California's Prop 7 is Bad for Renewable Energy
Posted August 19, 2008
I’ve learned to bite my tongue around certain friends and relatives because not everyone appreciates my incessant talk about clean energy. I will exercise some restraint. Perhaps I’ll drop the jokes about my brother-in-law’s gas-guzzling SUV, which I’m told are wearing thin. But I will not shut up because the stakes are too high.
We need to create a clean energy economy. I don’t want to see our last best places drilled for oil or strip-mined for coal. Nor do I want to breathe polluted air. Nobody’s children deserve to live on a planet feverish from global warming. Besides, I get excited about being part of the solution here in California. In recent years we’ve passed two internationally-famous global warming laws – The Clean Cars Law (AB 1493) and The Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), not to mention a lesser known yet hugely important law called The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Performance Standard Act (SB 1368), which prevents utilities from entering into long-term contracts for electricity generated by dirty sources like coal.
California is where the action is, so even though my friends and family get a little nervous when I take a few steps toward my soapbox, they actually ask for my opinion when it comes time for them to approach the ballot box. I’m anticipating some potentially confusing conversations about one particular measure that’s going to be on the ballot this November. How do I explain that they should vote no on Proposition 7, The Solar and Clean Energy Act, which ostensibly requires California to increase its use of renewable energy? With a name like that, what could be wrong with it?
The list of reasons to vote against Prop 7 is long and complicated, but it boils down to this: California’s leading conservation groups and the renewable energy industry itself agree that Proposition 7 would actually make it harder to increase renewable energy development in California.
Here’s that long and complicated list of reasons to vote no on Prop 7:
- Proposition 7 was put together by people who don’t know what they’re doing; they don’t understand California’s clean energy policies, laws and markets. Good intentions aren’t good enough, we need clean energy experts who know what they’re doing making energy policy.
- Proposition 7 locks in place complex regulatory barriers that make it more difficult for California to achieve its renewable energy goals. We need to dismantle barriers to renewable energy, so we can accelerate efforts to create a clean electric grid.
- Prop 7 could exclude smaller renewable energy providers from participating in California’s energy markets; it excludes renewable power facilities smaller than 30 megawatts from counting toward the measure’s new requirements. We need to make it easier, not harder, for clean energy companies to set up shop in California, bringing with them jobs and economic growth.
- Prop 7 slashes penalties (by 80 percent) for utilities that fail to achieve the state’s renewable energy targets. There needs to be enforcement and consequences to ensure that energy providers comply with the law.
- Prop 7 explicitly allows for a signed contract – not the actual construction of a renewable energy project or delivery of electricity from the project – to count as compliance, and creates several other huge new loopholes that could only be removed by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. Promises aren’t good enough; we need real clean energy projects that are actually on the ground.
- Prop 7 would limit environmental review of renewable energy projects. The siting of renewable energy and transmission projects should be an open, transparent process with ample opportunity for review and comment by concerned citizens, regulatory agencies, and federal, state and local governments.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about California energy policy, it’s that it’s really complicated. I don’t pretend to understand all the details, but I do know they matter. NRDC’s California energy experts all agree that each of the aforementioned details would make it harder, not easier, to increase the amount of renewable energy used in California. Taken together, these flaws would be an unmitigated disaster. Our friends at the Union of Concerned Scientists, California League of Conservation Voters, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, and the California Solar Energy Industries Association all agree.
The pro-renewable energy vote this November is an emphatic No on Proposition 7.
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