It’s the Capitol: Energy Agencies Attempt to Align Plans

By Published On: July 8, 2011

State energy and climate protection agency representatives are attempting to agree on common measurements for assessing the progress of their disparate programs seeking to move California toward an environmentally sustainable energy future. Since last year, the agencies have been striving to meld their programs and plans under what is known as the California Clean Energy Future initiative. Many questions were raised, however, during a joint agency hearing July 6 in Sacramento seeking to find common ground on metrics. They included just what metrics are at issue, how they’re being used, whether the tools are transparent, and if the same yard stick is to be used. For example, are gains in energy efficiency or demand response measured in megawatts and/or megawatt/hours? “We need to move forward in a way that has the support of our agencies and the public,” said Karen Douglas, California Energy Commission member. The agencies hope to create one blueprint for the state’s 33 percent renewable standard being implemented by the California Public Utilities Commission, 12,000 MW of new distributed generation, 6,500 MW of combined heat and power projects, 1,000 MW of energy storage, and necessary grid expansions. Also at issue is how to meld ways to measure greenhouse gas emissions curbs pursuant to AB 32, the state climate protection law being implemented by the California Air Resources Board, prepare for a possible surge of 1 million electric vehicles, increased energy efficiency and demand response, as well as the phase-out or replacement of 20,000 MW of coastal water-cooled power plants. “Are we measuring the right things–and are they helping us get to the goal,” asked Phil Pettingill, California Independent System Operator’s regulatory affairs directors. He and others queried whether the 2020 goals for the clean energy initiatives should be extended beyond the next eight years. “What do you want to be able to answer and track,” asked Nancy Ryan, California Public Utilities Commission’s deputy executive director of policy and external relations. In addition, to Douglas and Ryan, also sitting on the dais were Air Board chair Mary Nichols, CEC chair Bob Weisenmiller, grid operator CEO Steve Berberich, and Anthony Eggert, Energy Commission member. They were followed by a panel of stakeholders representing private and public utilities, energy agencies, consumer advocates, independent generators, and clean energy interests. Steven Kelly, Independent Energy Producers policy director, raised concerns about inadequate staffing levels at the implementing agencies. He noted a goal of 28,000 MW of new resources by 2020, but that resources and staffing are in short supply (see sidebar). Kelly also urged the regulators to think beyond the state programs’ 2020 horizon and to 2030 given the huge amount of work ahead to attain a less fossil intense energy sector. Dave Ashukian, Division of Ratepayer Advocates deputy director, raised concerns about excess energy capacity and power contracts coming on line. He said that undermined the value of demand response, which involves shifting power to off peak times, and energy efficiency. He also warned about the ratepayer tab for various, and at times duplicative programs seeking to cut emissions and reach clean energy goals. “You must not have a carbon dioxide-centric policy,” said V. John White, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies executive director. He urged regulators also to focus on reducing methane emissions, which are a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and black carbon. Unanswered questions before agency commissioners and staff include how much is being spent and what consumers are getting in return. Other unresolved matters include: -What is included in the 12,000 MW of distributed generation called for by the governor? Apparently biomass projects are not included, but are to be added into the planned increase in combined heat and power facilities. -How to rework the system so that efficient gas plants and renewable supplies are at the front of the supply line? -Whether the use and reduction in coal power imports used by southern California munis should be tracked under the joint agency California Clean Energy Future initiative?

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