California Moves Forward to Achieve 100% Renewable Energy by 2045

August 30, 2018Updated: August 30, 2018

A bill setting up a goal to achieve 100% clean energy for California’s power grid by 2045 passed the California legislature on Wednesday (Aug. 29) and is waiting to be sent to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.

Senate Bill 100 was introduced by Sen. Kevin de León, who says it’s going to ensure California as “the world’s clean energy superpower.” It’s a step up from the existing California Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which required the state to hit a 50% clean energy target by the end of 2030.

The bill seeks to increase the RPS requirement from 50% by 2030 to 60% and lays out a series of policies to strive for the remaining 40% to be supplied with RPS-eligible and zero-carbon resources by the end of 2045.

According to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, the bill will increase annual costs to the state by approximately $21 million.

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Technicians are installing solar panels on the roof of a home in San Francisco, Calif. on May 9, 2018. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

What is RPS?

In order to reduce air pollution and greenhouse emissions as a result of generating electricity from burning traditional fossil fuels, California lawmakers established the RPS program back in 2002 with an initial goal of 20% clean energy by 2017.

According to the RPS, renewable energy could be generated through facilities using biomass, solar thermal, wind, geothermal, landfill gas, ocean wave, etc., but it doesn’t include hydroelectric over 30 megawatts and nuclear plants, which also produce zero-carbon electricity.

After its establishment, RPS has continuously been ramped up. In 2006, the deadline for 20% was moved up to 2010. In 2011, lawmakers set the goal to be 33% renewable energy by 2020. Another bill introduced by Sen. de León in 2015 established a higher goal of 50% by 2030.

The latest upgrade, SB 100, was introduced and passed by the California Senate in 2017.

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The peloton passes by windmills during Stage Seven of the 2013 Amgen Tour of California from Livermore to Mount Diablo in Alameda County, Calif. on May 18, 2013. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

How is California doing?

According to statistics from the California Energy Commission, electricity generated in-state from natural gas decreased from 59.9% in 2015 to 43.4% in 2017. And power produced through renewable sources has grown from 24.5% in 2015 to 29.65% in 2017.

Among the five major renewable energy sources, nearly 1/3 of the total clean energy is from solar, which is also the only type that has increased over the past few years. From around 13,000 gigawatt hours in 2015 to nearly 22,000 gigawatt hours, solar-generated electricity grew by 67% over the last two years.

Hawaii is currently the only state that has a mandatory 100% clean energy plan by 2045. However, Hawaii has a population of less than 1.5 million. In addition, being isolated from the mainland grid and wanting to reduce expensive imported fuel, Hawaii has been considered a special case. With a population of nearly 40 million population, California’s switch to clean energy is a much bolder move.

The Clean Energy Debate

Supporters believe this historic bill is significant in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reinforcing California’s leadership in dealing with climate change.

“California’s experience over the last decade offers hard evidence that we can dramatically expand clean energy while also growing our economy and putting people to work,” said Sen. de León in a statement when he introduced the bill in 2017.

However, the fast-moving pace picked by California lawmakers in pushing clean energy has worried some power suppliers and other skeptics. Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric Company are the major electric utilities opposing the bill. Opponents expressed their concerns that the ratepayers could face higher costs in the future.

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