Despite the sluggish economy and low natural gas prices, renewable power generation continued to grow in California this year, according to the latest status report. The progress appears modest, however, compared to the state’s new renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 33% by 2020.

More than 830 MW of new renewable capacity has been added so far this year, putting RPS program capacity at more than 2,500 MW, according to the third quarter RPS report from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). None of the three major private-sector utilities still has individually hit 20% — the RPS goal for last year — and combined they remained stuck at 17%, the same as reported as of the end of last year (see Daily GPI, April 8).

The CPUC report noted that there are many contracts in the pipeline awaiting approval at the state regulatory commission; 49 contracts representing more than 3,000 MW were submitted by the three major utilities during the first nine months of this year. During the same period the CPUC approved 11 renewable projects totaling 951 MW.

There has been little movement this year in the RPS percentages of the major utilities — Southern California Edison Co. (19.3%), Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (15.9%) and Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas and Electric Co. (11.9%). The Edison International utility had not received approval this year for a new renewable contract from the CPUC as of Sept. 30, although it submitted 29 new ones during the nine-month period.

Given the state’s new 33% RPS law, the CPUC is scheduled this Thursday to consider two moves to support the new 2020 goal: establishing new requirements for the utilities and for retail power sellers corresponding to new mandates for renewable content categories, and setting new interim goals for the utilities between now and 2020 covering three periods (2011-2013; 2014-2016; and 2017-2020).

In addition, the CPUC told state legislators in its latest quarterly report that it conducted a first renewable auction Nov. 15 and will schedule a second one next year to close May 31. The utilities have changed their bidding protocols and tariffs for renewable providers to conform with the auction mechanism established in August by the CPUC.

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