JUICE: Out-Of-State, Out-Of-Mind

By Published On: January 23, 2009

Californians are delusional in a good way. We have delusions of grandeur. We intend to lead the Quixotian charge of growing renewable energy sources to wean ourselves off fossil fuel. But in the state’s steed-like gallop toward renewable energy, other states have placed barricades that block California’s noble intent. As much of the state may want to live in a field of its own design, people in other states say Californians are seeking to exploit them in the name of becoming “green.” The Arizona Corporation Commission, for instance, rejected the Palo Verde-Devers II power line, calling it a “giant extension cord” from Arizona to California that would suck the renewable energy out of a state that sorely needs air conditioning (I added the air conditioning part). Even the new secretary of energy Steven Chu, a Californian, admits some states’ objections to transmission lines to feed our own state with renewable energy are understandable. I applaud California’s new respected influence on the rest of the nation, but California’s renewable energy politics should be kept in California--far out of the beltway and inside the left coast’s borders, at least in the short term. Face it. Most of the nation either wants to move to California, or hates our vanity. Now, however, California has the chance to polish its image with the rest of the nation and with the new administration by developing in-state renewable energy facilities--not out of state green power. Here’s why. Tapping into out-of-state renewable power makes California look opportunistic. It deprives other states of their own resources in order to fuel our effort, no matter how valiant it may be. The state’s current 20 percent requirement for investor-owned utilities to procure renewable power was diluted when state law allowed out-of-state power to be included in the portfolio. While the ability to tap into out-of-state power gives utilities much more room to add renewable energy to their portfolios, it doesn’t fulfill the original intent of in-state development. I certainly understand the lure of out-of-state renewable resources. Non-California power plants are less likely to run into citizen obstruction, as well as environmental rules endemic to this state--thus quicker to implement. Moreover, while it may be difficult for California to meet its renewable portfolio requirement as an island, the state government certainly can aim toward self sufficiency by helping to finance new in-state renewable projects. The California Energy Commission has the ability to funnel and direct lots of cash. In the short term, it can focus on actually building renewable energy power plants instead of spending it on far-away research & development. I love the CEC’s moxie, but it does tend to fund projects that are even “out there” for the state of fruits and nuts. Just in December 2008, the CEC granted over $10 million to research projects. It’s mainly Ivory Tower grants--which help graduate students who may become Nobel Prize winners. There’s little here-and-now to their research. And there is certainly no money going to fund here-and-now renewable energy projects. The state can change the rules so it finances millions of dollars for solar and wind in the ground along with academic aspirations. Make sure that it’s spent within our state borders. Ten million dollars is what Southern California Edison stated it just spent on a 2 MW distributed rooftop photovoltaic project in Fontana. Imagine if the CEC would redirect its research funding to real in-the-ground renewable energy. The Legislature would have to give the agency a shove, but $10 million in only one month could make a huge difference in distributed energy. We’d be warm (or cool) and we’d be so very Californian that we could goof off for an afternoon surfing or skiing. The economic reason is that what happens in California, stays in California. Unlike Vegas--where I wouldn’t want to see the electric bill--in-state development has its environmental price, but could be cheaper to the extent it takes maximum advantage of the distributed energy model. There’s the in-state jobs thing too, even though I’m sounding statealistic (like nationalism on a state level). I spent my entire life in California. While I’ve traveled extensively I find it has the most idealistic people--those who actually come through on their promises. The state’s promise for renewable energy deserves more than a punt. Turning California into a renewable energy hog eating off the plates of others instead brings the worst out in the rest of the nation and bodes ill for our otherwise self-sufficient state. We not only have an economy, but an image to protect. “California sucks (energy)” just may be the latest bumper sticker for the rest of the nation. “Don’t Californicate Oregon” was sported on many a non-SUV in the Pacific Northwest a couple decades back. California license plates can still get you pulled over for “misdemeanors” by bored state troopers from here to Montana--where there are still signs in some outlying windows that proclaim they won’t sell or serve Californians. Renewable energy projects, like movies, technology, and environmental protections, are best made here at home. Let other states mock us, but let ‘em catch up to California’s leadership instead of letting it slip away to short-term contracts for renewable energy in other states.

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now