California Passes 33% Renewable Energy Standard

The California Legislature on Tuesday approved a bill that would require utilities in the state to obtain at least 33% of their electricity from clean, renewable sources, such as the wind and sun, by 2020.

Promoted by the governor and legislative leaders in both houses as part of a green jobs stimulus package, the bill would create the most aggressive renewable energy requirement in the country and position California as a national leader in clean energy investments.

"Today’s vote is not just a victory for California’s economy and environment, but for the entire nation," said Laura Wisland, an energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a national nonprofit organization providing economic, technical and policy analysis of renewable electricity standards. "Transitioning toward more clean, renewable electricity sources means cleaner air, healthier communities, and a stronger green economy."

California’s current law, the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS),
required privately owned utilities in the state to obtain 20% of
their energy from renewable sources by 2010. UCS estimates that with
the 33% RPS law in place, California will be responsible for more
than 25% of the renewable energy generated by state standards
across the country in 2020. The amount of heat-trapping global warming
emissions that would be displaced as a result of the 33% RPS
would be equivalent to removing nearly 3 million cars from the road.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill, given statements he made during his campaign last year.

Dan Kalb, UCS’s California policy manager, said the new standard would be a boon for the state economy. "A strong 33% renewables standard in statute would give renewable energy developers the market the certainty they need to raise money to build their projects in California," he said. "With the governor’s signature, this bill will create new clean energy jobs, strengthen our economy, and reduce harmful heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming."

Wisland said that the federal government should follow California’s lead. "Once again, California has demonstrated national leadership in advancing clean energy," she said. "Now it’s Congress’s turn to act."

Such a move by federal legislators has widespread public support, she added. A February Gallup poll found that 83% of Americans favor Congress passing a bill that would provide incentives for renewable energy.

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