California's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) establishes a minimum amount of renewable energy that must be sold by the state's electricity providers. This page identifies and describes the features of the RPS and how they work together to define the minimum amount of renewable energy that will be sold in California.
The state profile below explores the design of this policy, highlighting the factors that influence the success of California’s RPS goals and the tradeoffs inherent to it. Once you’re comfortable with the information on this page, you can evaluate the policy’s expected viability with the RPS Feasibility Calculator. You can also use the calculator to change the policy requirements, trajectory, cost cap, and more, to see how altering California’s policy design affects its success.
- 33% of the state's energy consumption must be from renewable sources by 2020 subject to the cost cap
- No carve-outs or technology requirements
- No explicit cost cap
- Enacted 2002—one of the first and most aggresive in the country
Carve-outs can create economic opportunities in the state by introducing new or promising technologies into the market. However, these standards limit the utilities’ ability to substitute between renewable energy sources, potentially increasing the cost of the policy.
California does not have any minimum technology requirements at this time.
Compare the goal established in the RPS to what is being achieved.
The following chart compares the variety of sources currently used to generate California’s electricity. The color of each bar is indicative of the carbon intensity of each source.
Cost Cap Details
Retailers are required to meet renewable targets provided that sufficient funds are available in the state's 'virtual' fund designed to cover just and reasonable above market costs for new renewable energy resources. If funds are insufficient to cover procurement of renewable power, retailers are allowed to limit their annual procurement obligation. Estimate how California's cost cap can effect their RPS's efficacy
Historic retail prices (¢ / kWh)
The above chart presents historical data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on the price at which residential customers can purchase electricity. Typically, states set explicit cost caps relative to the retail price (as opposed to the lower wholesale price).
Established in 2002, California's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) was last updated in April 2011. This law requires all electricity retailers in the state acheive the goal of 33% of retail sales from renewables by 2020. The RPS program is administered in tandem by the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission.
RPS Technical Details
|Eligible Technologies||Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass, Geothermal Electric, Municipal Solid Waste, Energy Storage, Anaerobic Digestion, Small Hydroelectric, Tidal Energy, Wave Energy, Ocean Thermal, Biodiesel, Fuel Cells using Renewable Fuels|
|Geographic Eligibility||As of 2011 limited trading of RECs produced in the 14 states and two Canadian provinces of the Western Electricity Coordiniating Council (WECC) can count towards a utilities RPS requirement. Up to 25% of a utilities requirements can be accounted for through eligible RECs for the compliance period ending in 2013, 15% for the compliance period ending in 2016 and 10% thereafter.|
|Percent of Total Load||98.2%; includes IOUs, municipal utilities, and ESP/CCAs|
|Technology Requirements||No technology minimums stated, storage requirements being considered|
|Sectors||Investor-owned utilities (IOUs), municipal utilities, and electricity service providers (ESPs)/community choice aggregators (CCAs)|
|Penalty||$0.05/kWh non-compliance penalty; limited to $25 million annually per provider|
Tools and other links
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) RPS data page — Datasets available for download in .xlsx format
- MJBeck RPS EDGE — Advanced search tool for comparing RPS program data
- DSIRE State Page — Visit for more complete information on RPS details and legislation
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) RPS technical report — Renewable Portfolio Standards in the States: Balancing Goals and Implementation Strategies
- Western Renewable Generation Information System — REC tracking system for WECC