Why California Senate leader’s 100% renewable energy bill failed

kevin de leon 2From pioneering air-pollution control programs in Los Angeles County in the 1940s to setting nationally copied standards on fuel efficiency and emissions to the 2006 passage of AB32, the state’s landmark anti-global warming law, California has long been proud of its role as a global leader in environmentalism.

So when Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León introduced Senate Bill 100 in January, the expectations were high. The measure committed California to generating 50 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2026 – four years earlier than the present goal – and to 60 percent by 2030 and to 100 percent by 2045. No government remotely as large as California’s had made such a commitment.

In spring interviews with a reporters at an energy conference in Orange County, the Los Angeles Democrat depicted his bill as a common-sense measure to goad investor-owned utilities into making long-term shifts in their infrastructure to prepare for an all-renewable future. He said progress had been so quick that he expected the state to meet the 50 percent renewable standard “in the early 2020s without breaking a sweat.” But he also depicted SB100 as setting up “the most ambitious program in the world.”

When it passed the California Senate on a mostly party-line vote in May, the world took notice. The New York Times set the tone: In a 2,100-word analysis headlined “Fighting Trump on Climate, California Becomes a Global Force,” it depicted the bill as a key part of California’s determination to take over the global lead in environmentalism from Washington.

But earlier this month, SB100 failed to even get a floor vote in the Assembly as lawmakers wrapped up business for the year. A Desert Sun report depicted the decision as “unexpected.”

That’s not how it looked to some insiders. Business groups spent months hammering home the argument that it was risky to commit to 100 percent renewable energy use when it was not clear that was either feasible or safe for a modern economy. In a June interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Gary Ackerman, executive director of the Western Power Trading Forum, depicted SB100 as “reckless” and with a huge downside. The arguments echoed those made by Pacific Gas & Electric, Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, the state’s three giant investor-owner utilities, which quietly have established strong ties with Democratic lawmakers in poor districts buffeted by high energy costs.

IBEW adopted, modified utilities’ argument

Meanwhile, de León didn’t enjoy unified support on the Democratic front. An argument the utilities had been making – that SB100 was potentially a hugely disruptive force – was adopted and modified by some labor leaders. They worried what a 100 percent commitment to renewable energy might mean for thousands of union members. According to an NBC News report, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1245, began opposing the bill in late summer because the local union alleged de León had gone back on his promise to protect union jobs.

But a third factor may also have been at play. De León has never enjoyed the broad goodwill accorded his predecessor, Darrell Steinberg, now the mayor of Sacramento. Soon after taking over as Senate leader in late 2014, de León was the target of a scathing column by then-Sacramento Bee pundit Dan Walters for mistakes, power plays and a lack of humility. He faced similar criticism from the Sacramento Bee’s editorial board.

De León has since emerged as a legislative powerhouse, at least according to the conventional wisdom that holds that the 2017 session was one of the most productive in recent history. But his clout couldn’t overcome the late-emerging opposition to SB100.

The lobbying will begin all over again for the measure in January, the Greentech website reported.

“We’re going to be back next year,” said Peter Miller, Western energy project director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the website. “I don’t want to underestimate the challenges to moving to a fully zero-carbon grid, but we can get there, and we will.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Unions Stop CA Democrats from Requiring 100% Renewable Energy by 2036

Solar panelsCalifornia unions killed the Democrats’ last-minute push to force the state to adopt 100 percent renewable electricity production by 2046, over worries the nation’s highest utility costs are killing jobs.

Governor Jerry Brown and Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León were pushing hard to pass Senate Bill 100 in the final hours of the legislative session. The bill would require 44 percent of all retail electricity sold in the state to come from renewable energy and zero-carbon sources by 2024; 52 percent by 2027; 60 percent by 2030; and then 100 percent by 2046.

The Democrat party-line legislation would have accelerated the requirements of SB 350. That legislation, passed in 2015, requires 50 percent of all retail electricity sold in the state to come from renewable energy and zero-carbon sources by renewables by 2030.

