On Friday, Sept. 23, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) – in the absence of a California Legislature vote on the issue – approved a greenhouse gas reduction target of 33 percent for 2020 for the Los Angeles and greater San Francisco Bay areas – a target originally set by AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006.
Called a renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, the reduction will be achieved by switching from fossil-fuel based electricity production to clean, renewable technologies like solar and wind. The important thing to remember about the vote is that the ARB is easier to overturn than the Legislature.
The ruling has some, like the oil-rich Koch brothers, running for cover under an umbrella bill, Proposition 23, that aims to prevent the RPS from ever becoming law. The provisions of AB 32 could also be suspended by a California governor, and Republican hopeful Meg Whitman has admitted she would call for a one-year moratorium to study AB 32’s effect on jobs in a state that has gone from 75 and sunny to so dismally cash-strapped some cities have threatened to limit essential services.
When the Air Resources Board vote was made known, solar manufacturing firms like U.S.-based First Solar and international Trina Solar rose, while California-based SunPower Corp. fell.
Word on The Street for Sept. 24 was that the optimists were running the asylum, but a closer reading of the article might have led one to believe that the asylum was in Germany, where solar has always been a big hit (or in China, where it’s more a money-maker than an avocation).
In California, expect inmates to turn out their empty pockets and arrive at the polls in a nasty mood this November, ready to vote for Prop 23 as a backlash against all those years of being clean, green, and now broke. Don’t, however, expect them to vote for Whitman when longtime political player Jerry Brown is back on the ticket for governor.
And with law-savvy Brown in office, expect California’s government to make a legal end run around the oil lobby and bring solar right back to the forefront, giving solar manufacturing firms a brief hiatus in which to regroup with better (and hopefully cheaper) technology.