Library filed under Energy Policy from California
BrightSource Energy, now building two huge solar thermal plants to supply customers of Southern California Edison Co., added a large amount of heat-exchange energy storage capacity to its projects. ...probably a good idea, and the PUC quickly approved it. But once again, there was no mention of cost. No one knows how much consumers will pay for that improvement, so no one outside the utilities commission can judge whether the gigantic storage units will be worth the money they'll cost.
California's increasing use of renewable power will come at a price, pushing up electricity bills across the state. And while it's impossible to tell how big the cost to consumers will be, some experts fear the total cost of renewable energy in California will be in the billions of dollars.
Rep. Gary Miller issued a statement through his campaign committee, blaming short-sighted Democratic lawmakers in Sacramento who in 2002, with Gov. Gray Davis at the helm, mandated power companies in California to generate a greater percentage of "so-called" green energy.
The commission alleges DyoCore's claims for the energy-generation capacity of its turbine are 7.5 times greater than theoretically possible. Many of the sites where installations were made were in low wind areas that would not have supported power production.
Wind power is the fastest growing component in the state's green energy portfolio, but wildlife advocates say the marriage has an unintended consequence: dead birds, including protected species of eagles, hawks and owls. "The cumulative impacts are huge," said Shawn Smallwood, one of the few recognized experts studying the impact of wind farms on migratory birds.
This letter prepared by Michael Picker, Senior Advisor to the Governor of California for renewable energy facilities, to the Western Electricity Coordinating Council explains that the State of California appears to have met its 33% RPS requirement for 2020. Excerpts of the letter are provided below. The full letter can be accessed by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.
Brown's goal, being fleshed out this week at an invitation-only conference at the University of California, Los Angeles, is to build 12,000 megawatts of distributed renewable energy, building on and extending former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's target of 5,000 MW by 2020.
The reality: wind energy's carbon dioxide-cutting benefits are vastly overstated. Furthermore, if wind energy does help reduce carbon emissions, those reductions are too expensive to be used on any kind of scale.
Since the law was passed, 59 percent of the contracts the utilities have signed with renewable power developers have been more expensive than the levelized price of electricity from a new natural gas plant. The levelized price takes into account the costs of building, operating and fueling the plant. ..."The thrust of the message is, we need some kind of cost containment," said Yuliya Shmidt, a regulatory analyst with the commission's Division of Ratepayer Advocates.
The three-year fight over the Sunrise Powerlink, which is designed to carry solar, wind and geothermal energy, typifies the serious challenges facing President Obama and many of the nation's governors as they tout the power of renewable energy to put people to work and rescue the planet from the effects of climate change.
Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith ruled that the air board approved the larger plan to implement AB32 prior to completing the required environmental review, and that the board failed to adequately consider alternatives to cap and trade. The Air Resources Board "seeks to create a fait accompli by premature establishment of a cap-and-trade program before alternative (sic) can be exposed to public comment and properly evaluated by the ARB itself."
"All this makes this whole situation so gray. And if you're a business trying to decide whether you should invest half a billion dollars in a wind farm in Oregon or Washington, or Montana for that matter, your financial folks are going to be pretty scared," said John Audley, deputy director of the Renewable Northwest Project.
"California is a very big variable," said Elliot Mainzer, who is Bonneville Power Administration's guru on how to balance future energy and environmental needs here in the Northwest. When asked if he thought California was carrying its weight as far as managing those type of issues, he said "I would like to see California pay a little bit more attention to our issues, quite frankly."
The message is that California energy prices will soar, on top of the added costs of huge taxpayer subsidies that will be needed to finance so-called renewable energy sources. Wind, solar and geothermal energy are all economically infeasible without massive subsidies. Like the huge amounts of taxpayer dollars already wasted in government subsidies for the ethanol industry, other renewable-energy endeavors are likely to face similar fates.
Big Republican wins in the House of Representatives make it unlikely that a bill to curb emissions from fossil fuels or establish renewable-energy goals will make it through Congress. But in California, clean-energy policies apparently struck a chord with voters, who handed the governorship to Democrat Jerry Brown, a strong proponent of cutting emissions and boosting alternative-energy industries.
The new California regulation requires that a third of the state's power supply, or an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 megawatts, must come from a renewable source, said Stanley Young, a spokesman for the air board. ..."What that will do is finance wind farms in Montana, whether those electrons make it to California or someplace else," said Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
Perhaps the biggest impediment to passage of the 64-page bill was the number of interest groups with a stake in the outcome: utilities, environmentalists, labor unions, big companies such as Safeway and Shell Oil that procure their own electricity, and developers of wind, solar and geothermal power. Each faction, and the factions within the factions, kept pushing for amendments.
A federal ruling has cast doubt on a Vermont program designed to promote renewable energy. The ruling says utilities should not pay more than market rates for electricity from the clean-energy projects. The state agency that represents consumers wants to know how the decision affects projects in Vermont, so it's asked the state attorney general's office for legal advice.
SDG&E's proposal will face opposition from consumer groups when it goes before the California Public Utilities Commission, said Michael Shames ..."It's a disturbing example of how this Commission's obsession with renewable power results in perverse incentives for utilities," he said. "And a very compelling reason why the regulators have to seriously reassess its tradeable renewable energy credit policy.
The questions can be posed pretty starkly: if the voters in a place like California can reject carbon curbs, and by extension, the shift to a clean energy economy, what chance for success do the concepts have in the rest of the country?