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Issues and solutions

Although California legislators rejected the American Wind Energy Association's "renewables portfolio standard" for integrating clean power sources into competitive electricity markets, the state's Renewables Working Group has released a comprehensive analysis of the implementation issues of such a minimum renewables purchase requirement. Established by the California Public Utilities Commission in January, the group has provided a forum for competing renewable energy development proposals.

While California legislators rejected the American Wind Energy Association's "renewables portfolio standard" (RPS) for integrating clean power sources into competitive electricity markets, the state's Renewables Working Group has released a comprehensive analysis of the implementation issues of such a minimum renewables purchase requirement.

Established by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in January, the group has provided a forum for competing renewable energy development proposals. Among those attending was Nancy Rader for AWEA, representatives of other renewable technologies, electric and natural gas utilities, state agencies and environmental advocacy groups.

According to Ryan Wiser, a co-editor of the final report, the 250-page document remains an invaluable compendium for policy makers. He notes the California Energy Commission (CEC) has to report by March next year on how best to spend up to $540 million -- the sum now earmarked for renewables over a five year period. "I think the process involved in the CEC effort will be every bit as contentious as the debate over renewable energy policies in the Legislature," predicts Wiser (main story). He feels the working group's lack of consensus was reflected in the final lobbying of lawmakers and ultimately led to the abandonment of the RPS.

Wiser maintains the working group report will likely serve as a foundation for discussions at the CEC since it addresses several alternatives to the renewable portfolio standard -- including a surcharge funded auction for renewable production credits.

The report describes five variations of a "minimum renewables purchase requirement" by fivc different groups, including renewables advocates and utilities. Ironically, it may now be more valuable in states outside California, such as Maine, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin as they are still considering mandatory purchase for getting clean power technologies into markets dominated by a preoccupation with short term planning.

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