Series of contracts by California utility

The California utility with the least amount of renewable energy is taking a big step towards meeting its state obligations for green power purchases. San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) says it will sign contracts with 11 energy suppliers in January for 326.7 MW of renewable generation, the output of 15 separate projects. The list includes five new wind projects in southern California with a combined capacity of 156.2 MW.

The contracts, with terms of five to 15 years, will increase the utility's renewables supply from less than 1% of total load to almost 7% in 2004. More than half of that, nearly 4%, will be online by end 2003.

As well as wind, the new energy will be generated by agricultural burning and methane gas from local landfills. SDG&E's Ed Herik will not comment on projects or developers until the California Public Utilities Commission approves the plan.

Customers of the utility, along with others in the state, were hard hit in 2000 and 2001 by high energy prices caused by soaring gas prices and market manipulation. Both James Avery, senior vice president at SDG&E, and Matt Freedman, attorney for the consumer watchdog group The Utility Reform Network, agree that the purchase of renewables should help stabilise SDG&E consumer prices, now the highest in California. It also increases "reliable electricity supplies and provides a critical long term insurance policy for San Diego residents," Freedman says. A recently enacted California renewables portfolio standard requires the state's three largest investor utilities to acquire 20% of their power from renewable generators by 2017. SDG&E opposed that legislation. (Windpower Monthly, October 2002).