But it appears that the state’s powerful union sector is feeling the heat from its members and employers, angered that energy-rich California now has the “lower 48’s” highest average electric utility rates for residential, commercial, industrial and transportation at 17.55 cents per kilowatt hour. They quietly killed the legislation, which had already passed the State Senate, by making sure it did not come to an Assembly floor vote.

To put a perspective on the current comparative cost burdens that the state’s families and businesses suffered last year, Californians paid 62 percent higher electrical costs than the national average for electricity. But even worse on a regional basis, Californians paid 124 percent more for electricity than residents of Washington State, and 98 percent more than residents of Oregon.

Because energy-rich California used to have electricity costs that were below the 1960 national average of 1.8 cents per kilowatt hour, the state was a large electricity exporter.

But under a government-mismanaged deregulation of utilities in the 1990s, the Democrat-controlled legislature demanded the public utilities commission implement a “Long Term Procurement Process.” Rather than encouraging the building of more efficient power plants, the California regulatory scheme prevented building new efficient power plants by forcing utilities to rely on the unreliable availability and predatory prices for imported electricity.

After California suffered a 2000-era energy crisis, the state forced utilities to comply with a Renewables Portfolio Standard in 2002. The movement to renewables started slowly, but since 2010 about 80 percent of new electrical production has come from highly subsidized renewables, according to the Hass Energy Institute at the UC Berkeley Business School.

Proponents of strong renewable standards claim new purchase contracts for renewable energy are only priced “modestly above those for a new conventional natural gas power plant.” But renewables such as solar and wind have intermittent availability. For evenings and whenever the skies are overcast or the wind is calmed, California utilities must pay to have an equivalent percentage of natural gas electrical generation available to offset 100 percent renewable sources.

Breitbart News reported extensively about Governor Brown’s hopscotching around the world to sign climate change agreements with some of the world’s worst polluters, such as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and China’s General Secretary of the Communist Party Xi Jinping.

With only 16 months left before he is termed out of running for governor for a second time, Brown is running out of time to drive up California electrical prices.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

The Type of Prosperity California Ought to Show the World

As reported earlier this month in the Los Angeles Times, California policymakers are expanding their war on “climate change” at the same time as the rest of the nation appears poised to re-evaluate these priorities. In particular, California’s Legislature has reaffirmed the commitment originally set forth in the 2006 “Global Warming Solutions Act” (AB 32) to reduce the state’s CO2 emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Just exactly how California policymakers intend to do this merits intense discussion and debate. As the Los Angeles Times reporter put it, “The ambitious new goals will require complex regulations on an unprecedented scale, but were approved in Sacramento without a study of possible economic repercussions.”

At the risk of providing actual quantitative facts that may be extraordinarily challenging for members of California’s Legislature, most of whom have little or no formal training in finance or economics (ref. California’s Economically Illiterate Legislature, 4/05/2016), the following chart depicts data that helps explain the futility of what California’s citizens are about to endure:

CALIFORNIA ENERGY CONSUMPTION, POPULATION, GDP, AND CO2 EMISSIONS
Comparisons to the rest of the USA, China, India, and the world

california-energy-consumption

(For links to all sources for this compilation, scroll down to “FOOTNOTES”)

The first row of data in the above table is “Carbon emissions,” column one shows California’s total annual CO2 emissions including “CO2 equivalents” – bovine flatulence, for example, is included in this number – expressed in millions of metric tons (MMT). As shown, in 2014 (the most recent year with complete data available) California’s CO2 emissions were down to 358 MMT. That’s 73 MMT lower than 1990, when they were 431 MMT. While this is a significant reduction, it is not nearly enough according to California’s state legislature. To hit the 40 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2030, CO2 emissions still need to be reduced by another 100 MMT, to 258 MMT. That’s another 28 percent lower than they’ve already fallen. But California is already way ahead of the rest of the world.

As shown on row 8 of the above table, California’s “carbon intensity” – the amount of CO2 emissions generated per dollar of gross domestic product – is already twice as efficient as the rest of the U.S., twice as efficient as the rest of the world, more than three times as efficient as China, and nearly twice as efficient as India. We’re going to do even more? How?

