Clean Power

Published on September 16th, 2015 | by Derek Markham


California Calls For 50% Renewable Electricity By 2030

September 16th, 2015 by  

SB350InfoGraphicsThe state of California just created an ambitious goal, as well as a significant milestone, for itself on the road to a sustainable energy and climate ecosystem, thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 350, which sets the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 50% by 2030.

SB350, which was sponsored by Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leòn and which was previously passed by the state Senate, was approved by the California Assembly by a vote of 51-24, and will now go before Governor Jerry Brown to be signed into law. The passage of this bill follows the success of Hawaii’s recent move to adopt a 100% renewables standard by 2045, and was praised by clean energy advocates, environmentalists, and renewable energy industry groups.

“The passage of SB 350 is a huge win for Californians and solar power is going to be key in making this win a reality. The industry, in response to the State’s current RPS, and other leading California policies like net metering, has produced nearly 55,000 solar jobs in California and more than $11 billion a year in state investment, all while achieving dramatic cost reductions. 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.” – Sean Gallagher, Vice President of State Affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association

California, which already has a strong RPS policy in place that requires utilities to source 33% of their electricity generation from renewable energy sources by 2020, leads the nation in installed solar capacity (11 GW) and has beneficial net-metering policies, and this push to get to a 50% RPS is intended in part to boost renewables and cut carbon emissions in the Golden State. The new legislation sets interim targets for meeting that goal for the years 2024 and 2027, and includes a stipulation for doubling the energy efficiency goals for buildings by 2030. The original bill also called for a 50% reduction in petroleum use in vehicles, but the bill was amended to strip out that provision.

As not only the largest state in the US, but also the eighth largest economy in the world, this move by California to adopt a 50% RPS is laudable, but as De León points out, the struggle to increase clean energy and decrease carbon emissions is “far from over.”

“These new steps build on California’s historic commitment to lead the world in the fight against climate change and build a healthy and livable planet for our children and grandchildren. But our efforts to reduce carbon emissions are far from over as global warming and air pollution remain one of the most important issues of our generation and one the greatest threats for generations to come.” – De León

The Solar Energy Industries Association pointed out that still more renewable energy generation is needed to hit California’s climate goal of a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, that more work is needed to ensure the bill is implemented fairly and accurately, and additional steps must be taken to keep rooftop solar generation growing:

“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.” – SEIA

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About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!

  • Dag Johansen

    It should be pretty easy to hit that target. Solar PV is still growing like crazy. Lots more places for onshore wind. There’s more places where geothermal can be done. Add a few biomass facilities. And we still haven’t got a single offshore windfarm at all.

    • Brent Jatko

      I don’t know how “NIMBYish” Californians are, but I just have a feeling that offshore wind farms will be a few lawsuits away.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Some of the best offshore wind sites in CA are along the “Lost Coast”, an area that is so rugged that Highway 1 turns inland and there are just no roads. Almost no one lives where they can see that part of the ocean.

        There’s one ranch house at Capetown. The road from Capetown to Petrolia goes inland, well away from an ocean view.

        Petrolia is the site of the first drilled oil well in California. The oil was packed out by mule teams.

        • Brent Jatko

          Thanks for the informative reply.

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        • Brent Jatko


  • Richard Foster

    What is the current level in California?

    Given a target of 33% electricity in 2020, 50% in 2030 seems unambitious…

    50% energy however….

    “The original bill also called for a 50% reduction in petroleum use in
    vehicles, but the bill was amended to strip out that provision.”

    This is perhaps the worst bit of news however.

    • Marion Meads

      Whether the 50% reduction in petroleum use is in the bill or not, the fact that EV’s are going mainstream, we don’t need a bill to force us to that come 2050.

      • Richard Foster

        Come 2050 I hope petroleum useage will be less than 5% of what it is now…otherwise we’re screwed when it comes to Global Warming (we may be already)

        • Jeff

          I’m just curious, how do you explain global warming when we came out of the last ice age? Not trying to be argumentative or anything, i just can’t buy that fossil fuels are to blame because there were none back then. 30 years ago people were saying the planet was cooling to fast. Also you guys are destroying your state economy in doing these things so you’d better hope you’re right.

      • Dag Johansen

        Having some sort of goal would be nice. But CARB has done great work . . . if not for CARB, the current plug-in car revolution probably would not be happening right now.

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      • sjc_1

        They called for a 50% reduction in gasoline consumption by 2030. No one said how that was going to be done in 15 years. The oil company ads said politicians wanted to make it harder for you to get to work and back.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        In 2050, I’ll just use Genisy’s transport beam to get around.
        You know Matt Smith is Sky Net.
        Should have listen to Elon’s warning.

    • Bob_Wallace

      All renewables, 25% now.

      Seems to be early to set petroleum goal over and above what the new CAFE standards will produce. Get some more affordable, longer range EVs on the roads and then we can step it up.

      • Richard Foster

        Ok, so 33% in 2020 seems slight unambitious now! Should be easily doable – 8% in 5yr – simples.

        I hope and expect when you exceed that target, that 50% target for 2030 becomes 60-80%…

        • Bob_Wallace

          I suggest paying the most attention to near term goals. If countries/states/cities are setting somewhat ambitious goals for the next ~5 years, goals that are higher than previous year accomplishments, then we can likely drive costs further down and create much stronger infrastructure.
          Once it’s easier, financially and otherwise, to install renewables then we can set and meet more ambitious goals with no more effort/expenditures than what we expended during the previous five year period.

