California assembly passes 50% RPS by 2030

The California State Assembly voted 51-26 to pass a landmark Senate bill that would increase the state’s renewables mandate to 50% by the end of 2030 from the present 33% by 31 December 2020.

The legislature sent the bill to Governor Jerry Brown, who is expected to sign it into law later this month. Brown, who took office in January for a fourth term, has supported a higher renewable portfolio standard.

The Clean Energy and Reduction Act would also require a 50% increase in energy efficiency in buildings by the end of 2030.

Most of the Assembly’s Republicans voted against the bill, arguing that it would raise energy prices that are already among the highest in the US. This, in turn, would hurt the ability of businesses to compete and make it harder for lower income people to pay for their electricity.

The bill’s supporters cited steadily declining costs of solar and wind power, environmental and health benefits of using more renewable energy, and a tradition of state leadership on climate issues.

In January, Brown issued an executive order that aims to cut California’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

The legislation also expresses support for transformation of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) into a regional organization. This would aim to encourage the development of electricity transmission markets in the western states, and to improve access of consumers served by CAISO to those markets.

Supporter of a CAISE expansion believe this would enable California consumers to greater access to cheaper, cleaner and more varied sources of energy.

“We fully support a more efficient energy market in the West,” says Tom Kiernan, president of the American Wind Energy Association.  “It would let California trade energy surpluses and deficits with its neighbors in a real-time market, while at the same time lowering costs for California consumers by improving access to the region’s geographic diversity of renewable energy, including wind power.”

California, the second largest state electricity market after Texas, obtains about 7% of its power from wind.

Developers as far away as Wyoming have been working on large solar and wind projects, and related transmission expansion, to serve the California market. They have been betting that the state would raise its RPS.

Even so, analysts warn that too much generation capacity is under development to serve California and some projects will fail to attract financing. As well, Brown has favored mainly in-state renewables, as this would create green jobs and economic development benefits.