Legislation needed to increase amount of renewable energy
by Jim Metropulos, Sierra Club California
California once led the world in renewable energy. We have the power to take back the lead.
Our state’s three investor-owned utilities, PG&E, Southern Edison, and San Diego Electric & Gas, probably will fall short of the state’s renewables target—20% by 2010. That’s why Sierra Club California believes the state should reform our renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) law. Improving this law will help meet AB 32 climate protection goals, improve the quality of the air we breathe, and reduce our reliance on depleted fossil fuel resources.
Other states have made significant strides in building renewable energy. In 2007, Texas reached a total installed wind capacity of over 5,000 megawatts. That same year, California only built about 60 megawatts of wind turbines. Although efforts to pass legislation to boost the RPS goal and to make reforms in the program failed this year, Sierra Club California continues to lobby for more renewable power.
In upgrading California’s RPS law we must guard against efforts to undermine it in the name of reform. We oppose changing the definition to allow more hydropower to be considered as renewable.
We do not think utilities should get renewable power credit for their energy efficiency efforts. While we have always supported energy efficiency, we believe the RPS should instead encourage investment in new sources of clean renewable power while other programs focus on energy efficiency.
Not all energy sources labeled under current law as “renewable” are equally sustainable in terms of environmental impacts or energy supply. Even renewable energy can have adverse impacts; poor environmental practices at the Altamont wind site in Northern California, for example, have resulted in excessive bird kills. The impact and sources of biofuels, large-scale development of solar power in the desert, toxic materials in certain types of solar panels, and other issues should be addressed, and standards developed for proper use of resources.
As we power up California’s standards, we need to ensure we do not lose valuable resources, and that we do nothing to harm the environment we are striving to protect.