Tag Archives: Simitian

Brown Signs SB 2X for Renewable Energy

In the midst of over a year of energy disasters around the world, Californians have been given a reason to celebrate and look forward to a safer energy future. Today Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a historic mandate that will put California back at the forefront of the clean energy movement.

Senate Bill X1 – 2 (Simitian), better known as SB 2X, mandates that providers of electricity in California increase their supply of renewable energy to 33 percent by the year 2020. Iterations of the bill limped along the past three years, once making it all the way to former Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk where it fell victim to his veto pen; other times it didn’t even round up enough votes of support to pass out of the legislature.

This year was a different story.  

These factors made the timing ripe:

   * California’s 2010 election results helped replace some of the legislators who were in the pockets of the polluting industries with new environmental champions who put the best interests of the public first. It also gave us a new governor who sees the connection between support for the clean energy sector and the movement towards economic recovery for the state.

   * Grassroots actions including hundreds of calls and emails from constituents urging support for SB 2X to targeted swing-voting legislators helped demonstrate increasing public support from around the state.

   * The idea of investing in renewable energy became connected with economic recovery, helping garner bipartisan support for SB 2X. A record high of six votes in the legislature came from Republicans whose districts are expected to receive jobs and other economic benefits from the new standard.

The movement towards clean, safe energy also received mounting momentum from the number of recent tragedies that have occurred around dirty energy extraction and production. April, in fact, marks the one year anniversary of the biggest environmental disaster in our nation’s history – BP’s Gulf Coast oil spill.  Here are some of the others:

   * The nuclear crisis in Japan, where the full extent of the damage is still unknown

   * The explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia which resulted in the deaths of 29 workers

   * The pollution of groundwater supplies around the nation as a result of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas

With a laundry list like that, it’s hard to find a reason not to support SB 2X. Aside from being the safe option, though, SB 2X will stimulate one of the bright spots in California’s economy. Investors have been waiting for this kind of green light indicating that California is moving forward on renewable energy. Without the mandate for an increase in renewable energy that SB 2X calls for, investors would be more likely to take their projects and jobs to other states.

Aware of the economic potential of SB 2X early on, labor worked in coalition with the environmental movement to see that Californians be put back to work with the green jobs of the future. Asked about SB 2X, California Building Trades President and CA League of Conservation Voters Board Member Bob Balgenorth said:

“We worked hard for two solid years to get this bill passed, because Building Trades workers understand that a healthier environment and a stronger economy go hand-in-hand. This measure provides multiple benefits for Californians: thousands of megawatts of new renewable energy, the cleaner and healthier environment that will result, and billions of dollars worth of construction projects for tens of thousands of California workers. This great legislation was enacted because the labor and environmental communities worked together, for the benefit of all of us.”

As Governor Brown signs SB 2X into law, let’s not forget that the impacts extend beyond California. This is where environmental legacies stem from. And with U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu by the Governor’s side as he signed the bill into law, it’s hard not to hope that our influence will extend to the federal government once again.

Broad (and Bi-partisan) Support for Clean Energy and Green Job Creation

BERKELEY (March 29, 2011) – In a bold move to bolster one of the few bright spots in California’s economy and set a precedent for strong renewable electricity standards nationwide, the California Legislature today approved a bill that would require utilities in the state to obtain at least 33 percent of their electricity from clean, renewable sources, such as the wind and sun, by 2020.  

Promoted by the governor and legislative leaders in both houses as part of a green jobs stimulus package, the bill would create the most aggressive renewable energy requirement in the country and position California as a national leader in clean energy investments.  

“Today’s vote is not just a victory for California’s economy and environment, but for the entire nation,” said Laura Wisland, an energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the leading national nonprofit organization providing economic, technical and policy analysis of renewable electricity standards.  “Transitioning toward more clean, renewable electricity sources means cleaner air, healthier communities, and a stronger green economy.”

Introduced by State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), the bill (SBX1 2) garnered the backing of a broad range of electric utilities, ratepayer groups, environmental organizations and renewable energy businesses. UCS advised the  bill authors, and played a lead role to build support for the bill as it made its way through the Legislature.

UCS also has been involved in coalition efforts to enact clean energy standards in other states and at the federal level.

California’s current law, the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), required privately owned utilities in the state to obtain 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2010.  UCS estimates that with the 33 percent RPS law in place, California will be responsible for more than 25 percent of the renewable energy generated by state standards across the country in 2020.  The amount of heat-trapping global warming emissions that would be displaced as a result of the 33 percent RPS would be equivalent to removing nearly 3 million cars from the road.

UCS is expecting California Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the bill, given statements he made during his campaign last year.

Dan Kalb, UCS’s California policy manager, said the new standard would be a boon for the state economy.  “A strong 33 percent renewables standard in statute would give renewable energy developers the market the certainty they need to raise money to build their projects in California,” he said.  “With the governor’s signature, this bill will create new clean energy jobs, strengthen our economy, and reduce harmful heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming.”

Wisland said that the federal government should follow California’s lead.  “Once again, California has demonstrated national leadership in advancing clean energy,” she said. “Now it’s Congress’s turn to act.” Such a move by federal legislators has widespread public support, she added. A February Gallup poll found that 83 percent of Americans favor Congress passing a bill that would provide incentives for renewable energy.

For more information on the California RPS, see the UCS fact sheet, “California Renewable Electricity Standard.”

The Gov: Going Nuclear?

One of the biggest achievements of the Legislative session was the passage of bills to require all electric utilities in California to generate a third of their power from renewable sources by 2020. The word is, however, that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will veto the bills – Senator Joe Simitian’s SB 14 and Assembly Member Paul Krekorian’s AB 64 (disclosure: I’m Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s Communications Director).

Worse, the Governor is apparently talking about adding “nuclear” to the state’s definition of what type of resources are renewable. And he’s considering doing this by fiat:

Environmentalists who have been told about the governor’s still-evolving plans said Schwarzenegger also was considering directing the California Air Resources Board to look at broadening the state’s definition of renewable energy sources to include large hydroelectric dams and nuclear energy plants.

Beyond the fact that the Governor may have limited legal authority to set such a standard on his own, it’s expected that any executive order that the Governor signs will make it okay for utilities to get most, if not all, of their required renewables from out of state, leaving California at a strategic disadvantage against other western states in the race to tap into the next great wave of job creation – the green economy.

The bills passed by the Legislature represent the product of months of negotiation and coalition building. Senator Simitian’s SB 14 is supported by two of California’s three largest utilities, the state’s largest municipal utility, workers, consumers and environmentalists. No bill to mandate a 33 percent renewable standard has ever had that kind of broad based support. The Governor will not see a better bill in this field for his remaining 14 months in office.

Tick tock, tick tock.