Tag Archives: Renewables

Broad (and Bi-partisan) Support for Clean Energy and Green Job Creation

BERKELEY (March 29, 2011) – In a bold move to bolster one of the few bright spots in California’s economy and set a precedent for strong renewable electricity standards nationwide, the California Legislature today approved a bill that would require utilities in the state to obtain at least 33 percent of their electricity from clean, renewable sources, such as the wind and sun, by 2020.  

Promoted by the governor and legislative leaders in both houses as part of a green jobs stimulus package, the bill would create the most aggressive renewable energy requirement in the country and position California as a national leader in clean energy investments.  

“Today’s vote is not just a victory for California’s economy and environment, but for the entire nation,” said Laura Wisland, an energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the leading national nonprofit organization providing economic, technical and policy analysis of renewable electricity standards.  “Transitioning toward more clean, renewable electricity sources means cleaner air, healthier communities, and a stronger green economy.”

Introduced by State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), the bill (SBX1 2) garnered the backing of a broad range of electric utilities, ratepayer groups, environmental organizations and renewable energy businesses. UCS advised the  bill authors, and played a lead role to build support for the bill as it made its way through the Legislature.

UCS also has been involved in coalition efforts to enact clean energy standards in other states and at the federal level.

California’s current law, the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), required privately owned utilities in the state to obtain 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2010.  UCS estimates that with the 33 percent RPS law in place, California will be responsible for more than 25 percent of the renewable energy generated by state standards across the country in 2020.  The amount of heat-trapping global warming emissions that would be displaced as a result of the 33 percent RPS would be equivalent to removing nearly 3 million cars from the road.

UCS is expecting California Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the bill, given statements he made during his campaign last year.

Dan Kalb, UCS’s California policy manager, said the new standard would be a boon for the state economy.  “A strong 33 percent renewables standard in statute would give renewable energy developers the market the certainty they need to raise money to build their projects in California,” he said.  “With the governor’s signature, this bill will create new clean energy jobs, strengthen our economy, and reduce harmful heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming.”

Wisland said that the federal government should follow California’s lead.  “Once again, California has demonstrated national leadership in advancing clean energy,” she said. “Now it’s Congress’s turn to act.” Such a move by federal legislators has widespread public support, she added. A February Gallup poll found that 83 percent of Americans favor Congress passing a bill that would provide incentives for renewable energy.

For more information on the California RPS, see the UCS fact sheet, “California Renewable Electricity Standard.”

Meg to Earth: Get Bent

Lost in the press clippings of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s vapid executive order to boost the amount of renewable energy that California’s utilities offer, is the question of what happens to this unenforceable executive order when this governor terms out (executive orders expire when the governor who orders them leaves office).

At the press conference to announce the order, the chair of the California Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols, offered this analysis:

“I think any new governor is likely to want to continue that program,” Nichols said.

Obviously Nichols isn’t paying attention to the California Republican Party primary, in which it seems that no position is too backwards for the two main candidates: Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman.  

In an op-ed that ran yesterday in the San Jose Mercury News , Whitman signaled to the world – Nichols included – exactly where she stands on issues like renewable energy. Whitman:

With this ongoing economic crisis, the governor has the ability to issue an executive order putting a moratorium on most AB32-related rules. I urge him to do so. And if he does not, I will issue that order on my first day as governor.

Hear that, Mary? Not only is progress on renewable energy in real jeopardy if someone like Whitman becomes governor (not that the governor’s phony executive order means anything anyway except for being one in a series of executive tweets that sound nice), but even AB 32 – the bill YOU are in charge of implementing – is at risk if one of these two becomes governor.

While most media outlets’ coverage of this issue has helped feed the implicit assumption that an executive proclamation is the same as a law, the Los Angeles Times at least gets to the real point in an editorial that has more to do with prisons:

Perhaps it’s not surprising that, in this environment, Schwarzenegger seems to be taking on the characteristics of a dictator. On Tuesday, he rejected the Legislature’s plan to promote renewable energy and said he’d impose his own by executive fiat. He’s on surer legal ground when it comes to the prisons because his actions will be backed by the federal court. But it’s dismaying to watch the state’s democratic procedures break down so thoroughly.

Amen, brothers and sisters.

A Progressive Approach to Energy Independence

Energy independence and a transition to renewable energy are pressing issues impacting our national, environmental, and financial security.  Our current economic crisis also presents an unprecedented opportunity to make long-needed changes in our nation’s energy policy. We need intelligent, progressive legislation that provides incentives, training, and investment opportunities for a transition to a softer energy path and a more peaceful and productive world.

