This week, the grid operator\u2019s chief executive officer and utility representatives insisted that feeding more renewable energy into the transmission highway is not going to reduce the need for fossil-fueled generation because of a conflict between the intermittent nature of wind and solar power and need for a reliable supply of electricity. Despite state mandates for more renewable power and carbon emissions reductions, the grid operator sees no demise of fossil-fueled, greenhouse gas-producing power plants. Both the grid operator and utilities agreed during a March 10 Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee hearing that reaching a 33 percent renewables mandate should allow the state to tap into imported wind, geothermal, and other alternative supplies. Current law requires that utility power portfolios reach a 20 percent renewable energy level by 2010 using only in-state resources. Legislators have been considering upping that target to one-third. Yakout Mansour, California Independent System Operator chief executive officer, said, \u201c20 percent is the law and we will make it happen.\u201d He asserted, however, that adding 13 percent more renewable power to the grid, which would be largely achieved with wind energy, needs to be backed by traditional power units that can fire up when the wind dies. That raises the prospect of more power from higher cost, higher polluting peaking units, as well as continued use of environmentally damaging once-though cooled power plants, he and representatives from the three investor-owned utilities claimed. Wet-cooled power facilities in and outside California, which suck in huge qualities of sea or fresh water to cool their generating units, wreak havoc on the aquatic ecosystem. They have been the subject of a federal lawsuit and may be prohibited by federal regulators. Mansour said a prohibition on wet-cooled units would seriously hamper the ability of the grid operator and utilities to tap into ramping resources. Ramping is power brought online quickly to fill supply gaps. It includes hydropower, peaker plants, and pumped storage facilities. Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) noted that there was no talk of getting rid of the wet-cooled facilities, but that upgrading them to less environmentally harmful cooling technology, such as dry cooling, is being considered. \u201cWe\u2019re not necessarily taking 40 percent [of the ramping capacity] off line but changing the technology,\u201d Huffman pointed out. Mansour said renewable resources should also be backed by higher levels of \u201cadvanced demand response\u201d--that is, having consumers voluntarily stop using electricity during times of high stress on the grid. He added that out-of-state wind, geothermal, and other non-traditional power sources should be added into the California Renewable Portfolio Standard mix. \u201cThink regional and about flexibility,\u201d he advised. Southern California Edison transmission planning manager Patricia Arons said that the kind of technologies and resources used to ensure grid reliability, and the greenhouse gas implications, are the \u201cmost difficult issues.\u201d She added, \u201cIf we get the integration question wrong, there will be reliability impacts across the U.S.\u201d PG&E vice president Roy Kuga also highlighted \u201cintermittent costs,\u201d as well as the problem of how they are allocated. He and other utility representatives noted that batteries to store wind and solar power are an emerging technology that could help address their intermittent nature. However, he noted, at this stage those technologies are \u201ccost-prohibitive.\u201d While there are challenges to integrating higher levels of renewable energy into the grid, some public power agency representatives expressed optimism. \u201cThe infrastructure will not be a barrier to getting 20 percent or 35 percent renewables,\u201d said Jim Caldwell, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power assistant general manager. Sacramento Municipal Utility District assistant general manager Jim Shetler said the agency was looking to build a pumped storage hydroelectric facility on the Upper American River to back its renewable supplies. SMUD also is investigating battery storage technologies. Lawmakers then focused on the California Public Utilities Commission\u2019s proposal to achieve electricity sector greenhouse gas reductions. A number of legislators warned that creating a carbon cap-and-trade market for the electricity sector will be a fiasco because of the investor-owned utility monopolies. They have deeper pockets, which would allow them to be bigger players in a carbon trading market, they claim. Similar to concerns raised in a joint hearing March 4 of the Senate Energy, Utilities, & Communications Committee and Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee, lawmakers wanted to know why the commission did not assess the effectiveness of a carbon tax. Assemblymember Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) noted that the CPUC was \u201cuniquely positioned to solicit views on that.\u201d LADWP general manager David Nahai also blasted the joint CPUC\u2013California Energy Commission recommendation to create a carbon cap-and trade market for the electricity sector. \u201cWe don\u2019t want it to turn into cap-and-trade crash and burn,\u201d Nahai said. The muni executive added that the millions of dollars the department is dedicating to cleaner power would be diverted \u201cinto a market pot and we know not how it will be spent.\u201d The committee members also raised concerns about allowing customers to buy electricity from non utilities, known as \u201cdirect access.\u201d \u201cIf the CPUC opens up [the direct access] market, it could change the nature of the market,\u201d warned Assembly utilities panel chair Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys). In the last month, the commission reopened the possibility that consumers could buy electricity directly from providers other than investor-owned utilities. The issue also was a subject at the March 4 joint hearing at the capital in which legislators were skeptical of any renewed direct access plans. In part, direct access was blamed for bringing down the state\u2019s deregulation attempt in the 1990s. With consumers going around the state\u2019s investor-owned utilities for their power, the utilities were financially weakened. Thus, when the 2000-01 energy crisis hit, utilities were less able to finance power purchases.