Flanked by solar energy business people and investors, legislative Democrats announced today that they're resurrecting a bill to require utilities to buy at least 33 percent of California's electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
The bill is designed to inspire investor confidence and complement Assembly Bill 32, California's greenhouse gas reduction law. Voters last November rejected Proposition 23, which would have suspended AB 32.
Legislators presented the proposal as well as related measures as a pro-business effort to help create jobs.
"The budget is and remains our top priority, and it is essential to the economic health of our state that we put our fiscal house in order as quickly as possible," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
"But while we do so," Steinberg said, "we must also continue to provide state and national leadership in our ongoing efforts to strengthen California's economy by supporting emerging industries, improving public education and creating jobs for Californians."
Two other measures described at the Capitol press conference would expedite permits for the location and construction of renewable energy projects in California, and create school curriculum for "green partnership academies" that use grants to provide students with skills to enter renewable-energy jobs.
Another bill would dedicate a portion of state ratepayer funds to loan guarantees that would help homeowners and business owners install energy-efficient technology.
"Green manufacturing has the potential to create millions of jobs in the coming decade," Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, said. "Those jobs are going to created somewhere, and every person in the state recognizes that the natural home for those promising industries needs to be California."
Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, author of the utilities bill, said the 33 percent renewable requirement is needed to keep investor dollars flowing into California projects.
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- a chief supporter of AB 32 -- vetoed a previous similar bill by Simitian because it contained requirements that utilities buy a certain portion of renewable energy only from California sources. Schwarzenegger said the requirement could limit competition and drive up consumer costs.
Simitan told The Bee that his new version includes incentives for purchases from California sources that will spur investment in businesses here and increase supply. But the measure does not include a strict percentage requirement.
"If we send a clear message to the marketplace," Simitian said, "then the market will respond with investment dollars, with jobs. ... If we do not send that clear message, then those investment dollars, those jobs and that tax revenue will go other states and other nations. It is as simple as that."
Ed Murray, who employs 30 people at his Aztec Solar business in Rancho Cordova, called the legislators "forward thinking."
Hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who was co-chair of the successful No on Proposition 23 campaign last year, appeared with legislators. "More businesses were with us than were against us," Steyer said of that campaign.
"California has to succeed. Everybody is going to be watching us," Steyer said. "And in fact, the kinds of policies that these legislators are trying to pass are critical for us to be able to get the private sector dollars, create businesses and jobs and show the country and the world that this can be done."
PHOTO CREDIT: Jonathan Gemma of Aztec Solar in Rancho Cordova shows models of solar thermal panels on Tuesday, July 1, 2008. Sacramento Bee file photo/ Lezlie Sterling