New Report: 30% Solar in Reach for California

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Strong solar policies key to California’s leadership on global warming solutions

Environment California Research & Policy Center

Los Angeles – Solar power is growing so fast in California that goals once considered ambitious are now seen as readily achievable, according to a new report Star Power: The Growing Role of Solar Energy in California by Environment California Research & Policy Center.

“We can get to 30 percent solar in California by 2030 if we just keep our foot on the accelerator,” said Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate with Environment California. “That’s a small fraction of what’s possible, but it will make a big difference in the quality of our lives and the future of our planet.  As California and world leaders meet at the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change in Peru, it is critical that California continue to lead the way on strong solar power policies to dramatically reduce global warming pollution, clean our air, and create a more vigorous economy.”

Due to the strong commitments made to date by the California Legislature and Governors Brown and Schwarzenegger, California has led the nation in solar energy adoption, with the most installed solar capacity of any U.S. state as of the end of 2013. The group’s researchers found that solar power in California has grown 72 percent per year from 2010 to 2013. Even if this pace slowed to 16 percent, solar could still generate 30 percent of California’s electricity in less than two decades— a goal once thought improbable by many.

Achieving this target, the report said, would cut as much carbon pollution as 11.8 million cars emit in a year, and enable California to achieve its goal set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which requires cuts in power plant carbon pollution of 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

“Solar power is a critical part of our renewable future, for the state and the nation,” said Assemblymember Anthony Rendon. “Environment California’s new ‘Star Power’ report offers a valuable contribution to the public dialogue about our transition to that future.  As the new chair of the Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee, I look forward to considering its recommendations as to how California can lead the nation in making the most of solar power.”

Solar is currently the fastest-growing industry in the country, adding 143,000 jobs nationwide in 2013. According to a survey released last week by the Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) Institute, in consultation with The Solar Foundation, the solar industry employed more than 54,000 people in California in 2014.

“Solar power converts sunlight into real, local jobs that simply can’t be outsourced,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director for the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA). “Today, California’s solar industry employs more people than our traditional fossil-fuel heavy utilities, and we’ve only just begun to reap the tangible benefits of converting to a clean energy economy.”

The report quantifies the state’s enormous solar energy potential using data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Already, the state is home to more than 4 million residential and commercial rooftops that could host solar panels, and it has enough technical potential to meet the state’s energy needs 60 times over.

“With strong policy leading the way, affordable solar energy is fundamentally transforming California’s electricity landscape for the better. It’s helping put people — not polluters — in charge of our energy choices, and it’s creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and job creators to thrive in our new energy economy,” said Susannah Churchill, west coast regional director for Vote Solar, a non-profit solar advocacy organization. “Considering how much solar progress California has made over the past fifteen years, it’s incredibly exciting to think of all that we can accomplish over the next fifteen.”

“When it comes to solar energy, the sky’s the limit,” said Kinman. “Getting to 30 percent solar is the just the first step to a future powered entirely by pollution-free energy.”


Environment California Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.