Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif., has joined members of Independent Energy Producers (IEP), a trade association representing developers and operators of independent energy facilities and independent power marketers, at the signing of an executive order establishing the most aggressive renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in the U.S.
The standard will require that 33% of California's energy be derived from renewable sources by 2020.
Jan Smutny-Jones, executive director of IEP, tells Solar Industry that under Assembly Bill 32, passed in 2006, the California Air Resources Board was given ‘extensive authority’ to implement climate-change policy, including renewable energy regulations.
‘This executive order directs the Air Resources Board to implement a 33 percent RPS as a component of our climate-change policy,’ he says. ‘They would be required to do so, by regulation, by July 2010.’
Senate Bill 14 (S.B.14), which contained a similar RPS, was approved last week by California's legislature and drew support from investor-owned utilities, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, labor groups, environmentalists, ratepayer advocates and renewable developers, says the office of State Senator Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who authored the bill.
Schwarzenegger, however, has said he will veto that piece of legislation.
‘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,’ Schwarzenegger spokesman Matt David said in a statement, as reported in the New York Times. ‘The bills as drafted will be vetoed by the governor.’
Smutny-Jones adds that two stipulations in S.B.14 would present major obstacles for solar power project developers in California.
‘With respect to solar thermal power plants, the bill has language that changed our siting requirements in a way that would require additional permits, which would threaten projects that were dependent on the stimulus package,’ he says.
The California Energy Commission (CEC) currently sites all concentrating solar power (CSP) plants over 50 MW and serves as the single agency enforcing all regulations related to these plants. S.B.14 would require any applicant for a new CSP plant to secure a permit from the state's Department of Fish and Game, in addition to procuring a CEC license.
This delay would likely prevent many CSP developers from obtaining stimulus-related funding, according to Smutny-Jones.
S.B.14 also contains measures ‘designed to limit power resources getting to California from elsewhere in the West,’ Smutny-Jones adds. ‘It raises a significant challenge for intermittent resources.’
Bill author Simitian, meanwhile, told the Associated Press that the governor's order ‘will lack the force and effect of his bill’ if the latter had been passed.
In addition, the legality of Schwarzenegger's action has been called into question, as some critics have claimed his order may not be binding once he leaves office in 2010.
‘He says his order will accomplish the same thing, but it will throw all the parties back into an extended period of administration that just takes more time â�¦ and they will still have to face the same issues,’ Peter Miller of the Natural Resources Defense Council told the Christian Science Monitor.
IEP's Smutny-Jones maintains that Schwazenegger's order is binding and effective. ‘Once this becomes a regulation, it will be imposed on the state's utilities – both municipal utilities and investor-owned utilities,’ he says.