California Dream 2.0

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 »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid | 1 Response, comments now closed

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 »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency | Comments closed

California and Quebec: Friends in Low (Carbon) Places

KHK pictureA crucial feature of the U.S. EPA’s groundbreaking new Clean Power Plan for existing power plants is the flexibility with which states can pick and choose the emission reduction measures that work best for them. Instead of prescribing a silver bullet solution across all fifty states, the new rule allows each state to tailor its policies, resulting in the most cost-effective solution to climate change.

According to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, this flexibility can mean collaborating with others in joint programs: “If states don’t want to go it alone, they can hang out with other states and join up with a multi-state market based program, or make new ones.”

For states thinking about cross-border collaborations to comply with the new rule, they can find a promising example in California.

In an announcement today, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (MDDLECC) of Quebec revealed that the two markets are taking the final step in linking their markets with the initiation of joint auctions. The first will be held in November, following a practice auction to be held in August. The practice auction will allow the program regulators, as well as auction participants, to get comfortable with the updated joint auction platform.

Not only is the Golden State leading the way in transitioning to a low-carbon economy ahead of EPA’s recently-announced power plant standards, but California is forging ahead to show that working across state lines on climate policies is possible – and can be productive. Read More »

Posted in Cap and trade, Cap-and-trade auction, Clean Energy, Linkage | Comments closed

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 »

Posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency, 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 »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency | Comments closed

The United States Supreme Court Hears the Other Side of the Story on California’s Cleaner Fuels Policy

rp_OCONNOR-PHOTO-MAY-20121-200x300.jpgYesterday, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Conservation Law Foundation filed a brief in opposition to March 2014 petitions for Supreme Court review in American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Association v. Corey and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey, cases in which oil and ethanol companies attack the constitutionality of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

The LCFS, adopted under California’s trail blazing Global Warming Solutions Act, is a central contributor in the effort to move the transportation system away from the current paradigm of unsustainable global warming pollution, foreign energy dependence, and community-choking air pollution. The LCFS works by putting market incentives in place that encourage the production and use of low carbon fuels that were not prevalent when the program went into effect.  It is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from California’s use of transportation fuels by 16 million metric tons per year by 2020.

As we have explained in prior posts here and here about this important case, the challengers in the litigation have argued that the LCFS discriminates against ethanol and oil coming from outside of California and that it attempts to regulate actions occurring outside the state in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Dormant Commerce Clause. A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected these arguments in September 2013. In their March 2014 petitions, the industry challengers seek Supreme Court review of the appeals court’s decision. The Supreme Court’s decision on whether to take the case could come as early as late June. Read More »

Posted in Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Litigation, Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Transportation | Comments closed

Latest Auction Results Show that California’s Cap-and Trade is in Full Swing

KHK pictureThere are certain key fundamentals of swinging a bat that must be mastered before you can hit a home run; proper posture, a strong stance, and good contact with the ball. The last essential step is the follow-through.

In fact, success in nearly everything relies on putting an idea or solution in motion, and then following through to make sure it achieves the goals that it set out to achieve. The same can be said for building a successful cap-and-trade program.

In 2012-2013, California’s cap-and-trade program celebrated a strong launch, during which companies were able to purchase emissions credits through five quarterly auctions and a well-established secondary market. This stretch brought the start of the first compliance period, the first auctions, and the issuance of the first California Air Resources Board-verified offset credits. In 2014, there may not be as many “firsts,” but executing a strong follow-through is as important as a good launch.

Today, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) published the results of the seventh cap-and-trade auction. All current vintage year allowances offered for sale by CARB were purchased, signaling continued confidence in the program. The complete sale of 2014 allowances also demonstrates that some of California’s worst polluters are paying for their emissions.

Bids for 7.8 million more 2014 vintage allowances were placed than could be filled, signifying a competitive current auction. The price for 2014 vintage allowances, which can be used for compliance from now on, was $11.50, which is 16 cents above the minimum floor price of $11.34. Read More »

Posted in Cap and trade, Cap-and-trade auction, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 | 3 Responses, comments now closed

New Study: California Climate Law Cuts Billions in Health, Pollution Costs

rp_OCONNOR-PHOTO-MAY-20121-200x300.jpgCalifornia drivers don’t have much choice when it comes to what fuel they fill their cars with, or how dirty it is. As recently as five years ago, nearly 97 percent of the energy used for transportation in the Golden State came from gas and diesel – over half of which was made from imported oil.

