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SUPPORT STILL MISSING FOR TRUE GREEN MARKET

Attempts by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) to develop a set of deregulation principles for the California power industry, together with environment and small electricity user groups, has bogged down in disagreement. AWEA had hoped to unveil its green principles on September 13 -- the same day as a hearing took place in Sacramento on a new and improved deregulation plan presented by Independent Energy Producers (IEP), Southern California Edison and large industrial electricity consumers (see previous story).

One of the primary sticking points blocking AWEA's efforts was the matter of how to continue, or even expand, support for wind power and other renewable resource options. Representing the group, Sara Myers, a San Francisco attorney, released what she called a preview of the so-called "public interest" principles, but AWEA was not among the list of five organisation supporters of the document. Neither was the Natural Resources Defense Council -- perhaps the most active of environmental groups on energy issues, nor the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, an umbrella group representing the broad interests of the renewables industry. Among the supporters of the Myers preview were the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Sierra Club.

According to one insider, "the environmental community is not willing to fight for a strong renewables policy." This source notes that some of the groups have been reluctant to support AWEA's proposed renewables portfolio standard which, by obliging utilities to buy a set amount of clean power is aiming to level the power playing field. One Sierra Club member has referred to it as "an unfunded mandate." The problem with the IEP-supported plan, said this source, is that while it protects existing wind projects, "there is nothing for future renewables development."

Key provisions of the preview of public interest group principles included levying a separate charge on all customers to fund renewable energy development; a requirement that cost recovery of utility unprofitable, or stranded, investments (nuclear) "must be substantially less than 100%;" a requirement that utility market power issues be addressed before utility restructuring begins -- a position that conflicts with IEP's plan; explicit authorisation for local government entities to combine and directly access power supplies, without any requirement for installation of individual customer time-of-use metres; and a demand that the level and diversity of renewables that existed in California in 1993 should be restored and improved upon by providing funds "to stimulate the development of diverse long term resource portfolios (and thus new renewable generation projects) under a market-driven industry structure."

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