Choking on fumes: Diesel generators are booming with state funding

In a state that takes pride in claiming to be a world leader in technology and reducing carbon emissions, state and local government decision-makers in California have taken a giant step backward in funding diesel back-up generators to mitigate for Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS). 

In recent years, power shutoffs have cost California billions of dollars. Unfortunately, too much of the State’s response to date has focused funding on archaic and polluting fossil generators, which have lower upfront costs than clean energy solutions, but higher operating costs, as well as higher costs to public health from air pollution.

Governor Newson correctly laid the blame for power shutoffs on investor-owned utility PG&E for failing to maintain infrastructure. In initially announcing power shutoff mitigation efforts, Governor Newsom said, “For decades, they have placed greed before public safety. We must do everything we can to support Californians, especially those most vulnerable to these events. These funds will help local governments address these events and assist their most vulnerable residents.”   

The recently-completed 2019-20 Legislative Report on the use of $75 million in allocations made to support state and local efforts to mitigate power shutoff events explains how most of the money has been spent: on diesel generators. And except for about $100,000 that Alameda County used to purchase 96 1000-watt personal back-up battery power packs to loan to people reliant on electric-powered medical-support, very little was reported to have been spent by governments to “assist their most vulnerable residents.” 

All 58 counties received $26 million in total, of which $16 million went for fossil-fuel generators and the fuel tanks and controls to operate them. Only one county, Imperial, bought a solar-plus-battery system for $100,000 instead of generators.

As for the 39 cities that were allocated $10 million, $7.3 million went for fossil-fuel generators, fuel tanks and controls. Three cities bought solar-plus-batteries and no generators. They were American Canyon, $300,000; Orinda, 217,417, and Willits, $149,000 (with a population of 4,893). These cities should be commended for their leadership.

Out of $35 million allocated for state agencies, more than $20 million was spent on generators, only $562,500 on solar-plus-batteries.  

The growing use of diesel generators following recent climate change-exacerbated fires is extremely troubling. At a January California Energy Commission workshop on alternatives to diesel, the Climate Advisor to the Bay Area Air Quality District (BAAQMD) reported that highly energy-dependent businesses such as data centers have already added an additional 1000 Megawatts of new diesel generation just in the Bay Area with another 1500 Megawatts expected to come online, further adding to the roughly 80,000 MW statewide that existed in 2018 prior to the devastating 2019 and 2020 PSPS events.  

Diesel generators do not need permits if they are 50 horsepower or less and BAAQMD has no idea how many of those exist. But they have permitted 10,000 diesel generators in the Bay Area district and are finding they are used more than previously thought.  

California’s state and local leaders can and must do better.

That’s why last year The Climate Center launched an initiative for equitable clean and smart microgrids to build Community Energy Resilience. And we are partnering with lawmakers on legislation that supports equitable access to reliable and safe clean energy solutions.  

Learn about these bills and take action today.

As public dollars are invested to enhance resilience, state and local policymakers should focus on clean energy resilience (which can be cheaper over their lifespan than diesel generators) and should focus on prioritizing energy resilience for California’s most vulnerable communities.   

 

CPUC Approves $200M Investment in Microgrids for Vulnerable Communities

Reliable Clean Energy for Those Who Need it Most

On January 12, 2021 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a new decision in the CPUC microgrid proceeding. While the decision did very little to advance microgrid commercialization as required by SB 1339, it did include $200 million in utility ratepayer funding for a new incentive program to support microgrid development in vulnerable communities. These funds will not be enough to meet the magnitude of the need but the decision is an important policy step in the right direction.

Prioritization of vulnerable communities is a primary objective of The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience (CER) initiative. We are working with many partners to create a better electricity system for California that is clean, affordable, reliable, equitable and safe– prioritizing microgrid development in lower-income communities that suffer the most from air pollution and power outages.

The CPUC action followed through on recommendations from The Climate Center and Vote Solar as well as allied parties in the microgrid proceeding including Grid AlternativesSierra Club California and the California Environmental Justice Alliance.

During the discussion on the decision , CPUC President Batjer noted that “there remains work to do.”  We strongly support key points in the letter sent by Reclaim our Power to the CPUC highlighting the need to invest in disadvantaged communities, allow local communities to define critical facilities, develop a microgrid incentive structure to address historical inequities, focus on clean energy microgrids, and provide opportunities for community ownership.

