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Southern California Edison – what’s the holdup? :-)

holdup: noun

1: delay

2: a robbery carried out at gunpoint

Millions of dollars in renewable energy projects to provide power to California’s national parks and forests are sitting IDLE because of an ongoing disagreement (apparently) with Southern California Edison (SCE). A solar power system at the U.S. Forest Service‘s new facility at Mono Lake, a new $800,000 solar project at Death Valley National Park, and photovoltaic panels at the visitors center at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area are among dozens of taxpayer-funded projects in Southern California that are ON HOLD as federal agencies try to resolve differences with Southern California Edison, so that the projects can be connected to the California electrical grid! Although the “stumbling block” APPEARS to be contract restrictions that are required by federal law, SOMEHOW other utility companies in California have signed SIMILAR agreements with little or no delay!

“There’s 24-plus systems in the Southern California Edison area that have been installed in the last three years that we have not been able to negotiate an interconnection agreement on,” said Jack Williams, who retired this month as the National Park Service‘s Oakland-based regional facilities manager. “We think we are close at times, but then nothing. We were successful with PG&E, but with Southern California Edison…. They have been a bit more difficult. We’ve raised the flag many times. It’s an issue for all federal agencies.”

An Edison spokesperson, who cited ongoing negotiations, declined to discuss the projects.

Thomas Alva Edison, that boy from Milan, Ohio, may well be “spinning in his grave.”

The “impasse” has prevented parks from meeting renewable energy goals at a time when federal agencies are trying to comply with orders to reduce carbon footprints. Nevermind the fact that TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS (sorry to “shout” – someone is “hard of hearing”) in savings on utility bills have not been REALIZED during the time that negotiations with Edison have occurred. (It looks like agencies might have been equally effective arguing with Thomas Alva Edison! :-) )

Park officials in Death Valley had hoped that the new visitors center would shave $31,828 (70%) from the annual electric bill of $45,724! A solar plant in the Santa Monica Mountains that was designed to power a dormitory has been offline since October 2010!

“It is disappointing to see this big investment sitting idle when we could easily flip the switch and produce benefits,” said park superintendent Woody Smeck, who called himself “an administrator here trying to do the right thing.”

“We are purchasing electricity from SCE, whereas we could be using renewable energy from the sun and returning power to the grid. Until we can get the interconnection agreement approved, the switch is off and we can’t benefit.”

According to the L.A. Times:

“Federal agencies generally may not sign contracts that would leave them liable for unknown future damages because they would be committing money that Congress hasn’t allocated. In some instances, government departments use contracts based on the federal torts process, the legal mechanism to bring liability claims against the government. But so far, the federal agencies have been unable to get SCE to agree to such contract provisions.”

California Governor Jerry Brown‘s office has sent Michael Picker, the governor’s advisor on renewable energy, to meet with all parties to hammer out differences, since the stalemate also affects the Veterans Administration and the Department of the Navy!

The Forest Service has been equally ineffective in trying to draft an agreement using a standard U.S. General Services Administration utility contract.

Sometimes, it can be hard to reach an agreement unless BOTH parties WANT to AGREE! :-)

The Forest Service, in addition to the Mono Lake project has been waiting for a year to connect its solar panels at the San Dimas Technology and Development Center, which houses the agency’s top engineering and development center for wilderness firefighting equipment. The solar plant there would be subject to rebates for the excess power it generates, according to officials!

In Death Valley, which seems, to me, to be the IDEAL place to “kill” an agreement, 😉 superintendent Sarah L. Craighead said the park’s solar projects have been unplugged since she took the job 21/2 years ago.

“We want to turn these things on,” she said.

Even though the solar projects in Death Valley have not been able to be connected to the power grid, the park’s concessionaire has managed to install a one-megawatt photovoltaic plant that will provide one-third of the power needed to run the park’s hotels, restaurants, golf course, offices and employee housing.

In (STARK) contrast, ANOTHER of California’s utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric, connected Yosemite‘s $5.8-million photovoltaic project at El Portal. The project was completed in February 2011, and the park signed the interconnection agreement four months later.

Go figure! :-)

The L.A. Times says:

“The 2,800 solar panels should produce approximately 800,000 kilowatt-hours per year. Yosemite officials estimate the system will save $50,000 per year on electricity bills and generate an energy rebate of $700,000 from PG&E over the next five years.”

-Bill at

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