Category Archives: Clean Energy

Momma Said ‘Time-of-Use’ Electricity Pricing

Map of polluting power plants in Los Angeles County. Many are located in or near the region’s most vulnerable communities that are already over-burdened by air pollution.

Map of polluting power plants in Los Angeles County. Many are located in or near the region’s most vulnerable communities that are already over-burdened by air pollution.

My mom is a pro at shopping for good deals. She taught me the importance of timing my purchases during the off-peak season to get the most value for my dollar.

Time-of-Use (TOU) electricity pricing reminds me of the lessons my mom taught me, and it can help empower families to take control of their energy use, while saving money AND improving air quality.

Like the name implies, TOU pricing allows customers to choose when to power-up large appliances (think laundry, dishwasher, A/C) in order to avoid using high-demand, “peak” energy – which is more polluting and expensive. It is a voluntary program with a proven track record.

Peak energy demand typically occurs late in the afternoon when everyone is coming home from school and work, running the A/C, charging phones, cooking, doing laundry, or streaming Netflix on a T.V. During this high-demand time, energy prices spike and electric utilities flip on expensive and dirty fossil fuel “peaking” power plants to meet energy demand (because nobody wants to lose power and heaven-forbid the Internet!). Read More »

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California Clean Energy Bill Could Open Door for Homeowners and Small Businesses

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Source: Flickr/constellationenergy

Governor Brown has the opportunity to make energy-saving upgrades possible for families and small business owners by signing Assembly Bill 1883 (Nancy Skinner- Berkeley). This bill would significantly lower the cost of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), a tool which enables property owners to take advantage of energy efficiency and rooftop solar PV for their homes or buildings with no money down, allowing them to pay off the investment over time through their property tax bill.

AB 1883 would streamline the PACE process and drive down the fixed transactional costs associated with commercial projects. Lowering these transaction costs is especially important for small businesses because high transaction costs can reduce the economic viability of the smaller energy upgrades that small business typically need. AB 1883 also incorporates new options for financing rooftop solar PV through PACE, which will enable a greater number of homeowners and small businesses to qualify for cost-saving solar PV contracts. Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Energy Efficiency, Politics, Smart Grid| 1 Response, comments now closed

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 »

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Transportation Diversification is Key to Fixing California’s Gas Price and Pollution Woes

This summer I had the unique opportunity to drive with members of the California state legislature through their districts in Los Angeles and the Central Valley. In addition to brown lawns, hazy air, and intense heat, we were reminded of California’s persistently high gas prices on filling station signs at nearly every major intersection.

Fuel hoses from a gas station. Source: Flickr/Boegh

Fuel hoses from a gas station. Source: Flickr/Boegh

As we drove through many neighborhoods struggling to pull themselves up economically, the need for solutions was clear. Since lower-income households pay the same amount per gallon as people in more affluent neighborhoods, low-income households tend to devote a greater percentage of their monthly income toward fuel purchases. Furthermore, since new and more efficient cars are usually more expensive, low-income households tend to drive older, less efficient vehicles that use more gas and release more pollution. So, while families across California are cutting back on things like watering their lawns, they are forced to spend a lot of these savings filling up their cars, while also breathing some of the most polluted air in the nation.

Fortunately, there is a solution at California’s fingertips that will tackle the issues of gas prices and pollution at the same time: transportation diversification. This simply means providing all Californians with choices on how to get where they need to go. These choices can take the form of alternatives to gas and diesel, alternatives to inefficient vehicles, and alternatives to cars all together. By providing these choices, consumers can pick what works for them – allowing the entire transportation system to better meet people’s unique needs and budgets. Read More »

Also posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Transportation| 2 Responses, comments now closed

EDF is Calling for More Demand Response in California and Why You Should Too

Source: North America Power Partners

Source: North America Power Partners

This week the California State Assembly will consider Senate Bill 1414 (Wolk). What’s so exciting about SB 1414? This bill will accelerate the use of demand response (DR), a voluntary and cost-friendly program that relies on people and technology, not power plants, to meet California’s rising electricity needs.

DR programs compensate people and businesses who volunteer to use less electricity when supplies on the power grid are tight and/or to shift energy use when cleaner, renewable resources are available. Every time a customer participates in lowering their energy use through demand response, they are rewarded with a credit on their electricity bill.

The implementation of demand response will help catalyze a much needed upgrade to our outdated grid, whose fundamental design hasn’t been updated since Thomas Edison invented it over a century ago. Demand response can empower participants to lower their electricity bills and carbon footprints, improve air quality, allow for more renewable electricity, and enhance electric grid reliability. In a tree of options for modernizing and cleaning up our energy system, demand response is a low-hanging-fruit. Read More »

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Greening the Cleanroom at PerkinElmer

By Nkiruka Avila, EDF Climate Corps fellow

Energy efficiency is an essential part of climate change mitigation, which is my primary motivation for becoming an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps fellow. My goal is to find energy and water savings at my host organization PerkinElmer in Santa Clara, California. PerkinElmer designs and manufactures medical imaging technology that tackles the world’s most critical health related challenges.

