California Could Surpass Renewable Energy Goals

Author:Marjorie Hernandez     Source:Ventura County Star     Click:302     Publish time:2012/12/12 9:21:37

California is poised to meet its renewable energy target in the next eight years with a "comfortable margin" to spare as regulators work to promote projects that also help increase "green" jobs in the state.

Michael Peevey, president of the state Public Utilities Commission, said programs such as the California Solar initiative are leading the drive to meet a 2020 deadline requiring one-third of the state's electricity to come from wind and solar power.

At a forum Monday organized by The Lacayo Institute for Workforce & Community Studies at CSU Channel Islands, Peevey discussed the state's efforts to promote programs such as solar and wind power and the job growth that has resulted.

"People talk about doom and gloom for businesses in California, and some aspects of it are true, but the innovative technological side is growing by great bounds," Peevey said. "The state agencies overseeing these programs will need to coordinate with our universities, community colleges, workforce development agencies and the private sector to make sure we're training the right number of people for the right jobs.

"I believe there's tremendous opportunity ahead for young people who are interested in working in the green economy."

Peevey said California's investor-owned utilities increased their renewable energy share to 20 percent from 13 percent in the past three years. Utilities have 11,000 megawatts of renewable energy contracts in the pipeline that have been approved by the commission and will require investments in new facilities.

Peevey said lease and power purchase arrangements have helped reduce cost for customers interested in renewable self-generation.

The success of reverse auctions has also helped the state with its renewable energy goals, Peevey said. In a reverse auction, developers bid on contracts to install green projects. The solar company that offers to sell electricity to California's three big utilities at the lowest rate wins the power purchase agreement.

The first round in November 2011 brought in 10 times more capacity than the megawatts released for bid. The total program was set for 1,300 megawatts, split into four semiannual auctions over two years.

In May, the Public Utilities Commission approved 145 megawatts of capacity for solar, wind and geothermal projects.

"Leases and power purchase agreements for rooftop solar, reverse auctions, streamlined contracts and approval process and self-adjusting tariffs ... these are some examples of innovative tools and ideas that we're going to need over the next decade to move decisively away from our reliance on fossil fuels," Peevey said. "My hope is that these ambitious policies and programs in California and other states will spur the federal government to take some meaningful action."

To keep the state on its path to meet its 2020 goals, companies need an educated and trained labor force, Peevey said.

From 1995 to 2010, employment in California grew 12 percent, while jobs in the green sector increased 50 percent, Peevey said.

"We are going to need lots of people designing, manufacturing, installing and servicing these green technologies," Peevey said. "People say we can't create jobs here anymore in California, but they are wrong. It's all in high-tech jobs. Everything from solar panels to fuel cells are being manufactured right here, and there are so many success stories of companies adding thousands of jobs throughout the state."

Keywords:California Could Surpass Renewable Energy Goals
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