A few more data observations are necessary. As shown, California’s population is 0.5 percent of world population. California’s GDP is 2 percent of the world GDP. California’s total energy consumption is 1.4 percent of world energy consumption, and California’s CO2 emissions are 1 percent of the world’s total CO2 emissions.

These stark facts prove that nothing Californians do will matter. If Californians eliminated 100 percent of their CO2 emissions, it would not matter. On row 1 above, observe the population of China – 1.4 billion; the population of India – 1.3 billion. Together, just these two developing nations have 70 times as many people as California. The per capita income of a Californian is four times that of someone living in China; nine times that of someone living in India. These nations are going to develop as much energy as they can, as fast as they can, at the lowest possible cost. They have no choice. The same is true for all emerging nations.

So what is really going on here?

If California truly wanted to set an example for the rest of the world, they would be developing clean, safe, exportable technologies for nuclear power and clean fossil fuel. Maybe some of California’s legislators should take a trip to Beijing, where burning coal generated electricity and poorly formulated gasoline creates killer fogs that rival those of London in the 1900’s. Maybe they should go to New Delhi, where diesel generators supplement unreliable central power sources and raise particulate matter to 800 PPM or worse. Maybe they should go to Kuala Lampur, to choke on air filled with smoke from forests being incinerated to grow palm oil diesel (a “carbon neutral” fuel).

According to the BP Statistical Review of Global Energy, in 2015, renewables provided 2.4 percent of total energy. Hydroelectric power provided 6.8 percent, and nuclear power provided 4.4 percent. Everything else, 86 percent of all energy, came from fossil fuel. In the real world, people living in cities in emerging nations need clean fossil fuel. So they can breathe. Clean fossil fuel technology is very good and getting better all the time. That is where investment is required. Right now.

Instead, purportedly to help the world, California’s policymakers exhort their citizens to accept a future of rationing enforced through punitive rates for energy and water consumption that exceed approved limits. They exhort their citizens to submit to remotely monitored, algorithmic management of their household appliances to “help” them save money on their utility bills. Because supposedly this too averts “climate change,” they restrict land development and exhort their citizens to accept home prices that now routinely exceed $1,000 per square foot anywhere within 50 miles of the Pacific coast, on lots too small to even put a swing set in the yard for the kids. They expect their citizens to avoid watering their lawns, or even grow lawns. And they will enforce all indoor restrictions with internet enabled appliances, all outdoor restrictions with surveillance drones.

This crackdown is a tremendous opportunity for a handful of high-technology billionaires operating in the Silicon Valley, along with an accompanying handful of California’s elites who benefit financially from politically contrived, artificial resource scarcity. For the rest of us, and for the rest of the world, at best, it’s a misanthropic con job.

The alternative is tantalizing. Develop clean fossil fuel and safe nuclear power, desalination plants, sewage recycling and reservoirs to capture storm runoff. Loosen restrictions on land development and invest in road and freeway upgrades. Show the world how to cost-effectively create clean abundance, and export that culture and the associated enabling technologies to the world. Then take credit as emerging nations achieve undreamed of prosperity. With prosperity comes literacy and voluntarily reduced birthrates. With fewer people comes far less pressure on the great wildernesses and wildlife populations that remain, as well as fisheries and farmland. And eventually, perhaps in 25 years or so, renewables we can only imagine today, such as nuclear fusion, shall come to practical fruition.

That is the example California should be showing to the world. That is the dream they should be selling.

Ed Ring is the vice president of policy research for the California Policy Center.

