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Renewable Energy gets State Push

by Don Thompson, Associated Press
Contra Costa Times, July 30, 2003

SACRAMENTO -- California energy agencies want a fifth of the state's energy to come from renewable sources by 2010, which is seven years faster than the previous goal.

Power Authority head David Freeman said Tuesday that if by year's end the Public Utilities Commission hasn't begun requiring utilities to provide more power from renewables to meet the goal, he will ask legislators to give him that authority instead.

"We're going to see some renewable action in this state, one way or another," Freeman said while touting the jobs that could also result.

"It's an important aspect of our energy plan," Freeman said. "The utilities need to be entering into long-term utility contracts that will support the financing and building of new wind farms and solar power and other renewable energy."

Utilities commission spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said there will be no need for the authority to seek a legal change. The commission, she said, already is working to ensure the state meets the renewable energy goal jointly set this spring by the commission, the power authority -- known formally as the Consumer Power and Conservation Financing Authority -- and the Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission.

The state's three energy agencies agreed to increase California's use of renewable energy to 20 percent by 2010, twice as fast as the previous 2017 target.

The power authority, created in the wake of the 2001 energy crisis, has up to $5 billion in bonding authority to build, buy or lease power plants, or help private companies finance the construction.

In the short term, the authority has been urging the utilities commission to order utilities to build or contract for more emergency power plants to be used at times of peak energy demand, to help avoid the sorts of blackouts that rolled across the state two years ago.

Freeman's new challenge to the utility commission came as he backed a report by the private Environment California Research and Policy Center that said an emphasis on renewable energy would bring new jobs and technology that could ultimately be exported elsewhere.

"Clean, renewable energy has the potential to be the next Silicon Valley for California ... bringing thousands of high-paying, high-tech jobs," said the advocacy group's Bernadette Del Chiaro.

Chris Beals, president of A Solar Company of Sacramento and San Rafael, said he expects California could again lead the nation in developing new renewable energy technology and practices.

California's agricultural waste, wind-blown foothills and year-round sunshine make it an ideal place to develop industries in biomass, wind, hydroelectric and solar energy, said Environment California's Evan Paul.

"It definitely rivals the computer industry for the amount of growth we're going to be seeing in the next 10 to 15 years," Paul said.

Paul and a nonprofit group in Modesto said the San Joaquin Valley could particularly benefit from renewable energy projects that would bring jobs and offset air pollution contributed largely by agriculture.

The push to renewables already is speeding up, said Mark Luft, a manager for Unlimited Energy, a solar panel company in Fresno.

"We were putting in one system a month three and a half years ago," Luft said. "Now, we're putting in one solar system a day."

Related Pages:
Renewable Power Bill Gains Steam in CA by Jennifer Coleman, Contra Costa Times, 8/20/2

Don Thompson, Associated Press
Associated Press Writer Brian Skoloff contributed to this report.
Renewable Energy gets State Push
Contra Costa Times, July 30, 2003

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