Planet Gore

The Politics of Power Lines

Keith Johnson at Environmental Capital wonders how happy Greens will be when California’s new renewable-energy mandates result in added transmission capacity.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger set California’s renewable-energy target at 33% by 2020; right now, the state’s target is to get 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Gov. Schwarzenegger’s executive order clears the way for the state legislature to draft new laws making the target binding. . . .
In announcing the new goal, Gov. Schwarzenegger specifically targeted environmental opposition to new projects: “[W]e won’t meet that goal doing business as usual, where environmental regulations are holding up environmental progress in some cases. This executive order will clear the red tape for renewable projects and streamline the permitting and siting of new plants and transmission lines.”
Transmission is the biggest obstacle to boosting renewable energy in California and other states, as recent utility-sector reports show. The permitting process for new transmission lines is time-consuming, and cumbersome. The environmental impact statement for a single, 150-mile transmission project in southern California, for instance, runs to 11,000 pages.
[I]f the state is to meet higher renewable-energy targets, then transmission projects like the Sunrise Powerlink are needed, state regulators say, even if they have to be tweaked to minimize environmental impact. In other words, the more ambitious the state’s renewable-energy targets, the more the state has to compromise on other environmental goals like preserving pristine wildnerness areas.

One might also wonder how much support the Pickens Plan will lose among Greens and otherwise green-friendly but Kelo-suspicious civil libertarians when they get a load of the infrastructure requirements of that ambitious plan.

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