California Utilities Not Likely to Meet Renewable Energy Targets

Date: January 13, 2010

Source: News Room

California's privately owned utilities are unlikely to meet a state mandate to generate at least 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by the end of 2010. That is according to Gregg Morris, director of the Green Power Institute, speaking before the Pacific West Biomass Conference on Jan. 12. "We've done a great job of signing contracts," Morris said. "We've done a very poor job of actually bringing power online." He said that the utilities have actually lost some ground since the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) was signed in 2002. At that time, the investor-owned utilities (IOUs) were averaging about 13.5 percent in total renewable generation that includes wind, solar, geothermal, small hydro and biomass. RPS data from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) confirms that even though 7,000 megawatts of IOU contracts have been signed for "RPS eligible" energy, actual project development has been stalled by regulations, a lack of transmissioncapacity and overlapping agencies with jurisdiction.

Energy from biomass, including landfill gas projects, dairy digesters and forest waste, declined to 19 percent of all renewable power in California in 2008 from 22 percent in 2003. In 1980, 60 biomass plants operating in California produced 1,000 MW of electricity. Today, it is about 30 plants, producing 600 MW.

In all, biomass currently produces 2 percent of California's power, compared to wind (2 percent), small hydro (2 percent) and solar (1 percent). The total renewable generation for the state, including public and private power entities, is 11 percent.

The picture could change with the implementation of California's climate change law, A.B. 32, as public utilities face the reality of an executive order that calls for all power operators to achieve a 33 percent RPS target by 2020.

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