3 Ways to Improve California’s Time-Of-Use Electricity Pilots

Jay Godwin photo - 07/31/2015 Location: The Mueller community in Austin, Texas. Caption: Mueller resident Dennis Nick is a Pecan Street program participant. He has solar collectors on his roof and an electric car in his garage. Information about his energy use can be accessed through mobile apps and on the web.California’s big three utilities – San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), and Southern California Edison (SCE) – serve approximately 80 percent of the state's residential customers, which is why their recent move to update the state’s antiquated electricity pricing could be a game-changer for helping the state achieve its climate and clean energy goals.

In late December, while most people were on holiday, the utilities submitted plans to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to assess electricity prices that vary with the season and time of day. These plans detail the next two years of piloting time-of-use (TOU) pricing for most residential customers, and will help California reduce pollution and increase renewable energy production. Read More »

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In California, Electric Vehicles are the New DeLorean in “Back to the Future”

4756808765_d63b6077d4_zAs any child of the ’80s knows, October 21, 2015 is “Back to the Future Day” – the day that the film’s protagonist, Marty McFly, travels to the future in his DeLorean. Though it would no doubt be useful to have access to flying cars (think of the traffic one could avoid), Californians are seeing increased access to something more practical: electric vehicles (EVs).

In order to meet the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals, emissions from transportation – the sector most responsible for harmful pollution – need to be addressed. Enter Governor Brown’s zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate, which aims to build enough infrastructure statewide to support one million clean vehicles by 2020, and put 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025. With this executive order, we have a much better chance of ensuring a low-carbon future and effectively combatting climate change in California. Read More »

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Infrared Camera Reveals Huge, Wafting Cloud of Methane over California’s Aliso Canyon

Methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is a serious problem for our climate and communities, but it’s one most people aren’t even aware of. That’s because, while methane is a powerful pollutant, it is colorless, odorless and invisible to the naked eye.

But residents of Southern California’s Porter Ranch neighborhood had their eyes opened wide to the methane problem when a natural gas storage well in nearby Aliso Canyon ruptured and created a massive leak right next to their homes – an incident detected by residents in October from the putrid smell of mercaptan, an additive utilities use to more easily detect natural gas leaks.

Natural gas is made mostly of methane, and when it is released unburned, it has a warming power over 84 times that of carbon dioxide over 20 years. So, leaking or intentionally emitting unburned natural gas – which happens not just through malfunctions but often during routine production and transportation of oil and gas – can do major climate damage. The California Air Resources Board estimates that Aliso Canyon is pumping out methane at about 50,000 kg per hour, or about 62 million standard cubic feet, per day – that’s the same short-term greenhouse gas impact as the emissions from 7 million cars.

Now, on day 48 in a very uncertain timeline of the one of the largest U.S. natural gas leaks ever recorded, infrared cameras are giving us a true glimpse at the size of this man-made methane volcano. Looking at side-by-side images of Aliso Canyon taken on Dec. 9 using an everyday camera and one equipped with infrared technology reveals just how blind we are to this kind of pollution:

Aliso canyon 2 Read More »

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California Market at Three: All Grown Up and Thriving

This post was co-authored by Jonathan Camuzeaux and Derek Walker.

2960384757_155b4e2efa_zAs we pointed out in August, no news is good news when it comes to California’s cap-and-trade quarterly allowance auctions, which have been running effectively and without hiccups since November 2012. That’s right, last Tuesday’s auction marks the three-year anniversary of the program’s first auction, and the fifth time that California and the Canadian province of Quebec have conducted a joint auction. Time flies by when you settle into a routine, and another set of consistent, stable results indicates once again that California has a strong, well-functioning cap-and-trade program.

Steady results equal a healthy carbon market

Over 75 million current vintage allowances – which covered entities can use for compliance as early as this year – were offered at last Tuesday’s auction, and 100% of these allowances were purchased at a price of $12.73. This price, known as the settlement price, is 63 cents above the floor price set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for this auction, and is in line with previous auctions where allowances have cleared at prices slightly above the floor. In the advanced auction for 2018 vintage allowances – which can only be used starting in 2018 – over 10 million allowances were offered and 100% of these were purchased at a price of $12.65. Read More »

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Data Reveals Climate Impacts of the Gigantic, Ongoing Gas Leak in California

Aliso CanyonLast week, it appeared that the Southern California Gas Company was close to containing the flow of natural gas coming from a monster leak at its Aliso Canyon storage field in Northridge, California.  Now, four weeks after it started, the leak persists, and data released Friday, from the California Air Resources Board shows that the uncontrolled emissions of methane, the primary component of natural gas, is having significant climate change impacts in addition to affecting public health.

Using data collected from airplanes flying near the leak site, and supported by data gathered from vehicles, satellites and nearby air monitoring platforms, the Air Board’s initial estimates show the rupture at Aliso Canyon has released methane gas with an estimated warming impact over the next 20 years equivalent to carbon dioxide emissions of 2.6 to 2.9 million metric tons.  While these estimates are likely to be refined over time and compared to facility estimates of lost gas, conducting aerial methane surveys to calculate emissions rates is a proven scientific measurement method.

These are staggering numbers, even in their preliminary form. Read More »

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Local Solar can be good for all Neighborhoods

Grid AlternativesSolar power in California has, in many ways, been an unparalleled success: the state has more solar power installed than the rest of the country combined. There are more solar workers in California (55,000) than working actors or utility workers. Solar workers earn a higher than average wage, and the industry is making strides in employing more women, veterans, and people of color. And, the median income of households installing solar in California in 2012 was between $40,000-$50,000, mostly middle- and working-class homeowners.

But there are two sides to this story because, unfortunately, solar power is still inaccessible to many low-income households.

Take my neighborhood of Boyle Heights, on the east side of Los Angeles, for example: over 70 percent of residents are renters and cannot install solar on roofs they don't own. For those who do own their homes, many can't afford to purchase their own solar system (the median income is just over $33,000) or don’t qualify for traditional financing. Residents here have captured a paltry $0.33 per capita in solar incentives over the past 15 years, as compared to Bel Air (yup, that Bel Air) which received almost $200 in solar incentives per capita – over 600 times more than Boyle Heights. Read More »

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