The massive, 6,000-plus-page draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan started its journey through the public comment period this week with at least one contentious public meeting.
The plan, commonly referred to as the DRECP, would shape both renewable energy development and some conservation across 22 million acres of the California desert in six counties. Criticism of the document is mounting, over its complexity and the relatively short period in which the public will be allowed to comment on the Plan. As we reported earlier this month, the sheer size of the document inevitably excludes most members of the public from having meaningful input into the process.
But a closer look at the DRECP reveals that behind the arcane language and the bureaucratic jargon lies a document that is woefully out of date, planning for development of renewable energy in the California desert as though the last six years never happened.
The agency that operates California's power grid is reporting that this past summer saw no major outages in the state despite frequent heat waves that boosted power consumption during peak periods.
The hot summer was the third in which the state has been deprived of power from the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant, leaving Southern California with about 2,200 fewer megawatts of power generating capacity. According to the California Independent System Operators (CaISO), which operates the power grid in most of California and a portion of southern Nevada, California's record drought cut output from the state's hydroelectric plants by another 1,628 megawatts.
But despite those shortfalls and wildfires that threatened transmission lines near San Diego, California stayed powered up this summer -- and much of the credit goes to the state's increased renewable energy capacity, which set output records this summer.
California households who get their electricity from the state's privately owned utilities will be getting a bit of a present in their electric bills this fall, thanks to the state's greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program.
Most California residents' electric bills will be credited an average of $35 in October or November through the state's Climate Credit program. The money comes from emissions permits purchased by the state's largest emitters of greenhouse gases.
That $35 average credit varies by your utility, with some companies' customers getting more and some less. Southern California Edison residential customers will receive $40 per household, while San Diego Gas & Electric clients will receive just under $37. The objective is to provide Californians with a bit of cash they can use to invest in energy-efficiency such as LED light bulbs, further cutting the state's greenhouse gas footprint.
A draft plan released last month that would manage millions of acres of the California desert for renewable energy development is profoundly anti-democratic.
The Draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, or DRECP, made public in late September after two years of delay, would streamline development of wind, solar, and geothermal energy resources on about two million acres of the California desert -- 3,125 square miles, an area more than six times the size of Los Angeles. The plan would also designate close to five million acres as conservation areas to be managed for protection of a number of so-called "covered species."
DRECP's scope is gigantic, in other words, and that's a problem. An attempt to plan for both the development and conservation of most of the California desert, the DRECP is so complex and so huge that substantive public comment on the plan would be nearly impossible even if the public had a far longer deadline for comments than early January. And that obstacle to full public comment is bad for democracy.
The consortium of solar companies seeking to build a 500-megawatt solar power tower project in Riverside County has formally withdrawn the project's application from consideration by the California Energy Commission.
The Palen Solar Electric Generating System had just received tentative approval from the Commission this month to build one of two planned 750-foot solar power towers in the eastern Chuckwalla Valley.
But on Friday afternoon, project owner Palen Solar Holdings formally withdrew its petition on behalf of the project, which likely means the project is dead -- at least for the foreseeable future.
Well here's some news to ruin your weekend: the federal government's chief energy analysts say that despite a massive national investment in renewable energy, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are climbing again.
According to the latest Monthly Energy Review put out by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. dumped significantly more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in the first half of 2014 than it did in the same period over the previous two years. That's a startling reversal of a decline in emissions from 2010-2012, and an indication that we really need to step up our game on the quickest, most cost-effective ways of reducing our emissions: distributed solar and energy efficiency.
"The growth in U.S. CO2 emissions is clear wake-up call that much more needs to be done to accelerate the growth of renewable energy sources, as well as improved energy efficiency, if the nation is to successfully address climate change," said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign, which sent out a press release on the reported increase.