FOOTNOTES

Population
World Population Clock:
http://www.worldometers.info/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependencies_by_population
Directorate-General of the European Commission:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurostat
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_European_Union_member_states_by_population
US Census Bureau – California:
http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/06

Carbon Emissions
U.S. Energy Information Administration:
http://www.eia.gov/state/rankings/?sid=CA#series/226
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:
http://unfccc.int/ghg_data/ghg_data_unfccc/items/4146.php
http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/overview.php?v=CO2ts1990-2014&sort=des9
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions

Total Energy Consumption
BP Statistical Review of World Energy:
http://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/en/corporate/pdf/bp-statistical-review-of-world-energy-2015-full-report.pdf
California per capita energy consumption:
http://www.eia.gov/state/rankings/?sid=CA#series/12

GDP
World Bank:
http://databank.worldbank.org/data/download/GDP_PPP.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)
US Dept of Commerce – Bureau of Economic Analysis:
https://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/gdp_state/gsp_newsrelease.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_GDP

Note: There are only minor differences between the nominal US GDP and PPP (purchasing power parity) US GDP:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal). With other nations, such as China and India, however, the differences are significant. Using purchasing power parity GDP figures for comparisons yields ratios that more accurately reflect energy intensity and carbon intensity among nations. 

Obama-Backed CA Solar Plant Literally Incinerates Itself

Ivanpah solar energyThe world’s largest solar energy plant known for incinerating birds just got a taste of its own medicine. A fire at the plant Thursday morning, which may have been caused by “misaligned” mirrors used to reflect sunlight at boiler towers, broke out in the facilities interior — literally scorching parts of the plant.

NRG Energy, the company operating the Ivanpah solar plant in southern California, was forced to shut down one of its generating towers and is investigating if mirrors, or heliostats, failed and torched a boiling tower. Now, the plant which got $1.6 billion from the Obama administration, will only be able to generate electricity from one of its three towers.

An NRG spokesman said it’s too early to say exactly what caused the failure, but it’s likely due to misaligned heliostats, according to Gizmodo. Whatever the cause, workers and firefighters literally went through hell to douse the flames.

Gizmodo reports:

A small fire was reported yesterday morning at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) in California, forcing a temporary shutdown of the facility. It’s now running at a third of its capacity (a second tower is down due to scheduled maintenance), and it’s not immediately clear when the damaged tower will restart. It’s also unclear how the incident will impact California’s electricity supply.

Putting out the blaze was not easy task, either. Firefighters were forced to climb 300 feet up a boiler tower to get to the scene. Officials said the fire was located about two-thirds up the tower. Workers at the plant actually managed to subdue the flames by the time firefighters reached the spot, and it was officially extinguished about 20 minutes after it started.

The scorched tower is currently shut down, according to the Associated Press, and it’s not clear when it will come online again. It’s also unclear if this setback will affect California’s electricity supply.

This only adds to Ivanpah’s troubles. The plant was nearly shut down by California regulators for not producing nearly as much power as it was supposed to. Regulators have given the plant until the end of July to meet its power quotas, but this fire may make it hard for the plant to meet its goals.

Ivanpah only generated 45 percent of expected power in 2014 and only 68 percent in 2015, according to government data. And it does all this at a cost of $200 per megawatt hour — nearly six times the cost of electricity from natural gas-fired power plants. Interestingly enough, Ivanpah uses natural gas to supplement its solar production.

It wasn’t long after the plant opened, its operators asked the federal government for a $539 million federal grant to help pay off the $1.6 billion loan it got from the Energy Department.

Environmentalists quickly attacked the project for killing thousands of birds since it opened. Many birds were incinerated by the intense heat reflected off Ivanpah’s heliostats.

The Associated Press cited statistics presented by environmentalists in 2014 that “about a thousand… to 28,000” birds are incinerated by Ivanpah’s heliostats every year.

“Forensic Lab staff observed a falcon or falcon-like bird with a plume of smoke arising from the tail as it passed through the flux field,” according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report from 2014.

Ivanpah — which is owned by BrightSource Energy, NRG Energy and Google — uses more than 170,000 large mirrors, or heliostats, to reflect sunlight towards water boilers set atop 450-foot towers that create steam to turn giant turbines and generate electricity.

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This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Solar Energy Gives Investors a Shock

Ivanpah solar energySolar energy is full of surprises.

The operators of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System were recently surprised by state air quality regulators, who informed them that the $2.2 billion solar energy plant is a carbon polluter.

