Carbajal reintroduces bill to incentivize renewable energy projects

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The impending closure of Diablo Canyon will impact jobs, energy, and local economies, but a new bill aims to mitigate the impact through renewable energy projects close to communities like Morro Bay.

U.S. Rep Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) is re-introducing the Energy Opportunities Zones Act in Congress. First introduced in 2018, the new and improved bill would expand and create tax credits to encourage private investment in renewable energy on the Central Coast.

FUTURE ENERGY U.S. Representative Salud Carbajal re-introduces the Energy Opportunity Zones Act to congress, a new bill aimed at aiding in the job losses anticipated by the Diablo Canyon closure. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY PLANNING AND BUILDING
  • File Photo Courtesy Of SLO County Planning And Building
  • FUTURE ENERGY U.S. Representative Salud Carbajal re-introduces the Energy Opportunity Zones Act to congress, a new bill aimed at aiding in the job losses anticipated by the Diablo Canyon closure.

In a virtual press conference, Carbajal said Diablo Canyon Power Plant's shutdown provides the area with an opportunity to develop renewable energy and more sustainable technologies. Clean energy like wind and solar, he said, serves the best interest of our nation and our local economy.

"It safeguards the environment against pollution, aids us in protecting our public health, and helps grow our economy. Whether it is solar panels or wind farms, we need humans to install and maintain them," Carbajal said.

Under this legislation, an area within a 120-mile radius of a nuclear or coal power plant that was used to generate electricity and has ceased operations would be designated as an "energy opportunity zone." The zone designation, in turn, extends the investment tax credit and production tax credit for renewable energy endeavors in that area.

Diablo would be covered because the bill includes nuclear power plants scheduled to cease operations no later than six years after its enactment—Diablo's slated for 2024 and 2025. An area could also be designated as an energy opportunity zone if it can demonstrate that changes in its nuclear or coal economy have or will result in job losses.

Carbajal told New Times that projects taking advantage of the investment tax credit and the production tax credit would be required to have a project labor agreement in place, "which would ensure that we are providing good, well-paying, living-wage jobs in the region."

The bill presents an opportunity for the Morro Bay community, which has been impacted by the Morro Bay Power Plant since its closure in 2014.

Morro Bay Mayor John Headding said the closure produced a significant economic loss for the city, including 100 jobs and 50 percent of the city's general fund income. Diablo's closure will also impact his community.

"Fortunately Morro Bay is one of two areas in California that have been designated to be appropriate for future wind turbine energy development. This potentially could bring a large number of jobs to our county, but the cost is significant to the developers, projected to be for initial projects greater than about $4 billion," Headding said.

The Energy Opportunities Zones Act could benefit developers, he said, and improve the economic output of Morro Bay—a community that's infrastructure ready for a potential wind turbine project.

Carbajal also recently called for the Offshore Wind Working Group to reconvene and "move forward on a leasing area" for offshore wind development on the Central Coast. The group was created in August 2019, and its members include representatives from the offices of Reps. Carbajal and Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Movement, the Department of Defense, the Navy, and the California Energy Commission.

"[The group] provides yet another tool for companies that are seeking to develop offshore wind energy to be able to get the tax credits that would incentivize them to make those projects a reality," Carbajal said. Δ


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