The passing of Senate Bill 350


Governor Brown and his vision for California’s future

Governor Brown announced an ambitious new energy and climate goals for California during his state of the union address in January. Senate President Kevin de León introduced Senate Bill 350, the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015, to codify and implement the Governor’s goals the following month. The purpose of the bill was to create new jobs, grow the state’s economy, and improve public health. A focal point of the bill involves striving to implement renewables resulting in the creation thousands of jobs, reducing harmful air pollutants, lowering carbon pollution, and leading to greater diversity and resilience in our energy supply.

Senate Bill 350 – Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015

The bill proposed to raise California’s renewable portfolio standard from 33% to 50% and increased energy efficiency in buildings by 50% by the year 2030.

The 50% increase in energy efficiency in buildings will be done through the use of existing energy efficiency retrofit funding and regulatory tools already available to state energy agencies under existing law.

The 50% renewable energy standard will be implemented by the CA Public Utilities Commission for the private utilities and by the CA Energy Commission for municipal utilities.

In spite of the opposition by the oil companies and their lobbyists the bill passed the legislature in September and signed by Governor Brown to become law in October.

Opportunity Lost

Establishing the goal of 50% renewable penetration is along the journey of what the long-term goal should be of 100% renewables which the State of Hawaii committed to by the year 2050. The energy efficiency target is a continuation of progress made in this area. As of 2013 70,000 Giga-Watts hours of savings were achieved from the time the energy efficiency programs began in 1975.

The lost opportunities included cutting the oil usage in half since this portion of the bill did not pass and the failure to update the greenhouse emission goals until 2050. AB32 or the California Global Warming solutions Act passed in 2006 and set a target of reducing greenhouse emissions by 2020 to the 1990 emissions level which is 15% below the levels expected without any action. In addition, the bill led to the creation of the cap-and-trade program.

California – nowhere near the finish line

The progress state of California toward more renewables is impressive but there is still a long way to go. Governor Brown has been instrumental to the progress made towards increasing the state’s use of renewables and reducing GHG emissions. Hopefully, Governor Brown’s successor will place fighting climate change and increasing the penetration of renewables as a high priority in his/her administration. Time will tell.