Energy Exchange

California sets new standards for natural gas storage sites

Data visualization shows the methane plume from the Aliso Canyon gas leak in red.

Three years ago, a blowout at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility forced thousands of nearby families to evacuate their homes and leaked over 100,000 tons of methane and other harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. The facility’s operator, Southern California Gas, wasn’t prepared for the scope or scale of the disaster that unfolded over four months.

The disaster demonstrated the risks of under-regulated natural gas storage sites, as well as the importance of not being over-reliant on natural gas. Regulators in California and across the country realized the need for better oversight and management.

As a result, California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) recently finalized new rules for managing the risky, industrial enterprise of underground gas storage. These rules are a foray into an underdeveloped policy space, and are the product of collaboration with stakeholders including national laboratories, the environmental community, and the federal government.

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Also posted in Aliso Canyon, California, Methane, Natural Gas / Tagged | Comments are closed

Bipartisan western governors agree methane reductions benefit states

Yesterday the Western Governors Association, a bipartisan organization representing the Governors of the 19 western states, announced a policy resolution recognizing the importance and economic benefits of efforts to cut methane pollution from oil and gas facilities – the nation’s largest industrial source of methane.

The resolution states:

There are environmental and economic benefits of reducing methane emissions and opportunities for the beneficial use of this natural resource. Many western states – in cooperation with industry in those states – have already implemented regulatory strategies that reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations, while expanding the use and sale of methane.

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Also posted in California, Colorado, Methane, Natural Gas, New Mexico, State, Texas, Wyoming / Comments are closed

Oilfield digitization advancing solutions to meet an environmental challenge

Two global trends are converging in the energy industry, and the result could spur the biggest environmental advancement in a generation.

Known by some as the “digitization of the oilfield,” it’s the new wave of technologies linked with big data that is transforming an established industry. For the world's oil and gas industry, this push toward digitization is emerging as a central part of strategic planning, as the energy landscape is reshaped by increasing competition from renewables and electrification. But competitiveness means more than bringing new efficiencies online, it also means improving environmental performance.

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Also posted in Fourth Wave, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

How to measurably improve existing buildings' energy, water, and waste impacts

Buildings are responsible for a third of harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution from U.S. electricity use, with that percentage rising dramatically in urban centers. Chicago is no exception: Buildings account for approximately 70 percent of the city’s GHG emissions. Moreover, many buildings use more energy than they need to, which is unnecessarily expensive and damaging to the environment.

Although there are programs like Energy Star, LEED, and Green Globes that help buildings manage energy use, they don’t always meet the needs of every building. A large portion of the built environment doesn’t have the resources to pursue complicated certifications. In fact, it’s estimated that less than 1 percent of buildings can achieve LEED certification.

To address this opportunity gap, a group of dedicated built environment professionals – with backgrounds in environmental science, policy, business, and commercial real estate – developed the BIT Building Program (BIT). BIT is a framework that drives the adoption of sustainability best practices in existing buildings, specifically those whose age, resources, and operations put other industry standards out of reach. By following BIT’s guidelines, buildings can achieve measurable improvements in energy, water, and waste impacts. Read More »

Also posted in Energy Efficiency / Comments are closed

California bill aimed at wildfires effectively bans clean energy that may help prevent them

California experienced one of the worst wildfire seasons in its history last year. In response to widespread devastation, the state’s legislature introduced a bill last week, SB 1088, requiring regulators to establish fire risk reduction and mitigation standards for utilities. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) strongly supports compensating Californians harmed by the fires and taking steps to prevent future fires. However, as currently written, the bill includes unnecessary provisions that would severely limit Californians' access to distributed energy resources. Ironically, these are the tools that can help the state more quickly and cheaply fight climate change – a large contributor to its fire risk. Read More »

Posted in General / Read 1 Response

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 California, Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Equity, Time of Use / Comments are closed