The Science of Sustainability

Editor's Notes: Race for Renewables

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Renewable energy is all the rage as we try to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. Venture capitalists are investing billions. The federal government is funding a huge range of projects, from solar to wind to biofuels, through the stimulus bill. And more than thirty states have approved laws requiring some percentage of electricity to come from renewable sources. One of the states leading the effort, California, set a target of twenty percent renewable electricity by 2010. That includes energy from solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass projects, though not large-scale hydro power like dams. But for all its green ambitions, the state is finding out that it's easier to set green energy goals than to meet them. As of the end of 2009, California’s three investor-owned utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, were only serving 15% renewable electricity. By the end of this year, for a variety of reasons — some financial, some political — the state will miss its goal.

Where did California go wrong? And as other states try to learn from its lessons, does the Golden State have any hope of reaching its next ambitious target – 33 percent renewable by 2020? Follow KQED’s environmental and science initiatives, QUEST and Climate Watch as we explore the obstacles to achieving California’s ambitious renewable energy goals. Over the next several months we will explore some of the challenges including: finding a home for big solar and wind farms, energy storage, California’s complex permitting process and where to build new transmission lines.

Can California get one-third of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020? Stay tuned to our series 33 x 20: California’s Clean Power Countdown.

We’re launching the series this week with a story from Lauren Sommer about how we got here and how far we have to go. But what are your questions about renewable energy? What would you like us to cover in the months ahead? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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Category: Climate, Energy, Environment, Radio

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About the Author ()

Andrea is KQED's Senior Science Editor . Andrea was born in Los Angeles and discovered radio news through listening to her college radio station. With a curious mind and a love for telling stories, she set off for Tampa where she landed her first job as a reporter for Florida Public Radio. After three years reporting in an unbearably humid climate and a brief stint as a miscast opera reporter, Andrea returned to L.A. to work for public radio, then for television news and finally as a reporter for CBS radio. Andrea has been at KQED for over twelve years, working first as a producer for Forum, and then as the senior producer for The California Report. She is now KQED's Senior Science and Environment Editor and narrates the QUEST television program. Andrea says she feels lucky to cover emerging science and environmental trends in a place where geek is chic.