MORONGO BASIN — California is on its way to reaching its renewable-energy goal, but it might cost customers a little more to get there.
In 2008, then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order stating all retail sellers of electricity must provide 33 percent of their load from renewable energy by 2020.
Renewable-energy sources like wind and solar are cleaner than gas or petroleum, but they’re typically more expensive sources of energy, Southern California Edison representatives say.
The utility company is not supposed to profit off energy rates, but the energy it buys from renewable sources often comes at a higher rate.
While wind and sunlight don’t cost anything, the equipment needed to harness and convey renewable energy is often more expensive, making the cost of providing renewable energy higher than using conventional resources like natural gas, Jennifer Cusack, an SCE spokeswoman for the desert region, said via email.
As California nears its renewable-energy goals, customers will pay more.
“Larger and larger portions of renewable energy for SCE customers will drive retail electricity rates up, but the magnitude of that upward rate pressure is commonly debated,” Cusack said.
Another problem with renewable energy is reliability.
Experts with the California Independent System Operator, charged with maintaining the state’s power grid, say utilities may always need traditional sources of energy for when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.
“While renewable power plays a critical role in greening the grid, it also adds a layer of complexity to the important job of keeping the lights on,” a California ISO report states. “Output from wind and solar plants varies with the weather, the seasons and even the time of day.”
The nonprofit agency says in order to maintain reliable sources of power for the grid, it needs access to conventional power plants.
Cal ISO says it will continue working to find efficient ways to incorporate clean-energy sources into the grid while maintaining a reliable power supply.
Equipment costs passed to customers
California now draws about 22 percent of its energy from renewable sources, according to the California Energy Commission.
“We are well on our way to meeting our goal and possibly exceeding that goal,” Adam Gottlieb, a commission spokesman, said Friday.
As the state moves toward cleaner energy sources, SCE says most of the costs will come in the form of infrastructure and equipment.
“Renewables costs are spread across all SCE customers,” Cusack said. “SCE does not make a profit on the renewable energy it procures for its customers. Instead, the renewable energy costs are direct pass-through to customers.”
The utility company applies to the Public Utilities Commission for a review of its rates every three years.