Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

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 »

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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, Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Linkage, Low Carbon Fuel Standard| Comments closed

Finding Common Ground on Pricing Clean Energy Resources in California

This post was co-written by Chris Yunker, Rates and Analysis Manager at San Diego Gas & Electric.

Source: limelightpower flickr

Industrial and environmental stakeholders are usually portrayed as adversaries. But one exciting example from California proves there can be another side to that story. San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) worked with Environmental Defense Fund, Sunverge, Google, and the California Public Utility Commission at Rocky Mountain Institute’s eLab Accelerator to investigate electricity tariffs that enable new technologies and practices and to reveal their costs and benefits to the grid. As distributed energy resources (DERs) continue to grow rapidly, there is increasing need to enable the marketplace to value utility-supplied grid services and customer-sited resources.

SDG&E serves 3.4 million people in and around San Diego, and is also home to roughly 10,000 electric vehicles and 40,000 rooftop solar systems. SDG&E is responsible for keeping the lights on despite growing demand (the region has one of the largest EV adoption rates in the nation) and variable electricity generation (PV panels stop producing at sunset).

Rather than resisting these changes, SDG&E has been working collaboratively to explore a vision of a future with even greater quantities of distributed energy resources. That vision looks at several features: Read More »

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The 2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index: Did your State, City Make the Cut?

cleantech indexjpgIf there is one thing that works in the world of advocacy, it is a ratings table that shows how one state, metropolitan area, or utility compares to its peers. The latest report, U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, from Clean Edge does just that.

The fifth annual U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index finds that California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado, and New York lead the way among states in solar and electric vehicle adoption, with smart climate policies and clean energy financing driving the clean tech leadership index growth.

Clean energy is becoming a popular choice for mainstream America with 11 states now generating more than ten percent of their electricity from non-hydro renewable sources, according to the Clean Edge report. As seen in the graph below, Iowa leads the way in utility-scale wind, solar, and geothermal electricity generation. Read More »

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The cheapest way to cut climate pollution? Energy efficiency

This blog post was co-authored by Kate Zerrenner, an EDF project manager and expert on energy efficiency and climate change.

On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made a historic announcement that will change how we make, move and use electricity for generations to come.

For the first time in history, the government proposed limits on the amount of carbon pollution American fossil-fueled power plants are allowed to spew into the atmosphere.

There are two clear winners to comply with the plan while maintaining commitment to electric reliability and affordability: energy efficiency and demand response.

We’re already seeing pushback from some of our nation’s big polluter states, such as West Virginia and Texas. But the truth is that while the proposed limits on carbon are strong, they’re also flexible.

In fact, the EPA has laid out a whole menu of options in its Clean Power Plan – from power plant upgrades, to switching from coal to natural gas and adopting more renewable energy resources. States can choose from these and other strategies as they develop their own plans to meet the new standards. Read More »

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These women won't let the clean energy revolution pass their city by

WIPThis is the third in a series of posts about leading women in the power, environmental science, advocacy, policy, and business sectors. Each entry stands on its own, and you can view the first post here.

For many communities across the country that remain overburdened with pollution, the promise of clean energy and livable cities is far from fulfilled. From Los Angeles to Atlanta, people aspire to live in clean, vibrant environments where their children can grow up healthy and safe.Women often play a unique role in grassroots organizing, and they gain followers by connecting people’s aspiration for a more thriving community with the vision for a low-carbon, sustainable economy. I recently met two such activists who possess the passion, charisma, and savvy needed to make sure that their communities are not left out of the clean energy revolution. They work tirelessly to bring the benefits and opportunities of this rapidly growing economy to the places where they live.
Working for environmental justice in Los Angeles

A section of a Keep Pacoima Beautiful mural that pictures solar cells behind a bright light bulb that doubles as the sun

Veronica Padilla, executive director of Pacoima Beautiful, has dedicated her career to the nexus between urban planning and environmental justice in the industrial suburbs of Los Angeles’s Northeast San Fernando Valley, one of the most polluted regions of the state.

Veronica’s journey as an advocate for her community began with a move across town to study at University of California-Los Angeles, where she quickly observed a significant decline in “graffiti and allergies.”

Through her studies and own personal experience, Veronica began to identify just how disproportionately her community was affected by pollution because of how industrial facilities had been sited – near homes and schools. Read More »

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EPA Hands Over the Keys with Clean Power Plan, California Already on Cruise Control

rp_dWalker.jpgEPA’s Clean Power Plan, proposed today, is a roadmap for cutting dangerous pollution from power plants, and as with any map, there are many roads to follow. For this journey, states are in the driver’s seat and can steer themselves in the direction most beneficial to their people and to the state’s economy, as long as they show EPA they are staying on the map and ultimately reaching the final destination.

