With deadly and destructive wildfires coming year after year, and future climate scenarios looking dire, California government leaders and private sector innovators are meeting this week to figure out how the state can meet its long term climate change mitigation goals. 

Hundreds of clean tech experts are convening online for three days to discuss ways California can become carbon neutral by 2045. Conversations are being held about electric vehicle charging, powering cities with clean energy, and storing renewable energy.

The purpose of the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Virtual Symposium, the sixth of its kind, is to bring California’s clean climate goals to life. The symposium showcases the California Energy Commission’s EPIC program, which invests around $160 million yearly to “drive innovation and clean energy entrepreneurship.” Recently, the California Public Utilities Commission renewed the program for 10 additional years, supplying around $1.5 billion to spend during that time.

Janae Scott, vice chair of the California Energy Commission, opened this year’s event. She said  going mostly carbon-free is the “only option for safeguarding our future.” She cited the   enormous, growing threat of wildfires as reason to invest in renewable energy and upgrade the state’s electrical grid. 

Past investments from the program have helped develop local power grids, which have kept lights on in rural parts of California during power outages this year. One goal of the symposium is to support start-ups and other tech companies that could help California decarbonize. 

“We need to be innovative in our way of thinking and our way of approaching our limitations,” said State Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) in one of the break-out sessions. She represents parts of Southeast Los Angeles County, which says is surrounded by freeways. 

Investing in climate change adaptation, she says, is about “survival” and creating healthier communities.

“Our lack of equity shouldn’t hold us back,” she said. “[It] should help us innovate to make sure that we’re lifting everyone up along the way.”

A big part of the symposium this year focuses on making the transition to green energy equitable for all Calfornians. Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke at the opening event and said 65% of the program’s funds for technology have been invested in projects for disadvantaged or low income communities. 

“We need a clean energy future that benefits all Californians, not just some Californians,” he said. “It’s going to make it clear to everyone that California is addressing climate change, and manifesting our clean energy future.”


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