The much anticipated renewables portfolio legislation that would increase California's share of electricity coming from renewables to 33 percent cleared its last remaining hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee today on a vote of 12 to 3. The RPS bill now advances to the Assembly floor for a final vote sometime later this week (depending on budget negotiations) and from there to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown, who is expected to sign the bill into law.
Following is a Q&A about what the RPS bill does and does not do:
Q: What does SB1X 2 require utilities and other power generators to do?
A: The 33 percent RPS requires all electricity providers in the state to obtain one-third of their electricity from specified renewable energy resources by 2020.
Q: What types of energy resources qualify as renewable?
A: The types of resources that qualify as renewable include solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and small hydroelectric plants under 30 MW. Other technologies such as wave and tidal current also qualify and may contribute to California’s renewable portfolio over the longer term. Large hydroelectric plants and nuclear power do not qualify as renewable.
Q: Are there specific deadlines in the bill prior to 2020?
A: In addition to the 2020 deadline, electricity providers must get an average of at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable resources from 2011 to 2013, and at least 25 percent of their electricity from renewables by December 31, 2016.
Q: Meeting the 33 percent RPS sounds very ambitious. Is it feasible?
A: Absolutely. California utilities are already well on their way to meeting the RPS goals. The California Independent System Operator has already approved more than enough transmission to meet the 33 percent goal. PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric have already signed nearly power purchase agreements for more than 20,000 MW, more than enough to reach 33 percent. And last year, the California Energy Commission approved almost 4,200 MW of new solar thermal capacity in the state.
Q: Are there geographic restrictions on where the electricity can come from?
A: The RPS requires that by 2020 at least 75 percent of the renewable electricity comes from renewable power plants whose first point of interconnection with the electricity grid is controlled by a California entity, such as the California Independent System Operator or the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. However, if an electricity provider demonstrates that it is unable to meet this requirement due to conditions outside its control, the CPUC can lower the requirement to 65 percent. The RPS also places strict limits on the use of renewable energy certificates (RECs) to meet the 33 percent goal.
Q: Are renewable energy projects being developed in California?
A: Yes. Renewable energy projects are being proposed and built across the state, including solar thermal in the deserts, wind turbines in the mountain passes, geothermal in the southeast and distributed photovoltaic projects on rooftops and parking lots in cities and suburbs.
Q: Why is this legislation important?
A: The 33 percent renewable standard is a key part of the effort to create jobs and build a clean energy economy. Increasing the share of electricity that comes from renewable resources will help us to meet our climate change goals, increase our energy independence and economic security, and create good jobs here at home.