California green energy plan

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Photo by 'Port of San Diego' via Flickr

Photo by 'Port of San Diego' via Flickr

California is taking a more aggressive stance on deriving more power from renewable resources.  The current energy contracts and rolling blackouts are not enough to relieve the state from the energy crisis.  Renewable power advocates have been pressuring Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers to deliver a new plan—to require one-third of California’s energy to come from renewable resources by 2010.

Currently the mandate is at 20 percent, making this goal a 13 percent leap in just over 10 years.  The objective is to stabilize the supply and cost of the energy market as well as establishing a cleaner industry utilizing solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewable sources.  Also, the state wants to prevent a repeat of the 2000-01 energy crisis.

This plan will not come easy or cheap—estimated to cost up to $6.5 billion to build the facilities necessary to comply with a 33 percent mandate, according to the California Independent Systems Operator, which manages the state’s electricity grid.

Increased costs not only affect the state but the ratepayers also.  One of the primary issues is how to contain these costs and protecting the consumers from exorbitant price hikes.  Initially, power bills are likely to rise for an undetermined amount.  To offset the burden on consumers, there is a measure to impose a cap on rate increases to less than 5 percent.  In the long-run, replacing price-volatile natural gas with renewable energy could lower energy costs and bills for the consumers.

Within the government there are deep divisions among some issues.  These include how to credit out-of-state renewable power purchases, speeding up construction of generation and transmission facilities, and whether the 2020 target should be pushed back.

To produce jobs for the state, Democrats and their labor allies argue that most of the renewable energy should be generated within California.  On the other hand, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and other utilities say imported renewable power is necessary to reduce costs while reaching the 33 percent mandate by 2010.

Jennifer Ramp, a spokeswoman for SDG&E told Union-Tribune, “It’s an ambitious goal. We need a robust supply of in-state and out-of-state resources.”

San Diego has been taking an active role in becoming a greener city.

Recently, the city of San Diego was ranked third on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the top 20 on-site generator/consumers through its Green Power Partnership Program.  Renewable energy for the city is generated from landfill gas extraction, methane drawn from sewage, a small hydro-electric plant at the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant and from solar energy installations at more than a dozen city facilities.

Awarded $11 million in grants by the California Public Utilities Commission, UC San Diego will develop cutting-edge renewable energy systems housed on its campus to help San Diego move toward energy independence.  A majority of the grant will fund a huge fuel cell plant that utilizes waste water to generate electricity.  The remainder will fund the creation of an advanced energy storage system storing electricity generated during off-peak hours for use during peak hours.  When completed in 2010, this new plant will become the world’s largest commercial fuel cell facility.

The Port of San Diego installed a new photovoltaic system on August 11 to supplement its electricity derived from SDG&E and to reduce energy costs.  This is a part of the Green Port Program for resource conservation, waste reduction, and pollution prevention along Port tidelands to achieve long-term environmental, societal, and economic benefits.

Imperial Valley in particular is aggressively promoting solar and geothermal power, and is excited about the new proposal.

Gary Wyatt, an Imperial County supervisor told Union-Tribune, “We see our future as being the renewable-energy capital of the U.S.”  The 33 percent requirement, he continued, “will be a great opportunity.”


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