How to Meet California’s Local Renewable Energy Goals

For Immediate Release

Contact: Susan Gluss,, 510-642-6936

Berkeley, CA—June 7, 2012…. A new report released today provides a blueprint for California to meet and surpass its ambitious local renewable energy goals. The report, California’s Transition to Local Renewable Energy: 12,000 Megawatts by 2020, is a project of the UC Berkeley School of Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment.

California has a target goal of 33 percent renewable energy by 2020, one of the most far-reaching in the country. But Governor Jerry Brown has raised the bar even higher.He’s calling for a total of 12,000 megawatts of local renewable energy, or power that comes from sites close to our homes and businesses. It’s an aggressive target—nearly three times the amount generated by the state’s two nuclear power plants.

The goal may be ambitious, but it’s attainable, according to the report. It examines barriers to local renewable energy production—from grid planning and financing to fire safety and building permits—and provides a step-by-step guide to overcome them.

“The report is a blueprint for California, and it also offers a model for the rest of the country,” said report co-author Steven Weissman, director of the energy program at the law school’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE).

The report’s recommendations reflect conversations held among stakeholders at a 2011 conference convened by Gov. Brown, as well as extensive research and analysis by the report’s co-authors. The material was compiled at the request of the governor’s office, but its proposals represent the views of CLEE alone.

“This report informs the work of the governor and offers an important contribution to California’s clean energy future,” said Michael Picker, a senior energy advisor to Gov. Brown. “It captures ideas and comments from private businesses, utilities, trade groups, environmentalists, labor unions, and more.”

California is already on its way to generating local renewable power, as residents across the state are installing solar panels on roofs, wind turbines on farms, and bioenergy generators at landfills to harvest the state’s natural resources. But to aggressively develop small- and large-scale local energy projects, several barriers to planning, permitting, financing and construction must be overcome.

“The benefits of local renewable energy are countless,” said report co-author Jeffrey Russell, a senior research fellow at Berkeley Law. “Projects are sited on existing buildingsor degradedland, so they typically don’t harm sensitive habitats and species,” he said. “They help spur economic growth in local communities by generating installation, construction, and maintenance jobs. It’s a win-win for business and the environment.”

Gov. Brown is already implementing ideas discussed at the conference, including a new executive order targeting zero net energy consumption for new or renovated state buildings designed after 2025. The state is also working to streamline local permitting—and standardize requirements—for solar installations.

“Renewables are a safer, cleaner source of energy and a viable alternative to fossil fuels or nuclear power,” said Weissman. “But developing these smaller projects to meet our energy needs requires extensive involvement by residential customers, government officials at every level, and business executives from companies large and small.”

Action steps to local renewable energy growth

California’s leadership can expedite the state’s transition to local renewable energy, according to the report, by taking recommended action steps. Some of these include:

State government

  • Expand development of renewable energy on state lands and facilities.
  • Strengthen and expand the net metering program.
  • Improve the ways utilities buy local renewable power so they capture its economic and environmental benefits.

Local Government

  • Amend land use plans to identify areas that are ripe for local renewable energy projects.
  • Create efficient and uniform permitting processes.
  • Construct renewable energy projects on public buildings.

Electric utilities

  • Design a geographically smart electrical grid to balance energy supply with demand.
  • Work with local governments to integrate grid and land use planning.
  • Facilitate quick and smooth connections between the grid and new sources of renewable energy.


  • Develop ongoing training and certificate programs for installers.
  • Keep public agencies and utilities up-to-date on alternative energy equipment and technology.

California’s Transition to Local Renewable Energy also recommends reforms within each stage of development, from early grid planning to final permitting. Some government action steps include:


  • Allow renewable energy developers to form master limited partnerships (MLPs) so they can get federal tax breaks similar to those given to oil and other fossil fuel companies.


  • Promote local government initiatives (such as Community Choice Aggregation) to deliver power to residents if they can speed up the deployment of local renewables.
  • Support a statewide permitting summit to address building and safety codes.

Grid Planning

  • Clarify priorities for local energy development, such as job growth and cost savings, in addition to the 12,000 megawatt target.
  • Develop regulatory reforms to encourage new technologies that enhance grid reliability.

A public webcast to review the report’s key findings will be held on Thursday, June 14, at 2:00 pm P.T. For more info, go to the webcast page.