Summary:

Everyone knows that California was the brightest shining light in the oppressive darkness that descended on the clean energy world on Nov. 2. While clean energy hopes were being snuffed out across the country, California went the right way towards a sustainable energy future.

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Everyone knows that California was the brightest shining (renewably powered, LED) light in the oppressive darkness that descended on the clean energy world on Nov. 2.  While clean energy hopes were being snuffed out across the country, each of the important decisions in California went the right way towards a more sustainable energy future.

The message was unmistakable:  At best, we’ll get baby steps on clean energy in D.C. for the foreseeable future, so it’s up to the states now to move us forward, and California is the place to lead the charge.

  • California re-elected the strongest clean energy Governor it’s ever had — Jerry Brown — and chose several other clean energy leaders: promoting San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to Lt. Governor, and keeping Barbara Boxer as the U.S. Senator chairing the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
  • California resoundingly defeated Proposition 23, mobilizing the largest environmental advocacy campaign in it history and setting new precedent for the powerful alignment of environment and business.

But no one should be thinking that climate change or global warming was the message that won the day for Californians.

Here’s the real message: “Jobs, jobs, jobs, clean air, jobs, clean energy, jobs”

With the validation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32), the voters said clearly that they wanted clean energy jobs to be the engine of economic recovery, and they wanted them now.

So, yes, “Go west, everyone”, but come to California bearing jobs.

AB32 Sets GHG Reduction Targets – Now We Need Arrows

The primary goal of AB32 was to reduce California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, but many people don’t know that it needs a host of complementary legislation and programs to hit that target.

Most people equate AB32 with cap-and-trade but in fact, the cap-and-trade system in California (that’s supposed to work in concert with the regional Western Climate Initiative) is only expected to account for approx 20 percent of the required AB32 reductions.  The rest of the reductions come from the “arrows:” programs such as Energy Efficiency Standards, the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard, and the 33-percent-by-2020 Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

Clearly, the voters are demanding we don’t just hit the target with these arrows; those arrows need to employ as many archers as possible, as soon as possible.

Of all the GHG-reducing policies, renewable electricity generation is seen as one of the best ways to create new green-collar jobs.  The 33-percent RPS will achieve approximately 13 percent of the AB32 reductions by requiring that California utilities acquire 33 percent of the electricity delivered to consumers from renewable sources.

So what’s the best way to create the most in-state jobs on the way to 33 percent?

Get FIT for California

Governor-elect Brown answered that question with his Clean Energy Jobs Plan published during the campaign.  (Note how this wasn’t titled “Clean Energy Plan.”) The very first part of his plan was to deploy 12,000 megawatts (MW) of “Localized Electricity Generation”.  In other words, he envisioned thousands of small-to-medium scale projects bringing clean energy and local jobs to communities across California.

To put that in perspective, 12,000 MW would power the peak needs of approximately 3 million homes.

Brown went further to specify the type of policy that would get those projects online: a feed-in tariff (FIT).  FIT policies have been the most successful policies in the world for bringing online massive amounts of cost-effective, renewable energy. In fact, over 50 percent of the world’s wind energy was installed under a FIT, and almost 90 percent of the solar power installed in the world in 2009 was driven by FIT programs.

Brown not only recognizes the unparalleled success of FIT programs, but also knows that a full scale, comprehensive feed-in tariff will create more green jobs for California than any clean energy program the state has tried so far.

A recent UC Berkeley study, conducted by world-renowned energy policy luminary, Dan Kammen, showed that, compared to current plans for achieving the 33-percent RPS, the FIT Coalition’s REESA FIT program would create 300,000 more job-years while bringing over $50 billion in additional private investment and billions of additional tax revenue to the State of California.

Not only would the FIT create more jobs, those job opportunities would start to appear quickly, instead of waiting years for the jobs to come.  The FIT would spur projects that can be built in months and don’t need to wait for new transmission lines or lengthy environmental permitting.

Get FIT for Clean Energy Jobs

Post-Nov. 2, clean energy supporters around the country are asking, “what now?”  The clear answer is, “Go to the states,” and the best bang for your buck is likely to be in California.  Thankfully, the new Governor already knows what clean energy policies will be win-win on climate change and the economy.  Let’s make sure we all know how to Get FIT for our future.

Ted Ko is Associate Executive Director of the FIT Coalition (www.fitcoalition.com).  The FIT Coalition is a leading force in replicating Feed-In Tariffs and other global renewable energy best practices throughout the United States.

Image courtesy of Wayne National Forest.

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