Brown signs bill upping renewable energy mandate to 50%

Source: Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2015

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed legislation yesterday ramping up California’s goals for fighting climate change.

In a ceremony in Los Angeles with the Griffith Park Observatory as background, Brown enacted S.B. 350, a centerpiece climate measure he had lobbied lawmakers to pass. The bill requires the state to make half of its electricity from renewable sources and to double the efficiency in existing buildings by 2030. The state earlier had a green power mandate of 33 percent by 2030.

Brown cast it as a major move at a time when the health of the world is at stake.

“The California example and the California strategy is being adopted, and people are joining with us,” he said. “This is global in its scope. This is not easy stuff. We are here because of oil, oil and gas, and, to a lesser extent, coal.

“That is the prosperity. That’s how we got here. Everything we’ve got has it,” he added. “What has been the source of our prosperity now has become the source of our ultimate destruction if we don’t get off of it.”

The measure from state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D) that became law, however, is a smaller version of a vision Brown put forward at the start of the year. Along with the electricity and efficiency mandates, he had sought to cut in half petroleum use by 2030.

But the oil industry and moderate Democrats fought that piece, forcing Brown and de León to drop it from the bill as the session mandatory end date approached.

De León at the signing ceremony also described the resulting law as momentous.

“This is a quiet revolution for consumers, public health and the California economy,” he said. “California has planted a flag no less than the one the United States planted on the moon nearly half a century [ago].”

The bill signing was praised by many environmental and some business groups.

“Provisions in the bill will help generate a new, robust installation of electric vehicle infrastructure around the state,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. “Simply put, the utilities will now have strong motivation to make sure clean electric vehicles advance and that our dependence on oil to fuel transportation declines.”

Billionaire Tom Steyer, president of NextGen Climate, also praised the move. In a statement, his group said Steyer “played a key role in the campaign to pass S.B. 350, contributing over $1.6 million on efforts to engage Californians in the conversation about the economic, health and environmental benefits of good climate policy, and provide a counterbalance to massive oil industry opposition.”

“With twin goals of 50 percent renewable electricity generation and a doubling of energy efficiency savings in buildings by 2030, California has set an example for the rest of the nation — and the world — to follow,” Steyer said.

The group Californians Against Fracking said more action was needed.

“Cutting emissions and increasing clean energy use only gets us part of the way,” the group said in a statement. “Climate change affects us globally and to continue to lead, California must also reduce oil and gas production. Gov. Brown should immediately stop the worst drilling practices including all forms of fracking to further protect not just California communities, but natural resources worldwide.”

Republicans largely had opposed the bill. They lashed out yesterday.

“Senate Bill 350 is a devastating measure that will force already-struggling families deeper into poverty by drastically increasing energy costs that are already some of the highest in the nation,” state Sen. Andy Vidak (R) said in a statement. “It’s wrong when parents have to choose between the necessities of keeping the lights on and feeding their children.”