The Energy Overseer
Greenwire Articles and Archives
From April 2005 through Oct. 2006, I was the San Francisco correspondent for Greenwire, an on-line news service for energy policy and environmental issues. Then I took over as editor for Land Letter. Prior to joining the Center for Resource Solutions, I made other contributions to Greenwire in late 2007.
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Look here for the Land Letter archives
Focus on Water-related stories in Greenwire and Land Letter during 2005-07
Use these links to various Greenwire articles and Indexes 2005-2007:
12/21/07 Calif. PUC will allow utilities to compete in power bidding
Reversing a policy that has prevented the state's three big electric utilities from competing with non-utilities in solicitations for generation resources, the California Public Utilities Commission yesterday conditionally approved long-term procurement plans by investor-owned utilities (IOUs) to meet power needs over the next decade. But while granting the authorization for utilities to accept bids for more than 3,400 megawatts by 2016, the commission imposed restrictions on communication among utility employees involved in bidding and selecting winners. Bid now.
12/12/07 Political stalemate could mean $12B ballot initiative in Calif.
SACRAMENTO -- Business groups here may go directly to California voters next year with an $11.7 billion ballot initiative meant to shore up the state's water infrastructure. The California Chamber of Commerce and other groups filed four versions of a water bond proposal last week. Each contains a slightly different variation on the theme of using public bond issuances to pay for a variety of water conservation projects, revamped policies, and new dams or reservoirs. The groups are frustrated by the inability of the state Legislature to move forward with a plan during the bogged-down special session. Get wet.
12/11/07 Warmer weather poses threat to Western aquifers
SAN FRANCISCO -- Many geologists fear climate change will impair the ability of groundwater aquifers in the West to recharge as a result of diminished snowpack in the region, according to new research presented here at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting. Dip in.
12/07/07 Calif. agency promotes aggressive renewables portfolio target
The California Energy Commission yesterday endorsed a state-wide 33 percent renewables portfolio goal by 2020. The target -- up from the currently mandated 20 percent goal by 2010 -- was outlined in the agency's Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR), a keystone document for compiling and advancing energy-related policies in California that is updated every two years. The report also calls for a state commitment to full economic development of energy efficiency measures. Beat the bushes with the CEC.
12/06/07 Calif. agency sets timeline, targets for GHG cuts
Mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions starts April 1, 2009, for about 800 of California's largest emitters under new regulations adopted yesterday by the state Air Resources Board. In a busy day of action, the board also set the 1990 baseline for GHG emissions yesterday at 427 million metric tons in preparation for returning statewide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as required by the state's global warming law, A.B. 32. Based on a projected emissions level of 600 million metric tons in 2020, the state will need to reduce total GHG output by 173 tons that year to meet its ambitious mandate. Set your engines.
Greenwire 3rd/4th Quarter 2006
10/26/06 No perfect solution for Salton Sea restoration, but many options
The Salton Sea, California's largest lake and long a desert refuge for vacationers and hundreds of species of migrating birds, will inevitably shrink in volume and lose surface area over the next two decades, as about half of current inflows are diverted to help quench Southern California's unflagging thirst for water. Exactly how to prevent or mitigate the worst problems associated with this situation -- increased salinity, worsening air quality, continued threats to the local economy and the virtual elimination of fish and wildlife -- has become a top priority for government officials, agricultural groups, Indian tribes and environmentalists. But it is also a conundrum, as starkly differing visions of how to preserve and restore this inland sea have made it difficult to reach consensus on a workable strategy. Sea here.
10/13/06 Lawsuits a growing worry for energy companies
The average energy company faces 364 separate pending lawsuits in U.S. courts, which puts the sector second only to the insurance industry for litigation exposure, according to a new survey. Among top issues for the industry are environmental damage claims, the legal services firm Fulbright & Jaworski found in its survey of 422 corporate counsels worldwide. More than one-third of energy companies expect legal disputes to increase next year. Separately, an ongoing tally from the Morrison & Foerster law firm indicates that at least 242 separate lawsuits, involving more than 450 parties, have been filed as a result of the California and Western energy crisis of 2000-01.
10/12/06 Calif. businesses fear A.B. 32 will spur 'tax-like' carbon fees
FALLEN LEAF LAKE, Calif. -- As California takes its initial steps to implement the "Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006," business leaders are warning the law could lead to a tax on carbon and curbs on the state's economic growth. California Chamber of Commerce Vice President Dominic Dimare criticized the Legislature for eliminating allocations for economic analysis of the measure by agencies that develop regulations and market programs for achieving the law's ambitious goals. Find the full report here.