The facility I am working in this summer has a class 100 clean room (we call it “the Fab”) where 50×50 cm digital flat panel x-ray detectors are fabricated. Any impurity in the Fab could cause defects in the panels. PerkinElmer’s fabrication process is unique because each of the panels produced is kept as a whole unit and is not cut into smaller pieces. This makes it critical to produce flawless panels every time as a defect could ruin the whole panel.

Recently, I took a tour of the Fab with my supervisor, Joe Batdorf, and my EDF Engagement Manager, Serena Mau. The tour of the Fab was fascinating and revealed just how energy intensive the fabrication process is. I was impressed to see that several energy efficiency projects, headed by my supervisor, had already been implemented at the facility. Energy efficiency is not a foreign idea to PerkinElmer, and they have invested in several energy saving measures over the years. For example, PerkinElmer completed a reheat coil optimization project and replaced two inefficient boilers with efficient condensing boilers saving almost 70,000 therms of natural gas annually and eliminating over 300 tons of carbon emissions. Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Energy Efficiency, Jobs| Comments closed

EPA Refinery Standards and California Carbon Limits Can Solve the Puzzle of Refinery Pollution

By Tim O’Connor with Larissa Koehler and Jorge Madrid

EPA recently proposed a final pollution reduction rule for refineries that will help cut toxic air emissions and improve monitoring at the nation’s largest industrial facilities. This new rule is an important complement to the state level carbon and air pollution limits we have in California, and together will make our state cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous.

Source: flickr/Jason Holmberg, Richmond, CA

Any doctor will tell you that to fight the toughest diseases you often need a combination of treatment options. The clean air laws we have in California are an indispensable part of the cure for our air pollution problems. But to be fully effective, they need complementary policies from Washington.

Central to the challenge is the fact that large refineries are all too often found in disadvantaged communities – and release greenhouse gases, carcinogens, neurotoxins, and hazardous metals. Even though our state has been regulating refineries for decades, millions of Californians are still exposed to dirty, dangerous air. The puzzle of how to protect our communities is still missing pieces.

What is needed is direct federal attention to oil refineries. With an EPA standard that is based on the most up-to-date pollution control technology and a new health impact analysis, we can cut pollution and ensure the communities living next to refineries have healthier air and more information about what they're breathing. Read More »

Also posted in Climate| 1 Response, comments now closed

The Chance for Demand Response to Thrive in California All Hinges on One Vote

By: Michael Panfil, attorney for EDF’s US Climate and Energy Program, and Jamie Fine, senior economist for EDF’s Clean Energy Program

Vote CheckDemand response encourages customers to shift their energy use to times of day when there is less demand on the power grid or when more renewable energy is abundant.  It is an invaluable component of the smart grid that improves air quality, enhances electric grid reliability, and helps utilities, homes, and businesses financially benefit from conserving electricity.

Yesterday, a diverse group of organizations submitted an important and far-reaching settlement agreement on the future of demand response in California to the California Public Utilities Commission (Commission) for its approval. The settling parties – including EDF, California investor-owned utilities, California Independent System Operator (CAISO), consumer groups, and others – recommend, for the first time, a path to properly value, realize, and account for demand response. If approved, these changes have the potential to increase the role of demand response in meeting California’s energy demands, reducing hazardous air pollution, and more efficiently operating the state’s electrical grid. Read More »

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New Report Doesn’t CARE about Getting the Facts Right

With billions of dollars in profits, oil companies can pay a lot of consultants to write a lot of really impressive-looking reports.  But look past the fancy cover page and you will often find these documents are nothing more than spin. Case in point: the recent report from Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy (CARE) and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA).

For those looking for the real facts about California’s world-leading climate change law, let us correct the record:

1.       Californians spend LESS on energy than people in 45 states.

 The CARE report uses the usual scare tactics about the price of energy. But the truth is that on average, Californians spend less on their energy bills than residents of 45 other states (see graph below) and almost $60 less than the national average per month. This is due to in-large-part to California’s energy efficiency measures, which have led Californians to use almost 45% less electricity per capita than the U.S. average.

Californians spends less on energy than residents of 45 other states. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Californians spends less on energy than residents of 45 other states. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

 2.       California’s climate law will yield significant environmental AND economic benefits for its citizens.

Not only are the costs of AB 32 policies much smaller than the VICA/CARE report would lead you to believe, California’s climate policies actually yield significant economic and health benefits. Read More »

Also posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Jobs, Transportation| 1 Response, comments now closed

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 »

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