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Let’s Get Real: The Energy Efficiency Industry Can Do Better


Matt Golden argues in favor of a new path forward for efficiency based on markets.

Matt Golden
March 2, 2015

Matt Golden is a principal with, an organization that works with government and industry to close the gap between public policy, private investment and the delivery of energy efficiency to market

In my last Greentech Media article, I looked at the limitations of top-down energy efficiency programs and began to lay out a pathway toward a market where energy efficiency is treated as a tradable resource, spurring business model innovation and private investment.

Such a model will free states, utilities and regulators from the thankless job of providing top-down management of every step in the efficiency process, and instead let them do what they do best: regulate markets, manage energy procurement and protect consumers.

The frequently used analogy of energy efficiency being “low-hanging fruit” is misleading. If energy efficiency were in fact easy to pick like a ripe apple on a low branch, after 40 years of programs, more of it would have been picked. Instead, it is much more like wild strawberries -- it takes lots of people on their hands and knees a long time to fill a basket.

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Colorado House kills Senate bill to rollback renewable energy standard

By Joey Bunch

The Denver Post

POSTED:   03/02/2015 05:54:23 PM MST

(Andy Cross, Denver Post file)

A House committee on Monday killed legislation that would have cut in half the requirement that the state's largest utilities get 30 percent of their power from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2020.

Senate Bill 44 also would have reduced the standard for rural electricity associations from 20 percent to 15 percent starting in 2020.

The bill died on a party-line 6-5 vote, with Democrats in opposition to the rollback.

The Republican-led Senate passed the measure last month on a party-line 18-17 vote. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, said he was concerned the standard went too far, hurting utility ratepayers, especially those in rural areas.

The bill's House sponsor, Rep. Dan Thurlow, R-Grand Junction, said electricity prices have been rising in comparison to other states, which also could deter companies from locating in Colorado.

Opponents to the rollback testified that Colorado is a national leader in renewable energy growth, while creating more than 22,000 jobs in clean-energy technology.

"Taking a step back now makes no sense," Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado, said at a rally for renewable energy supporters Monday.

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Fracking: Oil company sues to overturn San Benito County fracking ban; could affect other counties

By Paul Rogers

POSTED:   03/02/2015 04:17:20 PM PST



An oil company has sued to block San Benito County's voter-approved fracking ban in a move that could affect the growing trend of California cities and counties' efforts to stop the controversial oil drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing.

In the lawsuit, Citadel Exploration, based in Newport Beach, is attempting to overturn Measure J, approved by 59 percent of San Benito County voters four months ago.

If the company is successful, the lawsuit could impact other places where local officials are discussing bans, and where activists are considering ballot measures in 2016, including Santa Clara, Alameda, Monterey and Butte counties, along with Santa Cruz County, whose board of supervisors approved a countywide ban on fracking last spring.

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California Beach Community to Decide if It’s ‘an Oil Town’




Hermosa Beach, a compact Southern California city, is to vote Tuesday on whether an energy company can proceed with a plan to put 34 wells near the ocean.


David Walter Banks for The New York Times

HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. — This quaint and quirky seaside community south of Los Angeles has had a conflicted relationship with the oil industry for close to a century. It has variously approved oil drilling, banned it, approved it and prohibited it again. During one yes-on-oil stretch, it contracted with an energy company to put 34 wells on a 1.3-acre city maintenance yard a few blocks from a stretch of beach that normally bustles with surfers and swimmers.

On Tuesday, the residents of Hermosa Beach are going to vote yet again on an oil and gas drilling initiative — whether to allow a contract with the energy company E&B Natural Resources Management to proceed despite a current drilling ban.

The contract, which could mean hundreds of millions of dollars for the local government, received final approval from the City Council in 1992, but it has been in limbo ever since. A vote to block the drilling would come at an unusual cost: $17.5 million in damages to the energy company, the equivalent of about half the annual general fund budget in this city of almost 20,000 people.

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Regulator had regular chats with Edison

Utilities commissioner Florio is already recusing himself over PG&E contacts

By Jeff McDonald4:46 P.M.MARCH 2, 2015

The state utility regulator who recused himself from future Pacific Gas & Electric business after his behind-the-scenes emails were released publicly has taken part in similar backchannel discussions with Southern California Edison, newly obtained records show.

In one email obtained by U-T San Diego, California Public Utilities Commission member Michel Florio referred to his “‘regular’ Wednesday 1:30 call” with Edison officials.

In another, he discussed a rate-setting case with a company executive while the application was still pending — even after the Edison representative raised questions about whether the communication was allowed.

“Thank you Akbar — I was just trying to follow through on the training you’ve given me over the years!!" Florio responded to Edison Vice President Akbar Jazayeri in 2012. “I don’t see an ex parte problem as we’re just working out numbers on a technical level.”

