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tv   Equal Time  PBS  July 28, 2012 2:00pm-2:30pm PDT

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of their energy sources come from renewable supply by the year 2020. >> california will be much stronger in terms of the portfolio of energy sources that it has. >> the renewable portfolio standard. is it realistic or a pipe dream? from san jose state university, you're watching equal time, exploring new issues each week, giving equal time to competing points of view. . hello, from the campus of san jose state university. and welcome to this edition of equal time. i'm your host journalism school director bob rucker. the california government mandate for so-called clean tac energy is approaching. the first phase of the renewable portfolio standard, or rps, is less than 23 months away.
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we begin our coverage by showing what the rps program is all about. >> these are one of the renewable energy options that a new government program is encouraging. >> the ultimate pass was considered the largest farm in the world at some point, due to the fact that the property holds close to 5000 wind turbines. now, other forms of green energy are lining up, along with wind power, fueled by the government's renewable portfolio standard, also known as rps. a state mandate requiring 33% of energy of california's utility companies to be from clean energy sources by 2020. >> for californians in general, what this is going to mean is that california will be much stronger in terms of the portfolio of energy sources that it has, as well as it will actually create substantial economic opportunity by
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strengthening clean energy industries in the state. >> reporter: the executive director of bay area climate cooperative, a group of businesses and civic leaders organized by the mayors of san francisco, oakland, and san jose. the climate cooperative is getting the word out to the bay area communities about the importance of clean energy and public policy. >> our rps will actually allow us to scale up clean energy in a way that is not unlike what other countries are already doing. so there's a real leadership question here. so china, for example, is looking at investing upwards of $500 billion over the next 10 years and there's a real question, you know, is the u.s. that is such an innovator in the state, going to continue to lead or do we want to see those industries in other countries? >> we're going to double the size of our company this year. >> reporter: ceo of clean solar in san jose. >> these are really popular because they have a black
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backing to them, black frame, so they have this all-black look. when they are installed on a roof, looks like a big black frame up there. >> the rps standard and the rules and regulations set around that, coupled with our business motivations and our customers' motivations really make for a thriving solar economy in california. >> reporter: rps programs exist in almost 40 states and similar policies are in progress in other countries. california's program adopted in 2002 is seen as one of the most ambitious. >> you need at the beginning, you need that push, because essentially you're competing against oil companies and natural gas companies and coal companies that have been around forever that have established business models with all kinds of money behind it. and the truth from a business perspective is, if you've got money, that's the key thing in the business. and people who have money can keep others out of it. >> reporter: california's rps
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stipulates all electric companies must sell 20% green energy by the end of 2013. 25% by the end of 2016, with the full 33% requirement at the end of the decade. >> the key, though, is, and the thing that i worry about, about the solar industry or just renewable industry in general is that we lean too heavily on those subsidies, tax credits, or with the rps that we, we don't try to make a good business economic model out of it. the key is, you have to do that long-term. how do californians feel about other types of renewable sources they can incorporate into their daily lives? >> i'm saving over $5000, almost $6000 a year. >> that's just one aspect we'll explore, when equal time returns.
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. welcome back to equal time. some energy sources cause little harm to the environment when used on their own and taken off the grid. here's why some businesses and residents are basking in the golden state's renewable energy offering. >> nice to have it so hidden
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away, so you can't even see it from the curb. >> reporter: this man is proud of his san jose home. >> mounted on the south-facing wall -- >> reporter: the crown and glory is mounted high, atop his roof, three solar panels. >> we save about, anywhere from 800 to $1000 a year on this $9700 investment. that's been happening since 2009. and, you know, we are actually seeing the benefits and so, you know, the numbers have to work out for anything to be sustainable. i think in this case, numbers do work out. >> reporter: while he's thrilled with the savings, he is proud that his small investment provided jobs. >> it took two people two full days to do it. and these were not made in china. they were, i mean, they are not -- this was not installed in china. it was installed in san jose, created two san jose jobs for two days. so if everybody -- that's a big
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deal. that's just a 2000-watt panel. bigger panels would have more, of course more impact. >> reporter: back in livermore, where we started out-- >> i don't understand why anybody wouldn't do this, do these programs if they have such an input on a house that doesn't cost you any upfront money. >> reporter: this is dennis rooney's nearly 300-acre ranch. on it, he's banking big bucks since he installed three solar panels. >> i think it's a great way to go. my case, it was a little bit of money upfront, but that money could never draw the kind of money that i'm getting from the savings. i'm saving over $5000, almost $6000 a year, and, you know, you have to have a lot of money in the bank to draw that kind of interest. well, i think it should be some sort of a policy indicating that renewable energy should be the way to go and there should be
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some incentive like there was when i put mine in. i got a $17,000 credit. and that made the difference. when we come back, we'll sit down with a panel of experts and drill down on the subject, when equal time continues.