10/06/06 San Joaquin Valley releases plan for meeting ozone standard
Although California's San Joaquin Valley has substantially reduced its smog over the past two decades, it still has one of the nation's most stubborn air pollution problems. The valley must cut pollution by 60 percent over the next seven years to meet federal ozone standards, local regulators say in a draft ozone attainment plan. Look here for the story.
10/04/06 States discuss proposed national emissions registry
Representatives of 30 states are discussing the creation of a multi-state climate action registry to track greenhouse gas emissions and efforts to curb them. Led by existing registries in California and the Northeast, the initiative is aimed at developing common accounting practices and establishing a single Internet-based source for monitoring both voluntary and mandated GHG reporting. Find out more here.
09/29/06 Calif. Clean Tech Open honors five young companies
SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Clean Tech Open honored five fledgling companies this week for business plans that spotlight energy efficiency, smart energy controls, renewable resources, transportation and water management. In an awards ceremony at city hall here, venture capitalists and government officials praised a new type of innovation that is redefining the energy and environmental sector.
09/21/06 Report spotlights carbon market risks, opportunities
While the vast majority of companies responding to an annual survey believe that climate change poses a financial risk, a growing number are also capitalizing on clean technology investments and other opportunities. Eighty-seven percent of companies that responded to the Carbon Disclosure Project survey say climate change represents commercial risks or challenges--ranging from physical risks from extreme weather to financial risks of higher energy costs and additional regulations aimed at reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.
09/20/06 Calif. agencies lag in tracking energy goals, regulators say
California regulatory agencies need to develop better means of tracking utility efforts to meet ambitious goals for adding renewable resources and demand-response programs, state officials agreed in a meeting here this week.
State utility, energy and resources regulators who met Monday to review the status of programs and goals embodied in the "Energy Action Plan" learned that utilities are lagging in achieving their 2006 goals for new energy-efficiency savings and on a goal to make certain demand-response programs account for 5 percent of their total resource portfolios by next year. Regulators also said they are hearing conflicting evidence in various forums about whether the state will meet its 20 percent renewable portfolio standard (RPS) by 2010. Find the story here.
09/19/06 Consumer advocates decry results of Ill. power auction
While Illinois regulators and utilities have declared this month's power-auction process a success, ratepayer advocates say the results will cause monthly household electricity bills to jump between 25 percent and 55 percent.
09/14/06 Calif. bill fuels search for cost-effective emission curbs
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Spurred by the passage of the landmark "Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006," California's scientific community is adjusting its approach to climate research to emphasize studies into cost-effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The interplay between policy and science was a theme of a climate change research conference this week cosponsored by the California Energy Commission and the state EPA. "Research is the foundation of good policy formulation," said CEC member James Boyd. "It provides us the undeniable foundation of facts." Find the complete story here.
08/30/06 Calif. conducts post-mortem on 'longest, hottest heat storm'
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The California Energy Commission hosted a daylong vetting yesterday of events and consequences of the July "heat storm" that not only saw record energy use but also claimed the lives of 138 people. While the power system held up "surprisingly well," CEC deputy director Scott Matthews said, "we as a state were not prepared for the heat-related deaths." He described how the heat event has brought together utilities, state agencies and emergency responders in a way that previously had not occurred to jointly plan for future extreme weather events.
8/25/06 Arizona utility liable for nuclear outages, report says
Over the past three years, the Palo Verde nuclear complex in Arizona sunk to "the bottom of the U.S. nuclear industry," according to a consultant's report to the Arizona Corporation Commission released last week. "By almost any measure, the performance of Palo Verde was poor," said the report. To a large degree, the study blamed co-owner and operator Arizona Public Service for the continuing problems at the plant. At least four of eight unplanned outages experienced during 2005 "were avoidable and the result of imprudent actions by APS."
8/24/06 Water, energy bills confront legislative turmoil as end of session nears
SACRAMENTO -- With a little more than a week left to California's legislative session, failure to reach agreement on some major issues appears to be dimming prospects for a host of bills related to water and energy. Among the victims might be a package of eight flood-control bills that have been put into the deep freeze by Senate President Don Perata (D). Perata this week signaled that he does not want to devote more time to the bills and will not accept amendments proposed by Schwarzenegger. He also rejected dealing with the measures individually.
08/22/06 Group seeks to standardize carbon-reduction offset markets
The group that pioneered certification of renewable energy products sold by utilities and retail energy providers is now looking to establish similar standards for greenhouse gas reductions. The San Francisco-based Center for Resource Solutions, which established the Green-e certification program for retail electricity sales in 1997, has put together an advisory group of about a dozen businesses, environmental organizations and carbon-offset sellers that will begin meeting in September to come up with a plan by the end of the year for quantifying carbon-reduction benefits associated with renewable energy certificates (RECs) and other offsets.
