September 24, 2007 from Commissioner Timothy Simon
Last year the legislature accelerated the Renewables Portfolio Standard, or RPS, to 20% renewable energy by 2010. The Investor Owned Utilities have made significant progress in the past few years in reaching this goal and will have 20% of their electricity contracted by 2010, and delivered by 2011 or 2012.
The RPS has created a robust market for renewable energy and has led to construction of new renewable generation through competition and a level-playing field. I applaud the members of the Independent Energy Producers for playing an active role in the CPUC RPS proceedings and for helping to define the rules that have created this market. I also recognize that as developers of biomass, geothermal, small hydro, solar, and wind, you are the driving force in California that is building new, clean, steel in the ground that will help us meet the aggressive goals of AB32.
While we have made significant progress increasing the generation of renewable energy in the state, we still face a few very important challenges, which include transmission, grid integration, and technological innovation.
I will begin by speaking about transmission. Because renewable resources are often located far from population centers and existing transmission infrastructure, new transmission lines must be built to access these resources. This state is blessed with a plethora of untapped, high-quality renewable resources, including the sun to fuel large scale solar projects in the desert; undeveloped geothermal reserves, including those in the Imperial Valley; and high-wind areas including the Tehachapi region.
I support creative and collaborative initiatives to build new renewable transmission in the most cost-effective manner. For example, the CPUC is an active leader in the newly-formed Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative, which is a statewide planning process that will identify the most cost-effective transmission projects needed to accommodate the state’s renewable energy goals. Because your members hold valuable knowledge regarding renewable resource potential in the state, I urge your active participation in this new process.
Grid integration of intermittent renewables is also becoming a challenge as we ramp up renewable energy procurement. We need a new paradigm and much creativity regarding how we think about the grid. Our grid was built for fossil-fuels such as coal, oil, and gas, or base-load power, such as nuclear. In order to shift towards low-carbon fuels, we need to procure more renewables and flexible fossil fuels that can complement the intermittent nature of renewable resources.
We also need to think creatively. For example, two weeks ago, PG&E and Tesla Motors announced a new partnership to explore smart charging. Instead of providing power back to the grid, smart charging remotely controls the vehicle charging rate to support the operation of the grid or best match load to the availability of intermittent renewable energy resources such as wind and solar. I applaud PG&E and Tesla for this bold step in energy conservation and grid management. Only through creative thinking and entrepreneurship will we be able to achieve a low-carbon future.
In order to meet the state’s ambitious climate change goals, we will also need technological innovation on a large scale. As the assigned Commissioner to PG&E and SDG&E’s application for an Emerging Renewables Resource Program, I am currently reviewing the proposal and am excited about the prospects for new renewable technologies to emerge such as wave energy.