Citing the “existential threat of climate change,” Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday making California the first state to set a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, despite concerns about increased electricity costs.
“California is committed to doing whatever is necessary to meet the existential threat of climate change,” Mr. Brown said in his 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 governor, who was joined at a press conference by Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer, said the measure was needed in order for California to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which the United States exited earlier this year at President Trump’s direction.
“This bill and the executive order put California on a path to meet the goals of Paris and beyond. It will not be easy. It will not be immediate. But it must be done,” said Mr. Brown, a Democrat who leaves office after the November election.
The legislation, Senate Bill 100, speeds up the state’s renewable-energy benchmarks, setting goals of 50 percent electrical-power generation from energy sources such as wind and solar by 2025, and 60 percent by 2030.
The path to 100 percent renewables by 2045 was described as “the most ambitious carbon neutrality commitment of any major economic jurisdiction in the world — of more than 20 countries and at least 40 cities, states and provinces planning to go carbon neutral by mid-century or sooner.”
Mr. Brown signed the measure over the objections of the state’s utility and agricultural sectors, including the Agricultural Council of California, Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric, and the Western States Petroleum Association.
Critics have argued that the bill is unrealistic and will compound the state’s problems with rolling brownouts and high energy prices. Natural-gas plants are used to make up for gaps when the sun fails to shine and the wind doesn’t blow.
At the same time, California has grappled with an oversupply of renewable energy, especially at noon when the sun is at its highest, leading the state to offload solar energy to other states.
“We pass all these goals for renewables, but at the same time our families back home will pay the cost with an increase in the electric bills every year as we try to achieve this,” Assemblyman Devon Mathis, a Republican, told the Sacramento Bee.
Meanwhile, environmentalists cheered the bill, with Environment America calling it “the crowning achievement of Governor Brown’s legacy of embracing clean energy and fighting climate change.”
“In California, Democrats and Republicans know climate change is real, it’s affecting our lives right now, and unless we take action immediately — it may become irreversible,” said Democratic state Sen. Kevin de León, the bill’s sponsor, who’s challenging Sen. Dianne Feinstein in November.
“Today, with Governor Brown’s support, California sent a message to the rest of the world that we are taking the future into our own hands — refusing to be the victims of its uncertainty,” he said in a statement.