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State Senate approves ambitious clean-energy mandate

February 24, 2011 | 12:08 pm

Senator Joe Simitian on Sept. 29, 2008. The state Senate on Thursday approved a measure requiring California utilities to buy 33% of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources by the year 2020, with supporters arguing it will help recharge the economy by creating jobs.

State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) said his legislation, which now goes to the Assembly, will help the state meet both environmental and economic goals.

"This is a measure that can help us right now with clean air, help us right now to address climate change… and right now we can begin to create the jobs that this state so desperately needs," Simitian said during a floor debate on SB 2X .

The measure passed on a 26-11 vote, with opponents saying it will drive up energy costs, meaning higher electricity bills for homeowners and manufacturers. The additional cost of doing business will convince more companies to send their jobs out of California, said Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar).

"This is yet another nail in the coffin for our manufacturing sector in California," Huff told his colleagues.

California previously required that 20% of electricity come from renewable sources by 2010, but some utilities did not meet that standard.

A similar Simitian bill was vetoed last session by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said it was loaded down with red tape, but lawmakers have made adjustments and are more hopeful the proposal will be supported by new Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat.

The 33% standard was a key plank in Brown's campaign platform, but he has not made a final decision on the legislation, which can still be changed before it reaches him.

"The governor broadly supports codifying the requirement that 33% of the state’s electricity be derived from renewable sources and will closely consider any bill that reaches his desk," said spokesman Evan Westrup.

--Patrick McGreevy

Photo: State Sen. Joe Simitian in 2008. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times