California Dream 2.0

Climate Action is Turning Green to Gold for Californians

By Lauren Navarro and Emily Reyna

What would you do with extra cash? Starting this April, customers of California’s biggest utilities will experience first-hand how the state’s fight against climate change is actually paying off – in the form of real money.

Wait… real money? How does that work?

Source: Flickr/Mike Schmid

Source: Flickr/Mike Schmid

Yes. Millions of household customers of Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and other investor-owned utilities will automatically receive a “Climate Credit” twice a year through 2020 – every April and October – as a line item on their utility bill. This money comes from California’s cap-and-trade program, which holds the state’s largest emitters, including electric utilities, accountable for their climate pollution. With cap and trade, regulated companies must buy “allowances,” or permits, if they plan to emit carbon pollution –equivalent to nearly $1.7 billion to date. Now, part of this money is being returned to these utilities’ customers. For average Californians, the Credit will cover the slightly higher rates that cover California’s green transformation. But if you’re conscientious about your energy use – and are a below average energy user – your Credit will be a bonus for you.

The Climate Credit is one way Californians are benefiting from the state’s action on climate and it will help people participate in building a clean energy economy. This smart policy builds on years of people-focused efforts, like energy efficiency standards and clean energy installations. In fact last year California more than doubled its rooftop solar capacity to 2,000 MW of power.

In California, we spend less overall on energy because we use it wisely and waste less, even though we pay more per unit of electricity.  In fact, while the state is ranked 8th in average cost of electricity (cents/kWh), we rank 47th in total energy expenditures per capita. Read More »

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Women in Power: Leading the Way to a Clean Energy Economy

WIPThis is the first in a series of posts about leading women in the power, environmental science, advocacy, policy, and business sectors.

Pull back the curtain on climate leadership, and you’ll see women in power. From the author of the country’s leading clean car standards, to the top administrator of the mostambitious climate policy in the nation (California’s AB32), to the scientists and entrepreneurs developing and deploying the advanced technologies driving the nation’s low-carbon economy, women are taking charge of the clean energy sector like never before.

Women have always been on the frontlines of our country’s toughest environmental challenges — including Rachel Carson, who galvanized the country with her exposé of pesticides in Silent Springand Hazel Johnson, the ‘Mother of the Environmental Justice Movement,’ who fought against toxic dumping in her own Southeast Chicago community.

But women have not always dominated the energy sector.

Throughout the Industrial Revolution, the story of energy has traditionally been written by innovative men like Thomas Edison and George Mitchell, who invented and invested in the technologies and companies that made oil, coal, and natural gas the dominant fuels of the 20th century. Today, women are rewriting the history books, spearheading a new era of leadership in the clean energy economy.

Read More »

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The Link Between Water and Energy in California – And Why It Matters

KHK pictureTomorrow is World Water Day and this year’s theme is the “energy-water nexus,” the critical, interdependent relationship between water and energy. The generation and delivery of almost all types of energy requires water and, conversely, treating and transporting clean water requires energy. In fact, water-related activities, such as treatment and distribution, account for almost 20 percent of California’s total electricity use. A disruption in access to one of these precious resources can have a detrimental effect on access to the other, creating a vicious cycle that unsettles our way of life.

The Challenges

Unfortunately, California is learning the hard way about the inextricable link between water and energy. The Golden State is having major water shortage problems and despite some much needed rain a few weeks ago, the state still remains in a severe drought. In fact, this past winter in California was one of the driest on record.

The drought has had perceptible effects on California’s energy production, substantially decreasing hydroelectricity levels, compared to 2011. Due to the decrease in hydroelectricity in the state, which usually makes up about 10% of California’s fuel mix, the state has been forced to increasingly rely on dirty, unsustainable fossil fuels, and energy costs have increased. Energy generation from traditional forms of power, such as natural gas, nuclear power, and coal, are not without their own water demands as well. Read More »

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PACE Financing for Clean Energy, Part 2: Lowering the Funding Costs

rp_Brad-Copithorne-Photo-200x3001.jpgYesterday, my colleague Scott Hofmeister described an insurance pool that California has introduced to help communities integrate Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”), a unique program that allows homeowners to finance money-saving clean energy retrofits through their property tax bill. These programs are popular in Sonoma, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern, and Fresno Counties, and we expect them to spread rapidly throughout the state.

Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO), a residential PACE program run by Renovate America that has partnered with the Western Riverside Council of Governments, has funded over $180 million of clean energy retrofit projects in a little more than two years of operation. These investments are expected to save homeowners more than 2 billion kilowatt-hours, reduce consumers’ utility bills by almost $500 million and avoid more than 1.4 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, or the equivalent of removing almost 300,000 passenger vehicles from the road for a full year. And notably, the HERO program is entirely funded by private investors.

If the whole state of California embraced PACE at the same rate as Riverside County, residential PACE could generate up to $3.5 billion of private investment. That could create more than a few high quality local jobs.

Last week, about $100 million of the HERO financings were securitized and sold to investors by Deutsche Bank. The terms of the transactions indicate the incredible power of the PACE structure and potential of these clean energy investments. Despite all of the financings coming from a single county, 20 year maturities for the underlying loans, and an overcollateralization of only 3%, the rating agency provided a AA rating, the second highest possible, for these financial assets. For comparison, geographically diversified pools of unsecured 10-12 year energy efficiency loans may require overcollateralization of 20+% to achieve BBB ratings. Read More »

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Message from Moms to Governor Perry: “Mess with Texas, not California”

josesBy Jose Sigala, Field Manager for Moms Clean Air Force in Los Angeles and California's Central Valley 

This week, Texas Governor Rick Perry made another visit to California in his continued crusade to entice businesses to relocate to the Lone Star State. Once again, Perry is making his stump-like pitch, highlighting his state’s low taxes and regulations and business-friendly climate, while touting the fact that no other state has created more jobs than Texas.

While that distinction is often disputed, Perry’s lack of effort to address climate change and poor air quality in his home state is not.

In fact, his neglect of major environmental concerns has helped Texas become one of the country’s worst polluters. The state ranks first in the nation for greenhouse gas emissions and worse yet- poor air quality is having a negative impact on children’s health. Kids age 0-4 with asthma are being admitted to the hospital up to eight times more than asthmatic adults in the state.

Moms across Texas and California urge Governor Perry to get his priorities straight and stop providing a pollution haven to corporations and prioritizing healthy profit margins over healthy communities. Read More »

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PACE Financing for California’s Clean Energy Future, Part 1: Expanding the Residential Market

rp_Scott_Hofmeister-287x377.jpgWhen it comes to protecting the environment and fighting climate change, California has always been a first mover.

Now the state is boldly acting to unleash a new market that saves energy, cuts pollution, and drastically increases clean energy investment for California’s residents.

Last week, California approved a $10 million reserve that will revive the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program for residential customers.

PACE allows customers to take advantage of energy saving upgrades to their home with no money down. Customers simply use a portion of their savings to pay off the investment over time through their property tax bill. Financing can be entirely provided by private lenders at no cost to taxpayers.

Since its first use at a San Francisco office building in 2012, PACE has been a resounding success in the commercial sector. In fact, the commercial markets have quickly taken to PACE and continue to set new deal-size records.

Read More »

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Spring Cultivates Rice Offsets

rp_robert-200x300.jpgThe arrival of Spring can’t come soon enough for some, though it came early for the California offset market.  Three significant events will spur the development of carbon offsets from rice cultivation.  First, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) launched a rulemaking to adopt a compliance offset protocol for rice cultivation projects.  The American Carbon Registry (ACR) also approved a rice protocol for the Mid-South (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas).

And at EDF we announced the listing of the first California rice offset project with ACR.