Fossil fuels kill the economy, the environment, and international security: Nonrenewable energy is bad for the economy, the environment, and international security.  Nonrenewable and foreign sources of energy exacerbate our current economic crisis, impacting tens of millions of families, making it harder to get to work, more costly to move goods and operate services, and more expensive to heat and cool our homes and workplaces. Fossil fuel consumption is destroying our environment, contributing to global climate change, soil erosion, barren mountaintops, deforestation, and health-threatening particulate materials in our air and water. Dependence on foreign sources of energy virtually guarantees continued international tensions, tempting policymakers into foreign military interventions that threaten the lives of Americans and others, contributing to international instability and violent extremism.

From a convergence of problems to a comprehensive solution: The downturn in the automobile industry threatens the livelihood of millions of workers, but a smart set of policies, incentives, and public-private partnerships can move these workers into jobs in clean technology and alternative energy.  We need to build the new energy sector. Utilities, green building sectors, and clean technology companies are all experiencing a shortage of qualified workers at a time when the national unemployment rate is nearly 10 percent. Policies which build on existing state and local workforce development systems, and innovative postsecondary education programs, can lead the way to a new sustainable energy workforce.  

Innovative Californians are already leading the way in this transition. Laney College, in Oakland, has incorporated green building into its curriculum, and has partnered with the Oakland Green Jobs Corps to offer training in green construction to low-income residents. Programs such as these can serve as national models. Robert Pollin, James Heintz, and Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the Center for American Progress conclude that California alone would increase its investment revenue by $18.5 billion, and hundreds of thousands of new jobs, through further investment in renewable energy. These include jobs for sheet metal workers, machinists, truck drivers, roofers, civil engineers, electricians and dispatchers.  A 2007 study by the University of California at Berkley demonstrated that the clean energy and technology industry (from alternative energy generation to wastewater treatment to more resource-efficient industrial processes) “generates more jobs per megawatt of power installed, per unit of energy produced, and per dollar of investment than the fossil-fuel-based energy sector.” Every $100 million invested in the renewable sector creates 2,700 new jobs.iv  The United Nations Industrial Development Organization recently concluded that 2.3 million new jobs in renewable energy have already been created worldwide, suggesting that further investment in such jobs would be a huge boost to the U.S. and global economy.v Safe, clean wind energy, as East Bay Rep. Jerry McNerney points out, is actually cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

State-to-state patchwork threatens a comprehensive solution: Unfortunately, the current effort at a transition to renewables is hindered by the patchwork approach taken by individual states, who lack resources and coordination. States with the most potential for job creation and energy production lack the capacity to quickly make the transition to renewables. Many current power plants cannot handle the addition of renewable energy. Some states are complaining that they cannot meet current federal mandates.

Intelligent, progressive legislation: In order to maximize such opportunities, we need intelligent, progressive legislation. Tax credits for a shift to renewable energy, currently extended to businesses and consumers, should be expanded. We need to monitor the direction of the economic stimulus money so that it continues to be directed towards renewable energy production. Congress should pass, and the President should sign into law, the Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology (IMPACT) Act of 2009, which will provide $30 billion for factories to adjust their operations to meet the growing demand for clean technology products, including hybrid and electric cars. This bill facilitates the development of domestic clean energy manufacturing and production.

Congress should also pass the Smart Grid Advancement Act, designed to incorporate smart grid capability into the existing electricity grid, so that when it is forced to switch electricity sources, it does so efficiently. Such grid reform will save consumers millions of dollars and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, we must pass the Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation Act, or the GREEN Act, which will provide competitive grants for the development of career and technical training programs in the field of renewable energy.

Other steps are important, but we need committed, conscientious policymakers in Washington to ensure their effective implementation.  For example, we must support CAFE standards and a cap-and-trade system, but should work to mitigate the serious concerns that these policies will hurt consumers and working-class families. Similarly, in considering biofuel production, we must distinguish between “good” biofuels, which allow us to recycle parts of plant matter we currently throw away, and “bad” biofuel production, which spikes up worldwide food prices and hurts, rather than helps, the environment.

Rational, educated people should be leading the discussion about a transition to renewable energy.  Unfortunately, our energy policies are currently made by corporate lobbyists, ex-CEOs and the politicians who eat out of their hands. Our national security agenda should not be set by companies who continue the practices of the Halliburtons and Enrons of the corporate world.  Rather, we need public and private forces devoted to an ambitious, smooth transition to renewable energy: a more peaceful, decentralized, and community-friendly energy.

