Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The 33% Pipe Dream

Last week we posted about the scramble to find a path forward to the 33% goal prescribed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. Today, Southern California Edison CEO Alan Fohrer, in published commentary in the Los Angeles Times, says, Fuggeddaboutit. Aint happening.

Fohrer argues that, political will aside, it simply isn't possible to hit the 33% benchmark by 2020.

He points out the following:

Utilities need to be able to supplement the renewable power they produce in California with renewable power purchased from outside California. Until Sacramento is willing to let that happen, 33% just is not achievable.

Second, to transmit all of the new renewable energy from the remote spots across the state where the sun shines most and the wind blows hardest, you need transmission lines-- 11 new transmission lines to be exact. And given that each transmission line takes-- on average-- 10 years to build, the 2020 deadline isn't realistic.

Third, because we don't yet have a good way of storing renewable energy, we need fill-in power from traditional generating sources to backstop the state when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing. That means more power plants, but given air quality regulations and environmental mandates, the number of power plants is actually declining, not increasing.

Finally, CalISO estimates that achieving the 33% benchmark will cost $115 billion. Ultimately a hefty portion of that would have to be passed on to ratepayers. Dealbreaker.

Reality can be sobering.

Why 33% renewables by 2020 may be impossible [Los Angeles Times]