The forward movement of this new decision, as well as the CPUC decision issued last June which recognized the pivotal role of local governments in energy resilience planning, was driven in part by comments filed by The Climate Center and filing partner Vote Solar in the CPUC proceeding over the past year.

As highlighted in our filings (e.g., January 4th and December 28th), as well as in The Climate Center’s CER Policy Summit last August, California’s clean energy programs have not sufficiently benefited lower-income customers who face higher cost burdens and are disproportionately impacted by power shutoffs.

Rather than leaving such decisions to a remote utility-centered policy-making process, local communities need to be empowered to plan their own energy future. Local empowerment is a core objective of The Climate Center’s flagship CER legislation, SB 99, the Community Energy Resilience Act, as introduced by Senator Bill Dodd in late December.

To learn more, please visit www.theclimatecenter.org/microgrids

Solar installers at cohousing in Cotati, California

Equitable clean energy– support this new bill

Technology and market trends of this moment are laying the groundwork for a clean, affordable, reliable, equitable and safe electricity grid in California. Unfortunately, our laws are sabotaging us.

The failings of our archaic electrical system, which ignited many of California’s recent wildfires, are causing homeowners, businesses, hospitals, firefighters, and others to buy fossil fuel-powered back-up generators– increasing emissions that drive climate change and making fires worse.

Right now California regulators are considering new contracts for fossil fuel-powered plants in response to last summer’s blackouts. This is a big step in the wrong direction.

Instead, California policy should help local governments and stakeholders develop clean energy resilience plans that address climate change while prioritizing our most vulnerable communities.

Senate Bill 99, introduced by Senator Bill Dodd and sponsored by The Climate Center, will help local governments do just that by providing them with the technical tools and support to develop their own community energy resilience plans, rather than relying on investor-owned utilities.

While many wealthier communities have access to clean energy and energy storage, California can and must prioritize equitable access to clean energy resilience for communities that suffer most from air pollution and power outages. Senate Bill 99 prioritizes support for these communities.

Support Senate Bill 99, the Community Energy Resilience Act now.

The technology needed to create this new decentralized energy future is available now. The energy storage industry is booming with microgrid projects proliferating and an accelerated transition to electric vehicles globally.

General Motors’ recent announcement committing to selling only zero-emissions vehicles by 2035 and President Biden’s plan for an all-electric federal fleet present the possibility of quickly scaling up electric vehicle adoption and thus, battery storage for energy resilience.

Support The Climate Center’s policy leadership to secure local clean energy and storage.

Automakers and charging infrastructure manufacturers are already developing vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology which could be used by utilities to minimize power outages and effectively capture, store and send solar energy back to the grid during peak demand hours.

For example, if all of California’s 24,000 school buses were electric and able to discharge energy to the electric grid during peak hours, we could substantially reduce chances of blackouts, help fight climate change, and avoid local air pollution, all at the same time.

Help us secure policies like SB99 for equitable community energy resilience!

To achieve widespread adoption of clean energy microgrids, our state’s broken regulations must be fixed. New forward-thinking policies can ensure that every community can install renewables and storage where they need it most.

The Climate Center is working with diverse partners across the state to secure the needed policies for equitable access to resilient clean energy.

Make a donation todaysupport Senate Bill 99, and if you haven’t already, endorse Climate-Safe California!

With gratitude,

Ellie

Ellie Cohen, CEO

California 550 MW virtual power plant would be the biggest yet

by Dan Gearino, InsideClimateNews


Highlights

  • Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners and OlmConnect have collaborated on a virtual power plant project titled Resi-Station
  • Resi-Station would use batteries at homes and businesses in California to act like a 550-megawatt power plant, becoming the largest virtual power plant in the world
  • This power can be used as backup in the case of power shut-offs, wildfire risks, and other outages
  • The project kicks off in 2021, starting with 150,000 OlmConnect customers and should be fully built by 2023

Community Energy Resilience through clean energy microgrids is a key pillar in The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Campaign.


