Energy Exchange

California Shows the Nation How to Pave the Way for More Clean Cars

EVCarCalvin Bryne co-authored this post.

As with other environmental policies, California leads the nation in encouraging electric vehicle (EV) adoption. The state has made huge strides in promoting cleaner cars, and opportunities remain to fully tap the benefits of this clean energy resource.

California as a model for national policy

In California, vehicles are responsible for almost 40 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, making transportation the state’s greatest sole contributor to climate pollution. The enormity of this problem was an impetus for California becoming the first state to adopt comprehensive vehicle emissions standards in 2009. Modeled largely after California’s regulations of the same name, the federal Clean Car Standards set national greenhouse-gas reduction goals for vehicles made between 2017 and 2025, and established incentives for manufacturers to produce technologically-advanced new cars.

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Posted in California, Electric Vehicles / Comments are closed

Putting the Customer First: How California can Achieve a Distributed Energy Grid

3725860708_50e3dd08c7_zIf you have ever worked in the service industry and dealt with a difficult customer (or even seen one in action), you are likely inclined to recall the oft-used adage, “the customer is always right.” Clichéd as that phrase may be, it is not without merit. Here at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we believe the same truism applies to how utilities approach providing electricity.

In a recent ruling issued in the Integrated Distributed Energy Resources (IDER) proceeding, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Commissioner Michel Florio found, quite properly, that utility business models need to be evaluated in order to put more customer and third party-owned distributed energy resources, like rooftop solar and energy storage onto the grid. Currently, utilities receive a rate of return if they build infrastructure necessary to support our central power grid (like pipelines for our aging natural gas system). If clean, distributed energy sources make that infrastructure less essential, it could jeopardize the utilities’ revenue stream, thereby discouraging them from including these cost-effective energy resources in our power mix. Read More »

Posted in California, Grid Modernization, Utility Business Models / Read 6 Responses

In California, Electric Vehicles are the New DeLorean in ‘Back to the Future’

CARRAs any child of the ’80s knows, October 21, 2015 is “Back to the Future Day” – the day that the film’s protagonist, Marty McFly, travels to the future in his DeLorean. Though it would no doubt be useful to have access to flying cars (think of the traffic one could avoid), Californians are seeing increased access to something more practical: electric vehicles (EVs).

In order to meet the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals, emissions from transportation – the sector most responsible for harmful pollution – need to be addressed. Enter Governor Brown’s zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate, which aims to build enough infrastructure statewide to support one million clean vehicles by 2020, and put 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025. With this executive order, we have a much better chance of ensuring a low-carbon future and effectively combatting climate change in California. Read More »

Posted in California, Electric Vehicles, Electricity Pricing, Grid Modernization / Comments are closed

Orange is the New Black, 40 is the New 30…and Energy Storage Could be the New California Power Plant

Moss_Landing_Power_Plant_p1270026If you follow pop culture, you’ve likely heard that Orange is the New Black, and 40 is the new 30. A perhaps lesser known – but equally important – new comparison that is turning heads in California is that energy storage might just be the new power plant.

This probably warrants a bit of explanation. On a power grid without storage, solar energy is generated during the day when the sun is shining its brightest, providing clean, renewable energy to homes and businesses – thus lessening the hold on the grid of dirty power plants. But what happens when this energy source goes offline? As people come home after work and turn on TVs, run dishwashers, and fire up other hungry appliances (also referred to as “peak” energy hours), the grid must rely on fossil fuel-powered electricity to ramp up production quickly.

However, when energy storage is added into this mix, a shift occurs. If there is enough renewable energy stockpiled during the sun’s most productive hours, between 11 AM and 3 PM, then the use of fossil fuels at peak times can be reduced.  In this way, new fossil fuel power plants that might be necessary to meet increased population and demand can be avoided.  And voila: energy storage is the new power plant. Read More »

Posted in California, Clean Energy, Energy Storage, State / Comments are closed

So You Want an EV? We’re Helping to Figure Out How to Make it Happen

Ride_and_Drive_EVs_Plug'n_Drive_OntarioYou may have noticed:  we’re big fans of electric vehicles (EVs) here at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Standard transportation fuels are one of the biggest sources of harmful greenhouse gas emissions, so vehicle electrification is a crucial part of our clean energy future. But getting more EVs on the road is about more than just giving customers incentives to buy these types of vehicles. We also need to deal with where and how we charge EVs.

From April 27th to May 4th, EDF was engaged in evidentiary hearings at the California Public Utilities Commission that dealt with San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDG&E) new electric vehicle pilot. Representatives from EDF, the Utility Consumers’ Advocacy Network, the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, SDG&E, Pacific Gas & Electric, ChargePoint, KnGrid, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Green Power Institute, were all putting their best foot forward at the hearings. While there were sadly no Perry Mason moments (aside from an unsilenced cell phone playing the theme song in the middle of the hearings), I did try my hand at challenging witnesses on some key points through cross-examination for the first time. More importantly, the six-day-long process allowed Jamie Fine to shine as an expert witness and raise a number of matters of high priority to EDF.  Read More »

Posted in California, Clean Energy, Electric Vehicles, Electricity Pricing, State / Comments are closed

Hitting Those Clean Energy Notes

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San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations (SONGS) Photo source: Flickr/Jason Hickey

Editor’s note: This post was updated April 9, 2015.

When the door to one power plant closes, a window to more clean energy solutions opens.

It may seem logical that once a power plant closes, another one needs to be built to replace it – after all, we need to make up for its potential energy generation with more natural gas or nuclear-powered energy, right? San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) is certainly trying to convince Californians this is true. Trouble is, EDF and other environmental groups, along with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), aren’t buying it. And you shouldn’t either.

This story begins in 2013, when the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations (SONGS) permanently closed, shutting down a nuclear power plant with a capacity of 2,200 megawatts (MW) and sparking a debate about how to replace this lost power source. When first determining how to proceed in the wake of the SONGS closure, the CPUC decided SDG&E could buy between 500 to 800 megawatts (MW) of new energy resources by 2022. Further, at least 200 MW of this power had to – and all of it could – be met with preferred resources like energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy storage, and demand response (an energy conservation tool that pays people to save energy when the electric grid is stressed). Read More »

Posted in California, Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency / Read 2 Responses