California Legislature Pushing Again for Renewable Energy Standard

by Mark Pabst, San Francisco - February 10, 2011

With President Barak Obama preparing for an anticipated fight in Washington over federal funding for green energy research, some California democrats are renewing their own attempts to promote green energy on a state level. Last week Joe Simitian, Darrell Steinberg, and Christine Kehoe, three prominent democratic state senators, introduced a bill that would mandate California utilities get 33% of their energy from renewable sources by the end of 2020.

This is not the first time democrats in the state senate have tried to shepherd the bill, popularly referred to as the “renewable portfolio standard,” through California’s legislature. A previous incarnation of the proposal died when the last legislative session came to a close before supporters could hold a vote. However, California’s new governor Jerry Brown has already signaled his approval for the legislation, and with democrats continuing to control both the state senate and California assembly, the bill is likely to find its way to the governor’s desk sooner rather than later.

This version of the bill has better timing in more ways than one. It may also complement Obama’s recent calls for increased federal research funding. Supporters of the renewable portfolio standard acknowledge that they would like to see other states adopt similar requirements for utilities, and new green energy technologies may be necessary to support the growth in demand. The president made clear in his state of the union address that he wants that technology to come from the United States, calling the country’s need to catch up with China’s green energy sector “our Sputnik moment.”

Supporters of the renewable portfolio standard share Obama’s use of space race imagery. , hedge fund manager and prominent political contributor was on hand when the senators announced the introduction of the bill. He called the effort to increase the proportion of green energy the state uses “much, much bigger than putting a man on the moon.” It may also be the first step in justifying space program-like funding for the development of green energy technologies.

Photo: Glenn Calvin, Flickr

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