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CEC Commissioner: Infrastructure, LNG, Long-Term Contracts Key to CA's Energy Future

With the adoption of the 2005 update of California's Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) slated for next month, the presiding member of the five-member California Energy Commission (CEC), charged with publishing the guidebook for the governor and legislature earlier this month, expressed his frustration with the state's effort to reshape a coherent, effective energy strategy.

CEC Commissioner John Geesman questioned the state's over-reliance on natural gas, its need for utilities to build more infrastructure, and the ultimate need for liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports.

Geesman sounded off in a Q&A interview published Oct. 14 in the Contra Costa Times in the East San Francisco Bay area where he resides.

Citing a hypothetical "D+" grade that former federal regulatory commission head Patrick Wood gave the overall state-federal efforts to restore energy order in California and the rolling blackouts in California last August, Geesman told the Contra Costa County newspaper the state "needs to move forward now with investments in new efficiency, new renewables and new conventional supplies." And he reiterated that all of those require long-term contracts.

"The projects don't seem to materialize without long-term commitments that ultimately the government is responsible for approving," he said.

Renewables now are what Geesman calls "the primary way of diversifying" fuel supplies for power away from natural gas, which California relies on for more than 40% of its power. "You get up above 40% reliance on anything, and your portfolio starts to look a little unbalanced," said Geesman in the CC Times Q&A.

Nevertheless, he realizes that the state's growing demand and other factors make the need for new gas sources an imperative eventually, noting the earlier (2003) version of the IERP clearly identified LNG as a future need for the state's fuel mix. "And there is no real avoidance of that," he said.

"There are those who think that the exporting countries we're relying on (for LNG) are a better group of world citizens than some of the Middle East countries that we rely on for petroleum. But there's no getting around the fact that that's an international commodity, and the security of those supply lines will be subject to influences that previously we've not had to face in natural gas."

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