While the eyes of renewable energy advocates were glued to the results of the presidential election Tuesday night (see Analysts Call Obama Election a Win for Greentech), a handful of renewable energy-related state ballot measures also received their share of attention from voters.
In California, two propositions that backers said would boost alternative energy – but which faced strong opposition from environmental and business groups that said they would do just the opposite – were voted down.
California's Proposition 7 called for a big increase in the state's renewable portfolio standard, which requires utilities to get a portion of their power from renewable-energy sources.
The state now calls for all investor-owned utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewables by 2010. Proposition 7 would have pushed both investor-owned and municipally-owned utilities to get half of their power from renewables by 2025, and would have made other changes in the way the state manages that standard.
But while its proponents said Proposition 7 would be a boon to the renewable-energy industry, opponents ranging from California's major utilities to The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the state's Republican, Democratic and Green parties said the measure would actually hurt the growth of renewables in the state.
Among the proposition's flaws was language that would have linked the price utilities pay for renewable power to the price of natural-gas fired power in the state, said Adam Browning, executive director of the Vote Solar Initiative nonprofit group in San Francisco. That could have both discouraged the development of costlier forms of renewable power and the proper pricing of less-costly renewable power, he said.
California's Proposition 10, which called for the state to raise $5 billion in bonds to fund rebates for the purchase and retrofitting of vehicles to run on alternative fuels including natural gas, also went down to defeat.
Andrew J. Littlefair, CEO of Clean Energy Fuels, said in a statement Wednesday that, "while Prop 10 may have served as a catalyst to accelerate our growth, its failure does not reduce our opportunities" to bring more natural gas-fueled vehicles and infrastructure to the state.
Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens was a chief supporter of the proposition and is a board member of target="_blank">Clean Energy Fuels Corp., the company which sells natural gas as transportation fuel and spent more than $17 million to promote the measure.
But opponents, ranging from the California Chamber of Commerce and the conservative Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to the same environmental groups that opposed Proposition 7, claimed that Proposition 10 would cost too much to provide an unclear public benefit. The San Francisco Chronicle editorialized that Pickens could personally benefit from public spending to put more natural gas-fueled vehicles on the market.
While those two California ballot measures were less than popular among groups that traditionally support renewable energy, Missouri's Proposition C, which called for a statewide renewable portfolio standard, found itself in a rare position of having no official opponents at all.
And with a lopsided victory Tuesday night, Proposition C made Missouri the 27th state to require its utilities to buy a set amount of power generated by renewable sources – in Missouri's case, at least 2 percent by 2011 and rising to 15 percent by 2021.
Browning, of Vote Solar, said the passage of Missouri's renewable portfolio standard – and its backing by major utility Kansas City Power and Light – shows that voters and utilities are starting to see such standards as good for the economy as well as the environment.
He pointed out that Xcel Energy, a major midwestern utility, funded a drive to defeat a Colorado ballot initiative in 2004 that would have increased the state's renewable portfolio standard.
But since 2007, when the Colorado legislature doubled the state's renewable portfolio standard from 10 percent to 20 percent by 2020, Xcel has become supportive of solar and wind. The utility "is now one of the more progressive utilities in the country," he said.
Still, while Colorado may have pushed forward with its renewable portfolio standard, state voters on Tuesday appeared to have rejected another renewable energy-friendly ballot measure.
Amendment 58 sought to raise about $320 million a year by doing away with a tax break for oil and gas companies and directing 10 percent of the proceeds to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The measure, which was opposed by oil and gas companies and economists who said it would hurt the state's economy, was losing by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin with 86 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday morning.
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