Governor Brown Signs Aggressive Renewable Energy Legislation

On April 12, 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 2X requiring California utilities to obtain 33 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2020. Energy providers are required under the new legislation to draw power from solar panels, biomass, windmills, small hydroelectric plants, and other renewable energy sources. State law currently requires utilities other energy providers to meet a target of 20 percent by 2010 under the Renewable Portfolio Standard Program. Executive Orders S-14-08 and S-21-09 issued by former Governor Schwarzenegger in 2008 and 2009, respectively, established a further goal of drawing 33 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020. Governor Brown’s signing of Senate Bill 2X codified this goal into law.

Supporters of Senate Bill 2X laud the legislation for creating less dependency on foreign fossils fuels, stimulating future renewable energy projects, and benefiting the environment. Not all are instant fans of the Governor’s move, however. Critics argue that producing energy from traditional sources, including coal and natural gas, would be cheaper for businesses and residences. Meeting the 33% standard will likely require a higher capital investment in utilities infrastructure such as generation equipment and transmission lines. Under the law, however, utilities may be granted exemptions if renewable energy prices or moving power to the State’s grid make costs excessive.