When the gusher of methane pouring out of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field was discovered last October 23, it almost instantly transformed the sleepy Los Angeles suburb of Porter Ranch into the site of one of the biggest environmental disasters in recent history. It would ultimately take four months to stop the massive leak. According to a new report released today, it pumped nearly 100,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere.
Now, a year later, the question: What’s been done to fix the problem, and to prevent future blowouts – either at Aliso Canyon, or the 400 similar facilities in more than 30 states? The answer is, while there’s been some progress, it’s not nearly enough.
The Los Angeles City Council recently passed a unanimous resolution requiring Los Angeles Department of Water and Power – the largest municipally-owned utility in the country — to study how the city can achieve a 100% clean energy future. With help from research partners, including academic institutions, the U.S. Department of Energy, and environmental and consumer groups, the study has the potential to become a foundational roadmap for running the utility on only clean and renewable energy.
California currently has a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, with half of the state’s energy supply powered by renewable electricity by 2030. To achieve these targets, it is imperative for the state to look seriously at how to get off of fossil fuel dependency for our energy needs. Utilities and cities can be the key to reaching those climate goals. Read More »
Late last month, New York took a major step toward rethinking utility economics when it issued the “Order Adopting a Ratemaking and Utility Revenue Model Policy Framework” (also known as Track 2 Order). This action aims to better align New York’s electricity system with Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), the state’s initiative to transform the electric grid into a cleaner, more efficient, and affordable system.
But buried in this 180-plus page document is another important development for New York’s clean energy future: Nearly 10 pages are dedicated to re-examining the state’s controversial standby tariff.
Frequently cited as a major obstacle to distributed power generation (e.g. combined heat and power (CHP) systems, rooftop solar panels, energy efficiency, and storage), the standby tariff is a special electricity rate charged to large commercial and industrial customers who produce some of their own electricity but remain connected to the grid. While utilities say they need standby tariffs to recover the costs of maintaining a reliable electric grid, many potential and existing large electricity customers producing their own power see standby tariffs as perversely designed to undermine the business case for distributed generation.
Unless the standby tariff is fixed in a manner that clears the way for investment in customer-owned and sited distributed generation, it will be hard to make REV’s revolutionary vision for a decentralized, competitive electricity market a reality. Read More »
Adding insult to injury, Californians learned this spring that the disastrous four-month methane leak at the sprawling Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility could result in a new problem: outages.
The failure at Southern California Gas Company’s massive storage site exposed a critical weakness in the state’s energy system. Densely populated Southern California is over-dependent on natural gas from a single provider.
As a result, a vast area stretching from San Diego in the south to Los Angeles and San Bernardino County in the east may face power and gas shortages during the hot summer and cold winter months, a recent report by a group of state regulatory agencies warned. Read More »
California has a nice problem: It’s producing so much clean solar energy that the state’s electric grid is at capacity, and sometimes beyond.
As Vox’s David Roberts reports in his excellent piece about California’s grid headache, it makes good sense to expand the system by interconnecting state-run energy markets.
But he also notes, at the end of his story, some other and complementary strategies California can use to increase its grid bandwidth – while accommodating rapidly growing, but variable, renewable energy sources.
Connected grids, alone, are not a long-term fix. Read More »
Last week, GridWise Alliance released its 3rd Annual Grid Modernization Index (GMI), a ranking of every state’s progress toward modernization of our nation's electric system – and Texas impressively placed third. The Alliance, a leading smart grid coalition which includes Environmental Defense Fund, based its assessment on state policies, customer engagement, and investment in advancing grid operations.
As we move toward a smarter, more efficient electric system, Texas is emerging as a leader in grid modernization. And with three recent smart-grid grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative, the Lone Star State could climb to the top of the GMI list.
Since 2011, the DOE has awarded millions of dollars through the SunShot Initiative to a variety of public and private entities. The goal is to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade, meaning it would cost the same to get your power from solar as from more traditional sources like coal. In the short amount of time since the program began, the solar industry is already 70 percent of the way there.
As the sixth largest electricity consumer in the country, Texas could greatly contribute to reaching this goal, especially with recent DOE support given to projects run by Austin Energy, Pecan Street, and GeoCF: Read More »