Prop 23 Threatening Out-of-State Renewable Industry Too

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The new attack by the oil industry on clean energy in California using the Prop 23 ballot initiative doesn’t have only California’s nascent green energy industry on tenterhooks.

Nervous wind developers as far away as Montana are now holding off on reserving transmission space, till they see how much renewable energy California will need to import from out of state.

If the oil industry dupes enough voters in the November elections next month, then California’s clean energy legislation AB32 – that California passed in 2006 – will be repealed, before it even takes effect, and affect the fortunes of renewable companies from Wyoming to Montana.

If the oil companies win, one result will be to kill the requirement that California get 33% of its energy from renewables by 2020. CARB tried to shore up certainty by endorsing it this month, but if AB32 is repealed, then the 33% Renewable Energy Standard (RES) will actually be plunged into legal limbo.(pdf)

Only if voters reject the oil companies’ Prop 23, will the state keep the clean energy standards continuing to spur investment within California, and also driving renewable energy development in surrounding states to meet it. California, with 20% of the US population; is the largest electricity importer in the country, and its ambitious renewable energy requirements cannot all be met within the state.

About 30% of the wind and 15% of the solar needed to meet the RES will come from outside California. Already California has whipped up a wind industry in Wyoming to meet its current RES mandates of 20% by the end of this year.

“We’re hoping the majority of the power is going to come from California resources,” says Laura Wisland, an energy analyst from the Union of Concerned Scientists. “But there’s a lot of room for projects built in other Western states.”

Slated to start in 2011, AB32 has driven clean energy investment to the state even before it took effect, with almost 40% of all clean energy investment in the US now coming to California, and the prospect of California’s AB32 legislation has been driving development in other states too.

But now, with the threat of Prop 23 killing clean energy requirements, transmission and wind projects as far away as Montana are being held up.

John Dunn, director of transmission for TransCanada, and the project manager for its Chinook line, a $3-billion, 1,100-mile transmission project connecting Montana to Nevada told Energy Prospects West that “Much of the development that has been discussed in Montana and Wyoming has been with the view that its renewables would ultimately serve the desert Southwest and California.”

Dunn estimates that just for their company alone, between the $3 billion in transmission and $6 billion in wind projects, there’s about $9 billion in investments waiting for some “certainty” from California.

Unlike the last time Big Oil in Texas attacked California – with Enron – this time, Prop 23’s victims will be strewn all over the Western US.

Image: No on Prop 23

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