To avoid the worst effects of climate change, we must do more to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, we still do not have a price on carbon, one of the most prevalent greenhouse gases in the world and the biggest contributor to climate change. Despite knowing that a carbon price creates broad incentives to cut emissions, the current average price of carbon globally (which is below zero, once half a trillion dollars of fossil-fuel subsidies are factored in) is much too low relative to the hidden environmental, health, and societal costs of burning a ton of coal or a barrel of oil.
Policies that comprehensively reform the energy sector—a sector designed around fossil fuels—are necessary even as the price of renewable energy declines. The cost of solar photovoltaics, for example, has declined 80 percent since 2008. Prices will continue to fall, but not fast enough to make a dent in the climate problem.
Policymakers are more likely to price carbon appropriately if renewables are competitive with (or cheaper than) fossil fuels. But reducing the cost of renewable energy requires substantial investment, and thus a carbon price. The best hope of resolution is through controlled policy experiments designed to drive down the cost of renewable power sources even further and faster than in the past five years. Read More
By: Katie Hsia-Kiung
It may be hard to believe that just 15 years ago the term “clean tech” was largely unheard of. Today, the term has gained widespread usage, and is often applied to a diverse array of businesses, practices, and tools. Clean tech not only includes renewable energy technologies like wind and solar, but also electric motors, green chemistry, sustainable water management, and waste disposal technologies, to name just a few.
One research institution that has followed this sector through its short, but burgeoning history, is Clean Edge, a firm devoted exclusively to the study of the clean tech sector. Last week, the firm released their annual U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, which ranks each state based on several indicators across three categories: technology, policy, and capital. For the sixth year in a row, California came out on top as the leading state for clean technology. In fact, over the past year, California has widened its lead over the rest of the pack, with a score that is 15 percentage points higher than Massachusetts, the state in second place. According to the report, “with 55,000 people employed in its booming solar industry alone, a carbon market in place with its AB 32 trading scheme, and a 50 percent renewables goal by 2030 set by Governor Jerry Brown, California sets the pace for what a clean-energy economy looks like.” Read More
It’s always inspiring to see people stand up and fight for issues that matter to them. In our world, when politics can at times seem petty or backwards, it’s especially uplifting to see politicians do this. And that’s exactly what’s happening inside California’s state capitol.
The three most powerful political leaders in the state – Governor Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins – are moving in lockstep to enact an ambitious long-term climate and clean energy agenda. Yesterday, we witnessed a major demonstration of that political leadership when the pro tem and speaker marshalled support to move fundamental pieces of legislation through a key part of the lawmaking process – passing bills through their respective houses of origin.
The bills currently under consideration put in place a climate pollution reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 and reaffirm the ongoing role of market-mechanisms like cap-and-trade in California. They accomplish this while also codifying the governor’s goals to meet half of our energy demand with renewable energy, double energy efficiency in existing buildings, cut our harmful petroleum addiction in half, and reduce climate pollution 40 percent below 1990 levels all by 2030. Read More
Last month, I attended the Vail Global Energy Forum in Colorado. Billed as a “mini-Davos” of energy (studiously ignoring the Aspen crowd a few hours down the highway), that moniker may have felt aspirational when the conference launched three years ago. But, this year it paid off: momentum for frank dialogue and global innovation is building on the slopes of the Vail Valley.
Here’s my take on how the clean air of the mountains cuts through the hot air of energy debates to illuminate practical, actionable ideas.
Three big ideas drove the conference:
- North American energy independence
Mexico, the United States, and Canada could, together, innovate their way to an energy marketplace that weakens dependence on overseas imports, scales up clean energy solutions, and charts a path to low-carbon prosperity. At times, the discussion was framed by the rise of unconventional oil and gas exploration (yes, “fracking”), collaboration around pipelines (yes, “Keystone”), and whether these could disrupt traditional geopolitical frames. Read More
Also posted in Air Quality, California, Clean Energy, Climate, Colorado, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Methane, Natural Gas, New York, Utility Business Models
Ask most people what the Beatles and California have in common and they might very well be at a loss. However, the answer is pretty simple: they are both unabashed trendsetters in the face of resistance – the former in their musical style and the latter in its clean energy policies.
Not content with setting a Renewable Portfolio Standard that ends at 2020, Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators are pushing for the Golden State to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030.
To meet this ambitious target, California must build a system that is largely based on renewable electricity, like wind and solar. This is not an easy task. The primary reason? Sunshine and wind are only available at certain times of the day and can be variable during those times.
Traditionally, managers of the electricity grid have relied upon dirty “peaker” power plants – usually fossil fuel-fired and only needed a couple of days a year – to balance the grid during periods of variability or when electricity demand exceeds supply. But, in a world where 50 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources as a means to achieving a clean energy economy, we can’t rely on these dirty peaker plants to balance the variability of wind and solar.
Luckily, technology is available today that can help fill the gap of these peaker plants – and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is starting to embrace it. Read More
Also posted in Air Quality, California, Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Energy-Water Nexus, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid
EPA’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. Read More