Adriel Hampton is a journalist, Gov 2.0 and new media strategist, public servant, and licensed private investigator. He is running for U.S. Congress in the 2009 special election for California’s 10th District. He has pledged to vote against funding for expansion of the Iraq and Afghan wars.

Prop 7 and the SF Clean Energy Act are Not the Same Thing

I do some work for No on Prop 7.

I noticed Jeremy Wade’s editorial in Beyond Chron, and while I might agree with the odd point here and there, he misses the forest for the trees.  First, before we discuss the important issues raised surrounding solar and clean energy, I should point out that the allegations (also picked up at LA-ist) made against some of the environmental organizations are just not true.  I have confirmed with several of the groups that they have not taken money from the utilities. I haven’t made an exhaustive search of these records, but let’s just toss that stink bomb aside. It’s only meant to be sensational, and create divisiveness within the environmental community. Such accusations against groups that have fought valiantly for clean energy are not helpful to a conversation about the future of renewables. UPDATE: I was mistaken about at least one of the groups, CLCV. They have taken some money from PG&E to their IE committee.

Bob’s post today about the San Francisco Clean Energy Act  brings up the other issue: conflating the two initiatives.  They are not the same thing. The Clean Energy Act seeks to get to 100% renewables in SF. That’s a good thing, especially with Al Gore’s challenge to do so within 10 years.  But that act is not connected to Prop 7. The SF Clean Energy Act has gone through public hearings, was placed on the ballot by a majority of the Board of Supervisors, and has a long list of endorsements, including several environmental organizations, Asm. Mark Leno and former PUC General Manager Susan Leal. In fact, I personally support the SF Clean Energy Act.  But let’s be clear: the SF CEA is not the same thing as Prop 7.

The endorsement list for Yes on 7 is considerably shorter, consisting mostly of a few local officials that former SF Supervisor (and current Yes on 7 Consultant) Jim Gonzalez knew from back in the day. As to those environmental organizations: they are overwhelmingly opposed to the measure. Toss in the California Young Democrats, the California Labor Federation, and the California Solar Energy Industries Association, and you have a pretty robust coalition in opposition to a a renewable measure. Why? Well, the measure enscribes some flawed legislation into law, and changes require a 2/3 vote of the Legislature.

Peep the flip for a quick summary of those objections.  

Really Briefly, here are some major problems with Prop 7.  I’ll get into each of these in more detail eventually.

1) Pricing: Prop 7 would require providers to purchase renewable power when it is within 10% of market price. Sounds great, right? The problem is that in the near term, this provides an excuse to the retailers not to buy renewables b/c they are over that price. In the long term, the pricing policy totally eliminates the incentive to reduce prices for renewables. Eventually, we will get to the point that renewables are cheaper than the dirty stuff, but why bother to make it cheap when the companies have to buy it at 10% over the overall market rate?

2) Siting: The real problem with siting isn’t really the NIMBYism (although that is a problem), it’s that we need better transmission. How do we do that? We create renewable “zones” where we can transmit power back to population centers, not herky jerky where anybody has land available. There are a bunch of other, really technical issues here.

3) The loopholes: Prop 7 formalizes a “good faith” exception. If they can’t find the energy in “good faith” they face no penalties. In the short term, the interplay with the first problem, could create a large loophole. Basically, if the price of renewables exceeds 10% over market, then the retail power sellers don’t have to buy it.

4) The risk to small providers: There’s a really scary drafting error in Prop 7 that could kill providers that produce less than 30MW. I can explain the problem in more detail if you want, it’s a legal interpretation thing. This is part of the lawsuit last week.

California Air Board Releases Draft Blueprint to Reduce Global Warming Pollution



SACRAMENTO (June 26, 2008) – The California Air Resources Board (CARB) released the nation’s most comprehensive plan to date for reducing the pollution that causes global warming.  While the plan is still a proposal, it represents the furthest step forward any state has taken in the fight against global warming, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Patricia Monahan, the director of UCS’s California office, said CARB’s plan would add more momentum to the fight against global warming. “California is showing the rest of the country how we can build a clean energy economy,” she said. “There’s no drilling our way out of energy problems.  As energy prices skyrocket, consumers need real alternatives that sip rather than guzzle, and that are homegrown instead of imported.”