08/18/06 DOE projects rapid expansion of pipeline network
Additions to the nation's system of natural gas pipelines in the next three years are expected to exceed all pipeline development since 1998, the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration says in a new report. Fewer miles of natural gas pipelines were added in 2005 than during any year of the prior decade, EIA said.
08/16/06 Calif. inquiry finds no evidence of price gouging
Market forces, not manipulation, were apparently at the root of an extended spike in California retail gasoline prices earlier this year, the state's top energy official said yesterday. Joe Desmond, the state's undersecretary of energy affairs, said a combination of circumstances that limited supply spurred the spring price surge. "The market functioned the way you expect markets to function," he said.
08/11/06 Public power sets pace in advanced meters, demand-response programs
Rural electric cooperatives have adopted new meters at about twice the rate of large investor-owned utilities (IOUs), and public-power entities are more likely to offer residential customers time-of-use rates and direct load control programs than IOUs, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC found advance metering has a penetration rate of just 6 percent of all installed electric meters nationally.
08/11/06 California re-examines demand-response programs
Concerned that electric utility demand-response programs are not as effective as they could be in reducing peak load during extreme conditions, the California Public Utilities Commission this week ordered a new assessment of how the programs are working and how they might be improved before next summer. The order issued Wednesday by CPUC president Mike Peevey notes that the state has experienced an unusually intense heat wave that at times "strained the state's electric system."
08/11/06 Analysts predict $25 billion boom in Rockies exploration
Natural gas exploration companies are expected to invest $25 billion in Rocky Mountain production over the next four years -- an effort that could involve drilling more than 43,000 new wells, according to Andrew Strachan, an analyst with Wood Mackenzie. Speaking to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association meeting in Denver this week, Strachan said proven reserves of Rockies gas grew from 19 trillion cubic feet to over 57 Tcf, about 31 percent of U.S. reserves.
08/01/06 Manufacturers fret over Calif. emission, energy policies
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. -- Though they are supporting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's bid for re-election, the powerful California Manufacturers & Technology Association opposes many of his ambitious policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting renewable resources as too expensive and risky. "The cost of these programs ultimately will be reflected in rates," observed Keith McCrea. "California industrials cannot afford to take a long-term view, they are more concerned with short-term survival." Find the full report here.
07/28/06 Worries about birds, bats hinder Calif. wind development
With California banking on wind energy to help meet renewable-energy goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, continuing concerns over avian mortality could hamper wind power's development.
07/25/06 Venture capitalists hunt energy opportunities beyond solar, ethanol
As solar-power and ethanol companies move into the financial mainstream, venture capitalists, private funds and even nonprofit foundations are looking for some new "clean energy" opportunities. Energy companies are luring up to 6 percent of total venture-capital investments, and experts are predicting that will rise to 10 percent with a total investment of $8 billion in the next three years. Energy technology represents "a wave of opportunity ahead of us," Ira Ehrenpreis of Technology Partners said during the Strategic Research Institute Energy Tech Investors' conference. See what the new money guys have to say here.
07/21/06 Green power sales continue to climb
More than 5 million megawatt hours of certified renewable energy were sold in the United States last year, up from 3.9 million MWh in 2004 and 2.9 million MWh in 2003, according to the Center for Resource Solutions. Preliminary figures for CRS's 2005 verification report indicate that nearly all the new sales growth came from recently operational wind projects. The increase in wind-derived sales amounted to 1.6 million MWh more than in 2004.
07/18/06 New Mexico stakes claim as clean energy leader
SANTA FE, N.M. -- Although California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gathers the lion's share of national media attention for pursuing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand use of renewable resources, the Republican has a friendly but determined rival in New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. The two executives have shared leadership in pushing the Western Governors' Association to adopt landmark goals for clean power and efficiency, but it is New Mexico that has declared itself "THE Clean Energy State." Find the full story here.
07/17/06 FERC will exercise new transmission siting authority with care, says Kelly
SANTA FE, N.M. -- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission understands that its new "backstop" powers for siting electric transmission lines may not sit well with states, but at least according to FERC member Suedeen Kelly, the agency will use its authority sparingly, if at all. "We're very sensitive to states' interests and we're not interested in treading on states' toes," Kelly said here during the "Energy in the Southwest 2006" conference. "We're not interested in becoming an electricity siting agency, but Congress has said we have the authority."
