JUICE: Checking It Twice

By Published On: December 18, 2009

The year brought in political “hope” that the energy sector would take a strong turn toward sustainability. California has a grip on that hope through renewable power and energy efficiency. Financial realities keep trying to pry the fingers from the purchase on hope. Here’s Circuit’s annual list of high- and low-(LED) lights in policy and industry for 2009. NICE: -The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act--Subsidies for energy efficiency and renewable energy, including cash grants covering 30 percent of the cost of major renewable energy projects. -57 channels and the electricity is on--CEC adopts binding television energy efficiency standards, heading off the major power drain poised by the spread of big, flat panel TVs. -Los Angeles renewal--Los Angeles Department of Water & Power zooms from barely any renewable energy to 18 percent green energy and leaves little doubt it will cross the 20 percent mark next year, ahead of the state’s investor-owned utilities. -Live by the rule--The California Air Resources Board already has adopted enough rules and policies to make 40 percent of the emissions reductions needed to meet the state’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions goal. -Big Uncle Sol--Lower cost thin film solar boosted the prospects for distributed generation, potentially paring the need for new transmission facilities. Many of the state’s major utilities began pursuing large photovoltaic solar programs, in which panels are being put on the expansive rooftops of warehouses and other large buildings within their distribution systems. -The dam is damned--The Klamath River will probably never run free, salmon may never return, and the state may not raise $400 million to make it happen, but still there’s hope that PacifiCorp’s hydroelectric dams may be removed after stakeholders finally agreed to a demolition plan. -Bring in the one-third lawyers--The state is set to revive legislation to ensure that the Air Board’s work to create a one-third renewable energy mandate can withstand legal attacks. NAUGHTY: -Furlough’s fallout--Forced time off for state workers comes while energy agency staff face surging workloads. The shorter work week and constrained resources conflict with the governor’s purported desire to increase renewable energy and conservation. The shorter work week, hiring freeze, and crimped resources also hit while federal money pours in to support energy projects, thus slowing chances of new projects tapping into available capital which the state is to pass through. -Parental inability justifies 20 more years of radioactivity--Circuit’s heard the plaintive wail of parents unable to teach the light’s out rule when leaving a room. In Pacific Gas & Electric’s roll out to extend the life of its Diablo Canyon nuclear plant for 20 more years, one utility-sponsored supporter said his children used the dryer every morning to shrink their jeans to fit and as a parent he could do nothing about their energy consumption. -Gas plants in the air--Greater Los Angeles plans for more efficient fossil-fueled power plants remain up in the air amid a protracted controversy over emissions credits. -“Smart” meters/impatient customers--It started in Central Valley. PG&E customers found their new “smart” meters appeared to lead to “stupidly” high bills. Politicians and regulators are seeking an explanation. Meanwhile, ratepayers are stuck with a $5.5 billion tab for installing meters that aim to shape consumer demand and help lower utility bills. -Can’t just 20% get along?--California may be the first to require it but also the first to fail to obtain one-fifth of its electricity from renewable resources in 2010. That’s the mandated deadline for one-fifth of the state’s power to come from wind, solar, geothermal, and other alternative power supplies. -Shirking the occasion--Regulators, legislators, and even utility executives receive a salary either directly or indirectly from ratepayers and taxpayers. Circuit made many requests to leading regulators, etc., to produce their energy bills to see if they practice the energy efficiency they preach. None, except for non-profit directors & two agency managers, stepped up to the challenge. We despair that the shades were never raised to allow a peek at how part of publicly funded salaries are spent.

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