Green Energy Declining In Percentages

By Published On: July 7, 2008

Six years after California mandated that 20 percent of electricity supplies in the state be renewable-based, the amount of green power declined as a percentage of total electricity consumed, according to California Public Utilities Commission data. State law, through the renewables portfolio standard, sets a 2010 deadline to achieve the 20 percent goal. The percentage of green power used in California declined from 14 percent in 2003–the year after the renewable energy law was enacted–to 12.7 percent last year. CPUC data show that the percentage of green power has dropped each year. It dipped to 13.9 percent in 2004, 13.6 percent in 2005, and to 13.2 percent the following year. In spite of growing electricity demand, the state has added 400 MW of new renewable generating capacity since the law passed. That’s about 3,000 MW short of what’s needed to hit the 20 percent green energy mark in 2010. The CPUC revealed the data at a June 30 California Energy Commission meeting to explore the potential for “feed-in” tariffs. Basically, they require that certain renewable energy sources have to be bought at a fixed price by utilities. The tariffs are similar to those used in some European nations to bolster construction of renewable energy facilities. Feed-in tariffs would streamline and lower the cost of power purchase administration, said Wilson Rickerson, Rickerson Energy Strategies principal. By providing a long-term revenue stream, the tariffs also would bolster investor confidence in renewable energy projects, he said. The Energy Commission is investigating feed-in tariffs, but has made no decision whether to recommend them, said Tim Tutt, advisor to CEC chair Jackie Pfannenstiel The growing renewable shortfall is not due to lack of contracts, noted the CPUC. Indeed, since 2002 the state’s investor-owned utilities have entered into 95 contracts for 5,900 MW of power. Sixty-one of the deals are for new projects totaling 4,480 MW. The remainder represents agreements to purchase power from pre-existing wind, geothermal, small hydro, and solar projects. “We’re seeing difficulties in project development,” Anne Gillette, CPUC renewable energy analyst, told the Energy Commission. Without them or other new policies, “the state may not be on track for 20 percent,” said Rickerson. Even the more distant goal of 33 percent renewable energy by 2020 “may be problematical.” Now that renewable power is to play a major role in cutting greenhouse gases under the state’s climate change law it is “too important to leave to the uncertainty of outcomes” seen in the existing green power procurement process, said V. John White, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology executive director. White advocates that the state consider mandating utilities to offer standard contracts to renewable energy developers. A background paper prepared for the meeting noted the state’s utilities have made limited use of feed-in tariffs with biogas and biomass generators. The agencies are looking at whether the tariff strategy could be expanded to other types of projects, including large solar and wind projects. Editor’s Note: For a more detailed report, please see our sister publication, Energy Meets Climate Challenge, E=MC2. It can be found at www.energymeetsclimate.com

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