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California agencies meet to begin charting course to 100% renewable energy

By Mark Anderson, The Sacramento Business Journal

The first-ever joint meeting of California agencies that will draw the path to a zero-carbon future met in Sacramento to start planning for the state’s 100% renewable goal by 2045.

The meeting included the California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission and the California Air Resources Board, which are all tasked to meet the ambitious goals of 2018’s Senate Bill 100, which mandates that California use renewable resources to supply 100% of its electricity by the end of 2045.

The purpose of the meeting was to make sure that the different agencies are not working in silos, said Alice Reynolds, senior adviser on energy for Gov. Gavin Newsom. “We want to build an integrated plan,” she said. “To bring ambition to action.”

She said the state doesn’t have all the answers now for what will be an “incredibly difficult task,” adding that the state likely won’t have the answers when the agencies’ first report on progress is due next summer. “We’re not planning for the world as it is now. We are planning for the future,” Reynolds said. Temperatures may be higher then, requiring more air conditioning.

Still, commissioners expressed confidence that the effort won’t be damaging to California’s economy. “As we are seeing with coal, rolling back environmental standards doesn’t create jobs,” said Liane Randolph, a commissioner with the California Public Utilities Commission.

California’s previous mandates for renewable energy have created jobs, said Andrew McAllister, a commissioner with the California Energy Commission. He said the state has created 80,000 solar energy jobs and 100,000 jobs in energy efficiency.

Read full article in the Sacramento Business Journal

 

Opinion: An uncertain path to a cleaner future – Zero carbon electricity legislation in New York and California

By Thomas R. Brill & Steven C. Russo (Greenberg Traurig), Utility Dive

Last month, New York passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which calls for a carbon free electricity market by 2040. With passage of this law, New York became the sixth state to pass legislation calling for a carbon free electricity market. Just one year earlier, California passed similar legislation, SB100, adopting a state policy to achieve a zero-carbon electricity market by 2045.

These goals will have to be pursued notwithstanding the fact demand for electricity is projected to increase as other sectors pursue beneficial electrification to comply with ambitious emission reduction goals they face. Whether these goals can be achieved, and at what cost, will depend on technology advancements and how these laws are interpreted and implemented by regulators.

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires 70% of electricity consumed in New York be generated by renewable resources by 2030 and the state must be carbon free by 2040. California’s SB100 requires 60% of electricity come from renewable resources by 2030 and adopts a state policy of a 100% zero carbon electricity by 2045.

The New York legislation explicitly conditions meeting these extraordinarily ambitious renewable energy mandates on maintaining reliability and affordability. This leads to obvious questions: Can a zero-carbon electricity market be achieved in a manner that maintains reliability and affordability, and if so, how? What flexibility exists under these laws to ensure these emission reduction goals can be achieved even if new technologies or significant price declines fail to materialize?

Read full article from Utility Dive

Solar is coming to all new California homes. How many in Fresno already get power from sun?

By Tim Sheehan, The Fresno Bee

More than 1 million California homes are already soaking up sunshine with solar panels to generate electricity. Next year, that number will surge as new building standards take effect requiring all new homes permitted after Jan. 1 to have solar photovoltaic systems.

In Fresno, which already has the third-highest number of homes in California with rooftop solar panels, the number continues to grow even before the new California Energy Commission standards take full effect. Through the first six months of 2019, the city issued permits for more than 1,640 residential solar systems as additions or alterations to existing homes. That doesn’t count solar panels that home builders or developers are already offering as a feature on new homes.

As of June 30, more than 23,300 Fresno homes had solar systems in operation under the state’s Net Energy Metering (NEM) program. That’s third behind only San Diego and Bakersfield among California cities, according to data from Go Solar California. The total electrical output capacity of Fresno’s residential solar panel systems amounted to almost 148,700 kilowatts of direct current (DC) power. That’s about 144,000 kilowatts of alternating current or AC electricity after it’s converted from DC.

Fresno also has another 1,742 homes with solar installed from 2007 through 2017 under the older California Solar Initiative program.

Read full article in the Fresno Bee

Opinion: The Phony Numbers Behind California’s Solar Mandate

By Steve Sexton, The Wall Street Journal

California’s energy regulators effectively cooked the books to justify their recent command that all homes built in the Golden State after 2020 be equipped with solar panels. Far from a boon to homeowners, the costs to builders and home buyers will likely far exceed the benefits to the state.

The California Energy Commission, which approved the rule as part of new energy-efficiency regulations, didn’t conduct an objective, independent investigation of the policy’s effects. Instead it relied on economic analysis from the consultancy that proposed the policy, Energy and Environmental Economics Inc. Its study concluded that home buyers get a 100% investment return—paying $40 more in monthly mortgage costs but saving $80 a month on electricity. If it’s such a good deal, why aren’t home buyers clamoring for more panels already? Most new homes aren’t built with solar panels today, even though the state is saturated by solar marketing.

The Energy Commission is too optimistic about the cost of panels. It assumes the cost was $2.93 a watt in 2016 and will decline 17% by 2020. Yet comprehensive analysis of panel costs by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated the average cost of installed panels to be $4.50 a watt for the 2- to 4-kilowatt systems the policy mandates. That is $4,000 more than regulators claim for a 2.6-kilowatt model system in the central part of the state, where 20% of new homes are expected to be built. Berkeley Lab further estimates that costs fell a mere 1% between 2015 and 2016, far short of the 4% average annual decline the regulators predict.

Now consider the alleged savings on energy bills. The commission’s analysis assumes California will maintain its net energy-metering policy, which effectively subsidizes electricity produced by a rooftop solar panel…

Read full op-ed in the Wall Street Journal

 

California rancherias look to microgrids for power during natural disasters

By Edward Ortiz, The Sacramento Bee

As the deadly Butte fire ravaged the foothills of Amador and Calaveras counties last month, rooms at the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort were transformed from guest rooms to cot-filled dormitories to accommodate hundreds of people evacuated from nearby communities. The fire scorched 71,000 acres, felling scores of power lines in its path.

