California Moves Towards 50% Renewable Energy Mandate

Great news. California is just days away from having a new renewable energy mandate. In early September, the State Assembly officially passed SB 350 – a landmark bill that would require California’s utilities to generate 50% of their electricity from green power sources by 2030.

But this isn’t the first renewable energy mandate that California has had.

Under current law, utilities are required to generate 33% of their electricity from solar, wind, and geothermal by 2020. But most environmentalists agreed that the threshold was way too low. After all, SDG&E was able to meet its own targets nearly 6 years ahead of schedule. And neither SCE nor PG&E are far behind.

In order to encourage continued investment in sustainable power, state legislators decided to increase the mandate.

However, SB 350 isn’t law just yet. It’s headed to Gov. Brown’s desk waiting for his signature. Fortunately, he’s expected to sign the bill later this month.

How Important Is This New Renewable Energy Mandate?

As already mentioned, this isn’t the first time that a state has introduced a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). California already had one. And Iowa introduced its own green mandate way back in 1983.

But requiring 50% is a huge move – far above what any other state has ever required (in fairness, Hawaii is pushing for 100% green power by 2045, but that’s a full 30 years away).

However, implementing this new target won’t be easy for California.

Utility companies will have to make tremendous investments moving forward. And most of those costs will get passed on to electricity customers, many of whom are already saddled with skyrocketing power bills.

Another concern is green power intermittency.

Solar and wind are both clean and infinite – but they aren’t 100% reliable 100% of the time. For the average solar customer, variations in output don’t really matter. You only need to worry about total solar output every billing cycle. But utility providers do have to manage dips and spikes. And that type of monitoring becomes especially difficult when 50% of their infrastructure relies on green power.

In order to smooth out unpredictable peaks and valleys, California may have to invest in better energy storage or regional power sharing.

But easy or hard, this renewable energy mandate is extremely important. Global warming is happening, and the effects of Earth’s changing climate will hit California’s coastline hard (especially in San Diego). Only by weaning ourselves off of fossil fuel can we hope to slow down the devastation.

One could argue that 50% doesn’t go far enough.

We already have the tools to generate 100% of our electricity from clean power sources. In fact, California has enough solar capacity to cover our electricity needs 5 times over.

We need to scale up these tools as much as possible before it is too late.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment