California’s grid geeks: The keepers of a clean future

Gregory C. Staple

Friday, January 20, 2017 – 1:45am

ShutterstockTitima Ongkantong

This exclusive six-part series takes an in-depth look at California’s transition to over 50 percent renewable electricity. In the face of President Trump’s apparent indifference to global warming, the state has become a beacon of hope for climate activists. The entire series will appear here, with the next piece running Monday. Read Part I here.

The Sacramento-based Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT) and its allies long have seen themselves as prime keepers of California’s clean energy future. To keep the state on track, the center long has contended that a much more balanced portfolio of renewable sources is needed.

The state’s rapid growth of rooftop and utility-scale solar installation must be matched by generation with a different daily production profile: more wind, geothermal and biomass resources as well as utility-scale storage (such as pumped-hydro reservoirs). 

V. John White, CEERT’s executive director,  believes that part of this capacity actually could come from one of the state’s own agencies, the Department of Water Resources. It largely has been overlooked thus far, said White, despite having the potential to back up the electric grid by developing its existing storage reservoirs and generation.

V. John White, CEERT

V. John White, CEERT

“It’s clear you can’t just have more and more solar photovoltaic, PV solar… When you add supplies to the grid, and this is supply for everyone, you need to make sure the resource provides the best fit for the longer term goal… for the goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions to the levels we want,” he said.

White pointed to California’s new 50 percent renewables mandate, adopted by the Clean Energy Pollution Reduction Act of 2015, often referenced simply as Senate Bill 350. It requires the state’s electricity regulator, the Public Utility Commission (PUC), headed by Michael Picker, formerly part of the governor’s small energy staff, to ensure that future utility purchases of new generation facilities are a “best fit” (taking into account costs) for a much lower carbon grid.

“They haven’t really done that yet at the Commission,” said White. “We’re in the PUC’s dockets but you still have people fighting about the details of how to harmonize a bunch of proceedings that impact climate, how to set up a long-term procurement plan for the state and lots of related plans… It’s supposed to lead to a so-called integrated resource plan for each utility but it’s being dragged out — it’s a mess.” 

For White, the “best fit” problem is bigger than the PUC. The largest input that the commission oversees — new generation bought by the state’s legacy utilities, such as Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) — has become a shrinking part of the overall market for new facilities.

Much of the recent investment in PV solar has been driven by new corporate buyers (including Apple, Google and Kaiser Permanente), private home-owners and a rising group of competitive municipal energy businesses. The latter aggregate the “100 percent renewable” energy choices of their constituents in the wholesale market but still use the wires of existing retail companies for local power deliveries.

California's three new climate laws


These new community choice groups have won growing support since 2013, spreading from liberal enclaves such as Marin County and San Francisco to more than a dozen markets, including San Jose, Los Angeles County and San Diego. Fed by a populist desire for both greener and cheaper energy, community choice is something of a “black swan” for the state’s energy policy with unknown future consequences.

For example, PG&E recently asked the PUC to retire its last nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon based, in part, on the fact that municipal choice groups may win as much as 40 percent of its market by 2025. Some choice advocates say their statewide market share could top 50 percent by then.

I put this to Jan McFarland, who co-founded CEERT in 1989 and brought the idea of a business-backed environmental coalition to White. McFarland, a born organizer with strong management skills, has represented energy companies for most of her career, with stints at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (when Mary Nichols was a senior official) and the state’s energy commission. She now works as program manger for Sonoma Clean Power, one of the leading community choice providers with over 200,000 customers.

Yes, she acknowledged, buying new generation is fragmented in California. However, McFarland noted that the first wave of community choice buyers, based in Sonoma County and Marin, have contracted for a more diverse mix of renewables than now exists on average.

Jan McFarland, co-founder of CEERT

Jan McFarland, co-founder of CEERT

“They are buying in mostly wind, geo-thermal and hydro rather than solar,” she said. She agreed, however, that there is no grid-wide standard for renewable facilities contracted by choice companies, and low cost solar PV may only get more attractive.