Many homes and businesses went dark as firefighters battled to get the flames under control. But the lights stayed on and power kept flowing at the rancheria’s hotel and casino because of a specialized network of generators and electrical equipment that gave the rancheria temporary energy independence from the regional power grid operated by Pacific Gas and Electric.

The Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians, the tribe that runs the casino, is among a handful of California tribes experimenting with power setups known as microgrids. Essentially, these are small-scale energy distribution networks that allow owners to disconnect from the regional power grid and generate their own electricity. Microgrids have been around for years, often installed as a backup power option for military bases and universities. The concept is fairly new on tribal lands, but drawing interest because many California rancherias are in rural areas prone to fire, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Read full article in the Sacramento Bee

Desert plant has pollution problem

By David Danelski, The Press-Enterprise

A solar power plant at the center of the Obama administration’s push to reduce America’s carbon footprint by using millions of taxpayer dollars to promote green energy has its own carbon pollution problem.

The Ivanpah plant in the Mojave Desert uses natural gas as a supplementary fuel. Data from the California Energy Commission show that the plant burned enough natural gas in 2014–its first year of operation–to emit more than 46,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s nearly twice the pollution threshold for power plants or factories in California to be required to participate in the state’s cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions. The same amount of natural gas burned at a conventional power plant would have produced enough electricity to meet the annual needs of 17,000 homes–or roughly a quarter of the Ivanpah’s total electricity projection for 2014.

The plant’s operators say they are burning small amounts of natural gas in order to produce steam to jump-start the solar generating process. They said burning natural gas has always been part of the process. David Knox, a spokesman for NRG Energy, which runs the facility, said the plant still meets a state requirement that no more than 5 percent of its electricity production come from burning fossil fuel.

This rule, however, does not factor in the gas burned to heat water before enough steam is generated to produce electricity. That distinction is significant because it could affect the plant’s customers. Under state law, alternative energy plants can’t use more than 5 percent “nonrenewable” fuel for electricity generation. If a plant goes over that threshold, its electricity can’t count toward the state’s renewable energy goals.

Read full article in the Press-Enterprise

California-Mexico Partnership Addresses Climate Change

A recent trade mission between California and Mexico has helped strengthen partnership efforts to accelerate clean energy investment and combat climate change at the regional level. Leaders from the California Energy Commission, Stanford University, the University of California, and California businesses met with the Mexican Ministry of Energy and key representatives from the nation’s energy sector, governmental agencies, academic institutions and non-governmental organizations.

During the visit, there was an announcement of the intent to reach an agreement between SunPower, a global leader in solar technology solutions headquartered in California, and the Innovation and Technology Transfer Institute of Nuevo Leon to promote innovation in solar energy deployment and performance in Mexico. This collaboration would include Stanford University and the Technological Institute of Monterrey (ITESM) to establish a California-Mexico co-innovation program on solar energy and its large-scale integration to the Mexican grid. The program aims to develop local capacity on applied research and development in solar energy, while fostering entrepreneurial activities at ITESM.

This California delegation builds on momentum from the 2014 agreement signed by California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and Mexican Secretary of Energy, Pedro Joaquin Coldwell establishing a working partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.

Read full press release from the California Energy Commission

Op-ed: The end of coal is near

By David Hochschild (Member, California Energy Commission) & Danny Kennedy (Managing Director, California Clean Energy Fund), The San Francisco Chronicle

We are witnessing the end of an era. Coal is fast becoming the telegraph to renewable energy’s Internet. American coal stocks are undergoing the most precipitous decline in the history of the energy industry.

While coal remains America’s largest source of electricity generation, over the past six years coal-fired generation has declined from 52 to 34 percent of our electricity portfolio. We must turn away from coal — an old, dirty, increasingly less profitable technology — and invest in the high-growth, high-margin clean technologies taking its place.

Renewable energy, which made up just 12 percent of California’s generation in 2008, now provides more than 25 percent of the state’s power. California is on track to reach Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, after which fossil fuels will become the alternative energy. As a result of this progress, there are now more Californians working in the solar industry than working for the state’s utilities. The United States now has twice as many solar industry employees as coal miners. As we work to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future, we need to ensure that America’s 80,000 coal miners are given the support they need and that the new energy economy’s benefits are widely shared.

Read full op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle

California Wants All New Homes to Be Net Zero in 2020

By Katherine Tweed, Greentech Media

California has moved one step closer to making one of its “big, bold energy-efficiency strategies” outlined seven years ago a reality.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) have launched a residential Zero Net Energy Action Plan to build a self-sustaining market for all new homes to be net-zero energy by 2020.

“Zero Net Energy has been a vision for California for nearly 10 years, and with this industry-supported Action Plan, we are now ready to make that vision a reality with feasible, market-driven concepts to transform the new residential housing market,” CPUC Commissioner Carla J. Peterman said in a statement.

Zero-net-energy buildings produce as much energy as they consume, usually through a mix of high efficiency and clean onsite generation. The definition requires that a home create as much energy as it uses over the course of an entire year, rather than on a real-time basis.

In California, homes consume nearly one-third of the energy used in the state. It’s not just single-family homes that California is trying to reinvent. The action plan also applies to multifamily homes of less than three stories and low-income housing.

While the prospect of being able to develop net-zero, or passive, homes is increasingly realistic due to falling prices for solar and the increased efficiency of many household appliances, it’s still not easy.

Read full article from Greentech Media

(TAGS: Zero-net-energy, passive homes)