For the first six months of 2012, California generated one fifth of its electricity from renewable sources. The California Public Utilities Commission just released its first/second quarter 2012 renewable energy progress report to the Legislature, and it claims that 20.6% of the state's power demand was met with wind, solar, geothermal, and other non-nuclear clean energy sources.
That's quite the hallmark. According to CPUC:
California in 2011 saw the greatest year-to-year increase in renewable generation achieving commercial operation since the beginning of the state’s renewable energy program. The state’s investor-owned utilities served 20.6 percent of their electricity with renewable energy in 2011 (up from 17 percent in 2010). In 2011, Pacific Gas and Electric Company served 20.1 percent of its retail sales with renewable energy, Southern California Edison with 21.1 percent, and San Diego Gas & Electric with 20.8 percent.The ever-growing share of renewables in the state's energy menu continues to expand thanks primarily to California's ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires utilities to produce 33% of their power from clean sources by 2020. The law is working precisely as intended—analysts expect to see an even bigger jump in the second half of this year.
The report notes that "More than 300 MW of new renewable capacity came online in the first two quarters of 2012, and another 2,740 MW is scheduled to come online before the end of the calendar year."
Another tool that's helping to speed the growth of clean power is California's fledgling feed-in tariff program, which rewards homeowners, individuals, and businesses for installing small-scale renewable projects like rooftop solar—the utility pays a slightly higher rate to buy power from those sources and feed it directly into the grid. The FIT has been immensely successful in Germany, which gets way less sun than the Golden State.
And I can assure you that those incentives are resonating in California—I just got back from visiting family there, and both my parents and my grandparents have newly installed solar panels on their roofs. They live in a pretty conservative area, and their friends are installing arrays, too. Indeed, the program enjoys bipartisan support, and innovative companies like Sungevity are cashing in by offering popular solar leasing schemes.
Renewable energy continues to be a bright spot in an economy still wracked by unemployment; good jobs, cleaner power, additional income for consumers—California has, on this front, built a successful model well worth emulating.