By: Jorge Madrid, Coordinator, Partnerships and Alliances, and Kate Zerrenner, Clean Energy Project Manager
School’s out for summer! It’s time to check those report cards and figure out if we made the energy efficiency grade or if we’re stuck trying to catch up.
For Los Angeles, the marks are pretty consistent: “Not great yet, but getting there…”
According to the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE), who just released their 2015 City Energy Efficiency Score Card, Los Angeles is the most improved city in the country – rising the fastest of all cities and finally breaking the top 15 rankings (up to #12 from #28 last year). ACEEE cites “a strong new suite of climate goals and high marks in energy and water utilities” as key factors in the city’s improved score.
For a city the size and scale of Los Angeles (second largest U.S. city in total population, a regional economy larger than most countries, and the largest manufacturing sectors and ports in the U.S.) these are impressive accolades. The city has consistently kept water demand relatively flat despite a booming population and desert-like climate. L.A. also has a gold star from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for being ranked second on a list of the top 25 U.S. cities with the most energy efficient buildings in the nation. Read More
You may have noticed: we’re big fans of electric vehicles (EVs) here at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Standard transportation fuels are one of the biggest sources of harmful greenhouse gas emissions, so vehicle electrification is a crucial part of our clean energy future. But getting more EVs on the road is about more than just giving customers incentives to buy these types of vehicles. We also need to deal with where and how we charge EVs.
From April 27th to May 4th, EDF was engaged in evidentiary hearings at the California Public Utilities Commission that dealt with San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDG&E) new electric vehicle pilot. Representatives from EDF, the Utility Consumers’ Advocacy Network, the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, SDG&E, Pacific Gas & Electric, ChargePoint, KnGrid, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Green Power Institute, were all putting their best foot forward at the hearings. While there were sadly no Perry Mason moments (aside from an unsilenced cell phone playing the theme song in the middle of the hearings), I did try my hand at challenging witnesses on some key points through cross-examination for the first time. More importantly, the six-day-long process allowed Jamie Fine to shine as an expert witness and raise a number of matters of high priority to EDF. Read More
Apple 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
Also posted in Energy, General
Last week, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a proposed decision on residential rate reform. Residential rate reform – how and what Californians pay for electricity – is a thorny subject, and the Commission’s proposed decision is being met with a range of reactions.
We at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) want to highlight a bright spot in the 300-page document that we’re thrilled about: the attention paid to time-of-use electricity pricing (a type of time-variant pricing). Buried in this long legal document, we see EDF’s fingerprints in the Commission’s call for California investor-owned utilities to ramp up their use of this innovative yet well-proven pricing tool starting with pilots in 2016 and going to scale in 2019.
How TOU Works
If you’ve been following EDF’s work in this area, then you know we’ve been involved in this process for many years and have probably gathered that we’re big fans of time-of-use pricing (TOU) because it better reflects the true cost of electricity, which fluctuates throughout the day. This type of pricing also empowers customers to better control their own energy bills and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
TOU pricing works by breaking up the day into two or three large intervals and charges a different price for each. Rates can be divided into off-peak prices (generally during the middle of the night to early morning), semi-peak prices (daytime and evening), and peak prices (occurring during periods of highest demand, usually afternoon to early evening). These rates remain fixed day-to-day over the season.
While California never quite got a winter, we can still acknowledge that spring – with the sun shining and flowers blooming – is here. From where I sit in Sacramento, spring means allergy season, getting out and enjoying the blue skies, a last bit of cool air before a brutal summer, and oh yes, the legislature heating up on important questions of California’s energy future.
This year, all eyes are on the question of how to meet the bold challenges laid out by Governor Brown in his January inauguration speech, which set goals for: 50 percent of electricity to come from renewable energy, a 50 percent improvement in the energy efficiency of existing buildings, and a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use, all by the year 2030.
To answer that challenge, the Senate has introduced Senate Bill 350 (De Leon) and the Assembly has introduced Assembly Bill 645 (Williams, Rendon), both aimed at increasing the existing Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) from 33 percent to 50 percent by 2030. And, both bills are feeling the love from a diverse array of supporters. The April 7th Senate committee hearing on SB 350 enjoyed a line of supporters (including Environmental Defense Fund) which spilled into the halls! AB 645 saw a comparable showing when it was in committee on April 20th. Both bills will be discussed for the second time in committees this week.
This strong support for clean energy should come as no surprise – robust renewable energy policies can support job growth, reduce pollution, and attract clean energy businesses to the state, which is why groups representing working people, the environment, and the transition to a clean energy economy showed up “en masse” to demonstrate support. At the same time, these groups are having conversations amongst each other and with the legislature about exactly what the transition to an electricity grid that runs on 50 percent clean resources will look like. Why? Because the details matter. Read More
By: Larissa Koehler and Jorge Madrid
There’s something remarkable happening in the city of Los Angeles, you can feel it in the air – and it’s definitely not the country’s worst pollution or the record-breaking heat – it’s the winds of change. Los Angeles is in the process of reinventing itself from a dystopian vision of traffic jams and unbreathable air into an urban leader in sustainability.
Last week L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a bold new plan (pLAn) to revolutionize sustainability in Los Angeles, including taking a bite of the big enchilada responsible for the most air pollution that gets in our lungs and greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change – the transportation sector. Mobile sources (think diesel trucks, trains, ships, aircraft, and cars) account for 90 percent of Southern California’s harmful air pollution. Statewide, the transportation sector is responsible for nearly 70 percent of smog-forming gases and 40 percent of the state’s climate change pollution every year.
While some progress has been made – the number of non-attainment days (days when an area doesn’t meet the federal air quality standard) has decreased dramatically since the 1990s and the Port of Los Angeles has reduced diesel particulate matter by 80 percent since 2005 – there are still huge clean air disparities. We know the dirtiest zip codes in L.A. are also the ones with a disproportionately large amount of low-income communities and people of color. We cannot run a victory lap on this issue until EVERYONE in L.A. can safely get around the city and breathe healthy air at the same time. Read More