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
Hollywood produces some duds, especially right after the end of Oscar season. But virtually all of the environmental scriptwriting that happens in the Golden State has four-star appeal. Californians are trailblazers in protecting the environment and our planet from harm. The state debuted the first-ever vehicle efficiency standards in the 1960s and building efficiency standards in the 1970s and government leaders haven't slowed down since.
Today Californians find themselves ahead of schedule on meeting ambitious 2020 climate pollution goals. The state’s top leaders, from the Governor to the Legislature, are discussing ways to solidify targets, for 2030 and beyond, that would dramatically cut pollution and create a powerful script about public health and prosperity that other states could emulate.
As is fitting for deliberations involving our state’s future, these discussions are built on what could be thought of as “the dirty work” – careful research and planning, and sound analysis. California government leaders have released research they commissioned that analyzes the potential pathways for getting to a lower-carbon future. The research shows that we have the technical know-how to achieve ambitious targets for pollution reduction by 2030 while ensuring robust economic growth. 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
Also posted in Energy, General
As the old saying goes, comparisons are odious, and when it comes to policies to combat climate change, we want every state in this country—and every country in the world—to take action. But sometimes a comparison between two states can help illuminate the benefits of taking one course of action over another, especially as it relates to the all-important issue of creating a strong economy.
Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released revised job growth numbers for all states. Previously, the numbers released in December 2014 showed Texas ahead of California on job growth for the year—458,000 to 320,000—but the revised estimates indicate that California added 498,000 jobs in 2014, with Texas coming in at 393,000. In other words, California added almost half a million jobs in 2014, showing that Texas is not the only state that can do things on a big scale.
So what do these job growth numbers have to do with the fight against climate change? California is seeing their job numbers tick up as the state takes the lead on tackling harmful greenhouse gas emissions through an astonishingly ambitious array of policies. The state’s policies cover everything from squeezing as much carbon from the state’s economy as possible to ensuring that we find clean energy solutions to keep the lights on, so to speak. Although environmental leadership seems to be an integral part of the state’s DNA, the game really changed with California’s 2006 law limiting emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The state’s law ushered in a succession of effective measures, including the state’s cap-and-trade program and Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which are cutting pollution and helping the economy. Read More
Editor's note: This post was updated April 9, 2015.
When the door to one power plant closes, a window to more clean energy solutions opens.
It may seem logical that once a power plant closes, another one needs to be built to replace it – after all, we need to make up for its potential energy generation with more natural gas or nuclear-powered energy, right? San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) is certainly trying to convince Californians this is true. Trouble is, EDF and other environmental groups, along with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), aren’t buying it. And you shouldn’t either.
This story begins in 2013, when the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations (SONGS) permanently closed, shutting down a nuclear power plant with a capacity of 2,200 megawatts (MW) and sparking a debate about how to replace this lost power source. When first determining how to proceed in the wake of the SONGS closure, the CPUC decided SDG&E could buy between 500 to 800 megawatts (MW) of new energy resources by 2022. Further, at least 200 MW of this power had to – and all of it could – be met with preferred resources like energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy storage, and demand response (an energy conservation tool that pays people to save energy when the electric grid is stressed). Read More
We love electric vehicles (EVs) here in California and we want that love to spread. Why? It isn’t because of the cool factor – though, believe me, EVs like the Tesla are undoubtedly cool. Instead, it’s because these cars can offer significant benefits to the environment, electric grid, and economy.
California policymakers feel the love: in March 2012, Governor Brown signed an Executive Order that put an ambitious – and important – goal in place to provide the infrastructure for up to 1 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), which includes fuel cell powered vehicles along with plug-in hybrid and battery EVs, by 2020 and put 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025.
Here are some of the potential benefits of electric vehicles:
- Reduce harmful pollution. Because EVs don’t produce any emissions from the tailpipe when they are drawing on energy from their battery – unlike traditional gasoline-powered vehicles – they can greatly reduce the amount of harmful pollution from which California suffers. Targeting tailpipe emissions, the largest contributor to dangerous emissions, will help the state meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets and reduce harmful pollutants that are causing elevated levels of smog.
- Integrate more renewable energy. By charging at times when renewable energy is abundant (i.e., during the day to take advantage of solar and late at night to soak up wind power), EVs can enable the grid to handle more clean energy resources while still maintaining reliability.
- Avoid increasing use of fossil fuel resources. Because solar power becomes unavailable when the sun goes down, the grid sees a steep increase in the use of fossil fuel-powered energy before sunrise and after sunset. If EVs charge during the day and then draw upon that stored energy when renewable energy is unavailable it will reduce the need for fossil-fueled generators to provide energy during these times of the day.
- Avoid costs to utilities and residents. Capitalizing on the ability of EVs to integrate more renewables onto the grid can offset the need for additional, expensive transmission and distribution infrastructure as energy needs increase over time. In addition, EVs present an attractive financial proposition – by reducing or eliminating the amount that drivers spend at the gas pump, those who purchase an EV can recover the upfront cost of the car in a matter of years.