MILPITAS, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed legislation requiring California utilities to get one-third of their power from renewable sources, giving the state the most aggressive alternative energy mandate in the United States.
California utilities and other electricity providers have until the end of 2020 to draw 33 percent of their power from solar panels, windmills and other renewable sources.
"There are people who think we can drill our way to happiness and prosperity," the Democratic governor told hundreds of workers and other supporters at a solar panel manufacturing plant near San Jose. "Instead of just taking oil from thousands of miles away, we're taking the sun and converting it."
Previous California law required utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources. Supporters of the higher standard said it will reassure investors and keep money flowing to develop alternative energy sources. They say that will lead to cleaner air and job growth in the green energy sector.
"By the end of the decade, our goal is to make solar cost-competitive with other forms of energy, all other forms of energy," U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the crowd at the SunPower Corp./Flextronics plant. "This would be a game-changer for us, opening up a world of export opportunities, and California's innovators and businesses can help us achieve this goal."
Critics of the legislation said sticking with traditional energy sources such as coal and natural gas would be cheaper, keeping costs down for business and residential ratepayers. Business groups point to estimates that the higher standard could drive up electricity costs for California ratepayers by more than 7 percent.
The California Republican Party pointed to one study that suggested the average Californian's energy bill would go up 19 percent under the new standard.
"Industry in California already pays electricity rates about 50 percent higher than the rest of the country," said Gino DiCaro, spokesman for the California Manufacturers and Technology Association. "With 33 percent, those rates are going to go up even more."
Brown said he would look carefully at whether the new standard will drive up electricity costs but said increasing use of renewable sources makes sense for California and the country.
"I know one thing: Being dependent on foreign fossil fuel is not good for our economy, it's not good for our security, and it's not good for our climate," the governor said. "We have to be bold."