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Opinionated: Transformation at The Grid’s Edge

By Fereidoon Sioshansi

Opinionated: Transformation at The Grid’s Edge

Donald Rumsfeld, the former US Defense Secretary, referring to developments following the Iraq invasion famously said, in war, “Stuff happens,” suggesting that much of what happens is unpredictable and not necessarily pleasant. Similarly, in the electric power sector these days, stuff is happening – generally characterized by buzzwords including industry transformation, grid modernization and developments at the grid’s edge – broadly referring to the interface between the distribution network and customers’ premises, appliances, devices, distributed generation, storage, sophisticated energy management systems, electric vehicles, etc.

Source: The future of electricity: New technologies transforming the grid edge, World Economic Forum in collaboration, March 2017
The question is why the surge of interest in the topic – which attracted virtually no interest 2-3 years ago?
There are many explanations including the confluence of three major trends further described in The Future of Electricity: New technologies Transforming the Grid Edge, a report by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Bain & Co. released in March 2017:
Decentralization; and
Many sources substitute de-carbonization for the first item, which makes it 3 “D”s, and easier to remember.
These 3Ds are rapidly and radically changing the role of consumers, empowering them and making them more engaged. This, unsurprisingly, means that they will be far more demanding of the distribution networks of the future. This, in turn, explains the massive proposed grid modernization investments.
We can expect this consumer-centric future with increased reliance on the distribution networks to materialize sooner rather than later given the rapid pace of technological innovation, falling prices and – broadly speaking – supportive regulatory environment, although this varies from one place to another.
While technological breakthroughs of the past took 30-40 years or longer to penetrate markets, nowadays, things happen fast, a trend that is likely to accelerate in the future.
And with the rapid penetration of renewables in and outside of California, the energy component of electric service is expected to shrink, making the cost of kWhs relatively trivial compared to the fixed cost of the network, which must increasingly do more to keep variable supply and demand in balance.
Another important issue–widely recognized–is that in a future where an increasing share of generation is coming from variable renewable resources, demand must begin to play a more active and pronounced role. Storage, currently a critical but missing piece, is unlikely to be sufficient to handle large variations in wind and solar – a growing share of the generation pie.
The other critical component is the presence or absence of regulatory schemes needed to provide appropriate incentives for necessary investments – such as in grid modernization and the development of sufficient charging infrastructure for EVs.
Regulation also must provide clarity on the growing role of distributed energy resources, including distributed solar PVs, distributed storage, micro-grids and yet to be implemented peer-to-peer trading and other means of transactions among consumers, prosumers and prosumagers of the future. (Prosumer refers to a consumer who is withdrawing from the grid part of the time and injecting into it at other times. Add storage and a prosumer becomes a prosumager, suggesting that he/she can store the excess energy and/or rely on shift patters of consumption and production at will.)
The current piecemeal and fragmented treatment of distributed energy, for example, has to be resolved. In addition, the value of these resources need to be better monetized and reflected in future tariffs, which must increasingly account for the bi-directional flows of electrons based on time, location and their value or impact on the network.
Finally, regulators in California, Hawaii and New York–with the latter’s pioneering reforming the energy vision  (REV)–must address how the changing role of the distribution network will redefine the role of stakeholders, including better clarity on who can do what, when and where and under what types of rules, rewards and investment recovery.
In the Preface to Innovation & Disruption at the Grid’s Edge, Michael Picker, the President of California Public Utilities Commission explains that he has “… chosen to focus actively at the CPUC on more tangible tasks that can deliver benefits quickly, rather than questioning the fundamental nature of utility business models,” adding,
“The overarching philosophy I have followed in pursuit of more distributed energy future can be described as ‘Walk, Jog, Run.’ ”
With so many distributed energy resources coming on-line at fast pace, the approach is understandable. Picker goes on to say,
“The vision we (the CPUC) are pursuing is that, over time, DERs will be able to benefit from ‘stacking’ multiple value streams.”
This entails improved monetization of the multiple benefits of DERs while acknowledging, paradoxically, their increased demands on the distribution network – for example with high concentrations of PVs and/or EVs on certain distribution circuits. California’s regulators are already sensitized to the new realities of DERs and other developments taking place at the grid’s edge.
On this, Picker adds:
“Targeting DERs to high-value locations also necessitates development of a tool to highlight areas of the distribution grid where DERs can provide location-specific values, such as distribution capacity deferral and voltage support.’
Likewise, in the book’s Introduction, Audrey Zibelman, former Chair of the NY Public Service Commission and now the CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator, explains that:
“The crux of the utility changes contemplated in REV can be summarized into the following 5 areas, many of which are touched upon by authors of the [book’s] following chapters.”
Creation of a Distributed System Platform;
Promotion and encouragement of innovation;
Regulation of the earnings model;
System information and transactive markets; and,
Fair and cost effective universal access.
Two other regulators, Paula Conboy, Chair of Australian Energy Regulator and Johannes Mayer, Head of Competition & Regulation at E-Control Austria, echo similar sentiments in the book’s Foreword and Epilogue, offering perspectives from Australia and Austria, respectively.
The WEF report provides four recommendations for utilities, network operators and the regulators:
Redesign regulatory paradigm;
Deploy enabling infrastructure;
Redefine customer experience; and
Embrace new business models.
The challenge is how to implement the sensible words into actionable strategies given the many moving parts and the complicated and highly unpredictable regulatory environment in which many utilities operate today.
Despite many similarities and universal trends, at the end what works for one utility in one geographical setting may not be suitable to another facing different regulatory constraints as described in several related articles in this issue. Suggesting grand strategies is the easy part. Implementing them is far more difficult and perilous.
Innovation and Disruption at the Grid’s Edge can be purchased here.  A 30 percent discount is available to Current subscribers and free postage using the code ENER317.
—Sioshansi can be reached at t or visit

