Renewable Energy Campaign Resolution Passes Senate

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Lauren Marnel Shores
Campus Beat Reporter

Last Wednesday, Associated Students Senate unanimously passed a resolution to support CALPIRG’s renewable energy campaign to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

The resolution, authored by Senators Sophia Uemura and Steven Ho, outlines a contract that would “bind the university to a global movement” of planning and promoting a renewable energy campaign according to the resolution.

The resolution was first introduced to A.S. Senate on Feb. 14, but was sent to External Affairs Committee for further discussion due to concerns from Environmental Affairs Board. However, no representative from EAB was able to advocate their unease over the resolution, and was instead forced to have a written statement read aloud to the committee.

“CALPIRG isn’t very transparent on where the money is coming from to fund the 100 percent renewable,” Rena Lahn, co-chair of EAB told The Bottom Line. “The people I’ve talked to don’t really know where the funding is and also, they’re not clear about whether they want it on site generated or off site generated.”

In 2015, the University of California announced its purchase of 80 megawatts from two solar farms in Fresno County, marking “the largest solar purchase by any American university” as part of its Carbon Neutrality Initiative. According to the UC Newsroom, this represents 14 percent of the UC’s system power usage.

In terms of on-site generation, UCSB generates 5 megawatts of solar energy. “It’s barely scratching 10 percent of our energy use and we can’t really go over it,” explained Lahn. “We have the capacity, I think, for 10 megawatts, but we’re growing at such a rate that it won’t affect our electricity enough for it to make sense to do that. It’s not feasible, nor is it cost efficient to try to produce 100 percent renewable on campus.”

Furthermore, Lahn pointed to the Carbon Neutrality Initiative in which UC President Janet Napolitano pledged to make the UC system carbon neutral by 2025 in November 2013.

“[CALPIRG] wants it by 2030, and the Carbon Neutrality Initiative is 2025,” stated Lahn. “So it’s kind of bypassing this resolution in trying to get students to endorse a new campaign. They’re trying to reinvent the wheel that … the UCSB administration has already accepted, that the entire UC system has already accepted. They’re undermining our current CNI bill.”

Despite these concerns, however, A.S. senate passed the resolution without further discussion or changes to the resolution. Senator Jorge Santos cited EAB’s absence at the External Affairs Committee meeting and senate meeting as a reason for the resolution passing without any of EAB’s recommendations incorporated into the resolution.

“The problem is that EAB had a problem with several parts of the resolution, but EAB wasn’t present to speak on it,” said Santos at Wednesday’s meeting. “They did send a statement in because no one could come to the meeting, but CALPIRG was able to speak to all of the issues that were addressed.”

When asked for a comment on their campaign, CALPIRG did not respond to The Bottom Line’s interview requests for further discussion on the resolution.

“The committee as a whole felt that we didn’t have too much room to really make any amendments to the bill because there were no representatives from EAB,” Santos stated. “I texted both parties and told them to show up if they have any concerns. Two representatives from CALPIRG were here [on Wednesday], no one from EAB came.”

Lahn explained the difficulty of attending the committee meeting, as she is managing a workload of 21 units and was not notified until the morning of the meeting that she was expected to attend the External Affairs meeting Tuesday night. When asked to come to the senate meeting on Wednesday, she rain into similar difficulties because the time coincided with EAB’s weekly meetings which she and her co-chair, Joanne Yue, are required to lead by legal code.

“I’ve spoke to CALPIRG about this issue many times … and they still haven’t incorporated any of my requests,” said Lahn. “I feel like they already are asking people to endorse their resolution; what little can I change at this point? We’ve talked so many times, at this point I felt there wasn’t really something I could change.”

“CALPIRG is a great organization, and they have excellent campaigns. In the resolution, there’s one about SB being 100 percent renewable. I personally support that,” Lahn continued. “But I think that generally the CALPIRG resolution and their whole campaign overlooks a lot of important parts of carbon neutrality and how to get lower carbon emissions. It’s not all about electricity, it’s not all about energy.”