California renewable power bill passes first test

Legislation aimed at requiring California electric utilities to meet the nation's toughest renewable power quotas easily passed its first test Thursday, gaining support from a large number of usually conflicting interests.

The bill would require utilities to get 33% of their power from renewable sources by 2020, a boost from the current 20% standard. The new standard would apply to both publicly owned power generators, such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and investor-owned utilities, including Southern California Edison Co.

The bill, SB 722 by state Sen. Joe Simitian (D- Palo Alto), was approved by the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee on a 9-2 vote and is expected to win final passage in late summer.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who vetoed a similar measure last year, applauded the vote but warned that he would seek changes that would streamline the siting and permitting of renewable projects before signing the final legislation.

Environmental groups, which forged a compromise with private generating companies, labor unions and renewable energy developers, said the Simitian bill is needed to attract investment to California and create jobs.

"Passing this bill will send a clear signal to renewable energy markets that California is open for business," said Laura Wisland, an energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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