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No, Cities Are Not Actually Leading on Climate. Enough With the Mindless Cheerleading 

Sam Brooks, a former director for the D.C. government’s energy division, examines the “cities are leading on climate” myth.
by Sam Brooks
June 21, 2017

The idea that cities are leading on climate change is applauded over and over and over. There’s just one problem.
It's not actually happening.
Retrofit programs for buildings and homes aren't delivering results. Power distribution remains rooted in century-old thinking and technology. And those cities that claim to be on track to go "100 percent renewable"? Not even close.
With the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris accord, city contributions are needed more than ever. But it’s time to stop with the empty platitudes and face reality.
We’ve a lot of got work to do.
Cities haven’t yet taken on key roles 
The truth is that cities have done little to contribute to recent declines in carbon pollution. Renewable portfolio standards have spurred tons of new renewable generation, but states adopt those, not cities. Transportation-related CO2 is down in many cities, but that's largely the result of improved national fuel-efficiency standards. And urban areas did nothing to create cheap natural gas, which, by displacing coal, has been the leading driver of reduced emissions.
A central issue is that cities seldom have jurisdictional authority over energy infrastructure. There are few municipally owned utilities -- and most regulators are chosen at the state level. Even with respect to the critical issue of building codes, mandates are frequently determined by counties, states, and the International Code Council.
It turns out that when cities claim reductions in greenhouse gases, they're usually taking credit for things they didn’t do.
Minimal progress with energy efficiency and solar
This doesn’t mean that cities can’t play a vital role. They can.
As San Francisco’s Renewable Energy Task Force stated in a 2012 report, "Reaching [100% renewables] will require coordinated action in three main areas: improving energy efficiency to reduce total electricity demand, increasing in-city renewable distributed generation (DG) to reduce the need for imported green power, and providing all customers a 100% renewable power purchasing option.”
Most city climate plans reflect these principles -- focusing on reducing demand (i.e., efficiency) and increasing renewable supply (i.e., distributed solar) within their borders.
With energy efficiency, however, it’s difficult to identify much progress. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently released its 2017 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard. Among the leaders in energy efficiency, you’d reasonably expect improvements with energy efficiency. You'd be wrong.
Electricity consumption, a primary source of carbon emissions, is flat or growing in each of ACEEE's top 20 cities with available information. In a host of frequently lauded cities, building electricity use is up over the last five years of data: Los Angles (+3 percent); New York City (+1 percent); San Francisco (+1 percent); Boston (+2 percent); Denver (+3 percent); Austin (+5 percent); and D.C. (+1 percent).
On a per-capita basis, residential electricity use is down in Austin (-9 percent) and San Francisco (-9 percent), but it’s up in Boston (+7 percent), Los Angeles (+9 percent), and D.C. (+17 percent).
This is bad news. The bottom line is that in urban areas, where new residents often live in highly efficient apartments and businesses operate in increasingly dense office buildings, electricity use must drop. That's not happening.
While potentially less impactful than efficiency, solar is another top priority. But according to the 2017 report, Shining Cities, only a few cities have more solar per capita than the national average. For example, while Los Angeles accounts for 10 percent of its state's population, just 2 percent of California’s solar is in L.A. 
Solar panels may dot farmlands and deserts, but the sun is not yet powering most urban areas. Just 0.3 percent of NYC’s power comes from solar, and the situation is similar in other cities, including San Francisco (1.2 percent); Boston (0.4 percent); Denver (1 percent); Austin (0.3 percent); D.C. (0.4 percent); Chicago (0.1 percent); and Baltimore (0.2 percent).