07/17/06 Rising costs, environment demands changing utility strategies, says PNM CEO
SANTA FE, N.M. -- Even though Public Service Co. of New Mexico has successfully driven its retail electricity costs down to about 25 percent below national averages, PNM's CEO Jeff Sterba believes that the "fixed price path" the utility has pursued may soon end. "The era of cheap energy is over," Sterba told an industry audience here last week. "We see significant price increases across the board. It's not just fuel, and it causes you to change the way you think."
07/12/06 Global warming would worsen Calif. water problems, study warns
Global warming means depleted reservoirs in Northern California while causing increased spring flooding and prolonged drought periods, the state Department of Natural Resources warned. The study foresees changes in snowpack that could reduce water storage levels by 5 million acre-feet or more each year and altered precipitation raising the likelihood of severe flooding as well as extended droughts. A significant rise in sea levels could inundate coastal marches and estuaries while increasing salinity content of freshwater flows in the San Francisco Bay-San Joaquin Delta.
07/05/06 Southern Calif. air regulators break open emissions bank for energy projects
Concerned that a dearth of pollution offset credits will threaten development of needed power plants and proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, the South Coast Air Quality Management District has proposed allowing private energy developers to access its "priority reserve" bank of offsets. In particular, proposed LNG ports and some 2,000 megawatts of proposed electric generation plants may benefit from the changes through 2008.
Greenwire 2nd Quarter 2006
06/21/06 Auckland blackout stirs energy politics
New Zealand's first big winter storm brought dozens of local power outages, including a massive blackout in Auckland that left more than 700,000 people without power and cost businesses an estimated $70 million on June 12. The blackout stirred memories of extended outages experienced by Auckland residents in 1998 and raised political recriminations against national grid operator Transpower and the ruling Labour government for failure to maintain and upgrade the nation's electrical system. Read this story and other New Zealand updates.
06/16/06 Calif. governor promises to "get to the bottom" of puzzling gas price spikes
California drivers experienced a "unique" but unexplained spike in prices for automobile fuels this spring, far in excess of the usual premium that they pay compared to national averages. During a news conference in Sacramento, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "The California market experienced a unique spike in prices. There is no clear evidence as to what caused this spike, but for some reason our prices were higher" than those elsewhere.
06/15/06 Calif. desalination project advances
The Carlsbad, Calif., council this week approved land-use permits for a $270 million ocean-water desalination facility proposed by Poseidon Resources that would be one of North America's largest, producing up to 50 million gallons per day of drinking water by 2009.
06/15/06 U.S. proposes $725M land purchase to solve Calif. drainage problem
The federal government would pay about $725 million to retire more than 300,000 acres of highly valuable California farm land under a newly issued environmental impact statement for the San Luis Drainage Feature. The government would buy about half the land within the Westlands Water District. Westlands, the state's largest water district, is on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley, along the Interstate 5 corridor.
06/09/06 Survey sees bright future for distributed energy technologies
High energy prices and growing concerns about reliability have boosted the market for distributed energy technologies and renewable resources, according to a new survey of industry executives and investors. While wind-powered generation and energy efficiency technologies are already proving profitable, about three quarters of survey respondents see the distributed energy sector overall being profitable within five years.
06/07/06 Calif. municipal utilities pledge to meet state carbon goals
California's municipal utilities promised this week to develop and implement plans to match stringent state energy and carbon reduction goals mandated for investor-owned utilities in the state. Jan Schori, general manager of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, announced public power's "intent to do its proportional share" in meeting goals for energy efficiency, adding renewable resources and limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
05/26/06 Calif. regulators maintain RPS goal, set utility auctions
Despite growing concerns that California might not meet ambitious goals for renewable resources to comprise 20 percent of retail energy sellers' portfolios by 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission declined yesterday to order utilities to accelerate their yearly procurement programs. But the order did not rule out the possibility that utilities could build their own renewable power facilities, instead of contracting with third parties. The ruling ordered the three regulated utilities to revise their RPS plans for 2006.
05/26/06 States a 'major driver' of renewable development
At least 14 states have set up funds to promote commercialization of renewable energy technologies that collect about $500 million a year from utility ratepayers, according to a new report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "State clean energy funds are positioned to be a major driver of renewable energy development," the report says.
