Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Renewable Energy Policy Watch

Ah, the legislative session (inhales deeply)...smells like progress, right? Well, not always...sometimes you get a whiff of the rancid too. But I do love the excitement, stress, tears and laughs of a good legislative session. Maybe I need do that vacation... Lots of states have been tackling renewable energy legislation. Here are a few highlights:

  • The founder of the University of Phoenix, John Sperling, and his son are backing a ballot initiative in California called the Solar and Clean Energy Act of 2008 that they claim will more than quadruple the amount of renewable energy by 2025. But major renewable energy companies and clean energy supporters say the bill is poorly written with tons of loopholes. Basically, the bill requires the Energy Commission to identify solar and clean energy zones (mostly in the desert) to jump-start renewable energy power plants, fast-track the approval process for plant construction and cap what utilities can spend on renewables. Although opponents acknowledge that the initiative's proponents are well-intentioned, they point to the unrealistic measures like the fast timeline (100 days). They also say that the cap on utility rates would make it harder to develop renewables than other old-fashioned energy sources.
  • Across the country in Maryland, an aggressive bill that would have slashed carbon dioxide emissions 25 percent by 2020 (CO2, a major contributor to global warming) died yesterday in the House (although it passed the Senate). Clean energy supporters ran into opposition from labor unions worried about factories closing down because of the cost to pollute. Hopefully they can work out those disagreements and come back with something that makes real progress and supported by labor.
  • Down in South Carolina there are a few bills offering bigger tax breaks for residents who buy energy efficient homes and appliances. One bill eliminates the sales tax on home products that meet or exceed Energy Star ratings and another gives a sales tax break to companies buying machinery, tools or parts to make energy from renewable sources. Energy efficiency is generally the cheapest, fastest and easiest way to fight global warming. And a recent report shows that SC could create more than 22,000 jobs in the wind, solar, geothermal and biomass sectors. So whether they're cutting dirty energy or encouraging the clean stuff, it looks like SC will come out ahead.


Kelly Fuller said...

The Solar and Clean Energy Act of 2008 looks like another classic California ballot initiative--headed for court the instant anyone tries to implement it. Much of the California desert that these folks want to build on is federal land and requires compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. You simply cannot fufill what is required under NEPA in 100 days after filing an application, not for projects that involve miles of public land. Depending on where the projects were located, the Endangered Species Act would also come into play. As much as some people might wish it were otherwise, these federal laws cannot be simply wished away by a California ballot measure.

Maria Surma Manka said...

GREAT perspective Kelly - thanks!