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Plan To Regionalize Western Power Grid Stalls Post-Trump

 Ben Bradford 
Wednesday, June 21, 2017 | Sacramento, CA | Permalink

cbcastro / Flickr

California energy regulators say the state could benefit from sharing more electricity with its neighbors during heat waves such as this week’s, but a proposal to do so has stalled after the election of President Trump.
While an enormous electric grid carries power throughout the western United States, it’s divided into 38 fiefdoms, where regional operators figure out their own power needs. That can leave solar energy unused in one state while another fires up reserve gas plants to meet demand.
The Brown administration last year looked to create a centralized authority that could plan power use across the west. Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, is a major proponent of "regionalization."
“We will reduce costs for everybody. We will reduce pollution. We will improve system reliability, and these are all reasons to do this,” says Cavanagh.
Last August, Gov. Jerry Brown wrote to leadership in the Legislature that he would look to pass a proposal earlier this year.
“I have directed my staff, the Energy Commission, the Public Utilities Commission and the California Air Resources Board to continue working with the Legislature,” Brown wrote. “The goal is to develop a strong proposal that the Legislature can consider in January.”
That still hasn’t happened, although the governor has maintained he still supports regionalization.
Some environmental groups worry about partnering with coal-burning states, but a larger concern is that a major change in grid operation would create an opportunity for federal regulators appointed by President Trump to influence California’s renewable energy policies.

Ben Bradford
State Government Reporter
As the State Government Reporter, Ben covers California politics, policy and the interaction between the two. He previously reported on local and state politics, business, energy, and environment for WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Read Fu

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Coastal panel spawned by 1930s oil scandal is now a player in California governor’s race 

Ho, Lawrence K. –– – 096410.FI.0421.DRILL.2.LKH Oil platforms off the Southern California Coast in the Santa Barbara Channel. Pic. shows surfers at Sea Cliff with silohuette of oil platforms in the background.


June 22, 2017, 12:05 a.m.

