California’s New 33% Renewable Energy Goal Won’t Help Dairies Build Digesters

September 16, 2009 07:00 PM
 

California's new order to advance the state's Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard to 33% by 2020 won't help dairies in the near term, says an environmentalist who's worked closely with the industry to build digesters.

 

"There won't be an immediate impact because there are still regulatory and financial barriers to building digesters, and the executive order doesn't change that,” says Allen Dusault, program director for Sustainable Agriculture at Sustainable Conservation. The California-based organization engages businesses and private landowners in developing conservation projects.

 

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the executive order this week as part of the state's commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the state's renewable energy. The order directs the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to adopt regulations increasing renewable energy use to 33% over the next 11 years.

 

"Three years ago, I signed AB 32 and committed California to roll back our greenhouse gas emissions [to] a nation-leading 25 percent by 2020,” Governor Schwarzenegger said Tuesday. "We've made a lot of progress since then, but we still have a lot of work to do to reach our goals.”

 

Dusault agrees. "As we strive for environmental perfection, the very good gets lost in the shuffle,” he says. "Dairies face very high costs in meeting air and water quality regulations as well as uncertainty in the carbon credit markets. It's difficult for them to plan.”

 

The good news, Dusault adds, is that important strides have been made to make the manure-powered, energy-creating digesters more economically viable.  "A dairy can now sell electricity for about 10 cents per kilowatt and that's a big deal,” he says. "And we're working on new technologies to further reduce emissions from digester generators to make them even cleaner.”

 

Schwarzenegger chose to sign an executive order rather than hope for the California Legislature to pass an acceptable bill. The governor has not been happy with recently passed renewable energy bills that, according to a Sept. 15 press release from the Office of the Governor, "are unnecessarily complex, would substantially increase costs on Californians and California's businesses and, if passed, the state standard could be held up in legal battles because the bills violate the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause by restricting the sale of energy across state lines.”

 

Read more at: http://gov.ca.gov/press-release/13273/.

 

Learn more about Sustainable Conservation's dairy projects at: http://www.suscon.org/ourWork/projects.php.

 

Catherine Merlo is Western editor for Dairy Today. You can reach her at cmerlo@farmjournal.com.

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