When the preliminary plans for California’s cap-and-trade program were first introduced in 2010, it was quickly regarded as a groundbreaking policy due to its stringency, size, and scope. California was the ninth largest economy in the world – it has now jumped to eighth – and the Golden State’s program would soon implement the first economy-wide cap on greenhouse gas pollution in the country. But, it was not the first cap-and-trade program in the United States. In fact, ten states in the northeast had implemented the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2008. Like California’s program, the RGGI system places a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions and sets a corresponding price on carbon, but covering only the electricity sector. Despite the difference in scope and location of these two programs, they are both demonstrating that carbon pricing through cap-and-trade is an effective way to decrease harmful greenhouse gas pollution while allowing the economy to grow.
A new report released this past Wednesday by the Acadia Center digs into the most recent data out of the RGGI system. According to the Acadia analysis, the RGGI states have decreased their emissions by 35 percent since the start of the program, while emissions from the 40 states unregulated by a cap only decreased by 12 percent over the same period. At the same time as emissions dropped, the RGGI state economies grew by 21 percent as compared to the non-capped states, which only saw an 18 percent growth in their economies. California has similarly been able to grow its economy impressively while implementing an aggressive cap on emissions. During the first year of the program, the Golden State moved from ninth to eight largest economy in the world, grew its GDP faster than the national average, and decreased capped emissions by four percent. Read More
Anybody managing a household budget knows it pays to plan ahead. With advanced thinking we can buy favorite items with coupons, when they’re on sale, in bulk, or at the cheapest store in the area. Similarly, we know that buying under duress, or in the touristy spot, will likely mean higher prices. Using the same smart shopper skills, new changes to the way utilities charge for electricity are going to give Californians another way to save money on energy bills.
In the current system, most California households’ electricity prices don’t change throughout the day. There is no option for lower prices when system demands are lower and electricity is cheap in wholesale markets. But that’s about to change, thanks to a recent 5-0 decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
Starting January 1, 2019, after a period of study, public outreach, and education, California’s large investor-owned utilities (Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison) will switch households to time-of-use (TOU) electricity pricing. Read More
Today, 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
If 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
Sometimes 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
By: Tim O’Connor, Director of California Climate Initiative, and Amanda Johnson, Legal Fellow
California 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