Category Archives: California

SfunCube: Lighting the Way for Solar Innovation in California

rp_ca_innov_series_icon_283x204.jpgEDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technology and ideas.

By: Anna Doty, West Coast Policy Associate

Emily Kirsch calls herself a “solar-lifer.” Kirsch came onto the solar scene by way of former Obama advisor Van Jones’ green jobs campaign in Oakland. Now, as the co-founder and CEO of Oakland-based SfunCube—the world’s only solar-exclusive start-up business accelerator—Kirsch is growing California’s clean economy in an entirely new way and she knows the future of solar is bright.

Nestled in the heart of downtown Oakland, SfunCube—Solar for Universal Need—is supporting a growing “solar ecosystem” of the most promising solar startups that are making the San Francisco Bay Area the nation’s epicenter for solar innovation and entrepreneurship. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Emily Kirsch and some of the solar pioneers who are working at SfunCube to make universal access to solar a reality in California, throughout the US, and around the world.

In California today, there are over 1,889 solar companies that are part of the solar supply chain, creating more than 50,000 jobs—roughly a third of all the solar jobs in the country—and that is no coincidence. Read More »

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Demand Response: A Valuable Tool that Can Help California Realize its Clean Energy Potential

rp_Cover-photo-image-300x200.jpgA tool only has value if it’s used. For example, you could be the sort of person who’s set a goal of wanting to exercise more. If someone gives you a nifty little Fitbit to help you do that, and you never open the box, how useful, then, is this little device? The same is true about smart energy management solutions: good tools exist, but whether it’s calories or energy use that you want to cut, at some point those helpful devices need to be unpacked. The same is true for demand response, an energy conservation tool that pays people to save energy when the electric grid is stressed.

California's electricity industry stands at a crossroads. The state got an early start on creating laws and policies to cut carbon pollution, and is now reaping the benefits of these policies through reduced emissions and healthy economic growth. That said, California can’t cut carbon emissions and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels without having alternatives to choose from — some focusing on promoting renewable energy, others on smarter energy management tools. Demand response is one of these tools, and a critical one. This highly-flexible, cost-effective resource should play a key role in California’s clean energy future, but several barriers stand in the way of unleashing its full potential.

It’s hard to think of California as anything but forward-thinking, but, right now, the state’s demand response programs are lagging behind those in other states and regions of the country like the Mid-Atlantic. There is good news, however, because demand response is an evolving resource. And, with advances in smart grid technologies, demand response has the potential to improve our energy mix in California. In EDF’s new report, Putting Demand Response to Work for California, we offer recommendations on how to unlock demand response as an important part of the overall strategy for California’s bright energy future.

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Bringing Storage Beyond the Closet and into the Socket

rp_ca_innov_series_icon_283x204.jpgEDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.

When someone says the word “storage,” the first thing that usually comes to mind are boxes stuffed into the back of the closet, or that deserted facility with orange doors near the freeway off-ramp.

These days, energy innovators across California are giving storage a whole new meaning – and helping to revolutionize the system that brings electricity to homeowners and businesses alike. One of the entities leading this revolution is Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), a utility in the midst of piloting new battery energy storage technology to determine how effectively it can provide a variety of grid services, including the integration of intermittent renewable generation from solar and wind.

Increasing amounts of distributed energy generation in both urban and rural areas – coupled with increasing customer demand associated with things like population growth and consumer electronics – makes energy storage an important tool to keep generation and energy use in balance. This balancing function is an important asset for integrating renewables into the grid, as storage can soak up solar and wind energy when they are abundant and discharge that energy when it is otherwise unavailable. Through this charge / discharge cycle, energy storage could lower the need for traditional fossil fuel sources and reduce resultant air pollution. Read More »

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Good News: EPA Standards Could Lower Electricity Bills

Source: Brendan Wood

Source: Brendan Wood

Millions of Americans are watching their bills more closely as middle-class incomes continue to stagnate in the nation's uneven economic recovery.

So it's frustrating to hear opponents of climate action once again use the threat of higher electricity rates as a scare tactic to try to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. We know it has many people concerned.

The good news is we have more evidence than ever before to prove our opponents wrong.

 

We pay the same rates for power now as in 1994

Electric rates in the United States have remained steady over the last 20 years, even as consumption of renewable energy increased 40 percent, statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show. Over the same time, we reduced coal plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by more than 75 percent.

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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 »

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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. To see previous installments, please use the ‘Search’ field in the left sidebar to search for ‘Women in Power.’ 

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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