Clean energy resources, like wind, solar, and energy efficiency, have certain key advantages over traditional, fossil fuel-based resources: they don’t require expensive, polluting fuels or large capital investment, consume little to no water, generate negligible carbon emissions, and are easily scalable. To take full advantage of low-carbon, renewable energy sources, we need a power grid with enough flexibility to harness clean energy when it is available and abundant. That’s where demand response, a people-driven solution, comes in.
On a hot summer day, for example, electricity use rapidly increases as people turn on air conditioners to avoid the heat of the late afternoon. A decade ago, the grid operator’s only option is to turn on another fossil fuel power plant to meet the increased need for electricity. But, at any given time, there are thousands of light switches left on, idle water heaters, cycling swimming pool pumps, and forgotten thermostats that people could temporarily turn off or down, if only they were offered the right incentive. If asked, people can adjust their power usage in exchange for a financial reward. We call this “demand response,” and it is increasingly helping to balance the flow of electricity with our energy needs at a given moment.
Demand response diverts money that would generally go to a fossil fuel power plant to homeowners and businesses instead. In this scenario, a utility or demand response provider sends a message for participants to reduce electricity use at key times in exchange for a credit or rebate on their utility bill, in addition to the cost savings they will earn through conservation. Of course, participants always have the option to opt-out with the tap of a button on their smart phone or thermostat. Read More
By Emily Reyna and Larissa Koehler
To mark the 44th Earth Day, EDF has released a new Green Roads map celebrating clean transportation, an economic sector that is helping the Earth by producing groundbreaking and sustainable technologies.
We Californians like to drive, but unfortunately our dependence on petroleum is harming our state, giving us the nation’s most polluted cities and the state’s biggest contributor to climate pollution (see the graph).
California greenhouse gas emissions by sector. Source: California Air Resources Board – May 2013 Investment Plan
Fortunately, state policies like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and the AB 32 cap-and-trade program are helping to reduce damaging greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, while bolstering California’s economy and allowing green companies to grow and thrive. In fact the number of clean transportation jobs in California tripled from 2001-2011. Read More
By Tim O’Connor and Chloe Looker
EDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goal of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technology and ideas.
Modern society makes a lot of garbage. The decomposition of organic material from garbage in landfills releases methane gas, a potent global warming pollutant.
At the same time, the modern transportation system is powered mostly by fossil fuels and also releases global warming and toxic air pollution. Today, two companies are turning rotting lemons (garbage) into lemonade (low carbon fuels for cars and trucks), and are showing that AB 32 creates a powerful incentive for new ideas and innovations.
Although the ultimate solution to the problem of waste generation and pollution from landfills must include reduction of waste going into the landfills, the fact of the matter is landfills aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Read More
By Matt Golden, Senior Energy Finance Consultant
Source: LA Better Buildings Challenge
Environmental Defense Fund’s Investor Confidence ProjectSM (ICP) is pleased to announce a partnership with the Los Angeles Better Buildings Challenge to help develop a more robust marketplace for energy efficiency retrofits in the city. Los Angeles has set a goal of achieving 20% energy savings across 30 million square feet of existing buildings by 2020 as part of the Better Buildings Challenge, a national leadership initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. If achieved, it is estimated that this 20% reduction in energy costs will create over 7,000 high-quality local jobs, and avert annual carbon emissions equivalent to taking more than 18,000 cars off the road.
The LA Better Buildings Challenge will be promoting the ICP Protocols through its network of building owners and industry stakeholders to help bring even greater transparency and accountability to the energy efficiency market by introducing a system of standardization in the way commercial building retrofits are developed, funded, and managed. The ICP framework assembles best practices and existing technical standards into a set of protocols that define a clear roadmap for developing projects, determining savings estimates, and documenting and verifying results.
David Hodgins, Executive Director of the LA Better Buildings Challenge, describes how the partnership with ICP will help the project meet its goal. “The mission of the LA Better Buildings Challenge is to support our partners in achieving a minimum of 20% savings by 2020, and to get there we need to have a clear path. We are excited to partner with ICP, which offers our partners a best-practice approach to developing, underwriting, and measuring the impact of their resource efficiency projects,” he said. Read More
It’s easy to get caught up in your “average” Saturday morning in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park neighborhood: a warm, spring sunshine, joggers and walkers lining its paths, families setting up the BBQ and piñatas for afternoon birthday gatherings, and residents practicing Qigong under its trees.
For those of us who grew up here, this is quintessential L.A., a visual display of diversity, well-being and community that many of us cherish – and would like to preserve for future generations.
