Sen. Barbara Boxer on Thursday urged Southern California Edison to expedite agreements with national parks and forests so that millions of dollars in renewable energy projects can begin producing electricity.
In a letter to SCE President Ronald L. Litzinger, Boxer chastised Edison for delays that have left projects sitting idle instead of being switched on so they can reduce electric bills at park and forest facilities.
Boxer’s letter read, in part: “Many of these projects have been waiting to connect to the electric grid for at least two and a half years. It is unacceptable that renewable energy projects that could save taxpayers money have been allowed to sit idle for so long.”
Dozens of solar energy facilities in Southern California have been waiting for connection to the grid while the agencies hash out contracts. Officials at Death Valley National Park, for instance, had hoped the newly renovated visitors center would pare an estimated $31,828 from an annual electric bill of $45,724, a 70% drop in energy cost.
Boxer’s letter cited a Times article this week that detailed a number of projects caught in the impasse. At issue is a federal prohibition against assuming future liability, but utilities elsewhere in the state have come to terms with the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service.
Edison spokeswoman Veronica Gutierrez said the company’s standard contract protects ratepayers from bearing the financial burden in case of litigation — costs that SCE would pass on to customers. The federal agencies “requested that we delete standard financial protection for our customers,” she said. “We have offered to make modifications. They have rejected those options.”
Gutierrez said any change from the standard agreement would have to be approved by the Public Utilities Commission.
“We’re hopeful that we can resolve this,” she said. “I wouldn’t say that it is impossible.”
At least 24 projects in five national parks across the region are waiting agreements with SCE, including a new $800,000 solar project at Death Valley, photovoltaic panels at the new visitors center at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and a solar power system at the U.S. Forest Service’s new facility at Mono Lake.
Federal agencies are required to reduce their carbon footprint. SCE, like all California utilities, is operating under a similar deadline to derive more power from renewable sources.