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Renewables 100 Team Participates in Governor's Renewable Energy Conference

Founder Angelina Galiteva says: “There is no good excuse why a state as rich in natural resources, capital, and innovative talent should not resume its position as a global renewable energy leader. The Renewables 100 Policy Institute team not only applauds Governor Brown for his bold plans, but will remain in the trenches to help do the hard work.”

LOS ANGELES --Renewables 100 Policy Institute's founders, along with their European team leader, German Federal Environment Agency Director Dr. Harry Lehmann, and their technology analysis advisor, Dr. Malcolm Jacques, joined Governor Jerry Brown and more than 200 other energy experts at UCLA on July 25-26 in a private conference on local renewable energy resources.

Governor Brown has set a goal of installing 20,000 MW of new renewable energy by 2020, with 12,000 MW of it being local, distributed projects like rooftop solar and small biogas digesters on farms. "Whatever amount of oil they have over there in Texas, we have a hell of a lot more sun right here in California ... The sun is more abundant, more powerful and capable of generating more power," Brown said in his remarks at the conference.

Participating in a panel on international practices on the first day of the event was Dr. Lehmann, who has long been instrumental in the design and implementation of the world's most successful renewable energy programs. "When Germany was first starting," he explained,  "we looked to California, which already had impressive wind installations and solar arrays in the 1980's." He noted that it has taken a long time and many struggles for Germany's renewable energy program to get to the point of maturity it currently experiences. "California is still at the start of a major transformation," he said, but added that the state has far more renewable energy resources than Germany, and due to Germany's and others' progress in recent years, it will be lest costly for California.

Dr. Lehmann shared that from his perspective of decades of trial and error, to be successful and economical, California should focus on three main next steps: 1) implementing a strong feed-in tariff similar to Germany's that encourages localized renewable electricity; 2) streamlining its complex and bureaucratic permitting process for renewables; and 3) educating the population about the facts.

He also reported that several cities and regions in Germany and elsewhere have reached or are setting the goal to reach 100% renewable energy, and that this should not be considered a vision but rather a necessity. Without missing a beat, a City of San Francisco representative informed us that the city is targeting 100% renewable electricity by 2020.

The need to learn from the German success story was a recurring theme throughout the conference. One panelist at the end quipped that from now on, for every time someone mentioned Germany, he was going to drink a shot of his orange juice.

Renewables 100 Policy Institute Founder and California ISO Boardmember Angelina Galiteva led a panel on day two focused on grid integration of variable renewable resources, which included representatives from Sunpower, Petrasolar, Southern California Edison, and the California Energy Storage Alliance. Also sitting on the panel was  Dr. Jacques, who currently is focused on waste heat to power (WH2P) technology, which captures waste heat from industrial processes and converts it to energy, in order to improve efficiency, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and increase clean energy production.

A common message arising from this panel discussion was that integrating renewable energy into the grid is not a problem. Numerous studies were cited which concluded that California's current goals of achieving 33-40% renewable electricity are achievable with minimal and simple technological adjustments that are readily available. The utility representative on the panel was more cautious than the optimistic majority.

Another recurring theme of the panel, echoed throughout the conference, was a desire for more transparency from the utilities on data that could ease project planning for renewable electricity projects. The panel ended on a positive note of hope for "joyful collaboration" between the utilities and other stakeholders in making progress on renewable energy.

Renewables 100 Policy Institute Founder Diane Moss commented that "we have learned from the Germans that similar debates have occurred there, although their government has tended to take more command and control than has so far been the case in California. For instance, unlike the Golden State, Germany has mandated that utilities cover costs for upgrading the grid for renewables, that they interconnect all renewable energy projects, and that they pay long term, set feed in tariff prices for all renewable electricity installations. This has created stability for investors big and small, which in turn has allowed the renewable technology industry there to thrive and create more than 350,000 jobs in a relatively short time."

How California resolves its own dilemmas remains to be seen. Governor Brown made clear that he believes the time for bold action is now. Our team is cheering him on and rolling up our sleeves.