Published on January 6th, 2015 | by James Ayre


California’s Governor: 50% Of Electricity From Renewables By 2030

January 6th, 2015 by  

California should receive at least 50% of the electricity that it uses via renewable energy infrastructure by the year 2030, according to California’s recently re-elected governor, Jerry Brown.

The comment, along with several other interesting ones, was made at the California Governor’s record-breaking 4th inaugural speech yesterday — where he expounded on his relatively ambitious targets concerning renewable energy, the reduction of petroleum fuel use, and energy efficiency.

Governor Jerry Brown

While the new goal isn’t surprising — the state already has the public goal of receiving a third of its electricity via renewables by the year 2020 (and is on its way towards that goal) — it is one of the first concrete comments that we’ve heard on the goals for that date.

Amongst his other comments, Brown also noted that he would like for petroleum fuel use in the state (via cars, trucks, etc) to be reduced by up to 50% by 2030; and for the energy efficiency of existing buildings to be doubled.

That’s a lot for a governor (or governors) to accomplish in such an unwieldy state in “just” 15 years, but considering the mounting problems of climate change, groundwater depletion (including the potential desertification of some areas), and increasing fossil fuel extraction costs (this will hit us within the next few years), such goals seem worth commending. Certainly better than were they not made.

And, importantly, such goals don’t necessarily mean putting California at a disadvantage. And a good argument could be made that the embracing of renewable energy technologies (via production and industry), especially solar energy, could be a means of putting oneself at a notable advantage over late adopters — as the trends certainly do point towards the wide-scale adoption of solar over the next few decades.


During his address, Brown noted that “taking significant amounts of carbon out of our economy without harming its vibrancy is exactly the sort of challenge at which California excels.”

He continued by stating that his vision includes a number of different initiatives intended to support the growth of rooftop solar, microgrids, battery storage, and electric vehicle use.

He concluded: “All of this is a very tall order. It means that we continue to transform our electrical grid, our transportation system and even our communities. We are at a crossroads … the challenge is to build for the future, not steal from it, to live within our means and to keep California ever golden and creative.”

Good stuff. But actions speak far louder than words. His coming term will be interesting to observe. California state, in general, should be interesting to observe over the coming decade — it’s hard to say exactly what the future holds for it.

Image Credit: Brad Alexander, Office of the Governor

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Coley

    “the challenge is to build for the future, not steal from it, to live within our means”
    Like that bit;)

  • Bubba Nicholson

    Jerry Brown is my hero. To my hero I advise: 150mg of healthy adult male facial skin surface lipid p.o. cures criminal behavior. Think of how much more productive Californians would be without crime, eh? Doing without prisons and so many police would also contribute mightily to energy conservation.

  • Marion Meads

    Am more optimistic than Brown, but he is the most optimistic in clean energy among all the other governors!

    The only thing that worries me is the continuing drought in California. The fiscal year 2014-2015 is looking to be drier than expected. If the drought continues, there will be exodus of people moving out of California.

    • Will E

      yeah and go to Victoria Australia where the wildfires are

    • Michael G

      People are already moving out of the state because it is too expensive for all but the high tech folks.

      The drought is horrible, but CA farmers and rsidents are very wasteful. I am actually hoping the drought worsens because *no one* is taking it seriously. They are past draining aquifers and are now pumping out geological water that has been there for eons. And now almond farmers want to drain all the rivers because after all, who needs freshwater fish? All to grow almonds (ung*dly water hogs) for export to China. For almond cookies?

      And a lot of homeowners still have green lawns that make sense in England but are absurd in CA. The govt. talks a good line but they still don’t meter water in much of the state so SF uses 100 Gal/day/resident while Sacramento uses 200.

      We need to desalinate for potable water like other dry parts of the world and conserve, conserve, conserve.

      So much talk, so little action – (bangs head on table)!!

