Friday, November 24, 2006

City Utilities End Coal Fired Electricity Contracts in California

In what is hopefully the start of a new trend, several Southern California cities have decided not to renew long-term contracts for coal-fired electricity, choosing instead to turn to cleaner sources of electricity.

City officials told Utah-based Intermountain Power Agency they wouldn't be renewing their contracts for coal-fired power, which expire in 2027, and would instead be looking for alternative energy sources.

"It's a huge change," said Mayor Todd Campbell of Burbank, one of the cities that decided not to renew its contract.

The cities are Pasadena, Glendale, Riverside and Anaheim. They join the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which has already choosen not to renew the contract with Intermountain. Currently coal fired electricity makes up a significant percentage of their power, for example Pasadena Water & Power says that the Intermountain plant is 65 percent of our energy.

Intermountain's general manager Reed Searle said the company had worked for three years on the renewals and was now looking at ways to modernize its plants to bring them into compliance with California's greenhouse gas legislation that takes effect on the first of January.

The cities' decision came after increased pressure from politicians and environmentalists.

Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote a letter to an umbrella group for the cities last week saying she was "shocked and dismayed" by an initial decision last month by Burbank to renew the contract.

Phyllis Currie, general manager of Pasadena Water & Power said the utilities wanted to explain how important Intermountain was to California cities. "It's a serious issue when you tell us to walk away from that," she said.

The move could put Southern California in the forefront nationally of the commercial use of alternative energy in coming years.

Intermountain has extended its renewal offer for power from the plants until 2023 from the previous deadline of May 2007 in the hope state regulators will let utility officials renew the contracts if greenhouse gases are reduced. Electricity utilities are starting to feel the pressure for "clean" coal.

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