By Matthew Allen, Vice President, State Government Affairs
Growing up, many of us had experience being asked by either parents, educators or other valued mentors what our backup or contingency plans were should expectations and goals face unanticipated challenges. These prompts and questions were often met with blank stares or furled eyebrows but served as early lessons in combining two very important skillsets: critical thinking and risk management.
Most importantly, contingency plans evaluate not just the potential risk that something might happen but what actions to take to minimize the impact of that risk should it occur. This type of planning happens every day across virtually every industry and discipline. Business operations develop plans for scenarios where goals are not achieved, aircraft are designed with numerous backup systems and pilot instruction is designed to teach the skills of flying the plane in normal conditions and what to do in an emergency.
Contingency planning within government is just as necessary. Developing a policy goal into law is relatively easy. The difficult part is the implementation phase. It is during the implementation phase that contingency planning should be evaluated and memorialized. WG is particularly concerned about the apparent lack of contingency planning in the development of California’s emissions reductions goals. California has set a goal of carbon neutrality by 2045. This is an eye-opening directive with a very aggressive deadline. A huge shift in how Californians work and recreate will be required by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in order to attain this goal, if attainable at all. The framework that the state plans to utilize to achieve this goal was recently released to the public in the CARB draft 2022 Scoping Plan.
One of the key elements of the plan is to reduce fossil fuel use in California. Reduce really means to prohibit, because the state is only planning to entertain the continued use of fossil fuels in certain industries like aviation, rail and utilities for buildings. This means that all sectors of the economy are going to have to be electrified. Electric cars, trucks, buses and off-road equipment will all eventually be mandated. Electric vehicles will need to receive their power from charging stations. California is just now starting to determine how many vehicle charging stations will be required.
What is not being adequately addressed are the contingency plans and off-ramps that are absolutely necessary should the proposals outlined in the Scoping Plan not function well or fail completely due to an unstable electrical grid, lack of feasible technology, or runaway cost impacts to businesses and consumers.
Our growers are not in the business of manufacturing a product that has the capability to remain on the shelf for an extended period waiting to be sold to a consumer. Fresh produce is subject to narrow planting, growing and harvesting timelines. These timelines cannot be paused because a truck or tractor cannot be charged due to the power grid being offline.
WG is asking the question: “What is California’s backup plan should there be a failure of our electrical grid?” This is a key question that demands a clear answer because nothing less than our food security is at stake. California wants electric vehicles to not be a luxury but a requirement. The electrical grid needs to be failsafe for this mandate to be realistic.