Green Deal law to make EU’s energy shift irreversible

by Ewa Krukowska, Bloomberg, January 28, 2020


The European Union is drafting a measure, titled the Green Deal, to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions entirely by 2050 in hopes to become the world’s first carbon neutral continent. 

  • The EU wants to make their new climate law irreversible 
  • The Green Deal is meant to keep Europe on track with the Paris Agreement climate goals
  • Reaching the existing climate targets will require additional spending of 260 billion euros ($286 billion) annually

The Climate Center works on achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 and net negative emissions by 2035 through rapid decarbonization.

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California climate budget to include $1 billion green loan fund

by Judy Lin and Rachel Becker,CAL Matters

Contending that California needs to better encourage small players with ideas to address the climate crisis, Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to include a $1 billion revolving loan program in his new budget Friday to seed recycling, low-carbon transportation and climate-smart agriculture projects, according to a summary document obtained by CalMatters.

The Climate Catalyst Revolving Loan Fund, which would grow over four years, would offer low-interest lending to small businesses and organizations that have green ideas but may not be established or connected enough to compete for venture capital funding.

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Jet Blue goes eco-friendly

JetBlue to become first airline to become carbon neutral

by Mary Schlangenstein, Bloomberg

JetBlue Airways Corp. said it will become the first large U.S. airline to offset emissions from all of its domestic flights, aiming to become carbon neutral by July as pressure grows on the industry from climate change activists.

The carrier also will begin using sustainable aviation fuel on its flights from San Francisco International Airport, the New York-based airline said Monday.

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Sebastian Kurz, on the right, the leader of the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP)

Austria’s new government sets goal to be carbon neutral by 2040

by Deutsche Welle, EcoWatch

Although the Greens managed to secure major policies to combat climate change, Kurz also pushed through his hardline immigration policies — which might not sit well with Greens supporters.

What’s in the coalition deal?

  • The Greens will head four ministries, including taking on the environment and justice portfolios.
  • Kurz’s party will hold onto the rest of the ministries, including the interior, defense and finance ministries.
  • Austria will seek to be carbon neutral by 2040, and put a price on CO2 emissions.
  • By 2030, all of Austria’s electricity is to be produced by renewable energy sources.
  • Flying will become more expensive in a bid to make taking the train more attractive.

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EU unveils ‘Green Deal’ plan to get Europe carbon neutral by 2050

by Mehreen Khan, InsideClimate News

The European Union unveiled a sweeping set of environmental initiatives on Wednesday aimed at creating the world’s first carbon-neutral continent by 2050, touching everything from state aid rules to a green industrial policy and a carbon border tax on imports.

In its much-anticipated Green Deal for Europe, the new European Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen, laid out 50 policies to be rolled out over the next three years that would revamp rules and regulations to meet ambitious climate goals.

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bicycle commuting

What it takes to be carbon neutral — for a family, a city, a country

New Washington Post series on Climate Solutions (Read more here)

  • The deliberate choice to “live small,” Purup Nohr said, is one way people can be kinder to the planet than their parents might have been.

Copenhagen is trying to become the first carbon-neutral capital by 2025 — a full 25 years before Washington and other major world cities expect they might have a shot at canceling their emissions.

Denmark’s newly elected center-left leaders are trying to turn the whole country into a showcase for how to go green without going bankrupt….

Nearly half of Danes — 47 percent — consider climate change to be the most serious problem facing the world, according to European Union polling. That’s more than double the E.U. average of 23 percent.

And yet researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology pegged the annual carbon emissions of the average Dane at 14.5 tons, above the E.U. average and reflective of the country’s wealth.

Many scientists say a two-tons-per-person annual limit will be needed to meet the 2050 goals of the Paris climate accords….

…Another major focus of the city’s efforts is how people get around. Copenhagen officials estimate that at least 75 percent of all trips must be done by foot, bike or public transportation to meet the 2025 goals…



Madison navigates partnership with utility as it pursues 100 percent clean energy goal

by Kari Lydersen, Midwest Energy News

On March 21, Madison’s city council signed a resolution committing the city to power 100 percent of its operations with clean energy.

The resolution was especially notable since the utility serving Madison gets almost half of its power from coal, and several years ago was among Wisconsin utilities making national headlines for policies seen as hostile to distributed solar energy.

But now the utility, Madison Gas & Electric (MGE), city officials and clean energy leaders are negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding that lays out plans for the expansion of solar, the spread of electric vehicles and other clean energy improvements. And the utility has pledged its support for the city’s clean energy goal.

Advocates describe the MOU and the city’s recent choice of consultants to develop clean energy plans as important progress.

Michael Vickerman is the program and policy director of RENEW Wisconsin and a member of the city’s Sustainable Madison Committee. Speaking in his role as a committee member, he called the MOU historic.

“It will enable the utility and one of its customers to jointly plan clean energy projects,” he said. “This generally doesn’t happen with utilities. You may think of the city as this governmental powerhouse, but in the eyes of the utility it’s just another customer. In order to commit city resources and staff time to joint endeavors and also for the utility to commit its own personnel and resources, both the city and MGE believe the scope of work should be spelled out in some kind of agreement.”

But some controversy over the MOU also shows how challenging it can be to bring together multiple parties with different responsibilities and interests in pursuit of a target as ambitious as 100 percent clean energy.

In 2016 the city adopted an energy work plan that included a promise to sign an agreement with MGE regarding collaboration on topics including electric vehicles, solar and grid modernization.

