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
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