Proposition 7, which will appear on the ballot this November, promotes the use of renewable energy throughout the state. Opponents, however, fear it will increase consumers’ electrical bills.
The proposition requires California utilities to obtain 50 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2025. Its first goal is for California to generate 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources by the year 2010. The prop then ups the ante slowly, until the state hits 50 percent by 2025.
The proposition plans to replace fossil fuels with solar, geo-thermal, wind, biomass and small hydro energy sources.
Tam Hunt, director of the Community Environmental Council’s Energy Program, believes Prop 7 will create a cleaner and more maintainable energy standard for our state.
“We have endorsed Prop 7 as a good policy,” Hunt said. “It will very likely help us move significantly toward a sustainable future.”
Prop 7 has garnered opposition from groups who fear that the proposition, if passed, would prove to be costly and would fail to produce significant results. According to the opposition, the proposition will cost consumers $300 a year if passed.
Additionally, there is concern that the proposition would disrupt current progress on renewable power development and create a market that would be susceptible to price manipulation. Groups such as the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters and the Santa Barbara Taxpayers Association are among those that oppose the proposition.
“Opponents of Prop 7, who strongly support increasing alternative energy production in California, believe the initiative is so flawed it will result in less, not more, renewable power,” a press release from “No on Prop 7” reads, “Economists and consumer advocates warn the initiative will significantly increase electric bills.”
Although Hunt said he feels the proposition is a good policy, he admitted that the goals set by the proposition might be unrealistic for the allotted time.
“Under Prop 7, my professional judgment is that we are likely to actually achieve 30 to 35 percent renewable energy by 2020.” Hunt said. “I’ll be pleasantly surprised if we actually achieve the 40 percent by 2020 that is required.”
In order to ensure that California utilities adjust their policies to meet these goals, the proposition includes fines and penalties for utilities that fail to follow the requirements mandated by Prop 7.
According to David McHale, associate director of the UCSB Utility and Energy Services, these uncapped penalties would motivate the state’s utilities to adhere to the goals of the proposition.
“These fines would not be allowed to be passed on to the rate-payers,” McHale said, referring to ordinary consumers. “So there is definitely an incentive for the utilities to meet the requirements.”
Supporters of Prop 7 argue that while the proposition will probably lead to a slight increase in rates — namely, about 5 to 10 percent — over the next few years, it will ultimately lower the demand for gas and coal power, and consumer rates will go down over time.
In their recommendations for voting on the propositions, the League of Women Voters, California said that Prop 7 is not the most effective way to promote renewable energy.
“Passage of Proposition 7, with its confusing and sometimes contradictory provisions, would certainly upset this effort to expand the deployment of renewable resources in the state,” a press release from LWV said.
Should the proposition pass, the bill could only be changed with a two-thirds vote from the state legislature or another ballot measure.
–Taylor Haggerty contributed to this article