In June a resolution was introduced to the council that would give the city attorney and Mayor Paul Soglin authority to execute the MOU. The group Repower Madison and several council members were concerned that this measure meant the council and the public would not actually have formal say over the contents of the MOU. And, they were unhappy that a May draft of the MOU did not mention the city’s 100 percent clean energy goal or anything about coal-fired power.

Council member David Ahrens said the proposed MOU was not given to council members to review when the resolution about it was first introduced, “creating a level of suspicion and unease about the process.” When the early draft of the proposed MOU “inadvertently” was made public, as Ahrens described it, he was disappointed that the 100 percent clean energy goal was not mentioned.

An improved draft

An amended draft MOU dated July 11 does note the city’s goal of 100 percent clean energy.

MGE spokesperson Dana Brueck said, “MGE supported the resolution for 100 percent clean energy at every stage as well as the Energy Work Plan. We believe we can accomplish more [toward the clean energy goal] by working collaboratively.”

A supporting document with the MOU proposes ways the utility and city could collaborate, including on a shared solar project, increased outdoor solar lighting, electrified public transit, electric vehicle group buys and boosting participation in the city’s voluntary energy efficiency benchmarking program.

Vickerman applauded these ideas and said he is especially hopeful about a solar program that MGE is developing with Madison, wherein the city or other entities could buy solar power directly from solar arrays that are not on their own sites.

“The city doesn’t need the MOU to build renewable generation on its own premises — that has been happening already,” Vickerman said. “But the memorandum of understanding will enable the city to talk to MGE about their [city] plans to enter into contracts with other generators or maybe with MGE to build larger clean energy projects.”

Vickerman also said the MOU would help the city’s ongoing efforts to electrify its buses and other vehicles, adding new charging stations.

“It’s going to be rather difficult for cities in general to have an influence over where these charging stations go, unless they negotiate and plan directly with the utility,” he said. “That’s an area spelled out for collaboration.”

Repower Madison organizer Mitch Brey said the group is pleased with the focus on electric vehicles and other priorities cited in the MOU, and with the recent inclusion of the clean energy goal in the text. But he is still concerned that the MOU does not mention shifting away from coal, or address electric rates and fixed charges on bills. Repower Madison was formed in 2014 in response to MGE’s proposals to greatly increase fixed charges and other measures seen as hostile to distributed solar.

“It appears that MGE isn’t interested in talking about coal with the city,” said Brey. “If the utility is going to have discussions with the city, it should be about reaching the 100 percent clean energy goal. It appears a lot of the language used in this document is ‘identify, pursue, investigate, explore, develop, pilot.’ Pursue is fine, but these are a lot of verbs that indicate a lot of talking. There is a real big worry that this will amount to little more than greenwashing, and make MGE look like they’re a good partner but lack on deliverables.”

Vickerman countered that the city can’t control MGE’s energy mix as a whole, and that the goal is to spark enough solar and other renewables that Madison’s own city operations can be powered entirely by clean energy. With its Energy 2030 Framework, MGE has committed to provide 30 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030.

“The city has no authority over MGE’s generation – that is in the purview of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin,” Brueck said. “Our Energy 2030 framework sets clean energy goals and a number of objectives for the benefit of all of our customers. One of those goals includes transitioning away from coal, which we continue to do. Our ongoing transition is a priority independent of our collaboration with the city. Any further changes to our existing fleet would be sought in the interests of all of our customers and would be subject to approval by the Public Service Commission, which has sole authority over MGE’s generation.”

The resolution authorizing the mayor to sign the MOU was slated to be voted on in a city council committee on July 17, but that vote was delayed until August 21 — which Brey noted is the day of the solar eclipse.

Mutual support

The proposed MOU says that the city will support MGE in regulatory matters before the state Public Service Commission or other bodies, “that are, in the City’s judgment, consistent with the cooperative intent of this MOU.” Likewise, it says MGE will support matters before city council that are in the spirit of the MOU.

Ahrens expressed reservations about the promise to support MGE on issues before the Public Service Commission, since the MOU “doesn’t define what those issues might be.” He pointed to MGE’s previous requests to the commission for drastic fixed rate charge increases, saying “that was a blunder of huge proportions for them.”

In 2017 MGE increased its overall electric and gas rates, but kept a promise not to seek further increased fixed charges.

“Our collaborative efforts with the city have nothing to do with rate cases,” said Brueck. “The city has no authority over or oversight of MGE rate cases.”

The proposed MOU would create a steering committee with five members from the utility and five from the city or the Sustainable Madison Committee, including Vickerman and committee chair Raj Shukla, who is executive director of the River Alliance of Wisconsin.

Brey said Repower Madison wants to see an elected representative on the steering committee, they want the meetings to be public and they want the steering committee to issue periodic public reports.

Brey thinks that Madison and MGE should look for inspiration in Minnesota, where utility Xcel and the city of Minneapolis in 2014 signed an MOU. That MOU formed a board of representatives from the city, Xcel and Centerpoint Energy, who meet at least quarterly and come up with specific deliverables that will help Minneapolis fulfill its Climate Action Plan, including a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 (from 2006 levels).

“We need to work toward agreement like that or it’s not really worth having,” said Brey.

But Vickerman feels confident about the latest draft of the MOU, and the clean energy goal more broadly.

“We would consider this particular agreement to be absolutely essential for the city to achieve its goal,” Vickerman said.