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Can Jerry Brown Make Good on His Clean Energy Plan?

History seems to say so. As governor in the mid-1970s, he helped lead California to become the first state to approve energy-efficiency standards for appliances, green building codes, and large-scale wind farms. When he entered office, California utilities had plans to build nuclear power plants along the coast. Instead, Brown worked with Art Rosenfeld to institute a policy regulating refrigerator efficiency that allowed California to save as much energy as a power plant would produce. Under his watch, the state approved Title 24, an energy-efficiency building code, and passed 55-percent tax credits for wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass energy.

Now, in his campaign for governor's office some 30 years later, Brown pledges to multiply California rooftop solar panels by 10. Kate Galbraith writes:

Brown can be proud of the changes he set in motion, but in today's California, his job will be harder. He'll need new approaches—and he seems to get that. His clean-energy plan [PDF] emphasizes "localized electricity generation"—read: rooftop solar—which doesn't face siting problems. The plan calls for more than 10 times as much of this small-scale generation as California has on its rooftops now, by 2020. That's not a cheap proposition, however.

To push through bigger projects, renewable energy advocates say Brown could help out by cutting through some of California's notorious red tape. "I think Jerry could make a difference [in] execution and planning," says White. "I think one of the problems in this area is there are so many agencies, so many jurisdictions, so many personalities, that things take longer than they should. They take longer than any other state." Brown has already called for "dramatically reduced" permitting times for transmission lines.


Brown certainly faces new challenges in today's California, which, while ahead of the country in terms of energy efficiency, even lags behind Iowa in wind-power production. He has a pretty decent track record in making progress out of promises, but it remains to be seen whether he can recreate it three decades later. With an estimated 500,000 jobs to be gained over 10 years under the plan, here's to hoping.

Read the full post on Grist. Image via Grist.

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