SPONSOR SPOTLIGHT: Climate Insider Interview with Southern California Edison’s Caroline Choi

SPONSOR SPOTLIGHT: Climate Insider Interview with Southern California Edison’s Caroline Choi

What was the motivation for Southern California Edison’s (SCE) involvement with California Environmental Voters?

SCE is fully committed to addressing the climate crisis and doing our part to meet the state’s climate goals. California Environmental Voters has been at the forefront of policy advocacy and engaging our communities to spur climate action. If we hope to address the climate crisis and build more resilient and sustainable communities, the business community, and environmental advocates like EnviroVoters need to work together to push for urgent action to support a just and equitable transition to a clean energy and carbon neutral future.

Caroline Choi serves as Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Edison International and Southern California Edison.

How would you describe Southern California Edison’s electrification strategy?

To achieve carbon neutrality and meet our state’s climate and clean air goals in the most cost-effective way, we need to decarbonize the electric grid and electrify as much of our economy as possible, particularly the transportation and building sectors. SCE plays a critical role in making sure the electric grid and our local infrastructure are ready for this increasingly electrified economy by delivering clean electricity to customers, making investments to modernize and harden our grid, and working with our communities on the deployment of necessary infrastructure to help promote electrification of vehicles and buildings.

What is Southern California Edison’s connection to the environmental movement?

SCE is one of the largest electric utilities in the nation, serving about 15 million people across approximately 200 local governments and communities. Our mission is to safely provide reliable, clean, and affordable electric service to our customers. Today, we're leading the transformation of the electric power industry focusing on opportunities in clean energy, efficient electrification, grid of the future, and customer choice. Our vision is a world where homes and businesses as well as cars, trucks, and mass transit are powered by carbon-free electricity, delivered by a modernized electric grid. Our history with clean energy goes back to our earliest days with the first large-scale hydroelectric facilities in the country (Big Creek). We’re deploying more than $800 million in investments to build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure for cars, trucks, buses, and other equipment in just the next few years — what we call our Charge Ready programs. Our parent company, Edison International, also uses shareholder funds to contribute to nonprofit organizations across SCE’s service area to help with environmental conservation and protection as well as education and actions that support the transition to a clean energy economy. Finally, we partner with diverse representatives from environmental justice and climate advocacy groups as well as community groups to help inform our programs and services to ensure traditionally underrepresented and diverse communities are served and included in the clean energy transition.

Why is the work of EnviroVoters important to SCE?

The climate crisis is real and already having impacts in many areas of our service area, particularly devastating to our customers living in disadvantaged and under-represented communities. EnviroVoters does such important work educating and mobilizing generations of voters, shaping public policy, and pushing needed government action and leadership on addressing the existential climate crisis.

Why do you think it’s important for candidates running for office to be trained on environmental and climate issues?

Climate and environmental issues intersect with so many issues elected officials deal with — from housing, transportation, and workforce development to affordability and equity. Elected officials have a role to play on environmental and climate issues, no matter their jurisdiction. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to equip the next generation of community and government leaders with the policy understanding needed to confront the climate crisis while also instilling a sense of urgency to act.

Why was the creation of EnviroVoters’ Inland Empire League of Environmental Justice Voters important to Southern California Edison?

Many communities in the Inland Empire are heavily impacted by pollution from multiple sources and among the most vulnerable to its effects — for instance, communities situated near heavily traveled freight corridors, where the concentration of air pollutants often exceeds health-based standards. SCE serves much of the Inland Empire, and clearly there is an urgent need for more environmental advocacy and action in the region to improve air quality and quality of life as well.

What does Southern California Edison believe are some of the solutions to combat the climate crisis?

Our Pathway 2045 analysis laid out what we believe is the most viable and prudent pathway to getting to a carbon neutral economy by 2045 in California. The analysis showed that the state needs to get to 100% carbon-free power and to electrify significant portions of our transportation and building sectors in the coming decades. But much work remains. Based on our recent Mind the Gap analysis, we found that California needs to quadruple its current GHG reduction rate to meet the interim 2030 decarbonization goal in the remaining few years we have. To achieve that, we’re calling for adopting market-transforming policies, deploying enhanced incentives, and ramping up investments in the next year or two to close the gap in achieving the state’s 40% by 2030 GHG reduction goal, on the way to a carbon-neutral economy by 2045.

What do you want EnviroVoters’ community of members to know about Southern California Edison?

SCE is at the forefront of addressing the climate crisis in California, and we are eager to partner with our local communities to build the solutions and infrastructure we need to ensure an equitable clean energy future. The business community has an important role to play in addressing environmental and climate issues. Business, particularly big business, is often used as an example of bad corporate citizenship; we are heavily invested in seeing California achieve its ambitious climate and clean air goals. Finally, we are focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, as we believe a diverse and engaged workforce is essential to achieve our business strategy and to engage effectively with customers, policymakers, and stakeholders. We have been very transparent about our DEI efforts and have released two comprehensive reports. We hope other companies will join us in this effort.

Can you describe Southern California Edison’s service area to orient EnviroVoters’ members?

SCE delivers electricity to 15 million customers over a 50,000 square mile service area across Central, Coastal, and Southern California, spanning from Mono County in the north to Orange County in the south, from the Pacific Ocean on the west to the California border in the east. It is one of the most geographically diverse service areas in the country, as are our communities, where we work hard to serve our ethnically and racially diverse customers in their native languages.

How does your partnership with EnviroVoters’ fit into SCE’s overall strategy and are there other organizations in the climate justice, environmental, social justice, and political space that SCE also supports? Why?

SCE is committed to ensuring equity and climate justice in the clean energy transition. Nearly half of the state’s designated “disadvantaged communities” (DACs) are in SCE’s service territory. We believe all of our communities must be included in the benefits and opportunities ahead as we address the climate crisis — clean air, climate resiliency, and economic/job gains. That’s why we have partnered with the Greenlining Institute for a number of years now and jointly convene a Clean Energy Access Working Group, which includes many community-based organizations and advocacy organizations in the environmental justice movement, to advise and partner with us on developing programs and solutions that are inclusive and equitable. We also regularly engage with advocates like EnviroVoters, and other government and community-based organizations dedicated to an equitable, resilient, and sustainable future to help shape and implement policies to address the climate crisis. As we noted earlier, Edison International uses shareholder funds to contribute to nonprofit organizations across SCE’s service area to help with environmental conservation and protection as well as education and actions that support the transition to a clean energy economy.

What does Southern California Edison envision for California’s clean energy economy future?

We envision a future of 100% carbon-free electricity that powers an increasing part of our electrified economy, where all communities will benefit from cleaner air and where we will stave off the worst impacts of climate change and live in sustainable and resilient communities.

What do you wish other people knew about our work together?

The business community and environmental advocates have common goals and don’t have to be at odds. There is much to be gained from building strong cross-sectoral partnerships, which are needed if we hope to address the existential climate crisis.

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

If anyone would like to read more about our progress in meeting our long-term sustainability goals, delivering on our clean energy vision, and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, I invite them to read our latest Sustainability Report.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about supporting or volunteering for EnviroVoters?

EnviroVoters is the premier climate and environmental political advocacy organization in California. Much of California’s leadership in climate and environmental policy is due in no small part to the efforts of EnviroVoters and its work to organize communities across the state and support policymakers and policies to build a more sustainable future. We’re proud to partner with EnviroVoters on this important work and hope to continue this partnership in the years ahead.

Posted on November 23, 2021 in ECOVOTE BLOG.

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