California may miss 33% RPS target due to focus on centralized generation

Date: 16 Jun 2009 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

In a nutshell: On paper, California could meet its targets, provided it can afford and build $12 billion in new transmission lines and higher electricity costs. In reality, the state probably won’t make the target, concludes the California Public Utilities Commission in its latest analysis of the state’s clean-energy quest…

The commission laid out several hypothetical scenarios: The state doesn’t improve its dysfunctional system of permitting new clean-energy projects; the state does get better, and is immune to any outside risks; and a final scenario where things get better on the regulatory front but California also exists in the real world…

That’s the scenario that fails in the commission’s analysis. It fails, the commission concludes, because “California’s current procurement path is focused almost solely on central station renewable generation that is dependent on new transmission.” Big centralized renewable-energy projects, such as solar thermal plantations, are relatively cheap—at least compared to other parts of the clean-energy universe. But they also require huge new transmission lines, and that’s already proven a stumbling block in California.

One way around that, the commission says, would be to use more distributed generation—that is, smaller bits of clean energy that don’t require huge new transmission lines.

For more on the potential for states to use distributed generation to meet their own renewable energy needs, see our work on Energy Self-Reliant States.

Hat tip to the WSJ Environmental Capital blog for the story.

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John Farrell
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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.