33% Renewables Mandate Bill’s Last Breath

By Published On: September 3, 2010

The third try was not the charm. Legislation aimed at raising the state’s renewables energy quotient from 20 percent to 33 percent by 2020, SB 722 by Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), died in the Legislature August 31. “It was like a multiple car crash,” said V. John White, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology executive director. “It was not a fight about ideology. They ran out of time,” said Jan Smutny-Jones, Independent Energy Producers executive director. A last round of amendments on a linked bill failed by one vote in the Senate, just minutes before the clock struck midnight--the cutoff time. In addition, time ran out on SB 722 and it never received a requisite final Senate vote before the deadline. There were several rounds of SB 722 amendments. They were released only a few hours before the Assembly floor voted on the bill. It passed on a 43-25 vote. It still needed a Senate vote. It was the final day to pass legislation. Republican lawmakers went into caucus to debate a bill to ban plastic bags, eating up valuable time the last day of the session, according to some stakeholders. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said during a September 1 budget news conference that he would try to get the 33 percent standard in place “before I leave office.” The previous round of SB 722 revisions was not in print until late in the day August 31. Several of SB 722’s provisions were under continuous debate. Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison were pushing to ease compliance terms. With the demise of SB 722, and accompanying legislation to overhaul the energy industry siting process, AB 1012, the 33 percent alternative power requirement goes back to the California Air Resources Board. The Air Board has been developing rules setting a 33 percent renewables standard for utilities and other energy suppliers as ordered by the governor. The governor directed the agency to develop the regulations after vetoing last year’s attempt to put a 33 percent renewables mandate in statute. The legal basis for the Air Board’s rules, which lack the force of law, is uncertain. The underlying authority for the Air Board’s alternative power regulations is the state’s climate protection law, AB 32, which is under attack. Proposition 23--on the November ballot--attempts to undo the 2006 greenhouse gas reduction law by tying its implementation to an improved unemployment rate. The co-joined AB 1012 by Assemblymember Manuel Perez (D-Coachella) included the governor’s siting overhaul measures, which were in exchange for his agreement to sign SB 722, if it reached his desk. The original language in Perez’s bill was stripped out last week and new language inserted. The gutted and amended measure aimed to speed up the state and local permitting of large solar and other renewable projects in the Southern California desert. Key stakeholders, however, did not know what was in the final version of AB 1012. “It could have included my recipe for barbecue sauce,” quipped Smutny-Jones. AB 1012 was heard in the Senate at 11:50 p.m., having arrived there without a single hearing in any committee with regard to the siting language. It “failed in a grumbling of voices” on a 20-14 vote, said Jesus Arredondo, an energy consultant. The bill needed 21 votes to pass. “While the Democrats tried to keep the roll call vote open, time expired,” he added. Last year’s Renewables Portfolio Standard bill, also by Simitian, was rejected after landing on the governor’s desk because it restricted renewable energy imports. Consumer advocates and some in-state renewable advocates insisted the standard was aimed at growing California’s solar, wind, and other renewable energy resources. In 2008, Simitian also attempted to get a 33 percent renewables mandate enacted without success.

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