05/24/06 Shuttered PG&E station might become 'clean tech' zone
Eight years after promising to close and dismantle the aged Hunters Point power station, Pacific Gas & Electric hosted a community ceremony yesterday on the shore of San Francisco Bay, during which the 77-year-old power station was disconnected from the nearby transmission switchyard. PG&E will spend $65 million to tear down the plant and clean up the property for reuse. Exactly what that will entail is uncertain, but San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told Greenwire he has an idea. "I want whatever the community will want," Newsom said. "But I am tipping toward creating an industrial green zone for renewable and clean technologies." Find the story here.
05/16/06 Largest Calif. lake 'on brink of collapse'05/16/06 California facing a flood of bond measures
The Salton Sea -- California's largest lake and a critical oasis for migrating birds -- is facing a precipitous decline in both water quantity and quality over the next decade, a group of government and environmental researchers said in a report released Monday. Recent agreements to transfer water out of the lake and other actions have both increased the amount of water taken from the Sea and are expected to reduce inflows by 50 percent over the next 30 years.
MONTEREY, Calif. -- California voters will find two separate initiatives devoted to water project spending on their November ballots that, combined, would raise up to $8.5 billion for a variety of clean water, levee repair and fish restoration projects. And that's not all. An association of public water agencies is already working on a separate ballot measure for 2008 that could add another $8.5 billion in water-related spending.
05/01/06 Still more economy to be gained, says Fermi prize winner Rosenfeld
No matter how many times California Energy Commission member Art Rosenfeld hears praise for helping make California the most energy-efficient state in the nation, he knows that even more can be done to save energy. And, even at age 80, he is relentless about searching the globe for the next great ideas for implementing efficiencies, whether in big leaps or in small increments. "Incremental is pretty good," Rosenfeld told Greenwire.
04/26/06 Gov. Schwarzenegger urges gas-price inquiry
As prices at the pump edged toward all-time highs, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) asked the California Energy Commission this week to launch another investigation into the causes of gasoline and diesel fuel price spikes. Schwarzenegger also issued an executive order directing state agencies to expand the use of biofuels, and he set new goals for in-state production of fuels from corn, rice straw and municipal solid waste.
04/18/06 Calif. bans once-through water cooling at coastal power plants
The California State Lands Commission voted unanimously yesterday to ban the use of once-through water cooling at coastal power plants in a bid to stop "killing large numbers of fish and other wildlife, larvae and eggs" in the facilities' cooling systems. The ban, which takes effect immediately, would prevent power plants from obtaining leases from the Lands Commission unless they employ alternative cooling methods.
04/12/06 Schwarzenegger vows 'sensible and deliberate' effort on emissions
While reaffirming his commitment to California's bold plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signaled a more cautious approach yesterday to establishing absolute limits on emissions of carbon and other pollutants linked to global climate change. The Republican governor said the state should establish an inventory of carbon emissions, then proceed in a "sensible and deliberate way" to meet goals he enunciated nearly a year ago to cut California's total carbon output to 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below that by 2050.
04/12/06 Pacific pipe deal inked as PG&E hedges against high gas prices
PG&E Corporation, Williams and the Fort Chicago Energy Partners yesterday formalized their agreement to build and operate a 225-mile natural gas pipeline from Coos Bay, Oregon, to near the California border at Malin. The pipeline will allow gas utilities, power plant owners and other energy users in California, Oregon and Nevada to access fuel from the proposed Jordan Cove LNG terminal at Coos Bay beginning in 2010.
04/11/06 Volatile electricity rates spark state political fights
Fears of soaring electricity prices, spurred by volatile fuel costs and the termination of retail rate freezes, have reignited fierce state political battles over restructured energy markets. The most bitter fight may be in Maryland, where the end of a rate freeze for Baltimore Gas & Electric portends retail rate hikes of as much as 72 percent by July 1. But similar concerns have arisen in Delaware, Illinois, Connecticut, parts of Pennsylvania and other states where rate freezes imposed as a part of power market restructuring are giving way to market-based prices.
Greenwire 1st Quarter 2006
03/31/06 Dearth of emissions credits creates So. Calif. plant-licensing woes
At least large three power plants recently proposed in Southern California are having problems securing enough air emission reduction credits (ERCs) to win site licenses. A shortage of available emissions offsets, especially for fine particles, is causing price spikes for credits and forcing developers to be more creative in meeting pollution standards. As a result, air regulators are considering rule changes to reopen its bank of emissions credits to new energy projects.
03/31/06 Californians explore link between water, energy conservation
California could achieve most of its ambitious energy efficiency goals for regulated utilities in the next two years at a greatly reduced cost by targeting water conservation, experts told several agencies at a hearing this week. Figures indicate that water-related energy use accounts for 19 percent of total electricity consumed in the state, 30 percent of natural gas, and 88 billion gallons of diesel fuel each year.
