California boasts highest RPS but more effort is needed

By Anna Austin | April 14, 2011

California now has the highest mandatory renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in the U.S., but current laws may prevent the state from reaching its true renewable potential.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB X1-2 on April 12, which made into law former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s executive order requiring investor-owned and municipal electric utilities in the state to source 33 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2020.

While Brown stated that one of the reasons he signed the bill was to stimulate investment in green technologies in the state, current California laws are not conducive toward implementation of certain nonincineration renewable energy technologies, or the utilization of some overly-abundant biomass resources, according to Jim Stewart, president of the Bioenergy Producers Association. Specifically, the biogenic portion of municipal solid waste (MSW)—anything left over after what can be recycled is removed— and gasification, for which the state has a scientifically inaccurate definition in statute, Stewart said.

Stewart said as a result of the way the laws are currently written, the state has missed out on more than $1 billion in capital expenditures in new projects and projects have been moved to other states because of the regulatory and statutory environment.

The Bioenergy Producers Association has been battling Democrats on the state’s Senate Environmental Quality Committee for the past five years, proposing legislation that would amend the current laws to allow for more in-state development of projects that utilize the state’s MSW, which do not currently receive credit under the state’s RPS, and to deploy technologies including gasification, pyrolysis and fermentation.

So far, all attempts have failed to gain the needed support from the same five Democrats on the SEQC, and Stewart said because of that, it could take five years or more to gain all of the necessary permits for some projects, if at all.

And, California continues to landfill an enormous amount of waste each year. During the next 20 years, unless new technologies and new methods of disposal are implemented, California will place another 800 million tons of post-recycled material into landfills, according to Stewart.

Still, he commended the state on its efforts and the RPS law. “It’s admirable, and achievable if the state makes a commitment to all sources of renewable energy,” he said. “Our concern is that an integral element of that should be from the biogenic portion of the state’s solid waste stream, and though that source comprises about 35 million tons of waste put into landfills each year post-recycling, right now it can’t contribute to meeting that goal.”


5 Responses

  1. Pierre



    With all of the "Puffing & Panting" from California and their Renewable Portfolio Standard there remains to be seen if Newspaper articles and write-up can produce any Energy of any type. There is no reason to limit California standard to just 33%. Why not raise it to 105% and sell the excess to other buyers. California has not increased is Renewable Energy output one iota since 1985. Telephone the various Agencies and ask them for a list of the methods that increased the energy output - do not allow them to "phone you back" as this appears to be their method of operating. Lets hope other States are telling the truth on Renewable s & Sustainability.

  2. Dave Ganz



    For the last 6-7 years now the was to be a project near Los Angles to convert a coal boiler over to a renuable biomasss (beetle deseased trees) and other wood waste fuel...but its red tape and a "sand fly" that is holding up this project. Forced to move forward...but held up in red tape and non-sense. Sad.

  3. loadBearingStud



    Recyclers see gasification as a threat to their business and they pay these Democrats well to keep gasification out of the state. This is ridiculous as plasma arc gasification is quickly becoming the gold standard in countries with the highest recycling rates: Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries. Also, there are dozens of gasification plants in commercial production today that transform waste daily without incident and without exceeding emissions limits for electrical generation: Look to Salinas Valley for innovation: The usual set of for-pay activists are fighting it there.

  4. Mrenergy



    I think the article meant to say there are no scientifically "accurate" definitions. It is sad that after 5 years of University work commissioned by the legislature that basic definitions cannot be adopted. I agree that the professional environmental activist are the greatest impediment to the environment. For Sale: one Environmental Activist. Guaranteed to subvert environmental progress. The insanity continues

  5. Anthony Arand



    Sadly, this article is correct. The State of California has made no real effort to mandate that renewable energy actually be placed on the grid. The CPUC does not require utilities to actually supply renewable energy, just try to purchase it from developers. If they (CPUC) really meant it, there would be a penalty for not hitting the RPS goals. We have worked with two of the three investor owned utilities here, and they have no incentive to help get renewable facilities on line, but they have one heck of an incentive to report back that they are doing what they were told to do by the CPUC. Our company is in Waste to Energy and has designed, developed, and permitted the first new facility of its kind in California in over 20 years without the help of the Utilities. Sincerely, Anthony Arand CEO Envirepel Energy Inc.


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