          It’s the old ‘turning an aircraft carrier around’ problem. Got to slow, turn, start slowly in the other direction, then accelerate. Feels to me that we’ve about got things turned around. Now it’s time to build speed….

          • Richard Foster

            “Feels to me that we’ve about got things turned around. Now it’s time to build speed….”

            I sort of agree with you. It does feel as though 2015 has a different feel to it and that there is now enough evidence to suggest that the transition to zero GHG has begun.

            I don’t remember feeling quite as optimistic 12months ago…

            I guess the acid test is going to be the global CO2 emissions this year. It “feels” like from the news this year (China slowing in growth, using less coal), that there should be a reasonable reduction in CO2 emissions – I think China’s emissions will fall, US emissions are falling, as are EU emissions.

            I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that we could see a ~5% reduction in emissions. This would help give the Paris agreement a boost if one is reached.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I just read this on CoalWire –

            ““There is an economic battle going on in China, but it’s not quite the one you’re reading about in the business pages. China’s industrial data for the first eight months of the year, released on Sunday, showed dramatic falls in coal output (5 per cent), thermal power generation (2.2 per cent), cement production (5 per cent) and crude steel output (2 per cent). Coal imports were down a whopping 31 per cent … Together with coal imports and inventory data, the output numbers indicate that China’s coal consumption is on track for a 6-8% reduction this year, which would mean a fall in China’s CO2 emissions equal to the UK total,” writes Lauri
            Myllyvirta in Greenpeace’s *EnergyDesk*.”

            ​Some of that is due to China’s economic slowdown but some is due to China starting to move away from coal.

            I don’t know if we’ll see a 5% drop in CO2 emissions. I’d like to reach the end of the year feeling that we are clearly reaching the point of no more emissions growth.​

            If we can get things heading strongly in the right direction (coal use dropping rapidly, wind/solar storage eating into NG use, and EVs starting to take over new car sales) by 2020 then I think we can hit ~0 CO2 emissions prior to 2050.

          • Richard Foster

            Yes, those are the numbers I’ve seen from China as well. If that’s true, plus the expected falls in OECD countries, then I hope we see a fall.

            I guess it depends on how much the low oil price drives demand in that sector, but coal savings should be greater than oil and gas increases. Plus RE is taking a bigger chunk now…

            There’s a nice article here

          • Richard Foster

            Shell seem to be living in a different world…


      • Richard Foster
        • Dag Johansen

          Well, tell that to the UK where all those articles come from. It is the UK that has started going backwards on its climate commitments.

          • Richard Foster

            We are trying. It’s difficult because of the lack of coverage given to these in the press, the fact that there’s still a significant amount of Global Warming deniers in prominent positions and our government is hell bent of looking after their special interests – particularly fracking, at the expense of RE.

            I hope that now we’ve elected a proper socialist as leader of the opposition who believes in firm action of the environment and supports a wide-ranging raft of environmental protection measures and doesn’t deny Global Warming (and is very concerned about it), is a major step forward.

          • Brent Jatko

            Unfortunately, he’s also not likely to get elected.

          • Jeff

            People aren’t global warming deniers they just dont believe that fossil fuels are to blame. We’ve had ice ages and periods of warm ups before and fossil fuels had nothing to do with them. I think that’s where most struggle. 30 years ago people were saying the planet was cooling to fast.

          • Richard Foster

            Flagged. Please see CTs comments policy.

          • Matt

            So Jeff are you saying you have move from Denier to the “people are to small to have a impact” or to the “Im not a scientist” group. Even if you are in one of those group, don’t you think we should have a insurance policy. Because if you are wrong and we don’t, then our grand kids are dead. Me, I’m praying to mother earth to bring the next mini ice age early, because there are some many short sighted people around that act like they don’t care about the generations that follow them.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sorry, this is not the site for people who failed basic science.

            If you are a true questioner then go to Skeptical Science and read their “Arguments” page or to the NOAA or NASA pages. The science is well laid out for you

            If you’re a latter day flat earther then just go away.

      • Marion Meads

        If GM produced a Volt with 100 mile battery range, then 99% of my trips would be in electric and can fully utilize the 100 mile electric range every time without fear of not making it to the next charger.

        The 1% of the trip, I can use biofuel when needed to go 100% petroleum free.

        • Richard Foster

          I’d need 150-200mi really. And a way of charging up at home (live in flats, so currently not an option). 300mi would comfortably cover 99.9% of my journeys.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Well, it certainly is the case that the larger the battery gets, the less the ICE will be used.

          Get the battery up to the 150 to 200 mile range and enough “superchargers in place and pretty much no one will need fuel.

          There’s a point at which it becomes cheaper to purchase an adequate amount of batteries than the ICE.

          Consider the Volt with a 17 kWh and the planned Bolt/Mod3 with 50 kWh packs. A difference of 33 kWh for an EV that one can easily drive 500 miles in a day.

          Battery packs are expected to drop to $150/kWh or less. At $150 the additional 33 kWh will cost about $5k. The ICE and its support systems in the Volt probably cost that much or more.

      • Matt

        Looking at this chart, the bill should have had separate higher goals for imported electric. Say 45% in 2020 and 80% by 2030. That way they spread the love to the other state providing them.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        Here is an interesting graph

        How Each State Generates Electric Power (2004-2014)

        • Bob_Wallace

          Interesting and useful, thanks.

          Only a handful of states are still heavily coal users. It will be interesting to see the same data post 2016 after we close a bunch of coal plants.

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