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California's clean energy conundrum

August 15, 2008 | 11:38 am

Windmills_2If California requires its utilities to get one-third of their energy from solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources -- rather than coal or gas -- will that help or hurt the state economically? A struggle is underway to influence public opinion, with business interests claiming that it will cost consumers in higher electric bills, and environmental groups touting the jobs that clean-tech industry will bring to the state.

Today a new report, Harvesting California's Renewable Energy Resources: A Green Jobs Business Plan was released  by the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT), a Sacramento-based nonprofit. It surveys major studies and concludes that if California gets a third of its power from renewables by 2020, as pending legislation would require, as much as $60 billion would be pumped into the state economy. Manufacturing could increase by some 200,000 jobs.

California currently requires utilities to reach 20% renewable energy by 2010. But that is not enough to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels, as the law requires, according to the Air Resources Board.

-- Margot Roosevelt

Photo: Windmills in Livermore, Calif. Wind farm construction is slowing because Congress has not renewed clean energy tax credits. Credit: Ben Margot/Associated Press