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Texas grid can handle the heat, operator says

Posted on March 2, 2015 at 10:50 am by in Electricity, General

Texans will have more than enough electric power to run the air conditioners they’ll be cranking up soon, the state’s main grid operator reported Monday.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas projects that peak power demand during the spring will hit 62,000 megawatts in late May, and that the state will have 76,600 megawatts of total generation capacity.

One megawatt can power about 200 Texas residences when demand is highest, typically during times of extreme temperature, and 500 homes under milder conditions.

A preliminary report for summer projects peak demand of 69,000 megawatts, with 77,000 megawatts of generation available, the highest predicted demand issued for an upcoming season to date.

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Friction at the Grid Edge: Hawaii’s PUC Orders HECO to Approve Solar Rooftops

How much solar can distribution feeders handle? That experiment plays out every day in the Hawaiian islands.

Eric Wesoff
March 2, 2015

[Editor's note: Updated at 1 p.m. PT on March 2 to include HECO's response.]

The latest skirmish in the Hawaiian solar power struggle stems from a letter sent out last week by HECO to 50 Big Island residents that suggested that until the islands' net energy metering policy is settled, interconnection approval of new PV would be on hold, according to a report on KHON Honolulu.

One in nine Hawaiian residences are PV-powered, the highest percentage of solar penetration of any U.S. state. But the momentum in installing solar has been lost due to a slowdown in PV approvals by the utility as it seeks to contend with the technological and economic impacts of ubiquitous solar.

Still, the Public Utilities Commission did not seem to take this kindly and reacted quickly with an order. Here are the key excerpts worth reading:

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Why Did Apple Pay So Much for 130 Megawatts of PV From First Solar?

A bit of a mystery. Is Google part of the answer?

Catherine Wolfram
March 2, 2015

Catherine Wolfram is the Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration and Faculty Director at the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley.

Reprinted with permission. Original column appears here.

Sometimes, we write articles that pose rhetorical questions in the title. This time, I have real questions and offer some possible answers.

Here’s a little background. Several weeks ago, to great fanfare, Apple and First Solar announced that Apple was paying $848 million for 25 years' worth of the output of a 130-megawatt block of First Solar’s California Flats project in southeast Monterey County. (The other portion of the project is under contract to PG&E.) First Solar’s press release heralded this as the “industry’s largest commercial solar deal,” and Tim Cook noted that the solar electricity would offset a lot of Apple’s California consumption.

My husband (who also works in the energy industry) and I took this up at the dinner table, much to our kids’ annoyance. My husband did some quick math, and then grabbed a calculator to do the math again. He wanted to make sure he hadn’t screwed up. His calculations suggested that Apple had paid a significantly higher price compared to other recently announced power-purchase agreements for solar.

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Scientists explain how climate change helps fuel California drought



California's ongoing drought has dried up much of Diamond Valley Lake in Hemet. A new study says droughts have become more likely in the last 20 years because dry years are more likely to coincide with warm years.



March 2, 2015, 9:32 p.m.

Climate change is increasing the risk of severe drought in California by causing warm periods and dry periods to overlap more often, according to a new study.

Rising temperatures resulting from increased greenhouse gas emissions mean warm and dry periods are coinciding more frequently, the study authors say. And that is amplifying the effects of low precipitation.

“The key for drought stress is not just how much precipitation there is,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, the paper’s lead author and an associate professor at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences. “Temperature is an important influence on the water available in California.”

Higher temperatures decrease soil moisture, increase evaporation and intensify California’s annual dry season. All of these accentuate the impacts of below-normal precipitation.

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Water and eminent domain: a volatile mix


A Southern California city has launched eminent domain proceedings to take over the private water agency that has served the community for more than 80 years – an unusual move, even in California, where fights over water are common.

Claremont, responding in part to residents’ complaints about rates and politicians’ demands for local control, filed suit in December against the Golden State Water Co., a private entity that serves 38 communities across California. The company’s rates, which affect some 11,000 connections in Claremont that serve about 30,000 people, are regulated by the state Public Utilities Commission. Golden State, responding to the city, urged that the suit be dismissed. Initial court conferences are pending in Los Angeles Superior Court.

A 2004 report cited by the city found that Claremont had the highest rates of 10 surrounding communities surveyed, and that rates doubled between 2008 and 2013.

The Claremont move, authorized by a unanimous city council vote, followed years of local discussion and study, much of it targeting rates and the desire of local residents to control their own system.

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Only In China: Why A Smog Documentary Sends Chinese Stocks Soaring To Trading Limit

Heng Shao Forbes Staff

I cover Chinese business news and social phenomena.

FORBES ASIA 3/02/2015 @ 7:17AM

When journalist Chai Jing released her documentary on China’s air pollution, she probably could not have dreamed that her message would resonate so widely while boosting the share prices of so many “environmentally friendly” companies.

