State Ability to Set Greenhouse Gas Standards Still Unknown

By Published On: August 12, 2005

California Energy Commission chair Joe Desmond’s query as to whether the state has the legal authority to set greenhouse standards for coal-fired power imported by utilities has gone unanswered for a month. During a brief August 10 commission business meeting, Desmond demanded an analysis from the CEC legal staff sooner rather than later. “We have not heard anything,” Desmond said. “I want something next week.” At the CEC’s July 13 meeting, the commission asked the agency’s chief counsel to outline options for setting emission standards pursuant to federal law (<i>Circuit</i>, July 15, 2005). The request is tied into a proposed transmission line known as the Frontier Line. The Schwarzenegger administration is a proponent of the Frontier Line project, which would run from Wyoming to California. Advocates say that “clean” coal and wind electricity would be imported to California. Opponents counter that the line would encourage more traditional coal-fired power, exacerbating global warming. If California can legally set greenhouse gas standards for imports, then environmental opposition to the line might be blunted. A favorable legal decision might also help Schwarzenegger put his greenhouse gas reduction plan into effect. The governor on June 1 announced that he was ordering state agencies to develop and coordinate implementation plans to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Also during this week’s meeting, the commission approved close to $1.9 million in grants and contracts for renewable and efficiency projects. An $800,000 contract with the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies was approved. CEERT will facilitate the development of a plan for transmission routes connecting up to 4,000 MW of wind power from the Tehachapis and 2,000 MW of geothermal from the Imperial Valley to the grid. Earlier, a study group of stakeholders was convened by the California Public Utilities Commission to reach consensus on issues related to connecting wind power in the Tehachapis. Among the controversial issues the group focused on was what kinds of upgrades and new lines were needed. But it did not complete the task. A plan for connecting into geothermal power close to the Mexican border was never formally begun. CEERT’s job is to step in and fill the void. The CEC welcomed CEERT’s proposal to get the ball rolling on renewable transmission projects. Commissioner John Geesman noted that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “did the state no favors” by rejecting a portion of Southern California Edison’s request to allow project costs to be rolled into rates (<i>Circuit</i>, July 8, 2005). A large amount of potential wind generation is in Edison territory. “We’ve got a lot of work to do going forward,” Geesman said. The CEC, with little discussion, also approved $823,000 in grants that will fund 11 different projects, including ones aimed at improving the performance of fuel cells, turbine blades, photovoltaic systems, and microturbines. Of the nine grants?for approximately $75,000?four would go to universities, with the others going to small businesses. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory also won a $250,000 contract to enhance residential cool roofs, which deflect heat and lower air conditioning costs. <b>Ennui Ensues in Advanced-Meter Pilot</b> A $35 million pilot advanced-meter installation program found many of the 25,000 real-time-meter customers sampled to be “relatively indifferent” to the program. An August 5 report to the California Energy Commission by Christensen Associates Energy Consulting found that most of those customers?with demand in excess of 500 kW?already faced time-of-use pricing. They did not, for the most part, use the associated Internet site to check on energy data. This indifference could be caused by a perception that there are no “significant benefits from intensively monitoring their energy usage, or they weren’t aware of how the usage data might be used to reduce their energy costs,” according to the report.

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