Daily Video

June 10, 2009

Power Grid is Hurdle for Renewable Energy

In California there is a battle between environmentalists and environmentalists over green energy.

On one side are those working to get electricity from wind and geothermal power to the city of Los Angeles. On the other side are conservationists worried about the effects of building new high powered transmission lines to carry the electricity from the desert to the city.

Los Angeles has a goal of 35 percent renewable energy sources, like wind, solar and geothermal, by 2020.

But even though there is a bubbling spring in Southern California that generates steam for electricity 24 hours a day, that electricity cannot connect to the Los Angeles power grid.

Transmission lines are expensive and take a long time to plan and approve, so no new lines have been built in the region in 30 years.

In this report, NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels, investigates the obstacles in California’s quest for safer, greener energy.


“How do we gain access to renewable energy, while at the same time building the transmission to bring it to population centers?” – David Nahai, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

“The president has included in his stimulus package up to $11 billion to create new transmission lines like these. But the industry and federal regulators say that is far too little, that it will cost between $200 billion and $300 billion to create enough new transmission lines and to start shaping up the nation’s electrical grid.” – Spencer Michels

“The original routes that were proposed were in highly environmental sensitive areas. And so, when you’re blading and destroying pristine habitat, is that green?” – April Sall, California Desert Coalition

Warm Up Questions

1. How does electricity get from the power plant to your house?

2. What is renewable energy?

Discussion Questions

1. Did you expect the availability of power lines to be a big obstacle to renewable energy? Why is it such a big problem?

2. What does “green” mean? Is it worth it to destroy some habitat if it means using more earth-friendly power? Why or why not?

3. Why does Los Angeles, or any government, want to use renewable energy? How is renewable energy tied to global warming?

4. What could President Obama to help this situation? Can states take care of their renewable energy decisions themselves?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript

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