Solar energy doesn’t emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s the whole point of California’s increasingly mandatory and wildly expensive push to replace fossil fuels with solar and wind energy.

But as it turns out, the sun does not shine at night. This is what happens when governors don’t do any research before they sign legislation.

The Ivanpah plant is located on five square miles of the Mojave Desert near the Nevada border. You can see it from Interstate 15 — it’s that alien-looking landscape of shiny circles surrounding three skeletal towers topped with black-and-white capsules.

The shiny circles are hundreds of thousands of mirrors that aim sunlight at boilers mounted on the towers. The sun boils the water, and the steam rotates turbines, which generate electricity.

But only during the day.

At night, and on cloudy days, Ivanpah burns natural gas to keep the water hot.

And that attracted the attention of the California Air Resources Board, which gave Ivanpah’s operators until Nov. 4 to comply with the state’s cap-and-trade program by cutting the plant’s carbon emissions 10 percent or purchasing pollution credits from somebody who has cut carbon emissions someplace else.

Ivanpah, a “clean energy” plant built with $1.6 billion in federal loan guarantees and $600 million in federal tax credits, now has to pay for being a “polluter” in California.

Solar panelsAnd that’s not the only surprise in the solar business. Some people who invested tens of thousands of dollars in rooftop solar panels have been disappointed by the revenue from net metering — the money they’re supposed to receive for selling surplus electricity back to the grid.

West Hills residents Barbara and Bob Schoenburg are beyond annoyed that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is holding more than $1,000 of their money. The Schoenburgs’ solar panel array, for which they paid about $20,000 after rebates and credits, consistently generates more electricity than they use. But LADWP will not write them a check. Instead, the credit on their bill just grows, year after year. It can’t even be used to pay the rest of the DWP bill for water, taxes or sewer and sanitation charges.

Here’s the surprise: California’s net-metering law, which requires utilities to pay their customers for surplus electricity generated by solar panels, applies to all utilities in the state with one exception — the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Yet some customers of Southern California Edison are equally aggravated. Hidden Hills resident Dr. Daniel Gross invested more than $20,000 in solar panels and was surprised when the installer told him the electricity generated by them could not be used to power his own home.

The electricity from the rooftop panels flows to the grid, and the home is powered with electricity drawn from the grid, as before. Once a year, the utility settles up. “The rate they pay you is markedly less than the rate you pay them,” Gross said, adding that he’d like to install batteries and be off the grid altogether.

“I thought I was doing something good for the country, for the community, for the economy,” he said, “and instead I’m a peripheral provider of electricity that Southern California Edison sells to make money.”

Southern California Edison is concerned about losing customers like Gross. In its most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, SCE disclosed that future revenues could be negatively affected by “possible customer bypass or departure” if new technologies, government subsidies or higher rates made self-generation “economically viable.”

LADWP made a similar disclosure in a recent statement to bond buyers. Self-generation was listed as one of the factors that may “materially affect the operating and financial position of the department.”

SCE and other investor-owned utilities are now asking the California Public Utilities Commission to lower the rate they have to pay their power-generating customers for surplus electricity. And they say the CPUC must approve new fees on solar customers to prevent the existing system from collapsing due to declining revenue.

Gross has no patience for their argument. “That’s the same concern the wagon wheel makers had,” he said.

Maybe that will be the final surprise. If California lawmakers and regulators continue to pretend there’s no longer any need for fossil fuels, wagons could make a comeback.

California Residents Face Bigger Energy Bills For Using Less

Southern California residents who sacrificed by using less water are now suffering higher prices because the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has a $111 million shortfall in its latest revenue projections.

“We have no other way of recovering the revenue to maintain the system for our customers,” Neil Guglielmo, director of budget, rates and financial planning for the DWP, said Wednesday. The Board of Water and Power Commissioners approved a pass-through charge that will be applied to consumers beginning in 2016, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles is not alone, however, as agencies throughout California have faced revenue shortfalls from the drought. Some regions in California have instituted a “drought surcharge” while others will simply double their service surcharge, reports The Los Angeles Times.

