Getting California to 33% Renewable by 2020

Date: November 1, 2009

Pacific Environment is working to ensure that our home state gets back on its clean energy course and deploys the best clean energy policies to meet its 33% renewable goal by 2020.

We support the following:

“Put it in My Backyard” – Making the Case for Localized Power Generation

California currently has incentive programs like “Million Solar Roofs” for homeowners, while California’s utilities are working to site large “central station” renewable projects in remote locations such as the Mojave Desert. What is largely missing in California’s energy policy portfolio is incentives for localized energy generation, also known as Wholesale Distributed Generation (WDG). These are projects that are up to 20 megawatts in capacity, and located within or near the energy market. This could be a large solar array on top of a warehouse or in an empty lot that feeds power to the grid; a small wind farm that serves local needs; battery storage that can store this energy; or a combined heat and power facility that uses natural gas efficiently and can be used to “back up” intermittent renewables. According to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), over half of the generation that is to be built under the Renewable Portfolio Standard could cost-effectively come from local, distributed sources at a cost similar to that of central station renewable projects.

The main advantages of Localized Power Generation or WDG are:

  • They create green collar jobs in the communities where people live
  • They require almost no controversial transmission lines
  • They can be developed quickly with minimal environmental impact
  • They can replace dirty energy such as fossil fuel power plants

Getting Energy Procurement Right and Stopping Dirty Power Plants

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) makes key decisions on what sort of power the utilities buy, and on what terms. Pacific Environment is advocating to shut down the state’s fleet of 17 aging “once-through cooling” (OTC) natural gas power plants and to replace them with renewable power. These plants are inefficient, and because they use seawater for cooling, they kill billions of fish and larvae every year. Pacific Environment is advocating that the OTC plants can be phased out between now and 2020, with all new energy development coming from renewable power in order to meet the 33 percent by 2020 requirement.

Getting the Right Incentives for Renewables

What makes a renewable project attractive to an investor is regulatory and financial certainty. One of the main obstacles to Wholesale Distributed Generation (WDG) development is inconsistent and unclear incentives for renewable developers. A Feed-in Tariff (FiT) is a way to provide that certainty. A FiT is a policy which guarantees a renewable developer a set price for their energy, to be paid by the utility. FiTs have been credited for the rapid development of renewable power in Europe, especially Germany and France. Pacific Environment supports a strong Feed-in Tariff for California as a pathway to WDG, and is advocating for Feed-in Tariffs at the CPUC.

Building a Green Grid in the San Francisco Bay Area

Pacific Environment has released the Bay Area Smart Energy 2020 (BASE 2020) Report.  The report provides a “how-to” guide for how the region can maximize local resources to dramatically reduce fossil fuel dependence. It emphasizes roof-top solar and energy efficiency strategies, and recommends policies that can create the best incentives for residents and businesses to maximize energy production on their own site. It favors local energy projects owned by residents and businesses over those controlled by utilities.

Keeping Our Utilities LNG-Free

Since 2003, Pacific Environment has worked with local communities in California to successfully stop LNG development here. However, there remain two active proposals to bring LNG – a form of imported fossil fuel—through terminals in Oregon. Both proposals include lengthy pipelines that would cut through forests and farms to deliver most of the gas to California. Some of the companies have admitted that about 90 percent of the LNG delivered to their Oregon terminals would serve Northern California, in particular the PG&E service territory. We are fighting this backdoor effort by supporting a local, on-the-ground effort in Southern Oregon, and by providing extensive data on why these projects are in violation of both California and Oregon’s clean energy laws.

View the full report