Geothermal energy bill a hot topic in California

August 19, 2014 1 By Bret Williams

The passing of a geothermal law could lead to mandatory change for the state’s energy retail sellers.

Known as Senate Bill 1139, the proposed legislation, authored by Coachella Valley Assemblyman V. Manual Pérez and San Diego Senator Ben Hueso, would require utilities, such as San Diego Gas & Electric or Southern California Edison, to buy 500 megawatts (MW) of power from baseload geothermal energy facilities by the end of 2024.

The bill is particularly important to the Imperial Valley.

SB 1139 is considered vital by the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) because it wants to further develop its Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative, a joint effort shared by Imperial County and IID. The initiative involves the development of new geothermal power project at the Salton Sea for the purpose of funding and ultimately restoring the sea. Thus, the bill would enable new renewable energy projects to take place in the area.

The president of the IID Board of Directors, Jim Hanks, told the Imperial Valley News that “The initiative can help assure the future of the Salton Sea, protect public health, conserve vital species habitat and create stability for meeting California’s water supply and energy needs.”

The development of geothermal energy projects is anticipated to generate jobs.

Geothermal Energy - LawIn addition to having the potential to produce up to $38 million in local revenue, annually, SB 1139 could also lead to hundreds of jobs and investments. It could result in meaningful economic development for California that could create jobs, reduce fossil fuel and greenhouse gas emissions, and protect against an increase in fuel prices.

“It’s estimated that a 100-megawatt geothermal project can bring in more than 300 jobs,” said Jim Madaffer of the California Transportation Commission. Madaffer also added that a project of that size could bring in approximately $150 million in local property tax revenues and up to $2.5 million every year in lease payments to private landowners and local governments.

Last week, SB 1139 advanced from the Assembly Appropriations Committee and continues to move through the state legislature. Next, it is anticipated to be placed before the full assembly for a floor vote before the end of the month. The geothermal energy bill was already approved by the full Senate in May and the legislation was also approved by the Natural Resources Committee and the Assembly’s Utilities and Commerce Committee in June.

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