When John Chiang joined the State Lands Commission, it quickly became a platform to showcase his environmental record, starting with his 2007 vote to block construction of a shipping terminal for liquefied natural gas in Ventura County.
The commission has served the same purpose for Gavin Newsom, who often uses his seat on the panel to remind Californians that he opposes offshore oil drilling.
Now that both Chiang and Newsom are running for governor, they are drawing rare attention to the little-known but powerful State Lands Commission.
It oversees 4 million acres of land beneath California waters: the state’s entire Pacific coast and its lakes, rivers and inlets, along with the harbors of San Diego, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco.
Shipping, fishing, oil and gas wells, waterfront real estate development — it all falls under the State Lands Commission.
State Treasurer John Chiang, campaigning for governor near the Golden Gate Bridge on June 7, has promoted his environmental record during his eight years on the State Lands Commission as state controller. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

By law, the commission is composed of two elected officials — the state controller and lieutenant governor — and the state finance director.
What does the commission do?
It oversees the land beneath the public waterways that California acquired when it became a state in 1850, including the ocean, up to three miles from shore.
The commission manages these “sovereign lands” as a public trust for the benefit of all Californians. Fishing, boating, commerce, recreation and ecological preservation are the main legal uses.
In places where landfill has extended the shoreline since 1850, such as San Francisco’s Embarcadero, the State Lands Commission maintains control over the added land.
Why was it created?
In the 1930s, state Finance Department officials were accused of taking bribes in return for coastal oil leases.
That and other irregularities led California lawmakers to create the State Lands Commission in 1938.
“The necessity of an independent commission that makes its decisions in public was made apparent by the behavior of these individuals,” the commission says on its website.
Does it make its decisions in public now?
Not always. In a closed meeting in 2014, the commission voted to sue San Francisco to overturn a city ballot measure that restricted the height of waterfront buildings.
Once the suit was made public, the commissioners refused to say which of the three voted to authorize it, citing “attorney-client privilege.”
“It’s confidential information, because it was a vote taken in closed session,” said Jennifer Lucchesi, the commission’s executive officer.
The commissioners also do not disclose their private meetings with paid lobbyists who try to influence their votes.
On May 8, for instance, Newsom, the lieutenant governor, and Betty Yee, Chiang’s successor as state controller, met separately with Barbara Boxer, who was representing Poseidon Water LLC, a water treatment company.
Boxer, a former U.S. senator, urged them to approve Poseidon’s plan to build a seawater desalination plant in Huntington Beach, a project that some environmentalists oppose.
Newsom and Yee, who are likely to vote on the project at the State Lands Commission’s Aug. 17 meeting, disclosed their conversations with Boxer only in response to questions from The Times. Neither has met privately with opponents of the plant.
Sunrise on the Gaviota Coast north of Santa Barbara on Feb. 10, 2016. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
How does the State Lands Commission differ from the Coastal Commission?
Unlike the Coastal Commission, the State Lands Commission is in effect a giant landlord, issuing leases and contracts for use of its vast properties, from kayak piers on Lake Tahoe to oil tanker terminals in San Francisco Bay.

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Saudi Prince Has the Throne in His Sights. Now for the Hard Part

By Marc Champion
June 21, 2017 4:01:00 PM PDT

Mohammed bin Salman facing tough challenges at home and abroad
Whatever setbacks are in store, the buck now stops with ‘MBS’

Saudi Arabia's Shake-Up
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman just consolidated his position and power. Now he’ll need all the help he can get.
Shortly after dawn on Wednesday, King Salman announced that his 31-year-old son, widely known as MBS, was now heir to the throne. His older cousin, former Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, had been pushed aside to make way.
The move, if not the timing, was expected. Yet bin Nayef also lost his post as interior minister, a powerful role in which he oversaw the nation’s domestic security forces and counter-terrorism efforts. Those areas will now be in the hands of a close MBS ally. The prince already has substantial control over defense, economic and foreign policy.
Power on that scale comes with a catch.