As with community choice, the state’s climate initiatives also have been affected by the rising Latino power base in Sacramento (both state Sen. Kevin DeLeon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon are Latinos, some 40 percent of the state’s population). One result is that environmental and social justice issues have become much more closely linked. The impact of any new carbon cuts on poor and middle income consumers is also getting much closer scrutiny, as is the distribution of clean energy jobs. 

Notably, a 50 percent cut in gasoline use by 2030 had to be dropped from climate legislation in 2015 because the measure did not adequately deal with the likely economic hit for commuters. The state’s oil industry tirelessly messaged this shortcoming. 

White is acutely aware of these trends and has used his longtime support for progressive causes to build bridges to new legislators. He also has used his expertise to help new members leave a mark by, for example, suggesting bills they could introduce, following up with technical support and quietly working behind the scenes to get a bill passed.

Huron, California, Mayor Rey Leon

Huron, California, Mayor Rey Leon

In the last legislative session, for example, White helped Eduardo Garcia, a first-term Assembly member from Coachella, sponsor a key bill giving the legislature greater oversight of the air resources board and its plans for implementing deep carbon cuts. Garcia’s measure, Assembly Bill 197, also prioritizes climate action for the state’s “most disadvantaged communities.” They “are affected first, and most frequently by adverse aspects of climate change, including… drought, heat and flooding,” stated the bill; they also suffer the “deleterious effects of climate change on public health.”

When Garcia was mentioned at the retreat, Rey Leon, an energetic young mayor from the state’s Central Valley, was polite but direct: “We want natural gas plant emissions to go down where these plants are located as much as the people do who live there.” Leon, who also founded a state-wide action group known as Latino Environment and Advancement Policy, had people’s attention: “I really need to take you to the ground where I live… You will not be able to read a book and understand it the same way.”

​https://www.greenbiz.com/article/californias-grid-geeks-keepers-clean-future

No dejen atrás a las comunidades de bajos recursos en el plan climático

04 AGOSTO 2016

Por Martha Dina Arguello and Byron Gudiel

California se encuentra ante una encrucijada con nuestra estrategia para combatir el cambio climático. La Junta de Recursos del Aire de California (ARB, por sus siglas en inglés), está considerando opciones sobre cómo lograr sus objetivos climáticos para el 2030, en un momento en el que la industria petrolera quiere socavar cualquier intento serio por poner fin a nuestra dependencia en los combustibles fósiles. Mientras tanto, las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero siguen ensuciando nuestro aire, empeorando el cambio climático y asfixiándonos. Como tal, nuestra comunidad está exigiendo reducciones de contaminación y el lograr beneficios económicos para los que más los necesitan.

Reducir la contaminación en comunidades de color y de bajos ingresos es absolutamente fundamental si se espera que la legislación del cambio climático, AB 32, alcance su pleno potencial. Las familias de bajos ingresos sufren algunos de los niveles más concentrados de contaminación en sus comunidades. Según el informe “Estado del Aire” del 2016 de la American Lung Association, Los Ángeles y Bakersfield ocupan los lugares de mayor contaminación del aire en el país.

El plan de ámbito de la ley AB 32 que está desarrollando la Junta de Recursos del Aire es el vehículo mediante el cual la legislación del cambio climático de nuestro estado abordará las necesidades de nuestras comunidades. El plan dictará cómo cumpliremos con el mandato de la ley 10 años más allá del año 2020. Este plan solo se actualiza cada cinco años, así que es muy importante que se desarrolle correctamente.

El plan debe contar con la aportación de nuestras comunidades y debe dar prioridad a objetivos locales y regionales para reducciones de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero y otros contaminantes. La ARB también debe mejorar la transparencia en cómo implementa su plan y evitar que los contaminadores adinerados evadan la ley. El establecimiento de metas concretas para la reducción de emisiones de instalaciones contaminadoras debe ser una principal consideración.

