Renewable Energy Research to Receive $18 Million in California

California will provide up to $18 million for projects that promote multiple renewable energy technologies which contribute to the supply of electricity in that state.

SACRAMENTO, California, US, 2001-04-10 <SolarAccess.com> The California Energy Commission (CEC) has issued a request for proposals under its PIER (public interest energy research) program. The CEC expects to make up to three awards with funding over three years, and applicants must be energy service providers, municipal utilities, or other power distribution entities in the state. SMUD and LADWP are expected to apply, but large energy providers such as Enron and Duke Power are also eligible. Applicants must team with other entities and should contain multiple technologies in each of at least three renewables technologies. The current solicitation will emphasize the assessment and targeting of renewable energy development, increasing affordability by improving existing renewable energy facilities, expanding affordability and diversity using renewable distributed generation systems and developing renewable energy technologies for the future electricity system. The solicitation is to provide funding to support the development of advanced renewables technologies that will make California’s electricity more diverse and affordable. Program funds, rather than project specific funds, will be provided to facilitate development of linked renewable energy projects that act in a coordinated fashion to make electricity more affordable. Development efforts are to be focussed toward making electricity more affordable for a specific electricity customer class, for electricity customers in a specific geographical location, or to help create a collection of renewable energy technologies, products or services that enhance customer choice across customer class or location. Electricity service providers, municipal utility districts, rural electric cooperatives, irrigation districts that supply electricity and utility distribution companies are targeted as prime contractors under this solicitation. The goal is to see an increased and coordinated use of renewable energy technologies that help make the state’s electricity more diverse and affordable. Proposals are due by April 20, and proposals will be awarded by July. The PIER program was created in 1996, when Governor Pete Wilson signed into law Assembly Bill 1890 which provided authority for a fundamental restructuring of California’s electric services industry. Among other things, AB 1890 requires that at least $62.5 million be collected annually from investor-owned utility ratepayers for public interest energy R&D efforts not adequately provided by competitive and regulated markets. Of that amount, $62 million will be transferred to the CEC to administer specific projects. “California is rich with indigenous renewable energy resources,” says the CEC document. “Enough sunlight hits the surface of California to reasonably provide 65,000 MW of electricity; 15,000 more than is needed to meet the current peak electricity demand of the entire state.” “Similarly, California has over 7,000 MW of unharnessed wind resources, over 5,000 potential MW of undeveloped biomass resources and an estimated 4,000 MW of untapped geothermal resources,” it adds. “Presently, renewable resources provide 10 percent of California’s installed generating capacity and supply over 28,000 GWh of electricity annually to California ratepayers.” Public meetings organized by the CEC to identify barriers to renewable energy development indicated that California’s renewables industry was facing four key issues: affordability, reliability and dispatchability, power quality and safety, and environmental benefits. Renewables are viewed as a “clean energy” but there has been increasing awareness of avian mortality by wind turbines and concerns over the use of potentially toxic compounds by the solar PV industry, says the CEC. Early last decade, California was leading the world in renewable energy use, with 40 percent of global wind capacity, 90 percent of solar generating capacity, and 85 percent of geothermal electricity capacity, says CEC. The deregulation of the market and low natural gas prices changed that position, and California’s renewable energy industry remained flat or declined, while rapid growth occurred elsewhere in the world. “Making renewables part of a more affordable and diverse electricity system in California over the next five, ten and fifteen years is the focus of this programmatic solicitation,” says the document. Hybrid systems with up to 25 percent of total energy requirements from natural gas is considered to be a renewable energy technology, and funding is available for research into building-integrated PV and micro-wind turbines, among others. “For renewables to compete in California’s deregulated marketplace, they would do so based on value rather than cost,” it explains. “Renewables might not be the least expensive way to generate bulk power, but may be the most affordable way to solve a series of problems facing ratepayers.”

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