Friday, August 27, 2004

One Step at a Time
If renewable electricity is going to become a meaningful energy source in this country, it will have to do so by providing viable alternatives to conventional power projects on an industrial scale, not just "one roof at a time." That means that large customers and utilities will have to eschew traditional, reliable choices and take a chance on something greener. As a former L.A. resident, the cancellation by the city's Department of Water and Power of their stake in a major coal plant expansion in Utah caught my eye. Anyone who doesn't believe Mayor Hahn is taking a big risk with this hasn't been paying attention to California politics, with the recall of Governor Davis at least party attributable to his inept management of the state's electricity crisis.

Now, it's fine and good to say that the city will find greener alternatives to the foregone coal project, but time will tell what that really means, since there were no specifics provided. Do they intend to spend the saved $200 million on wind and solar projects, or, when the city's appetite for power grows again, will they just build or buy into more gas-fired turbines, exacerbating the need for new sources of natural gas? In any case, the DWP is about as large as municipal utilities get, and this decision should be seen as an important milestone and potential golden opportunity for developers of renewable electricity.

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