CPUC Finds Renewable Energy Use Climbs

By Published On: January 28, 2011

Renewable energy use is inching up, according to a California Public Utilities Commission analysis released Jan. 25. In 2009, it represented 15.4 percent of the state’s investor-owned utility electricity load, up from 13 percent in 2008. In a report to the Legislature, regulators reported 653 MW of new renewable capacity came on line last year, more than in any year since the law mandating a 20 percent renewable portfolio took effect in 2002. Among utilities, Southern California Edison led the league with 17.4 percent renewable energy in 2009. That compares to 14.4 percent at Pacific Gas & Electric and 10.5 percent at San Diego Gas & Electric. Increased use of solar in utility distribution system areas is helping fuel the increase, the CPUC noted. The projects are relatively quick to permit and install compared to large-scale renewable energy projects that need long distance transmission. Looking further ahead, state regulations under California’s climate protection law, AB 32, call for 33 percent renewable power by 2020. The CPUC noted that utilities have more power purchase agreements in place than needed to meet the 33 percent renewable energy target. The commission report acknowledges that many won’t materialize “due to contract failure.” Some of the projects have only about a one-in-two chance of ever being built, according to the commission, due to uncertainties, such as financing. The state renewables portfolio law calls for utilities to hit 20 percent in 2010, but the CPUC allowed non-performing contracts to count for a limited time. The utilities are expected to report their 2010 levels of renewable power by March 1 but clearly will miss the target, the report noted.

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