Solar Power as a Major Force in New Climate Change Bill

California Governor Jerry Brown has just signed SB 350 which was introduced by Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). This bill aims to increase the use of renewable energy such as solar and wind as part of a worldwide effort to combat climate change while improving the health of Californians.

The bill will require California to generate 50% of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind by 2030, up from the current target of 33% by 2020. The state will also need to become twice as energy efficient by 2030 under the new law. For existing buildings, that could include installing newer appliances or improving heating and air conditioning systems.

As in many other areas, California has been at the forefront in the renewable energy movement. Solar power installation, in particular, has been an astounding success. California installed 4,316 megawatts in 2014 alone, more than the total of U.S.  installations between 1970 and 2011!  That’s not all. The differences between other leading states are remarkable. The second leading state was North Carolina, with 396.6 megawatts installed. North Carolina has more solar capacity than the entire Southeast states combined.

Renewable Energy is Now Cheaper than Fossil Fuels

Despite prevalent myths, there is no evidence to show that the adoption of renewable energy raises overall energy costs for ratepayers. Quite the opposite is true. According to a 2014 report by the California Energy Commission, when assessed over the lifetime of the facility generating it, electricity from most renewable sources is now cheaper than natural gas and is expected to become even more price-competitive over the next 10 years. In addition, renewable energy has “level” costs over the life of a power plant. Once you build it, the “fuels” (sun, wind, steam from the ground) are free. That’s not true with fossil fuels whose prices fluctuate widely based on factors California can’t control.