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BRIEFLY Stuff that matters FAMILY FEUD


A battle royale has broken out between clean power purists and pragmatists. Two years ago, a paper came out arguing that America could cheaply power itself on wind, water, and solar energy alone. It was a big deal. Policy makers began relying on the study. A nonprofit launched to make the vision a reality. Celebrities got on board. We named the lead author of the study, Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson, one of our Grist 50.
Now that research is under scrutiny. On Monday, 21 scientists published a paper that pointed out unrealistic assumptions in Jacobson’s analysis. For instance, Jacobson’s analysis relies on the country’s dams releasing water “equivalent to about 100 times the flow of the Mississippi River” to meet electricity demand as solar power ramps down in the evening, one of the critique’s lead authors, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, told the New York Times.
Jacobson immediately fired back, calling his critics “nuclear and fossil fuel supporters” and implying the authors had sold out to industry. This is just wrong. These guys aren’t shills.
It’s essentially a family feud, a conflict between people who otherwise share the same goals. Jacobson’s team thinks we can make a clean break from fossil fuels with renewables alone. Those critiquing his study think we need to be weaned off, with the help of nuclear, biofuels, and carbon capture.
Grist intends to take a deeper look at this subject in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
Nathanael Johnson

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100% Renewables Plan Has ‘Significant Shortcomings,’ Say Climate and Energy Experts

A new study calls out the assumptions in a leading renewable energy roadmap developed by Mark Jacobson.
by Julian Spector
June 19, 2017

It's a common claim from advocates: We know we can create a 100 percent renewable grid, because Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson said we can.
Jacobson's peer-reviewed studies assert that it is possible to convert all energy use in the U.S. to wind, water and solar -- while maintaining grid reliability, saving money and creating jobs.
It will require a World War II-style mobilization, he notes. But it's possible.
But that conclusion is now being questioned in a big way.
On Monday, a battalion of fellow energy researchers published a rebuttal to Jacobson's plan in the same prestigious journal where his study first appeared. The 21 authors include some of the most prominent climate change and clean energy experts in the country, like Ken Caldeira of Stanford, Daniel Kammen of U.C. Berkeley, and Varun Sivaram of the Council on Foreign Relations.
The lead author is Christopher Clack, a former research scientist at the University of Colorado and current CEO of the grid modeling consultancy Vibrant Clean Energy.
The sheer number of co-authors suggests this is not a battle of egos. Their accumulated expertise has advanced the understanding of climate change and the system impacts of high amounts of renewable energy. They are not industry shills trying to undermine the advance of wind and solar; they are scientists who want to use evidence-based reasoning to optimize it.
And they deliver some pointed academic smack talk.
"The scenarios of [the Jacobson study] can, at best, be described as a poorly executed exploration of an interesting hypothesis," the authors assert.
The broader conflict is over the best way to achieve a low-carbon grid.
Jacobson opted for a constrained system that excludes all but a handful sources of energy. His work shows what could be technologically possible if society prioritizes the "right" things. However, because decarbonization is so hard, it requires a more diversified approach for success, say the group of researchers.
Jacobson's study has already encouraged some lawmakers to propose 100% renewable energy plans. The authors of the rebuttal say those policies are based on flawed science.

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California’s a climate leader — if we’re grading on a curve

By Nathanael Johnson on Jun 16, 2017

California’s a climate leader — if we’re grading on a curve

California just got its climate report card and we’re betting the state wants to hide this one from its parents.
The Golden State has been cramming to clean up its greenhouse-gas grades for more than a decade, and Gov. Jerry Brown has pledged to fight President Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back climate action. So when Trump dropped out of the Paris agreement earlier this month, California was all like, “Whatever dude, I’m going to work even harder, and score the winning touchdown, and graduate for all of us!”
To put it another way, California has set lofty goals and now wants to set them even higher.
“There’s support for more aggressive California climate action,” says Meredith Fowlie, an environmental economist at the University of California, Berkeley. “California is determined to step up, particularly as Washington pulls back.”
The problem is, the state has struggled to hit the targets it already set. After psyching itself up to take on the world, California has taken some important steps forward, but it looks like it has also taken a few bong hits and a lot of naps. The Golden State wants to bring its greenhouse gas emissions down to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, but it’s not on pace to get there, according to the state’s annual inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. That target looks so far away, Fowlie says, that it “makes the much-celebrated greenhouse gas emissions reductions we’ve achieved so far look timid.”
Using the California Environmental Protection Agency’s recent report, we’ve created a handy report card, grading California in four key areas.
Getting the economy off carbon: Great effort! (but not fast enough)

