Republicans Join in Historic 33% Renewable Energy Vote in California

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Today, the heavily (52-28) Democratic majority in the California Assembly voted easily to approve, by 59 to 19, one of the most ambitious renewable energy programs in the world, joined by several California Republicans. Now it goes to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown‘s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law.

Last month, California’s Senate voted to approve the new 33% standard, by 26 to 11 in favor of the bill, and that time, three Republican Senators joined the Democratic Senate majority on that vote.

The brave votes of these Republicans, Sam Blakslee (R-San Luis Obispo), Sharon Runner (R-Antelope Valley), and Tony Strickland (R-Santa Barbara) joining Democrats on climate legislation is in marked contrast to what we see at the Federal level. Renewable energy in California has developed to the point where it is developing a bipartisan constituency. Strickland for example, is the former head of the solar energy industries association, and the author of strong renewable energy bills.

The state’s utilities have essentially already met the 20% renewable standard that was set for 2010. (Currently 19% of California’s electricity now comes from renewable power (a definition that excludes nuclear and hydro), and contracts have been signed for purchase of the power from the remaining 1% of projects (expected to be online by 2013). But 33% renewable energy in a state with a population the size of California’s, will be revolutionary.

“As a result of the RPS program,” said Senior Scientist Peter Miller at the NRDC, “renewable energy generation in California in 2020 will be roughly equal to total current US renewable generation, and supply enough clean energy to power nearly 9 million homes”.

“While U.S. Congress stalls on America’s clean energy future, California again leads the way in energy policy. This passage of this RPS legislation reinforces California commitment to building a diverse, clean and resilient energy portfolio that minimizes the impact of fossil fuel price spikes and enhances our energy independence and security.”

Today, the long and tumultuous journey that this clean energy mandate has taken is finally over. And it seems to hold a glimmer of hope for Federal level policy, with the beginnings of Republican votes. Although it is difficult to get the bipartisan votes it takes to get sensible policy passed, perhaps it gets easier once milestones are reached.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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