Posts Tagged ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’

I wrote this story for Grist, where it first appeared.

Every day seems to be green day for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as his term terminates and he works to cement his environmental legacy

On Wednesday, the governator started his morning in the Mojave Desert at the official groundbreaking for BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah 370-megawatt solar power plant, the first large-scale solar thermal farm to be built in the United States in two decades.

By the afternoon, Schwarzenegger had materialized in Silicon Valley. He joined Avatar director James Cameron for a live webcast from tech company Applied Materials to unveil a new online commercial opposing Proposition 23, the ballot measure that would suspend California’s landmark global warming law. The governor considers the climate change law, known as AB 32, to be one of his crowning achievements in office.

Backed by two Texas oil companies, Prop 23 would effectively kill the global warming law — which requires California to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — by suspending it until the state unemployment rate falls to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. (Something as likely to happen anytime soon as Schwarzenegger giving up his trademark cigars.)

“The people who tried to take out AB 32 through Proposition 23 are the people who are really the biggest polluters of our state, Texan oil companies,” said Schwarzenegger, sharing the stage with Cameron, who directed him in the Terminator movies and True Lies, and Tom Steyer, the founder of a $20 billion San Francisco hedge fund and the chair of the No on 23 campaign.

(Before the webcast began, an open microphone caught Schwarzenegger chatting with Cameron and Steyer. Alas, no racy reminiscences of the Terminator’s Hollywood days — just the governor enthusing over the BrightSource Energy project.)

The ad opens with a wide shot of Cameron sitting in an office surrounded by movie mementos.

“I’ve made movies about a cyborg assassin sent to annihilate humanity, an unsinkable ship on a collision course with an iceberg, and about a mineral-rich alien moon facing environmental destruction,” says the director, who has donated $1 million to the No on 23 campaign. “Those are movies. But we face a real threat right now in California. Two oil companies from Texas are pushing Prop 23. This deceptive ballot measure would be the ultimate real-life disaster, terminating our air pollution standards, sinking our clean energy economy and exploiting our environment for profit.”

“We can do something as people who care about the future of California,” Cameron continues. “We can say no on Prop 23, to stop the dirty energy proposition. Tell your friends and family, cyborgs, and avatars, to vote no on 23 before it’s too late. ”

The camera pans to Schwarzenegger, holding up a robotic arm, saying, “Why do you keeping calling me a cyborg?”

With less than a week to go until Election Day, the “no” forces appear to be on a roll, holding a three-to-one advantage over the “yes” campaign in fundraising and with polls showing Prop 23 losing by a wide margin.

But with a Los Angeles Times/USC poll this week showing 15 percent of likely voters undecided, the Terminator apparently is determined not to stop. Ever.

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nextlight renewable power agua caliente

That was quick: Just days after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have limited utilities’ ability to buy out-of-state renewable energy, utility PG&E on Thursday asked regulators to approve a deal with an Arizona solar farm to supply 290 megawatts of electricity. As I write in The New York Times on Friday:

Pacific Gas & Electric, the big California utility, asked regulators on Thursday to approve the purchase of electricity from an Arizona solar power plant, only days after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have limited utilities’ ability to tap out-of-state projects to meet renewable energy mandates.

NextLight Renewable Power will construct the 290-megawatt Aqua Caliente photovoltaic farm on private land in Yuma County, Ariz. The company, based in San Francisco, signed a deal with P.G.&E. in June to supply 230 megawatts from a solar power plant to be built outside of Los Angeles.

The legislation vetoed by Mr. Schwarzenegger on Sunday would have required California utilities to obtain 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, mostly from in-state projects.

Environmental groups and unions supported that provision as a way to limit the need to build new transmission lines and to keep construction jobs in California. But the governor said it would hamstring utilities from complying with the 33 percent target, which he supports.

According to the filing the utility made Thursday, Arizona regulators have already approved the project and NextLight expects to obtain county building permits within a few months. In contrast, the licensing of a solar power plant in California can take years. The Agua Caliente project is also located near existing transmission lines that connect to California’s power grid.

You can read the rest of the story here.

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photo: California Governor’s Office

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday terminated talk that the recession will crimp California’s fight against global warming when he ordered every utility in the state to obtain a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. And in a move that will shake up the land rush to build solar power plants in the desert, Schwarzenegger signed an executive order to streamline and prioritize the licensing of such projects.

“One of the great things about California, of course, is that we always push the envelope,” said Schwarzenegger at startup OptiSolar’s solar cell factory in Sacramento, surrounded by a triptych of solar panels, utility executives and environmentalists. “That is why today I’m proposing that we set our sights even higher. This will be the most aggressive target in the nation.”

California currently requires the state’s Big Three investor-owned utilities – PG&E (PCG), Southern California Edison (EIX) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SRE) – to secure 20% of their electricity from green energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal by 2010. Monday’s move turns what had been a 33% renewables goal into a mandate and extends responsibility for meeting it to every electricity retailer in California.

