California politicians scrapping over renewable power standards

A debate over how to encourage California utilities to get more power from renewable sources is heating up in Sacramento.

[UPDATE, 9/15, 11:02 AM: Spokesmen for the Governor's office have confirmed that he plans to sign an executive order at 2 PM today on new renewable energy standards. The state's new renewable portfolio standard will likely be similar to that in legislation passed last Friday. 33 percent of a California utility's energy portfolio must include renewable energy - wind, solar, or geothermal - by 2020.]

Late Friday night, Democratic lawmakers succeeded in getting enough support to pass two bills that increase requirements for what’s called "renewable portfolio standards."

The bills would raise the bar for how utilities manage the mix of energy they buy for customers, mandating that a third of their power comes from renewable sources, with some limits for how out-of-state offsets and credits can count towards that total.

Now Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’ll veto the bills because they don’t provide enough flexibility to utilities and energy providers.

He says the bills could limit solar, wind, and geothermal power delivered to California, and fellow foes of the proposed laws include Southern California Edison, CAL-ISO, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and the Public Utilities Commission.

San Diego Gas and Electric says it’s having trouble even meeting the current renewable portfolio rule – 10 percent of power from renewable sources by 2020.

Lined up behind the legislation are environmentalists, labor groups, the Western States Petroleum Association, the other two investor-owned utilities besides Edison, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

DWP is in the unusual position of supporting legislation that would add to its legal requirements. The current renewable-portfolio rules don’t apply to DWP, just to investor-owned utilities.

Currently, the DWP is only bound by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and DWP Chief David Nahai’s frequent and publicly-stated goals.

Villaraigosa released a statement urging the governor’s signature on this legislation, saying, “This landmark legislation can boost California's high-tech industry and bring about a unique combination of economic benefits, through new high-paying jobs and stable fuel costs, that are only possible through renewable energy development.”

Schwarzenegger’s veto could come with an executive order attached, though spokesmen for the governor's office did not say what would be in that order.