      • Dragon

        It doesn’t seem like people are even noticing the drought let alone wanting to move away because of it. Our little mountain town added some weak water conservation measures to one of our recent water bills but made no mention of enforcement or measuring and our water price still hasn’t gone up. After installing drip irrigation and a half-flush retrofit on a toilet, we’ve managed to hit the lowest tier of water use every month.

        On the other hand, I’ve always heard (though not verified) that the amount of water used by residents is a tiny fraction of the amount used by farming, industry, and fracking, so I doubt residents can do anything to tip the scales on the water crisis.

        • Michael G

          I’ve read that all CA residential use combined is about 7% of total water use so yeah, residential conservation wouldn’t really do much, but it is a psychological thing. Farmers say why should they conserve when people are filling up swimming pools and watering lawns? It looks bad and if you don’t look up the numbers it seems like a good argument.

          Easy to fix. Get residential use to zero with conservation and desalination. Then farmers have to admit it isn’t swimming pools, it’s their almond trees and wasteful practices.

          The entire US population could fit in Connecticut or Maryland even at suburban living densities. So there is a lot of land that could be used for growing food, where there is a lot more water readily available. CA farmers are used to overly cheap water.

          • Kyle Field

            It’s the almonds. World – you’re welcome but I don’t think we can sustain your consumption.


          • Kyle Field

            and this little blurb:

            “California is the most productive agricultural state in the union, and agriculture uses 80 percent of California’s water.”

          • Michael G

            True but agriculture includes fisheries and I think it is about 50/50. The land farmers want that other half of the water from the fisheries for themselves, too. They can’t stand that someone is using water besides themselves.

          • Coley

            We can manage without your almonds if it means you protecting your environment.
            Regards, World;)

          • Bob_Wallace

            You’re asking us to switch to Mounds?

          • Coley

            Not with you, “mounds”?

          • Bob_Wallace
          • Coley

            Aye, we Northern Europeans miss the finer points of life in the US of A,
            Psssst wanna buy some cheap water?

  • Ross

    Any chance this guy could be the next US President?

    • Ronald Brakels

      He’ll be 77 by the time of the next Presidential election, So while not impossible, it seems unlikely.

    • Dragon

      I doubt it. Democracy for America ran a poll on who people would like to see run for president. I think Brown’s name was in the list but he didn’t get into the top 5, which were: 42% Elizabeth Warren, 24% Bernie Sanders, 23% Hillary Clinton, 3% Robert Reich, 2% Joe Biden.

      Jerry Brown is pretty cool and sponsored the first ever tax incentive for rooftop solar in 1977 but he caves on things when there’s too much money against it. Like he keeps refusing to ban fracking and was a big supporter of one of our last ballot propositions supposedly to help the water crisis except it was mostly about raising taxes to pay for big dams that would help the more profitable nut farmers and raise our water prices, as well as doing environmental harm. So as president I’m sure he’d do just as much compromising and as little leading as Obama, even if his heart is usually in the right place.

  • RobMF

    It’s great to see both California and New York forging ahead with rooftop solar, EVs, and carbon emission reductions. Wish that the whole of the US was moving so valiantly forward.

  • Vensonata

    California, as I recall has half the electrical use per capita of the U.s. Average. So basically it at German standards. That means the rest of the U.s. Doesn’t have an excuse for lowering its per capita electric usage by 50%.. Never mind the renewables, the low hanging fruit is yet to be plucked…efficiency, simplicity and sufficiency.

    • Michael G

      It acheived the results you mention inadvertantly. During a brief flirtation with free market ideology – c.f. Enron – it got locked into high electric rates for a while. They aren’t particularly high now but the sharp rise got people used to conserving.

      • GCO

        Disagreed. Unlike the rest of the US, energy usage in California hasn’t increased since the mid-70s, thanks to the energy efficiency and conservation measures enacted at that time.
        This result is anything but accidental.

  • David in Bushwick

    California leads America once again.
    Someone has to…

    • Larmion

      With three states already over 70% renewables today (Idaho, Oregon and Washington), I don’t see how California is a leader.

