sábado, marzo 10

The Future of Alternative Energy in California

California has a clear strategic energy vision, described in the state’s Energy Action Plan and Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan.

 A framework goal of Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan is to convert existing homes and businesses to zero net energy buildings. The Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan was co-authored by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and California’s other private utilities in 2008 and updated in 2011 (see: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/energy/Energy+Efficiency/eesp/). The concept of “zero net energy” is to develop or retrofit buildings so they produce at least as much electricity on site as they use.  A combination of energy efficiency measures and rooftop PV are used to achieve zero net energy. The timeline established in the Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan envisions the conversion of 25 percent of San Diego-area homes and commercial buildings to zero net energy buildings by 2020. All new homes will be built as zero net energy structures from 2020 onward, all new commercial buildings will be zero net energy from 2030 onward.

A photovoltaic system (PV system) is a system that uses solar panels to convert the sun’s energy into electricity
Source: www.pv-tech.org
California energy policy has not yet directly addressed the fundamental conflict between a state strategy that is built around zero net energy buildings, which will substantially reduce demand for utility-supplied electricity, and the traditional private utility revenue model that is dependent on ever-expanding demand for utility-supplied electricity. Private utilities increase revenue by building more transmission lines, more distribution substations, more power plants, and more meters, and passing along the cost of this infrastructure to ratepayers at a guaranteed profit. 

The Energia Sierra Juarez Project proposes building a massive wind farm to transform the wind into electricity, but wind farms like the one proposed can heavily harm the wildlife of the region. Source: www.mexicoperspective.com
For California’s energy strategy to succeed in the private utility context, SDG&E’s energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies will need to be brought into alignment with the state’s Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. In the renewable energy arena, this will require shifting the focus from utility-scale renewable energy projects in rural areas of the California – Baja California border region to local rooftop and distributed PV. SDG&E was authorized in 2011 to purchase renewable energy credits from rooftop PV system operators to help the utility meet its 2020 RPS target of 33 percent. This provides a mechanism to enhance the economics of rooftop PV while reducing overall RPS costs to ratepayers. A focus on rooftop solar is the most economical and least environmentally damaging strategy available to the border region – and it is state policy in California.

Bill Powers, P.E. (Ing.)
Powers Engineering
San Diego, California

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