Greener Power For California? New bill would increase utilities’ required percentage of power from renewable energy sources

On Thursday, the California State Senate passed SBX1 2, introduced by Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and a few others. This bill would require 33% of the power that California utilities provide to their customers come from solar, wind and other qualified renewable sources by the year 2020. Currently, California law (which was also initially introduced by Simitian) puts this requirement at 20%. Supporters of the bill tout its potential for improved air quality and, perhaps more importantly for many Californians, job creation. The Union of Concerned Scientists state that not only could a 33% renewable standard create over 500,000 new “green collar” jobs in the next several decade, but it would displace nearly 13 million metric tons of emissions in 2020 – the equivalent of taking almost 3 million cars off of California’s roads.

It has been a long and rocky road for this bill. In 2009, a similar bill was actually passed in both the Senate and Assembly, only to be vetoed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger, who cited objections to provisions prescribing the amount of renewable power that could be produced out of state. Although he ended the journey for that legislation, Schwarzenegger did issue an executive order that year to establish the 33% standard, but without the certainty of legislation, utilities (and the money backing them) are more hesitant to go forward with new renewable energy-related projects.

The bill is expected to pass in the Assembly as well. However, although it was one of the pillars in Governor Jerry Brown’s campaign, he has not come out in support of the legislation. Opponents of the bill, like Inglewood Senator Roderick Wright, claimed that it may increase electricity bills by 15 to 20%, however, Simitian’s press release indicates that the law will “protect customers from rate manipulation by diversifying our sources of energy.”