On Monday, more than a dozen stocks in the fields of pollutant treatment, air quality monitoring and green technology saw huge gains, with several rising 10% and reaching the daily trading limit.

Among the biggest winners were Sail Hero, a producer of pollutant monitors, Top Resource Conservation Engineering, a renewable energy equipment provider, LongKing Environmental, a maker of desulfurization facilities for boilers and furnaces, and Create Technology & Science, a producer of industrial and corporate air purifiers.

The catalyst for the buying frenzy was a 104-minute long documentary going into details of the history, causes and impact of China’s smog. An independent production by well-known reporter Chai Jing, “Beneath the Dome” was released online over the weekend, and by Monday morning had more than 100 million cumulative views.

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Europe Unlikely to Meet Climate Goal, Study Finds


BERLIN — The European Union will fail to meet an ambitious goal of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 unless it takes more aggressive measures to limit the use of fossil fuels and adopts new environmental policies, according to a report scheduled for release on Tuesday.

Although European countries are on track to meet, and even surpass, the goal of reducing 1990-level greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, existing policies are not robust enough to ensure that the 2050 targets are met, the report said. Those targets, scientists have said, are critical to forestalling the most catastrophic effects of climate change, which are linked to carbon emissions caused by human activity.

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Science proves GOP wrong on climate change and national security

By Tim McDonnell on 2 Mar 2015

This story is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

At last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, GOP chair Reince Priebus had some strong words about how President Barack Obama prioritizes threats to national security.

“Democrats tell us they understand the world, but then they call climate change, not radical Islamic terrorism, the greatest threat to national security,” he said. “Look, I think we all care about our planet, but melting icebergs aren’t beheading Christians in the Middle East.”

The comment came after the president, in a lengthy interview with Vox, said that the media often overplays the danger of terrorism relative to climate change. It’s not the first time Obama has made a point along those lines. In his State of the Union address in January, he said that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations” than climate change. A few weeks later, in his 2015 national security strategy, the president referred to global warming as an “urgent and growing threat” to national security.

But while Priebus’ jab earned him a hearty round of applause at CPAC, new research indicates that his iceberg comment doesn’t hold water.

For the last couple years, Middle East experts have pointed to the ongoing civil war in Syria as a prime example of how climate change can contribute to violent conflict. The country’s worst drought on record arrived just as widespread outrage with President Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorial regime was reaching critical mass; as crops failed, an estimated 1.5 million people were driven off rural farms and into cities. While grievances with the Assad regime are many, from economic stagnation to violent crackdowns on protesters, the impacts of the drought were likely the final straw.

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Russian Energy Deal Comes at Contentious Time


LONDON — Even in more normal times in the oil industry, Westerners doing business with Russians seldom have a smooth ride. But in a period of ultralow prices and Western sanctions against Moscow, this is a particularly contentious moment to be in an energy deal with a Russian oligarch.

Just ask John Browne, the former chief of the British oil giant BP. On Monday, he became executive chairman of an energy company controlled by the oligarch Mikhail M. Fridman — on the same day that Mr. Fridman’s company was threatening to sue the British government.

Mr. Browne put a brave face on a move that some in the industry warn could become an exercise in frustration if doors are closed to his Russian boss because of growing tensions between Moscow and the West. In refusing to approve an important part of Mr. Fridman’s latest energy acquisition, Britain’s government cited the potential that Mr. Fridman’s company could become a target of expanded Western sanctions.

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How much more economic pain can Vladimir Putin take?

Posted on March 2, 2015 at 10:13 am by Bloomberg in Crude oil, Europe

It’s been a little more than six months since the full brunt of Western sanctions took force against Russia. The punishment, while slow in coming, has proven devastatingly effective—especially when paired with the crash in oil prices.

Last summer, of course, U.S. and European Union officials had no way of knowing an epic oil selloff was right around the corner. But in hindsight the coordination seems uncanny. Oil prices peaked less than a month before the sanctions were announced. By November, the combination of cheap oil and tighter sanctions was bleeding Russia of billions in budget revenue and had cut it off from the world’s largest capital markets. In December, state-owned oil giant Rosneft had to get a loan backed by the Central Bank of Russia, which is sort of like the U.S. Fed giving a loan to ExxonMobil.

Recent news reports suggest Russian President Vladimir Putin is doing a better job of hurting the Ukrainian economy than the West is doing of bolstering it—but at what cost? The chaos Putin has sown in Ukraine has extracted a huge toll on his own economy. Together, sanctions and cheap oil have given Russia the deadly combination of a crashing currency and a sinking economy. To manage, Russia’s central bank has tacked between propping up the ruble with higher interest rates, and trying to goose economic growth by lowering them a month later. Neither strategy has worked. The ruble is at near-historic lows against the dollar, and Russia’s economy is in free fall.

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