CEC Workshop Traverses 33% Obstacles

By Published On: March 2, 2012

Although the state’s on track to meet the governor’s goal of 33 percent renewables by 2020, there are still dozens of obstacles that still need to be negotiated, according to participants in a workshop at the California Energy Commission this week. “What’s needed to accelerate path to market and achieve California’s 2020 renewable energy goals?” CEC chief deputy director Drew Bohan asked Feb. 29. “I would argue the hard part implied by this question has already been done,” he said. “Gas prices have been creeping up; there’s $5 gas threatened for the summer; on the other hand, natural gas prices have been plummeting.” One barrier is the expense of collecting and transporting biomass feedstock, said Stephen Kaffka, Director of the California Biomass Collaborative at the University of California, Davis. Others include regulation and permitting, and the timeliness thereof, and cost uncertainties. William Glassley, a senior researcher at Davis, said that another hurdle is finding ways to characterize the subsurface for geothermal energy more precisely, so that geothermal resources can be identified and outlined and their characteristics established. According to Linda Spiegel, manager of the Energy Commission’s Energy Generation Research Office, solutions to many of the hurdles identified during the workshop could come through the Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research program. The program, which invests in research and development projects, was cited by Spiegel as one of the keys to traversing obstacles to the 33 percent goal--obstacles that she said included dealing with emissions and performance, intermittency, grid connection, an outdated transmission distribution system, liability, and permitting. “All of these are gigantic hurdles to get to 2020, but those hurdles are the targets of the PIER renewable research area,” she said. Deputy director Bohan said that solutions can be found, and the 33 percent goal can be reached, but that it would take hard work and plenty of planning. “We’ve gotta roll up our sleeves folks,” he said. “It’s getting to 33 percent in a way that integrates these new resources in the most cost-effective way possible. We’ve got a grid that didn’t contemplate these different kinds of resources being attached to the system in different places, and so we’ve gotta’ figure out how we do that in the best way possible.”

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