A San Francisco Chronicle op-ed co-written by Ethan Elkind, the Bank of America Climate Change Research Fellow at Berkeley Law and UCLA School of Law, warns that large-scale efforts to build remote renewable energy facilities should not distract California policy makers from capitalizing on near-term, nearby opportunities.
Elkind, who penned the op-ed (available here) with California Assembly member Nancy Skinner, asserts that sites close to electricity consumers and the workforce are prime targets for renewable power generation. They include rooftops of large buildings, land along state highways, canals, pipelines, and other infrastructure that make up the California aqueduct. Material for the op-ed was derived from a policy report entitled In Our Backyard: How to Increase Renewable Energy Production on Big Buildings and Other Local Spaces, that Elkind wrote for Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environnment, UCLA’s environmental law and climate change centers, and the California Attorney General’s Office.
Plans to achieve clean energy often focus on building large desert-based solar installations or wind farms in mountain passes. The authors note that it can take years just to address environmental concerns involved in developing such facilities. They also point out that financing remains a large hurdle as businesses struggle to cover the up-front costs of renewable technology.
Elkind and Skinner call for California to make renewable energy production part of the mission and performance expectation for state and local agencies. They also urge expanding current programs that give renewable energy producers retail credit for energy they produce that offsets their electric bill, and that require utilities to pay renewable energy producers who sell their energy back to the grid.