California’s proposed 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)

California's legislature is close to passing a requirement to raise the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 33% in 2020.  If it is enacted, this law will once again place California at the forefront of efforts to expand the role of renewable energy resources like wind, solar, and geothermal in supplying electricity to homes, businesses, and industry. Achievment of a 33% RPS, which would exceed the RPS requirement of 25% in other states like Oregon and Minnesota, would significantly reduce GHG emissions, help stablize electricity prices, and promote economic development.

California's history of supporting renewables development through RPS requirements began with SB1078, authored by Senator Byron Sher in 2002, which required utilities to meet 20% of their electricty demand with qualifying renewable energy resources by 2017. Four years later, the California Legislature passed SB107, authored by Senator Joe Simitian, which accelerated the RPS timetable and required the state's utilities to reach the 20% renewables requirment by 2010. SB107 included flexible compliance provisions that allow for a 3-year window to meet procurement goals.  Utilities in the state are generally on track to meet the SB107 goal by 2013, as permitted by law.

In 2006, the California legislature also passed AB32, authored by Senator Fran Pavley.  This landmark legislation imposed a cap on statewide emissions of greenhouse gases at 1990 levels by 2020. The AB32 Scoping Plan, adopted by the California Air Resources Board in 2008, includes an increased RPS requirement of 33% by 2020 as a key component of a comprehensive strategy addressing emissions across a wide range of economic sectors.  CARB estimates that the 33% RPS will reduce California's GHG emissions by 21.3 million metric tons of CO2 per year in 2020, accounting for more than 12% of the total reductions needed to meet the AB32 goal.

Governor Schwarznegger has also made meeting a 33% RPS by 2020 one of his administration's policy goals.  In November 2000, Governor Schwarznegger signed an executive order which administratively established the 33% RPS and directed state agencies to implement reforms to facilitate achievement of the goal.

However, legislation is essential to establishing a legal mandate and framework for compliance and for ensuring adequate funds are available  to realize the goal of a 33% RPS.   Since the start of the 2009-10 legislative session, lawmakers have been working with a broad array of stakeholders to draft legislation to establish the 33% target as state law.  In January, Senator Simitian and Assemblymember Paul Krekorian introduced parallel bills in the Senate and Assembly. These two bills, SB14 and AB64 have passed through their house of origin and through the policy committees in the other house with strong support. Over the coming two weeks, the authors will be working with legislative leaders, the governor's office and key stakeholders to refine and finalize them, with the intent of crafting a final package that can garner the support of the full legislature and the governor for enactment into law this fall.