Calif. governor signs 100% carbon-free bill, carbon neutrality order

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 10 signed a bill that puts California on a path toward reaching 100% clean energy by 2045. The governor also signed an executive order establishing a new target to achieve carbon neutrality, also by 2045.

Until Brown signed SB 100, California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard mandated that 50% of electricity supplies come from renewable energy sources by 2030. Under the new law, the 50% renewables goal is accelerated to 2025 and the RPS target is raised to 60% renewables by the end of 2030 with the last 40% of the target to be met by zero-carbon resources to reach 100% clean energy by 2045 goal. Zero-carbon resources are not defined in the law.

A November 2017 report by the California Public Utilities Commission found that the state’s investor-owned utilities exceeded the California’s 33% by 2020 RPS target and are forecast to meet the 50% by 2030 target 10 years ahead of schedule.

As with California’s previous RPS law, SB 100 applies to the state’s public power utilities, but not to rural electric cooperatives in the state.

“California continues to be at the forefront of greening the grid, but it comes with challenges,” Patrick Welch, legislative director for energy at the California Municipal Utilities Association, said. “Under the new law, electric utilities will have to meet increased RPS targets at a faster pace than previously required. We will now have a 60% RPS by 2030, and for the next 40%, a zero-carbon goal by 2045, which should include large hydro. As California expands its green policies, CMUA believes it’s vital that clean utility resource options are not limited. Flexibility is a key factor in ensuring that the electric grid remains affordable, reliable and sustainable.”

In signing the new emission target law, Brown acknowledged that the electric power sector accounts for only 16% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. To remedy that, Brown also signed an executive order (B-55-18) that aims to achieve “carbon neutrality” in the state by no later than 2045 and achieve and maintain net negative emissions thereafter.

The order directs the California Air Resources Board to work with other state agencies to develop a framework for implementing and accounting that tracks progress toward the goal.

The order does not mention what measures should be used to achieve the carbon neutrality, except that it directs state agencies to include sequestration targets in the Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan that would be consistent with the carbon neutrality target. The executive order does not have the force of law.

SB 100 makes California the second state in the U.S. to establish a law that moves the state away from power generation from fossil fuels. California has already shut down its coal-fired generation and its two nuclear power plants. Hawaii in 2015 became to first state to establish a 100% RPS.