Addressing the Role of Electric Vehicles in Greenhouse Gas Reduction: California State Legislative Action

carThis is the first post in a series looking at legislative and regulatory action addressing Electric Vehicle (EV) greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. This first post focuses on state legislative action.

California depends on petroleum for 92% of its transportation fuel needs. Transportation accounts for 36% of California’s total GHG emissions with passenger vehicles accounting for 25.8% of total GHG emissions in the state according to the California Energy Commissions 2014 Draft Integrated Energy Policy Report Update. The transportation sector presents a unique opportunity for regulatory stakeholders to advance technology, policy, and public attitude to reduce GHG emissions.

GHG reduction mandates come from both state and federal authority. AB 32, or the California Global Warming Solutions Act, was passed in 2006 to address the adverse impacts of anthropogenic climate change in California. AB 32 lists the potential adverse impacts as: air quality problems, a reduction in the quality and supply of water to the state from the Sierra snowpack, a rise in sea levels, damage to marine ecosystems and the natural environment, and an increase in the incidences of infectious diseases, asthma, and other human health-related problems. To avoid these negative consequences, AB 32 sets the goal of reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 with Executive Order S-3-05 and B-16-2012 setting a goal of reducing GHG emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The Federal Clean Air Act also drives an 80% reduction in emissions from oxides of nitrogen (NOX) from current levels by 2023.

The state legislature created the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP) under AB 118 (Chapter 750, Statutes of 2007), amended the program under AB 118 (Chapter 313, Statutes 2008), and reauthorized the program under AB 8 (Chapter 401, Statutes of 2013) to help the California Energy Commission facilitate electric vehicles (EVs) as one viable solution for the reduction of GHG emissions in the transportation sector. While pure EVs have no tailpipe emissions, the overall GHG emissions of driving an EV depends on how the electricity is generated, which is largely dictated by which regional grid electricity is drawn from. For example, charging an EV in California, part of one of the cleanest electricity regions, yields GHG emissions equivalent to a 70 mpg gas-powered vehicle.

Recognizing the potential for EVs to further the goal of AB 32, achieve Executive Order B-16-2012’s goal of 1.5 zero-emission vehicles by 2025, and to cap off National Drive Electric Week, Governor Brown signed several bills during the 2014 legislative session relating to GHG reductions in the transportation sector:

1. AB 1721 grants free or reduced-rates in high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes to clean air vehicles.
2. AB 2013 increases the number of advanced technology partial ZEVs that may be allowed in high-occupancy vehicle lanes to 70,000, regardless of how many people occupy the vehicle.
3. AB 2090 repeals the level of service requirements on HOT lanes for the San Diego Association of Governments and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, and directs them to work with the California Department of Transportation to develop appropriate performance measures.
4. AB 2565 requires commercial and residential property owners to approve installation of an EV charging station by renters for any lease executed, renewed, or extended on and after July 1st 2015, so long as the station meets certain requirements.
5. SB 1275 creates the Charge Ahead California Initiative, which establishes its own goal of at least 1 million ZEVs and near-ZEVs in California by January 1, 2023. The California Air Resources Board (ARB) will prepare a funding plan that includes a market and technology assessment, assessments of existing zero and near-zero emission funding programs, and a focus on programs that increase access to disadvantaged, low-income, and moderate-income communities and consumers. SB1275 also builds on the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) that offers rebates for the lease or purchase of qualified vehicles. Rebates of up to $2,500 per light-duty vehicle are available for individuals, nonprofits, government entities, and business owners who purchase or lease a qualified vehicle. No later than June 30, 2015, the ARB shall adopt revisions to ensure that rebate levels can be phased down in increments based on cumulative sales levels, eligibility is based on income, and consideration of the conversion to prequalification and point-of-sale rebates or other methods to increase participation rates.

With the legislature’s continued drive to decrease GHG emissions, there is an ever-evolving need to address issues at the regulatory and technical level to develop the EV market and deploy needed infrastructure. Future posts will look at how the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), California Energy Commission (CEC), California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California Governor’s Office, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) are working to address and solve these issues.

Katrina Wraight coauthored this blog post.  Katrina is a legal intern for EPIC and a second year law student at the University of San Diego School of Law.

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About Joe Kaatz

Staff Attorney at the Energy Policy Initiatives Center, University of San Diego School of Law.
This entry was posted in Greenhouse Gas, Transportation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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