Energy Foundation Calls for Maximum Use of Renewables

The Energy Foundation, a U.S. based sustainable energy advocacy group, wants California to make maximum use of renewable energy and cogeneration power to avoid blackouts this year.

SAN FRANCISCO, California, US, 2001-03-29 <SolarAccess.com> “We have the means to fix this problem now,” says Hal Harvey, president of the Energy Foundation, in reference to the energy crisis in California and the prediction of rolling electricity blackouts this spring and summer. “The five power plants currently in the pipeline are needed, but these 2,200 megawatts may or may not be online in time for this summer, and will not be enough on their own,” he explains. “Launching a full throttle campaign to reduce demand by installing energy efficient technology, from real-time metering to air conditioners, can close the demand/supply imbalance and prevent blackouts.” The Foundation wants the state to maximize the use of renewables and cogeneration power, and says long-term contracts should be signed for 1,500 MW of new wind power, which it calls “the cheapest, fastest and cleanest source of new supply.” Independent power suppliers provide 30 percent of the state’s power, but some are on the brink of bankruptcy due to the inability of utilities to pay for the generation. Harvey wants the Department of Water Resources to take over those contracts to ensure continuing viability. “Energy efficiency is not energy conservation,” he adds. “The government need not ask customers to swelter in the dark this summer.” “We have the technology to accomplish huge reductions in demand for not only this summer, but also next summer and beyond,” says Harvey. “We can save California from not just an energy crisis but an economic disaster, if and only if we move on it today, not tomorrow or next week.” The Foundation’s proposal calls for an aggressive campaign to install energy efficient air conditioners, refrigerators and light bulbs, including state funding for a crash campaign to boost sales of efficient technologies. It wants the Public Utility Commission to immediately adopt a proposal for an “inclining block” rate structure, where customers would pay incremental charges for excess consumption. The installation of clean micropower technologies should be expedited, while ensuring that diesel generators do not threaten public health, says the proposal. Solar photovoltaics, microturbines, fuel cells, small wind turbines and other micropower technologies are increasingly cost effective and can be installed very quickly, while diesel generators emit 100 times more pollution than large natural-gas plants. The state should also demand reduction by big customers through the installation of real time meters and demand-side bidding. The California Energy Commission estimates that the installation of 40,000 meters could reduce demand by 2,000 MW this summer. “We cannot afford to wait if we are to avoid serious power problems this summer,” says Harvey. “Nor can we afford to abandon the long-proven means to a clean, reliable energy future.” “Until deregulation, California had been an international leader in deploying energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies,” he adds. “If we reclaim leadership with these clean technologies, we can avoid future blackouts, save money, and keep cleaning up the environment.” The Energy Foundation is a partnership of major foundations interested in sustainable energy, and works to encourage a transition to a sustainable energy future in the United States by promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy.

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