“We have to be bold.” This was the talk coming from Governor Jerry Brown in mid-April as he signed into law the most aggressive alternative energy mandate in the United States.

The new law requires California power providers to produce one-third of all energy from renewable sources, such as solar panels and windmills.

The new standards will apply to all electricity retailers in the state, including municipal utilities, independent sellers, and investor-owned. All of these entities will ramp up their required use with 20 percent of all energy produced from renewables by the end of 2013, and 25 percent by the end of 2016, with a 33 percent requirement being met by the end of 2020.

The debate over the mandate seems fairly obvious. Supporters claim that it will produce cleaner air and less reliance on foreign oil. Those who oppose it say it will drive up California’s already inflated energy costs.

However, even though the mandate engendered national headlines, one must ask, “What does this mean for California local governments?”

Kyra Ross, Legislative Representative for the League of California Cities, said that the League does not have an official statement on the mandate; however, the League board will more than likely come out in favor of it in the coming weeks.

“They (the League board) think energy efficiency is good. We have been generally supportive of it,” said Ross.

Ross went on to state that only larger cities such as Los Angeles, Glendale, Redding, etc. that have municipal utility programs will be impacted by this mandate, and that major state entities, such as the California Municipal Utilities Association, have supported this mandate for quite some time.

Erin Treadwell, Communications Coordinator for CSAC, said that the mandate is a codification of a previous executive order. According to Treadwell, the mandate has been in existence in California since the Schwarzenegger administration, only now becoming official codified law.

“What Governor Brown signed was actually an executive order for a law already in existence for many years,” said Treadwell. “When Schwarzenegger went out of office, his executive orders became null, so what Governor Brown signed just codified into law a mandate that already existed.”

With the California financial house not exactly in order, another obvious question arises: How will the state undergird the costs of such a mandate, or as others would contend, how can they sustain such a mandate with an ever-depleting economy?

Supporters of the mandate say that raising the current 20 percent target to 33 percent will reassure investors that demand for renewable energy will continue to grow.

The California Public Utilities Commission heartedly agrees and applauded the mandate.

According to MercuryNews.com, the renewables law contains provisions designed to protect consumers from rising and often volatile fossil fuel prices and requires regulators with the California Public Utilities Commission to approve any renewable energy contracts. “We’ll make sure that ratepayers are protected,” said CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio.

In a press release earlier this month, CPUC president, Michael R. Peevey, strongly supported the mandated and promised to continue to oversee the state’s utilities to ensure they meet the renewable energy goal of 33 percent.

Those who oppose the mandate say that traditional sources of energy, such as coal and natural gas, would be considerably cheaper for business and residents.

Gino Dicaro, spokesman for the California Manufactures and Technology Association, said, “industry in California already pays electricity rates about 50 percent higher than the rest of the country.”

Because the mandate requires California to draw thirty-three percent of its power from windmills, landfill gases, solar panels, and small hydroelectric plants by the year 2020, Dicaro stated, “Those rates are going to go up even more.”

Still, others are concerned that power companies may at some point no longer be able to meet the demand for electrical power.

With the hot temperatures of summer drawing near, the last thing Californians want is to revisit the energy crisis of the early 2000s with rolling blackouts and brownouts. Because of the forced increase in renewable sources, it certainly seems possible.

Use of new, renewable energy sources is nothing new for Californian government. For example, the California Energy Commission has a program for local governments called the New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP) Program. The program works to partner with local governments in assisting them to build energy efficient homes in their communities.  

To many, the NSHP falls in line with Governor Brown’s mandate as another example of wasted taxpayer dollars on an unneeded (and perhaps unfruitful) program.

Once termed “Governor Moonbeam” for his ability to buck the status quo and appeal to the nontraditional voters with his nontraditional policy initiatives, this renewable power mandate might bring Governor Brown to a never-before-known “Moonbeam” status. Time will tell.

Andrew Carico is a native of Bristol, Virginia and former Staff Writer for PublicCEO.com. He holds a B.S. from Evangel University and an M.A. in Government from Regent University. He will be beginning his PhD studies in political science at Claremont Graduate University this fall. He currently serves as a research and teaching assistant at Regent University. He can be reached at andrewcarico@gmail.com.