Gov. Brown’s 50% renewable goal a tough target

Gov. Brown’s 50% renewable goal a tough target


california wind resources mapIn his Jan. 5 inaugural address for his historic fourth term as California’s governor, Jerry Brown proposed an ambitious expansion of California’s renewable energy goals from 33 to 50 percent by 2030. The current level in 2015 is 20 percent renewables.

However, the 50 percent renewable energy portfolio standard had to be dropped from Assembly Bill 327, passed on Oct. 7, 2013, due to opposition by large utility companies and energy consumer advocates. Nonetheless, Brown wants to revive it, as well as cutting the use of gasoline by half in California in just 15 years.

The devil is always in the details of such ambitious plans. So we’ll have to wait to see the numbers for the costs or impacts on the environment such a massive and sudden expansion of green power would have on California.

As reported, Brown recently was rebuked by the Little Hoover Commission for failing to disclose to Californians how much the price tag will be for renewable power in California.

The closest Californians can come to understanding the impacts such a huge expansion of green power would have on the environment is Stanford University Prof. Mark Jacobson’s similar plan to expand California’s green power to 100 percent by 2030.  Jacobson’s Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford is funded by billionaire California investor and green-energy proponent Tom Steyer.

New Transmission Lines

Here’s how to figure the amount of needed new transmission lines:

1. Eugene G. Preston, Ph.D., P.E., a consulting electric transmission line engineer, has estimated Jacobson’s 100 percent renewable energy plan for California would require 75,000 miles of new transmission lines across the Western United States.

2. Today green power already has reached 20 percent in California, according to the Renewables Portfolio Standard Quarterly Report for the 2nd Quarter of 2014 by the California Public Utilities Commission. So it would have to increase another 80 percentage points to reach Jacobson’s 100 percent level.

And it would need to increase that another 30 percentage points to reach Brown’s 50 percent level. That also means Brown’s level is 3/8ths of Jacobsen’s level, a useful ratio for us to use. (30 percent more renewables for Brown’s proposal; 80 percent more for Jacobson’s = 3/8.)

3. Let’s use the 3/8 ratio. Jacobson’s 100 percent renewables proposal would require 75,000 miles of new transmission lines. So Brown’s proposal would require 3/8 of that, or 28,125 more miles of transmission lines.

Using standard measurements for the land needed for transmission lines, that 28,125 miles of new lines would amount to 852,272 acres, or 1,332 square miles of land acquired for use by the lines.  That would be about the size of the state of Rhode Island at 1,213 square miles.

Preston added:

“Therefore the concept envisioned in the SA [Jacobson’s Scientific American] article is not a workable plan because the transmission problems have not been addressed. The lines aren’t going to get built. The wind is not going to interconnect. The SA article plan is not even a desirable plan. The environmental impact and cost would be horrendous. Lets get realistic.” 

The same problems exist for Brown’s smaller, but still substantial, proposal for 50 percent renewables.

On Friday, Brown is releasing his budget proposal for fiscal year 2015-16, which begins on July 1. Something to look for is if he accounts for this added cost to California’s infrastructure.


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  1. Brandon
    Brandon 6 January, 2015, 17:41

    This is pure insanity and will cost Californians billions of dollars. We just have look at Spain and Germany that went “Green” and their economies are in the toilet because of the “Green” bullshit. This is a SCAM people!

    Reply this comment
  2. John Galt
    John Galt 6 January, 2015, 17:50

    The recent low oil prices and corresponding low natural gas prices has the granola heads spinning! The marginal cost of generation will increase exponentially if the state goes from 20% to 50% mix. Residential customers of California IOU utilities (i.e., SDG&E, SCE, PG&E) already pay marginal retail rates in excess of $0.30/kWh, which include added increases due to covering several billion dollars that pay for an approximate 30% discount on tariffs for several million low income residential customers. If the wind and sun crowd get their way, regular bill paying residential customers will soon be paying about $1.00/kWh to run their air conditioner as costs to replace nuclear, coal and natural gas generation with unreliable large solar and wind turbines gets amazingly expensive per marginal unit of production. Price elasticity dynamics will operate and demand for “grid” power will drop quickly as everyone will literally install solar panels and use Honda generators at night. One gallon of fuel will generate about 12 kWh’s (120k BTUs / 10k BTUs/kWh)in a portable backup generator. At $3.00/gallon, the marginal cost (excluding a couple of thousand for a generator) is about $0.25/kWh ($3.00/12), already beating California’s IOU residential rates….. I understand Musk’s Solar City and others may now sell large “house size” storage batteries to store excess solar production for use at night…

    Reply this comment
  3. bob
    bob 6 January, 2015, 18:57

    Brownie and the DemoNcrats want gas priced in Colliefornia (as Ahnode call it) to be just as expensive as it is in Europe.

    And they want all other sorts of energy as expensive as possible so the peons won’t use as much. (It won’t effect our rulers and their minions, of course.)

    They want us out of our cars and they will have all of us taking [email protected] public transportatino and living in little cracker boxes in the cities instead of houses in the ‘burbs.

    Reply this comment
  4. Bill Gore
    Bill Gore 6 January, 2015, 20:22

    The solution is clear: CA will steal clean green renewable hydropower from WA, OR and ID simply by outbidding us for our own power. Since powerful California NIMBY’s won’t allow ANY substantial development of geothermal, wind or hydro, the best solution is to buy it from out of state and screw the residents of those states.

    Reply this comment
  5. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 6 January, 2015, 23:00

    Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article wherein I discuss some of your comments.

    Reply this comment
  6. Queeg
    Queeg 7 January, 2015, 00:24

    This subject is far more serious than pensions, but few posts……odd.

    Reply this comment
  7. Sean
    Sean 7 January, 2015, 09:58

    The state of California is quickly hollowing out its middle class and devolving into a gentry and servant/peasant class structure. The rich liberals that support the campaigns of the Democratic incumbents will draw subsidies to install solar panels and sell very expensive electricity back to the PGE and SC Edison who will pass those higher costs onto the less well off inland. They will get subsidies for their Teslas and charging stations around the state while the poor slob working in the Central Valley will pay increased prices for “low carbon” fuel in his 15 year old truck.
    A healthy middle class has little advantage for the Democrats in California. Better to have rich elites that need permission to operate and poor souls dependent on a government handout to live.

    Reply this comment
  8. vonborks
    vonborks 7 January, 2015, 11:42

    I’m thinking that maybe the time has come for us to just stand back and watch the chaos develop, and it will happen sooner than later. Out of chaos common sense will prevail over nonsense, because the will to survive in the real world is greater than idyllic wishful thinking for a Garden of Eden…

    Reply this comment
  9. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 7 January, 2015, 15:44

    A philosopher doomer….just what we need….resigned to futility while waiting for financial redistribution…..for the enviroment and the better good.

    Reply this comment
  10. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 8 January, 2015, 14:39

    We don’t need alternative reality energy to solve this problem. All we need is love. That’s right, gimme an L, gimme an O, gimme a V, gimme an E baby!

    If everyone in the state could just hold hands, lean to the left and sing “All You Need Is Love” we could solve all of our problems, like really man. Pretty groovy idea huh?

    Reply this comment

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Jerry BrownrenewablesWayne Lusvardiwind power

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