What California’s 100% clean energy mandate means for the United States


Today California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed SB 100, the bill that will make California the second state in the nation with a deadline to move to 100% zero-carbon electricity. SB 100 will accelerate the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 60% by 2030, and will require that the next 40% comes from zero-carbon sources of electricity by 2045.

The impacts for the solar industry are clear. Solar is the most widely deployed renewable energy source in the state, and according to pv magazine’s calculations the move from 50% by 2030 to 60% could result in as much as 10 GW of additional solar.

Former Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Kevin de León (D) sponsored and introduced the bill in January of last year, and SB 100 has had a long fight. “This was a labor of love from both houses,” stated De Leon at the signing ceremony.

But the real issue is not what the affect will be for California, it is what the impact will be on the rest of the nation. “Today sends a powerful message to the nation and the world, “ stated de León. “Regardless of who occupies the White House, California will always lead.”

California was not the first state to pass a renewable energy mandate. Iowa’s Alternative Energy Law began requiring that utilities procure renewable energy in 1983.  It was not until two decades later that California implemented its RPS, initially requiring 20% renewable energy by 2010.

But unlike Iowa, California did not stop there. Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed an executive order increasing the state’s RPS to 33% by 2020 in 2008, which became law through a bill signed by Governor Brown in 2011. Governor Brown also signed SB 350, which increased the RPS to 50% by 2030 in 2015, and was enthusiastic about his signing of SB 100 today.

“California is committed to doing whatever is necessary to meet the existential threat of Climate Change,” stated Governor Brown. “California has been doing things that the rest of the world hopes it will do some day.”

RPS policies have been popular, with 29 states and Washington D.C. implementing some mandatory form of the policy. They have also been effective, with the U.S. DOE’s Berkeley Lab finding that such policies were responsible for 44% of non-hydro renewable energy deployment in 2016.

And in terms of these policies, other states have certainly been following California’s lead. After the state established its 50% by 2030 RPS in 2015, New York and New Jersey both followed with similar mandates.

By setting a 100% by 2045 target, California now has tied with Hawaii for the most aggressive zero-carbon electricity policy in the nation – although unlike SB 100 Hawaii’s mandate is a standard RPS. The only state with a target anywhere near that ambitious is Vermont, which is calling for 75% by 2032.

It remains to be seen what exact steps other states will take. Nevada and Arizona both have initiatives on their ballots to set 50% by 2030 mandates, which voters will decide on November 6. But inevitably as California goes, so goes the nation.


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