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/

Let’s secure equitable access to resilient clean energy

The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience Policy Summit will address equitable approaches to clean energy resilience programs.  August 5, 2020, 9 AM – 12 PM.


As awareness of systemic poverty and racism grows, government policies and programs beyond police force budgets and protocols are also getting attention. The media is shining light on toxic oil and gas infrastructure – from freeways to oil refineries – that are often sited in lower-income communities, close to homes, schools, and hospitals and polluted air that leads to significantly lower life expectancy and higher rates of asthma, cancer, and other diseases

In California, programs designed to promote clean energy are more likely to benefit the rich than the poor who need them most. With the approaching power shut-offs that California is expecting this fire season, this inequity will continue to grow. While all communities are disrupted and suffer from power outages, lower-income households are likely to suffer most. This is because they have fewer resources to rely on in the event of an emergency, and less ability to absorb financial losses from outages. While wealthier Californians may buy back-up batteries or generators, less affluent residents can’t afford them. These same residents often suffer higher rates of respiratory illness due to pollution and are especially vulnerable when fossil backup generators are widely used during a power shut-off. And food security is an especially acute problem for low-income households that rely on school meal programs that are not accessible during power shut-offs because of the lack of refrigeration. 

A number of studies have highlighted inequities created by clean energy incentive programs. Perhaps the most striking findings come from Eric Fournier at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, with a report showing how inequities in incentives for things like rooftop solar and electric vehicles place a larger burden of cost on the least affluent, and reward wealthier people. This is especially unfortunate given that lower-income communities are using less energy than wealthier communities and are less responsible for climate change.

While there’s a lot of work yet to be done, over the past decade Environmental Justice advocates have had remarkable successes in crafting new state policies and programs to provide more equity for lower-income communities. This trend and more will be discussed at The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience Policy Summit on August 5th. Panelists will outline how we can meet the challenges of enhancing clean energy resilience while avoiding exacerbating inequalities that these incentive programs often create.

The Summit will feature an opening keynote address by Carmen Ramirez, Mayor Pro Tem of Oxnard, followed by a panel providing an overview of what the state is doing now for clean energy resilience featuring Janea Scott, Vice-Chair of the California Energy Commission; Genevieve Shiroma, Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission; Eric Lamoureaux from the California Office of Emergency Services, and California Senator Henry Stern. 

A subsequent panel will provide a labor perspective, including Mark Kyle, former Chief of Staff of the California Federal of Labor, Jennifer Kropke, Director of Environmental and Workforce Engagement, IBEW, Local Union 11 & National Electrical Contractors Association Los Angeles County; and Vivian Price, researcher for the Labor Network for Sustainability and CSU Dominguez Hills Professor specializing in labor and climate change.

An Environmental Justice panel will be moderated by Janina Turner, a lead organizer in Sonoma County’s Sunrise Movement. Panelists include Mari Rose Taruc, movement organizer for environmental justice & climate solutions at Reclaim Our Power; Gabriela Orantes, a Just Recovery Fellow at the North Bay Organizing Project; and Nayamin Martinez, Executive Director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network.

The final panel, highlighting energy resilience programs of Community Choice agencies, will be moderated by Carolyn Glanton, Programs Manager at Sonoma Clean Power. Panelists include Sage Lang, Energy Program Coordinator/Analyst for Central Coast Community Energy; Stephanie Chen, Senior Policy Counsel at MCE; and JP Ross, Senior Director of Local Development, Electrification and Innovation for East Bay Community Energy. 

As California turns its attention to building energy resilience in the face of more power outages, policymakers must prioritize clean energy resilience in California’s lower-income communities. This will ensure that the Californians who are the least responsible for climate change are not suffering its worst consequences.

Register for the August 5th policy summit HERE.

Congressional climate strategy includes microgrids and climate justice

Last week, Democrats on the US House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis issued a report, “Solving the Climate Crisis, “ which provides an emissions reduction policy framework which seeks to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Here’s a link to a summary article from Vox about the report. 

One of the recommendations in the report is to “Invest in disproportionately exposed communities to cut pollution and advance environmental justice.” This matches Climate Center policy priorities related to climate justice as noted in a recent letter sent by The Climate Center and Partners to the Steyer Committee (here’s a link to a summary article from Microgrid Knowledge).  One of the principles of The Climate Center-backed Community Energy Resilience Act, SB 1314, was the prioritization of state support for low-income and disadvantaged communities.

The new report also spotlights microgrid development as a key resilience strategy, particularly for critical infrastructure — similar to recommendations from The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience program and associated media efforts.

