California's Assembly on Tuesday approved one of the most ambitious renewable energy programs in the nation, sending the landmark legislation to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, who has said he'll sign the bill.
The bill, approved on a mostly party-line vote of 55-19, requires the state's utilities to obtain 33 percent of their power from renewable resources like biomass, geothermal, solar and wind by 2020, up from the current target of 20 percent.
Currently, the state's three investor-owned utilities -- Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric -- receive 18 percent of their electricity from wind farms, solar power plants, geothermal and biomass facilities, according to a new report from the California Public Utilities Commission. But they are on track to hit 20 percent by 2012.
The new standard, which passed the state Senate in February, is authored by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and backed by a coalition of environmental, labor and consumer groups. The legislation applies to all utilities in California, including municipal utilities in Santa Clara, Palo Alto and Sacramento.
"California again leads the way in energy policy," said Peter Miller, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This passage of this RPS legislation reinforces California's commitment to building a diverse, clean and resilient energy portfolio that minimizes the impact of fossil fuel price spikes and enhances our energy independence and security."
But critics say the bill forces utilities to turn to more expensive sources of energy, which will drive up business costs and hurt the state's competitiveness.
PUC President Michael Peevey predicted that California would outperform its new standard. "I think we can go past 33 percent by 2020 -- I think we can get to 40 percent," Peevey said at a Tuesday conference.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.