California Dream 2.0

California Retirement Funds Put $500 Billion Worth of Weight Behind Strong Methane Standards

CA investorsToday, a group of major investors from across the country, who manage more than $1.5 trillion in assets, issued a letter calling for strong rules to limit harmful methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. Among them are California’s two biggest retirement funds – CalPERS and CalSTERS, which together manage nearly $500 billion in funds on behalf of approximately one and a half million members.

The powerful statement issued by the group of investors calls out the “serious threat” methane poses to climate stability, saying that it compelled them to support action on the issue to avoid near term threats to “infrastructure and economic harm that will weaken not only the companies we invest in, but the nation as a whole.”

California’s Leadership Role

Although the investors’ letter focuses on national rules, the relevance to California cannot be overlooked as the state has, over the past year, taken a leadership position on regulating harmful methane emissions from oil and gas operations. For example, California is currently developing new rules at the California Public Utilities Commissions (CPUC) to reduce methane emissions in the natural gas supply chain, and a new statewide plan and regulations are being developed at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to limit methane emissions from oil and gas production. Read More »

Posted in Climate, Energy, General, Methane, Natural Gas| Leave a comment

Orange is the New Black, 40 is the New 30…and Energy Storage Could be the New California Power Plant

Moss_Landing_Power_Plant_p1270026If you follow pop culture, you’ve likely heard that Orange is the New Black, and 40 is the new 30. A perhaps lesser known – but equally important – new comparison that is turning heads in California is that energy storage might just be the new power plant.

This probably warrants a bit of explanation. On a power grid without storage, solar energy is generated during the day when the sun is shining its brightest, providing clean, renewable energy to homes and businesses – thus lessening the hold on the grid of dirty power plants. But what happens when this energy source goes offline? As people come home after work and turn on TVs, run dishwashers, and fire up other hungry appliances (also referred to as “peak” energy hours), the grid must rely on fossil fuel-powered electricity to ramp up production quickly.

However, when energy storage is added into this mix, a shift occurs. If there is enough renewable energy stockpiled during the sun’s most productive hours, between 11 AM and 3 PM, then the use of fossil fuels at peak times can be reduced.  In this way, new fossil fuel power plants that might be necessary to meet increased population and demand can be avoided.  And voila: energy storage is the new power plant. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy| Tagged , , | Leave a comment

California’s “Grand Experiment” in Climate Policy is Working

jorge-mardridSometimes we need to look back in order to see the road forward. Whenever I reflect on the success of California’s climate policies, I like to hop in my time machine and dial it all the way back to ancient history – circa 2010 – when I was a young staffer in Washington D.C. fresh out of grad school with big policy dreams and an even bigger student debt.

For climate advocates, they were the best of times, which quickly became the worst of times. In 2010 the Senate was considering a federal climate bill to finally reign in the carbon pollution driving climate change, while jump-starting a clean energy economy to help pull us out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Visions of hope and change ran high.

But as history goes, the bill failed. Despite different accounts of how the story went down, all agree those were some dark days for the climate movement.

I was there to see it firsthand, and as dreams of big climate policy started to crumble, many advocates held on to one thought to keep us going: “At least we have California…” Read More »

Posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Politics| Leave a comment

To Meet Methane Emissions Duty, California Must Look Beyond its Own Borders

By: Tim O’Connor, Director of California Climate Initiative, and Amanda Johnson, Legal Fellow

Methane MoleculeCalifornia is in the midst of multiple regulatory efforts to reduce methane emissions from natural gas and oil operations throughout the state. It’s a key opportunity to make a real dent in the state’s climate impact since methane, the primary component of natural gas, packs over 84 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it is released unburned.

Methane emissions in-state and out of state

One of the key efforts going on in the state is the development of new rules by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to reduce methane emissions from natural gas transmission, distribution, and storage, the systems that deliver gas to homes and businesses. And, at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a new statewide plan to cut short lived climate pollutants from sources across the state is in development, as are new regulations to reduce emissions from oil and natural gas production, processing, and storage in California. Read More »

Posted in Climate, Energy, General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Methane, Natural Gas| 1 Response

This Oil Industry “Recycling” is bad for the Environment

rp_Tim-OConnor-Nov-2014-214x300.jpgEarlier this year in Oregon, as they did in California several years ago, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), together with American Trucking Alliance (ATA) and Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), filed a federal lawsuit to try and derail a cutting-edge, scientifically-based, and legally sound clean fuel standard. Not discouraged by their recent losses challenging California’s clean fuels program (the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, or LCFS) in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court, the plaintiffs have proceeded with nearly identical constitutional law arguments – simply recycling issues and claims that were rejected many months ago.

Like the California LCFS, the Oregon Clean Fuels Program reduces the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by requiring fuel sold in state to have reduced lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Compliance is based on the schedule developed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Protection and designed to spur innovation in the fuel sector, as the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard has already done. The fuels program itself does not choose a formula for carbon reduction, but allows the market to find the best path forward.

A significant portion of Oregon’s climate pollution comes from the use of gasoline and diesel in transportation, as it does in many other U.S. states, and it’s high time for Oregonians to have access to cleaner burning, lower carbon alternative fuels. Once in use, these alternatives not only cut climate pollution, they also deliver reduced emissions of multiple air contaminants that damage the health of the public while also improving energy security. In light of these substantial benefits to the people and economy of Oregon, on March 12, 2015, Governor Kate Brown signed a bill passed by the state legislature that removes the sunset date established in the 2009 law, allowing the Oregon Clean Fuels Program to move forward unimpeded. Read More »

Posted in Climate, Litigation, Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Transportation| Tagged , | Comments are closed

Residential Electricity Pricing in California: We Need an Overhaul, not a Tune-Up

power-poles-503935_1280Here at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we love win-win solutions. This is why we’re big fans of time-of-use (TOU) electricity pricing (a type of time variant electricity pricing). As I’ve written before, TOU pricing better reflects the true cost of electricity, which fluctuates throughout the day. What’s more, it brings with it significant benefits for the environment, electric reliability, and people’s wallets. By empowering customers to better control their energy bills and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, everyone wins with TOU pricing.

Thankfully, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) included TOU pricing as one of the key elements in their plan to reform residential electricity rates. But how and what Californians pay for electricity – the best way to structure rates – is currently up for debate at the CPUC.

The CPUC issued its proposed decision on restructuring California’s residential rates and moving customers to TOU rates in the new structure, which EDF strongly supports as an evolutionary leap forward. Subsequently, Commissioner Mike Florio issued an alternate proposed decision that nudges the current tiered rate system forward with a time-variation “adder.” Unfortunately, Florio’s alternate proposal amounts to more of a tune-up than the substantial overhaul required to prepare for a future grid that runs on carbon-free renewables, like wind and solar, and also powers our cars, trucks, trains, and boats. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Energy, Smart Grid| Tagged , , , | Read 2 Responses
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