California’s ‘50% renewables by 2030’ legislation is passed

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The passing of legislation that will see California sourcing 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 has been hailed as a “huge win” by the US Solar Energy Industries’ Association (SEIA).

Senate Bill 350, which also doubles existing energy efficiency goals, was championed by California’s governor, Jerry Brown, who on Friday said the state now had the “legal mandate to reduce carbon pollution” as well as the technical means to do so. In getting the bill passed, Brown worked alongside the highest ranking leader of the California state senate, Kevin De Leon. De Leon said SB350 continued California’s “historic commitment” in leading “the world in the fight against climate change”.

The amended bill now orders utilities in the state to meet a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 50% by 2030.

Previously, utilities were legally bound to begin sourcing 33% of electricity sold to retail customers from renewables by the final day of the year 2020. Violating the Public Utilities Act under which the RPS is implemented is a crime. Despite its passing with the inclusion of the increased renewable energy target however, SB350 was amended from an earlier form to remove demands for the halving of petroleum use by cars and trucks by 2030, however.

The state became the first in the US to surpass 10,000MW of installed PV generation capacity earlier this year and has now reached 11GW. According to a recent report from trade association SEIA, California installed 718MW in the first quarter of this year alone.

SEIA vice president Sean Gallagher said the group welcomed the passing of SB350.

“The passage of SB350 is a huge win for Californians and solar power is going to be key in making this win a reality… Solar is now among the most economic energy options. Through the wise passage of this ambitious legislation, we look forward to more jobs and consumer benefits,” Gallagher said.

However, the state also has in place a goal to reduce greenhouse gases by 40% by 15 years’ time, for which SEIA said still more renewables will be needed beyond even the newer, more ambitious RPS. To this end, SEIA’s Gallagher vowed that his organisation will keep working to help implement the bill in full and also to lobby hard for a favourable outcome in ongoing rulings on net metering in the state.  

“For California to reach its state climate goals, and for solar’s success to continue, we’ll need all solar markets operating at their fullest potential,” Gallagher said.

Long considered one of the leaders in US renewables in thought as well as action, California’s three main investor-owned utilities (IoUs) also had to recently submit their own distribution resource plans (DRPs). These are plans that detail how each will respond to the move away from traditional hub-and-spoke centralised generation, transmission and distribution of energy and towards increased rooftop solar, EV charging and other resources including energy storage.

California also has in place a mandate, Assembly Bill 2514 (AB2514), for the three IoUs to procure 1.325GW of energy storage as a flexibility and capacity resource by 2020 and install it by the end of 2024.

Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric, two of the three main IoUs, have issued statements welcoming the introduction of SB350.

“This bill sends a strong and important message that California will continue to lead and take bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – a commitment PG&E shares and fully supports,” PG&E corporation chairman, president and CEO Tony Earley said.

SCE’s director of energy policy Gary Stern called the legislation a “positive step” which created “a meaningful path toward the state’s ambitious climate goals”.

“The amended bill would assure safe, reliable and affordable electric service for our customers as the state follows this new plan to achieve its clean energy and climate goals,” Stern said.

The third and final IoU, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), did not appear to have issued any statement with regard to the news as of this morning. The utility had been criticised by local environmental and community groups including San Diego Energy District, which advocates for a public, not-for-profit utility for the area. According to San Diego Energy District, amendments to SB350 proposed by SDG&E would have limited the scope and raised costs of Community Choice Energy, which allows local authorities to purchase clean energy and remove some regulations on local electricity markets. Local campaigning group Climate Action Campaign hailed the passing of the bill on 11 September, minus the SDG&E amendments.

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