02/24/06 Lawmakers criticize governor's water-fee plan
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to collect user fees for a new $5 billion water investment fund found little support and much criticism during a hearing this week of the California Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. The fee -- a monthly capacity charge ranging from $3 for households to $10 for larger water users -- is one component of the $35 billion in new water spending that the governor has proposed.
02/13/06 Calif. board assesses start of e-waste recycling
California's new program to fund the recycling of computer monitors, television screens and other electronic devices raised over $60 million in consumer fees during 2005. The figures from the California Integrated Management Waste Board represent preliminary results for the upfront recycling fee program that began in January 2005. During the same period, e-waste collectors and recyclers have sent invoices to the state totaling $26 million for diverting about 54 million pounds of electronic waste from landfills.
02/08/06 Oil production tax tops list of ballot proposals
California oil producers would pay a severance tax of 1.5 to 6 percent depending on the price of oil under one of dozens of electoral initiatives that state voters might consider this year. Also going through the ballot qualification process is a measure that would allow the sale of $5.4 billion in bonds for water projects and a proposal to prevent the state from diverting transportation tax collections for other uses. In addition, there are four separate measures to limit state and local use of eminent domain powers for economic development.
02/03/06 Western utilities propose transmission, pipeline paths
Western utilities and other groups have proposed hundreds of "energy corridors" for electric transmission and natural gas pipelines in 11 states under a provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. If all of the newly proposed pathways for corridor designation were approved, what is currently a limited area of special consideration would become a massive cross-hatch of corridors. Look for the entire story here.
01/25/06 Ill. regulators approve power auctions, add ratepayer protections
Overcoming objections from the governor, the state attorney general and ratepayer advocate groups, the Illinois Commerce Commission yesterday unanimously approved plans to conduct power-supply auctions to meet the full requirements for four of its major electric utilities starting next January. But to ensure that ratepayers are not hit with substantially higher power costs after the lifting of a nine-year rate freeze at the end of 2006, the ICC said it would review the reasonableness of contracts and establish a state-level wholesale market-monitoring unit within the agency.
01/23/06 Court-ordered NW spills may cost $60M this year, BPA exec says
The latest judicial ruling in a long-running dispute over Northwest salmon recovery efforts is expected to cost Bonneville Power Administration an additional $60 million in foregone power generation revenues this year, according to a BPA executive. Steve Oliver, BPA's vice president of generation supply, told an industry conference last week that U.S. District Judge James Redden's Dec. 29 order to continue spilling water over dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers could adversely affect system flexibility and reduce surplus power-sales revenues.
01/18/06 Project failures impede Calif. efforts to meet bold RPS goals
Between 20 and 30 percent of renewable energy projects that sign contracts with electric utilities are likely to never reach operation or otherwise fail to meet expected performance metrics, a new report to the California Energy Commission warns. Reliance on pre-commercial technologies, including a proposed 500 MW solar collector project in the desert, could have a 50 high failure rate.
01/06/06 Governor, lawmakers weigh options for troubled CalFed project
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pledged $35 billion to water and flood control projects as one component of his proposed $222 billion "Strategic Growth Plan" during a politically conciliatory State of the State address last night. The plan would leverage $9 billion in general obligation bonds with $26 billion in non-state funding resources to improve water storage and delivery capacity and to bolster deteriorating levees in the Sacramento region. Still unknown is what the administration intends to do about the structure, funding and governance issues surrounding CalFed -- the troubled joint state-federal effort to manage crucial water supplies from the San Francisco Bay-San Joaquin River Delta region.
Greenwire 4th Quarter 2005
12/16/05 CPUC backs 33-percent renewables portfolio standard
The California Public Utilities Commission endorsed a report yesterday that declares it possible for the state to enact the nation's strongest renewables portfolio standard -- up to 33 percent of utility resources by the year 2020 -- if transmission constraints can be eliminated.
12/13/05 Calif. regulators set stage for $3.2 billion solar initiative
Picking up the pieces of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed "Million Solar Roofs" bill, California energy regulators unveiled a plan this week to devote$3.2 billion over a decade to bring as much as 3,000 megawatts of new solar power into operation by 2016.
12/09/05 Calif. community faces loss of primary reservoir
After failing to strike a deal with California officials last week, a small mountain town is facing the loss of its primary reservoir and a possible doubling or tripling of water rates. The Lake Arrowhead Community Services District (LACSD) is awaiting a ruling from two California State Water Resources Control Board hearing officers on whether it will lose access to its primary water source.