As usual, California got off to a head start, explored the territory, blazed a lot of new trails, and left a number of clues on how states can transition to a lower carbon future, and California’s successes are one proven, potential model for other states to follow. The state’s legacy of clean energy and energy efficiency progress is a big reason the White House and EPA could roll out the most significant national climate change action in U.S. history.

Way back in the mid-1970s, when Governor Jerry Brown did his first tour of duty, California pioneered what remains one of the most effective tools for cutting pollution and saving money:  energy efficiency. The state’s efficiency standards, largely aimed at buildings and appliances, have saved Californians $74 billion and avoided the construction of more than 30 power plants. All those energy savings have translated into California residential electricity bills that are 25% lower than the national average.  What’s more, California produces twice as much economic output per kilowatt hour of electricity usage as the national average.

While energy efficiency has done yeoman’s work pulling costs down, reducing the need for dirty energy, and supercharging the state’s clean energy economy, California has also brought bold approaches to cleaning up its power supply. The California Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires 33% of all electricity sold in California to come from renewable sources by 2020, the most aggressive of the 29 states with RPS measures on the books. Read More »

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

No Water Means No Beer, and Other Insights from an LA Water Conference

rp_Emily-Reyna-300dpi-716x1024.jpgBeer lovers – now that I have your attention – let’s talk water. Nowhere in the country is water more critical an issue and looming risk than in my home state of California… critical to farmers, utilities, businesses, and yes, even breweries. 

The current drought has brought a host of challenges for our growing state, including more wildfires, collapsing delta ecosystems and fisheries, decaying infrastructure and declining water quality. While California is on track to reduce carbon pollution due to our progressive climate and energy policies, our water challenges are the elephant in the room.

So it was inspiring to attend a daylong event convened by the Pacific Institute in Los Angeles, where leading corporate, nonprofit and technical water experts honed in on water stewardship and shared innovative solutions to the business and environmental challenges we face with regard to water scarcity.

The companies represented there – including AT&T, Deloitte, MillerCoors and Veolia – see water scarcity as a current business risk, as well as a critical component to economic growth in California, the Colorado River Basin and around the world. The World Economic Forum even ranked water crises as the third most pressing global risk for 2014. “Often, the greatest risks come from conditions over which the company has the least influence,” noted Jason Morrison of the Pacific Institute, whose Water Action Hub offers a powerful guide with tools and resources for collective action.

The day’s far-reaching discussion would be impossible to capture in a single blog post, so I'll highlight here just a few of the challenges and solutions that stuck with me after a full day of information sharing. Read More »

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Nest’s Promising Results for Reducing Peak Electricity Demand

Back in January when Google announced it would spend $3.2 billion to purchase Nest, EDF knew this was a company to watch. The results of three new reports, released today, confirm that controllable thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat are both customer-friendly and useful for energy system planners. Moreover, the reports signal that smart devices, such as those Nest manufactures, have potential for generating marked savings for utility customers.

The reports analyze 2012-2013 energy use data gathered from four major utilities across the U.S. that offer Nest energy services programs: Austin Energy, Reliant Energy, Green Mountain Energy, and Southern California Edison.

The first report evaluates the results of Rush Hour Rewards, a demand response service that changes the temperature of the homes of Nest users during energy “rush hours”, or times when demand on the grid is highest. The second examines Seasonal Savings, a program that runs for three weeks and slowly modifies the temperature according to the customer’s behavior (which this smart thermostat is able to ‘learn’ via its built-in motion sensor and understanding of its owner’s temperature preferences). Both operate during times of heavy usage, namely winter and summer. The third report analyzes home energy data of Nest customers more broadly, comparing energy use before and after the installation of a Nest Thermostat. Read More »

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Connecticut’s Green Bank Uses PACE to Accelerate Commercial Solar, California Expected to Follow

rp_Brad-Copithorne-Photo1-200x300.jpgUp to now, the most popular and cost effective forms of financing solar projects have been leases and Power Purchase Agreements (‘PPAs’), which allow homeowners to install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on their property and purchase power from the system’s output via a financial arrangement with a third-party developer who owns, operates, and maintains the solar panels.

Unfortunately, these creative financing mechanisms have not generally been available for commercial property owners. The only exceptions were buildings owned (or leased for a very long time) by investment-grade entities such as Google, Walmart, or a state or local government. Most small or medium businesses, office buildings, shopping centers, and apartment buildings could not access financing for money-saving solar projects as investors have been wary of extending 20-year solar financings for most commercial properties.

Fortunately, our good friends at Connecticut’s Green Bank (CEFIA) have created the first solar leasing investment fund that uses Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) to provide investors assurance that they will be repaid. The ‘CEFIA structure’ allows commercial property owners to sign a lease or PPA in the same manner and terms as their investment-grade brethren. The only difference is that payments are linked to the property tax bill and survive foreclosures. Since the taxman almost always gets paid, this structure allows investors to consider a much wider range of commercial credits. Read More »

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