Cleaning California’s Air, Energy
By Julia Roether
Clear views of Catalina Island and the San Gabriel Mountains every day are a thing of the past. With the help of Ron Nichols, that could change in the next decade.
As president of Southern California Edison, Nichols spent the last four years championing programs to improve air quality and health in Southern California, especially in environmentally impacted communities.
On July 29, 2019, Nichols, who passed away June 6, was honored as the Smart Electric Power Alliance’s Power Player of the Year. He passed away just a few days after learning he had been selected for the award.
“Ron’s legacy is cleaning our air and making clean energy a reality,” SEPA noted in its award announcement. “Nowhere is this more evident than in environmentally impacted communities where Ron tirelessly advocated for the development of programs that benefitted these residents. His efforts will be felt for years and generations to come.”
The award recognizes an individual who, while working in the energy industry, has demonstrated leadership and innovation to significantly advance an integrative perspective of clean energy, distributed energy resources, grid modernization and its value as a resource to help meet the needs of their electricity consumers.
SCE is working to create a cleaner energy future. This calls for an electric grid powered by 80% carbon-free energy and more than 7 million electric vehicles on California’s roads.
Nichols set about making that vision a reality.
He realized that to achieve a clean energy future and meet California’s climate change goals would require policy changes and collaboration with a coalition of stakeholders across multiple industries and communities.
In 2017, he partnered with the Greenlining Institute to create the Clean Energy Access Working Group. The group comprised of environmental and community groups, and faith-based organizations, was created to make sure no community is left behind as we move toward a clean energy future.
RON’S LEGACY IS CLEANING OUR AIR AND MAKING CLEAN ENERGY A REALITY. NOWHERE IS THIS MORE EVIDENT THAN IN ENVIRONMENTALLY IMPACTED COMMUNITIES WHERE RON TIRELESSLY ADVOCATED FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF PROGRAMS THAT BENEFITTED THESE RESIDENTS. HIS EFFORTS WILL BE FELT FOR YEARS AND GENERATIONS TO COME.”
Nichols was also passionate about electrifying transportation to reduce air pollution and meet California's 2030 greenhouse gas reduction goals. Environmentally impacted communities are some of the most adversely impacted by emissions from transportation.
To help achieve this, he advocated for approval of SCE’s Charge Ready Transport program. The program will help grow the medium- and heavy-duty transportation electrification market over a five-year period by installing electric infrastructure at customer sites to support charging plug-in electric buses, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, forklifts and other non-road cargo handling equipment.
He was a founding board member of Veloz, a nonprofit organization focused on accelerating the shift to electric cars.
Additionally, Nichols pulled together nine electric utilities and two agencies representing more than two dozen municipal utilities across three states to support the West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative. The initiative will conduct a study to determine how best to ensure that Interstate 5 — a lifeline of goods transportation that extends from the Canadian to the Mexican border — is equipped with sufficient charging to support electric long-haul trucks.