California voters reject two renewable energy propositions

By Jeff Postelwait
Online editor

A pair of alternative-energy measures in California, Propositions 7 and 10, suffered defeats November 4.

In both cases, a coalition of environmental groups opposed the measures, calling them risky and costly.

Proposition 7 would have required utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2012. The share would rise to 40 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2025. The target included government-owned utilities.

The measure would have also required utilities to sign 20-year minimum contracts to buy renewable energy and would have cost about $3.4 million a year, paid by noncompliance fees.

A number of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Coalition for Clean Air and the Natural Resources Defense Council, opposed Proposition 7.

Proposition 7 would have erected complex regulatory barriers, excluded smaller renewable energy providers and made it harder to bring more renewable energy to California, according to the groups.

Southern California Edison, the largest electric utility in California, opposed Proposition 7, calling it “misguided.”

The measure would have upended the existing regulatory process, disrupted existing renewables development, significantly raise utility rates and threaten the reliability of service, said media spokeswoman Lauren Bartlett.

Renewable energy makes up 16 percent of SCE’s energy portfolio, Bartlett said.

S. David Freeman, a prominent supporter of Proposition 7, said the measure would mesh well with existing state laws and help streamline the approval of future renewable energy projects.

Following the election, proponents of Proposition 7 called the defeat a missed opportunity to take a step forward on cleaner energy.

Proposition 10 called for $5 billion in bonds for various renewable energy, energy efficiency and emissions reductions projects – including nearly $3.5 billion for the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles and $1.25 billion for research and development of other forms of renewable technology.

Critics of the plan said it was a pet project of Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens who spent $3.2 million funding a pro-Prop 10 media campaign.

A statement from the Union of Concerned Scientists stated that Proposition 10’s vehicle rebates didn’t provide enough support for plug-in hybrids, instead giving natural gas vehicles an unfair advantage.

According to the Yes on 10 Web site, proponents said the measure would help the state generate more of its electricity from renewable sources, including solar, wind, tidal and low-impact hydropower.

Supporters of Proposition 10 included the California Natural Gas Vehicle Partnership, The Energy Coalition and activist actor Ed Begley, Jr.

Proposition 10 failed, garnering 40 percent of the vote.

Spokepeople for the Yes on 10 campaign blamed the rejection of the measure on the global economic downturn as well as recent negative news about California’s state budget.