California’s Long and Windy Road To a Renewable Energy Standard

The California Senate Bill 722 would have increased the state’s renewable energy standard (RES) to 33 percent by 2020. Unfortunately, SB 722 did not pass on September 1, 2010. Perhaps one reason it did not pass is that the final version of the bill, all 64 pages of it, was not available until 7 pm on August 31, five hours before the session ended. The bill did not make it to the Senate floor until 11:30 pm. As Ann Notthoff of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, “It was a risky strategy to start so late.” No kidding!

Senator Joseph Simitian introduced a similar bill last year, SB 14, which was approved by both the Senate and Assembly, but vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.

“I vetoed SB 14 last year because of the negative impact it would have had on California’s energy markets and ratepayers,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement issued in June.

California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted for a new RES last week

Despite vetoing SB 14, Schwarzenegger signed an executive order (S-21-09) in September 2009 mandating California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopt a RES with the 33 percent by 2020 standard. A year later, on September 23, 2010, CARB voted for a new RES on September 23 with the target of 33 percent by 2020, the same target in the failed SB 722. The CARB’s RES applies to public power utilities, and not just investor-owned utilities like the current law.

CARB board member, Mary D. Nichols said, “This standard is going to further diversify and secure our energy supply while also growing California’s leading green technology market, which will lead to cost savings for consumers.”

Laura Wisland, a clean energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is not in favor of the CARB standard because under it utilities can meet the 33 percent standard by buying renewing energy credits (RECs) instead of using renewable energy to supply electricity to customers. The current law does not allow RECs to meet the 20 percent target.

“California doesn’t get any power for that (energy credit) purchase, so we get no greenhouse gas reduction benefits, no air quality improvements and no clean jobs,” Wisland said. “But the utilities still have to provide electricity for customers, and that could still come from fossil fuels.”

There is a problem with creating a new RES through CARB rather than a legislative bill. A CARB standard does not carry the same weight that a bill does. As the editor of California’s Capitol noted, “There is no law mandating that 33 percent of the state’s energy portfolio come from renewable sources. If there is no statutory authority, there cannot be regulations setting such a standard.” And if Proposition 23 passes, both the current law and the new CARB standard are out the proverbial door.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

2 responses

  1. 1.      The wave of plug-in cars might be a big boon to electrical utilities so they can afford to broaden smart grid & renewable energy base.

    2.     Better still, they will charge mostly overnight with the untapped, or mostly WASTED electricity without having to build another power plant, as hydro & Wind & nuclear power plants keep operating around the clock.

    3.      Wind energy & e-cars charging overnight would be a perfect paring.

    4.      EVEN AFTER :

    To the best of my knowledge, the battery in EVs manages to power houses for upwards of 3 days or so.  Also, for a majority of motorists, their driving time is claimed to stand at around 1 hour.

    By storing power from cheaper off-peak periods, the battery in EVs is able to power a house during expensive peak periods, even better, sell excess power back to the grid simultaneously, EVEN AFTER its automotive life

Leave a Reply