California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires 33% renewable electricity generation by 2020 - Dream or Reality?


Progress on California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires 33% of all retail electricity sales to be served by renewable energy sources by 2020, excluding large hydro, is reported in this paper. The emerging renewable electricity mix in California (CA) and surrounding states which form the Western Electricity Coordination Council (WECC) is analysed using the Carbon Emission Pinch Analysis (CEPA) and Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) methodologies. The reduction in emissions with increased renewables is illustrated and the challenge of maintaining high EROI levels for renewable generation is examined for low and high electricity demand growth. The role of the California government in facilitating progress towards a more sustainable renewable electricity future is also highlighted. The investigation shows that wind and solar PV collectively form an integral part of California reaching the 33% renewables target (excluding large hydro) by 2020. Government intervention of tax rebates and subsidies, net electricity metering and a four tiered electricity price has accelerated the uptake of renewable wind and solar PV. Residential uptake of solar PV is also reducing overall California electricity grid demand. Emphasis on new renewable generation is stimulating development of affordable wind and solar technology in California which has the added benefit of enhancing social sustainability through improved employment opportunities at a variety of technical levels

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