Climate 411

Strategies and Principles to Decarbonize Your Local Gas Utility

Natural gas pipelines

Photo Credit: Canva

This blog was co-authored by Jolette Westbrook, Director and Senior Attorney, Equitable Regulatory Solutions.

“What will it take to decarbonize the gas distribution system?” That was the key question that a group of stakeholders from the non-profit and utility sectors across the United States tried to answer over the last year. There are many changes required to decarbonize a system that is currently designed around the transport and distribution of a fossil fuel. So how do we do it?

In the first convening of its kind at a national scale, these stakeholders produced a new report setting out guiding principles and strategies to inform decarbonization of the gas utility and corresponding end uses. Despite uncertainties about particular technologies, fuels, and customer adoption, all of the roundtable stakeholders share the belief that urgent action is necessary. The report provides key considerations for policymakers and regulators on how to navigate this transition that will guide future utility investment and decision-making toward economy-wide decarbonization.

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Also posted in Carbon Markets, Cities and states, Clean Power Plan, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Comments are closed

California’s final Scoping Plan sets the stage for stronger climate leadership, but next steps matter

This post was co-authored with Katelyn Roedner Sutter, California State Director at EDF.

Sacramento cityscape

Photo Credit: Canva

Last month, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released their final Scoping Plan following a lengthy process of drafting, workshops, modeling and public feedback. The Scoping Plan, which is reviewed and updated every five years, is California’s roadmap for meeting its 2030 emissions target and achieving net-zero emissions no later than 2045. Meeting these critical goals will help protect California communities from the most devastating climate change impacts, like more severe fires and droughts.

As the Board considers and votes on the final plan this week, there are some major wins and important next steps from the plan to highlight — most notably, how California will step up its climate fight in this decade.

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Also posted in Carbon Markets, Cities and states, Policy / Comments are closed

Growing the California Grid

Photo of a solar farm with a city skyline in the background

California’s electric grid is amongst the cleanest in the country, and it’s getting even cleaner. The state recently cemented our clean energy policy leadership by requiring 90% zero-carbon electricity sales by 2035, and 95% by 2040. Given the long-lived nature of energy infrastructure, these dates are not some far off future problem — the first of these milestones is just around the corner.

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Also posted in Cities and states, Energy, Policy / Comments are closed

Top 10 Wins for the 2022 California Legislative Session

Photo of the California Capitol Building

In the intense August heat of Sacramento, the California Legislature wrapped another year of policymaking. The second year of the 2021-2022 legislative session included some significant wins on long-term climate ambition, environmental justice, and clean transportation investments, even as the state fell short in drought response and near-term climate goals. These achievements, coupled with the new game-changing federal climate law, will allow the Golden State to supercharge clean economic growth, drive down climate pollution, and support healthier and more resilient communities.

Here are the top 10 wins (and a few losses) from this year’s legislative session, starting with Governor Gavin Newsom’s climate priorities that were released in August. Four out of those five priorities made it across the finish line:

1. The California Climate Crisis Act

With the passage of this bill (AB 1279, Muratsuchi), California has locked in a pathway for it to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2045. This enables the legislature, communities and businesses to start long-term planning, with certainty, for a safer future today. Critically, this bill also requires California to slash emissions by 85% — ensuring the state uses solutions at our fingertips now to sharply cut pollution from industrial facilities, vehicles, power plants and more, even as the state starts to build out necessary carbon removal strategies.

2. A framework for carbon capture with community protections

Carbon capture is likely to be a key part of the suite of climate solutions. But solutions meant to reduce emissions should not harm local air quality or public health, especially in communities historically overburdened by pollution. With the passage of SB 905 (Caballero & Skinner), the California legislature has taken a significant step toward responsible deployment of carbon capture technology with a framework that includes essential community protections and environmental integrity provisions.