In L.A.’s case, the DWP’s long-term plan includes instituting an incremental five year rate hike that would increase the average user’s utility bill by roughly 3.4 percent each year. Residents are not thrilled with the action however, according to The Los Angeles Times, with one twitter user saying, “LADWP hikes rates because they aren’t making enough revenue. We’re saving water like we’re supposed to, U mad? I am.”

The paradox of less water use meaning higher costs is just one symptom of the drought that continues to plague California. Resident are hopeful however that the strongest El Nino in decades could bring much needed rain relief, reports Bloomberg. Alan Haynes, service coordination hydrologist at the California Nevada River Forecast Center in Sacramento noted however that, “If the wettest year were to occur, we still wouldn’t erase the deficit we have seen in the last four years.”

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Citizens Exhausted By Renewable Hypocrisy

Exhaust is what was emanating from the idling three ton SUV bearing state license plates sitting at the curb outside the Griffith Observatory. The parked vehicle’s engine continued to run for over an hour, according to news reports.

Inside the observatory, overlooking downtown Los Angeles, a ceremonial signing of major legislation was taking place. Amidst self-congratulation by members of the political class in attendance, Gov. Brown added his signature to legislation mandating that half of California’s energy come from renewable sources within 15 years.

car exhaust1The bill by Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, originally contained language requiring a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use by 2030. This draconian feature contained no specific formula for reducing gasoline use, leaving it up to the unelected California Air Resources Board to implement restrictions that could have included massive fees, gas rationing or driving restrictions. Moderate Democrats and Republicans united in opposition to adding to the burden on working families already paying the highest gas prices in the nation, and de Leon was compelled to remove the restrictions on petroleum use.

Brown has blamed lobbying by the oil companies – not the thousands of angry constituents who called their representatives — for the Legislature’s failure to cut back gasoline use and he has promised to implement the restrictions using CARB, whose 12 members are appointed by the governor.  (Just approved legislation will allow the Legislature to approve two members.) This approach of going around lawmakers, who represent the people of California, is reminiscent of President Obama’s using executive orders to circumvent Congress in order to make changes to the Affordable Care Act and to halt enforcement of immigration laws.

Even without the de Leon legislation, the state has the nation’s highest air quality standards and, due to legislation passed in 2006, a third of electricity is required to be provided by renewables by 2020.

The problem remains that California has a weak economy and stringent restrictions on energy production will add to the cost paid by average citizens. Many see this legislation as overly severe and agree with State Senator Jim Nielson who has stated that energy, food and all things that require abundant affordable energy to produce and transport will become more expensive, hurting California families least able to afford it.

Meanwhile, back to the SUV sucking up taxpayer financed gasoline: After chatting with reporters for nearly an hour after the signing ceremony, Senator de Leon entered the vehicle and was driven away. It was a hot day and, no doubt, the senator enjoyed entering an air conditioned interior as he was about to be chauffeured to his next appointment.

Although we didn’t get a close look, it would not surprise us if there were a bumper sticker on the back the senator’s ride that read, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Originally published by the HJTA.org

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Despite Setbacks, Brown and Dems Push Through Major “Climate Change” Policies

prop. 39The Legislature may have scuttled the centerpiece of Gov. Jerry Brown’s climate change plans, but it still approved ambitious new environmental policies that will impact the economy and life of Californians.

In coming years, the new legislation means California’s homes and buildings are expected to use dramatically less electricity and the power grid will increase its share of renewable energy. Brown also hopes to achieve much of what the Legislature rejected through executive orders and regulations. That will mean more electric cars on the road and increased use of biofuels, as part of a far-reaching effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is a long trek forward to change the very basis of our industrial economy,” Brown said last week. “And I think we’re making tremendous progress.”

In the legislative session that ended on Sept. 11, lawmakers halted a bill that would have mandated deep greenhouse gas emissions cuts by the year 2050. They also failed to extend the state’s carbon-limiting cap-and-trade program, which may otherwise expire in 2020.

