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
There’s a clean energy revolution happening in California – and it has the potential to topple the old polluting forces while fighting climate change with the power of the sun.
California is not only producing the most solar power in the country – 8.5 gigawatts, enough to power two million homes – it’s producing more solar power than the rest of the country combined. In 2014 alone, the state more than doubled its solar power, becoming the first state to generate five percent of its total electricity from utility-scale solar. This record does not even count rooftop solar and distributed generation (where California also leads the country), bringing the state closer to an estimated seven percent of its total power generation from free sunshine.
The solar industry employs more than 54,000 Californians – nearly one-third of all solar workers in the nation – and solar jobs in the state grew by 16 percent in 2014 alone (compared to 2.2 percent overall state job growth in 2014). California solar jobs are expected to grow by another 17 percent in 2015.
California cities are the vanguard of this revolution, with Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento leading the charge. New research finds that California’s cities and urban centers could generate enough solar to meet the state's power needs three to five times over, without developing a single additional acre of the state's natural areas. Read More
We need to have “the talk” about solar power and equity, because ignoring uncomfortable questions will invite misinformation and bad decisions. We need an informed dialogue about how local solar power can impact low-income communities and communities of color in the U.S. We need to talk about “all the good things, and the bad things, that may be.”
First things first: the price of solar panels has fallen by 80 percent since 2008. This significant decrease in cost, coupled with incentives such as net metering which allow customers to send the energy they produce from their solar systems back to the grid and receive a credit on their bill, and the emergence of new financing models like solar “leasing” programs, has led to an explosion of local solar in the U.S.
We now boast an estimated 20 gigawatts of solar energy nationwide (enough to power more than four million U.S. homes), and the United States added more solar capacity in the past two years than in the previous 30 years combined. In fact, as President Obama highlighted in his State of the Union address, “every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.” Read More
Map of polluting power plants in Los Angeles County. Many are located in or near the region’s most vulnerable communities that are already over-burdened by air pollution.
My mom is a pro at shopping for good deals. She taught me the importance of timing my purchases during the off-peak season to get the most value for my dollar.
Time-of-Use (TOU) electricity pricing reminds me of the lessons my mom taught me, and it can help empower families to take control of their energy use, while saving money AND improving air quality.
Like the name implies, TOU pricing allows customers to choose when to power-up large appliances (think laundry, dishwasher, A/C) in order to avoid using high-demand, “peak” energy – which is more polluting and expensive. It is a voluntary program with a proven track record.
Peak energy demand typically occurs late in the afternoon when everyone is coming home from school and work, running the A/C, charging phones, cooking, doing laundry, or streaming Netflix on a T.V. During this high-demand time, energy prices spike and electric utilities flip on expensive and dirty fossil fuel “peaking” power plants to meet energy demand (because nobody wants to lose power and heaven-forbid the Internet!). Read More
You may be wondering – as I was before we started a project with the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation over a year ago – “what the heck does Big Data have to do with climate change?”
To start, here’s a piece from Climate Central that exemplifies the new power of big data.
“Big Data allows you to say simple, clear things…to tell people about their climate locally in ways they can understand.”
Through taking information created all around us and applying thoughtful analysis, we can comprehend and unleash it to solve our greatest challenges. For EDF, that means partnering with the country’s top universities and most innovative companies to address the biggest challenge of our time – climate change.
Today we launch the newest version of the Los Angeles Solar & Efficiency Report (LASER), a data-driven mapping tool that can help stakeholders and local leaders understand climate and pollution risks in their own communities. Empowered by this information, they can seek out and maximize available resources to deploy clean energy, reduce climate pollution, and create tens of thousands of much-needed jobs. Read More
There they go again… with the same lament we always seem to hear from Big Oil lobbyists when it's time to protect public health:
Don't put environmental protections on fuels, because that "will hit low-income and middle-income families the hardest." In other words, if you make us clean up our act, then we'll be forced to raise gas prices, which hurts vulnerable people… You don't want to hurt them, do you?
Hmmm. Do oil companies really care about vulnerable populations like low income people and communities of color? Could it be that they are using these families as a smokescreen for killing environmental protections and protecting their profits? Let's look at the facts and see if we can cut through some of this smoke.
Oil companies are among the most profitable enterprises in the world — last year the "big five" made $93 billion in profits, or $177,000 per minute. Even in my home state of California, which is at the forefront of environmental protections, Chevron is still the largest company by revenue (take that Apple and Facebook!). Many polluters have been claiming for decades that clean air standards will "cause entire industries to collapse," but those dire predictions have never come true. The idea that we have to choose between environmental protection and economic growth has always been a false choice.
Who is really to blame for high gas prices — and who stands to profit from that sick feeling you get when you're fueling your car and the price shoots past $40… $50… $60? Turns out an average vehicle uses $22,000 in gas over its lifetime, $15,000 of which (68 percent) goes right to oil companies. Further, an additional 25 cents in the price per gallon of gas at the pump every three months equals an additional $5 billionin profits for the big five oil companies. Read More