Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez

New legislation, committees bode well for clean energy in Calif.

It may not be widely visible, but the clean-energy movement in California is starting to percolate.

A new law that sets a 33% renewable-energy standard by 2020 is the biggie, but other efforts are under way too. Here are a few examples:

  • There's a new Clean California campaign that aims to seeks to create more local renewable-energy projects and improve access to the grid;

  • A new bill that provides money for green-education academies;

  • Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez of Coachella has been appointed to lead a new committee that will focus on a renewable-energy economy in rural California;

  • And progress of Perez-authored legislation that speeds siting of clean-energy projects and extends an incentive program for new technologies.

    The Clean California campaign, announced this week, is headed by a broad coalition of businesses and organizations that believes renewable energy can become a significant industry in the Golden State. The program calls for implementing polices that simplify and accelerate the process, and bring in investment.

    “CLEAN Programs result in new clean energy projects on the ground right now,” said Terry Tamminen, former Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency and Special Advisor to former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “CLEAN projects are integrated into existing buildings and disturbed lands in our communities, without delays for new transmission lines or major environmental reviews."

    Perez says green energy can be an economic game changer in rural areas such as Imperial County and the San Joaquin Valley. "It is clear that renewable energy will play a significant role in the state's economic recovery," the assemblyman said. "Yet, rural communities face unique challenges related to infrastructure, workforce, and capacity that may impede their ability to aggressively pursue renewable-energy opportunities."

    Perez is in the process of selecting Assembly colleagues for the new committee, which he says will recommend policy for rural regions. Meanwhile, Gov. Brown has signed a bill by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg that redirects $8 million from a California Energy Commission special fund to finance green jobs programs for high school students.

    It remains to be seen how all this shakes out, but it is easy to be excited about the prospects of a new industry in California - one that could be rooted in large part in the San Joaquin Valley.

    There are few places in the state more suited for green energy. The west side of the Valley has thousands of acres of former farmland ideally situated for solar and biofuel projects. The Sierra Club supports the installation of solar there because the region does not have the desert tortoise and habitat issues of the Mojave Desert, where at least 11 large-scale solar projects are proposed.

    In addition, the west side of the Valley is more accessible to the power grid, and is close to major population centers that consume gobs of electricity. The San Joaquin Valley has the potential to be to clean energy what Silicon Valley is to high technology.