Effort to allow electricity from large dams to count as renewable energy in California fails to pass

A controversial effort to broaden California’s definition of renewable energy has fizzled out. The proposal would have allowed electricity from a large dam in the Central Valley to count the same as solar and wind.

Under a law signed last year by former Gov. Jerry Brown aimed at reducing smog and greenhouse gas emissions, utilities in California are required to produce 60 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Large dams aren’t allowed to count toward that total, however. That rule dates back nearly 20 years, when state lawmakers wanted to increase investment in solar and wind projects, and did not want to increase demand for construction of big new dams on rivers, which kill salmon and have other environmental impacts.

But State Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, introduced the bill earlier this year to allow two utilities, the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, to count the electricity generated by turbines at Don Pedro Reservoir, which they jointly own, toward their 60 percent mandate.

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Effort to allow electricity from large dams to count as renewable energy in California fails to pass, by Paul Rodgers, The Mercury News, June 3, 2019.

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