Overpriced Renewable Projects Continue To Be Approved

In February 2011, Public Advocates Office (the Office) released Green Rush: Investor-Owned Utilities’ Compliance With the Renewables Portfolio Standard, a report analyzing California investor-owned utilities’ progress in renewable procurement and outlining ratepayer concerns with their renewable strategies.

In the fall of 2011, the CPUC approved two renewable projects at higher-than-acceptable costs to ratepayers: the North Star solar PV project in Fresno and the Abengoa solar thermal project in the Mojave Desert. Green Rush: Investor-Owned Utilities’ Compliance With the Renewables Portfolio Standard The Office is troubled by the continued approval of expensive projects that bloat the market prices at ratepayer expense. 


The California Legislature has set standards for renewable procurement -- including 20 percent of utilities’ power coming from renewable sources by 2010, with a flexible compliance date of 2013. The Office’s report finds that utilities are well on their way to meeting the 20 percent goal as well as a 33 percent renewable level. But the Office’s analysis finds that the CPUC has continued to approve renewable contracts more expensive than outlined standards, and that utilities have exceeded the Legislature’s above-market fund cost cap by more than $5 billion.

The report encourages the CPUC to be more discriminating in its approval of utility contracts for renewable procurement. The Office analysis has found that the CPUC has only rejected two renewable contracts. Green Rush outlines specific measures that could help the CPUC bring ratepayer costs down while maintaining flexibility to help California get more of its power from sustainable, clean, renewable technologies.

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