CPUC Approves Biogas; Edison Renewables Feasibility

By Published On: August 24, 2007

The California Public Utilities Commission approved a 10-year contract between Pacific Gas & Electric and alternative energy start-up Microgy for delivering biogas produced by dairy waste into the natural gas pipeline system. The waste-to-biogas project is only the second of its kind in the state, according to the CPUC. Among the project’s benefits are the capture of potent methane, better waste management, and a new revenue stream for dairies. Regulators voted unanimously for the proposal August 23. “It’s a new resource stream for dairies,” noted Sean Gallagher, CPUC Energy Division director. He added that using manure to create biogas also reduces pollution from dairies (see Circuit’s CleanTech column) It also contributes to the statewide target of utilities obtaining 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2010. “This is a very important step for our energy needs,” said commissioner Timothy Simon. The contract calls for deliveries of up to 8,000 MMBtu/day from a number of dairies in California’s Central Valley by way of thermophilic digesters on the dairy farms. The digesters heat up then break down cow manure into biogas. Removing the carbon dioxide turns biogas into natural gas, which is set to be shipped down pipelines. The commission also unanimously approved a Southern California Edison request to provide un-metered electric service for the attachment of wireless fidelity, or Wi-Fi, Internet devices to Edison-owned streetlights. The decision further opens avenues of broadband access to underserved and rural communities because far more Californians’ homes are connected to electric wires than to cable modems or even telephone lines, which are needed for Internet access. “It encourages investment,” said commissioner Rachelle Chong. “The utilities have an obligation to help meet the state’s telecommunication goals.” In another move, commissioner Dian Grueneich approved an Edison feasibility study for renewable energy development in the state’s desert areas and Western Nevada. In order to meet renewables portfolio standard goals of 20 percent by 2010 and 33 percent by 2020, she said, a collaborative statewide effort in the form of a California Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative, or CRETI, is in the early stages. During the first phase of the initiative, expected to last eight months, the CRETI will identify renewable resources in California and along its borders then analyze the cost of developing each. Then, transmission pathways will be developed for the most competitive areas. The goal, Grueneich said, is collaboratively designed transmission service plans that result in applications to construct new renewables portfolio standard transmission infrastructure. She said that it underscores Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leadership on the effort to decrease global warming. A CRETI mission statement, scope of work, and schedule will be made available in the coming weeks, Grueneich said. An initial meeting is set for September 20.

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