California signs renewable energy mandate into law

California Gov. Brown says the state can do better than 33 percent renewablesUpon signing California’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) into law on April 12, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) wrote a letter to California’s legislators stating that he wants to see higher commitments to renewables.

In the meantime, the legislation he signed will require all of California’s utilities to source 33 percent of their overall electricity generation from renewable resources, like solar and wind, by 2020. The legislation should be another boon to the already booming solar industry in the golden state.

Investor-owned utilities and municipal utilities already were required to source 33 percent of their electricity from renewables under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s executive order. But Brown’s signature puts it into law.

“This is really nice. To have this codified as law, to have it clear,” said Mignon Marks, policy director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA). “It was considered a goal; now it’s a law.”

Still the state may push for a higher RPS.

“While reaching a 33 percent renewables portfolio standard will be an important milestone, it is really just a starting point—a floor, not a ceiling. With the amount of renewable resources coming on-line, and prices dropping, I think 40 percent, at reasonable cost, is well within our grasp in the near future,” Brown wrote in a letter to the California Senate.

“The Governor is absolutely right. The RPS sets the minimum and with the prices for solar electricity coming down, a 40 percent goal is achievable,” Marks said.

California already outpaces Colorado’s RPS, which requires investor-owned utilities to source 30 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2020. Hawaii’s RPS requires its utilities to source 40 percent of their electricity from renewables, but not until 2030.

This RPS law covers all California’s investor-owned utilities and publicly owned utilities, which include municipal utilities in the state, Marks said.

“Municipal utilities were obliged under previous law to adopt an RPS, but they were given more flexibility in how they complied. Some could do large hydropower while investor-owned utilities couldn’t,” Marks said.

The law passed through both California’s Senate and House with bipartisan support, Marks said.

“We had Republicans supporting the RPS as well as Democrats. It’s good for business, and good for jobs. They understand that,” she said.

With the bipartisan support, there could be the political will to pass the higher standard that Brown is signaling he wants to see.

Image courtesy of SunPower.