One-third of the electricity sold in California in 2020 must come from renewable sources of energy, the state’s Air Resources Board announced September 23.

The regulatory move, anticipated after a bill in the California Legislature calling for the same standard failed in June, is a testament to the powerful authority the ARB wields. It gets that authority from The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB-32. The state law gives the ARB authority to enact regulations designed to lower statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

That law is under attack from Prop. 23, a state ballot measure up for a vote Nov. 2. The measure, backed almost entirely by out-of-state fossil fuel interests, would suspend AB-32 until unemployment falls from its current level of more than 12 percent to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters. (See related Yale Forum postings here and here.)

The renewable energy standard mandates that all entities that deliver electricity, including investor-owned utilities and public utilities, phase in their use of renewable sources of energy: 20 percent for 2012-14; 24 percent for 2015-17; 28 percent for 2018-19; and 33 percent for 2020 and beyond.

The standard alone is projected to reduce statewide emissions by 12 to 13 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year in 2020 — more than 7 percent of the total reduction target under AB-32.

For coverage of the ARB’s move, see: here, here and here.

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