California's pro-clean energy camp has notched a second key victory, one that shows the waning clout of the state's utilities and oil companies. On Saturday, a week after killing AB 69, an oil industry power grab, the State Senate also killed AB 2145, a bill pushed by the utilities to weaken the power of local governments to set up their own pro-green electricity companies.
The bill was authored by Assemblyman Stephen Bradford, a Los Angeles-area Democrat and former public-relations executive of Southern California Edison. Pushed by the utilities and utility workers' union IBEW, it sailed through the Assembly, winning by the lopsided vote of 51-15. Only when it hit the Senate did the pro-green lobby mobilize successfully -- helped in no small part by progressive senators such as Fran Pavley and Darrell Steinberg. The bill was gutted in committee, then finally killed when Steinberg mobilized to prevent it from coming to a floor vote before the end of the two-year legislative session.
As I've written before here and in the San Francisco Chronicle, the bill was an all-out, Goliath-vs-David attempt to destroy Community Choice Aggregation projects such as Marin Clean Energy. A few takeaway lessons can be drawn from the outcome:
- The bill's overwhelming victory in the Assembly shows that PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric still have an old-school political machine that counts in Sacramento and should not be underestimated. Particularly knotty issues are whether the new renewable energy generation facilities are created in-state or out-of-state and whether they will be unionized or non-union. Which is a fancy way of saying "it's all about the jobs."
- The bill's eventual failure shows that the emerging power of environmentalists and clean energy supporters is even greater. This alliance will be tested even more next year as the Legislature takes up the momentous task of updating the state's emissions reduction goals past the current end-mark of 2020. But the defeat of
- Community Choice Aggregation has wind in its sails and will inevitably spread. Despite San Francisco's train wreck with Clean Power SF, the East Bay (Alameda County), the Monterey Bay area and San Diego are all moving forward with plans for action.
- The stage is set for the next big challenge of the clean energy revolution in California and other states. As I've written at GreenBiz, many of the same California corporations that are driving the national agenda on sustainability have found themselves prevented by state law from greening their own power supplies and switching to renewable energy. It's a subject on which I'm currently working, and I'll be writing more about it soon.