CEC Sets the Bar at One-Third Renewables

By Published On: February 18, 2005

Although the California Energy Commission would first rely on gas efficiency measures, and possibly pursue coal-bed methane drilling, the solution to evanescent natural gas supplies lies in increasing the amount of electricity produced by renewable resources to 33 percent, according to the CEC?s Natural Gas Assessment Update. Gas production is flat, and mature reserves are declining, notes the February 11 report. Meanwhile, the state is increasing the number of gas-fired central-station power plants. Increasing the squeeze is competition from other states for available supplies. Unlike the preceding 50 years, California now has to compete with Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico for domestic gas supplies. To address looming shortages, the CEC recommends increasing energy-efficiency strategies in addition to increasing renewables-fired power plants and green distributed generation. Residential efficiency measures ?could potentially save more than 40 percent of gas use,? but more typically conserve 20 percent. That conservation would need technical support and financial assistance, notes the report. Also realistic, but beset with political and environmental problems, are efforts to increase gas supplies by importing liquefied natural gas from international sites and drilling for gas in Alaska and Canada. The report does not cover the potential physical and policy hazards associated with these supplies, stating only that they could be available, but not in the near term or until LNG terminals are built on the West Coast. Less realistic, but possible, is drilling for coal-bed methane. The report notes that this is an option, albeit an ?expensive? one, requiring advances in technology. The Western Governors? Association has been promoting coal-bed methane, but California?s administration has warmed far less quickly to the technology than states such as Wyoming, which has considerable coal deposits. Unrealistic, but mentioned, are possible supplies from drilling for gas off the coast. Offshore drilling ?could partially offset declining? production, according to the report, but offshore leases are under permanent state ban and a federal moratorium until 2008. The report points out that residential gas consumption has remained relatively flat at about 500 Bcf/year even though the number of households has increased from 5 million to more than 9 million since 1967. In addition, residential customers in California use one-third less gas than consumers on a national basis.

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