The 75+ page plan includes a range of policy recommendations.  Chief among them is increasing the state’s renewable electricity standard.  The plan also contains provisions for a regional cap-and-trade program that could work in harmony with other more specific policies to reduce pollution economywide.  The plan also says CARB will consider a vehicle “feebate” program that would provide incentives to consumers to buy cleaner cars.

In addition, the proposal includes plans to reduce emissions from heavy-duty trucks with hybrid engine technology and better fuel economy.  Like many of CARB’s proposals, the heavy-duty truck provisions would improve public health by also reducing smog-forming pollution.  The plan also advocates for a high-speed train system in California.  

Christopher Busch, a UCS climate economist, pointed out that many of the draft plan’s policies would save consumers money and yield economic benefits, while the overall cost of implementing the plan would likely be negligible. “Fundamentally, we’re talking about making our economy more efficient, which will give us energy savings,” he said. “And investing in clean, renewable energy will make our electricity and fuel supplies more diverse, and insulate us from price swings in the fossil fuel market.”

Busch added that global warming pollution reduction strategies also would provide public health benefits by cleaning up the air as well as support the state’s growing clean technology industries. “California has proven time and again that we can clean our air and grow our economy,” he said. “Now the state is going to prove the same thing with global warming.”

The renewable electricity standard in the plan would require utilities to generate 33 percent of their electricity from clean, renewable sources, such as wind and solar power, by 2020.  Such a standard would reduce global warming pollution by an amount equivalent to avoiding the construction of 10 new large fossil fuel power plants or removing nearly 3 million cars from the road. And such a standard could save residents money on their electricity bills by displacing natural gas.  Additionally, it would reduce smog-forming pollution, create new green-collar jobs in the state, and bolster California’s growing clean technology sector.

“California has a wealth of renewable electricity potential we aren’t tapping into yet,” said Dan Kalb, UCS’s California policy coordinator. “Shifting to clean, safe sources of carbon-free electricity in a smart and well-planned manner is a win for the environment, the economy and consumers.”


(For more about the benefits of boosting the state’s renewable electricity standard, go to: www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_energy/33_percent_RES.pdf )

CARB also identified a feebate program as one avenue for reducing vehicle pollution. S uch a program would establish one-time rebates and surcharges on new passenger cars and light trucks based on the amount of global warming pollution they emit.  This program would deliver benefits on its own, but also would complement California’s tailpipe standards if both were implemented.  According to a University of Michigan study, implementing a clean car discount program would deliver an additional 21 percent reduction in global warming pollution beyond the tailpipe standards.

More than 1.5 million new vehicles are sold in California each year, which represents about 10 percent of the new vehicle market in the United States. A quarter of California’s global warming pollution comes from cars.

“A feebate program is a great way to make cleaner cars more affordable for everyone,” said Spencer Quong, a UCS senior vehicles engineer. “Cleaner cars simply cost less to operate, so people will save money on gas with this program, too.  On top of that, this ‘clean car discount’ program would give automakers an added incentive to produce cleaner vehicles.”

The regional cap-and-trade market approach in CARB’s plan would work best IF California can strengthen the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) efforts, according to UCS.  The WCI is a partnership among several western states and Canadian provinces to reduce global warming pollution.

“CARB’s plan on cap-and-trade is a step in the right direction and draws on some lessons learned from other cap-and-trade systems,” said Busch.  “But until the details are filled in, the jury remains out on whether or not the program will be as well designed as it could be.”  UCS is VERY pleased to see that cap and trade accounts for only 20 percent of the needed emissions reductions, while the remaining 80 percent will come from direct regulations. “The plan  appropriately recognizes that cap and trade is not a silver bullet,” Bush said.

Busch cautioned that CARB’s plan implies that the agency is considering auctioning less than half of the pollution allowances under a cap-and-trade system initially.  He pointed out that cap-and-trade systems work best when as many pollution allowances as possible are auctioned and that giving them away can create unwarrented windfall profits for polluters. (On page 19 of the plan, CARB calls for the program to “quickly transition … to a system in which the majority of allowances are auctioned.”)

CARB also recommends limiting the number of “offsets,” or substitutes polluters could use to avoid making pollution reductions on their own.  But until those offset limits are specified, Busch said, it will not be possible to determine how effective a cap-and-trade program would be at reducing pollution, fostering innovation, creating jobs, or improving public health in California.  Ideally, in-state offsets would be emphasized more than out-of-state offsets.  UCS urges CARB to prohibit the use of offsets for compliance with direct regulations such as the renewable energy standard.