The Clean Energy Race: How Do California's Public Utilities Measure Up?

Published Jul 17, 2012

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California's Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) law requires all utilities to generate 33 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.

California POU renewable energy investments

The state's 10 largest publicly owned utilities (POUs) deliver approximately one-quarter of the state's electricity needs and have made significant strides in clean energy investments since the start of the RPS program. However, the degree to which these investments promoted new clean energy resources varied significantly by utility.

The UCS report, The Clean Energy Race: How Do California's Public Utilities Measure Up?, analyzes the renewable investments that each POU made towards the state’s 2010 RPS goal and how these investments have prepared them to meet the 33 percent by 2020 requirement.

Not all investments in renewable energy are created equal.

  • Utilities that sign long-term contracts for new projects or own them outright are most effective at spurring development of new sources of clean energy.
  • Investments that encourage the construction of new renewable resources will cut the demand for fossil fuel-based electricity, reducing air pollution and global warming emissions.

How do California's Public Utilities Measure Up?

California In-State Renwables Map

The report categorizes each POU's RPS program as "sprinting ahead," "on the right track, but must keep moving," or "false start" based on the total quantity of renewables procured by 2010, the length of each purchasing commitment, and whether each purchase was for new or existing renewable energy. Here's how they measured up.

Sprinting ahead: Silicon Valley Power, Turlock Irrigation District, Modesto Irrigation District.

On the right track, but must keep moving: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Riverside Public Utilities, Anaheim Public Utilities.
 
False starts: Burbank Water and Power, Roseville Electric, Imperial Irrigation District.

Consult the fact sheets for more on how the POUs measure up:

The Clean Energy Race POU Fact Sheets (PDFs)

Getting to 33 Percent by 2020

The report offers policy recommendations on how the POUs can comply with the 33 percent RPS in a way that boosts environmental and economic benefits for the state.

  • The POUs should focus their RPS investments on signing contracts lasting at least ten years or building their own clean energy facilities, which will help stabilize electricity prices for customers and ensure compliance with future RPS requirements.

  • The POUs should acquire more than the minimum amount of electricity required to meet RPS requirements to create a cushion in case some projects are delayed or fall through.

  • Plans for meeting the RPS, and progress reports that document investments so far, should be prepared by POUs and made available to the public.

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