3. Health and safety setbacks around oil wells

Governor Newsom directed the California Geologic Energy Management Division to establish a regulation to create a public health and safety setback around oil wells in 2021, and with this legislation (SB 1137, Gonzalez & Limon), the policy is now enshrined in law. This long-overdue protection aims to reduce oil and gas pollution harming communities of color and people living below the poverty line, who disproportionately bear the brunt of these health impacts. Thanks to tireless advocacy from California’s environmental justice organizations, state leaders have finally taken decisive action to protect public health.

4. Pathway to 100% zero-carbon electricity by 2045

California has an existing goal to achieve 100% renewable or zero-carbon electricity by 2045. This session, the state has codified interim targets (SB 1020, Laird) to ensure we are moving swiftly and consistently on a path toward a fully clean electricity sector on the timeline the climate demands. The bill sets targets for California to achieve 90% renewable or zero-carbon electricity by 2035 and 95% by 2040 while on the way to the existing 2045 goal.

Legislators also delivered important wins above and beyond the Governor’s climate package:

5. Major investments in zero-emission cars and trucks

Breathe a little easier: The state is making big investments in zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), just as the federal government is doing through the Inflation Reduction Act. Gov. Newsom, the legislature and clean transportation advocates did an amazing job at securing $10 billion of ZEV funding. This includes money for both cars and medium- and heavy-duty trucks, with an eye towards public health and equity. In 2021, EDF worked with Senator Leyva to pass SB 372, which enabled CARB to offer innovative ZEV financing, but it needed amendments to enable CARB to work with a greater number of experts, and those amendments were finalized in 2022. We expect this legislation to have a growing impact on truck financing over the next few years.

6. Support for community solar and storage

This bill (AB 2316, Ward) allows any customer to receive benefits from community-based clean energy facilities regardless of whether they own a home, empowering customers to save on their energy bills, invest directly in their local community, and help fight climate change. The bill requires community solar projects to include energy storage, which creates a clean power reserve when the sun sets. That ability to store power will also help every Californian by improving the resiliency of our power grid and reducing the risk of blackouts. Moreover, this combination of solar and storage will reduce California’s reliance on old and dirty power plants.

7. Cleaning up the backlog of essential electricity transmission projects

The state passed a suite of major transmission reform bills to help make the California electric grid both cleaner and more reliable. The state continues to face a major backlog and certain smart reforms were enacted, including two key bills (SB 887, Becker) (SB 1174, Hertzberg) that will make new transmission come online in a responsible and more timely manner.

8. Achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from state agency operations

While California’s leaders codified an economy-wide net-zero goal, the legislature also directed our state government agencies to start planning for how to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 — or as soon as possible thereafter — from their own operations. This means decarbonizing state buildings and transitioning state vehicle fleets to ZEVs and more. This planning goal in Senator Becker’s SB 1203 is a full ten years ahead of the economy-wide goal, meaning the government of California itself is going to help forge the path to a decarbonized economy.

9. $40 million for the Multi-Benefit Land Repurposing Program

With California’s ongoing drought, some agricultural land will necessarily have to go out of production, which could have an array of impacts if not managed strategically. Funding from the Multi-Benefit Land Repurposing Program at the Department of Conservation helps growers and communities an opportunity to repurpose these lands into new beneficial uses that require little to no water, including creation and restoration of habitat, multi-benefit groundwater recharge and low-impact solar. Importantly, benefits to disadvantaged communities are prioritized. While the $40 million investment is far short of the $500 million proposed by the Senate, which was supported by EDF and our allies, we are confident the significant demand for this program (as evidenced by the $111 million in requests in the first round of grant applications for which there was only $50M available) and the myriad benefits it provides growers and communities will support greater investment in the next year.

10. Expanding the universe of support for zero-emission trucks

Gov. Newsom also recently signed bills that include extending sales tax exemptions for transit buses (AB 2622, Mullin), creating of a ZEV Market Development Office and a ZEV Equity Advocate (SB 1251, Gonzalez), accelerating deployment of ZEVs in the state fleet (SB 1010, Skinner), extending the Carl Moyer funding program (AB 2836, Garcia) and providing continued support for good quality infrastructure reliability for ZEVs (AB 2061, Ting).

