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More solar and wind power, California lawmakers say  

Credit:  By Onell R. Soto, San Diego Union-Tribune, www.signonsandiego.com 29 March 2011 ~~

A bill that would require a third of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources such as the sun and the wind is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown after passage Tuesday.

The governor supports the concept. “He’ll consider the bill closely when it reaches his desk,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said.

The bill passed the Assembly by a 55-19 vote. The Senate approved it last week.

“This bill establishes California as the national leader in clean energy,” its author, Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said in a statement. He said it will improve the environment and stimulate the economy while protecting ratepayers.

“Senate Bill 2X sends a signal to renewable energy providers that California wants them here,” he said. “They will respond, as they have in the past, with billions of dollars in investments that will provide jobs and tax revenues.”

Critics say the bill forces utilities to turn to more expensive sources of energy, which will drive up business costs and hurt the state’s competitiveness.

The California Public Utilities Commission estimated in 2009 that the tens of billions spent on new solar and wind farms will be passed along in rates, resulting in a 7.1 percent increase in spending on power statewide.

The requirement, known as Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen dependence of fossil fuels.

The state already requires big for-profit utilities such as San Diego Gas & Electric to get 20 percent of their power from such sources.

This bill would increase the amount to 33 percent, and includes municipal utilities such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

Last year, SDG&E got 11.9 percent of the electricity it sold from renewable sources. It was supposed to reach 20 percent by the end of 2010.

While lobbying for the Sunrise Powerlink, a controversial transmission line connecting San Diego with the Imperial Valley, SDG&E said it would voluntarily reach the 33 percent standard by 2020.

“In just the past year, we have signed five renewable contracts for the new transmission line, for more than 750 MW,” spokeswoman Jennifer Ramp said. “SDG&E wants to see the bill signed.”

Big solar and wind farms have been opposed by critics who say they ruin rural views, damage the environment and are fire hazards.

The new standards won’t only help the mega projects in the desert, but also medium-sized projects closer to cities, said Mike Hall, president of El Cajon-based Borrego Solar.

“This is definitely going to build more support for projects like that,” he said.

Though a backer of renewable power, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a 2009 bill that also would have required a third of power to come from such sources, saying he was concerned about costs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source:  By Onell R. Soto, San Diego Union-Tribune, www.signonsandiego.com 29 March 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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