California is bringing down emissions even as the state’s population (39 million and counting) and economy keeps growing. That’s great news as well as a monumental change.
Until recently, an uptick in the economy meant an uptick in greenhouse gas emissions; you couldn’t have one without the other. But now emissions are dropping as California’s businesses boom.
However, the state is still burning more than its share of dinosaur slime. The average Californian still emits more than 11 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, a little over twice the world average.
Transportation: Backsliding (see teacher)
Share of emissions: 37 percent

Planes, trucks, cars, and the like are the biggest source of emissions in the state, and their emissions are headed in the wrong direction. That’s because, after years of burning less fuel, Californians are back behind the wheel and most likely sitting in traffic. Cheap gas takes some of the blame.
Sharp-eyed readers will notice a similarity between the orange line above, which tracks total emissions from transportation, and the next graph, which shows how much Americans drive. Hence, Silicon Valley’s dream of a nation getting ferried around in electric-powered self-driving cars.

Electricity: Improving (but stole answers from classmates)
Share of emissions: 19 percent

Every year, it takes less carbon to power Silicon Valley’s smartphones, Hollywood’s cameras, and Humboldt’s grow lights. Hooray! It’s not because the technology is getting greener. California is getting more of its electrons from wind turbines and solar plants. But if you look closely at these graphs, you can see that improvement comes from sucking clean electricity away from other states.
California just hasn’t managed to increase the amount of carbon-free electricity it produces in state.
How can this be? It seems like there are new solar panels going up all the time in California. It turns out that all those new renewables weren’t enough to make up for the loss of electricity when the state shut down nuclear plants and droughts shut down hydropower. Another graph (Figure 10) reveals what’s happening: Natural gas has replaced most of the electricity that was coming from dams and nuclear plants.

Industry: No improvement (please see doctor about unhealthy gas leakage)
Share of emissions: 21 percent
California’s wineries, cement plants, and aerospace companies are mostly just treading water. We could go searching for silver linings here and find some improvement (look, emissions from refineries are falling!) but let’s be real: This is disappointing.

The problem is that most of these emissions come from combustion; that is, industry burns stuff to make other stuff. You’ve got to get limestone really hot to make cement, and you need a fiery forge to turn steel into a Tesla or a BPA-free water bottle. People are starting to figure out more environmentally friendly manufacturing techniques, but they are still new, and therefore really expensive.
Also, remember that big gas leak at Aliso Canyon? It’s captured by these numbers.
Final grade: C-
(Young California has lots of potential, but hasn’t turned ambition into enough progress)
This may seem like a harsh assessment, but we are measuring the Golden State against its own expectations, not against Wyoming or North Korea. Basically, California is great at making big promises about defying Trump and fighting climate change. It’s not yet good enough at walking the walk.
Not to say that California is all talk. Jeffrey Greenblatt, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley Lab who has been studying California’s efforts, says the state has made a lot of significant policy changes. Think green building standards, carbon sequestration efforts, and subsidies for electric cars and renewable energy. “The problem is that, even with all that, it’s not quite enough to get us to our targets,” Greenblatt says.
California’s climate team has a plan for upping the pace that depends on getting a new cap-and-trade law passed. A few weeks ago, one cap-and-trade bill failed a key vote. But there’s still time. The state legislature has a Democratic supermajority, and a Governor Moonbeam who cares deeply about climate change.
“We can’t fall back and give in to the climate deniers,” Gov. Brown said in his State of the State speech earlier this year. “The science is clear, the danger is real. We can do much on our own, and we can join with others — other states and provinces, even other countries — to stop the dangerous rise in climate pollution.”
The world needs this well-meaning slacker to turn into a climate valedictorian. One solid session of summer school could put the state on the right trajectory.

