By - Jim Vess

Renewable generation on pace to provide 50 percent of California retail electricity by 2020

Energize Weekly, November 22, 2017

California investor-owned utilities will be using renewable generation to cover 50 percent of their retail sales by 2020—10 years ahead of the state deadline, according to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

The state originally established a renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) with the portion of retail sales required to be supplied by renewable resources increasing over the years, reaching a 50 percent target by 2030.

“California’s electrical corporations met the 25 percent RPS requirement for 2016, and in many cases, substantially exceeded this requirement,” the CPUC said in its annual report on RPS compliance.

“The large investor-owned utilities (IOU) have executed renewable electricity contracts necessary to exceed 2020’s 33 percent RPS requirement,” the report said. “The IOUs’ aggregated forecast project they will meet the 2030 RPS requirement of 50 percent by 2020.”

A push to raise the target to 100 percent renewables by 2045 stalled in the state legislature this fall.

The other electricity providers under the RPS—Community Choice Aggregations (CCAs), local government entities that buy power for their citizens, and small and multi-jurisdiction utilities (SMJUs), which have 30,000 or fewer customers—are forecast to meet or exceed the 2020 target of 33 percent renewable electricity sales, the report said.

The push to increase renewable energy has helped reduce the cost for wind and solar, the CPUC said. Between 2008 and 2016, the price of utility-scale solar contracts reported to the utility commission has gone down 77 percent, while wind contracts reported between 2007 and 2015 were down 47 percent.

California’s three large IOUs—San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric Company—have the most diverse renewable energy portfolio mix, the commission said.

Since 2003, the three utilities have installed 15,193 megawatts (MW) of renewable capacity under the RPS program. “As of October 2017, 344 MW of new renewable capacity came online,” the report said. “An additional 453 MW of renewable capacity is forecasted to achieve commercial operation in the next two years.”

This capacity includes both in-state and out-of-state facilities. The three IOUs have so many banked renewable energy credits (RECs), a megawatt-hour of renewable electricity equals one REC, that they can easily meet their PRS requirement. As a result, the utilities chose not to solicit more renewable energy resources in 2016 or 2017, nor do they plan to do so in 2018, the commission said.

The CCAs have a moderately diverse energy portfolio, and the small utilities have the least diverse portfolios.

“The large IOUs and CCAs have contracted with developers for new renewable facilities to add more capacity to reach the 50 percent RPS mandate,” the report said “The SMJUs have been less active in contracting for renewables, but have secured the contracts needed to achieve the RPS requirements.”

The SMJUs have indicated, however, that while they can meet the 2020 target, they will have to acquire additional resources to meet future targets.

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