Utilities, however, have struggled to reach even the 20% target as renewable energy projects become bogged down in California’s extensive environmental review and licensing process that involves a host of state and federal agencies.

Many proposed massive megawatt solar power plants will be built on environmentally sensitive land in the Mojave and Colorado deserts in California, threatening to trigger years-long battles over endangered species and water.

Take, for instance, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, 400-megawatt solar thermal power plant  to be built by Bay Area startup BrightSource Energy on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property. BrightSource, which has a 20-year contract to sell the power plant’s electricity to PG&E, is dealing with the California Energy Commission, the California Department of Fish and Game, the BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the agencies that control access to the transmission grid.

Then there’s environmental fights over extending power lines to connect such projects to coastal metropolises. Late last month, state regulators rejected San Diego Gas & Electric’s plan to build $1.3 billion transmission line called the Sunrise Powerlink due to the environmental impact of routing it through sensitive desert lands.  A final decision on the project to bring green energy from the Imperial Valley to coastal metropolises will be made next month.

Schwarzenegger’s executive order requires various state agencies to collaborate to create a one-stop shopping permit process to cut in half the time it takes to license a renewable energy project – which now can be a two-year slog. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and BLM also agreed to participate in a Renewable Energy Action Team to expedite the licensing of solar power plants and other green energy projects.

“We will streamline the permitting process and the siting of new plants and transmission lines,” Schwarzenegger said. “We will complete the environmental work up front, dramatically reducing the time and the uncertainty normally associated with any of those projects.”

By March 1, the action team will identify and prioritize those areas of the desert that should be developed first for renewable energy projects based on environmental impacts and access to transmission. The group will also work with another task force that is identifying where power lines should be extended into the desert.

That will affect the fortunes of dozens of solar startups, financiers and speculators — everyone from Goldman Sachs (GS) to Chevron (CVX) — that have filed lease claims on nearly a million areas of desert land that the BLM is opening up for solar power plants. Those with land claims in areas at the top of the list for renewable energy development will find it easier to obtain financing – currently in short supply – to build billion-dollar projects. Those at the bottom of the list may rue the six-figure application fees they paid to stake claims on thousands of acres of desert land.

Behind the optimistic talk and smiles at Monday’s press conference, utility execs and environmentalists who praised the governor’s latest green initiative also signaled that political fights over how to achieve the state’ ambitious renewable energy goals are not over.

“Transmission is absolutely critical to get those renewables from the Imperial Valley,” San Diego Gas & Electric CEO Deborah Reed told the audience. “Assuming a positive decision on Sunrise Powerlink next month, we’ll get to 33% by 2020.”

But when the Nature Conservancy’s Rebecca Shaw took the microphone, she offered a cautionary note. “In our urgency to create a more sustainable future, we must be careful not to destroy the very environment that we are trying to protect,” said Shaw, associate state director for the environmental group.

California’s aggressive renewable energy policies already have had one desired consequence: spurring the creation of green collar jobs. OptiSolar, which earlier this year signed a long-term contract to supply PG&E with 550 megawatts of electricity from a massive photovoltaic solar farm, employs 500 people at its Bay Area headquarters and factory. CEO Randy Goldstein said his company will hire another 1,000 for its new Sacramento factory.

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SAN DIEGO – California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a surprise appearance at the solar industry’s annual confab Monday night, warning not to use the financial crisis as an excuse to abandon the fight against global warming.

“We should not give in to those who say environmental goals should take a back seat until the economy improves,” said Schwarzenegger, kicking off the Solar Power International conference. “That’s short-sighted thinking. Tough economic times mean we need more solar, more green jobs.”

The governator’s championing of solar energy through California’s million solar roofs initiative and its landmark global warming law has made Schwarzenegger something of a patron saint of the solar industry, and the audience was on its feet cheering the perma-tanned politician.

The solar power conference is a barometer of the industry’s growth. When Schwarzenegger last appeared at the conference in 2006, 6,000 attendees crammed the San Jose Convention center. This week an estimated 20,000 people have descended upon San Diego for the event. (For techies, think of it as the Consumer Electronics Show and Macworld rolled into one.)

The crowd was in a festive mood. Solar stocks were up dramatically Monday with the bounce back on Wall Street – First Solar (FSLR) spiked nearly 23% and Suntech (STP) rose 21% as was SunPower (SPWRA). And ten days ago Congress slipped into the financial bailout package an eight-year extension of a crucial 30% solar investment tax credit, lifted a $2,000 tax credit limit for homeowners who install solar arrays and allowed utilities to claim the investment tax credit for solar installations. “Imagine it took a financial rescue plan to get a tax credit for solar,” Schwarzenegger remarked.

The Republican governor used the occasion to champion California, as he is his wont, giving kudos to Southern California Edison (EIX) for the utility’s plans to install 250-megawatts’ worth of solar panels on warehouse roofs. “I can envision going up in a helicopter and up and down California and see no more warehouses without solar panels.”

“Solar is the future, it cannot be stopped,” he added.

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