Power play for 33 percent renewables policy development

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Nov. 13, 2009 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Instead of signing legislation to mandate 33 percent renewable energy by 2020, Governor Schwarzenegger in September issued an executive order requiring the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to pursue expanded renewable energy through its AB 32 authority.  The Governor believed that limitations in the legislation would have made the 33 percent RPS too costly and difficult to achieve. 

Legislative leaders are not happy with this result.  In late October Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), principal author of the failed RPS legislation, sent a letter to ARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols stating that this action is “inconsistent with existing law, detrimental to the environment and an impediment to the development of the state’s green economy.” The “existing law” referenced in the letter is SB 1078 (Sher-Chapter 516 Statutes of 2002 and subsequent enactments) that “vests the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission with authority to implement and oversee the state RPS, not the ARB.”

Actually, existing law is not affected by the Governor’s executive order. He did not give ARB authority over the current, legislatively-mandated RPS to achieve 20 percent renewables by 2010. ARB had already adopted a 33-percent-by-2020 standard as part of the AB 32 scoping plan last year (with no jurisdictional complaints from legislators).  Pursuant to the scoping plan and the executive order, ARB will be developing an entirely new renewables policy to move from 20 to 33 percent, designed to meet the tests of AB 32.  To that end, CMTA will be advocating that greenhouse gas emission reductions achieved under the 33 percent standard are cost-effective and technologically feasible as required by AB 32.  The first workshop for the new “Renewable Energy Standard” (RES) was held October 30. 

This may not be the end of the story. Steinberg and Simitian threaten to scrutinize the ARB budget because they “see nothing in current or past budget acts that authorizes the ARB to expend public funds or staff to implement a 33 percent RPS.”  It is also a near-certainty that legislation will be introduced to put the 33 percent standard into law next year.  It remains to be seen whether the Governor, ARB and legislators come to an agreement on renewable energy policy and who should be in charge of it anytime soon. 

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