CA Senate Bill 350

Supporters are happy, but the entire package of energy bills receives mixed reviews.

by Julia Pyper, GTM Research
September 12, 2015

 In the final hours of the legislative session, California lawmakers passed a landmark climate bill that will promote greater deployment of clean energy technologies over the next 15 years, but which some supporters say still fell short of expectations.

SB 350 will increase building energy efficiency in the state by 50 percent by 2030. It will also boost the amount of renewable energy utilities need to buy to 50 percent by 2030. California’s three investor-owned utilities are already well on their way to meeting the state’s 33 percent renewable energy goal by 2020, according to the California Public Utilities Commission’s fourth-quarter 2014 RPS report.

The third major component of the bill — a target to reduce oil use in cars and trucks by 50 percent over the next 15 years — was struck down earlier in the week. 2015 Lobbying ExpensesThe measure was strongly opposed by oil industry groups, including the Western States Petroleum Association, which insisted that the target would cripple California’s economy and even lead to bans on SUVs.

“We are disappointed that the legislature was unable to take action this session setting specific transportation goals for 2030, which would have sent a clear market signal for continued growth of electric vehicles and alternative fuels over the next decade,” said Graham Richard, the CEO of Advanced Energy Economy.

Senate leader and bill author Kevin de León harshly criticized the oil industry’s scare tactics earlier this week. “Big Oil might be on the right side of their shareholder reports, but we’re on the right side of history,” he said.

SB 350 embodies the environmental goals Governor Jerry Brown laid out in his inaugural address earlier this year. Brown praised the passage of the bill on Friday, but insisted the battle to reduce oil use is far from over.

In addition, to the dismay of both solar companies and utilities, SB 350 does not specify that distributed solar arrays count toward the mandatory component of the renewable energy target.

SB 350 is one of 12 climate bills that have been working their way through the California state legislature.  A separate bill (SB 32) that would have required California to reduce emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 failed to pass in the Assembly, despite strong support from the governor, as well as from U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.  

However, lawmakers did pass legislation (SB 185) mandating that the state’s two largest pension funds divest from coal companies.