California Commits to a 50% Renewable Energy Standard and Doubling Energy Efficiency

September 12, 2015 | 2:08 pm
Laura Wisland
Former Contributor

Last night, California doubled down on its clean energy leadership by passing Senate Bill 350 (De León-Leno)—the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act—a requirement to source 50 percent of retail electricity sales from renewables by 2030 and double it’s energy efficiency savings in the same time frame. The bill is now headed to the Governor’s desk.

California’s economy is the 7th largest in the world. The clean electricity generated by the new 50 percent Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) will account for nearly a third of the renewable electricity generated by state standards in the country. Passing SB 350 shows other states and nations that it’s technically and politically possible to take on climate change in a meaningful way. And this action will have ripple effects. As the Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins said on the voting floor: “When a state like California leads the way, it pushes others forward.”

Here’s a bit more on what the bill does:

  • Energy efficiency: By November 2017, the California Energy Commission will establish annual targets for statewide energy efficiency savings that result in a doubling of savings in electricity and natural gas end use by retail customers by 2030.
  • 50% RPS by 2030: Requires all electricity providers to source 40% of retail electricity sales from renewables by 2024, 45% by 2027, and 50% by 2030. Emphasizes electricity generation from facilities that are located within California or directly connected to the California grid, but allows 10% of compliance to be met with unbundled renewable energy credits or “RECs” that are associated with generation from anywhere in the western grid.
  • Long-range energy planning: Requires electricity providers to develop integrated resource plans that incorporate both supply-side and demand-side strategies to make long-term reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Regional electricity grid: States the intent of the Legislature to transform the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) into a regional electricity grid with greater access to electricity and transmission markets in other western states. The details are still to be worked out, but we are hopeful that doing this will help us reduce electricity system costs and make our grid able to absorb even more clean energy generation.
  • Electric vehicles: States that it is the policy of the state and the intent of the Legislature to encourage transportation electrification as a way to reduce criteria air pollutants and greenhouse gasses. Also authorizes the state energy agencies to direct electricity providers to submit applications that will accelerate transportation electrification. (More electric vehicles is a central strategy for reducing emissions in the transportation sector).
  • Benefits for disadvantaged communities: Requires the California Energy Commission to study the current barriers to installing more clean energy and energy efficiency investments in low-income communities and identify recommendations for ways the state can overcome these barriers.

There is still more work to do. No doubt the Legislature will be taking on additional climate issues and policies when it reconvenes in 2016. But for now, let’s celebrate this huge step forward towards a cleaner and safer electricity system. Today, I feel extremely proud to be a Californian.