Legislators pass renewable energy bills

DOWNTOWN — Landmark legislation aimed at boosting renewable energy production within California was approved by the Legislature during the weekend but is destined for a veto, said a spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The package of energy bills includes a sweeping proposal from Democratic Assemblyman Paul Krekorian that would force power companies to produce a third of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Although Krekorian claims his legislation has broad support, some utilities and cities have been uneasy about the plan, which they argue would force them to seek new sources of renewable energy within California, instead of being able to count their current out-of-state green efforts toward higher quotas.

Burbank Water and Power, among other utilities, has argued that it should be able to count clean energy produced in states like Utah, Oregon and Washington toward the 33% mandate.

Although Schwarzenegger had called on lawmakers to develop legislation aimed at establishing the high targets, the approved package will not be effective, spokesman Matt David said in a statement.

“The poorly drafted, overly complex bills passed by the Legislature are protectionist schemes that will kill the solar industry in California and drive prices up like the failed energy deregulation of the late 1990s,” David said. “The bills as drafted will be vetoed by the governor. The governor will sign an executive order implementing the 33% renewable mandate administratively.”

Krekorian quickly issued a statement in response, arguing that the high targets and emphasis on in-state green energy production would be beneficial for California.

“We have crafted legislation that will liberate us from our over-dependence on carbon-emitting fossil fuels, improve air quality, reduce fuel price volatility, and create a vibrant and growing source of jobs, innovation and economic vitality in California,” he said.

The legislation would allow utilities to obtain up to 30% of their renewable energy from resources outside of the state, but would encourage more green power generation on California soil.

“We must not allow this opportunity to escape us,” Krekorian said.

Some out-of-state projects would be allowed to count toward in-state green energy targets as long as those power plants are directly connected to California’s grid, which is possible in states like Nevada and Oregon, said Bernadette Del Chiaro, a clean energy advocate for Environment California, which supports the package.

While California may be a leader in renewable energy consumption, it has not been able to establish an extensive local clean power industry, something that the legislation could help to encourage, Del Chiaro said.

“California’s demand for renewable energy is helping to drive renewable energy business around the country, but it’s elsewhere,” she said.

Schwarzenegger is expected to make an announcement this week with his own plan for reaching the targets.

 ZAIN SHAUK covers education, business and politics. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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