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. welcome back to this edition of equal time. our focus today is on renewable energy. let's meet our guests. >> i'm sally lieber, assembly woman from silicon valley. >> i'm ann smart, director of energy at the silicon valley leadership group. >> al winerobe, coordinator of the bay area local clean energy alliance. >> kelly daisy, manager of government relations and new market development at full focus. >> vanessa zuniga, san jose student reporter and researcher of the story. we thank all of you for being with us here today. when people out there hear renewable energy, they are thinking smart idea, what's the big deal? the big deal is sometimes we don't know if lawmakers get it, don't know if companies and businesses understand it. how would you describe to the public that they understand why this is an important issue? >> it's absolutely critical for our society. we know that global warming is already here. we're feeling the impacts already. and it's going to increase.
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and it's going to have a profound impact on political stability, on our national security, and so the renewable portfolio standard, saying about a third of our energy should come from renewables is just a very modest, common sense step to take. that makes sense to most of us hearing it. what are your thoughts? >> it's really an underestimation. it's really a crucial, necessary move that we need to make. we're not talking about 33% renewables. we're talking about 100% renewables. right now, we're on a, i would say a fossil fuel death march for society. and if we can't address that, we're just not going to be around very much. the whole question of climate crisis and the economic crisis are hand in hand. we have to work out another arrangement for living and being able to get energy that is totally renewable, totally sustainable and totally serves
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our community's needs. ann, i think, again, we're hearing very reasonable commentary here, but some people might be wondering, does the business community get? most importantly, what help are they needing? >> we're looking for a reliable and diversified source of energy. renewable energy is a clean alternative, but it also provides a distributed source of generation. if you have a giant office building or campus here in silicon valley, you can put solar panels on the roof, and provide a new source of electricity that you get money back for using and it's green. and honestly, from a business perspective, your customers are asking you to improve your sustainability, to be more grievant so it makes business sense to project itself in that way. >> your customers are heard and you get money back. sounds good, doesn't it? >> that does sound good. and i can speak from the other side of the business community. focus as a technology company here in san jose and without the
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renewable portfolio standard and other programs such as california solar initiative, those have been the programs that have set the stage for the marketplace for our next generation or advanced renewable technology to come in and be commercialized. i can give a really good example in the public sector. we have both public and private customers, and the first commercialized cpv, our company technology, was at victor valley college in victorville, california. it was the california solar initiative and net metering policies that really enabled that project to take place. and the college has saved quite a bit of money off of their operating expenses yearly just from the savings on their energy bills. very good. in a moment, i'll ask vanessa to share more of the research from her effort. i think some of the public out there may wonder, sally, what's taken us so long? really, as a nation, as a state, as a community, is this something we should have been looking at 10, 15, 20 years ago, instead of waiting till the 21st
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century? >> absolutely. we've literally waited until the crisis is here. and as was mentioned, this was a very small step actually towards a much larger need and a much larger business opportunity. and california is leading the way in a certain sense, even though we're making very modest steps, and i think a big question for us is how will it simulate action at the federal level? we need to have a federal energy policy that supports renewables, that supports efficient technologies, the availability of energy for industry. we only have to look back a few years at the energy crisis to look at what happened to our silicon valley businesses when the electricity went off and it ruined chip manufacturing that was going on, for example. >> i remember that. >> so we have to look at can california be even more of a leader in pushing the federal government towards where we need
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to be? it's a critical need for the future. i just wonder, and i'm sure vanessa's got thoughts to share, are we in a financial state to do some of the things we're dreaming and hoping to do? vanessa, in your research, what did you find about that? >> basically, i'll be echoing what they said right now. it all kind of fits under the same umbrella. people that are for the renewable energy in california, particularly with rps programs, find that this type of way forward brings about sustainability, which is something that is very important for all generations, and also, too, it also provides a new set of type of jobs in california. we know that california is very much a world leader when it comes to different types of segments globally, generally. so it will bring that type of stuff forward. and also, too, renewable energy
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-- to not provide very much waste. it's very limited on that kind of end, as opposed to fossil fuels that are quote, unquote, dirty. so that's a research that's come about and, you know, echoing what they said as well. you mentioned the key word "sustainability." there are many people in the audience that don't understand what that means. can you help us understand that term? >> sure. it can mean different things for different people in different companies. from a business perspective, where it's looking at how we can sustain both growth and market development for that company. but also how we can make greener decisions, whether that's saving energy or water or just having a more efficient business model. for a business, you're looking at an entire change. like kelly's company makes the technology, but they have to look at their display chain from beginning to end and figure out how can we save energy from transferring the different materials, how can we look forward to deploying solar that reduces water usage, look at a way that has the minimum carbon
