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Brown signs renewable-source electricity bill, promises more jobs

Gov. Jerry Brown signed far-reaching energy legislation Tuesday that will require California utilities to obtain up to a third of their electricity from wind, solar and other green sources.

Speaking at the dedication ceremonies of a new solar panel factory in Milpitas, Brown said the new renewable portfolio standard law will turn California into a leader in clean energy while reducing its dependence on fossil fuels.

"This bill will bring many important benefits to California, including stimulating investment in green technologies in the state, creating tens of thousands of new jobs, improving local air quality, promoting energy independence and reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Brown said in his signing message.

Utilities such as the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, PG&E Corp. and Southern California Edison already must get 20 percent of their electricity from green sources. The new law, SB2X, raises the renewable requirement to 33 percent by the year 2020.

Tuesday's bill signing was held at a solar plant built by SunPower Corp. of San Jose and Flextronics of Singapore. The facility will create about 100 jobs.

Flanked by banners that read "Bringing Jobs and Manufacturing back to California," Brown said the new law builds on California's history of innovation.

"California is a place of innovation, of creativity, of the unexpected," he said. Brown was joined by U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who announced a $1.2 billion conditional loan guarantee for a new SunPower solar project in San Luis Obispo County.

The new project is expected to create 350 new jobs and generate enough electricity to power 100,000 homes, Chu said.

Clean tech advocates say the legislation has already triggered a boom in large scale solar and wind projects around the state.

Arno Harris, CEO of San Francisco solar power developer Recurrent Energy, said his company has about $1.5 billion in solar projects in the process of starting construction.

Most of that work, he said, is due to the new renewable energy law.

Manufacturers and other opponents of the measure say the new mandate will increase electricity rates and drive up the cost of doing business in California.

In a Tuesday Twitter post, Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said, "It must be Texas Gov. Perry's birthday, because Jerry just signed over the biggest gift to Texas since he took office."

Electric utilities generally supported the law but most said they expect costs to go up as a result.

Roseville Electric said it expects customer rates to increase by 15 percent by the year 2020.

SMUD said it hasn't estimated the law's long-term rate impact. But over the next year, the company said its costs could rise by up to $50 million, resulting in a one-year, 4 percent surcharge to customers.

SMUD gets about 23 percent of its electricity from renewable sources – more than the current 20 percent requirement.

The new law would not give the utility credit for that extra 3 percent, said Jim Shetler, SMUD's assistant general manager of energy supply. He said SMUD is working with the measure's author, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, to resolve the issue.

(read online version)

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