For motorists driving to Yosemite National Park from the Bay Area, Don Pedro Reservoir is a familiar sight. But the massive lake along Highway 120 just west of Groveland has taken on a new role recently: as a flashpoint in the debate over what should — and shouldn’t — count as renewable energy in California.
The outcome of that debate could impact how much solar and wind energy is developed across the state in years to come.
In an effort to combat climate change and reduce smog, former Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed a landmark law that requires California’s utilities to produce 60 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030.
But hydroelectric power from large dams doesn’t qualify as renewable, because of another state law, passed nearly 20 years ago, that aimed to protect salmon and other endangered fish.
That’s not right, says State Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas.
Hydroelectric power, which is generated when water spins turbines in dams, is clean energy, and doesn’t produce smog or greenhouse gases, she notes. Caballero has introduced a bill in the state Legislature that would allow the two government agencies that own Don Pedro Reservoir, the Modesto Irrigation District and the Turlock Irrigation District, to count the electricity their dam produces toward the 60 percent renewable energy target they must meet.
Should big dams count as renewable energy? California Democrats divided, by Paul Rodgers, The Mercury News, May 26, 2019.