Estrategias adicionales en el plan para el beneficio directo de comunidades vulnerables deben incluir la adopción de objetivos fuertes para electrizar nuestro sector de transporte y acelerar el acceso a la energía limpia para comunidades de bajos ingresos. La ARB debe también considerar seriamente las maneras de reducir la contaminación en comunidades ubicadas cerca de instalaciones contaminadoras—incluyendo la tarificación de las emisiones de carbono.

También debemos aprovechar la oportunidad de expandir el crecimiento que está teniendo nuestro estado en los empleos de energía limpia. Un informe reciente del Centro Laboral de UC Berkeley evaluó las inversiones en la energía renovable del 2002 al 2015, revelando que el programa de California está generando empleos de calidad bien remunerados en zonas económicamente desfavorecidas del estado, incluyendo comunidades que son altamente latinas. Entre el 2002 y el 2015, se sostuvieron más de 32,000 empleos manuales (blue-collar) de construcción en la industria de la energía renovable.

Eso es testamento de lo mucho que podemos lograr si nos enfocamos a invertir en nuestras comunidades. Con este proceso de planificación, la ARB puede seguir impulsando a nuestra economía hacia una transición para alejarnos de los combustibles fósiles y generar la prosperidad y los “empleos verdes” para todos los californianos—especialmente en las comunidades de color de bajos ingresos.

Necesitamos examinar y estar dispuestos a adoptar estrategias innovadoras que impulsen a nuestro estado, especialmente a comunidades impactadas, hacia una economía limpia moderna y más justa, y que nos proporcione los recursos necesarios para hacer frente a los impactos del cambio climático.

Como californianos, nos encontramos en un momento clave para nuestras políticas de aire limpio y cambio climático. La Junta de Recursos del Aire puede continuar nuestro avance contra al cambio climático. Lo podemos lograr mediante la adopción de un plan que incluya beneficios económicos, fuertes medidas para reducir emisiones contaminantes en nuestras comunidades, y responsabilizando a entidades contaminantes para que limpien el aire que respiran nuestras familias.

Martha Dina Arguello es Directora Ejecutiva de Médicos por la Responsabilidad Social, Los Ángeles, (PSR, por sus siglas en inglés), y Byron Gudiel es Director Ejecutivo de Comunidades para un Medio Ambiente Mejor (CBE, por sus siglas en inglés).

http://www.laopinion.com/2016/08/04/no-dejen-atras-a-las-comunidades-de-bajos-recursos-en-el-plan-climatico/

Clear the Way for local pollution reductions in California’s climate plan

August 4, 2016

By Martha Dina Arguello and Byron Gudiel

California is at a crossroads with our landmark climate law. The California Air Resources Board (ARB) is considering options on how to reach its 2030 climate targets at a time when the oil industry is determined to gut any serious attempt to end our reliance on fossil fuels. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions continue to dirty our air, worsen climate change, and choke our lungs. As such, local communities are raising their voices to demand real reductions in air pollution to clean up our air and bring economic benefits to those who need them most.

Reducing pollution in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color is absolutely critical if our state’s climate change law, AB 32, is to reach its full potential. Low-income families suffer some of the most concentrated levels of pollution in their neighborhoods. According to the American Lung Association’s 2016 “State of the Air” Report, Los Angeles and Bakersfield top the list of worst air pollution in the nation.

The AB 32 scoping plan that the Air Resources Board is drafting is the vehicle through which our state’s climate change law will meet the realities of our neighborhoods. Consider it the blueprint for how we will fulfill the mandate of the law 10 years beyond its initial 2020 targets. The scoping plan is only updated every five years, so it’s critical we get it right.

The plan should be informed by grassroots input and it should prioritize bold local and regional targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. ARB should also enhance transparency in implementation and eliminate loopholes for large polluters. Setting direct emission reduction goals for major polluting facilities should be a key consideration.

