Author Archives: Lauren Faber

Women in Power: Managing California's Electric Grid Takes Nerves of Steel – and a Knack for Collaboration

WIPThis is the fourth in a series of posts about leading women in the power, environmental science, advocacy, policy, and business sectors. 

Electricity touches nearly everything we do, but most of us never contemplate what happens behind the scenes to make sure those electrons make it to our homes and businesses.

In California – just beyond the outlets, thermostats, and light switches – are more than 40,000 miles of interconnected power lines, some 1,000 generation facilities with more than 55,000 megawatts of capacity, and some of clean energy’s most brilliant women in the control room.

Karen Edson is one of them and she’s helping reshape California’s electric grid at a critical time.

A new energy reality

A widespread drought and persistently high temperatures are taxing the state’s legacy energy system – from its hydropower to its intricate web of transmission lines. At the same time, record-levels of renewable generation are flowing into the grid. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy| Leave a comment

California Cements Latest Climate Alliance, this Time with Next-Door Neighbor Mexico

It’s been an invigorating few days for anyone looking for meaningful action to combat climate change, and especially for those following California’s global leadership in those efforts.

As a delegate to Governor Jerry Brown’s Trade and Investment Mission to Mexico, I witnessed first-hand California and Mexico sign a Memorandum of Understanding and formally agree to work together on a range of actions to address climate change.

The agreement between Governor Brown and representatives of Mexico’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and Mexico’s National Forestry Commission lays out areas where California and Mexico agree to cooperate and coordinate efforts on addressing climate change, including:

  • Pricing carbon pollution
  • Increasing renewable energy use and development
  • Addressing short-term climate pollutants
  • Cleaning up the transportation sector
  • Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation

A Joint Vision for Low-Carbon Prosperity

It makes perfect sense that Mexico is California’s latest climate change and clean energy ally. After all, the relationship between the two jurisdictions runs deep.  Mexico is California’s largest trading partner, and our cultures and economic interests have undoubtedly been entwined throughout history. Both have much at stake with climate change, and this latest collaboration embraces a shared environmental vision which recognizes that a low-carbon future goes hand-in-hand with economic prosperity. Read More »

Posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Linkage, Low Carbon Fuel Standard| Comments closed

These women won't let the clean energy revolution pass their city by

WIPThis is the third in a series of posts about leading women in the power, environmental science, advocacy, policy, and business sectors. Each entry stands on its own, and you can view the first post here.

For many communities across the country that remain overburdened with pollution, the promise of clean energy and livable cities is far from fulfilled. From Los Angeles to Atlanta, people aspire to live in clean, vibrant environments where their children can grow up healthy and safe.Women often play a unique role in grassroots organizing, and they gain followers by connecting people’s aspiration for a more thriving community with the vision for a low-carbon, sustainable economy. I recently met two such activists who possess the passion, charisma, and savvy needed to make sure that their communities are not left out of the clean energy revolution. They work tirelessly to bring the benefits and opportunities of this rapidly growing economy to the places where they live.
Working for environmental justice in Los Angeles

A section of a Keep Pacoima Beautiful mural that pictures solar cells behind a bright light bulb that doubles as the sun

Veronica Padilla, executive director of Pacoima Beautiful, has dedicated her career to the nexus between urban planning and environmental justice in the industrial suburbs of Los Angeles’s Northeast San Fernando Valley, one of the most polluted regions of the state.

Veronica’s journey as an advocate for her community began with a move across town to study at University of California-Los Angeles, where she quickly observed a significant decline in “graffiti and allergies.”

Through her studies and own personal experience, Veronica began to identify just how disproportionately her community was affected by pollution because of how industrial facilities had been sited – near homes and schools. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency| Comments closed

Two female scientists making a "material" difference in clean energy

WIPThis is the second in a series of posts about leading women in the power, environmental science, advocacy, policy, and business sectors. Each entry stands on its own, and you can view the first post here.

Today, women earn roughly half of the bachelor’s degrees in the earth and biological sciences, but only about 20 percent of the degrees in physics and engineering. And as women’s careers continue to develop—through higher degrees and into professional positions—these numbers start small and only get smaller. Despite the tremendous educational and professional gains women have made in the past 50 years, progress has been uneven, and many scientific and engineering fields remain overwhelmingly male-dominated. The so-called “leaky pipeline” is a real issue. However, highly accomplished women in science and engineering do exist, and they are making huge differences in the way we make and manage clean energy.

