Opinion: The reality of AB 32 is an investment in stabilizing California’s future

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once noted that “innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” We could not agree more.

California is a leader in the area of clean energy and energy efficiency technology because we are innovators — when it comes to research and development, patents, and policy. Without good, smart policy, would California still innovate? Yes. But our clean energy economy and the jobs it supports would grow at a slower, less transformative pace.

A recent opinion piece in Capitol Weekly (Opinion: When you are stuck in a hole, the first thing you do is stop digging), written by an organization whose leaders backed a Texas oil-funded ballot measure to dismantle California’s landmark clean energy law (AB 32), wrongly claims the state’s market-based emissions trading program is greatly flawed. Having failed dismally at the polls last year – when Californians decisively voted down Proposition 23 – it seems that opponents of our state’s innovative climate policies are hoping for a second shot at delaying AB 32.

AB 32 is an investment in stabilizing California’s financial future. It is creating market certainty for clean energy businesses that are born here and those that relocate here.  For example, solar power developer SunEdison recently moved its headquarters to California from Maryland, calling California “the epicenter for solar.” SunEdison’s move demonstrates the value of establishing a stable California market for clean energy.

Market certainty is also key for investors. Quarterly reports of the top clean tech investment deals in the world read like a who’s who of California businesses. Bloom Energy of Sunnyvale scored a $150 million deal in Q3 of 2011, while OneRoof Energy of San Diego, CaliSolar of Sunnyvale and SynapSense of Folsom reported $50 million, $26 million, and $16 million dollar deals over the same time period.

AB 32 is a key driver of energy efficiency in California, and will save mainstream businesses – from the corner grocer to your favorite pizza joint – billions in energy costs. Overall GDP produced per unit of energy in California is already around 70 percent higher in our state than in the rest of the country. Our greater efficiencies have freed up hundreds of billions of dollars to produce goods and services or invest in growing jobs or research and development in California.

AB 32 will drive California utilities to invest in ever more efficiency technologies to meet their obligations under the climate change law. This will lower utility costs for employers.  Small service businesses, for example, will save $4.6 billion by 2020, according to Small Business Majority. And those savings are expected to help create 15,000 jobs.

Shelly Sullivan of the AB 32 Implementation Group calls for additional workshops and rule revisions to AB 32’s market-based trading program. We have to ask, respectfully, how many workshops will it take? The state has already held dozens of workshops in order to get input from all sectors of the business community as well as regular citizens, in all parts of the state, on AB 32.

Delaying innovation and investment will not help California’s economy. California is a leader, and thank goodness for that. We led the IT innovation wave, and now we are leading the clean technology revolution. We are benefiting from the investments, new businesses and new jobs that have come with both.

Today, many of us can’t imagine a world without iPods and iPhones. Tomorrow, we won’t be able to imagine a world without a dominant and thriving clean energy sector.

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