California ARB Adopts Regulation Implementing 33% Renewable Electricity Standard by 2020

The California Air Resources Board adopted unanimously a regulation establishing a 33% renewable electricity standard. Under the regulation, one-third of the electricity sold in the state in 2020 must come from renewable sources of energy.

The regulation adopted is the product of coordination and cooperation by ARB, California Public Utilities Commission, California Energy Commission and California Independent System Operator. Work on the standard began immediately following the Governor’s Renewable Electricity Standard Executive Order, signed on 15 September 2009.

The goal of 33% renewable electricity was also a major measure in the Scoping Plan, adopted by the Board in December 2008, toward fulfilling AB 32, the requirements of California’s climate change legislation.

The regulation ramps up the amount of electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources of energy while preserving the existing authorities of the energy agencies and the grid operator. ARB oversight will ensure that the renewable standard delivers substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and achieves clean air goals by reducing smog-forming pollution.

Important elements include:

  • The regulation applies to all entities that deliver electricity, including investor owned utilities (IOUs) and publically owned utilities (POUs) including municipal utilities;

  • The regulation creates a program that is consistent for all electrical entities;

  • The phased-in approach provides for interim targets for renewable energy: 20% for 2012 – 2014; 24% for 2015 – 2017; 28% for 2018 – 2019; 33% for 2020 and beyond;

  • The program employs the procedures and mechanisms already used by electrical entities; and,

  • The smallest electricity providers (sales of less than 200,000 megawatt-hours per year) are only subject to recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

The standard is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about the equivalent of 12 to 13 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year in 2020. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the regulation will result in hundreds of tons of statewide reductions in smog-forming and toxic air pollutants by displacing the use of dirtier fossil-fueled generation, providing a range of health related benefits.

The new regulation will be one of AB 32’s largest emission-reduction strategies.


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