After months of speculation, the California agency in charge of setting standards for oil and gas operations (“DOGGR”) this week announced a pair of meetings to take public comment on the reopening of the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility.
This development stems from legislation passed in 2016 (SB 380), and is expected to be among the final steps before Southern California Gas Corporation (SoCalGas) is allowed to restart limited use of the facility. So, while it’s critical for the state to get its decisions right for safety and near-term electric reliability related to Aliso, to fully comply with SB 380, the decisions being made also need to take into account the larger issues facing California today. Read More
California’s three major utilities – Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) – have proposed plans to move Californians to electricity prices that vary with the time of day. Time-of-use pricing, or TOU, is critical to aligning our energy use with times when clean, cheap electricity powered by sunshine and wind is already available. TOU works because electricity is cheap when it can be powered by renewable resources and more expensive during times of peak (high) energy demand. As with any shopping, knowing prices empowers people to choose wisely to save money.
New research from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab estimates TOU rates could collectively save customers up to $700 million annually by 2025 by getting the most out of our solar and wind resources. They find that absent TOU rates, we will waste up to 12 percent of existing renewable generation capacity, and solutions like TOU can reduce this waste by six-fold. We at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) estimate that if this clean electricity were instead provided by natural gas power plants, it would generate 8 million additional tons of greenhouse gas pollution each year. Burning gas when we could instead rely on clean energy would dramatically impede the 11 million tons per year of greenhouse gases we need to eliminate from our economy to reach California’s 2050 environmental goals.
The three big utilities are half-way through “opt-in” pilot programs that test these new rates. They’ve just submitted plans to the California Public Utilities Commission to test automatically switching some people to TOU in 2018, leading up to a complete roll out in 2019. TOU rates will work for most customers right away, reducing their bills and providing new opportunities to save money. Further, people can always opt out of the program. Read More
By Jon Goldstein and Peter Zalzal
The legal fight to defend the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) recent efforts to prevent oil and gas companies from wasting methane on public and tribal owned land continued yesterday.
EDF and a coalition of local, regional, tribal and national allies filed a brief opposing efforts by industry organizations and a handful states to block BLM’s protections before they even come into effect. Read More
New installed renewable energy capacity surpassed coal for the first time last year, the International Energy Agency reported recently.
It means that we added more wind and solar to our global energy system than oil, gas, coal or nuclear power combined – a trend that is expected to continue over the next five years.
But to truly transition to a global clean energy economy, we must accelerate this growth rate and modernize our electricity grid to maximize the potential of these new renewables. That way we can use as much clean energy as possible on any given day.
Many of these optimizing solutions already exist today.
They include technology such as powerful batteries that can store energy when renewables don’t produce electricity, for example, when the sun is shaded by a cloud.
There are also energy management tools such as demand response that pay customers for saving energy at critical times when the grid needs it. And innovative electricity pricing programs that encourage customers to shift some of their power use to times of day when clean energy sources are plentiful and electricity is cheaper.
All can, with the help of good policy, make the most of variable energy sources – as would a modernized and more dynamic electric grid. Read More
Just over a year ago, California’s SB 350 became law and was rightly celebrated for its boldness and impact, increasing the state’s renewable energy mix to 50 percent and doubling energy efficiency buildings. Today, a less heralded provision of SB 350 – charging the California Energy Commission with studying barriers to clean energy – pushes us toward exceeding our renewables and efficiency aspirations. Moreover, it recognizes that in order for the state to realize its climate and energy future, planning must include and reflect the needs of all Californians.
Through the SB 350 Barriers Study, the commission has engaged consumers, businesses, local leaders, environmental groups, and others to identify strategies that can unlock clean energy investments and spur growth in low-income and disadvantaged communities across the state.
The final version of the study and recommendations are scheduled for release later this month, just in time for lawmakers to noodle on the robust and far-ranging ideas before the 2017 legislative session. In addition, the commission – in conjunction with the California Air Resources Board – will issue a companion report about barriers to clean transportation. The study and its companion report are the kinds of tools that are critical for California to reach its clean energy goals. Read More
Yesterday, the Southern California Gas Company filed for permission to resume operations through approved wells at its Aliso Canyon gas storage facility, saying it has completed key safety tests. The facility has been offline over the last year, after it sprung one of the largest gas leaks ever recorded.
Efforts to bring the facility online – and the challenges for the region’s electricity system if Aliso stays offline – underscore the need to address these issues from a broader, longer term perspective.
In addition to supplying gas to homes and businesses, the giant storage field served 17 major gas fired electric generating plants in the region. When a link as important as Aliso Canyon fails, the reliability implications for the electric grid are serious. Read More