California Renewable Energy Bill Clears Key Hurdle

"When it comes to fighting climate change and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, California won’t back down."

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

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California this week came one big step closer to phasing out fossil fuels.

The state will procure all of its energy from solar farms, wind turbines, and other carbon-free sources by the end of 2045, if a bill passed by the state Assembly this week continues to progress. It’s expected to clear the Senate by the end of the week and be signed by Governor Jerry Brown.

The state set its first goal for boosting renewable power use among utilities in 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Since then, both Brown and his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, have raised the targets. In 2015, Brown mandated that utilities get half of their electricity from renewables by the end of 2030. The bill passed Tuesday would speed that goal up by four years, requiring utilities to be 50 percent renewable by 2026.

In 2015, Hawaii became the first U.S. state to mandate a complete switch to renewables by 2045. Like communities on the mainland, Hawaii’s state-level shift was largely led by city leaders — Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa among them (Next City interviewed Arakawa in 2015, here).

“[A]round the world, you are seeing more and more island communities become renewable energy leaders,” he said in a keynote at the 2015 Maui Energy Conference.

Cities across the rest of the U.S. are setting similar goals, as Next City has covered. Minneapolis and Denver have committed to being completely powered by renewables by 2030. Seventy-seven other cities have made a 100-percent pledge with varying deadlines.

Particularly notable is a small midwestern utility that recently made the 100-percent commitment. Utilities tend to be more cautious than elected officials in making such promises since they’re in the actual business of keeping the lights on. They also tend to be monopolies with a vested interest in fighting distributed power sources. But the Traverse City Light & Power board’s recent decision to set a more aggressive target than its surrounding cities bodes well for renewables, and wind power in particular.

In California, the state’s original renewable power requirements spurred such a boom in the construction of solar plants and wind farms that “the state now often produces more renewable power at midday than it needs,” according to the Chronicle.

“When it comes to fighting climate change and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, California won’t back down,” the new bill’s author, Sen. Kevin de León said, according to the paper.

Now the state just has to get its tailpipe emissions under control.

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Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian

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Tags: californiaenergysolar power

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