Cali. wants renewable energy for half its power

LOS ANGELES – Gov. Jerry Brown dramatically increased California’s climate-change goals on Wednesday, committing the state to use renewable energy for half its electricity and make existing buildings twice as energy-efficient in just 15 years.

Brown tried for an even stronger measure that also would have enforced a 50 percent drop in petroleum use by 2030, but was defeated by oil interests. He called that a short-term setback, and insisted that the world needs to wean itself off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

“What has been the source of our prosperity now becomes the source of our ultimate destruction, if we don’t get off it. And that is so difficult,” Brown said at a signing ceremony at the hilltop Griffith Observatory, overlooking the haze of downtown Los Angeles.

California already has some of the world’s toughest air quality standards, and set a mandate in 2006 to derive a third of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal by 2020. State regulators say they already hit 25 percent last year, as huge solar farms sprouted in the desert and towering windmills went up along mountain passes.

“It’s monumental,” said Alex Jackson, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “For an economy the size of California to commit to getting half of its power needs from renewable energy resources, I think, is a game changer.”