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footprint, minimum amount of environmental impact as possible? >> maybe i could sort of -- when we're talking about sustainability, we're largely talking about the sustainability of our own communities, right. so when we're talking about a sustainable community, a community having an economy that benefit all the folks in those communities, when you're looking at that question, to say renewable energy is not sufficient, because there's different kinds of renewable energy. there's renewable energy and there's renewable energy. there's renewable energy, that big central station power plants out in the desert, basically being put out there by bp, chevron, morgan stanley, some contribution from google and they are capturing the solar energy, they are shipping across these transmission lines and then sort of, you know, pulling the resources to do that out of our communities as opposed to renewable energy that's right in our communities. we all have these renewable
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sources. i mean, everybody lives under the sun and other resources. so the whole question about sustainability has to do with the type of renewable energy that we're talking about. so if we're talking about locally-based, locally developed renewable energy that keeps the wealth in our community, that's one thing. if we're talking about renewable energy out in the desert that destroys an ecosystem, that's not sustainable, that pulls wealth out of our communities, that's not sustainable, and that reinforces the power of the 1% that are developing these things. that's not sustainable either. so when we talk about sustainability, we're actually talking about what is the nature of the renewable energy we're talking about? >> he brings up a good point, sally. in terms of your perspective, how do we address both of those issues effectively for the public? >> well, absolutely. it's not just the renewables in locating them in the local communities where the power is used. we obviously have a need for the future to have a smart grid and have better storage of energy.
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but it's also what can we do to make sure that the buildings that are already part of our environment are as efficient as possible. our greatest energy savings is not going to come from new construction. it's going to come from existing buildings. and there is -- this could really be our economic marshall plan, to reinvigorate our economy. if we had gotten the federal energy bill, we would not be on the economic slump that we're in right now, because we would have simulated a lot of change throughout our country, including in economically deprived areas. so we've got to look at those things being a part of the mix. how do we retrofit existing buildings? and how do we open up those jobs to people that need employment? >> those are certainly things people want to have addressed. even on our campus, we have
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buildings, some tremendous teaching abilities here and opportunities, but we have older buildings. they need to be retrofitted and they cost money and that's very challenging for us to do. what are your thoughts? >> i think, i think you bring up an excellent point. it's finding the right technology for the right application. it's not going to be one single shot. we don't have one arrow in our quiver. we're very fortunate in california that we have an amazing technology sector and this is where, you know, the hub of innovation for our nation. i'm sure that boston and some of the other places will argue that, but i'm a firm believer and i believe as well that california and silicon valley, the technology solutions are coming out. and there is a variety. we're in a very exciting time right now, in that our companies, our technology companies here in silicon valley are sinking cradle to grave. so there are technology solutions that are coming online, becoming commercialized that are available for the, at the community level, building
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level, all the way up to the utility level. it's really finding the right balance of that and enabling, enabling policies that will help to enable that take place. there still may be people out there wondering, why is this important? with all the different things that we have to deal with, all the different unemployment concerns, all the different things, lawmakers, private business, organizations, why should we care about this? >> we the people need to survive, right? they need food, they need water, and guess what, energy, right? these three pieces are crucial pieces to any kind of a sustainable community. and that energy piece, instead of it being something that's been sustaining our community, has been a piece that's actually been drawing wealth out of our community. it's being done in a way that basically has reinforced, you know, the power of the power lead in our company, in contrast to the needs of our community. so in addition to the technology things that kelly was talking
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about, it's largely a question of policy. with the policies of our state and our local government are going to be. so the renewable portfolio standard, for example, 33% renewable source by 2020, but like i said before, there's renewables in the renewables. what kind of policies would really help stimulate the development of installation and energy reduction in our communities? there are things like feed-in tariff policies. there's a need for a really comprehensive energy efficiency kind of program. there's a need for community choice energy, which is, can put energy procurement in the hands of our community. so there's a lot of policy, you know, that are needed, you know, that are needed in addition to the technological innovation that we're talking about. you were telling me before the show that one of the concerns that the public might have is how is this going to
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cost, or this affect the cost? what is going to be the impact from your research that you found that are the questions of the concerns of the public? >> well, first, i should start out saying it's very debatable. i'm going to play devil's advocate with everyone at the panel. but the ones that are coming more from the right side so to speak are saying the rps in particular and just renewable energy sources in general will bring up the costs of electricity in the state. therefore, driving businesses that are in california to look elsewhere to set up their business, or even possibly expand it somewhere else as opposed to expanding it here in the state of california. also, too, there's individuals saying that there's not enough -- it's not predictability saying renewable sources are driven off sun, for instance, your company, and also wind.
