Renewable power prices in California surged from 5.4 cents/kWh in 2003 to 13.3 cents/kWh in 2011. However, they are slated to fall as new contract bids submitted to utilities last year were estimated at about 30% lower than in 2009, a new report from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) suggests.

The latest quarterly report on California’s ambitious 33% Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) focuses on the state’s three large investor-owned utilities (IOUs): Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). These companies provide about 68% of the state’s electric retail sales, the CPUC says.

The report has never before included costs. It was much-awaited after last year, when lawmakers passed a bill requiring the commission to issue a report on the costs of renewable power contracts.

Passage of California’s landmark Senate Bill No. 2 (SB21x) in 2011 established that the IOUs must average 20% renewable supply from 2011 to 2013 and 33% by 2020. In August 2011 RPS Compliance Reports, the three large IOUs reported that they had served 17% of their load with RPS-eligible generation in 2010. By utility, the percentages were: PG&E, 15.9%; SCE, 19.3%; and SDG&E, 11.9%.

Since 2003, 2,541 MW of new renewable capacity achieved commercial operation under the RPS program. Over 830 MW of new renewable capacity came online in 2011. According to the report, the IOUs submitted 68 contracts representing 4,525 MW of renewable capacity in 2011. In the same time period, the CPUC approved 44 contracts representing 2,461 MW of renewable capacity.

“The overall picture is that the renewable market is robust, competitive, and has matured,” the CPUC concludes.

Sources: POWERnews, CPUC