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California on Track to Meet Renewable Portfolio Standard Targets

carenewableprogressThe California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved contracts for more than 8,300 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy signed with the state’s largest utilities, according to the CPUC’s third quarter report. With additional PG&E contracts with BrightSource, approved in August, the total is now 8,600 megawatts, according to CleanTechnica.

As of June 2009, the CPUC has approved 116 contracts contributing 8,334 MW toward the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal. The CPUC is currently reviewing an additional 13 contracts for 5,941 MW of capacity, according to the third quarter report.

Most of the state’s renewable energy already on the grid has been wind power, with approximately 90 percent of new capacity from wind, but solar is expected to surpass wind in the future, according to the report. The report finds that an increasing number of bids in recent RPS solicitations are for solar thermal and solar photovoltaic (PV) projects.

California’s RPS legislation signed in 2002 requires the state’s utilities to get 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2010 and have it up and running on the grid by 2013, reports CleanTechnica.

More renewable energy generation came online in 2008 than the 2003 – 2007 time period with new installed capacity in 2009 projected to exceed 2008, according to the report.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s Executive Order S-14-08, issued on November 17, 2008, established a further goal of 33 percent renewable energy by 2020. The CPUC and the California Energy Commission are jointly responsible for implementing the program, according to the report.

Alan J. Fohrer, chief executive of Southern California Edison, thinks that 33 percent renewables by 2020 may be impossible because it would require a massive investment — about $115 billion for new generating facilities, transmission lines and other grid infrastructure — over a short time period, according to his opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times.

Fohrer also stated in the article that if the state’s utilities can’t also buy renewable power from outside the state, California will not achieve its environmental goals, and it will result in fewer renewable projects, delays and higher customer costs.

One challenge that he noted in particular is the need for more transmission lines because the best sources of renewable energy are far from where electricity customers live. He cites a CPUC study that indicates that achieving the 33 percent goal will require 11 new transmission lines, which will take about ten years to build, once the line is proposed. With only a few new lines in development, a 2020 deadline is unattainable, he said.

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