Legal Alerts Oct 07, 2015

California Governor Signs Legislation Establishing Significant New Energy Goals

Law Sets Standards Aimed at Addressing Climate Change

California Governor Signs Legislation Establishing Significant New Energy Goals

Today, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 350 into law, setting two ambitious climate change-related goals: a 50 percent increase in building energy efficiency, and a target of 50 percent of the state utilities’ power coming from renewable energy sources. Both goals are to be met by the year 2030.

SB 350’s Renewable Portfolio Standard ratchets up California’s commitment to renewable energy. Prior legislation set a 33 percent RPS, requiring utilities to source at least 33 percent their electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar, geothermal and biogas by the year 2020. The 33 percent RPS goal has been credited with spurring substantial development in solar infrastructure within California.

SB 350 also provides incentives for different forms of clean tech, demand response and automation technology (for example, building systems that automatically shift energy use to off-peak hours), better integration of solar power and electric vehicles, and energy storage.

In terms of building energy efficiency, SB 350 not only addresses efficiency in new buildings, but existing buildings as well, in part through the use of expanded existing building retrofit funding.

SB 350 also defines “energy efficiency,” which could have implications in the CEQA context. SB 350 provides that energy efficiency, at least for the purposes of achieving the goals set in SB 350, “shall be measured taking into consideration the overall reduction in normalized metered electricity and natural gas consumption.” This suggests that consideration of more subjective, qualitative and immeasurable energy use reductions (for example, programs encouraging employees to rideshare to work) may no longer be able to serve as the foundation for determination of a project’s of energy efficiency.

If you have any questions about this legislation or how it might impact your agency, please contact one of the attorney authors of this legal alert listed at right in the firm's Environmental Law & Natural Resources practice group, or your BB&K attorney.

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