Simitian's green-energy bill becomes law

Palo Alto senator's bill requires state utilities to draw 33 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020

By Gennady Sheyner

Embarcadero Media

A proposal by state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) to require California utilities to draw one third of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020 became state law Tuesday (April 12) when it received Gov. Jerry Brown's signature.

Simitian's bill, Senate Bill 2X, was signed into law in Milpitas, where Simitian, Brown and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu met to recognize the new SunPower solar-manufacturing plant, Simitian announced in a statement. The new law, he said, puts California in the "national forefront in its commitment to renewable energy."

"I'm gratified that the Governor has confirmed California's long-term commitment to clean green energy," Simitian said in the statement. "This bill establishes California as the national leader in the use and development of renewable energy.

"The new law will stimulate the economy and improve the environment, while protecting ratepayers from excessive costs."

The new law would apply to both public and investor-owned utilities. Before the bill was passed, investor-owned utilities such as PG&E and independent sellers were required to get 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020 -- a standard that Simitian helped establish in 2006. The new bill also authorizes the California Public Utility Commission to give exemptions to utilities if the cost of purchasing renewable energy or plugging it into the state grid proves too great.

Simitian's previous attempt to raise the renewable-energy standards failed despite receiving the support of both houses of the Legislature. A similar proposal was vetoed in 2009 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In signing the bill Tuesday, Brown said in a statement that it would "ensure that California maintains its long-standing leadership in renewables and clean energy." Simitian agreed and touted the support his bill received from consumer advocates and utilities, including Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.

"Fossil fuels are finite and demand for energy is growing," Simitian said in the statement. "Fossil fuel prices are going to keep heading up. Renewable prices are headed down."

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Like this comment
Posted by Arlen Comfort
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

To date, I am not impressed with PG&E’s efforts to increase solar energy. They have not yet paid anyone for producing more on solar energy on their roof that they use. PG&E just takes the extra for free. If you have two properties, even side by side, they will not allow excess solar credits from one property to be applied to the other. These rules make no sense except to limit the amount of private solar energy produced in their area.

PG&E can do better easily, if that is their intent. Feed in tariffs are what work to stimulate alternative energy production as has been shown in Germany. Yes, someone will have to pay more but that will be true with whatever clean way we go as fossil fuel energy is still the cheapest but only because their pollution costs are forgiven . . . economically speaking. Any change to alternative energy will have to be profitable to the PG&E Corporation . . . or it will have to be forced on them. Corporations have no incentive to save the world or save humanity only to make a profit . . . so don’t expect change from them that doesn’t fit the their incentives.

If PG&E wanted to shift to more Solar and Wind energy they could have lobbied for it . . . I doubt that ever happened.

Just my thoughts.

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