As a part of ARB’s rulemaking, they released a discussion draft of a compliance offset protocol.  This protocol contained three different activities that growers can take to reduce the generation of methane associated with rice cultivation – dry seeding, early drainage, and alternate wetting and drying of fields.  All of these practices have been developed using the latest science and have been shown to reduce methane generation without impacting yield.  Methane is the second largest anthropogenic source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for 9% of all U.S. GHG emissions from human activities.  Methane is also important because it is more than 20 times more potent a GHG than carbon dioxide.  At the meeting, the ARB stated that they intend to propose the protocol for consideration at the September 2014 Board meeting. Read More »

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CPUC Singing the Right Tune on SONGS, But Southern California Still Needs to Harmonize to Achieve a Clean Energy Future

rp_Navarro_Lauren.jpgLast week, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) finalized an important decision for Southern California’s energy supply following the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The plan emphasizes increased reliance on clean energy in this part of the state – an important step towards a fully realized low-carbon future.

The decision authorized San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison to procure at least 550 megawatts (MW) of ‘preferred resources,’ which include renewable energy, demand response (a tool that’s used by utilities to reward people who use less electricity during times of “critical,” peak electricity demand), energy efficiency, at least 50 MW of energy storage, and up to 1,000 MW of these resources altogether.

That’s a major step forward, as utilities across the country traditionally rely on large fossil fuel plants to meet regional demand.

However, the CPUC also authorized the procurement of 1,000 MW of power from natural gas generation, demonstrating that Southern California still has a ways to go to reach its clean energy potential.

Read More »

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A Sustainable Urban Forest Takes Root in Santa Monica

ca_innov_series_icon_283x204EDF’s Innovators series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goal of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technology and ideas.

Across the globe, trees in urban centers provide more than just curb appeal – they improve the quality of life and provide critical services like better air quality, reduced climate pollution, decreased urban heat and lengthened roadway life. These benefits amount to significant economic value– the USDA estimates that the 3.8 billion trees in U.S. urban forests represent a green infrastructure investment valued at $2.4 trillion.

According to Tree City USA and the Arbor Day Foundation, there are more than 3,400 communities, home to over 135 million Americans, which have community forest programs. Chances are, if you live in a major city, there is an urban forest program caring for the trees in your community.

Who: Public Landscape Division, Public Works Department, City of Santa Monica, California.

What: Santa Monica has planted over 1,000 trees and is piloting an advanced urban forest tree inventory and maintenance work order enterprise system. Their new software covers tree selection, planting and monitoring and enables Santa Monica to account for carbon sequestered in public trees.

Where: Santa Monica, California

Why: Santa Monica can improve its overall Urban Forest management while contributing to a healthier, climate smart city.

Unfortunately, maintaining the quality and cost-effectiveness of urban forest programs has remained a challenge for many towns and cities, as budgets and personnel are often stretched thin.  As a result, according to a 2013 report by the USDA, many of California’s municipal forest programs need improvement, and in fact, some are failing.

Enter Santa Monica, California, a modest-sized city of 8 square miles and home to approximately 90,000 residents. Located just west of Los Angeles on the Pacific Ocean, Santa Monica is home to surfing, celebrity hide-aways, and perhaps some of the more forward-thinking environmental policies in the state. Read More »

Posted in California Innovators Series, Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Offsets | 1 Response, comments now closed

For Landmark Climate Change Law to Work, California Must Stay the Course

rp_erica-morehouse-287x377-228x300.jpgFor months, EDF has been reporting on the exciting conversations happening at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Governor's office on the impressive progress California is making towards meeting its AB 32 climate protection goals and on what comes next for the state beyond 2020.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of continuing the dialogue as I testified in support of the AB 32 Scoping Plan Update before the California Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee. While some have recently debated the benefits of AB 32 and its cornerstone cap and trade program, most Californians recognize the benefits that the landmark law has delivered since its adoption in 2006, as well as the progress it promises with continued support from state leaders.

As the rest of the nation (and the world) eyes California, it is imperative that we remain focused on sustaining and strengthening the world’s most comprehensive climate change program,  and ensuring we remain on the path to reaching our 2020 and future greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. Read More »

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