California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed an executive order on Tuesday directing the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to adopt regulations by July 31, 2010, to increase California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 33% by 2020—one of the strictest in the country.

The executive order follows the governor’s pledge on Friday to veto two renewable energy bills passed by the California Legislature that sought to establish the 33% RPS. The governor’s office said that the bills were “poorly drafted and overly complex,” and that they were “protectionist schemes” that would kill the solar industry in California and drive prices up like the state’s failed energy deregulation law of the late 1990s.

“Unfortunately, the bills the legislature recently passed are unnecessarily complex, would substantially increase costs on Californians and California’s businesses and, if passed, the state standard could be held up in legal battles because the bills violate the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause by restricting the sale of energy across state lines,” the governor’s office said.

The proposed renewable standards will allegedly increase the state’s RPS to one of the highest in the nation. Only Hawaii’s recently passed RPS compares. On June 25, 2009, Hawaii’s Gov. Linda Lingle (R) signed HB 1464, making effective a law that increased Hawaii’s RPS to 40% by 2030. The law also increased the interim target for the year 2020 to 25% from a previous target of 20%.

California’s proposed RPS has been approved by both the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)—even if warily. Last year, the CPUC said in a report that the 2020 target of 33% would require about 40,000 GWh beyond what is needed for the current 20% goal, a feat that could warrant “an infrastructure build-out on a scale and timeline perhaps unparalleled anywhere in the world.” The CPUC estimated that by 2020 the state would have to build seven new major transmission lines, at a cost of $6.1 billion, to accommodate 15,900 MW of new capacity.

Meanwhile, utilities in the state have been struggling to meet even the current 25%-by-2020 RPS. By the end of 2008, only 16% of Southern California Edison’s total energy portfolio was produced from sources that included geothermal, wind, solar, small hydro, and biomass resources. Pacific Gas & Electric reported that RPS-eligible renewables constituted 12% of its power supply at the end of 2008, while San Diego Gas & Electric struggled to expand its 6%. Public utilities fared a bit better: Sacramento Municipal Utility’s District’s power supply was 17% renewable-powered at the end of 2008, though as of July 2008, only 8.5% of Los Angeles Department of Water & Power’s supply came from renewables.

As a whole, preliminary information from the California Energy Commission shows that only 10.6% of the state’s total system power (a sum of imported power and instate generation) in 2008 was produced from renewable sources, down from 10.7% in 2007. About 45.7% of the state’s power last year was natural gas–fired, 18.2% was coal-fired, 14.4% was nuclear, and 11% came from hydropower.

Sources: Office of the Governor of California, CPUC, CEC, POWERnews