California Roll: Clean Energy Surged In 2011

California is doing even better in its pursuit of clean energy than we thought, and the pace at which it is adding solar and wind, especially, is accelerating.

The state’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said its latest Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) Quarterly Report [PDF] shows that a record 839 megawatts (MW) of new renewable capacity came online in 2011, and that in 2010, the state’s big three investor-owned utilities together hit the 17 percent mark in renewables. Just a month ago, a report from the California Energy Commission had the state at 16 percent renewables in 2010, but the utilities that provide about two-thirds of the state’s electric retail sales are doing even better than that.

california renewable energy

image via California Public Utilities Commission

The star performer is Southern California Edison, which in 2010 served 19.3 percent of its electricity with renewable energy. Pacific Gas and Electric was next at 15.9 percent, while San Diego Gas & Electric trailed at 11.9 percent. The state’s RPS requires the three big utilities to increase the amount of renewable generation sold to customers to an average of 20 percent per year from January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2013; 25 percent by December 31, 2016; and 33 percent by December 31, 2020.

The CPUC said the utilities were expected to reach the current goal, and the trend lines certainly point in that direction. Since 2005, each year has brought more new renewables than the previous year (see above chart). The 839 MW of capacity the utilities added in 2011 was made up entirely of wind and solar, and brought the state to 2,541 MW of renewable energy capacity.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.