California Legislature Strengthens State’s Clean Energy Laws

Statement by Adrienne Alvord, UCS California and Western States Director, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Sep 12, 2015

Sacramento, Calif. (September 11, 2015)—The California Legislature today approved a bill that will dramatically ramp up the state’s use of renewable energy, a decision that will strengthen the state’s trailblazing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. 

Senate Bill 350 (DeLeón and Leno) requires California to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, building on the state’s previously adopted Renewables Portfolio Standard that set a target of 33 percent by 2020. In addition, the bill calls for a doubling of the energy efficiency of buildings by 2030, the most ambitious energy efficiency standard in the country. 

As proposed, the legislation would have required California to cut its petroleum use in half by 2030, but that provision was dropped following an intense lobbying and public relations campaign by the oil industry.

Senate Bill 32 (Pavley), which would establish more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, is now a two-year bill and will be taken up again in 2016.

Below is a statement by Adrienne Alvord of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Thanks to the historic legislation passed today, California will continue building one of the largest renewable energy programs in the world. Relying on renewable energy sources is a critical strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and will further strengthen California’s clean energy sector, already the largest in the nation.

“Ramping up our use of renewable energy to 50 percent is not only feasible, it will demonstrate that the world’s seventh largest economy can run successfully on a clean, low-carbon energy system. In fact, modeling conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that California can generate 50 percent of our electricity from renewable sources even earlier than 2030 with technology we have in place now. 

“The Union of Concerned Scientists applauds the visionary leadership of Senate Bill 350’s authors, Senate President pro Tempore Kevin DeLeón and Sen. Mark Leno, who led a diverse and widespread coalition of supporters — from community groups, businesses, utilities, labor, religious groups, and scientists — to success this year in reducing emissions from the electricity sector that are driving climate change and polluting our air. 

“We still have work to do. It’s unfortunate that the millions of dollars spent by the oil industry have stalled efforts to reduce petroleum consumption. Oil money echoed more loudly for some members in the halls of the State Assembly than the voices of a majority of Californians, who have repeatedly demanded action to curb global warming and clean the air in the most polluted communities in the country. I am very confident that, with continued support from legislative leadership and Gov. Brown, we will succeed in the vital work of reducing economy-wide emissions, including those from transportation as envisioned in SB 350 by Senators DeLeón and Leno, and that we will pass binding targets for future reductions by the end of this two-year session in 2016.

“The oil industry will not be able to stop progress. California’s existing policies will continue to drive down emissions and hold polluters accountable for their carbon emissions. Our policies that encourage the adoption of clean vehicles, and require low-carbon transportation fuels along with better local transportation planning and continued improvements in vehicle efficiency under existing federal law will continue to reduce the state’s demand for petroleum and push us farther down the road to accomplishing our climate goals.

“Looking forward, I urge lawmakers to pay closer attention to the public interest when they return next year to reconsider the widely supported Senate Bill 32 so that we can continue to drive down greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality and save consumers money in the coming decades.”