This basic lack of consumer choice means that California drivers like myself are stuck with a high-priced product that is made from dirty crude and controlled by a few major multinational oil companies.

What’s more, our transportation system has a direct effect on our health – in addition to contributing to climate change and energy insecurity.

And it’s not a pretty picture.

A study just out from the Environmental Defense Fund and the American Lung Association, with modeling by Tetra Tech, finds that the negative impacts of California’s transportation system cost us a staggering $25 billion per year. It also shows that the benefits of policies aimed at supporting the use of cleaner fuels can significantly reduce such costs.

25 million drivers, worst air pollution in the U.S.

I’m probably similar to many other drivers around here. Last year I drove some 15,000 miles, paying about $2,400 for gas – a sizeable portion of my disposable income. This gas is always more expensive in the summer than in winter, and it won’t matter if I fill up my car at the Shell station on the corner or from Chevron at the freeway on-ramp.

My 15,000 miles of driving last year released about 5 tons of greenhouse gas pollution and other air contaminants. When combined with the pollution released from California’s other 25 million drivers, I have, unfortunately, helped give California the nation’s worst air pollution.

Not only is our state home to the top five most polluted cities in the United States, but countless Californians suffer from lung and heart problems, and even risk early death, from pollution-related health impacts cause by transportation. Read More »

Posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Transportation | Comments closed

Five Reasons California Latinos Should Care About Clean Fuels

Jorge-MadridFor the first time since becoming a state in 1850, Latinos are the “new majority” in California, representing the largest ethnic demographic in the country’s most populous state.  While Latinos account for 39 percent of California’s population, they are disproportionately exposed to dangerous air quality, health impacts, and adverse economic risk from dirty fuels.

In fact, the five most polluted cities in America are all in California – and all have majority Latino populations living in them.  The main source of the pollution is the transportation sector, more specifically, the dirty fuels that power California’s transportation sector, responsible for nearly 70 percent of smog-forming gases and 40 percent of the state’s climate change pollution every year.

A new report by EDF and the America Lung Association gives us a stark look at the impact of dirty fuels and offers a path forward to build healthier and stronger communities with cleaner fuels via the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and cap-and-trade (C&T) program.  California Latinos, the population with the highest risk and exposure, should be paying close attention.

Here are five reasons why:

1. We Breathe the Dirtiest Air – Latinos account for nearly two-thirds of California residents in the top 10 percent most polluted ZIP Codes.  This pollution can have serious health impacts on communities; roadway pollution alone causes 9,200 premature deaths per year in the state.  However, the report outlines how the LCFS and C&T will prevent 600 heart attacks and 880 premature deaths by 2025, and provide savings of $8.3 billion in pollution-related health costs.

Read More »

Posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Engaging Latinos, General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Transportation | Comments closed

Transportation fuel policies continue to benefit drivers and communities across California

rp_erica-morehouse-287x377-228x300.jpgCalifornia is implementing a suite of innovative transportation policies and there is ample evidence illustrating how drivers and communities across the state will benefit.

One critical piece of research is the First Update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan released by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) yesterday. The Board will vote on whether to approve the updated Plan next week. We've blogged here, here, and here about how the Plan recommends smart 2030 targets, positions California as a continuing leader on climate action, provides enhanced economic opportunity, and recommends new efforts to reduce short lived climate pollutants.

One of the most significant elements is the amount of money drivers will save because of the policies that CARB has so carefully planned for and implemented.  CARB's own analysis shows that existing policies will reduce fuel costs for drivers by over $400 per year by 2020 (from 2012 levels) and by just over $600 by 2030.

 

Source: First Update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan

Source: First Update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan

There is a growing body of work that supports and enhances CARB's finding that Californians will see overall benefits. Read More »

Posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Transportation | 3 Responses, comments now closed