Upcoming Hearing for California Renewable Energy Bill SB 1247

A renewable energy bill pending in the California Senate is scheduled for hearing on April 20, 2010.

Sen. Robert Dutton (R) of District 31, San Bernardino and surrounding areas, introduced SB 1247 in February. SB 1247 proposes to broaden the definition of “eligible renewable energy resources.” Under California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) Program, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) must implement annual targets so that electric corporations increase their procurement of eligible renewable energy resources. Right now, “eligible renewable energy resources” are conditioned on the renewable generator being within or near to state boundaries. Public Utilities Code § 399.12(c). SB 1247 would remove the condition of “in-state” renewable sourcing by replacing it with what appears to be an exclusive list of “renewable” sources. These include: biomass, solar energy, wind, geothermal, fuel cells using renewable fuels, hydroelectric generation, nuclear generation, digester gas, municipal solid waste conversion, landfill gas, ocean wave, ocean thermal, and tidal current.

The other change SB 1247 proposes is to repeal the related Public Utilities Code provision describing how small hydroelectric generators could remain eligible as renewable energy sources. Under the current regime, large-scale hydroelectric power is excluded as an eligible renewable energy source, but small-scale hydropower is included. By repealing the small-scale hydropower provision but still including “hydroelectric generation” in the renewable energy definition, this change apparently would allow all hydropower sources to be included within as a renewable energy source.

In short, SB 1247 would expand the number of renewable energy sources utilities can use to meet their RPS standards. As a result, SB 1247 would likely impact the rate of California’s conversion to renewable energy sources. The three major California electrical corporations had to import renewable energy from other Western states, but still fell short of meeting their 2010 RPS requirements. (See project status reports here.) California electric utilities have signed contracts sufficient to meet their RPS standards, but bureaucratic barriers are cited as the main reason why they are unable to meet the standards. For example, the CPUC is presently reviewing 11GW of renewable power for 2010. For those projects to get final approval, they not only have to pass through CPUC’s approval process, but many other agencies requiring permits, including county governments, air quality districts and the California Energy Commission. The projects must also undergo environmental reviews under CEQA, NEPA or both, and overcome land use issues associated with transmitting the energy. In conclusion, SB 1247 contains provisions that are likely to impact where, how, and by when California electrical corporations can obtain renewable energy to meet their RPS standards.

Details for the hearing: April 20, 2010 at 9 a.m. – Room 3191, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA, 95814; intersection of 10th St. and L St.

Categories: Renewable Energy