It seems like every week there’s another photo op for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signing a new solar power bill, preparing to plunge a shovel into the earth at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new PV plant or standing on a rooftop, surveying a new solar array.
This week was no exception. On Sunday night, the Governator signed two new solar bills into law.
But all the emphasis on this one person can leave the impression that California’s commitment to solar power and Schwarzenegger’s star power are one and the same. Fortunately, it’s a misimpression.
Take the two bills that the Governor signed this week. The first, SB-32, provides a new “feed-in-tariff” so that utilties must pay a higher rate when buying excess electricity produced by medium-sized solar generators and fed back into the grid.
Schwarzenegger signed the bill, but first it had to be introduced into the state Senate by Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino), a first term legislator representing the state’s 32nd District. From 2000 to 2006 McLeod served in the State Assembly (62nd District).
The second, and related, solar bill signed this week mandates net-metering. The California Solar Surplus Act (AB-920) requires utilities to pay customers for any electricity generated by rooftop systems and not used by the custome.
That bill was written by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-Marin), elected to the Assembly last November by voters in the state’s 6th District. Before the election, Huffman had been a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The governor will be leaving office in January, and supporters of solar power will be looking for someone who will not be content simply to equal Schwarzenegger’s record on renewable energy and climate change. While that’s important, green voters will have to keep an eye on politicians at all levels of government if California is to remain a leader in these vital areas.
(A pdf packet of the bills with bio-notes on both McLeod and Huffman can be downloaded here.)
Osha Gray Davidson is a contributing blogger at Mother Jones and publisher of The Phoenix Sun, an online news service reporting on solar energy. You can follow his tweets @thephoenixsun.