11/10/05 Cal Am survives takeover measure, but ownership questions loom
Voters in Monterey County on Tuesday resoundingly defeated Measure W, which would have approved funding to study the potential public takeover of California American Water's local distribution system. However, the future of Cal Am ownership was thrown in doubt last week when officials of German conglomerate RWE Aktiengesellschaft announced plans to divest water utility holdings in the United States and England to concentrate on European energy operations. RWE bought Cal Am's parent company, American Water Works, in January 2003.
11/03/05 Power supplier's pullout leaves Ohio communities in lurch
Green Mountain Energy's decision last week to terminate service to an Ohio power purchasing pool has left nearly a half million customers in scores of communities adrift in a volatile energy market. Green Mountain, which is based in Dallas, Texas, also recently announced it would pull out of the Pennsylvania retail market by year's end, and that it has laid off nearly 50 employees. "They caught us off guard," said Bill Young, a Geauga County commissioner and co-chairman of the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council. "We knew they had financial challenges, but we thought things were improving. This really took us by surprise."
10/20/05 Calif. coastal cities breathe easier, as inland areas wheeze
As the California "smog season" ends, the state's major coastal cities are reporting fewer violations of federal ozone limits, while communities in the eastern deserts have been breathing more dirty air.
10/14/05 Calif. agencies seek appeal of adverse CalFed ruling
California's Bay-Delta Authority voted in closed session yesterday to ask Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and the state's attorney general to file an appeal of last week's determination by a state appellate court that the environmental impact report for CalFed was inadequate. A Sacramento appeals court determined last Friday that the environmental review for the establishment of CalFed and its platform of water-supply enhancement projects did not adequately explore such alternatives to the program as reducing or ending exports to Southern California, or diverting supplies from other sources.
10/7/05 As utilities promise rate relief, advocates demand more
With natural gas costs spiraling and electric rates being pulled along for the ride, California's regulated utilities promised greater protections yesterday for low-income customers, seniors and the disabled. Consumer advocate groups, however, urged regulators to freeze rates for all residential and small commercial customers, declare a moratorium on service cutoffs for non-payments and devote utility executive bonuses to paying down any revenue shortfalls experienced by these efforts.
10/5/05 Regulators warn consumers to brace for sticker shock
California's energy regulators warned consumers yesterday to brace themselves for much higher utility bills this winter. "We will have sufficient supplies of natural gas, but it's going to cost much more," the chairman of the California Energy Commission, Joe Desmond, said during a news conference. "Prices will continue to be high through the winter and into next spring." Natural gas is expected to reach $15.3 billion for all California consumers this year.
Greenwire 3rd Quarter 2005
9/23/05 Calif. agencies fail to resolve dispute over transmission planning
California Energy Commission adopted a version of the Energy Action Plan II on Wednesday that betrayed a continuing dispute over the jurisdiction over planning and siting new electric transmission facilities. The adopted plan differs from one approved by the state Public Utilities Commission last month, despite claims from CEC members who touted EAP II as a "consensus document" that represents "a single voice" for the two agencies on many policy matters.
9/23/05 Public power moves erode California grid operator's control area
Despite recent efforts to streamline operations and cut costs for its electric transmission and market services, the California Independent System Operator faces the loss of control over key portions of the Western grid later this year.
9/22/05 Communities quickly trump new state building efficiency rules
California will implement a more stringent set of residential and commercial construction standards Oct. 1, but at least two communities have already adopted local rules that will exceed the latest Title 24 rules for new building efficiency.
The California Energy Commission unanimously approved separate petitions Wednesday from the city of Santa Monica and Marin County to allow local enforcement of requirements for new construction that are expected to exceed energy savings from Title 24.
9/16/05 Californians can cut water consumption 20 percent by 2030, report says
California could reduce its total use of water by more than 20 percent over the next 25 years through better education efforts, planning and the use of existing technologies, according to a new report by the Pacific Institute. This think tank's forecast stands in stark contrast to the State Water Plan currently being promoted by the Department of Water Resources, which -- at best -- foresees near-constant water consumption through the year 2030.
9/15/05 Legislature wraps up 'year of squandered opportunities'
In the end, it was the passage of time that defeated dozens of proposed environmental and energy laws in the California Legislature. As the 2005 session ended last week, major vehicles for policy changes remained stuck in committees or lay dormant on the floors of the House or Senate.
