Renewable Energy is Crucial for California

California must invest in “cheaper, more reliable and sustainable renewable energy sources” if it wants to build protection from out-of-state energy suppliers and to secure reliable sources of electricity at stable prices, according to a new report.

SACRAMENTO, California, US, 2001-07-10 [SolarAccess.com] California must invest in “cheaper, more reliable and sustainable renewable energy sources” if it wants to build protection from out-of-state energy suppliers and to secure reliable sources of electricity at stable prices, according to a new report. California could generate a quarter of its electricity from wind, solar and geothermal in the next decade, without relying on uncertain imports from other states, says the California Public Interest Research Group Charitable Trust in its report, ‘Affordable, Reliable Renewables: California’s Pathway to a Sustainable Energy Future.’ “As public policies that will determine California’s energy future are finalized, renewable energy must play a major role in order to prevent more market disruptions similar to California’s current energy woes,” says the report. “An enforceable minimum clean energy standard of 20 percent by 2010 would establish markets and technologies so that renewable energy industries could grow much larger thereafter.” “More dirty fossil fuel power will only bring more price gouging and more pollution,” explains Brad Heavner of CALPIRG, author of the report. “By developing California’s reliable and affordable renewable resources, we can create a sustainable energy future.” Investing in a long-term strategy that involves renewable energy is a smart fiscal move, the report explains. By 2010, wind turbines could generate 2,600 MW at less cost than conventional fuels, and another 1,600 MW would be developed if the premium were 0.1 to 2¢/kWh. Geothermal plants can generate electricity at one-third the cost of natural gas, it details. “A lot of renewable energy projects are already a great bargain, and all of it will become tremendously cheaper if we launch a massive drive to develop the industry,” adds Dan Jacobson of CALPIRG. “California should have a ‘Renewable Energy Valley’ leading the world in renewable energy technology, similar to Silicon Valley’s leadership in computer technology.” Renewable energy facilities can brought online faster than most fossil fuel plants, with the time to construct a 300 MW windfarm at half the time to build a natural gas plant of similar capacity. Greater reliance on renewable energy would also create a more sustainable energy future, the report says. Wind could provide 14 percent of electricity by 2010, up from 1.5 percent now, with 4,200 MW of capacity, while geothermal could rise to 10 percent from the current 6 if it increased capacity by 2,500 MW. Solar energy could generate 1.5 percent, compared with 0.4 percent now, with 600 MW coming from solar PV and 1,000 MW from solar thermal facilities. California should enter into long-term contracts with renewable energy producers, the report recommends. A major obstacle to developing renewables is that nearly all costs are up front and, to ease this burden, the state can secure long-term contracts with renewable energy producers. CALPIRG also wants interconnection procedures to be standardized, so residents can install solar panels or small wind turbines without having to negotiate complicated procedures to connect to the grid. The state should standardize these procedures and order the utilities to streamline the process, says the report. In addition, California should subsidize the development of renewable energy. New energy technologies need financial assistance to compete with established technologies, and this assistance would ensure that the state does not miss out on opportunities which need a development boost but will be beneficial in the long run. “California needs to once again be the leader in developing renewable energy technologies,” says Peter Navarro, a professor at University of California, Irvine. “Surely, renewable energy must be a cornerstone of this (energy) policy.” Wind, geothermal and solar energy currently provide 8 percent of the state’s electricity. Hydropower generates 18 percent, but the report says that technology relies on large dams, which it says is not environmentally sound. California will experience power blackouts this summer due to a shortage of electricity, and is building gas-fired plants to supply one-third of the state’s electricity. “The state has already approved more than enough of these (gas) plants and should now turn to developing renewable energy sources to satisfy future demand and retire old plants,” says the report. Tax equity needs to be established between renewable energy producers and traditional energy suppliers, it argues. Renewable generators use more expensive equipment and currently pay higher taxes on those assets, but the report notes that there are several policy options available to level the playing field, including taxing energy producers on output rather than assets, giving a specific tax rate reduction to renewable energy producers, and taxing conventional fuels for their negative environmental consequences. “Fossil fuels are a limited resource; nuclear waste is a massive problem with no good solution,” says the report. “Clearly we cannot continue to rely on these sources forever; deepening our reliance on them would result in escalating environmental costs and wasted time and effort.” “The question is not whether to develop renewable energy; the only question is when,” it continues. “California should begin now to take advantage of good opportunities to build the sustainable energy future.”

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