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California On Track to Meet Clean Energy Requirements

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With the enactment of a 33 percent renewable energy standard firmly in place, the question in California seems to be not whether we can reach this level, but when?

A new report from the California Energy Commission indicates that California’s utilities are well on their way to meeting the state’s clean energy goals. By the end of 2010, nearly 16 percent of the state’s electricity sales were met with clean energy resources like the wind, solar, and geothermal power.

The 33 percent Renewables Portfolio Standard

The 33 percent Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), which was passed by SB 2 (Simitian) and signed by Governor Jerry Brown in April 2011, requires all utilities in the state to invest in renewable energy generation equal to 20 percent of total retail electricity sales by 2013, 25 percent by 2016, and 33 percent by 2020. In addition, the law requires that utilities make reasonable progress in the years between these benchmarks, since the quicker projects come online, the sooner Californians will be able to benefit from the environmental and economic benefits of cleaner, safer, and more sustainable sources of electricity.

The first RPS, which was enacted in 2002, established a 20 percent renewable energy goal  by 2017 that was later accelerated to 2010. Since that time, over 1400 megawatts (MW) of clean energy generation capacity has come online. That’s enough electricity to power over 400,000 homes in California! As you can see from the figure below, the state saw a big increase in renewable energy generation from 2007-2008, and has been making steady progress ever since.

Annual and Cumulative Renewable Energy Capacity Online in California

Several of the projects in the pipeline are wind and solar projects that are wholly or partly located on federally-managed land. This has required an unprecedented level of coordination between state and federal resource management agencies, ensuring that efforts to study and mitigate any impacts to land and water resources are efficiently coordinated, and that project developers receive necessary permits on schedule.

Today, California Governor Brown and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to maintain close state/federal agency coordination for the purposes of permitting new renewable energy generation facilities.

At this rate, and with the renewable energy success we have already seen in California, I don’t think it’s too soon to start talking about what our clean energy vision is for after 2020. Why stop at 33?

Posted in: Energy, Global Warming Tags: , ,

About the author: Laura Wisland is a senior energy analyst and an expert on California renewable energy policies. She holds a master’s degree in public policy. See Laura's full bio.

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2 Responses

  1. Linda J says:

    I think CA is doing exactly the right thing, and I believe it can be done. When I lived, awhile ago, in Colorado the people passed a referendum item requiring the electric companies to produce 15% or so with renewables. They beat the deadline easily and they and the state raised the stakes to a new, higher level. Now Boulder is trying to install its own city electric to be close to 100% renewables, and the electric utility is fighting that, but since they are doing a pretty good job themselves, and I no longer live there, I think the whole deal is a win-win.

  2. Mark Kraemer says:

    Way to go, California. We are cheering for you here in Illinois. I just hope we will be able
    to follow your lead soon.