Microgrid-related recommendations in the new congressional report include the following:

  • Establishing a new program at the Departments of Health and Human Services to support pre-disaster hospital and health facility resilience projects, including retrofits and maintenance to reduce flood and wildfire risk, harden facilities against extreme weather, and integrate redundant water and power supplies, including microgrids and community renewable energy grids;
  • Directing the Department of Energy to create a grant, technical assistance, and demonstration programs for microgrids, especially in isolated areas and vulnerable communities;
  • Providing technical assistance and funding through the US Department of Agriculture to deploy resilient renewable energy and microgrid systems;
  • Creating a new program within the Department of Transportation to assess and deploy resilient solutions for public transit electrification, including advanced microgrids.

To learn more community energy resilience policy, register here for The Climate Center’s August 5th Community Energy Resilience Policy Summit.

Rooftop PV installation on the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe administration building

Our Community Energy Resilience letter to the Governor’s Economic Recovery Task Force and more

Many thanks to the organizations which were able to quickly sign-on to the Community Energy Resilience letter to the Steyer Economic Recovery Task Force. Here is a link to the press release and final letter sent this past Friday. Also, here are links to Monday’s press coverage in Microgrid Knowledge and Solar Power World. We appreciate the opportunity to continue collaborating with other organizations statewide in our effort to transform California’s electricity system to becoming clean, affordable, resilient, equitable, and safe.

Community Energy Resilience is a collaborative statewide effort to fund and support local governments for planning and implementing decentralized clean energy microgrids, prioritizing lower-income communities. Here is a recent Cal Matters op-ed we co-authored. This effort is especially urgent as we face extended wildfire seasons and additional power blackouts.

The Climate Center is hosting a Community Energy Resilience webinar series with the next webinar coming up on June 24th. The series will culminate in an on-line Policy Summit on August 5th. Register here. You can view last week’s Community Energy Resilience for Local Governments webinar, held in partnership with the Statewide Energy Efficiency CollaborativeLocal Government Commissionhere.

Also, you can view our May 29th Climate Friday webinar on Community Energy Resilience: Empowering Local Communities with Amee Raval of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and Kurt Johnson of The Climate Center here .

In other Community Energy Resilience news:

  • Last Thursday the CPUC issued a Decision in the microgrid proceeding which included recommendations The Climate Center and partners had filed to enhance utility collaboration with local governments.
  • The Decision should make it easier for local governments to access the utility data they need to engage in Community Energy Resilience planning.
  • The state budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $50M for Community Power Resilience.
  • Senator Stern’s microgrid bill, SB1215, is still moving forward.

Good news for The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience program

by Ellie Cohen

The last few weeks have brought good news related to The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience program, part of The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign.

On April 29th, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a Proposed Decision in its microgrid proceeding which included recommendations The Climate Center had filed with the CPUC. The Proposed Decision directs utilities to provide information and assist local governments in developing energy resilience projects. Final CPUC approval — expected in June – should make it easier for local governments to access the utility data they need to engage in Community Energy Resilience planning.

On May 14th, Governor Newsom issued his updated budget proposal for the upcoming FY 2020-2021 fiscal year.  Notwithstanding severe state budget cutbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor’s latest budget proposal retained $50M in funding for community energy resilience which The Climate Center and Partners have been advocating for.  The Climate Center and Partners will continue to urge State leaders to retain these funds in the final budget.

On May 28th  the California Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee passed SB 1215, legislation to promote the development of microgrids.

The Climate Center is hosting multiple upcoming energy resilience events, including a May 29th webinar as well as a Community Energy Resilience webinar series to provide practical information regarding the immediate need to keep critical facilities powered during the upcoming fire season as well as the long-term opportunities to simultaneously advance local resilience and climate goals.

There remains a huge amount of work ahead in our effort to transform California’s electricity system to becoming clean, affordable, reliable, equitable, and safe – and we have seen some promising forward progress in recent weeks.

If you would like to support our efforts, click here.

Southern California Edison contracts mammoth 770mw energy storage portfolio to replace California gas plants

By Jeff St. John, Greentech Media


Highlights

Investor-owned utility Southern California Edison (SCE)  has signed multiple grid battery contracts totaling in 770 megawatts of storage.

  • SCE aims to have these seven projects live by August 2021, making it the fastest turnaround for a project of this size
  • These batteries will be stationed at existing solar farms, creating renewable energy for the grid and providing new energy sources as the state shutters multiple coal fire gas plants
  • These project sites are spread out through the lower half of the state, with some located in Riverside County and the Central Valley
  • In order to secure the proper financing, the California Energy Storage Association and storage companies are asking the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to expedite the process for reviewing and approving the projects
  • Large scale batteries will be the new norm as California aims to have 100 percent of its energy from carbon-free resources by 2045

The Climate Center’s clean and smart community microgrid initiative for a Climate-Safe California will help ensure that all cities and counties have the funding and technical support to conduct collaborative, participatory planning processes going forward.


