New bill could expand California's definition of renewable to include hydro

SACRAMENTO, Calif. 4/27/12 (PennWell) -- A new California state bill could expand the scope of hydropower should lawmakers recognize large hydroelectric sources as renewable.

California law says the state's three investor-owned utilities -- PG&E Corp.'s Pacific Gas & Electric, Edison International's Southern California Edison unit and San Diego Gas & Electric -- must generate 33% of their power from "green" sources by 2020.

Currently, California does not allow the three to count hydropower plants greater than 30 MW in capacity in that tally, meaning the utilities collectively drew 17% of their power from approved renewable sources in 2010.

Should large hydroelectric projects be permitted, that total would jump to 32.6% immediately -- an increase beneficial to consumers because utilities won't have to invest as heavily in other forms of energy.

"Because of the high cost of eligible renewable energy, the 33% renewable portfolio standard will result in skyrocketing utility rates," says assemblyman David Valadao. "This bill allows utilities to meet that threshold, which is a good thing for ratepayers throughout the state."

The legislation -- known as Assembly Bill 1771 -- took its first step toward enactment April 16 with an 8-1 vote in favor by a California Assembly committee.

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