From the daily archives: Thursday, March 17, 2011

IVEDC Renewable Energy Summit and Expo Highlights


By Jim Predmore

Jeffrey D. Byron former California Energy Commissioner

Former California Energy Commissioner Jeffrey Byron was the keynote speaker at the IVEDC Renewable Energy Expo’s Banquet held Wednesday, March 16th at the Quechan Casino & Resort.
Mr. Byron began his presentation by speaking about the state’s budget and how that has the Governor’s attention and is his number one priority at the moment. He also talked about the energy bill of 33% renewable and that he didn’t know if the governor would actually sign the bill.
Mr. Bryon stated “that there are 55 power plants currently in California and most of them being natural gas, three being coal,and there are 19 costal plants that will have to be taken off line or rebuilt in the next 10 to 15 years.”
Byron went on to talk about transmission lines and how transmission is very difficult and how the state was trying to streamline them and prevent lawsuits. He used words like complicated, difficult, very difficult, extremely difficult, and expensive in his speech. Byron talked about the Sunrise Transmission Project and how many years that it took to get to the point of breaking ground and starting construction and that the state will need six transmission lines like the Sunrise to get to 33% renewable energy. The Sunrise Transmission line is a $2 Billion project of that $200 million was spent on planning and legal costs.
Mr. Byron talked of land use and endangered species and how they needed to be protected.
Mr. Bryon went on to talk about renewable energy and that renewable energy is a very expensive way to reduce the carbon footprint. He stated “that in California 40% of the carbon is from cars and 23% from power plants. The cost for renewable to reduce carbon is about $200.00 per ton and all of the cost of planning, construction, legal representation, lawsuits will passed on to the consumer and how that will be very difficult in municipalities and irrigation districts because of their low rates and their rates will have to be increased to cover these costs.
There have been nine solar projects approved in southern California that will produce about 3500 megawatts of electricity. The largest of those was the Imperial Valley Solar Projects that was owned by Sterling Energy and Tessera Solar. The project had received final approval by the BLM last year only to be stopped by a federal judge because of a lawsuit by the Quechan Indian Tribe. The project has now been sold.
There was a question and answer session after his presentation. The first question was from Imperial County Supervisor Gary Waytt, who asked “We have projects go through all the hoops. They pass everything and they still end up in court over cultural issues and private concerns. What are we going to do about that?” Mr. Bryon replied ” Well I am not sure I have a good answer for you. I am not fully aware of all the agreements that the federal government has entered into, that they will be settled in court hopefully sooner than later. I don’t know how it is going to turn out and I don’t see any environment for changing the Environment Protection Agency”.
Andy Horne, Imperial County’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer for Natural Resources development asked “The question I have is about what you said about renewables being an expensive way to remove carbon.” Mr. Bryon stated “Well you won’t here many people say that.” Mr. Horn continued “Well what are some of the less expensive ways to reduce carbon if renewables are so expensive?” Mr. Byron’s response was “That’s a good question. Some of the best ways to reduce carbon have paybacks associated with them. One of the things that we do at the energy commission is we do appliance and building standards that are mandated. We have been doing this for thirty some years”.

When it is all said and done, the Imperial Valley has a lot of renewable resources. Will it be a good thing for the valley? It will create some short term construction jobs. It won’t generate much in tax revenue, as special deals have been made. But it will increase energy costs for the consumer.


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