Jerry Brown: 50% of California Energy Renewable by 2030

California Governor Jerry Brown vowed on Monday, January 5, to see to it that California’s energy sources would be 50 percent renewable by 2030. In California, this means largely solar energy.

Brown, who is now in his fourth non-consecutive term as California’s top administrator, is a politician par excellence. In addition to his popularity as governor, Brown has also served as California’s Secretary of State, chair of the California Democratic Party, the Mayor of Oakland, and the state’s Attorney General.

Record on Renewables …

Brown’s record on renewables is equally striking. In April of 2011, he signed a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that required the state to get 33 percent of its electricity from renewable fuels. Later that summer, he pledged to ‘crush’ opponents of renewable energy.

In July of 2013, Brown – speaking at the opening for Intersolar North America (NA) – pledged to insure that California would continue to lead the nation in renewable energy. Intersolar NA is a yearly solar exhibition and networking event. In 2015, it will be held in San Francisco on July 14 – 16.

Brown might have been accused of grandstanding, given the praise the Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA, heaped on him for promises made in his State of the Union address on January 24, 2013, in Washington, DC. Unless one considers his entire renewable effort. This includes not only Brown’s historic signing of SB 43, but also several less-publicized efforts, including a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Mexico to further renewable energy research and development.

To quote Huffington Post reporter William Bradley: “In his first two terms as governor … Brown blazed the essential early path on renewable energy and energy efficiency …”

The Opposition …

Brown has his enemies, too. His implementation of groundwater law has impacted Central Valley farmers, with opponents charging that Brown’s solutions are “rough and ready” rather than useful. In spite of complaints, California managed, in 2014 (a severe drought year), to conserve 10 percent of its former use of water.

Brown also stood up to the Koch brothers, who tried to use their millions to influence elections, and more recently to roll back renewable (solar) energy.

Post-inauguration, Governor Brown has also promised to double the energy efficiency of buildings. Once a leader in this arena, building energy efficiency codes, California has since fallen behind Massachusetts in a list of the Top 10 building energy efficiency states, while New York ranks third. Still, no one person or state can be good at everything, and in most instances – as well as in the public’s perception – California is the nation’s clean, “green” energy and energy efficiency leader.

Brown’s promise of 50 percent by 3030 is just in time for the Union of Concerned Scientist’s (UCS’s) Power Ahead campaign. This urges governors and state administrators to act on clean energy and climate even as Congress drags its proverbial heels in the midst of a weakening economy and disappointing holiday sales figures (can we say “recession” again?).

Surviving the Drought …

A great many clean energy and energy efficiency pledges may fall by the wayside in the wake of this summer’s severe drought in California. This has been so bad that Brown declared a state of emergency on Jan. 6. Hopefully, he won’t also be forced to declare a state that has to abandon an ambitious RPS, and its determination to be a solar energy leader.

  • by Jeanne Roberts
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  • January 14, 2015