Posts Tagged utilities

California Proposition 16 and Alternative Energy

Posted by on Sunday, 6 June, 2010

California has several propositions on the ballot. One of these propositions, Proposition 16, requires a two thirds vote before establishing a community power generation project. The proposition is backed by Pacific Gas and Electric, the large utility, since it would prevent cities and counties from setting up competing power generation systems.

This proposition would have a significant detrimental effect on renewable energy generation. Wind turbines, solar panels, and other clean energy generating systems require an investment to install, and many individuals cannot afford to purchase them. This is why the federal government is distributing money for the state rebate programs. Since communities have more resources than an individual, they can afford the upfront costs to set up a renewable source of energy. Proposition 16 requires a supermajority which means that a third of the people in an area could block the wind or solar plant.

Alternative energy systems are already operating throughout the state. Santa Clara Green Power provides renewable energy to its customers with a surcharge of 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Customers who sign up for this program are also supporting wind and solar generation systems nearby. One of these wind turbine installations is the High Winds wind farm in Solano County. Santa Clara Green Power mentions that this does not include the wind turbines at Altamont Pass, which are an older design that produces hazards to birds. New turbine designs such as the two blade turbines that Nordic Wind Power receives federal loan guarantees to produce are less hazardous to birds.

The proponents of Proposition 16 will argue that their ballot proposition saves residents money. According to Marin Clean Energy, the county offers residents the opportunity to buy renewable energy at the same rate their current power suppliers charge. The Marin County Energy Authority administers this program and provides energy to Marin County residents, including residents of cities such as Belvedere, Mill Valley, San Rafael, and Sausalito.

Clean energy generation is not limited to cities in Northern California. One of the famous community power projects operates in Anaheim. Anaheim provides water and power as a local service. According to the City of Anaheim, power rates are as much as forty percent lower than rates in neighboring cities, and this is in Orange County where the cost of living is very high. The City of Anaheim is also offering double rebates to residents who purchase Energy Star appliances. Note that Pacific Gas and Electric, the major utility supporting Proposition 16, doesn’t operate this far south, Southern California Edison is the main regional utility, and according to Black Voice News, it hasn’t taken a position on Proposition 16.

According to the Topanga Messenger, the community power generation projects were established after the Community Choice Aggregation Bill of 2002. This bill was a response to the electricity crisis that occurred a year or so earlier, which involved Enron, blackouts, and significant price gouging. Communities decided they didn’t want to be forced to buy electricity on an easily manipulated market, and set up their own power generation systems.