News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Bill Would Require Half State's Power be Renewable

Backlit steam rises from a Salton Sea geothermal plant | Photo: calc tufa/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A bill introduced into the California Legislature by an Imperial County Assemblyman would require that all California utilities get 51 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030. AB 177, introduced by V. Manuel Perez, would also require utilities to make energy conservation and efficiency their first priority.

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The bill is now being considered by the Assembly's Utilities and Commerce Committee. It was introduced in January, but is starting to gain a bit of momentum as it makes its way through the legislative sausage factory. In addition to requiring the state be more than half renewably powered by 2030, AB 177 would also give energy efficiency, grid reliability, and the state's greenhouse gas emissions a greater priority in energy planning. If enacted in its current form, the bill would require utilities "to procure all available cost-effective energy efficiency, demand response, and renewable resources, so as to achieve renewable, reliability, and greenhouse gases emission reduction simultaneously, in the most cost-effective and affordable manner practicable."

The bill would address a few long-standing inefficiencies in the state's renewable energy planning process, which some observers say have made the state's push toward renewable energy too cumbersome and expensive. Among other things, existing regulations have encouraged utilities to go for cheaper, short-term ways to meet immediate goals under the existing Renewable Portfolio Standard law, leading to an explosion of generating capacity relying on less-reliable resources such as wind power, rather than sources of renewable "base load" power, which operates 24/7 in reliable fashion. Such resources must then be backed up with natural gas plants, which emit greenhouse gases as they generate power.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Perez represents the 56th Assembly district, which includes the significant geothermal resource area at the south end of the Salton Sea. In interviews with press in Perez's home district, geothermal industry spokespeople were quick to promote further development of that resource.

As Vince Signorotti, of the El Centro-based geothermal company EnergySource, told the Desert Sun's K Kaufman, "When solar and wind aren't working, you have gas plants ramping up. Those are peaker plants; they have a carbon footprint. We don't."

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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At first glance I figured this was going to be another case of an urban NIMBY legislator asking for more rural open land, desert and mountain, to be taken over for "renewable energy production".


The urban legislators are great at proposing and passing laws that put the onus, and environmental impact, of more "renewable energy" on their rural neighbors. It's "out of site and out of mind" for the urban populace while it spoils vast tracts of deserts and foothills (much of it very close to rural residents) by turning them from pristine open spaces into huge industrial/energy complexes.


The urbanites see the deserts and foothills as vast, lifeless, untapped wastelands ripe for the installation of more "green energy" while for rural residents it is their backyards, their views, and their lifestyle being wiped out. Why? To sustain the urban centers with their out of control outdoor lighting (to assuage the urban "fear of the dark"), air conditioners, entertainment venues, and generally consumptive urban lifestyle.


However, in the case of Assemblyman Perez, it would seem that part of his vested interest is to pass legislation that will elicit more geothermal production in his district. (no doubt with government subsidy).


As the article says, "Perhaps not coincidentally, Perez represents the 56th Assembly district, which includes the significant geothermal resource area at the south end of the Salton Sea. In interviews with press in Perez's home district, geothermal industry spokespeople were quick to promote further development of that resource."


Unfortunately, mandating more "renewable energy" in the utility's portfolios will still have the negative effect of turning more and more natural spaces, thousands upon thousands of acres, into giant industrial machines. But...who cares as long as the ostensibly "green people" in the cities have the energy to charge their electric cars, ride their electric powered mass transit, light their cities to excess to scare away the "boogeyman", and feel good about themselves while doing it.