While the $10 billion zero-emission budget and each of these transportation bills is important in their own right, they contribute to the universe of support for the Air Resource Board giving direction for a strong Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) rule in October, and will collectively greatly reduce air and climate pollution while the ACF saves California billions of dollars. Zero-emission trucks truly are a win-win.

While this was a big year for meaningful environmental action in California, a few key proposals fell short, including the last bill in the Governor’s climate package (AB 2133, Quirk). This bill accelerated California’s 2030 economy-wide greenhouse gas reduction goal from 40% below the 1990 level to 55%. This would have catalyzed an important increase in near-term ambition — which is key for averting the worst impacts of climate change — but fell just short of the needed votes in the Assembly.

Passing this essential legislation is a big step forward, but now California needs to implement these measures swiftly to reduce emissions, increase resilience and ensure equitable outcomes, especially for those communities at greatest risk of climate change. With the adoption of these measures, California continues to provide a leading model for action for other states.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Cities and states, Energy, Policy / Comments are closed

With one week to act, California needs to pass these policies to drive climate progress and protect communities

This post was co-authored by Caroline Jones, Analyst for U.S. Climate

photo of a wind farm in a western landscape

Photo Credit: Pixabay

The heat is on in Sacramento.

With less than a week left in the California State Legislature’s session (which ends on August 31), a set of potentially game-changing climate policies are on the table. Earlier this month, Governor Newsom released a series of proposals for the legislature, including a more ambitious goal for cutting climate pollution by 2030, codifying a carbon neutrality goal, interim clean electricity targets, safeguards from the health impacts caused by oil and gas drilling and providing direction on the use of carbon capture and sequestration — all of which are now being negotiated in Sacramento.

This push arrives amid a grueling year for climate change-fueled impacts across the state, with wildfires, heat waves and the worst megadrought the West has seen in over 1,000 years all underscoring the urgency for bold action. And with the new, massive down payment on climate and clean energy through the Inflation Reduction Act, California will have even more tools and investments available to drive down climate pollution further and faster.

Here are the key policies that can drive meaningful climate progress and protect communities — and need to pass the finish line by the end of the session.

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Also posted in Cities and states, News, Policy / Read 1 Response

The scoop on the Scoping Plan: CARB is not on track to achieve a zero-emission transportation sector (Part 4)

This post was co-authored by Sam Becker, Electric Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicle Advocate, and Lauren Navarro, Senior Manager, Regulatory and Legislative Affairs.

Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles

In May, the California Air Resources Board released the draft 2022 Climate Change Scoping Plan, a roadmap that will guide the state toward meeting its 2030 emissions target and achieving net-zero emissions no later than 2045. This four-part series will unpack several key aspects of the plan and evaluate whether they raise California’s climate ambition to the levels needed to protect communities from the worst climate impacts.

CARB’s draft Scoping Plan represents a significant opportunity for the state to reassess its methods for reducing climate and air pollution from the transportation sector. The recently released draft, however, undermines the state’s efforts to achieve a key climate goal outlined in Gov. Newsom’s executive order, which calls for 100% of medium- and heavy-duty trucks on the road to be zero-emission vehicles by 2045 everywhere feasible.

Statewide, about 12 million Californians live in communities that exceed the federal ozone or PM2.5 standards. Transportation generates nearly half of the state’s climate pollution and is the state’s largest producer of health-harming nitrogen oxide emissions and toxic diesel particulate pollution.

To chart an equity-focused path toward achieving net-zero emissions and ensure needed near-term ambition in the transportation sector, CARB’s Scoping Plan must rapidly eliminate emissions from the transportation sector by attaining 100% MHD ZEV sales by 2035.

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Also posted in Cars and Pollution / Read 1 Response