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Oh the Confusion! Understanding CA Ballot Initiatives…

Summer is ending, fall is approaching and that means the election season is in full swing. Chances are good that you know the Congressional and Presidential candidates you’re going to vote for. And since you’re reading this blog, chances are even better that renewable energy is a top priority for you. Well, for those voters in California who believe renewables are important, you’re in luck. This November you have the option of voting on two major ballot initiatives that address renewable electricity and next-generation vehicles. But don’t get too excited yet – there are a lot of contradictory claims about these ballot initiatives that you should sort through before casting your ballot on November 4th. Let’s take a brief look at each of the initiatives: The first – Proposition 7 – is an amendment to California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that will require utilities to procure 50% of their electricity from renewables by 2025. This sounds like a wonderful law on the surface. Who wouldn’t want to set targets like that? Theoretically, it would create a robust renewable energy market for big and small players alike. But many renewable energy trade groups and environmental advocacy organizations are saying it will do the exact opposite. There’s a big debate over how the drafters have defined eligible renewable energy systems. According to opponents, the proposed law would exclude systems under 30 MW from the RPS. Indeed, in the document, “solar and clean energy plant” is defined as “any electrical generating facility…with a generating capacity of 30 megawatts or more.” That term (solar and clean energy plant) is used throughout the entire ballot initiative, which could lead one to believe that systems under 30 MW will not qualify. Proponents say it was not their intention to disqualify any size system or any technology. In fact, they fervently deny that the law could be interpreted as such. But opponents say it’s not about intention, it’s about clarity of language. And if the language is not clear enough, it could create a complex legal environment for producers of renewable energy who want their electricity to qualify for the RPS. It’s impossible to say who’s right and who’s wrong. But one thing is for sure: There are many different – often contradictory – interpretations of the proposed law. Given that, it’s uncertain how a court would interpret the law if it passes. Industry representatives like to point out that there’s already enough uncertainty in the market to begin with…. The second ballot initiative is Proposition 10. Under this proposed law, California would issue $5 billion in bonds from its general fund to pay for incentives...

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