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Bay Area to cap refineries’ greenhouse gases — and greens are mad

By David R. Baker
June 20, 2017 Updated: June 20, 2017 5:04pm

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

The Shell refinery in Martinez is one of five oil refineries in the Bay Area that under a proposal would get firm limits placed on greenhouse gas emissions, the first such caps in the nation.

On Wednesday, Bay Area regulators are expected to approve the nation’s first firm limits on greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries.
And some of the environmentalists who spent years pushing for the caps are furious.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is scheduled Wednesday morning to vote on the proposal, which would set specific annual limits on the amount of greenhouse gases each of the region’s five refineries could produce.

The problem lies in how those limits are set.
As originally proposed, the caps reflected the average annual emissions from each plant, plus a little room on top to account for year-to-year variability. The idea was not to cut emissions, but rather, to keep them from rising substantially.

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

The Valero refinery in Bencia,Ca., as seen on Tuesday June 20, 2017. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District on Wednesday is expected to approve the nation's first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries.
But, under changes proposed by district staff late last week, the cap at each refinery would be raised to account for upgrade or expansion projects that the district has already approved but that have not yet been built or started operations.
“It’s a matter of not only fairness but also legal necessity,” said Eric Stevenson, the district’s director of meteorology, measurement and rules. “We still expect to be sued by the industry. But because of that, we want to make sure we have the most legally defensible rule possible.”
As a result, however, the emissions from individual refineries could rise 25 percent or more above their current levels, according to the district’s staff report. Environmental groups call that the equivalent of building another refinery.

The new caps, they say, also won’t achieve one of their key goals — making sure Bay Area refineries don’t start using heavy petroleum from Canada’s tar sands. That oil takes more energy to refine and produces more greenhouse gas emissions as a result. And the critics argue that the last-minute changes amount to giving the oil industry a “right to pollute” whenever an expansion or upgrade project wins approval.
“At the 11th hour, the staff turned this thing on its head,” said Greg Karras, senior scientist with Communities for a Better Environment. “Think about how big that problem is — if there’s a vested right to pollute, goodbye EPA.”
The refiners, for their part, consider the new rule overkill.
California, they note, already has regulations and tools — including its cap-and-trade system — to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. The Western States Petroleum Association, the oil industry’s main lobbying group in Sacramento, also complained that the last-minute changes made analyzing the proposal’s impact difficult.

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Utilities in hot water: Realizing the benefits of grid-integrated water heaters

Water heaters offer storage capabilities at a fraction of the cost of batteries. The challenge is getting everyone a piece of the returns.
Herman K. Trabish
June 20, 2017
Utilities have always tried to stay out of hot water with their customers. But now, they're itching to get into it. 
A wave of interest is building in grid-integrated water heating (GIWH) as a path to system flexibility at a fraction of the cost of battery energy storage. At last count, 53.6 million of the 118.2 million U.S. water heaters were electric. Each could act as a battery for load shifting, peak shaving, or to integrate renewables, according to a Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) paper.
Hot water is used largely by residential utility customers in morning and evening hours, wrote RAP Sr. Advisor Jim Lazar. But it can be heated “when power is most available.”

The stored hot water could then be used during the morning and evening without increasing system burden, Lazar wrote. And, to optimize the use of variable renewables, it could be heated at night to take advantage of high wind production and at midday to take advantage of abundant solar production.
Effective utility control of residential water heating could integrate “up to 100,000 MW of additional variable wind and solar energy in the U.S.,” Lazar wrote.
Transforming the U.S. electric water heater fleet to 100% GIWH represents a $3.6 billion per year market, according to think tank Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). And “utilities, GIWH manufacturers, installers, solar companies, aggregators, and customers themselves can all capture a piece of this prize.”
Utilities across the country are catching on. There are GIWH pilots at Portland General Electric (PGE), Arizona Public Service (APS), and Green Mountain Power (GMP) in Vermont. PJM has introduced GIWH for frequency regulation and the California Energy Commission is discussing GIWH, according to Brattle Principal Ryan Hledik, co-author of a recent paper describing the GIWH opportunity
In the next 12 months to 18 months, Hledik said, it is likely there will be a utility-led “new wave of grid interactive water heating pilot programs.” The challenge, however, remains in spreading the benefits to all parties involved.

