California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that moves the biggest state in the nation, economically speaking, toward 100 percent renewable energy on a 27-year time table.
Brown signed Senate Bill 100 into law Monday. The bill hastens the pace of California’s move to get at least half of its energy from wind, solar and other renewables by 2026—four years sooner than the previous law required.
The ultimate 2045 deadline to completely phase out fossil fuels carries tremendous fiscal importance considering that California is the world’s fifth biggest economy, after the U.S., China, Japan and Germany.
And SB100 makes it the largest economy globally to commit to total renewables. Hydro, wind, biomass and solar combine to account for close to 40 percent of California’s in-state power generation mix. The state imports significant amounts of electricity generated by coal, natural gas and hydropower from other states.
“It’s impossible to overstate how significant it is for a state as large and influential as California to commit to 100 percent clean energy,” Sierra Club Executive Digest Michael Brune said in a statement. “Today, over 90 percent of Californians live in an area where the air is unhealthy to breathe. Leaving dirty fuels behind is the only way to deliver clean, breathable air, especially in the communities of color and low-income communities that are home to dirty fossil fuel infrastructure. Moving to 100 percent clean energy will protect all Californians from the dangers of fossil fuel pollution.”
Language in the legislation does not allow California to reach the goal by shifting fossil generation sources out of state that increase the “carbon emissions elsewhere in the western grid.”
Some have criticized the deal was creating back-door agreements giving other states some power in California’s energy future. Others say the legislation doesn’t really line out details on how California will get to 100 percent.
Republicans, joined by a handful of moderate Democrats, said the legislation would saddle families and businesses with higher energy bills.
“Why would this body double-down and further increase costs on struggling California families?” said Steven Choi, R-Irvine, after the state senate passed the bill .
Phasing out fossil fuels would be a massive change in the energy grid. Utilities rely on natural gas plants to meet demand when renewables fall short, particularly in the early evening when the sun sets and people turn on their air conditioners as they get home from work.
California is already the nation’s No. 1 state for solar energy at more than 22,000 MW, according a first-quarter 2018 report from the Solar Energy Industries Association.