California’s SB 350 a big win for renewable energy

SB 350 California

California has always been in front of the rest of the country in terms of sustainability and renewable energy, and the signing of SB 350 today cements that legacy even more.

What’s so great about SB 350 for the renewable energy world? Consider these targets:

Fifteen years ago, California enacted the nation’s first law requiring energy companies to buy 20% of their power from renewable sources. Prior to this mandate, renewable energy comprised less than 8% of the overall electrical mix in the state. Within 5 years of implementation, most energy companies were close to, or had purchased under contract, enough power to meet or exceed 20% RPS.

In 2011, Governor Brown signed legislation to increase RPS to 33% by the year 2020 [SB 2-1X chapter 1 Statutes of 2011]. Currently, most energy utilities have bought or have built enough energy resources to meet the 33% RPS before the target year.

This legislation increases the RPS to 50% by the year 2030.

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State energy agencies allocate over $1.5 billion per year on energy efficiency programs. Roughly $1 billion is spent by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and utilities via utility-sponsored programs such as rebates for high-efficiency appliances, heating and A/C systems, and insulation.

SB 350 seeks to increase energy efficiency in buildings by 50% by 2030, and gives California’s energy agencies the authority to review and revise our state’s energy efficiency programs to marshal the funds and regulatory actions necessary to reach this target.

In short, SB 350 is a leap into a bold direction that largely tries to leave behind a dependence on fossil fuels.

“Today marks the beginning of the next phase of leadership in building an advanced energy economy for California and the nation,” said Graham Richard, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy, a national business association with many member companies operating in California. “As signed by Governor Brown, this law will take California to new heights in renewable energy and energy efficiency, setting the pace for the nation. California has already shown that ambitious energy and climate goals drive innovation, creating economic growth and jobs. This new law will show that greater ambition produces greater economic rewards, for the state and the country.”

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, renewable power generation costs in 2014 were either as cheap or cheaper than coal, oil, and gas-fired power plants—even without financial support and despite drops in oil prices. Solar-powered energy has had the largest cost decline, with solar PV being 75% less expensive than it was in 2009.

And of course, all of this leads to jobs. The Advanced Energy Economy Institute says that advanced energy employment in California was documented as 431,000 workers in 2014, with significant employment found in all areas of the state. Employers reported 5 percent growth in advanced energy-related jobs over 2013, and projected 17 percent growth in employment for 2015.

— Solar Builder magazine


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