Energy Exchange

Tech for change video series: Backyard oilfields

This post is the first of EDF’s Tech for Change series, which spotlights the way pollution-sensing technology can protect public health and the environment in California. Watch part 2 here.

Imagine having an oilfield in your backyard. That’s a fact of life for many Los Angeles residents. Nearly 600,000 people in the city live within ½ mile of an active oil well, and the city is home to the country’s largest urban oilfield (view on Google Maps).

Living so close to active oil and gas facilities is not without its risks. Public health studies have shown that communities near oil and gas operations are at increased risk of exposure to harmful pollution. The problem is that a lack of pollution monitoring near these well sites means neighboring residents don’t know what’s leaking into the air they breathe.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Report: LA County oil and gas sites require stronger oversight

A new report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) provides yet more evidence that greater oversight is needed to address health and safety concerns with the region’s oil and gas facilities.

Los Angeles sits directly on top of 68 active oil fields, meaning many of the city’s residents live in close proximity to harmful emissions associated with oil and gas development, including compounds that can cause cancer, respiratory diseases like asthma, severe headaches, neurological problems, and other health consequences.

LA DPH assessed the impact of urban drilling on communities in east and south LA and considered existing research to identify actions for regulators to reduce public health threats, including:

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Also posted in Air Quality, Aliso Canyon, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

California’s disadvantaged communities could benefit from time-of-use electricity prices, but it won’t happen automatically.

By Lauren Navarro, senior policy manager, and Jamie Fine, senior economist

It’s no secret that California is a clean energy leader. The state is on track to meet its renewable energy goals, with many utilities hitting targets ahead of schedule. In order to transition to a system that can handle increased levels of clean energy like solar and wind, we need innovative solutions to take advantage of these resources. One low-cost solution is to change how we pay for electricity – making it cheaper when it is powered by clean resources and more expensive when powered by fossil fuels with time-of-use pricing. Utilities are on their way to bringing this to Californians, piloting the new rates in advance of a full rollout in 2019 and building on the successful rollout of these rates to commercial customers a few years ago.

For many Californians, the shift to time-of-use pricing will be new, but not impact their bills very much and could even save them money, particularly for people who live along the coast. However, for some customers – communities with lower incomes in hotter areas of the state that are more vulnerable to possible summertime bill increases – shifting when they use electricity can be harder, and without help their costs could increase. Rightly, lawmakers and regulators have pushed for extra attention for these vulnerable customers as the state moves toward time-of-use rates. While utilities acknowledge this discrepancy as an issue, none are offering sufficient, robust solutions (you can learn more about this in our recent blog).

A new bill introduced last week by California Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula would add that utilities must consider how time-of-use rates could impact low-income customers in disadvantaged communities before putting them on the new rates. It is vital to protect the most economically and environmentally vulnerable Californians from financial hardships. And the answer is not easy. All Californians stand to benefit from rates that could lower pollution and integrate more renewables – yet, we don’t want to heedlessly roll-out the rates in a way that results in higher electricity bills for customers with low incomes. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Equity, General, Time of Use / Comments are closed

Pollution monitors should be standard in LA’s oilfields

There are several reasons to be optimistic about environmental progress in Los Angeles. The city is making massive investments in electric vehicles, making clean energy more accessible to everyday people, and cutting pollution from the ports and freeways to name a few. But with over 60,000 Angelinos living less than 500 feet from an active oil well – LA could do more to protect our health and our environment.

Oil and gas wells emit toxic chemicals that can increase our risk of developing asthma, cancer and other health problems. Recent studies by the California Air Resources Board and South Coast Air Quality Management District have uncovered elevated levels of benzene, a cancer causing agent, and other toxic compounds coming from oil and gas equipment in Huntington Beach and Signal Hill. In Santa Fe Springs  a rupture at an oil site coated numerous homes with oil and generated noxious odors.  Then there are the communities in Culver City, South LA, Compton and elsewhere living mere feet from drill sites who experience odors and health ailments on a regular basis. Most notoriously, the Porter Ranch community next to the Aliso Canyon gas field still reports respiratory problems and other symptoms stemming from a major gas leak in 2015.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Aliso Canyon, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Utilities planning to move Californians to time-of-use pricing need solutions for low-income customers

By Andy Bilich, clean energy analyst, and Jamie Fine, senior economist

Last month, all three of California’s major investor-owned utilities submitted applications to the California Public Utilities Commission detailing their respective strategies for how to transition residential customers to time-of-use pricing. Time-of-use pricing, if done right, is a low-cost strategy to help meet California’s climate and clean energy goals. This innovative tool can help the state rely more on clean energy and less on fossil fuels, at the same time delaying the need for new infrastructure and reducing costs and harmful emissions. While a significant number of Californians will be able to adapt to this new pricing, the shift this summer and next will likely be more challenging for some ─ namely, low-income customers in hot areas of the state.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) supports time-of-use pricing for its benefits to the environment, the electric system, and customer’s pockets. However, the utility plans have some troubling gaps that may prevent the new system working for everyone. For California to pioneer a clean economy for all, the utilities and the commission must proactively overcome barriers facing vulnerable customers who need more help adjusting to time-of-use rates. Read More »

Also posted in Electricity Pricing, Time of Use / Read 2 Responses

California says goodbye to its last nuclear power plant. What will replace it?

Last week, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a momentous final decision to close the state’s last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon. This outcome represents the culmination of over a year of effort initiated by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in 2016. When PG&E first brought this to the commission, they called for the closure because the plant had become uneconomic in the face of customers increasingly leaving the utility for Community Choice Aggregators, like CleanPowerSF, and a changing electric grid that relies more on flexible, distributed energy resources like wind and solar.

With its recent decision, the CPUC agreed with PG&E, stating that renewing Diablo Canyon’s license to operate beyond 2025 would not be cost-effective. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency / Read 9 Responses