I had the opportunity to sit down with two awe-inspiring female scientists who truly define “cutting edge” when it comes to the critical technologies we need to transition away from dirty fossil fuels. Dr. Stacey Bent, Professor of Engineering at Stanford University, and Dr. Angela Belcher, Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT, are both exploring the frontier of materials science, a critical area of study leading to advancements in renewable energy and energy storage. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate| Comments closed

Women in Power: Leading the Way to a Clean Energy Economy

WIPThis is the first in a series of posts about leading women in the power, environmental science, advocacy, policy, and business sectors.

Pull back the curtain on climate leadership, and you’ll see women in power. From the author of the country’s leading clean car standards, to the top administrator of the mostambitious climate policy in the nation (California’s AB32), to the scientists and entrepreneurs developing and deploying the advanced technologies driving the nation’s low-carbon economy, women are taking charge of the clean energy sector like never before.

Women have always been on the frontlines of our country’s toughest environmental challenges — including Rachel Carson, who galvanized the country with her exposé of pesticides in Silent Springand Hazel Johnson, the ‘Mother of the Environmental Justice Movement,’ who fought against toxic dumping in her own Southeast Chicago community.

But women have not always dominated the energy sector.

Throughout the Industrial Revolution, the story of energy has traditionally been written by innovative men like Thomas Edison and George Mitchell, who invented and invested in the technologies and companies that made oil, coal, and natural gas the dominant fuels of the 20th century. Today, women are rewriting the history books, spearheading a new era of leadership in the clean energy economy.

Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate| Comments closed

Environment: California didn't do so badly this year

(This post was written for and first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News)

By Lauren Faber and Ann Notthoff 

Despite some particularly unexplainable losses if you care about protecting the environment, the California Legislature made progress in 2013. The range of bills on the governor's desk awaiting his signature confirms that California remains the stalwart energy and climate leader in the country.

This legislative session was a turning point: More than half of the members of the Assembly were freshmen, Democrats enjoyed a two-thirds supermajority in both houses and the state budget swung back into the black. This new era has ushered in fresh opportunities for clean energy investment, sustainable transportation and consumer protections from dirty, expensive energy production and consumption.

While "A Bad Year in Sacramento for Environmental Measures" (San Jose Mercury News Page 1A, Sept. 15) identified missed environmental opportunities, there were significant achievements this year along with efforts that will be taken up in January during the second half of the two-year legislative season.

Newly passed legislation, AB 217 (Bradford), will expand renewable energy, extending the state's low-income solar programs to ensure the benefits of solar reach all Californians. Further, a "Green Tariff" program was created through SB 43 (Wolk) to allow customers of the state's largest utilities to purchase up to 100 percent renewable electricity. These efforts wean the state off dirty fossil fuels, benefiting public health, and give customers choices.

The state also doubled down on its commitment to sustainable transportation with the passing of AB 8 (Perea), an expansive effort to strengthen California's alternative fuel and clean vehicles programs; SB 811 (Lara), a bill to protect disadvantaged communities and mitigate the impact of the Highway 710 expansion; and SB 359 (Corbett), which helps clean the air by providing incentives to drive plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.

In addition, California became the first state to adopt a major consumer protection bill aimed directly at deterring gas price manipulation and establishing recommendations for combating volatile gas prices with SB 448 (Leno). This oversight creates a more transparent market that helps alternative, lower-carbon fuels thrive and reduces emissions from transportation, the sector contributing most to climate change in California.

Big oil spent a lot of money in Sacramento this year but still lost some fights and may be left feeling it needs to review its playbook. The Legislature passed a suite of bills to regulate the oil industry. In addition to SB 448, lawmakers moved legislation to ensure a skilled workforce is processing oil at our refineries in SB 54 (Hancock), and make sure taxpayers aren't left holding the bag for oil and gas drilling accidents with SB 665 (Wolk).

All told, key legislation passed in 2013 will account for nearly $1.3 billion of clean energy investment over the next five years, with an additional $3 billion mandated by voters and the Public Utilities Commission.

However, policies are only as good as the leader who signs them into law.

Gov. Jerry Brown has made climate change a focal point of his administration. We are counting on him to uphold that commitment and make these new bills the law of the land. Doing so will continue California's legacy of innovative policies that move our environment and economy forward and improve public health.

While we have a long way to go, most newly elected members are off to a positive start, standing up for consumers, health and the environment — a powerful message coming from a Legislature that will define the next generation of California's environmental leadership.

Lauren Faber is the West Coast political director for the Environmental Defense Fun, and Ann Notthoff is the California advocacy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Politics| Comments closed