Additional strategies in the scoping plan to directly benefit vulnerable communities should include adopting aggressive targets to electrify our transportation sector and accelerate clean energy access for low-income communities. ARB should also take a hard look at ways to reduce pollution in communities located near polluting facilities—including carbon pricing.

We also need to seize on the opportunity to expand the growth our state is seeing on clean energy jobs. A recent UC Berkeley Labor Center report assessed renewable energy investments from 2002 to 2015, revealing that California’s renewable energy program is creating quality, well-paying jobs in economically distressed parts of California, including heavily Latino communities. Between 2002 and 2015, over 32,000 blue-collar construction jobs were supported in the renewable energy industry.

That’s a testament to how much we can accomplish if we focus on investing where our communities need it the most. With this scoping process, ARB can continue to move our economy forward to transition away from fossil fuels and bring prosperity and green-collar jobs to all Californians, especially low-income communities of color.

We need to examine and be willing to adopt innovative strategies that catapult our state, especially impacted communities, into a modern and more just clean economy, and provide us with the resources needed to cope with the impacts of climate change.

As Californians, we are at a critical juncture with our climate change and clean air policies. The California Air Resource Board can keep our state on the right path by adopting a blueprint for addressing climate change that includes economic benefits, strong measures to reduce polluting emissions in our communities, and by holding polluters accountable to clean up the air our families breathe.

Martha Dina Arguello is the Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles and Byron Gudiel is the Executive Director of Communities for A Better Environment.

Air Resources Board Meeting on Transportation in Valley’s West Side

On Thursday, August 11th, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is coming to one of the poorest rural cities in the state to learn about the challenges of transportation and to create awareness on the opportunities of Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PEVs). This is unheard of for the community which is located on the furthest west side of the region approximately a 6 hours round trip to Fresno on the rural bus. A trip that would not take much longer than an hour and a half round trip in a personal vehicle. Huron is also the community where Valley LEAP’s green-house gas reducing guru and founding executive director, Rey Leon, has been working to enhance the local indigenous rural-ride sharing system to one that is more affordable, efficient and less polluting (ghg’s & criteria pollutants) using PEVs.

All communities from throughout the Valley are invited to share their concerns, experiences and recommendations to the CARB. Also, it will be a great time to learn more about the Valley LEAP model being developed known as GREEN Raiteros (raiteros, those who give rides, from the Spanglish term raite for ride) to supplement the existing regional public transportation system. The focus audience of the convening are Spanish speaking low-income farmworkers but all are welcome!

Join us for an important exchange on greening up public and private transportation options for a healthy populace, less polluted planet and cooler climate!

For more information: Rey Leon, (559) 269-9563 or rleon@valleyleap.org

Huron Flyer

 

 

The Climate Change Scoping Plan Workshop is coming to the Valley!

State of California officials and local environmental justice leaders want to hear from you about clean air and climate change.

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CLEAN AIR · CLEAN ENERGY · LIVABLE COMMUNITIES

How do we get there, what are our choices, and what does it mean for your family, neighborhood, and community?

Oficiales del estado de California y líderes locales de justicia ambiental quieren oír tus opiniones sobre la calidad del aire y el cambio climático.

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AIRE PURO · ENERGÍA LIMPIA · COMUNIDADES HABITABLES

¿Cómo lo lograremos? ¿Cuáles son nuestras opciones? ¿Qué significado tiene para nuestras familias, vecindarios
y comunidades?

Click on Fresno Flyers for details!

English Flyer
EJAC_community_meeting_flyer_F_eng

Volante en EspañolEJAC_community_meeting_flyer_F_sp

Bring the Forest to your neighborhood for a COOLER community!

