California Fails to Pass Renewable Energy Bill

California wrestles with its clean energy goals. (Photo: Lauren Sommer)

It came down to the final minutes before midnight last night for SB 722, the bill that would make law California’s 33% renewable energy goal by 2020. But as the bill’s author State Senator Joe Simitian says, “The clock just ran out. It’s as simple and painful as that.” Continue reading

Series Explores 33×20 Renewable Energy Goal

California has set some ambitious targets for ramping up renewable energy sources. Some say too ambitious. Utilities won’t make the first milepost of 20% renewable power by this year, and many are skeptical that the longer-term goal of 33% by 2020 is doable, either, the executive order signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2008 notwithstanding.

A thermal-solar array of the type planned for southern California. Photo: Brightsource Energy

A thermal solar array of the type planned for southern California. Photo: BrightSource Energy

A major hurdle is the permitting process for large “utility-scale” solar and wind installations, described by the Governor’s own senior advisor as “tortuous.” In the months ahead, we’ll take you through some of the obstacle course in a multimedia series called “33 x 20: California’s Clean Power Countdown.” A collaboration of Climate Watch and Quest, KQED’s science and environmental initiative, the series of radio reports and web features explores the promise and pitfalls of the state’s 33 x 20 plan.

The series begins Monday with Lauren Sommer’s review of California’s clean power legacy and an assessment of the present push. Future reports will look at a solar siting case study in central California, as well as prospects for major development of wind and geothermal sources. California currently leads the nation in solar generation but trails Texas and Iowa in the race for wind power. See Lauren’s interactive map for an overview of how California stacks up against other states in its ambitions toward renewable energy.

Future reports will examine the potential impact of large-scale power generation on deserts and tribal lands and the progress toward what some consider the “holy grail” of energy technology; large-scale storage of electricity. In June, Quest Senior Editor Andrea Kissack and I will team up for a kind of case study in one company’s ambitions; the 4,700-acre photovoltaic array planned by Solargen Energy for Panoche Valley in San Benito County.

Northern California listeners can hear the radio series as part of KQED’s Quest radio service (airs Mondays during NPR’s Morning Edition on KQED and KQEI in Sacramento) or statewide on The California Report. You can follow the entire series and see the related web features as they appear on our “33 x 20” series page.

Governor: RPS Order "Stronger than Law"

Gov. Schwarzenegger fields questions from Greg Dalton of the Commonwealth Club's Climate One initiative. Photo: Governor's Office

Gov. Schwarzenegger fields questions from Greg Dalton of the Commonwealth Club's Climate One initiative. Photo: Governor's Office

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is defending his planned veto of two renewable power bills, saying the executive order he issued instead is “stronger than the law” because it places fewer limitations on electricity imported from other states.

At the tail end of the legislative session, California’s assembly and senate passed separate bills requiring the state’s utilities to draw a third of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. But during a Q&A session at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club Thursday, the Governor said that the recently passed bills were “for special interests” and that they “represented protectionism,” the latter a reference to limits on how much energy could be imported from neighboring states. The Governor’s own executive order has the same proportional requirement or “renewable portfolio standard” (RPS) as the bills but sets no limits on imported power. Also unlike the legislature’s bills, the order does not exclude particular sources, such as hydro-electric from the definition of “renewables.”

Critics contend that succeeding governors might simply rescind the order, which Governor Schwarzenegger does not deny. He faces an October 11 deadline to veto the bills.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s appearance was designed to mark the third anniversary of the state’s adoption of AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, a law which has its own detractors.

Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, who is running for governor said last week that she would issue a moratorium on most AB 32-related rules on her first day as Governor.  When asked about  Whitman’s remarks Schwarzenegger dismissed her comments as “just rhetoric.”

“I think she will probably reconsider what she has said and will see that the greatest thing that can happen for California is to move forward. I’m sure she does not want to be counted as one of those Republicans that want to move us back to the Stone Age,” he said.

Touting the state’s achievements in renewable energy innovation, emissions reductions,  and technology, the Governor painted a rosy picture of an invigorated economy, new jobs, and a cleaner environment throughout the state.

“A wave of green innovation is washing over our state right now,” he said.  “In last three years,  scientists and entrepreneurs have pumped more than $6 billion of venture capital into California.  Since 2005, green jobs in California have grown ten times faster than other jobs. California companies hold more than 40% of the nation’s new patents in solar and wind technology, and solar installations this year alone in California have gone up by 120%.”

Focusing largely on projected economic benefits, he made a case for continuing on the path California started three years ago with AB 32 and is continuing under his executive order from earlier this month, saying that the current path offers far more economic opportunity than economic risk.

“I know that it’s possible to protect the environment and the economy at the same time,” he said. “Technology will save us all. It’s all about technology, technology, technology. ”

Not all of the speech was about legislation, green technologies and the economy, however. The Governor did respond to a question from  group of fourth-graders attending the talk, asking what he says to his children about climate change.

“I’ve had major fights with my kids,” he said.

He said he has imposed a five-minute shower rule in his house and that he sometimes “spies” on his children to make sure they are obeying his order.

“If their showers are more than five minutes, there will be consequences.”

He added that other environmental steps his family has taken at home are to install solar panels nearby to provide energy for the family swimming pool and jacuzzi, and that they have converted the regular engines on their Hummers to hydrogen or bio-fuel engines.