      Even when one leaves out hydro, California’s hardly a leader. Maine gets 32% of its electricity from non-hydro renewables (and 60% including hydro) and Iowa’s at 27.

      California is 7th in overall renewable share and 7th in non-hydro renewable share. So no matter which way you look at it, California isn’t a leader.

      The only field where California can truly be considered a leader is in having a storage mandate, but the value of that is questionable anyway at present renewable penetration.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        The California Air Resources Board, also known as CARB or ARB, is the “clean air agency” in the government of California. Established in 1967 when then-governor Ronald Reagan signed the Mulford-Carrell Act, combining the Bureau of Air Sanitation and the Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board, CARB is a department within the cabinet-level California Environmental Protection Agency. California is the only state that is permitted to have such a regulatory agency, since it is the only state that had one before the passage of the federal Clean Air Act. Other states are permitted to follow CARB standards, or use the federal ones, but not set their own.

        • Larmion

          So it was an early leader in public health. Good, but that doesn’t imply any sort of leadership in renewable energy.

      • Bob_Wallace

        States put in large hydro projects many years ago. Not because they were trying to deal with climate change, but because they had huge resources and hydro was the cheapest source of electricity.

        Don’t use what was done ‘back then’ as a way to undermine what is being dine now.

        • Larmion

          True. However, when looking at non-hydro renewables California still ranks seventh, hardly a leading position. ( )

          Iowa and South Dakota get 30% of their electricity from non-hydro renewables. California’s not due to achieve that anytime soon.
          And besides, the stellar growth of wind in recent years was also driven by low cost and good resources. Since when is doing the right thing cheaply less admirable than doing the right thing in an expensive manner? Results matter, intentions do not.

          California is doing fine, but it is not a leader.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Are you aware where the first wind farms were built in the US? And in the world?

            California has about 4x as much solar as the second highest state.

            In terms of total renewable electricity w/o hydro CA is second to Texas (your source).

            I suppose different people have different definitions of “leader”.

          • Larmion

            – The first wind farms? California. But individual wind turbines were used long before that on farms around the country, especially in the midwest.

            – It has more solar than the midwest, but also better resources. Since when does using the best resource available first (wind in the midwest) make you any less visionary?

            – Since when is total generation a meaningful metric? Per capita is what matters, or at least a share of total generation.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Whatever, Lamion.

            Keep those shields up…

          • Steven F

            If you add up the population of washington, oregon,idaho, and maine you get a total of 14.317 million. These states together generate 30496 GWH a year of renewable power (excluding hydro). In comparison the population of california is 38.33 million and its renewables generate 36564 GWH of power a year. Since power demand is proportional with population california needs way more power to meat demand.


            California is simply behind because we need to install a lot more to meet our demand.

            Additionally the first utility scale wind, solar, and geothermal facilities in the US were all built in California in the 1980’s. Most of the states you mentioned didn’t install any non hydro renewables until about 2005. All of the hydro facilities in all these states including California were built between 1930 and 1950 due to US government policies which were originally designed to provide jobs during the depression of the 1930’s.

      • Hank1946

        One reason they may be in % ahead of California is the TOTAL population of all three of the states you mention is about 12.5 million people. While California is a little over 38 million people. So is 70% of the energy of less than a 1/3 the peoples use really better than California. Might be better to find the number of Megawatts produced by state to find who falls where. Also the number of projects and the complexety of the systems should be looked at.

  • Joseph Dubeau

    Yes! we can do it. We can do it sooner than you think.
    Is there a way to track this on a month by month basis.

    • tibi stibi

      2030 is 15 years from now. i think 50% will be reached much sooner!

      • Dragon

        It certainly could be reached sooner. Unfortunately it depends what the fossil barons throw in the way. They’re already trying to whip up outrage over cap and trade being applied to gasoline as of Jan 1st and blame it for our higher gas prices that we’ve had for decades.

    • GCO

      Sooner indeed, if this model manages to inspire other utilities:

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