Most contentious of all was a bid to slash petroleum use in motor vehicles in half by 2030. That idea got dropped after the oil industry launched a vigorous advertising campaign in opposition, and some Democrats in the state Assembly shied away.

Still, Brown and Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) will bring almost unparalleled accomplishments to a major international climate-change conference in Paris this December.

Lawmakers last week passed and sent to the governor a landmark measure, carried by de León, to require electric power providers to get half of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 (currently they are required to get 33 percent by 2020). It’s a target that’s stricter than all but a few states.

The renewable energy goal means that electricity providers must invest in more wind farms and large-scale solar plants as well as new transmission infrastructure.  Currently, the three major utilities in the state – Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — each get more than 20 percent of their electricity from renewables.

The Public Utilities Commission has not yet studied how the 50 percent target might affect consumers’ electric rates. Terrie Prosper, a commission spokeswoman, said the marginal cost should be minimal “if new technologies like storage and electric vehicles can be effectively used to integrate renewable resources.”

The renewable energy bill, which Brown is expected to sign, also calls for new and existing buildings across the state to become, collectively, twice as energy efficient by 2030. This means that Californians can expect to get more information about their homes’ energy usage, a helpful tool for homebuyers among others. It is also likely to be easier to find and use incentives like rebates to make homes more efficient. Energy-use standards for electronic appliances may also continue to tighten.

“It is a very big goal,” said Dennis Murphy of the US Green Building Council’s California branch, who noted that the state already was far more energy-efficient than most of the nation. Churches, schools and office buildings will be affected as well as homes, he said.

The third leg of de León’s bill, known as Senate Bill 350, would have required the state to cut petroleum usage in motor vehicles in half by 2030. That portion got removed from the final bill. But Brown said last week that the California Air Resources Board, which would have taken charge of the petroleum mandate had it passed, would work toward a lower-petroleum future anyhow.

“The only thing we don’t have is a formal statement in law of a 50 percent goal,” Brown said. “But the ARB is committed to that 50 percent goal, and I am committed to backing them up.”

The air board is already planning for long-term greenhouse gas emissions cuts to comply with executive orders issued by Brown and his predecessor, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The executive orders require emissions reductions of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. These cuts will have impacts for many sectors, prompting industrial plants and even perhaps farms to cut their greenhouse gas output.

De León’s bill would have codified those goals into law, which would preserve the goal in statute no matter who succeeds Brown as governor.

“It’s not really set in stone. It’s an executive order,” said Ethan Elkind, a climate expert affiliated with the laws schools of the University of California, Berkeley and UCLA. He added that some groups may not follow those orders the way they would legislation.

But assuming the air board crafts policies to comply with the executive orders, that should effectively mean a close to 50 percent cut in petroleum use, said Simon Mui of the Natural Resources Defense Council — on the order, in other words, of what de León and Brown originally outlined.

Indeed, despite Brown’s fury at the oil companies, the air board may not be able to enact petroleum cuts directly, in the absence of legislative action.

The Air Resources Board “has pretty broad authority over air emissions, but I don’t think that translates into a direct ability to reduce petroleum,” said Brian Cragg, an attorney with the San Francisco firm Goodin, MacBride, Squeri & Day. “They would have to try to find some tie to air emissions…that would result in a reduction.”

Air board spokesman Dave Clegern said in an e-mail that the agency does not comment on legislation. However, “broadly we would note that Senate Bill 350 did not expand ARB’s authority, nor was it a directive to create new regulations,” he said.

The major programs needed to meet the decarbonizing goals announced this year by the governor are already in place, Clegern said. The air board has crafted policies that include reducing the carbon content of fuels, regulating the emissions from cars and trucks, and rewarding automakers that sell electric vehicles to Californians. The board also runs the cap-and-trade program, which limits carbon across nearly the entire California economy.

The air board operates some of its key programs under a landmark piece of legislation passed in 2006, which sought to slash California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — a goal that state officials expect to meet in time.

