The California State Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee passed SB 14 (Simitian), the 33% by 3030 Renewable Portfolio Standard bill this evening. The bill promises to be the biggest environmental bill of the year, though it was amended tonight in a way that created problems for environmentalists to support the bill.
“Developing clean, renewable energy like wind and solar power is a no-brainer for California given our air pollution problems and our potential for economic development from green energy,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, clean energy advocate with Environment California. “Passing a strong 33% by 2020 Renewable Portfolio Standard this year has been our top priority.”
Despite the widespread support for the bill, SB 14 was amended significantly tonight to include provisions related to hydroelectric power in British Columbia, add additional loopholes for noncompliance with the 33% by 2020 mandate, and further restrict the cost cap provision within the bill. Specifically, at the request of PG&E, SB 14 calls for the California Energy Commission to study whether or not new hydroelectric power plants in British Columbia, ineligible under current law, should be allowed into the state’s renewable energy program.
“PG&E wants to build hydroelectric power plants that would never meet California’s stringent environmental laws and then call it renewable power,” said Del Chiaro. “Instead of flooding California’s renewable energy program by damming up rivers in British Columbia, PG&E should focus on the real renewable energy resources that have the most promise in California like wind and solar power.”
Tomorrow, SB 14 will be split into two separate bills, SB 14 and AB 64 (Krekorian). SB 14 will remain the bill with the 33% by 2020 mandate and the provision related to out of state renewable energy credits, which have been amended to allow up to 25% out of state Renewable Energy Credits and an additional 5% if owned by a utility company. AB 64 will contain language related to utility owned generation, the hydroelectric power study and the cost containment mechanism, among other provisions.
In addition to concerns about the hydroelectric power study, SB 14 was also amended tonight to broaden the allowable excuses for utilities to not comply with the RPS mandate. Language approved tonight would allow a utility to seek exemption from their RPS requirements due to “other delays for procured eligible renewable energy resource projects…” The legislation does not provide further clarification as to what “other delays” means.
“This is a loophole big enough to fit a power plant through,” said Del Chiaro.
The bill was also amended to further tighten the cost cap language by setting the 6% annual revenue requirements at a fixed 2008 level instead of allowing for inflation between now and 2020.
The Senate and Assembly are both expected to vote on AB 64 and SB 14 tomorrow.