New technologies and cheaper costs are needed to reach the 100 percent goal for Hawaii and California
California Democratic leaders want their state to commit to a future of 100 percent renewable electricity, a goal approved so far by only one U.S. state—Hawaii.
Top officials in both places hope their policies will serve as a model for others as the Trump administration rejects actions on climate change.
California and Hawaii offer very different models for committing their power sectors to clean electricity. They differ on everything from mandate deadlines to what's considered renewable.
"For the country as a whole it shows the laboratory effect of having states take the lead on this issue," said Ethan Elkind, director of the climate program at the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Law, Energy & the Environment. "As Hawaii and California take the lead, it will provide examples of how it can be done for other states, both good and bad."
Hawaii passed its 100 percent renewable electricity mandate with a 2045 target two years ago. The Aloha State at the time had no blueprint for how to make it happen. Much of it remains in the planning stage, though leaders argue it's achievable.
"We are ahead of schedule on our path to 100 percent renewable energy goal," Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) said at a clean energy summit this summer. "We are making significant progress toward getting off of fossil fuel and into clean energy, more aggressively than any other community in the United States."
In California, legislation offered by state Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León (D) provides a two-tiered approach to hitting the 100 percent mark. S.B. 100 mandates that utilities make 60 percent of their energy from renewables by 2030.
The remaining 40 percent of power falls under a "zero-carbon" requirement, with a deadline in 2045. Electricity sellers could meet the mandate with large-scale hydroelectric power, which isn't allowed under the renewable portfolio standard rule. It also allows room for future technologies, supporters said.
"We do 100 percent clean energy, we do it right, we quantify positive results," de León said in a recent call with reporters. "This is a very wonderful opportunity that we have, to send a very clear message to Washington that with or without their help, California will continue to lead on this critical issue.
"It's an ambitious goal; there's no doubt about that," he added. "I want to be very clear, it's also achievable. It's within reach."
De León recently traveled to Hawaii, where he met with Ige and others.
View all SMART GRID Bulletins click here