But the air board, which is overseen by a panel of gubernatorial appointees, is also likely to face increased scrutiny from both businesses and lawmakers as it embarks on more ambitious policies whose costs have yet to be determined, including those that affect petroleum. New legislation provides that the Senate and the Assembly will now each appoint one member of the agency.

“There’s going to be a lot more attention paid to what strategies that we have available, including, like, litigation, to be able to address [regulatory] decisions, if we don’t think they’re fair and balanced,” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable.

Lawmakers, some of whom toyed with the idea of curbing the air board’s power during the recent session, will also take a more active role in the watching and overseeing the agency, Lapsley said.

Originally published by CalMatters.org

CARTOON: Nuking Coal Power

Clean energy cartoon

Regulators Want All New CA Homes To Use ‘Zero Net Energy’

Solar panelsPlacing a big bet on solar power and new regulations, state officials have rolled out ambitious new requirements aimed at slashing energy use in newly-constructed homes.

“Buildings built in California starting in 2016 will have to comply with the nation’s toughest energy conservation standards,” the Central Valley Business Times reported. “The California Energy Commission has unanimously approved building energy efficiency standards that it says will reduce energy costs, save consumers money, and increase comfort in new and upgraded homes and other buildings.”

In single-family homes, that would amount to a drop in energy use by almost a third, relative to 2013 standards, the CVBT noted.

Cost and consequences

The New Residential Zero Net Energy Action Plan, as it has been dubbed, aimed “to establish a robust and self-sustaining market so that all new homes are zero net energy (ZNE) beginning in 2020.” Critics have reiterated longstanding objections to a statewide push of this kind, especially around the prospect of rising energy costs.

“The most complex issue will be valuing the homes, which will cost more upfront,” according to Greentech Media. “Currently, the CPUC is quoting an extra $2 to $8 per square foot after incentives. There will likely need to be incentives or creative utility billing, especially if the homes are providing demand-side services as the CPUC envisions. The CPUC says that the utilities are on board and will have to evaluate locational benefits of having net-zero homes on the system.”

As Greentech Media noted, planners have built in some would-be loopholes designed to make progress on ZNE without imposing the new standards too quickly: “Homes can be ZNE-ready, rather than actually being energy-neutral. That could mean they are solar-ready, for instance, but perhaps don’t have solar panels already installed.”

But even supporters of the plan have cautioned that executing on its goals may be a daunting challenge. At the Huffington Post, one analyst noted, “as California’s clean power goals rise, new capacity could begin to slow.”

“Some planned large projects are now on hold due to financial problems. Others face environmental challenges, such as threats to bird flyways and desert habitats. Large-scale solar plants, particularly those using solar thermal technology, are losing appeal to investors as photovoltaic panel prices plunge. And utilities, having largely reached their current renewable procurement targets, have few new projects in the pipeline. What’s more, the federal solar investment tax credit program for new utility projects drops from 30 percent to 10 percent after 2016, and ends completely for individuals.”

Unifying the grid

Nevertheless, optimism among policymakers and activists has remained high — largely because of the role of technological innovation centered in California. Apple and Google have embarked on so-called “grid-scale” renewable energy projects, while Tesla has pushed into the home energy storage business.

But some experts have implied that the problem of rising energy costs could best be addressed by linking up the net-zero energy industry with the zero-emission automobile industry. “A recent California study estimated that utility companies could earn $2.26 to $8.11 billion in net revenues from large-scale commercialization of EVs,” as reported in Fortune. “This is sufficient to allow utilities to invest both in installing charging infrastructure and return some of the revenues to their customers in the form of lower rates.”

By supplying ubiquitous EV charging stations, observers surmised, utilities could eventually recoup electrical power from cars embedded into the same flexible grid as homes. “The value of having a flexible load on the grid will grow even further with higher amounts of wind and solar,” Fortune continued. “Electric vehicles can be programmed to charge during peak solar or wind generation periods, preventing this valuable electricity from being wasted. In the future, electric vehicles could increase their value by putting electricity back into the grid as well[.]”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com