The California Public Utilities Commission said that 2011 showed the greatest year-to-year increase in the capacity of renewable generation achieving commercial operation, and 2012 is already on track to far surpass 2011.
California's mandated target set in 2003, known as the Renewable Portfolio Standard, says utilities must average 20 percent renewable energy in the power they sell customers from 2011-13, increasing to 33 percent by 2020.
From 2003-11, California installed 2,871 megawatts of renewable energy capacity. In 2012, the state is expected to add almost another 2,800 megawatts, the commission says.
The state's major investor-owned utilities -- Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison -- had reached the target, the commission says, collectively securing 20.6 percent of electricity sold from renewable sources.
By 2020, sun-generated power, not including small-scale rooftop solar, is projected to account for about 11 percent of all power sold by those three major utilities, which sell 68 percent of the electricity provided to California retail customers.
"Let's not underestimate 11 percent," says Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, a San Francisco nonprofit, Climatewire reports.
"That's a massive, massive investment," Browning said. "You're talking about a major shift in resources and in money going from fossil fuels to renewable energy."
While last year solar accounted for about 1 percent of PG&E's renewable energy mix, the utility expects that share to soar to 40 percent by 2020.
"We're about to see solar on a project scale larger than almost anywhere in the world," Aaron Johnson, director of renewable energy policy and strategy at PG&E, was quoted as saying by Silicon Valley's Mercury News.
"Planning for the 33 percent (RPS target) began four or five years ago. There's no way to get from here to there (the 33 percent target) without solar."
And Southern California Edison says its share of solar could also rise to 40 percent of its renewable energy mix by 2020 from about 6 percent last year.
California's solar industry has created 26,000 jobs, or 1-in-4 solar jobs nationwide, states a study by the University of California Berkeley law school.
Currently there are 12 utility-scale solar photovoltaic plants with a 2,200 megawatt capacity under construction in California, and an additional 62 plants with 11,600 megawatts of capacity under development.
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