Renewables Standard One Step Closer to Law

Bill to require one-third renewable energy sails through state senate

(Photo: Craig Miller)

That next gust of wind you hear may be a collective sigh of relief from the renewable energy industry. By a margin of more than two-to-one, state senators have approved a bill to cement California’s requirement that utilities draw at least a third of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

Dan Kalb of the Union of Concerned Scientists says that while the bill still has to clear at least three committees in the assembly, it could come up for a floor vote in that house within two weeks.

But wait — isn’t that requirement already in place? Yes but it’s never had the force of law. The current “33-by-20″ renewable energy standard was set out by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the form of an executive order. Later it was adopted as a regulation by the California Air Resources Board — but Kalb and others say that “stakeholders have never taken that seriously.” It has long been feared that the order might not hold up until 2020; rescinded by a future governor or fall victim to a court challenge to the Air Board’s authority (for most purposes, utilities in the state fall under the purview of the California Public Utilities Commission).

If passed as expected, the bill known as SBX1 2 (sounds more like a top-secret experimental aircraft) would create the kind of staying power that investors and developers of renewables have been hoping for; an assurance that there’ll be a market for their wind-and-solar-generated electrons, when they’re ready to deliver them.