Wednesday, March 16, 2011

California’s investor-owned utilities support and oppose Senator Simitian’s 33% RPS by 2020 bill

In yesterday’s Etopia News video interview with California State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) about his bill establishing a 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for California by 2020, he said that the bill was being supported by two of the state’s large investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and opposed by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

Etopia News contacted all three of California’s IOUs and asked them to provide statements containing their views on Senator Simitian’s RPS bill, which is called either SB 2 (Senate Bill 2) or SB x1 2 (Senate Bill 2, 1st Extraordinary Session). Here’s what they had to say:

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)

“SDG&E supports the state's efforts to achieve a 33 percent renewable portfolio standard and voluntarily committed to reaching 33 percent by 2020.

“SDG&E supported last year's effort to establish the 33 percent policy and the company again supports RPS legislation this year, including SBX1 2.

“The state's RPS is an important element in its achievement in a low-carbon energy future and SBX1 2 reinforces California's commitment to clean energy and clean energy jobs.”

Southern California Edison (SCE)

A March 7, 2011, letter from SCE Senior Vice President Gaddi H. Vasquez to Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair Felipe Fuentes, while that committee was considering the bill, contains that company’s views on the legislation:

“Re: Senate Bill SB x1 2 (Simitian), as introduced February 1, 2011: SUPPORT

“Dear Chairman Fuentes:

“Southern California Edison (SCE), the United States’ leading purchaser of renewable energy, is pleased to support SB x1 2, which will provide a meaningful and comprehensive framework for moving California to a 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

“The framework for RPS reform in SB x1 2 has resulted in 33% RPS legislation that is consistent with the principles we feel are critical to a successful program: cost containment, flexible compliance, access to broad markets, and equal rules for all load serving entities. SB x1 2 combines all of these principles to create a procurement path that protects customers while providing ample opportunity for the development of new renewables and creating new jobs and revenues.

“Despite our support for the RPS sections of SB x1 2, SCE remains concerned about SB x1 2’s pricing language for a small feed-in tariff.

“Additionally, SCE expects that this legislation, when it becomes law, will supplant the California Air Resources Board’s Renewable Electricity Standard (RES).

“For these reasons, and with the exception of the concerns expressed herein, SCE supports SB x1 2 and respectfully asks for your ‘aye’ vote on this measure.”

Odd utility out is Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which had this to say in a March 9, 2011, letter from Vice President, Government Relations, Edward T. Bedwell to Assembly Committee on Appropriations Chair Felipe Fuentes:

“RE: SBX1 2 (Simitian, Kehoe, Steinberg) -- OPPOSE UNLESS AMENDED

“As you know, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is among the most avid and active proponents of policies that will advance California’s transition to a low-carbon energy future. Increasing California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a cornerstone of the State’s leadership on climate change and PG&E and its customers share this same goal. With this leadership comes a commitment and responsibility to seek effective solutions on behalf of our customers. Going forward, our focus should be on establishing clear rules, setting realistic and achievable goals that demonstrate California’s leadership, and providing procurement tools to manage costs for California’s consumers. We look forward to supporting an amended bill that achieves these objectives.

“California’s bold renewable energy goals are not without significant cost. In fact, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) estimated in June 2009 that, over the next decade, $115 billion of infrastructure investment is needed across the state to achieve the 33 percent RPS goal.

“PG&E is concerned that, in its current form, SBX1 2 misses critical opportunities to provide adequate tools and set clear rules that will ensure cost protections for our customers. More specifically, PG&E supports mitigating costs to our customers by ensuring that every megawatt-hour (MWh) of RPS-eligible energy our customers pay for counts toward the goal, allowing procurement flexibility, and ensuring gradual and realistic timelines for achieving the goal. As a result, PG&E must oppose this bill until it is strengthened to address our concerns about undue customer costs. (bolding added) PG&E’s suggested amendments make sense for our customers and help create the sustained job growth in California that we all desire.

“Consistent with our long-standing key principles--expanded eligibility, flexible compliance, cost containment and equal rules--PG&E supports three specific changes to the bill to mitigate costs for our customers.”

The letter goes on to list these specific changes: modification of the bill to “mirror the limitations set forth in the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) recent Tradable Renewable Energy Credit decision (D.11-01-025), which limits our procurement to no more than 25 percent of our annual RPS requirement from renewable generators that are not directly connected to a California balancing authority or delivering their energy in real time to California”; adding “the ability to bank in-state contracts of at least five years in duration”; and that “the targets be modified to reflect those adopted in the California Air Resources Board’s 33% Renewable Energy Standard on September 23, 2010.”

The letter concludes:

“PG&E has been proud to stand in support of California’s bold renewable, energy efficiency and climate change goals. When properly designed and implemented, a 33 percent RPS can help the state continue to be a leader in the clean energy economy while managing costs to California’s consumers and businesses. We remain committed to working with you, the author and all interested stakeholders to ensure that SBX1 2 meets this test.”

SBx1 2 went on to be approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and now awaits action by the whole Assembly, expected next week.

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