California Governor Brown signs 50% renewable portfolio standard into law

U.S. media reports about renewable energy policy have a tendency to emphasize the negative; the pending drop-down of the federal ITC, and attempts by fossil fuel and utility groups to roll back net metering and renewable energy mandates.

While some of the more high-profile stories tend to dominate, there has been a lot of activity in recent years around the state-level policies which are critical for renewable energy deployment. Such stories miss the larger arc that while there are wins and losses, these policies are if anything moving towards more aggressive deployment.

A few states have been far out in front in terms of both policy and deployment, most notably California. On Wednesday the Golden State expanded on its historic 33% by 2020 renewable portfolio standard (RPS) policy, with Governor Jerry Brown signing into law a bill to require that utilities procure 50% of their electricity from renewables by 2030 at a ceremony in Los Angeles.

This signing was hardly a surprise, as Governor Brown initially proposed the 50% goal. In September his administration took the further step of procuring 100% renewable energy for buildings in the state capitol.

The 50% RPS by 2030 puts the state on par with Hawaii, which in June mandated that utilities move to 100% renewable energy by 2045. These are easily the two most aggressive RPS policies in the nation.

SB350 will also double energy efficiency targets for existing buildings and expand opportunities for EVs and mass transit, as well as setting interim renewable energy targets for 2024 and 2027. A portion of the bill that would have mandated a 50% reduction in petroleum use was pulled during a tough fight in the California Assembly.

Solar is already playing a big role in meeting the existing RPS. By 2020, California’s utilities are expected to meet 45% of their renewable energy requirements with solar PV and concentrating solar power (CSP). The new bill was welcomed by the solar industry.

“The passage of SB 350 is a huge win for Californians and solar power is going to be key in making this win a reality,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

“The industry, in response to the State’s current RPS, and other leading California policies like net metering, has produced nearly 55,000 solar jobs in California and more than $11 billion a year in state investment, all while achieving dramatic cost reductions.”

A video of the signing ceremony can be seen here.