California Expands Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50% by 2030

23 October 2015 Renewable Energy Outlook Blog
Authors: Justus J. Britt Jason W. Allen Thomas McCann Mullooly

Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law SB 350, a landmark bill designed to promote greater implementation of renewable energy technologies over the next fifteen years. The new law will: (1) increase the state’s renewable portfolio standard to fifty percent by 2030; and (2) increase building energy efficiency in the state by fifty percent by 2030. During the signing ceremony, Governor Brown emphasized that “[a] decarbonized future is the reason we’re here.”

Currently, California’s three investor-owned utilities are on track to meet the state’s thirty-three percent renewable energy goal by 2020. Utility officials and renewable energy analysts note that these companies should not have a problem meeting SB 350’s fifty percent threshold, and all three investor-owned utilities publicly supported the bill. Gary Stern, senior director of energy policy for Southern California Edison, said the bill would assure “safe, reliable and affordable” power for the utilities’ five million ratepayers.

SB 350 is expected to reduce greenhouse pollutants while spurring California’s economy. For instance, this renewable energy mandate provides a potential $8.6 billion dollar investment opportunity for utility-scale solar projects. Additionally, the new law will expand California’s job market by creating employment opportunities in the renewable energy field. According to the California Climate Leadership, California has more than doubled renewable capacity installed in the last four years (adding over 11,000 MW) and has more than 21,000 MW online, which includes 2,300 MW on 245,000 homes, businesses, and schools.

Though the passage of SB 350 is a significant milestone, some proponents were disappointed that the California legislature removed a component of the bill as initially drafted that would have mandated a fifty percent reduction of oil use in cars and trucks by 2030. SB 350 author Senator Kevin de Leon noted during the signing ceremony that, although he is “disappointed that [SB 350 doesn’t] have the petroleum piece,” the “two measures dealing with the energy efficiency and renewable energy are far-reaching and the most advanced in the world.”

Some opponents have asserted that the new law will increase living costs and drive oil prices to new heights. For instance, living costs for residents living in hotter inland areas will, according to such opponents, increase since they will have to pay higher electricity rates due to the mandate for renewable sources. Moreover, some opponents have noted that consumers may suffer economically due to the potential increase in the price of gas.

Nonetheless, the signing into law of SB 350 further solidifies California’s position as a national leader in both integration and deployment of clean energy. To date, SB 350 is one of the nation’s most ambitious renewable mandates, second only to Hawaii’s.

This bill moves California one step closer to achieving its clean energy goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by eighty percent by 2050.

For a copy of the text of the law, the history of SB 350, and other related information, please click on the link here.

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