Distributed Energy Resources

California moves a step closer to 100% RPS

California is poised to become the second state in the U.S. to establish a 100% renewable portfolio standard.

On Tuesday, the state’s Assembly voted 43-32 in favor of a bill, SB 100, that would mandate that all retail electricity sales come from renewable and zero emissions resources by Dec. 31, 2045.

The state’s Senate passed an earlier version of the bill last year in a 25-13 vote. The Assembly version now heads back to the Senate for final approval after which it would head to the desk of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown has been a consistent supporter of policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2015, he increased the state’s existing RPS target by signing into law a bill that required the state’s utilities to obtain 50% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2030. The Senate has until Friday, the last day of the legislative session, to vote on the bill.

Hawaii established a 100% RPS in 2015. Unlike Hawaii’s RPS, however, California’s renewable target would be broader, allowing the use of “zero-carbon” sources, not just renewable resources, to meet the 100% target. The bill calls for a ratcheting up of the RPS target from 50% by the end of 2026 to 60% by the end of 2030. Up to the 2030 date the target would have to be met by eligible renewable resources. The last 40% of the proposed target, the 100% by 2045 goal, could be met by zero-carbon resources, which are not defined in the law.

One of the big debates regarding the bill was whether or not large hydroelectric plants, stations over 30 MW, would count after the 60% target is reached. The law is silent on the issue, but it is likely they could be included, Patrick Welch, legislative director for energy at the California Municipal Utilities Association, said.

As with California’s previous RPS law, SB 100 would apply to the state’s public power utilities. However, the law would not apply to rural electric cooperatives.

The California Municipal Utilities Association had a support if amended position related to the bill. “The goal of a carbon free energy supply is worthy of pursuit, but we wanted some tweaks and were not successful at getting everything we sought,” Welch said.

Two amendments sought by the CMUA were not included. One sought a mechanism for public power utilities to avoid economic harm if meeting the stricter RPS targets would require some gas-fired plants to ramp down or close. Several public power utilities own gas plants that were funded by public bonds that extend beyond the 2030 target date of the bill.

The second amendment that did not make it into the final draft would have provided an electrification credit for utilities, for instance for electric vehicles in their territory. EVs add to emissions reductions but also add load on a utility system, potentially increasing cap and trade compliance.

However, another amendment the CMUA sought was included in the bill. It calls for a thorough, public assessment of the bill and its effects every four years.

The “100% Clean Energy Act of 2018” is sponsored by California state Senator Kevin de Leon (D). He originally introduced the bill in 2017, but the Assembly held the bill, effectively killing it for that legislative session.

Investor-owned utilities Pacific Gas and Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric oppose SB 100, but California’s three large IOUs are already well on their way to meeting the state’s existing RPS targets.

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