Politicians Promise to Focus on Transmission

By Published On: February 29, 2008

Legislators grilled regulators this week over utility contracts for renewable energy. “What part of this is real and what part of this is on paper?” asked Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) Senate Utilities, Commerce and Communications Committee chair during a February 26 hearing. Kehoe and others have criticized the California Public Utilities Commission for allowing investor-owned utilities to meet the 2010 renewables portfolio standard of 20 percent with contracts, although the underlying projects may not be on line. Legislators also expressed concern that the renewable energy, which may not be deliverable, is probably going to be more expensive than traditional power. “If we’re serious about getting to 20 percent,” said Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) then the market likely will create a higher cost. “We’re just a couple years away from the deadline,” he added. In another hearing this week politicians made it clear that bolstering electric transmission lines is going to be a high priority for the state to ensure the expanded use of renewable resources. Lawmakers also probed the California Public Utilities Commission president about the agency’s decisions. Legislators appeared willing to allow higher costs if renewable power under contract is delivered. However, consumer advocates testified that the renewables portfolio standard may be a double-edged sword, raising consumer costs and not delivering the promised goods. In other legislative news, the Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee heard its annual update from CPUC president Mike Peevey February 25. Lawmakers questioned Peevey on the state’s lack of transmission lines, primarily for wind and solar energy in Southern California. Peevey acknowledged brutal opposition to transmission lines, such as San Diego Gas & Electric’s proposed Sunrise Powerlink, and to a lesser extent, the line to pull wind power out of the Tehachapi Mountains via Southern California Edison. “I’m not sure there’s legislative energy to do this without draconian measures,” Peevey noted regarding any state attempt to overwhelm opposition. The Senate committee has a transmission hearing scheduled for March 11. According to the California Energy Commission, there are 180 energy-related bills coming up in the state Legislature this year–125 of which are new bills for 2008; the rest remain from 2007.

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