Planting with Purpose URBAN FORESTRY Grant ProgramCA ReLEAF WorkshopFINAL

Don’t miss this awesome opportunity to learn about the Community Forestry Grant Workshop!  This is the second workshop that Valley Latino Environmental Advancement and Policy Project hosts in Fresno for San Joaquin Valley community groups and organizations.  What is great about the workshop is that you will have the agencies responsible for awarding the grants and will be available for questions after they present and as you work on your proposal to add “Green Canopies” to cool off your town.  Maybe you will plant trees so your mom, tia or abuelita can walk to church, or the store, without getting a sun burn!  Probably you have a park that has lost it’s trees to a parasite and their have been no resources to replace them or your neighborhood takes a beating from the sun due to no shading, a desert down each street.

Now is your time to Green Up!  What I was told by Chuck from California ReLEAF is that this year it will be a little different.  They will allow a suplemental project to be funded but the core will still have to be the planting of trees for shade, green house gas reduction and , ultimately, a more beautiful community!

Join us to learn the details, the tricks and to get samples.  What is most important for Cal FIRE and California ReLEAF is that they get the money out to the communities with need, good ideas and a plan.  Come learn how it’s been done and be inspired to come up with your own plane.  The process has been getting easier and the opportunity is only getting better.

For more information click on flyer above!  Thank you and see you there!

Rey Leon, Executive Director, Valley LEAP

 

Volkswagen to spend over one billion dollars in California to address illegal emissions caused by cheating devices on its 2.0-liter diesel vehicles

Funds to fully mitigate pollution from cheating and make investments to expand California’s growing Zero-Emission Vehicle market

http://www.arb.ca.gov/newsrel/newsrelease.php?id=834
SACRAMENTO –  California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols and Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced today that German automaker Volkswagen AG and related entities have agreed to funding or investments totaling more than one billion dollars in California to fully remedy the environmental harm caused by using illegal “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests in 71,000 2.0-liter diesel cars sold in California between 2009-2015.

The money for California includes approximately $380 million for projects to reduce smog-producing pollution by incentivizing clean heavy-duty vehicles and equipment in disadvantaged communities, and $800 million in investments to advance California’s nation-leading zero-emissions vehicle programs.  VW will make these payments and investments in installments over several years.  California’s share represents one-quarter of the total $4.7 billion mitigation fund and ZEV investment obligations.

The mitigation funding and ZEV investments are part of a settlement requiring Volkswagen to offer consumers a buyback and lease termination for all 500,000 model year 2009-2015 2.0-liter diesel vehicles sold or leased nationwide, and spend up to $10 billion to compensate consumers under the program.

In addition to the buyback option, Volkswagen may also propose an emissions modification plan to U.S. EPA and CARB, and if approved, VW will offer owners and lessees the option of having their vehicles modified to substantially reduce emissions in lieu of having the car bought back by VW.

By virtue of its discovery of VW’s deceit and CARB’s longstanding role in setting and enforcing tough vehicle standards, California played a major role in leading, shaping and structuring the settlement to achieve two basic principles: 1) ensure that emissions in California due to VW’s cheating are fully mitigated, and 2) provide consumers with attractive options including significant inducements that VW must pay.

“This is a good deal for California’s environment and for California consumers. It will bring over a billion dollars of projects to California to supercharge our expanding zero-emission vehicle market, and fully mitigate the environmental harm  to our air as a result of VW’s cheating,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols.

“The Consent Decree also recognizes the crucial contribution the dogged engineers in CARB’s testing lab played in exposing the illegal device in the first place – and the exceptionally costly and difficult challenges we face in our fight for cleaner air in a state where tens of millions breathe the most heavily polluted air in the nation.”

“Our state and national environmental protection laws exist to protect public health and to preserve our planet for future generations.  Volkswagen undermined these objectives by deceiving California consumers and flagrantly violating California environmental and consumer protection laws by manipulating its diesel vehicles to produce false results when undergoing emissions testing,” said Attorney General Kamala Harris. “This landmark agreement not only ensures that consumers who were deceived are fairly compensated, but also requires Volkswagen to make unprecedented investments in protecting our environment and advancing zero emission technology.”

