Is SB 1139 the Right Answer for California's Geothermal Industry?
The California renewable energy industry is divided over SB 1139.
In concept, the bill is fairly simple. Authored by San Diego Senator Ben Hueso and Coachella Valley Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, it would required utilities to purchase utilities such as Southern California Edison or San Diego Gas & Electric to purchase extra renewable energy from geothermal sources.
“This bill would require, no later than December 31, 2024, each retail seller of electricity to procure a proportionate share, as determined by the Energy Commission, of a statewide total of 500 megawatts of electricity generated by specified baseload geothermal powerplants,” it reads.
The change to utilities’ energy profiles would need to come by 2024.
The bill is considered critical especially by the Imperial Valley, since steam already powers its renewable energy initiatives on the Salton Sea. The bill would allow for new development of renewable energy projects in the area.
"The initiative can help assure the future of the Salton Sea, protect public health, conserve vital species habitat and create stability for meeting California's water supply and energy needs," Jim Hanks, President of the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, told Imperial Valley News.
The bill has support for a number of labor groups because of the job growth potential an expansion to the region’s geothermal energy would bring. It would also fill an energy gap that some believe crucially needs filling.
“For example, in California with the wind and solar resources, there's a significant shortfall when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow,” Terry Page, Director of Regulatory Affairs Innovation for Enel Green Power, said at this year’s National Geothermal Summit.
The bill is estimated to bring in $38 million in annual local revenue and provide for more local economic opportunities.
However, not everyone is happy.
While Imperial is the poorest county in California, renewable energy officials from across the state are calling the deal unfair.
"This does an end run around the competitive process, where all costs and benefits are looked at and evaluated," Nancy Rader, director of the California Wind Energy Association, told the L.A. Times.
In an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee, Rader and two colleagues—Julee Malinowksi Ball and Jack Stewart—claimed that creating jobs in the future would cost jobs right now.
“For example, existing biomass, geothermal, wind and solar facilities directly support more than 4,000 high-wage jobs, many in the Central Valley and Northern California where unemployment remains high” they explain. “Some of these facilities will not secure new contracts because a few retail sellers would be forced to buy the new high-priced geothermal. The net result is that many local communities would suffer both job losses and higher costs while a few communities in the Imperial Valley reap all the benefits.”
Ultimate, they say, the bill would “harm the many to help the few.”
There might be benefits to the bill that reach beyond the immediate energy sector, though.
Jim Madaffer of the California Transportation Commission writing for the Sacramento Bee notes that California losing jobs to states such as Texas, who offering better incentives to companies. He believes that SB 1139 would offer great incentive for one of the world’s most watched and fast-growing companies to stay in its home state: Tesla.
“The Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource has 1,700 untapped megawatts. The area is a prime location for Tesla, which relies on a resource that can be pulled from geothermal power plants: lithium,” Madaffer writes. “It’s estimated that a 100-megawatt geothermal project can bring in more than 300 jobs. It’s also estimated that a project of that size could bring in $150 million in local property tax revenues, and $2 million to $2.5 million annually in lease payments to local governments and private landowners.”
So, in the end, is SB 1139 a good bet for California? It would certainly seem so, though we may find out sooner rather than later. The bill has advanced from the Assembly Appropriations Committee and is expected to be put before the full Assembly for a vote sometime before the end of the month.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.