In developing energy policies- the laws, regulations and programs that affect energy production and use, governments must keep a sustainable future in mind. Experience shows that it takes at least 50 years and huge investments to faze in new energy alternatives. Our energy future depends primarily on which energy resources and “pathways” the government and private companies decide to promote and on political and economic pressure from politicians and citizens.

The idea that our current fossil fuel based Energy Pathway is in deep trouble is not new. Way back in 1976, energy expert Amory Lovins was scoffed at for advocating a new pathway of integrating, conservation, efficiency and renewable energy, into “Soft Path”. His ideas are summarized in this review of the landmark paper ‘Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken’ by the Rocky Mountain Institute. “Lovins describes the two energy choices then facing the nation. There is the “hard path” and the “soft path”. The hard path relies on rapid expansion of centralized high technologies to increase supplies of energy, especially in the form of electricity. The second path combines a prompt and serious commitment to efficient use of energy, rapid development of renewable energy sources matched in scale and in energy quality to end-use needs, and special transitional fossil-fuel technologies. Lovins argues that both paths present difficult—but very different—problems. The first path is convincingly familiar, but the economic and sociopolitical problems then facing the nation loomed large and insuperable. The second path, though it represents a shift in direction, offers many social, economic and geopolitical advantages, including virtual elimination of nuclear proliferation from the world. For Lovins, it is important to recognize that the two paths are mutually exclusive”.

The old “Hard” path of centralized large/macro generation and long distance transmission

Scientists and energy experts generally agree that this process of choosing an energy path, requires a gradual shift from large centralized macro-power, fossil fuel to, softer, smaller, decentralized, renewable, micro systems of energy distribution and generation.

Small micro “Distributed Power” systems located on rooftops close to the point of power use

This  “mouthful” of terminology  is becoming known as the Distributed Power Pathway that includes:

  • Increased Local/Community control of their energy pathway (Local Power)- In San Bernardino County this looks like a well designed RE Energy Ordinance (the SPARC initiative) and Local Utility Authorities as being applied in the City of Lancaster where an ordinance declares  “the City’s  (Lancaster’s) intent to explore establishment of a Community Choice Aggregator (CCA). The program named Lancaster Choice Energy will procure and sell power to Lancaster businesses and residents at competitive rates, while also delivering a consumer-driven mix of energy choices featuring clean energy and local generation. Rates will be set by the City Council, providing for local control and greater accountability”
  • Appropriate use of the best/most efficient, renewable technologies for a particular location. In the Mojave our “best in nation” levels of solar radiation points almost exclusively to solar. Focused solar, tracking arrays are already in place in the Mojave and may present the best technology for us

Efficient Focused Solar systems can minimize land disturbance  and room under  the tall towers to undertake land restoration?

  • Located on previously disturbed sites or in marginal plant communities, while minimizing land clearing and requiring land and habitat restoration.
  • Located on rooftops, covered parking lots and the warehouses of local business
  • Located at point-of-use (for us this means in the LA basin where they have plenty of rooftops) to minimize transmission costs and energy losses.
  • Combination of greatly improved energy efficiency and conservation. Locally the High Desert Power plant burns very efficient and abundant natural gas. Victor Valley Waste Water Authority has deployed a state-of- the art biomass generator. Both present excellent opportunities to move towards a diverse mix of generation resources and stabilize the Energy Grid when solar takes a cloudy day-off!!

Unfortunately until very recently United States has continued down the “Hard Path” of fossil fuel dependence, and made the “Soft Path” harder to attain via poor policy, short-term planning and corporate profit-taking. In the Mojave, we have been the focus of much of this chaos and now have a wonderful chance to lead California and the world towards a better future. We must however move quickly to avert of “wholesale” industrial scale renewable energy generation development and unneeded transmission infrastructure that will deliver this energy to LA. This is being done on such a scale and is so poorly planned that we believe it will completely alter the character and sustainability of local communities.

Taking this leadership towards Distributed Power, will ensure that San Bernardo County and its people are not forced to carry an unfair burden to conform to AB 32 The Global Warming Act as is currently mapped out in the the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP).