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As federal climate-fighting tools are taken away, cities and states step up

Maggie Astor, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Across the country, local governments are accelerating their efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, in some cases bridging partisan divides. Their role will become increasingly important.

Legislators in Colorado, historically a major coal state, have passed more than 50 climate-related laws since 2019. The liquor store in the farming town of Morris, Minn., cools its beer with solar power. Voters in Athens, Ohio, imposed a carbon fee on themselves. Citizens in Fairfax County, Va., teamed up for a year and a half to produce a 214-page climate action plan.

Across the country, communities and states are accelerating their efforts to fight climate change as action stalls on the national level. This week, the Supreme Court curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, one of the biggest sources of planet-warming pollution — the latest example of how the Biden administration’s climate tools are getting chipped away.

During the Trump administration, which aggressively weakened environmental and climate protections, local efforts gained importance. Now, experts say, local action is even more critical for the United States — which is second only to China in emissions — to have a chance at helping the world avert the worst effects of global warming.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/01/climate/climate-policies-cities-states-local.html

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Sonoma Clean Power executes power purchase agreement with Luminia for 11.6 MW solar plus 8 MW energy storage project

BUSINESS WIRE

Project to reliably alleviate grid constraints and deliver clean, renewable energy to residents

SAN DIEGO & SANTA ROSA: Luminia and Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) announced today the signing of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the development of an 11.6 MW AC solar plus 32 MWh battery storage project in Sonoma, California. Construction of the 75-acre project is expected in the second half of 2023 in southern Sonoma County, tying into a nearby electrical substation.

“Deploying reliable solar and storage projects with community choice aggregators like Sonoma Clean Power reinforces renewable energy as the new standard in our daily energy lives,” said Dale A. Vander Woude, chief investment officer of Luminia. “We formed an excellent team with Kenwood Investments to provide Sonoma Clean Power with a solution for its resource adequacy demand, which is what brought this important project to fruition in Sonoma County.”

In addition to the PPA, Luminia and Kenwood Investments, LLC, are managing the late-stage development of the project. Once completed, SCP will dispatch the 100 percent renewable, locally generated electricity to its EverGreen premium service customers throughout Sonoma and Mendocino counties. The 11.6 MW AC solar PV system also includes 32 MWh of lithium-ion battery storage that can distribute stored solar power across the grid during peak evening hours.

Read more at https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20220606005234/en/

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Climate controversy: California’s plan for handling crisis is flawed, advisors say

Nadia Lopez, CALMATTERS

California’s climate change plan fails to provide substantial evidence that capturing carbon will meet ambitious greenhouse gas goals, critics say. The plan “does California a disservice,” one state advisor said.

As California races to prevent the irreversible effects of climate change, some experts are questioning key policies that the state is counting on to meet its ambitious goals and accusing state officials of failing to provide substantial details to back up its claims.

The California Air Resources Board’s proposal, called a scoping plan, outlines policies that would transition the economy away from fossil fuels. The purpose of the plan is to fulfill state mandates to reduce planet-warming emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

In this year’s highly-anticipated climate policy blueprint, some critics say the state agency has not been transparent on how it plans to achieve its goals. The process has left legislators and others at the forefront of the climate discussion confused over the air board staff’s projections.

“The draft scoping plan does California a disservice,” said Danny Cullenward, an economist and vice chair of the Independent Emissions Market Advisory Committee, a group of five experts appointed by the governor and top legislators to assess the effectiveness of the state’s landmark cap and trade program. “It focuses on long-term goals at the expense of near-term action.”

At two recent state committee meetings, environmentalists, academics and climate policy experts who serve on state advisory panels voiced concerns over California’s approach to tackling the climate crisis. They called the plan incomplete, ambiguous and confusing.

Read more at https://calmatters.org/environment/2022/06/california-climate-change-plan-flawed/?utm_id=57747&sfmc_id=3422102

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Op Ed: California can do better than carbon neutrality by 2045

Daniel Kammen, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Ten years ago, many Californians could not have imagined the climate nightmare we are living today — dark orange skies during wildfire season, heat waves in the dead of winter, mandatory water restrictions amid crippling drought.

Without urgent action, we may well look back on this moment as the calm before the storm. Over the course of the next decade, California’s biggest climate challenges — hotter summers, a shorter rainy season and more destructive wildfires — could double in intensity.

It’s against this backdrop that the California Air Resources Board last week released a draft of our state’s scoping plan, a blueprint for combating climate change that will guide California’s policy for years. Despite the stakes for Californians, and although my research indicates the state could actually become carbon negative by 2030, the draft proposal would delay reaching carbon neutral until 2045. The barriers to a target of 2030 are political, not technical.

The draft plan calls for investment in new fossil fuel electricity resources, and it relies on unproven and costly carbon capture technologies that would lock in fossil fuel pollution. Adopting this approach would be lazy, nonsensical and racially unjust. During the current 45-day period for public review of the plan, California has the chance to choose a smarter path.

Renewable energy, even when coupled with energy storage, is cheaper than fossil fuels. California’s own state laws say that renewable energy must be prioritized before building out expensive and polluting gas power plants. Instead, California must set ambitious targets that immediately cut pollution through no-regrets strategies.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/opinion/kammen-california-can-do-better-than-carbon-neutrality-by-2045/

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Op-Ed: If you care about freedom, shut up about high gas prices – and put a solar panel on your roof

Bill McKibben, THE CRUCIAL YEARS

We’ve had an immense amount of nonsense in the last year or two about what constitutes freedom—mostly, it appears, freedom is the right to give others covid so that you’re not burdened with the unbearable sacrifice of wearing a square of cloth across your mouth.

But as of Wednesday night, the idea of freedom got a little more real. People in Ukraine are suddenly being killed for daring to want to choose their own leaders. And people in Russia—many thousands—are bravely taking to the streets to support that choice. Those are all extremely brave people, and they deserve our deep gratitude and admiration. And we should do what we can to help them.

We’re not being asked to do much. President Biden took the prospect that we might stand militarily with Ukraine off the table early—that was probably wise, since there’s clearly not an appetite in America for helping in that way, and since actual fighting with a nuclear-armed foe run by a dead-eyed zealot is no easy thing. In fact, Biden seems to me to be doing a very steady job in the deepest crisis since 9/11—our impulsive and rash reaction then led us down a terrible path of stupid wars. This time he’s corralling allies, drawing up sanctions, doing what he can to hold together a democratic world order against autocrats abroad (and Fox News at home).

Read more at https://billmckibben.substack.com/p/if-you-care-about-freedom-shut-up?s=r

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In this Nov. 12, 2020, file photo, traffic moves on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File) Golden Gate Bridge tolls are going up in July. Here’s how much Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma counties considering big geothermal power expansion

Jeff Quackenbush, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

A plan to significantly expand geothermal electricity production in the North Bay — in a bid to create more 24/7 renewable production to ease California’s move into a zero-emissions energy over the next 24 years — is getting more buy-in from local officials.

The area already is home to the world’s largest geothermal power station, The Geysers, which produces almost half of California’s electricity production from that energy source, according to Calpine Corp., which runs most of the plants there. Now, Sonoma Clean Power, a community choice aggregation utility that serves upwards of 230,000 customers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, wants to nearly double that output.

It hopes to spur more investment in smaller-sized, low-water-usage plants, scattering them across much of Lake County and parts of Mendocino and Sonoma counties to bring power production closer to residential and business customers.

To accomplish the plan, Sonoma Clean Power is proposing a geothermal opportunity zone, or GeoZone. On Dec. 7, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to join the zone.

Read more at https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/article/article/north-bay-counties-consider-big-geothermal-power-expansion/

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Global NGOs warn COP26 that burning forest wood for energy sabotages climate action

Luisa Colasimone, ENVIRONMENTAL PAPER NETWORK

Declaration reacts to high-profile biomass industry greenwashing drive

Glasgow, 10 November 2021 – Environmental organizations are pledging their opposition to burning forest biomass for renewable energy in a declaration issued today at the Glasgow climate conference (COP26). The statement (below) was issued as the biomass and wood pellet industries host a series of events at COP26 that NGOs say greenwashes the use of forest biomass for energy.

Burning forest wood for renewable energy is growing explosively, particularly in Europe where renewable energy targets and subsidies of over €10 billion per year reward biomass as “zero carbon” energy. While some policymakers promote replacing coal with wood, biomass harvesting and use has been implicated in increasing emissions, degrading the EU’s forest carbon sink and contributing to declining biodiversity. Bioenergy is not being directly discussed at COP26, but the role of nature and carbon uptake by forests and other ecosystems is critical to the world’s ability to deliver the Paris Agreement’s goal of holding global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees C. Amid concerns about the climate and forest impacts of burning forest wood for fuel, Europe’s largest biomass plant was recently delisted from a leading clean energy index last month due to sustainability concerns.

Read more at https://environmentalpaper.org/2021/11/global-ngos-warn-cop26-that-burning-forest-wood-for-energy-sabotages-climate-action/

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We’re finally catching a break in the climate fight

Bill McKibben, THE CRUCIAL YEARS

Last Wednesday, a team at Oxford University released a fascinating paper that I haven’t seen covered anywhere. Stirringly titled “Empirically grounded technology forecasts and the energy transition,” it makes the following argument: “compared to continuing with a fossil-fuel-based system, a rapid green energy transition will likely result in overall net savings of many trillions of dollars–even without accounting for climate damages or co-benefits of climate policy.”

So far in the global warming era, we’ve caught precious few breaks. Certainly not from physics: the temperature has increased at the alarming pace that scientists predicted thirty years ago, and the effects of that warming have increased even faster than expected. (“Faster Than Expected” is probably the right title for a history of climate change so far; if you’re a connoisseur of disaster, there is already a blog by that name). The Arctic is melting decades ahead of schedule, and the sea rising on an accelerated schedule, and the forest fires of the science fiction future are burning this autumn. And we haven’t caught any breaks from our politics either: it’s moved with the lumbering defensiveness one would expect from a system ruled by inertia and vested interest. And so it is easy, and completely plausible, to despair: we are on the bleeding edge of existential destruction.

But one trend is, finally, breaking in the right direction, and perhaps decisively. The price of renewable energy is now falling nearly as fast as heat and rainfall records, and in the process perhaps offering us one possible way out. The public debate hasn’t caught up to the new reality—Bill Gates, in his recent bestseller on energy and climate, laments the “green premium” that must be paid for clean energy. But he (and virtually every other mainstream energy observer) is already wrong—and they’re all about to be spectacularly wrong, if the latest evidence turns out to be right.

Read more at https://billmckibben.substack.com/p/were-finally-catching-a-break-in?

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California organisations warn of ‘ill-informed changes’ to net metering policy

Jules Scully, PV-TECH

A coalition of 347 organisations has warned that potential changes to California’s policy support for rooftop solar could set back climate change progress and harm low-income residents’ access to solar energy.

An open later sent by campaign group Save California Solar to state Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) calls on policymakers to keep solar affordable as the Newsom Administration considers changes to net energy metering (NEM), a policy that defines how solar users send energy back to and interact with the grid.

NEM allows customers with rooftop PV systems to receive a financial credit on their electric bills for any surplus energy fed back to their utility.

According to the coalition, proposals by California utilities “would drastically reduce the credit solar consumers receive for the excess energy they produce”. The group said: “We are concerned that ill-informed changes to net metering, such as slashing solar bill savings or imposing new fees on solar users, will set back California’s climate change and environmental justice goals.”

Read more at https://www.pv-tech.org/california-organisations-warn-of-ill-informed-changes-to-net-metering-policy/

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Op-Ed: How PG&E and other California utilities are trying to kill rooftop solar

Ken Cook, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

A high-stakes battle is under way over the future of rooftop solar energy in California. On one side: Current and future rooftop solar consumers in the nation’s leading solar state. On the other, the state’s big three investor-owned utilities — PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.

The utilities have petitioned the state Public Utilities Commission to slash by more than half the credit they must pay customers for excess energy generated by rooftop solar panels. They also want to charge new rooftop solar customers nearly $70 a month just to hook up to the grid.

The PUC will hold hearings on this petition beginning July 26. The final decision, due by the end of the year, could cost solar ratepayers millions, essentially destroying the rooftop solar market in California.

Instead of considering penalties for rooftop solar customers, PUC commissioners should be asking why we still need a regressive utility model.
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