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California's 33% Renewable Energy Goal by 2020: Form or Substance? (Part I–Current Situation)

By Ulrich Decher -- August 10, 2011

California is committed to a renewable energy portfolio to provide 33 percent of its electricity by 2020 from qualifying resources such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and small hydroelectric facilities.

Can this portfolio succeed? Ambitious goals take more than legislative action to have a chance for success. It takes an actual plan that can be implemented with actual engineering accomplishments.

Drastic Increase Needed

In order to determine the probability of success, we can look at California’s renewable energy sources in prior years. These are available on the Internetand are presented in the following graph.

The plot shows the actual renewable sources of electricity generated in California from 2005 to 2009 and shows the projected increase required to achieve the goal of 33 percent by 2020. Notice that the renewable contribution has been rather constant over the previous years and requires a dramatic increaseto achieve the goal.…