Remarks by Bob Epstein for the Green California Summit; sponsored by the California League of Conservation Voters (December 6, 2010).
| ||Senator Alex Padilla and E2 Co-Founder Bob Epstein in conversation at the California League of Conservation Voters' Green Summit on December 6, 2010.|
As we meet today, there are three overriding themes in California’s environmental future:
- Congratulations on the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 23 – the “Dirty Energy Proposition” that would have suspended California’s clean energy laws.
- California is hurting economically and we all need to focus our efforts on improving the state’s operating efficiencies and improving the state’s economy.
- The U.S. and the world are watching to see if we can solve both our fiscal problems and advance a Clean Energy Economy – or will our opponents just say that in defeating proposition 23 the voters made a mistake?
This is not business as usual. The risks and the opportunities are unusually large.
Our opposition is looking for any sign of economic stress they can blame on our environmental policies – especially our climate policies. For example consider this sentence from George Gilder, published in the Wall Street Journal: “California's Destructive Green Jobs Lobby - Silicon Valley, once synonymous with productivity-enhancing innovation, is now looking to make money on feel-good government handouts.
On the other hand, as China clearly understands, the future will be a world designed around efficient use of energy and water; and energy supplies that are low-carbon. As obvious as this is, the opponents of this worldview have been effective at moving it into the category of “nice to think about after the Great Recession is over.”
Fighting Prop 23 taught me that a broad coalition, united in a common goal, will resoundingly succeed.
What would it look like to be successful, two years from now? Here’s the headline I’d like to see: “The Clean Energy Economy is Driving California’s Economic Recovery” - Cleaner air and a growing economy are in-fact compatible.
Here are problems that we’ll need to address so we can see that headline:
- It is too hard to do business in California and in many cases the slow approval process adds costs but little public value.
- Environmental organizations are good at stopping stuff but generally unaccustomed to helping business advance.
We will be in worse shape in two years if all we do is stop “bad stuff” and “good stuff” still takes as long.
Here are some positive signs that environmental and business interests are working together more:
- SB 375 – Senator Steinberg’s smart growth bill, passed two years ago, gives in-fill developers some protections if they follow the master plan. Developers and local governments came together to support this bill, along with environmental groups.
- Environmental organizations are moving out of their comfort zones to help make clean energy happen in California. NRDC, the Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club have worked hard to identify appropriate locations for clean energy projects - a welcome shift that deserves recognition.
Yet there continue to be examples of costly delays. For example, Southern California Edison recently issued contracts for 113 megawatts of distributed solar (i.e. equivalent of power needed for 50,000 homes). The 9 projects will be placed on non-sensitive, previously disturbed land. The economic value is $400 million. The cost of the power is competitive with natural gas. The benefits include construction jobs, cleaner air and cheaper electricity as it can displace a summer “peaker plant” and its corresponding high emissions. The time to construct is 3 to 5 months, but expected completion is two years or more away! Why? A combination of (1) regulatory processes (2) staffing cuts at agencies doing the permitting, and (3) delays caused by state and Federal environmental regulations.
By the way, there is currently a 10 Gigawatt/year oversupply of panels. In addition, the Federal tax benefits expire in 2016. Now is the time to grab market share.
Can we move faster without risking public health and safety? If the answer is no, why should I do business in California?
Here are my observations for cleaner air/water, economic growth and jobs:
- Focus on existing products and services that can be deployed today.
- It is all about getting more private capital deployed in California.
- Bias towards broad-based deployment that reaches into every community.
- Design policies that start with bi-partisan appeal.
There are many opportunities that can benefit clean air, clean energy and economic growth. Example categories include:
- Commercial energy retrofits
- Residential energy retrofits
- Distributed generation
- Utility scale renewable
- Water efficiency & recycling
- On-farm energy generation
- Low carbon fuels
As Californians committed to cleaner air and a stronger economy, we have limited time to take our Proposition 23 momentum, our Cleantech leadership, and a large amount of available private capital and turn them into a job-producing, air-cleaning, kick-butt economic engine that will put California in the leadership position we need to achieve economic recovery.
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