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Roseville Electric must find new sources for renewable energy

Changes in state regulations will cost $120 million over 20 years
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Roseville’s electric rates will likely increase over the next two decades as the city’s public utility provider wrestles with regulatory changes in California.

An official with Roseville Electric predicts the costs associated with transitioning to more renewable resources — as required by state law — will result in a rate jump of about 5 percent. The utility’s cost will increase $120 million over 20 years, said Power Supply Manager Mike Wardell.

Roseville Electric is updating its Integrated Resource Plan, which is a 20-year strategy for meeting energy needs. The utility hosted a public workshop Tuesday to inform customers of this plan and a second meeting takes place Thursday, March 22.

They must create a plan that is affordable, reliable and compliant, Wardell said.

“Electricity is a balancing act,” he said during the workshop attended by about 10 people. “I call it a tug-of-war.”

California’s legislature passed the Renewable Standard Portfolio in 2011, which requires utilities to obtain 33 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2020. Utilities must average 20 percent renewables by December 2013.

Renewable energy includes, for instance, wind, solar, geothermal and small hydroelectric. The law also designates three categories of renewables.

Category 1 is the “greenest,” and utilities must have a least 50 percent of this energy source by the end of 2016 and up to 75 percent by 2020. Category 2 starts with energy from a renewable generator but is “firmed and shaped” with ordinary grid energy.

Category 3 is renewable energy that comes from outside California or takes the form of a payment to a renewable energy company. While 25 percent of energy can come from this source now, the law will limit it to 10 percent by 2020.

The law omits large hydroelectric, which Roseville Electric has been using as a renewable resource. Without large hydro, the utility provider is currently at 12 percent renewable energy.

About 40 percent of Roseville Electric’s energy is natural gas from the Roseville Energy Plant, up to 20 percent is hydro and about 33 percent is purchased off the market.

“We have a pretty diverse portfolio. It mitigates our risk,” said Roseville Electric Director Michelle Bertolino.

Renewable energy is costly and Wardell said meeting the Renewable Portfolio Standard will add $7.6 million to his utility’s costs in the 2013 fiscal year. A new statewide greenhouse gas market will add $1.2 million in costs.

Roseville Electric is looking at different scenarios for meeting compliance, including using low-cost measures that are high risk, and high-cost measures that pose low risk. Low cost is wind and solar, and high cost are options such as geothermal and biomass. The utility plans to incrementally build its renewable energy portfolio.

Roseville resident Jack Wallace attended Tuesday’s workshop.

“I understand the legislature’s increased requirements (on) renewable energy, and I certainly agree with the concept, but I think we need to move faster,” Wallace said. “It’s ridiculous that four decades after the OPEC problem (of) the early 1970s, we still have no alternative plan. But like most ideas Congress and the California legislature come up with, this requirement is unfunded."

He said the increase will negatively impact residents.

"The quality of life of retirees and low to middle income workers is constantly going downhill because of the ever-increasing cost of utilities, gasoline, food, taxes and little consideration is given for that," Wallace said. "Everything is going up except our income."

Roseville City Council will vote on this plan in April.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Roseville Electric public meeting
What:
Discussion of utility’s updated Integrated Resource Plan
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22 at Maidu Community Center, 1550 Maidu Drive
Info: www.rosevilleelectric.org