California Gov. Brown signs ambitious renewable energy mandate into law

Apr 14, 2011 By Dana Hull

California's clean-tech economy took center stage Tuesday at SunPower's solar manufacturing facility in Milpitas as Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law an ambitious mandate that requires the state's utilities to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as geothermal, wind and solar by 2020.

The move, which gives California the most aggressive clean-energy requirement in the nation, is expected to create clean-tech jobs up and down the state as utilities race to secure contracts with renewable producers.

"Instead of taking oil from thousands of miles away we're taking the sun," said Brown before the signing ceremony. "This is about California leading the country, and America potentially leading the world."

U.S. Steven Chu also brought good news to California Tuesday, announcing at the heavily attended event that the Department of Energy has awarded SunPower and NRG Solar a $1.2 billion conditional loan guarantee for the California Valley Solar Ranch, a 250-megawatt power plant to be built in San Luis Obispo County. The is expected to create 350 jobs and generate enough power for 60,000 homes.

"The efficiencies created by the California Valley Solar Ranch project will help lower the cost of solar power and encourage more utility-scale solar deployment," said Chu. "The project will also create hundreds of jobs and will generate clean, to fulfill increased ."

San Jose-based SunPower designs and manufactures and solar panels for residential, commercial and utility clients. The company has more than 5,100 employees worldwide, including about 4,300 in the Philippines, where SunPower has two factories.

But with California's solar market rapidly expanding, SunPower is eager to manufacture closer to home, and recently opened its first domestic solar manufacturing facility in Milpitas. The Milpitas factory is operated in partnership with Flextronics, an electronics manufacturing services provider, and is expected to create 100 jobs.

California's three largest utiltities were already required to procure 20 percent of their power from by 2010. The law signed Tuesday expands that mandate to 33 percent by 2020 and extends to all utilities in the state.

"This is going to electrify California's economy and reduce air pollution and global warming," said Jim Metropulos of the Sierra Club.

But the California Manufacturers & Technology Association warned that the new mandate could potentially drive up the cost of electricity for California businesses.

"A 33 percent mandate is going to increase energy costs for industrial users," said CMTA spokesman Gino DiCaro. "It's a competitive disadvantge for manufacturing in California."

Pacific Gas and Electric, which has generally supported the concept of a 33 percent mandate, also has concerns about the details of the law, which requires the vast majority of electricity be produced in-state and limits the ability of utilities to trade RECs, or Renewable Energy Credits. PG&E also warns that large-scale renewable projects are often delayed by the need for multiple permits, which can drive up costs.

"Our ability to meet this target depends on the success of third-party developers who are building new renewable power plants," said Aaron Johnson, PG&E's director of renewable energy policy and strategy. "We're looking for the best projects, and we think we can do everything to meet the goals, but hitting the target remains to be seen. There are a lot of permitting issues and financing challenges."

Biomass, geothermal, solar, wind, wave and tidal power and small hydroelectric dams all count toward meeting the law, known in energy and policy circles as the "Renewable Portfolio Standard," and utilities can use a combination of renewable power sources to meet the 33 percent target.

Currently, most utilities heavily rely on hydropower, biomass and geothermal. But solar and wind are expected to make up the vast majority of new contracts in the coming decade.

"Solar is the fastest growing part of our renewable portfolio, because the cost has come down drastically in the last two years," said Marc Ulrich, vice president for renewable and alternative power for Southern California Edison.

The renewables law also contains provisions designed to protect consumers from rising and often volatile fossil fuel prices and requires state regulators with the California Public Utilities Commission to approve any renewable energy contracts.

"We'll make sure that ratepayers are protected," said CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio, who was a consumer advocate with TURN, the Utility Reform Network, for three decades before being appointed to the CPUC by Gov. Brown. "Part of our charge in implementing the bill is establishing cost control measures."

Tuesday also marked a huge victory for state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who has pushed for the 33 percent standard for four years.

"We want the commitment to renewable energy to be real, but we also want the flexibility to make it work," said Simitian. "If we send a clear signal to the market, the market will respond - with investment, tax revenue and jobs."

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Arkaleus
2 / 5 (4) Apr 14, 2011
If solar and wind energy was the best solution, it would already be the solution.

If the math doesn't work, does passing a law make it possible?
Justsayin
2 / 5 (4) Apr 14, 2011
Ha ha California gets what it votes for and you are getting higher electric bills imposed by your overlord who knows better than you do.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Apr 14, 2011
If the math doesn't work, does passing a law make it possible?
The math would work quite a lot better, if fossil fuel alternatives weren't also quite so heavily subsidized. Plus,

"project will help lower the cost of solar power and encourage more utility-scale solar deployment"

"the cost has come down drastically in the last two years"

"the market will respond - with investment, tax revenue and jobs"

Sometimes the market needs a kick in the pants, sometimes the subsidy playing field needs to be more level, and sometimes investors need more confidence with respect to technologically newfangled -- and therefore risky -- ventures.
Ha ha California gets what it votes for
Precisely. Or did you think this isn't what California wants?
you are getting higher electric bills
As opposed to erratic and currently skyrocketing prices of oil (and probably coal and natural gas soon to follow)?
AkiBola
1 / 5 (1) Apr 15, 2011
"the cost has come down drastically in the last two years".