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and you can't always predict when the wind's going to hone in, you know, quite rapidly to bring about wind power. so they are saying it's impossible to predict that. and also, there's also individuals bringing up the fact that a local, on a local level, solyndra recently went under and the obama administration basically provided a 500 million-plus funding towards it and it was basically money thrown down the drain. and another issue that recently came up on march 15th, utc, who is the owner of a company that's located by santa barbara, by the name of clipper windpower, they basically have decided to get rid of this part of their business because they are saying that there's not enough you would say money that's going to come forth from that. so these are all things that are
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being brought about on the different side of it all. so with that being said, sally, i know that you, you've been in the state for quite sometime and you work on the policy side, like bob had said. what are your, your concerns about those type of things being brought up? >> well, i think it's an evolution of our, how we look at energy in our state. it's clear to me that in the future, we're going to look at every stationery object as the possibility for solar collection. if we think about park benches, the roofs of buildings, all those kinds of things, and it does take upfront investment. but what our businesses in california are going to thrive on is lower costs, abundant, reliable energy. and so it's something not everyone comes into state
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legislature understanding energy policy under term limits, most folks coming from local city council or board of supervisors, where they haven't dealt with that kind of policy infrastructure and perhaps those kinds of issues before. but it's something that we have to have a mosaic of a lot of different solutions to get to the end point. i wonder, kelly, if there's some concern out there in light of what the obama administration had to do and there has been certainly criticism that money was put into a company that's now bankrupt. as a manager, do you worry about that? >> of course we worry about that. and what i think, what -- was touched on is scalability and market conditions. and that's really what we need in order to provide low cost, competitive energy, is scalability. and right now, i think across the nation, we have renewables that account for a small fraction of the pie.
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and that's not scalable. so i think what the current administration was trying to do was to spur on that scalability, in order to have reliable, low cost energy, you have to be able to manufacture that at volume. so those are the types of programs that the government was trying to, trying to encourage. as a manager, i look at market. i look at market conditions and market forces. where are the markets most stable? where are the market signals most stable? renewable portfolio standards and california solar initiatives, those are clear market signals, that strengthen a market. so when i'm looking at a market, a new market to go into, i'm looking for those types of policies that are impacting the market that's going to allow me to bring my technology to that market. i'm looking for other, more sustainable signals, such as economic sustainability. is there, is there a feed-in tariff, or is there renewable portfolio standard?
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are there net metering practices, et cetera? and i think that's one of the reasons why the state of california has led, has led the nation in deploying more renewables, is because we have the strong policies that create the strong market signals that allow for i guess for the renewable energy deployments to flourish and get to a scalable way. >> just to be clear, california policies that are so touted haven't resulted in the development of renewable energy anywhere near like other places in the world. germany, for example, in the month of -- in one month, germany put in more solar power, right, than all of california has put in in its history. you have to look at, though, what's the orientation there. and when you're talking about costs, how do you evaluate costs and cost to whom for what, right? so if -- so they were able to do this in germany because they have these programs, where --
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excuse me. we are are running out of time. those are the kind of things that we have to pay attention to in society. listen, we thank you for joining us for this edition of equal time.
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