Since the Renewable Portfolio Standard began in 2002, the California Public Utilities Commission has now approved contracts for more than 8,600 megawatts of new renewable energy, nearly all of it solar, signed with the state’s largest utilities. Most of the state’s renewable energy already on the grid till now has been wind power.
As of June, the CPUC total was 8,334 megawatts, but in August CPUC approved PG&E contracts with BrightSource totalling an additional 1,310 megawatts.
It’s an unusual contract. PG&E agreed to pay a higher electricity rate if Brightsource fails to secure a Department of Energy loan guarantee to help finance the construction of the two solar plants in the Mojave desert, per Todd Woody at the NYT. And in return, Brightsource will pay PG&E royalties based on the worldwide sales and licensing of BrightSource’s solar Power Tower technology.
The Federal loan guarantee program is designed to promote development of renewable energy by allowing companies like BrightSource to obtain lower-cost financing to build large-scale solar farms.
“Given the current credit crisis, new renewable energy projects face financing risk,” wrote the utility commissioners in approving the deal. “We believe that the milestones achieved to date on its D.O.E. Loan Guarantee application and BrightSource’s project development experience will put it at an advantage when seeking financing.”
California’s RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standards) legislation signed in 2002 requires the state’s utilities to get 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2010 and have it up and running on our grid by 2013.
At last count, we were a bit short of installed capacity, with 13% on the grid by 2008. But in a burst of activity last year more new capacity was installed just in 2008 than in the first four years of the RPS. So far 2009 looks like it could be more than 2008.
At just the half year mark, another 1,574 megawatts were approved, and with the additional contracts from BrightSource, the total is now 8,600 Megawatts approved. The CPUC is still reviewing 13 more signed contracts which would add another 5,941 MW.
See the overall progress graph next page:
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