Can the Renewable Energy Bill Boost California’s Economy?

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California continues to struggle in these difficult economic times. The unemployment rate in the state is 12%, however, some northern California counties are reporting unemployment rates greater than 20%. The housing market in the state is also struggling to recover as many analysts believe we have yet to hit rock bottom. What can California do to provide some relief to its residents? Senator Joe Simitian thinks he is on the right track to stimulate the state’s economy.

The Democratic Senator introduced a bill that would require California utilities to obtain 33% of the power they sell from renewable power sources by the end of 2020. These renewable sources include, but are not limited to, hydro, wind, geothermal, and solar. Both the House and the Senate have passed the bill and it is on its way to Governor Brown’s desk for his signature. Brown is expected to sign the bill. After all, during his campaign he declared that he wanted to raise the renewable portfolio standard to 33%.

However, this is not the first time Senator Simitian has attempted to pass a higher renewable power portfolio standard. His previous bill was vetoed by then Governor Schwarzenegger who stated it was too limiting for the utilities. Nonetheless, Schwarzenegger did sign an executive order in 2009 to set 33% as the goal utilities should try to obtain when comprising their renewable power portfolio.

The current requirement in California was for utilities to obtain 20% of their power from renewable sources by the end of last year. Since none of California’s utilities met this standard, the new requirement may prove daunting to achieve. Only about 17% of California’s power comes from renewable sources. It should be noted that both Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) came close to meeting the standard, achieving a portfolio comprised of 17.7% and 19.4% respectively.

The new portfolio requirement is expected to boost California’s struggling economy. Senator Simitian feels his bill sends a clear message to the renewable energy industry that California wants their business. It is important to keep investment dollars from going to other states. As a result of the bill, the number of renewable energy projects is expected to increase. New projects would create jobs and provide tax revenues.

What do you think? Will the Renewable Energy bill boost California’s economy? If history repeats itself, it will. When the standard was raised to 20%, the state saw an explosion in wind farm and solar power facility construction, creating jobs and revenue for the state.

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