Read More: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/10122020/inside-clean-energy-fossil-fuel-power-plants/

Utilities commission must act to encourage clean energy microgrids

by P.J. Quesada, CalMatters


Highlights

  • Many Californians are experiencing the negative health effects associated with dirty energy pollution
  • To combat this, the California Public Utilities Commission should advance a regulatory framework for more microgrids throughout the state, especially for essential businesses 
  • California ok’d the use of diesel powered generators during power shutoffs that occur during wildfire season, therefore allowing more air pollution
  • The microgrid installed at Ramar Foods in California has avoided 1 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions since 2013 and plans to offset over 333,000 more pounds of carbon with upgrades to their microgrid

The state’s century-old electric grid is failing Californians, leaving residents and businesses to face the costly and deadly impacts of public safety power shutoffs and rolling blackouts. The Climate Center has launched an initiative for equitable clean and smart microgrids to build Community Energy Resilience as part of our Climate-Safe California campaign.


Read More: https://calmatters.org/commentary/my-turn/2020/10/utilities-commission-must-act-to-encourage-clean-energy-microgrids/

The first major long-duration storage procurement has arrived


Highlights

  • Eight of California’s community choice agencies have published a request for offers seeking 500 megawatts of long-duration storage capacity, helping the state meet its need for 1 gigawatt of long-duration storage by 2026
  • Long-duration storage allows resources like wind and solar to provide power for longer periods of time
  • There is no firm definition of what “long-duration” storage can be, but examples range from 4 to 150 hours
  • Eligible projects must provide at least 50 megawatts of power capacity, be able to provide power for 8 hours, and be functional by 2026
  • California needs 40 gigawatts of long-duration storage by 2045 in order to meet the states carbon-free electricity goals

Community Choice Energy can be one of the most powerful ways to accelerate the transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy sources. The Climate Center has helped Community Choice expand throughout the state, resulting in cleaner energy for 11 million Californians.


Read More: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/the-first-long-duration-storage-procurement-has-arrived

Blackouts: Let’s build reliable clean power

“One factor that did not cause the rotating outage: California’s commitment to clean energy. Renewable energy did not cause the rotating outages.” That’s right, California’s climate policies and clean energy goals did not cause the state’s recent blackouts, as the three lead California energy agencies wrote in a letter to the Governor and the Legislature in August.

The solution to periods of high demand for electricity such as during heatwaves has historically been to increase supply. California Public Utilities Commission current rules require utilities to buy 15% excess energy capacity beyond what they would need during the forecast peaks for a given time of year. This approach failed us in August.

A 21st-century clean, reliable, safe, and equitable energy system can make the difference.

Clean energy community microgrids can enable utilities to better target specific outages and to isolate local electricity generation from the larger grid. This would ensure that essential governmental, health, and other services would remain powered in communities during outages.

As I wrote in The Climate Center’s op-ed published this past Sunday in the Sacramento Bee, “With wildfire season fully upon us, more power shutoffs leaving Californians in the dark are imminent. Add an economic crisis and a pandemic and it’s clear there is no time to lose.”

Sadly, PG&E’s approach to reliable power this year has included dirty diesel back-up generators that exacerbate climate change and create air pollution making us all more vulnerable to COVID– while not actually ensuring a stable grid.

Ironically, the first day that the blackouts hit, August 14, was also a deadline for formal comments on microgrids at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which regulates utilities such as PG&E. The Climate Center recently filed comments with Vote Solar urging the CPUC to fast-track its current rulemaking to open up microgrid markets and prioritize clean energy resilience for lower-income communities in particular.

We also have the technology right now to automatically reduce electricity use on the grid. Pre-agreements with large commercial and industrial customers can ensure that power is made available when needed to keep the system stable. Customers can even get paid to allow it, which is already happening in some places. The August blackouts were the result of a one-gigawatt (1,000 megawatts) shortfall, but this approach has been estimated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to have the potential to free up over 4 gigawatts for California.

The dramatic climate impacts we are seeing right now here in California are further evidence of the urgency to act on the climate crisis. Please join us in supporting Community Energy Resilience and endorse Climate-Safe California today. Our science-based goal is to achieve net-negative emissions and the start of drawdown by 2030 in California, inspiring our country and the world to accelerated climate action.

