California’s push for law mandating 100% clean energy nears finish line

Hawaii was first state to pass law making commitment to all carbon-free electric generation.

Solar Panels and wind turbines in Palm Springs, California. CREDIT: Connie J. Spinardi/Getty Images
Solar Panels and wind turbines in Palm Springs, California. CREDIT: Connie J. Spinardi/Getty Images

The California Assembly passed a law on Tuesday that commits the state to a target of 100 percent clean electricity by 2045, pushing it closer to becoming only the second state in the U.S. with the goal of relying solely on clean energy for its electric power in the coming decades.

If the bill makes it into law, California will become the largest economy in the world to have a goal of moving to 100 percent clean energy. In 2015, Hawaii became the first state to set such a target.

A state Senate vote in favor of the bill is expected by Thursday and California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is likely to sign the bill within two weeks of its passage.

The bill, S.B. 100, is an amendment to California’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Currently, the state’s RPS requires half of all electricity delivered by utilities to come from renewable sources of energy by 2030. As an interim step toward the goal of 100 percent renewables, the bill would increase California’s clean energy goal to 60 percent by 2030.


“California and Hawaii may be the first states to take this big step, but they won’t be the last,” Doug Phelps, chairman of Environment America, said Tuesday in a statement. “We can never reach goals that we never set. That’s why S.B. 100 is an important step — it articulates the targets we need to hit, giving us a strong push in the right direction.”

Environment America has 29 state affiliates across the nation, including one in California. The group’s California affiliate worked with a coalition of groups to push for passage of the bill.

Other states and cities across the country also are pushing for the adoption of a 100 percent clean energy mandate. Massachusetts lawmakers passed an energy bill at the end of July that increases the state’s RPS by 2 percent each year to 2030 and 1 percent each year thereafter, resulting in an effective 40 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2090. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed the bill into law on August 9.

PV Magazine commented that the 2090 target date in Massachusetts makes “for a rather absurd version of a 100 percent renewable energy mandate.”


More than 70 cities across the U.S. have adopted 100 percent clean energy goals, with target dates much sooner than 2090, according to the Sierra Club. The city of Atlanta, for example, is committed to achieving 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035.

The renewable energy industry welcomed the clean energy leadership it is seeing coming from the state and local levels.

“There is no doubt that states continue to pioneer the path forward on clean energy,” the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), an industry trade group, said Wednesday in a statement. Such aggressive state renewable programs are helping to promote ACORE’s goal of facilitating $1 trillion in new private sector investment in renewable energy and grid technologies by 2030, the group said.

In California, the state Senate previously passed the 100-percent renewables bill, sponsored by state Sen. Kevin de León (D), in May 2017. The Assembly version got stuck in committees before it was allowed to go to the full Assembly for a vote.

With Tuesday’s passage of the bill, it now heads back to the Senate for final approval, before it goes to Gov. Brown’s desk. The Senate has until the legislative session closes on Friday to hold the vote.


In contrast to the Trump administration clinging to coal mining and old coal-fired power plants open, California has been rapidly moving toward clean energy. “As California goes, so does the nation. And as the United States goes, so does the world,” Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D) of Los Angeles said in response to the vote.

According to the Department of Energy, more than 500,000 people in California work in the clean energy sector, a number far larger than any other state. Unlike coal, jobs in renewable energy have a positive growth outlook.

“While Donald Trump abandons reality by ignoring the climate crisis and the incredible growth of clean energy, California is stepping up to lead the transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said Tuesday in a statement. “Now, one of the world’s largest economies and millions of homes and business will be powered by 100 percent by clean, renewable energy by 2045, if not sooner.”

The Assembly’s passage of the bill came one day after California released a climate assessment for the state that concluded two-thirds of the beaches in Southern California could be lost to erosion and the size of wildfires in California could nearly double by 2100.

California’s energy sector is a key component in fighting climate change. With power plants one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, California has been aggressive in its pursuit of installing renewable energy capacity, especially solar energy, to help meet the projected growth in the use of power for air conditioning.

Currently, renewables account for 27 percent of the state’s energy usage, with that total driven by a combination of solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal power.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) on Wednesday praised the Assembly passage of S.B. 100. The trade group also urged California lawmakers to pass A.B. 893, which would require electric utilities to ramp up procurement of renewable resources.

“We congratulate California for its groundbreaking legislation,” SEIA President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said in a statement, “and we encourage state lawmakers to push just a little more before the end of this session to set the wheels in motion to a real 100 percent clean energy future.”