California Senate Passes Major Clean Energy Bills

By Joseph Bebon, Solar Industry Magazine


Wow! In a single day, the California State Senate passed three major clean energy bills, including one that would establish a 100% renewable portfolio standard (RPS), one that would mandate solar on most new buildings in the state, and one that would create an energy storage rebate program. All three measures now go to the California Assembly for consideration.

In a 25-13 vote on Wednesday, the Senate passed S.B.100, which aims to both accelerate and expand the state’s current 50% by 2030 RPS. The bill, sponsored by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, would speed up the renewables mandate to 50% by 2026 and establish an ultimate goal of 100% by 2045.

If it becomes a law, the legislation would put California on par with Hawaii, the only other state with a 100% RPS.

In a press release, de León calls the California measure “the most ambitious target in the world to expand clean energy and put Californians to work” and says it is “critical that we double down” amid climate policy shifts by the Trump administration.

“Regardless of what Washington does, California will show the way forward,” he says. “We are sending a clear message to the rest of the world that no president, no matter how desperately the try to ignore reality, can halt our progress.”

Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director for the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA), comments, “Transitioning to a 100 percent carbon-free future in an economy the size of California’s requires persistence, commitment and vision. CALSEIA stands at the ready in creating the local jobs, carbon-free electricity, and grid reliability that comes with this cleaner future.”

Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, adds, “Getting 100 percent renewable is 100 percent possible and 200 percent necessary. S.B.100 responds to what survey after survey shows that Californians want: clean energy, clean air and a future for the next generation.”

Also on Wednesday, the California Senate passed two bills sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, to boost clean energy in the state. In a 24-13 vote, the Senate approved S.B.71, legislation that would establish a mandate requiring rooftop solar installations atop most new buildings throughout California.

The statewide requirement would resemble a city mandate Wiener authored and helped pass last year, when he was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and before he became a state senator. Last April, the board unanimously approved a city ordinance requiring new small and midsize buildings in San Francisco to include solar. Smaller California cities, such as Lancaster, also have similar solar mandates.

Under existing California state law, 15% of roof area on all new residential and commercial buildings up to 10 stories tall must be “solar ready,” meaning unshaded and free of obtrusions. As with his San Francisco ordinance, Wiener’s Senate legislation would build on the current state law by mandating that solar actually be installed on the 15% of “solar ready” roof area of new small and midsize buildings in California. That can include either solar photovoltaic or solar water installations.

If it becomes law, S.B.71 would make California the first state in the U.S. to mandate solar installations on new construction.

“Solar is a cost-effective and reliable source of electricity, and S.B.71 will help ensure that it’s installed at the optimum time: when a building is being built,” says Brandon Smithwood, director of California state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “This legislation will enable the state to meet its climate goals, while expanding the benefits of solar and its accessibility to even more Californians.”

Susannah Churchill, California director for Vote Solar, says, “California has long led the country on climate action and energy innovation, and we need that kind of leadership today more than ever. This bold solar legislation shows the nation and the world that the Golden State is committed to a clean energy transition that benefits our communities, our economy and our climate.”

In a 23-13 vote Wednesday, the Senate also approved Wiener’s S.B.700, which would establish a new, 10-year Energy Storage Initiative to provide rebates for the installation of energy storage systems.

According to Wiener, the Energy Storage Initiative would be funded by taking the amount of money currently authorized for energy storage under the state’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) for energy storage (which is set to expire in 2019) and create a separate energy storage program, which will be extended until 2027. With this funding secure for a decade, Wiener says the energy storage market will have certainty and support to develop energy storage technologies, which will make technology more efficient, more effective, and cheaper. Notably, S.B.700 also requires 30% of the rebate program to be reserved for energy storage systems in low-income residential housing and disadvantaged communities, as well as job training and workforce development.

The bill is sponsored by Environment California and supported by over 60 environmental, solar and environmental justice organizations.

“California can continue to lead the clean energy revolution that is cleaning our air and staving off the worst impacts of climate change,” says Dan Jacobson, state director of Environment California. “We can’t continue to use fossil fuels when we have better options. S.B.700 allows solar power to work at night.”

According to Laura Gray, energy storage policy advisor at CALSEIA, the Senate’s passage of S.B.700 “signals that policymakers have a real appetite to create a marketplace for local, customer-sited energy storage.”

Gray says, “This bill takes California’s clean energy economy to the next level by allowing consumers to store renewable energy and use it when they need it most. This will save businesses and schools money, give consumers control over their energy use and ensure that all Californians can participate in our transition to clean, local energy.”

Wiener states, “In California, we are pushing aggressive renewable energy goals because we know that fighting climate change means taking action now. These two bills will push us down the path to 100 percent renewable energy. To meet our goals, we need solar and other renewable energy in every city and neighborhood in California, not just those that can afford it. These bills will transform solar power and energy storage so that all can reap the benefits of clean, renewable energy.”

As previously mentioned, all three of the newly passed bills now head to the California Assembly.