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Calif. governor signs 100% zero-carbon electricity mandate

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 10 signed a bill requiring all electricity in the state to be generated with 100% zero-carbon energy by 2045, doubling the state's 50% renewable portfolio standard.

Brown's signing of Senate Bill 100 comes less than two weeks after the California Legislature approved the measure, authored by Senate President Kevin de León. The Senate passed the bill 25-13 on Aug. 29 following an Assembly vote of 44-33 on Aug. 28.

Brown also signed an executive order establishing a new target for the state to become carbon neutral by 2045 concerning all emissions sources as well with a zero-carbon electricity grid. The 100% renewable standard is just a part of the goal for the state to produce zero net carbon emissions because the electric sector represents just 16% of the state's greenhouse gas emissions today. For California to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it emits, the state will have to continue tackling transportation, industrial, agricultural and other carbon sources.

"California is committed to doing whatever is necessary to meet the existential threat of climate change," Brown said in his bill signing message. "This bill, and others I will sign this week, help us go in that direction. But have no illusions, California and the rest of the world have miles to go before we achieve zero-carbon emissions."

The new renewables standard will have a major impact on the state's utilities and all other electricity service providers. The new law requires all of California's electricity providers to get 60% of their energy from renewables by 2030 as an interim milestone. The law establishes a new policy for the remaining 40% to include large hydropower sources, energy storage and energy efficiency that cannot be counted in the RPS until the 2030 goal is met.

The 100% RPS law requires eligible renewable energy resources and zero-carbon resources to be used to supply all retail sales of electricity to California end-use customers. The law accelerates RPS obligations for retail sellers, including investor-owned utilities, community choice aggregators, energy service providers and publicly owned utilities.

Most retail sellers are well on their way to meeting their current RPS compliance obligations of 33% by 2020, according to a legislative analysis. The investor-owned utilities have already procured sufficient renewables to meet the 2020 obligations. Because of a major shift in load from investor-owned utilities to community choice aggregators, it is likely the additional obligations in the law will fall largely on these entities.

In addition to addressing emissions sources, Brown's order calls for increased carbon sequestration in forests and other landscapes.

"With Governor Brown's order, California establishes the most ambitious carbon neutrality commitment of any major economic jurisdiction in the world," according to a press statement from Brown's office.

The state has met its 2020 target four years early, reducing carbon emissions by 13% while growing the economy 26%.