch above our weight.”

James Beach, a managing partner with San Diego-based EnerSmart Storage, said the legislation would offer incentives for the first time to companies such as his, which builds and operates storage systems for renewable energy.

“We’re supporting but don’t produce renewable energy,” he said. “So we were left out (before).”

The legislation offers renewable energy companies tax credits worth up to 30 percent of their costs, which Beach said have coincidentally risen about 30 percent over the past year and a half for his company. It’s not a windfall, he said, but it could enable his company to stay afloat.

“I consider myself fiscally conservative,” Beach said. “I’m not a big believer in government handouts, but in this case it can make a huge positive impact in the power industry. It really is the thing that we need to get this country off of fossil fuels.”

The federal funding could jumpstart the city’s plan to require electric power for new construction and transition existing buildings off of natural gas, said Brenda Garcia Millan, a policy analyst for the San Diego Climate Action Campaign.

She also said the bill‘s $60 billion in funding for environmental justice could help improve air quality and cut greenhouse emissions in communities most affected by air pollution, such as Barrio Logan and San Ysidro. But she cautioned that the city must have a plan in place to compete for and spend grant money for those projects.

“We want the city to be ready for anything the federal government adopts,” Garcia Millan said. “In the past, the city was unsuccessful at implementing the (Climate Action Plan) due to a lack of funding. In terms of the Inflation Reduction Act, the Climate Action Campaign is cautiously optimistic. It still is not past the finish line.”

Senate leaders introduced the climate package on July 27 as part of the Inflation Reduction Act — a spending package that also includes an extension of the Affordable Care Act, prescription-drug price reforms and tax hikes on corporations and wealthy individuals.

It’s a scaled-back version of last year’s Build Back Better Act, which would have authorized spending on climate, energy, health care, child care and other social supports.

The previous bill failed without the support of two moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. The Inflation Reduction Act was negotiated with Manchin, and Sinema signaled her support Friday. With Senate Democrats united, the package was approved Sunday by a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. It now heads to the House.

As a condition of Manchin’s support, the package has trade-offs that would prolong fossil-fuel production, such as selling new oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.

That’s a sticking point for some local environmental advocates, who appreciate the bill’s spending on projects such as rooftop solar and environmental justice but believe its inclusion of expanded drilling leases and some other technologies would slow the transition to renewable energy.

“This is a difficult bill,” said Masada Disenhouse, executive director of the nonprofit San Diego 350. “It’s got those things we like, (but) it has so many bad things in it that are hard to stomach, that have no place in a climate bill.”

Congressional offices said their analysis finds that the legislation’s clean energy incentives would remove far more carbon emissions than the new oil leases would produce.

Levin said the act would live up to its title by increasing the domestic power supply, which could stabilize soaring fuel costs and also improve energy security.

“I think the key is that this will provide clean energy independence,” Levin said.



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