Governor Jerry Brown on Aug. 7 signed legislation authored by Senator Mark Leno that would allow the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) to increase its use of renewable energy.
Senate Bill 502 allows the regional passenger rail system to purchase wholesale electricity directly from renewable energy sources, enabling BART to reduce the carbon footprint of hundreds of thousands of Bay Area commuters.
“BART is a vital regional transit system that is working to increase its use of clean energy, but current state law unnecessarily limits the agency from further decreasing its carbon footprint,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “This bill supports state goals to combat climate change and enables BART to continue providing cost-effective transportation for the Bay Area while increasing the agency’s use of renewable energy.”
SB 502 amends state law to allow BART to purchase electricity directly from generation facilities that qualify as renewable under California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS). The RPS law requires electric utilities to procure 33 percent of their electricity from clean energy sources by 2020.
Currently, BART is only able to purchase electricity from a short list of approved suppliers that are not specifically renewable. Current law requires BART to convince third party suppliers, such as publicly owned utilities or the federal government, to procure renewable energy on their behalf.
“Our trains are 100 percent electric with more than half the power coming from clean, hydroelectric and solar sources but there is more we can do,” said BART Board President Thomas Blalock. “This legislation will allow us to seek out new sources of clean renewable energy and for suppliers to offer it to us at a good price.”
BART’s regional passenger rail system includes 45 stations and more than 100 miles of track spanning four counties, including Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo.
Weekday ridership exceeds 400,000 passengers, totaling more than 120 million trips annually. By keeping commuters out of their vehicles, BART riders prevent more than 4.5 million pounds of polluting CO2 from entering the atmosphere each weekday.
SB 502 was sponsored by BART and supported by a long list of clean energy, transportation and environmental organizations, including the California Transit Association, Coalition for Clean Air, Northern California Power Agency and Sierra Club California.
The bill passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support.