The CPUC Oct. 25 voted 5-0 to allow rate recovery for Edison\u2019s contracts for BrightSource\u2019s high-priced 200 MW power tower Rio Mesa 2 project tied to the lower cost 200 MW Sonora West project, which includes molten salt storage. Commissioner Mike Florio called Rio Mesa \u201cawfully expensive and risky\u201d but approved the joined contracts on grounds that storage technology is needed to even out the flow of increases in intermittent photovoltaic supplies. He noted the state was seeing a shift in the peak. \u201cThe whole push to a cleaner future is a risk,\u201d Florio added. State regulators pressured Southern California Edison to justify why its ratepayers should bear the cost and risk of a couple of large solar thermal projects in a workshop earlier in the week. The prices of the contracts slated for Riverside County are confidential. Commissioner Tim Simon said the solar thermal projects \u201cincreased the diversity\u201d of the energy portfolio. He explained it was \u201chard to get right\u201d the price because at this stage of the renewable energy game it\u2019s a \u201cmoving target.\u201d At an Oct. 22 workshop, regulators debated the pros and cons of two of five amended BrightSource deals Edison sought approval. \u201cWhat kind of signal does this send to the market when there are more fully baked projects,\u201d commissioner Mark Ferron asked during the Monday workshop, noting the projects \u201clow viability scores.\u201d Ferron also said the utility does not need the projects--slated to come online in 2015 and 2016--to meet its renewable portfolio obligation. Stakeholders raised questions about the reasonableness of the linked contracts. Approving the solar power tower deals, one with molten salt storage technology that eliminates supply intermittency, would constitute a \u201ctechnology carve out,\u201d said Dan Douglass, Western Power Trading Forum attorney. \u201cIt would eliminate a truly competitive bid process,\u201d he said. The Division of Ratepayer Advocates and the California Wind Energy Association also took exception to a \u201ccarve out.\u201d Marc Ulrich, Edison\u2019s vice president of renewable projects, defended the solar thermal contracts. He noted the utility had an existing obligation with BrightSource because the signed contracts at issue were allowed to be amended. In addition, he said the prices should be compared to project bids submitted into the utility\u2019s 2008 solicitation, not its 2011 request for offers. The revised contracts, according to Ulrich, \u201cfell within the [project viability] band.\u201d John Woolson, BrightSource president, said the cost of the Sonora West molten salt project had to be spread to at least the power tower Rio Mesa project, to make a financially viable deal. This week\u2019s action on the controversial contracts also came after commissioners discussed them, but postponed a vote at their Oct. 11 meeting (Current, Oct. 12, 2012).