CARB Delays Action on 33% Renewables

By Published On: July 23, 2010

To give time for legislative action, the California Air Resources Board this week delayed a scheduled July 22 adoption hearing on a 33 percent renewable energy standard rule for the state’s power industry. Without comment, the Air Board deferred action until September 23 at Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s request. In a July 15 letter to Air Board chair Mary Nichols, Schwarzenegger said he was “encouraged by the progress of recent discussions with the Legislature” on creating a 33 percent renewable energy standard by law instead of by regulation. Based on his hope that lawmakers will pass a 33 percent renewable energy bill by September--creating a new renewable energy standard by law, rather than through state agency regulation--the governor asked the Air Board to hold off on adopting its own rule. Schwarzenegger endorsed the Air Board’s draft rule and said that if the Legislature does not pass a bill that he can sign, the agency should go ahead and adopt its own increased renewables portfolio plan this fall. The governor added that any renewable energy legislation he would sign “must be designed to afford flexibility and cost-effectiveness.” The Air Board began working on a renewable energy standard after Schwarzenegger last year vetoed legislation to raise the state’s renewable energy level from 20 to 33 percent by 2020. In place of the bill, the governor issued an executive order calling on the Air Board to develop the standard under the state’s climate change law, AB 32 (Current, Oct. 16, 2010). Increasing renewable energy to 33 percent is a key strategy in the Air Board’s plan for reducing greenhouse gases 15 percent from today’s level by 2020 under the law. The Air Board’s 33 percent renewable energy standard is designed to cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by 13.4 million metric tons by 2020, about 7.7 percent of the total reductions called for by the end of the decade under AB 32. The governor vetoed the renewable energy bill last year largely because of its in-state power generation requirement, which utilities said would have raised the cost of moving to less carbon intensive electricity. Schwarzenegger stated he also vetoed the measure because it did nothing to streamline permitting for new renewable energy facilities built within California. The Air Board standard would allow out-of-state energy as long as it was made in the West. Senator Joe Simitian’s (D-Palo Alto) bill, SB 722, is considered the main legislative vehicle this year for establishing a 33 percent renewable energy standard by law. It has passed the Senate and is on the Assembly floor awaiting action (Current, July 2, 2010). Simitian’s measure allows renewable energy generated in the West to qualify toward a 33 percent portfolio standard (that is, one-third of a utility’s energy being sold to consumers must stem from renewable resources). It also includes some provisions seeking to streamline permits for in-state facilities aimed at meeting the standard. Schwarzenegger indicated his staff is continuing to discuss how to fine-tune the legislation before it comes to his desk.

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