In California, VW’s cheating was particularly harmful, because our air quality is worse than anywhere else in the nation, with 23 million people living within the nation’s only severe nonattainment areas for ozone pollution, and 12 million living in areas with nation-leading levels of fine particle pollution. These pollutants cause lung disease, heart disease, and premature death, especially among our most vulnerable populations. To put California on track to ensure healthy air for all, California has adopted the most stringent air quality regulatory and enforcement program in the United States.

“The purpose of California’s rigorous certification and enforcement program is to catch cheaters like Volkswagen, to take actions to mitigate the harm they have done and to penalize them to send the clearest possible signal that cheating doesn’t pay,” said CARB’s Executive Officer Richard W. Corey. “Volkswagen’s actions were deeply unfair to Californians who breathe unhealthy air every day, and offensive to California businesses that invest their time and money to meet California’s stringent regulatory requirements. It was also a violation of the trust that consumers put in Volkswagens’ marketing claims that it was producing clean vehicles.  We hope that VW now understands that if you cheat you are going to get caught — and when you do, it will be costly.”

In September 2015, CARB and U.S. EPA announced that VW had admitted installing certain software in all 2.0-liter diesel passenger cars, model years 2009 through 2015. This software was specifically designed to detect when the car was being tested in the laboratory and operate to meet the rigorous certification standards for emissions. But the software also detected when the car was outside the laboratory and on the open road, and then effectively bypassed emissions control equipment. As a result, the software fulfilled the definition of an illegal ”defeat device” and emissions of nitrogen oxide (or NOx, a smog-producing pollutant) in normal, everyday driving reached levels up to 40 times the legal standard.

California’s Share of the National Mitigation Fund:

To address all past and future excess emissions of NOx from the 2.0-liter cars sold in California, under the terms of the Consent Decree VW must pay $380 million over a three-year period into a trust for projects to replace older and dirtier heavy duty diesel vehicles and equipment with advanced zero- or near-zero technologies. This provides an opportunity to focus reductions of emissions in disadvantaged communities.  Californians will have the opportunity for public input on potential projects to be funded with this money.  California’s share of the $2.7 billion mitigation fund is proportional to its share of the total number of affected diesel cars. $900 million is payable in the first year and other states will apply for their share through the trust.

California’s 10-year ZEV Infrastructure and Access Fund:

The Consent Decree also requires Volkswagen to invest $800 million dollars in ZEV infrastructure and access over a 10-year period in California. Volkswagen will be installing zero-emission vehicle fueling infrastructure (for both electric and hydrogen-powered cars), funding consumer awareness campaigns to increase the zero-emission vehicle market, and investing in projects such as car-sharing programs that will increase access to zero-emission vehicles for all consumers in California. These brand-neutral projects will support the next generation of zero-emission vehicles that will be sold in California, helping to grow the state’s burgeoning ZEV program, and will help lay the zero-emissions foundation for achieving the State’s air quality and climate goals.

Under the terms of the settlement, Volkswagen will submit ZEV investment plans every 30 months, covering $200 million dollars in investments in each plan, until the full funding level is expended.  ARB will provide comments and approve each plan after those comments are addressed. Under the broader national settlement, Volkswagen will be investing an additional $1.2 billion under the settlement’s National ZEV investment requirement through the other states for similar projects that support the transition to zero-emission vehicles in areas of the U.S. outside California.

The Consent Decree does not resolve pending claims for civil penalties or any claims concerning 3.0-liter diesel vehicles, and does not address any potential criminal liability.

The proposed Consent Decree is now subject to a 30-day public comment period under provisions of the federal Clean Air Act.

The proposed Consent Decree is available here.

The federal press release is available here.

The California Attorney General’s press release is available here.

An FAQ on California’s portion of the settlement is available here.

Details for car owners and lessees is available here.