Lessons from California's Renewable Resources Initiative

On May 22, 2012 FOSEP hosted a seminar from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) (http://m.ucsusa.org/), in which advances of California’s renewable resource initiatives and their effect on the Pacific Northwest were discussed. The seminar was lead by Laura Wisland, who discussed the political initiatives that advanced a requirement of 33% of all retail energy sales to be from renewable resources by 2020. Chris Carney followed up by discussing how UCS works with a national network of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and economists across many disciplines to assure that these initiatives are informed by independent science rather than vested interests.

In 2002, California Senate Bill 1078 established the Renewables Portfolio Standards (RPS) program, requiring 20% of retail sales be from renewable energy sources by 2017. This initiative was later amended by Executive Order S-14-08 requiring 33% renewable energy by 2020 and was codified in 2011 by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. by Senate Bill X1-2. To meet these standards, California can obtain energy from geothermal sources, biomass, small hydropower (<30Megawatts), wind, and solar energy. An overview of California Renewable Energy Overview and Programs can be found here: http://www.energy.ca.gov/renewables/

Interestingly, the Pacific Northwest generates much of the power that is utilized by northern California from wind power generated by the Columbia River, described here:

Establishing a 33% rate of renewable power resources for California is not without its challenges—in order not to stress the power grid from the Bonneville dam in the Columbia River that runs between Washington and Oregon, engineers must match the flow of energy into the grid with power consumption on a minute-by-minute basis. Because of the fickleness of wind and weather in the Pacific Northwest, this can lead to unexpected surges and challenges for the grid. Among the remaining issues to control in order to establish a successful 33% rate of renewable power also include how to deal with transmission and interconnection of energy sources outside of the state, land-wildlife-water impacts (such as whether to spill or not to spill over the dam) and access to capital/financial incentives. Oregon is establishing the largest wind farm in the world expected to come online this year, and all of the power generated this farm will go to power Southern California. The current power lines that transmit energy from Washington to California already operate at top capacity; new requirements placed on these lines by the Oregon wind farm will require structural updates in order to accept more power.

In order to make sure that these sources of renewable energy are established scientifically and without influence of special interests, the UCS has introduced a Scientific Integrity Program (http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/). UCS policies are established by groups of individuals including scientists, engineers, economists, physicists, and mathematicians among others, and can be found in the UCS published book The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The challenges imposed by California Senate Bill X1-2 are many, but with the cooperation of scientists, engineers, and politicians, these challenges can be met and solved in a mutually productive manner in order to comply with this legislation.


2 thoughts on “Lessons from California's Renewable Resources Initiative

  1. oferty leasingu

    Howdy just happened upon your website from Bing after I typed in, “FOSEP » Lessons from California’s Renewable Resources Initiative” or something similar (can’t quite remember exactly). Anyways, I’m happy I found it because your subject material is exactly what I’m searching for (writing a university paper) and I hope you don’t mind if I gather some material from here and I will of course credit you as the source. Thanks.


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