Broad (and Bi-partisan) Support for Clean Energy and Green Job Creation

BERKELEY (March 29, 2011) – In a bold move to bolster one of the few bright spots in California’s economy and set a precedent for strong renewable electricity standards nationwide, the California Legislature today approved a bill that would require utilities in the state to obtain at least 33 percent of their electricity from clean, renewable sources, such as the wind and sun, by 2020.  

Promoted by the governor and legislative leaders in both houses as part of a green jobs stimulus package, the bill would create the most aggressive renewable energy requirement in the country and position California as a national leader in clean energy investments.  

“Today’s vote is not just a victory for California’s economy and environment, but for the entire nation,” said Laura Wisland, an energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the leading national nonprofit organization providing economic, technical and policy analysis of renewable electricity standards.  “Transitioning toward more clean, renewable electricity sources means cleaner air, healthier communities, and a stronger green economy.”

Introduced by State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), the bill (SBX1 2) garnered the backing of a broad range of electric utilities, ratepayer groups, environmental organizations and renewable energy businesses. UCS advised the  bill authors, and played a lead role to build support for the bill as it made its way through the Legislature.

UCS also has been involved in coalition efforts to enact clean energy standards in other states and at the federal level.

California’s current law, the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), required privately owned utilities in the state to obtain 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2010.  UCS estimates that with the 33 percent RPS law in place, California will be responsible for more than 25 percent of the renewable energy generated by state standards across the country in 2020.  The amount of heat-trapping global warming emissions that would be displaced as a result of the 33 percent RPS would be equivalent to removing nearly 3 million cars from the road.

UCS is expecting California Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the bill, given statements he made during his campaign last year.

Dan Kalb, UCS’s California policy manager, said the new standard would be a boon for the state economy.  “A strong 33 percent renewables standard in statute would give renewable energy developers the market the certainty they need to raise money to build their projects in California,” he said.  “With the governor’s signature, this bill will create new clean energy jobs, strengthen our economy, and reduce harmful heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming.”

Wisland said that the federal government should follow California’s lead.  “Once again, California has demonstrated national leadership in advancing clean energy,” she said. “Now it’s Congress’s turn to act.” Such a move by federal legislators has widespread public support, she added. A February Gallup poll found that 83 percent of Americans favor Congress passing a bill that would provide incentives for renewable energy.

For more information on the California RPS, see the UCS fact sheet, “California Renewable Electricity Standard.”