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Five years after a wholesale energy market crisis with lasting economic and political ramifications, one of which was his election to California's highest office two years ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger late Thursday in his state-of-the-state address only once referred to energy during a 20-minute, 2,500-word speech in Sacramento. When talking about environmental and state infrastructure programs the "e-word" never crossed the former movie actor's lips.
Schwarzenegger's theme for the kick-off of his re-election year was what he called "a bold and comprehensive Strategic Growth Plan" that is designed to have the state "invest" more heavily in new transportation, education, water, public safety and public service infrastructure -- but without mention of the governor's past pitches for new power plants and electric transmission lines, not to mention renewable energy and his favorite "million-solar-roofs" initiative.
"A new California is coming whether we plan for it or not," Schwarzenegger said. "We must build a California eager to meet the challenges of the 21st Century...we will need more roads, more hospitals, more schools, more nurses, more teachers, more police and fire, more water, more ENERGY, more ports, and the need is urgent."
The head of the state's association of independent power producers (IEP), Jan Smutny-Jones, said he thought it was appropriate for energy to be missing as an issue in the governor's address because the state is in an "implementation phase" in terms of energy matters, and that involves the agency level as opposed to the policymaking and legislative levels.
"The energy agenda has been pretty well set," Smutny-Jones said Friday. "I think the governor has articulated a policy and the state agencies have put forward their integrated energy plan, so it comes down now to actually implementing it. That comes down to a rather arcane, regulatory approach, so it didn't surprise me that there was no explicit mention of it in the governor's speech."
In terms of building out the state's energy infrastructure, Smutny-Jones said the lack of revenue is not one of the things holding up progress in this area. "There is obviously an appetite in the private sector to build additional power plants." In the transmission area, there are sufficient financial incentives to build new lines, but it gets down to the regulatory and environmental protection levels to get something done, he said.
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