8/12/05 Arizona commission to up ante on renewables; California also considers RPS hike
Western states are continuing to push utilities to invest in renewable energy resources, as Arizona this week followed California, New Mexico and Texas in endorsing stricter renewable portfolio standards. The Arizona Corporation Commission on Wednesday endorsed a 15 percent renewable resources target for 2025 as part of proposed changes to the state's RPS, which officials refer to as an "environmental portfolio standard." Meanwhile, California, which earlier had accelerated its RPS for regulated utilities to 20 percent by 2010, is now considering a 33 percent mandate by 2020, according to CPUC member Dian Grueneich.
8/8/05 Another delay for electric utility cyber security standards
Unable to reach agreement on final wording for new rules meant to protect the nation's electric power transmission and distribution systems from malicious hackers and cyber attacks, members of the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) recently voted to extend interim standards for up to another year.
7/21/05 Regional transmission planning advances in Southwest
SANTA FE, N.M. -- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must empower regional planners to build the next generation of electric transmission infrastructure, FERC Commissioner Suedeen Kelly told an energy industry conference here recently.
Building that infrastructure must involve "participation by all stakeholders about whether projects are needed, where and how costs are allocated," said Kelly, a former president of the New Mexico Public Service Commission. Regional transmission planning is already a reality in the Southwest, as evidenced by interrelated efforts to study and site grid expansion projects.
7/18/05 Yosemite struggles to manage visitor crunch, protect attractions Traffic through the Yosemite Valley slows to a crawl in the late afternoon. On a mid-summer day, as many as 15,000 daily visitors crowd the two-lane road that rings the valley, frequently stopping to catch a last glimpse of such world-famous landmarks as Half Dome, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. [click here to read the full story]
Greenwire 2nd Quarter 2005
6/15/05 State agencies pledge pace-setting energy plan
California agencies crafting the second iteration of a statewide Energy Action Plan are promising to incorporate path-breaking policies not usually reserved for state action -- transportation fuels, auto tailpipe emissions and government responses to climate change. The plan, known as the EAP II, is a joint effort of the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission. The initial effort in 2003 led to a policy promoting energy efficiency, renewable resources and clean-power projects as the "loading order" for new resource additions in the Golden State.
5/31/05 California cities explore variety of options for energy independence
Still reeling from cost impacts of the Western power crisis of 2000-01 and stymied by investor-owned utility opposition to full-blown municipalization of electric distribution systems, California cities and communities are exploring a range of options to achieve greater local control over power prices and decisions. At one end of the spectrum, these options include joining with existing public-power entities or developing "greenfield" utility districts on lands not previously served by the IOUs. While avoiding many of the legal pitfalls of municipal condemnation, these efforts may still raise considerable opposition from the incumbent utilities.
5/27/05 Critics take aim at Gov. Schwarzenegger's streamlining plan
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed consolidation of several California energy agencies into a new Department of Energy encountered skepticism and opposition during a hearing here this week by a state government-efficiency commission.
5/18/05 CalFed facing widening financial, legislative woes
California lawmakers have thrown down a gauntlet at the feet of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on future funding for a consortium of 25 state and federal agencies dedicated to improving water quality and delivery infrastructure in the critical Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region.
5/05/05 Calif. agencies say 'no time to waste' on major projects
The Association of California Water Agencies unveiled a 12-point proposal yesterday to spur new state investments in water infrastructure, clarify state and local responsibilities for flood control, and eliminate bureaucratic barriers to water transfers and desalination projects. The document, called "No Time to Waste: A Blueprint for California Water," calls on elected officials and policymakers to act on an emergency basis to reduce risks to the state's water supplies and environment.
05/02/05 Calif. officials consider cap and trade for greenhouse gases
Frustrated by the lack of federal action to control emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, California officials are considering a state program for mandatory limits and trading of carbon emissions offsets. While the concept currently lacks a specific legislative or policy vehicle, various carbon cap-and-trade schemes are being investigated by the California Environmental Protection Agency, the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission.
04/21/05 PG&E clean energy fund makes first investment
The Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF), backed by $30 million from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. shareholders, has made its first investment, in a technology company that uses expertise and products developed for space exploration to solve environmental and energy problems. The fund's $2 million investment in SpectraSensors of San Dimas, Calif., was orchestrated by Nth Power, an energy venture capital firm here that recently signed on as one of CalCEF's three independent investment managers. The fund and Nth Power will each contribute half the funding.
04/21/05 CPUC chief questions massive power line project
The president of the California Public Utilities Commission raised concerns this week about the environmental effects of a recently proposed high-voltage electric transmission line that could direct up to 6,000 megawatts of coal-based power from Wyoming to California. "I don't believe this power should come from coal, unless that coal is extremely clean," said Michael Peevey during a speech Tuesday to the California Climate Action Registry's annual conference in Oakland.
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