Renewable Energy Report a Tool for Future Planning

How can large-scale renewable energy help California meet its renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission goals?

That was the question posed in a multi-agency project called the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI) 2.0. The plenary report, which was released this week, synthesized existing information and public input. It will serve as a resource in developing renewable energy projects and addresses environmental, land use, and transmission implications.

“California is pursuing an integrated strategy, coordinating across agencies and industries and looking ahead at least 15 years in the future,” said California Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird. “Efforts such as these help us all focus in on the most important decisions, and make those decisions smart from the start. I want to thank all the individuals, community groups, and businesses that gave generously of their time and expertise to produce this far-reaching overview of our energy challenges over the next decade and a half.”

Senate Bill 350, which calls for generating half of California’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and Senate Bill 32, which requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, could require substantial new renewable energy or transmission development.

The RETI 2.0 project was the first report to provide a broad review of the issues such as transmission capacity and the availability of renewable energy technologies. The report also addressed how existing transmission capacity might be used more efficiently and the studies that would help define any needs for new transmission.

The California Natural Resources Agency led the project, which was a collaboration involving five agencies., The project results will help shape the energy planning of the California Energy Commission, the long-term energy resource planning at the California Public Utilities Commission, the transmission planning at the California Independent System Operator, and the land use planning and permitting by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

“California is blessed with a wealth of options to meet our renewable energy and environmental goals,” said Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. “Our challenge is weighing these options to support the most cost-effective choices that will benefit consumers, businesses, and the environment. RETI 2.0 strengthens our understanding of those options.”

The report found that from 2020 to 2030 the potential need for new renewable energy is 9,400 megawatts (MW) to 29,000 MW. The range depends on the success of energy efficiency programs, rooftop solar panels, and the use of electric vehicles, all factors that affect bulk electricity demand.

In looking at hypothetical development scenarios, the report found:

• The Southern California desert areas have existing transmission capacity and advanced environmental and land use planning that could allow for substantial additional renewable energy development.
• The San Joaquin Valley has substantial potential for solar energy development, but transmission upgrades to the low-voltage system could be expensive.
• The Sacramento Valley and Northern California areas are rich in renewable energy potential, but do not have access to significant transmission capacity. They also have not completed advanced environmental and land use planning compared to other areas.
• Access to low-cost renewable supplies and renewable markets outside California can help diversify renewable power resources while opening up markets for excess in-state power generation. This would help reduce consumers’ costs.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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