Amazing! The law gets passed this week and it affects the past 2 years. What, advances are happening even without this law? That doesn't fit the narrative at all. We are not worthy.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (5) Apr 15, 2011
Pinky: Yes, end the subsidies AND restrictions. CA has plenty of oil that could be paying down CA debt and lowering oil prices.
But, that is not what the greenies want so suck it up and pay.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (2) Apr 15, 2011
Amazing! The law gets passed this week and it affects the past 2 years
There have been prior laws, and prior subsidies. The point is that this technology is indeed making progress -- the kind of progress it couldn't have made without government support, because it would've had to compete against far cheaper and more mature established energy providers. The expectation is that the new mandate and new subsidies will continue and encourage that ongoing trajectory, and renewable energy will continue getting cheaper and more wide-spread.
CA has plenty of oil that could be paying down CA debt and lowering oil prices.
CA doesn't have "plenty of oil"; what it has left is of low quality. Oil prices are set globally, not locally. CA couldn't lower oil prices by even 1 cent, even if it exploited all the oil it has left. Ditto for Alaska, BTW (so to all of you "drill baby drill" morons: suck it up and pay.)
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Apr 15, 2011
Oil prices are set globally, not locally

Oil prices are set by supply and demand.
More supply, from anywhere, lowers prices.
But, that's ok.
CA can try to prove their case as productive people flee and leaches ooze in.

"Census figures released Tuesday showed slowing growth in California, meaning the state will get no additional seats in Congress for the first time in nearly a century.

California's congressional delegation will remain the same size while Texas and Florida will bulk up, under final 2010 census results.

Read more: http://www.fresno...JceZvlct
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Apr 15, 2011
"The federal government estimates that California's coastal waters could hold 10.13 billion barrels of oil. That's almost the same amount believed to lie beneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which the Bush administration has pushed hard to open to exploration.

It's also enough to supply all the oil Americans consume for about 17 months. It would feed California's total oil appetite for 15 years."
http://articles.s...industry

The wiser move is to operate from a position of strength not desperation.
Kerosene became popular as it became cheaper replacing more expensive sperm whale oil. Kerosene was replaced by the electric lamp.
And this was all accomplished without govt mandates and subsidy. Edison and Rockefeller were motivated by profit working hard to provide their products as cheaply as they could.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Apr 15, 2011
More supply, from anywhere, lowers prices.
Except the global demand utterly dwarfs anything additional that CA (or even AK) can squirt out -- so it would be less than a drop in the bucket, and of virtually no significance for price.
California's coastal waters COULD hold 10.13 billion barrels of oil
Then again, they might not.
enough to supply all the oil Americans consume for about 17 months
If it were all sucked out at once; in real life you spread those theoretical 17 months worth of production, over several decades -- while world-wide demand continues to ratchet up.
The wiser move is to operate from a position of strength not desperation.
"Drill baby drill" is a position of desperation. Renewable energy portfolio development leads to strength.
this was all accomplished without govt mandates and subsidy
Because it was driven by price alone, with zero consideration for environmental impact or long-term strategy. That's the "free" market's biggest flaw.
Duude
1 / 5 (3) Apr 16, 2011
Oh, this dovetails perfectly with Obama's call for more electric vehicles. LOL!! What do we know? Solar and wind are far more inefficient than existing electrical sources of energy. By requiring more capital invested in these industries while Obama is pushing for more electrical vehicles we can expect new demand for electricity while more capital is creating inferior production of electricity. Yeah, watch electricity rate soar. LOL!
Arkaleus
1 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2011
Obama calls for electric vehicles, but Firefly can't make it's awesome high density carbon-lead foam batteries in the USA?

http://gigaom.com...-energy/

Firefly had to move to move to India and reorganize - Why? Why can't such a company get capital to operate in the USA? It seems there's more interest in keeping Americans at nice safe 1990 energy density levels so we don't hurt ourselves with scary things like cars that don't run on petroleum or other modern directed energy devices.
Shelgeyr
2 / 5 (4) Apr 25, 2011
California outlaws the economic law of supply and demand.
Next: California passes a law to heavily regulate the law of gravity. "By controlling gravity, we can considerably boost the efficiency of all vehicles, and stretch those transportation dollars much further," Gov. Brown was quoted as saying during his weekly "Spaceship Earth" cabinet meeting, "our top legislators are also looking at modifications to 'f=ma', although we're having to examine this very carefully because I'm told one possible side effect could be accidently altering the permeability of semi-permeable membranes in the brain, which would unfortunately cause all of our citizens to automatically violate the state's stringent drug laws."