So it gave me great pride to see a packed auditorium of L.A. residents from all corners of the 43rd Assembly District and beyond ready to discuss an issue affecting millions of Angelenos and threatening the fabric of our culture: climate change.
In a unique forum hosted by EDF and Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), the community discussed a variety of environmental issues, most notably the impacts of climate change to the district and to the greater L.A. Region, and what residents can do to engage their local representatives on this critical issue. A panel of experts – including the Environmental Defense Fund, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, and the Natural Resources Defense Council – helped kickoff the conversation. Read More
By Lauren Navarro and Emily Reyna
What would you do with extra cash? Starting this April, customers of California’s biggest utilities will experience first-hand how the state’s fight against climate change is actually paying off – in the form of real money.
Wait… real money? How does that work?
Source: Flickr/Mike Schmid
Yes. Millions of household customers of Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and other investor-owned utilities will automatically receive a “Climate Credit” twice a year through 2020 – every April and October – as a line item on their utility bill. This money comes from California’s cap-and-trade program, which holds the state’s largest emitters, including electric utilities, accountable for their climate pollution. With cap and trade, regulated companies must buy “allowances,” or permits, if they plan to emit carbon pollution –equivalent to nearly $1.7 billion to date. Now, part of this money is being returned to these utilities’ customers. For average Californians, the Credit will cover the slightly higher rates that cover California’s green transformation. But if you’re conscientious about your energy use – and are a below average energy user – your Credit will be a bonus for you.
The Climate Credit is one way Californians are benefiting from the state’s action on climate and it will help people participate in building a clean energy economy. This smart policy builds on years of people-focused efforts, like energy efficiency standards and clean energy installations. In fact last year California more than doubled its rooftop solar capacity to 2,000 MW of power.
In California, we spend less overall on energy because we use it wisely and waste less, even though we pay more per unit of electricity. In fact, while the state is ranked 8th in average cost of electricity (cents/kWh), we rank 47th in total energy expenditures per capita. Read More
This 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 Spring, and 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.
Tomorrow is World Water Day and this year’s theme is the “energy-water nexus,” the critical, interdependent relationship between water and energy. The generation and delivery of almost all types of energy requires water and, conversely, treating and transporting clean water requires energy. In fact, water-related activities, such as treatment and distribution, account for almost 20 percent of California’s total electricity use. A disruption in access to one of these precious resources can have a detrimental effect on access to the other, creating a vicious cycle that unsettles our way of life.
Unfortunately, California is learning the hard way about the inextricable link between water and energy. The Golden State is having major water shortage problems and despite some much needed rain a few weeks ago, the state still remains in a severe drought. In fact, this past winter in California was one of the driest on record.
The drought has had perceptible effects on California’s energy production, substantially decreasing hydroelectricity levels, compared to 2011. Due to the decrease in hydroelectricity in the state, which usually makes up about 10% of California’s fuel mix, the state has been forced to increasingly rely on dirty, unsustainable fossil fuels, and energy costs have increased. Energy generation from traditional forms of power, such as natural gas, nuclear power, and coal, are not without their own water demands as well. Read More
When it comes to protecting the environment and fighting climate change, California has always been a first mover.
Now the state is boldly acting to unleash a new market that saves energy, cuts pollution, and drastically increases clean energy investment for California’s residents.
Last week, California approved a $10 million reserve that will revive the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program for residential customers.
PACE allows customers to take advantage of energy saving upgrades to their home with no money down. Customers simply use a portion of their savings to pay off the investment over time through their property tax bill. Financing can be entirely provided by private lenders at no cost to taxpayers.
Since its first use at a San Francisco office building in 2012, PACE has been a resounding success in the commercial sector. In fact, the commercial markets have quickly taken to PACE and continue to set new deal-size records.
Last week, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) finalized an important decision for Southern California’s energy supply following the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The plan emphasizes increased reliance on clean energy in this part of the state – an important step towards a fully realized low-carbon future.
The decision authorized San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison to procure at least 550 megawatts (MW) of ‘preferred resources,’ which include renewable energy, demand response (a tool that’s used by utilities to reward people who use less electricity during times of “critical,” peak electricity demand), energy efficiency, at least 50 MW of energy storage, and up to 1,000 MW of these resources altogether.
That’s a major step forward, as utilities across the country traditionally rely on large fossil fuel plants to meet regional demand.
However, the CPUC also authorized the procurement of 1,000 MW of power from natural gas generation, demonstrating that Southern California still has a ways to go to reach its clean energy potential.