Read more: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/southern-california-edison-picks-770mw-of-energy-storage-projects-to-be-built-by-next-year

Earth Day 2030: California celebrates reaching net-negative emissions

Let’s imagine it is April 2030. In the early 2020s, as the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, we in California finally addressed the climate crisis at the speed and scale science demanded.

Nation & World Collaborating for Speed & Scale Climate Action

Today, Earth Day 2030, we celebrate the deep systemic changes we have collectively made for a healthy, equitable, and climate-safe future. We reflect back on an exceptional ten years of climate action.

The decade began with a nightmare, COVID-19, which woke us up to the deadly consequences of ignoring science. We quickly realized that we must heed the warning of climate experts and take immediate, bold action to avert climate catastrophe.

It took an exponentially growing body of diverse advocates (like you!) putting pressure on policymakers to create bold change in line with the science. COVID-19 showed us how quickly and dramatically we could change government policies, unleash market forces, and create opportunities for everyone to participate in a climate-safe economy.

Today we look back on our many achievements, including:

  • California accelerated the phase-out of fossil fuel development, production, and use. 

Legislation enacted in the early 2020s is showing enormous benefits for health, the environment and the economy as the state halted all new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure and began rapidly phasing-out fossil fuel-powered cars, trucks, buses, trains, and equipment.

We dramatically increased investments in public transportation, housing near jobs, and innovative programs that reduced toxic air pollution, especially for frontline communities.

The state also enacted zero-emissions building codes and began phasing out methane gas. We are grateful to the workers whose livelihoods were dependent on fossil fuel industries for making this rapid transition to a 100% GHG-free, clean energy economy possible.

Ranchers, farmers, and public resource managers were incentivized to implement climate-friendly habitat and soil protection and restoration programs on millions of acres from the Sierras to the sea.

Farmers led the way in reducing emissions while supporting food and water security with climate-friendly, regenerative production.

  • Unavoidable damage from extreme climate events meant that California became heavily invested in community resilience and protecting the most vulnerable, lower-income communities.

Legislation enacted in the early 2020s funded and supported California’s counties and cities to develop and implement clean, local, decentralized, resilient energy and storage, building independent capacity to address climate and other emergencies.

Major new state programs funded and supported local climate emergency response and preparedness measures, including early warning systems, resilience centers, and public education programs that are now benefitting all Californians.

  • California created new financing mechanisms, from frequent flyer fees and carbon taxes to private sector investments, that generated the billions of dollars needed annually for speed and scale climate solutions.

Millions of people took action to bring about the changes in policy that accelerated our transition.

On this Earth Day 2030, we commit to continuing our efforts to secure a healthy, vibrant, and equitable future for all.

We can achieve this vision if we act today based on the latest science. Support The Climate Center and help make Climate-Safe California a reality. Make every day Earth Day!

What’s the ideal way for the microgrid industry to come back from COVID-19?

By Lisa Cohn, Microgrid Knowledge 


Highlights

The Clean Energy community called for relief in the recent federal stimulus package as the industry has taken a critical hit due to the COVID- 19 pandemic.

  • Over 100,000 clean energy sector workers have lost their jobs due to business shifting during the pandemic and the industry could lose half of its workforce in the coming weeks, erasing the growth the industry gained during the last year 
  • It was projected that the industry would have contributed $25 billion to the economy
  • Offering the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) as accessible cash payments is a top priority for the industry since many companies won’t have tax liabilities. The ITC is the largest source of savings for solar installations but the credit is dropping from 30% to 26% this year
  • Many solar projects are postponed this year, meaning these projects do not qualify for the 30% ITC unless the project meets certain qualifications 
  •  The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is calling for the U.S. government to invest $450 billion to equip 30 million rooftops with solar panels, providing installation jobs and clean energy for homes
  • The Alliance for Rural Electrification is calling for fast-tracking existing procurement and funding procedures for decentralized renewable energy projects, and electrifying rural health facilities

Increased air pollution from fires and fossil fuel emissions makes all of us more vulnerable to the current COVID-19 pandemic. With community energy resilience we can ensure that our power is clean and not further contributing to emissions in our communities. For a safe and healthy future for all, endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to implement scalable solutions that can reverse the climate crisis.


Read more: https://microgridknowledge.com/microgrid-growth-covid-19/