SHORTS CIRCUIT

By Published On: March 12, 2010

California should end the free ride for power plant development licenses, the Legislative Analyst Office recommended March 9. Currently, electricity ratepayers pay 87 percent of the cost of licensing power plants through a surcharge on their utility bills and the power industry pays the remaining costs. Total costs are estimated at $27 million in the coming budget year. The office urged lawmakers to require the California Energy Commission, which issues the licenses, to revise the formula. It said the power industry should pick up at least half that tab. It further urged lawmakers to end a licensing fee exemption for solar thermal power plants. The office pointed out the exemption amounts to small change when compared to the billion dollar cost of building the plants. The number of jobs created by CA energy projects awarded federal stimulus dollars remains untallied. Karen Douglas, California Energy Commission chair, told the Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee March 8 that her agency has executed contracts but is “not seeing significant jobs created right now.” She added, “But, it is certainly going on.” The Energy Commission and other agencies receiving money under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act are required to report job creation in late spring of this year. The CEC received $314.5 million for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. It also is administering the State Energy Program ($226 million), the Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant Program ($49.6 million), Appliance Rebate Program ($35.2 million), and Energy Assurance Planning ($3.6 million). The Nuclear Regulatory Commission criticized San Onofre nuclear plant for “performance problems.” In a March 3 letter to the facility’s owners--primarily Southern California Edison--federal regulators noted, “This is the fifth consecutive assessment cycle where substantive cross-cutting issues” including documentation and “ineffective use of human error prevention techniques” were observed. Despite the findings, the NRC maintains that San Onofre remains operating “in a manner that preserves public health and safety.” The Palo Verde nuclear plant suffered an explosion March 7. Unit 1 was shut down, although “there was no fire detected after the initial event,” according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “The event did not result in any challenges to the fission product barrier or result in any releases of radioactive materials. There were no adverse safety consequences or implications as a result of this event. The event did not adversely affect the safe operation of the plant or health and safety of the public,” noted the report. Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay soon may be topped by solar panels generating 285 kW. PV units at the once renowned prison close to San Francisco’s shores could generate up to 55 percent of the annual power demand, a schematic design developed by the National Park Service concluded, said Laura Castellini, spokesperson for the Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Consensus on draft recommendations to reduce wind farm impacts on wildlife and its habitat were reached by a federal advisory committee at the end of last week. The Department of Interior plans to review the recommendations and may incorporate them into department guidelines for evaluating wind energy projects on public and private lands. “Wind power is one of the keys to America’s clean energy future, but its development must be balanced with the long-term protection of the natural resources under our management,” stated Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who applauded the proposal. California wind farms, particularly in the Altamont area, are under regulatory and legal scrutiny for the effect of their turbines on wildlife. The Department of Energy plans to fund marine and hydrokinetic technology projects. The department, in a March 10 announcement, said it expects to issue solicitations March 31 for projects that seek to generate renewable electricity from waves, currents, tides, free-flowing rivers, and the ocean’s thermal energy. “Technologies at various levels of development will be evaluated based on metrics and guidelines established by DOE, and funding will be competitively awarded to a variety of projects,” according to DOE. San Francisco is investigating using tides through the Golden Gate to create electricity.

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