California is nation's renewable energy leader, a front-runner when it comes to promoting renewable energy sources and fight against climate change. And it all started a decade ago, when Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB32, a law requiring California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020.
This doesn't mean that the state hasn't been trying to reduce its carbon emissions before but with the right legislation everything became a whole lot easier. AB 32, or to be more precise the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, was the first bill of this kind in a country as it took a comprehensive, long-term approach to addressing climate change.
AB32’s main target is to reduce carbon emissions to 1990’s emission level to 431 million metric tons, in 2020. According to most analysts this looks very likely to be achieved. California’s rather ambitious long-term goal, which is not yet set into law, calls for an 80 percent reduction by 2050, down to 86 million tons.
The rapid growth of three renewable energy industries (solar, wind and geothermal) was the driving force behind this reduction in carbon emissions. At this moment, around 27 percent of electricity in California is generated by renewable energy sources, with the majority coming from solar power. According to state law California must get 33 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.
Solar power is the most important renewable energy source in California. The state's current solar power capacity is around 7,000 megawatts (MW). Even some major setbacks like the bankruptcy of large solar power company Solyndra in 2011 wasn't enough to significantly hurt solar energy industry in California. Solar power plants are spreading across the entire state, from the Central Valley through the Mojave Desert. The growth of solar power industry was largely helped by the fact that solar panel prices decreased 82% during the last five years.