Fueling a Green Energy Quest - LA Times Editorial
Not so long ago, natural gas was the darling fuel of California's
electric power industry. There was lots
of it. It was cheap. And much cleaner to burn than the fuel oil
that then powered most generating
plants. Older plants switched to it.
Now California needs to begin weaning itself from its heavy reliance
on natural gas, which fires roughly
half the electric power generated in the state. The state needs
to diversify by developing more
renewable energy sources.
A temporary shortage of natural gas coupled with huge price spikes
was a major cause of the state's
energy crisis of 2000-01. Supplies have rebounded and the price
has dropped. But shortages and
soaring prices are certain to return. Energy companies could again
California hostage. The state was once a leader in the renewable
experimenting with everything from geothermal plants to wind generators,
panels to turning organic "biomass" waste into power.
But the energy crisis
disrupted California's drive toward increased use of such alternatives.
the state took over the purchase of power, what it bought for years
would be generated almost exclusively by conventional gas-fired
During 2000 about 8% of all power used in the state--and 10% of
produced in the state--came from renewable sources, not counting
power. Twelve percent of what Southern California Edison distributed
was renewable. But with new technology coming on line at competitive
the potential for renewable energy is virtually unlimited. Fourteen
have set goals for increasing its use, and the U.S. Senate last
week took a first
step toward national goals.
California needs to approve state Senate
Bill 532, by Byron Sher
(D-Stanford), to set a firm target: that renewable sources supply
20% of the
state's power by 2010.
Sher's bill passed the Senate last year but got bogged down in
committee, in part because of opposition from municipal utilities
such as the
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which jealously guard
freedom from state regulation. The municipals probably will be dropped
the bill, but they should adopt their own 20% goals as a matter
of good policy.
A portion of utility rates is already set aside to purchase renewable
new California Power Authority is considering a $2- billion plan
renewable projects that would produce the equivalent of three large
power plants. And the Energy Commission will help. Making a good
better is the fact that renewable sources are virtually pollution-free.
words, California could again take the lead in a high-tech industry
create thousands of jobs without making the air dirtier. Encouraging
news for a
state more accustomed to energy embarrassment.