Energy Exchange

California implements revolutionary new utility model for gas leaks

It is widely expected that the Environmental Protection Agency will soon release a proposal to weaken methane standards from oil and gas production. Such a blunder would result in increased climate pollution, energy waste and regulatory uncertainty. So, while the federal government looks to take another step backwards on oil and gas climate pollution, California just took another big leap forward.

Last week, California’s Public Utilities Commission adopted a rule that not only implements a new way to look at methane emissions from utility systems, it fundamentally alters the utility business model for leak control and sets an approach for the rest of the nation to follow.

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Posted in California, Energy Efficiency, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

The right way for California to divest from natural gas

As California’s drive to wean itself from fossil fuels continues, important new challenges are emerging in its wake. Part of a broader effort to shift the state’s electric grid entirely to clean energy by 2045, for example, includes the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s recent announcement to retire three gas-fired power plants, while making a series of local investments to manage and balance the electric load. And with the grid getting cleaner, efforts are now getting underway to electrify as many of the other residential, commercial and industrial activities that currently depend on gas.

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Posted in California, Climate, Gas to Clean, Natural Gas / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

California’s move to cut utility gas leaks is a critical part of moving towards a low carbon future

As shown by the recent special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, emissions from fossil fuel combustion in California and elsewhere present dire consequences for the planet. This means California, like the rest of the world, must take real steps now to shift toward a low carbon future.

Similar to many other developed economies, California has a vast oil and gas delivery infrastructure that is integrated into its modern way of life – a system that supports the combustion of fossil fuels in nearly every corner of society. As a result, making dramatic shifts toward a carbon neutral economy as envisioned in a recent executive order by Governor Brown will take a lot of investment. While this investment is underway, it’s appropriate to also make sure the system that delivers energy to homes and businesses is as environmentally benign as possible.

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Posted in Aliso Canyon, California, Gas to Clean, General, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

What this summer’s heat waves tell us about America’s electric grid

With another triple-digit heat wave scorching the Southwest this week, fears of widespread outages are back.

California’s grid operator has urged homes and businesses to crank up thermostats and avoid running power-hungry appliances during evening peak hours – all in an effort to avoid disruptions like the ones we saw earlier this month.

The dangerous and expensive outages that left 80,000 Los Angeles residents in the dark then may have been limited to Southern California, but they should sound alarms nationwide. The world is changing, affecting how our grid works.

Utilities are taking steps to adapt and expand their power systems to maintain reliability and accommodate the growth of renewables, but they need to pick up the pace – and fast. Read More »

Posted in California, Clean Energy / Comments are closed

Pollution monitors should be standard in LA’s oilfields

There are several reasons to be optimistic about environmental progress in Los Angeles. The city is making massive investments in electric vehicles, making clean energy more accessible to everyday people, and cutting pollution from the ports and freeways to name a few. But with over 60,000 Angelinos living less than 500 feet from an active oil well – LA could do more to protect our health and our environment.

Oil and gas wells emit toxic chemicals that can increase our risk of developing asthma, cancer and other health problems. Recent studies by the California Air Resources Board and South Coast Air Quality Management District have uncovered elevated levels of benzene, a cancer causing agent, and other toxic compounds coming from oil and gas equipment in Huntington Beach and Signal Hill. In Santa Fe Springs  a rupture at an oil site coated numerous homes with oil and generated noxious odors.  Then there are the communities in Culver City, South LA, Compton and elsewhere living mere feet from drill sites who experience odors and health ailments on a regular basis. Most notoriously, the Porter Ranch community next to the Aliso Canyon gas field still reports respiratory problems and other symptoms stemming from a major gas leak in 2015.

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Posted in Air Quality, Aliso Canyon, California, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Bringing new pollution-sensing technology to California

Report published December 2017

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California is home to over 50,000 active oil and gas facilities – 3,500 in the Los Angeles area alone. Many are located in close proximity to homes, schools, and hospitals. Emissions from these facilities can create real public health concerns, especially for communities living near oil and gas sites.

A new analysis explains how advancements in air pollution sensing technology could enable California to:

  1. Improve public health protections, and reduce exposures in communities.
  2. Cut pollution and help transition to a cleaner energy future.
  3. Close data gaps and democratize data access related to industry emissions at lower costs and higher resolution than has ever been possible.
  4. EDF’s latest research in monitoring technology demonstrate we have the tools available today that can transform the way we access pollution data tomorrow.

These technological breakthroughs were made possible by the work of bedrock companies and innovation-minded entrepreneurs, and aided in part through EDF partnerships with institutions like Stanford University and programs like the Methane Detectors Challenge. Together, we are helping to propel the sensing revolution and accelerate cost reductions.

Where we’ve been, where we are going

California has a long history and strong track record on air quality monitoring, but real-time data on oil and gas emissions remains practically non-existent. If made widely available, this data could help energize new policies that can reduce pollution.

Fortunately, the recent tech boom has made pollution sensing technology more accessible than ever before — meaning we can start to deploy continuous air monitors at oil and gas sites to collect emissions data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – data can also inform health research and public policy.

EDF’s recommendations for air pollution monitoring is based on a technical analysis by Ramboll Environ that details the vast growth of technology and characterizes costs and capabilities of the best suited stationary monitors on the market today.

A select number of facilities have already started implementing these technologies. But if air monitors are installed at facilities statewide and pollution data is made publicly available, it could significantly improve quality of life for communities living near the oilfields. This EDF report identifies a framework of recommendations aimed at ensuring state-wide deployment of this new wave of technology.

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Posted in California / Comments are closed