By Wendy Koch, USA TODAY
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday that sets the nation’s toughest renewable energy mandate, requiring utilities to draw 33% of their power from solar panels, windmills and other sources by 2020.
“There are people who think we can drill our way to happiness and prosperity,” the Democratic governor said at SunPower Corp./Flextronics plant, which makes solar panels in Milpitas, Calif., according to the Associated Press. “Instead of just taking oil from thousands of miles away, we’re taking the sun and converting it.”
Previously, California required utilities to get 20% of their power from renewable sources. Colorado approved a bill last year requiring 30% of its power by 2020.
Supporters of the higher standard, which takes effect in about three months, said it will reduce air pollution and create green energy jobs. “Public officials have decided to create thousands more jobs for Californians,” said Denise Brode, CEO of America Wind Energy Association, a trade group, in a statement.
Critics said the standard will increase electricity costs at least 7%, despite language in the legislation to limit cost increases, reports the AP. “Industry in California already pays electricity rates about 50% higher than the rest of the country,” said Gino DiCaro, spokesman for the California Manufacturers and Technology Association.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who joined Brown at the bill signing ceremony, said the U.S. goal is to make solar energy cost-competitive with all other forms of energy by 2020. He announced a $1.2 billion conditional loan guarantee for a SunPower solar project in San Luis Obispo County that’s expected to power 60,000 homes and create 350 jobs.
Chu announced a $1.6 billion loan guarantee Monday for a BrightSource Inc. solar plant in the Mojave Desert that could create 1,000 jobs and power 85,000 homes.