Southern California Edison faces a daunting challenge in meeting state deadlines for getting its power from alternative energy sources. So much so that the utility admits it probably won't meet the first one.

State utilities must get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by the end of next year a mandate that's the most ambitious by far in the nation. SCE said it will likely fall short, although it will be above the average of other utilities statewide.

What's more, Southern California Edison, the utility subsidiary of Rosemead-based Edison International, along with the rest of the state's utilities, was hit last week with a new mandate from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: an executive order requiring the state's utilities to draw 33 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

Utilities caught a bit of break. Schwarzenegger said he would veto even tougher legislation that would have required the bulk of the renewable resource power to be produced in the state. That means SCE will be able to import wind power from Oregon, Washington and Idaho to help meet the goal.

Even so, both mandates will still be tough to meet.

"There are so many moving parts to this: transmission uncertainty, the viability of renewable power developers and access to capital, just to name some," said Mike Marelli, director of renewable contracts for SCE.

Failure to make a good-faith effort to meet the 2010 deadline could result in fines as high as $25 million per year. For 2020, the penalties will be determined by the California Air Resources Board.

The biggest challenge has been trying to find sites for and then building transmission lines to connect the remote renewable power plants to SCE's customer base. Transmission lines can take a decade to plan and build years longer if there's opposition.

The state Public Utilities Commission has concluded that SCE would need to build 11 transmission lines to carry all the renewable power it needs to meet the 33 percent mandate. Yet only one a $2 billion line from the Tehachapi mountain range to SCE facilities in the Santa Clarita area has been approved to date, and construction hasn't begun.

But there have been other challenges, too. Locally based renewable energy projects that don't need new transmission lines such as rooftop solar panel installations remain far more expensive than traditional natural gas-powered generating stations.


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