Go Green

California mandates higher standards for renewable energy sources


Environmental proponents got an early Earth Day present last week when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB 2X, requiring private and public utilities to secure 33 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.

The new law and higher standard replaces utility companies’ current 20 percent renewable-energy-procurement target mandated under SB 107, which expired last year.

The governor’s signing is a coup for State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who authored both bills. The 33 percent mandate applies to all electricity retailers in California – investor-owned utilities, municipal utilities and independent sellers – and puts the state at the forefront of the nation’s quest for clean energy.

“This bill establishes California as the national leader in the use and development of renewable energy,” Simitian said.

The bill aims to offer more benefits than a decreasing reliance on finite energy sources. Simitian said the mandate would bring investment dollars, tax revenues and jobs to California while addressing climate-change issues and improving air quality.

As executive director of the Independent Energy Producers Association, Jan Smutyny-Jones confirmed the potential for investment dollars flowing to the state.

“My members are creating jobs here in California today,” he said. “We have billions of dollars invested throughout California in biomass, in solar, in wind, in geothermal, and we’re looking to bring more of them here.”

And fresh air is always welcome, according to Peter Miller, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“With Senate Bill 2X, California is committed to build a diverse and resilient energy resource base that takes the threat of climate change seriously and brings the state closer to meeting its air pollution goals,” he said.

Moreover, Simitian said the bill protects consumers from the types of market manipulation and price-spikes that occurred in 2001 by diversifying energy sources.

“Fossil-fuel prices are going to keep heading up,” he said. “Renewable prices are headed down. I’m gratified that the governor has confirmed California’s long-term commitment to clean, green energy.”

The Public Utilities Commission must approve renewable energy contracts and utilities may be granted exemptions if the price of energy or the difficulty of moving it into the state’s grid make the cost excessive. For these reasons, the PUC’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates and consumer watchdog TURN (The Utility Reform Network) endorsed the bill.

Brown signed Simitian’s bill April 12 at SunPower Corp. and Flextronics International solar manufacturing plant in Milpitas. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu joined Brown and Simitian for the signing ceremony and dedication of SunPower’s new plant.

“This bill will ensure that California maintains its long-standing leadership in renewables and clean energy,” Brown said.

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