California Dream 2.0

Driving the Last Spike: Linking California’s Electric Grid to Extend Clean Energy’s Reach

East_and_West_Shaking_hands_at_the_laying_of_last_rail_Union_Pacific_Railroad_-_Restoration“When the connection was finally made the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific engineers ran their engines up until their pilots touched. Then the engineers shook hands and had their pictures taken and each broke a bottle of champagne on the pilot of the other’s engine and had their picture taken again.” 

          –  Alexander Topence on the scene in Promontory,                   Utah in 1869 after Western governors drove the                    “last spike” of the Transcontinental Railroad.

These are good times for clean energy in California. A decade of visionary policymaking, a motivated private sector, and copious sunshine have joined together to reduce the cost of solar in the Golden State by 90 percent.

We already produce more solar energy than any other state. And thanks to a new law Governor Jerry Brown signed last month, SB 350 (De León), California has committed itself to yet another ambitious clean energy goal: 50 percent of electricity in the nation’s most populous state will come from renewables by 2030. Solar is a central part, among others, of California’s strategy to meet this new target.

Amid all this optimism, fast solar growth poses challenges as well. A lot of it has to do with timing. Read More »

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California Utilities Plan for a Cleaner Electric Grid

California’s “big three” utilities are taking importasolar instalnt steps toward achieving a clean energy future – one in which we will better utilize renewable sources of energy, give customers more choice and control, and keep the state on course to cut pollution.

One way they are doing this is through Distribution Resource Plans (DRPs). Signed into state law in 2014, DRPs are roadmaps for California’s investor-owned utilities – including Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric – to incorporate more distributed energy resources, like rooftop solar and electric vehicles, onto the grid. Each investor-owned utility in California is required to develop a DRP, and the big three submitted their initial plans on July 1, 2015 – a milestone in and of itself.

Upon analysis, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) sees the DRPs as a considerable step in the right direction. However, there are aspects of the plans we think could be improved to ensure California’s electric grid is able to take full advantage of already existing and future distributed energy resources.   Read More »

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Are Apple and Google Disrupting America’s Century-Old Energy Market?

solartesting_378x235Apple made news earlier this year when it signed an $848-million “direct access” deal to bypass Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and buy clean energy directly from a third-party solar provider. For Apple, the big win was a contract that locked in affordable energy for the next 25 years.

But the deal also set a historical precedent for corporate renewable energy purchases that may, over time, have huge financial implications for traditional utilities.

Energy deals break new ground

With its solar contracts, the iPhone maker is insulating itself from the price volatility that accompanies fossil fuels, in addition to getting power for less than half the cost. Going forward, it can count electricity as a fixed, predictable cost – an attractive proposition that is sure to spark interest among other large buyers of electricity.

Apple’s investment in First Solar’s PV Flats, a 2,900-acre solar array in Monterey, California, also suggests that corporations are ready to take procurement of energy to a new level.

On the heels of Apple’s deal came news that Google signed a 20-year purchase agreement to buy half of the energy produced at the soon-to-be refurbished Altamont Pass wind energy facility. The wind turbines there will power the company’s sprawling Googleplex headquarters in nearby Mountain View, California – again, effectively bypassing the local utility. Read More »

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The 2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index: Did your State, City Make the Cut?

cleantech indexjpgIf there is one thing that works in the world of advocacy, it is a ratings table that shows how one state, metropolitan area, or utility compares to its peers. The latest report, U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, from Clean Edge does just that.

The fifth annual U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index finds that California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado, and New York lead the way among states in solar and electric vehicle adoption, with smart climate policies and clean energy financing driving the clean tech leadership index growth.

Clean energy is becoming a popular choice for mainstream America with 11 states now generating more than ten percent of their electricity from non-hydro renewable sources, according to the Clean Edge report. As seen in the graph below, Iowa leads the way in utility-scale wind, solar, and geothermal electricity generation. Read More »

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