To date, we have over 500 endorsements including businesses, non-profits, individuals, and government officials (see more here). Join us to help us exceed 1000 endorsements by December before the next session of the state legislature. Share this with your family, friends, and colleagues, and ask them to endorse and engage.

Together we will build the power required to secure a just transition to a climate-safe, equitable future for all.

Let’s ensure that communities already burdened by pollution benefit from a transition to clean energy

Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate sent a message that climate change policy in a Biden Administration will focus on ensuring that communities already burdened by pollution benefit from a transition to clean energy, following up on Senator Harris’ recent proposed legislation, the Climate Equity Act.

Equity was also the focus of The Climate Center’s  Community Energy Resilience Policy Summit on August 5th.

Click here to view the highlights of the 3-hour online summit.

The Summit started with a video summarizing results from recent research from UCLA highlighting inequities created by clean energy incentive programs.

The opening keynote speaker, Oxnard Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez, reviewed her city’s successful struggle to halt construction of new local fossil fuel infrastructure.

The first panel provided an overview of state clean energy resilience policy moderated by Janea Scott, Vice-Chair of the California Energy Commission (CEC). Vice-Chair Scott described CEC-funded resilience projects.  California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma reviewed CPUC resilience-related programs, particularly the Self Generation Incentive Program.  Eric Lamoureufrom the California Office of Emergency Services explained the state’s response to emergencies including wildfires and public safety power shutoffs.   California Senator Henry Stern discussed his recent related legislative efforts and the importance of advocates in shaping state policy, including an endorsement of The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California initiative.

The second panel, “What is a just transition and how do we get there?” was moderated by labor attorney Mark Kyle. CSU Professor Vivian Price described the concept of “just transition” as initially having the objective of providing a future for workers particularly impacted by efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and that more recently, the term has envisioned a world in which fairness, equity and ecological rootedness are core values.  Jennifer Kropke with IBEW and the National Electrical Contractors Association explained transition challenges. Coal and natural gas power plants are large, take time to construct, and require a lot of maintenance, while renewable energy generation is very different in how it is currently constructed and maintained. There are huge wage and benefit disparities between non-union rooftop solar installers and oil refinery operators.

The third panel, “Environmental Justice – energy systems and policies that serve frontline communities” was moderated by Janina Turner from The Climate Center.  Nayamin Martinez with the Central California Environmental Justice Network addressed efforts to fight environmental racism in the San Juaquin Valley — challenging because critical employers are the same companies creating pollution. Gabriela Orantes with the North Bay Organizing Project explained how disaster relief and recovery efforts in Sonoma County have systematically excluded the most vulnerable.  Mari Rose Taruc with Reclaim Our Power described environmental justice successes in recent years and also provided provocative details of remaining  environmental injustices occurring in California and the need to further democratize the governance of our energy system and California policy process, currently with mostly white people making decisions.

The final panel, “Community choice energy: building clean energy resilience for low-income customers” was moderated by Carolyn Glanton of Sonoma Clean Power.  Sage Lang with Monterey Bay Community Power provided examples of her agency’s resilience-related programs.  Stephanie Chen from MCE Clean Energy explained the severe impacts of PG&E’s 2019 power shutoffs and MCE’s resulting new energy resilience programs.  JP Ross from East Bay Community Energy described EBCE’s resilient homes program as well as severe impacts from PG&E disconnections.

For more information, check out the Summit agenda with links to presentations,  speaker biographies,  and a link to the full Summit video.

California Community Choice agencies eye long duration batteries for energy storage


Highlights

  • A group of 11 small scale, local agencies called Community Choice Agencies (CCAs) have issued a request for information regarding long-duration battery storage that can hold power for at least 8 hours
  • The storage can be used to take in excess solar power from the day and shift its use for night time and morning energy needs
  • The request for storage comes after the California Public Utilities Commission adopted a 46 million metric ton (MMT) greenhouse gas emission target for the electric sector by 2030 early this year
  • The request for new storage will help create new economic opportunities and help fight climate change by lessening the state’s dependence on fossil fuels in our energy system

Community Choice Energy can be one of the most powerful ways to accelerate the transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy sources, and The Climate Center is working to spread it throughout California for a climate-safe future


Read More: https://www.utilitydive.com/news/california-ccas-solicit-info-on-long-duration-storage-with-possible-procur/579505/