Today, a bill will be signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown which will require half of California’s electricity to be sourced from renewables such as solar power and wind. This law is an important step forward for the state, as it will decrease pollution and the use of fossil fuel by California residents.
Brown’s new law will play a large role in creating a greener California over the next 15 years. Presently, 25 percent of California’s electricity comes from renewable sources. This is largely resulting from the push by Silicon Valley for an increased investment in clean energy as well as multiple desert solar farm openings each year.
The benefits of a significant push for clean energy sources will be largely positive for California, although not everyone is sure Brown has set a realistic goal for the state. The main concern being raised is how the state will meet the requirements being set by the legislation with 38 million people living in the state and a $2 trillion economy.
“It’s going to be challenging. I don’t know if it is going to be viable without major economic consequences,” said James Sweeney, director of the Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency at Stanford University.
Of course, there are more practical challenges to consider. With the sun shining at night, and the inconsistent presence of wind, state power managers will have to find creative ways to make sure there is enough energy to go around at all hours of the day. Incentives will need to be created to encourage both homeowners and businesses to evenly distribute their electric use throughout the day, Sweeney explained.
Additionally, energy storage presents an interesting challenge. High-tech batteries will be heavily relied on by energy companies to store energy for use during the hours when the sun is not shining.
Others, such as David Hochschild, a California Energy Commision member, are excited for the changes this law will bring, believing Brown has set realistic goals for the state.
“This is an achievable target,” he said, “ In 2008, California only had 12 percent renewable energy. We’ve doubled that in six years.”
Up until this point, the state hasn’t experienced any problems since increasing reliance on renewable energy source after Sen. Byron Sher wrote a law in 2003 with the goal for increasing renewable energy use to 20 percent by the year 2017.
Hochschild pointed out the improvements California has seen in energy costs since doubling renewable energy. Renewable energy cost has decreased significantly, equivalent in cost to natural gas. And he predicts the costs will continue to improve, with solar and wind cost dropping and the cost of fossil fuel increasing as renewable energy technology continues to advance.
At this time, no studies by state agencies exist which examine the effect the increase in renewable energy reliance could have on resident utility rates.However, research by energy consulting firm E3 came to the conclusion that the increase proposed by Brown would result in anywhere from a 9 to 23 percent increase in resident utility bill by 2030.
With support from major environmental groups and private organizations, Brown is moving forward with the bill despite resistance from Republicans and multiple industrial organizations. Because doubling the energy efficiency of buildings will require changes to more efficient windows, ductwork, and insulation, the state will likely change building codes and provide incentives to homeowners who make these changes to their home.