This legislative season in California will rank as a big disappointment for environmentalists. The last-minute failure to secure a 50% petroleum reduction by 2030 goal, followed by the defeat (actually postponing) of the bill to set 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas reduction targets, was a major blow for environmentalists used to getting what they want out of Sacramento. Many commentators are starting to blame Governor Jerry “above the fray” Brown for not doing more to secure passage in the Assembly.
But lost in these setbacks is the major accomplishment of boosting California’s renewable energy standard to 50% by 2030, coupled with a mandate to double energy efficiency in existing buildings by that year. SB 350 (De Leon) may have been stripped of the petroleum goals, but these other targets are significant accomplishments. The energy efficiency piece set forth a process for the California Energy Commission to set long-term targets and evaluate progress on a regular basis, while the renewable energy mandate essentially just adds the 50% goal into the previous legislation requiring 33% by 2020 — in other words, no new process needs to be created for California to continue down this renewable path.
And finally, SB 350 makes it easier for California to develop a western regional market for renewables that will cover neighboring states and allow California both to import renewables from out-of-state when we need them and export our surplus renewables to other states. The legislation allows the California Independent System Operator, which essentially manages California’s grid, to change its governing rules to allow regional transmission operators to become part of the system. That will facilitate the import and export of renewables, helping California to better balance our in-state supply and ensure that dips in production don’t result in more natural gas-fired power.
So while the legislative season may have largely ended in disappointment, the accomplishments that did occur are worth celebrating for environmentalists.