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Judge upholds California’s low-carbon fuel standards

By Bob Egelko
June 20, 2017 Updated: June 20, 2017 3:33pm

Photo: Anne Cusack, MCT

Ethanol is pumped into a truck for transport as ethanol production is coming back and Pacific Ethanol, Inc., in Stockton, California, has weathered bankruptcy and is cashing in on the current boon. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

A federal judge has upheld most of California’s pioneering low-carbon fuel standard but allowed oil companies and other fuel suppliers to challenge rules that may favor California ethanol producers over their Midwest competitors.
The standard, part of a 2006 state law intended to reduce air pollution that causes global warming, requires suppliers of transportation fuel sold in California to achieve a 10 percent reduction by 2020 in the amount of carbon released from their products.

Ruling in lawsuits originally filed in 2009 by oil refiners and ethanol producers, U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill of Fresno rejected their broadest arguments: that the California rules conflicted with milder federal clean-air laws and were an unconstitutional attempt to shield the state’s energy producers from competition.
Federal law expressly “preserves the right of the states to enact their own legislation that is more restrictive,” O’Neill said in a 48-page decision Thursday.
In 2011, O’Neill had blocked enforcement of the low-carbon standard, saying it appeared to establish a preference for California-produced biofuels. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco quickly allowed the state to resume enforcement of the rules and later overturned O’Neill’s decision, in language he quoted in his latest ruling.
“There was no protectionist purpose, no aim to insulate California from out-of-state competition,” he said, citing the appeals court’s findings.
But he said ethanol companies in the Midwest, where nearly all of the nation’s supplies of the fuel are produced, could proceed with their claim that the California rules, though neutral in purpose, had a discriminatory effect.

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BMW and PG&E Prove Electric Vehicles Can Be a Valuable Grid Resource

Nearly 100 plug-in cars and a stack of second-life EV batteries successfully responded to dozens of demand response calls.
by Julia Pyper
June 20, 2017

The concept of using electric vehicles as a grid resource is no longer just theory. A pilot program recently conducted by BMW and Pacific Gas & Electric successfully demonstrated that electric vehicles can serve as reliable and flexible grid assets, which could eventually save money for both utilities and EV owners.
The BMW i ChargeForward Project is one of the best examples to date of a utility and an automaker working together to develop new technologies and use cases for electric vehicles (EVs) and their batteries.
“One of the things that we really wanted to test here was, how can we work closely with an automaker?” said David Almeida, electric vehicle program manager at PG&E. “We are an old company, and we're a large company. Automakers are old companies, and they're large companies. We both have our own internal bureaucracies. And so, one of the challenges I wanted to understand when we were setting this up was, how do we make those two independent entities work well together?”
“By and large, we didn't have any of those institutional challenges that I was [worried about],” he said. “We ended up working very closely, I think partially because we've got this common shared goal of increasing electric transportation.”

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Making cities more dense always sparks resistance. Here’s how to overcome it.

Urbanist Brent Toderian on how to deal with NIMBY [Not In My Backyard].
Updated by David Jun 20, 2017, 9:10am EDT

Vancouver’s waterfront. (Brent Toderian)
Urban density, done well, has all kinds of benefits. On average, people who live in dense, walkable areas tend to be physically healthier, happier, and more productive. Local governments pay less in infrastructure costs to support urbanites than they to support suburbanites. Per-capita energy consumption is lower in dense areas, which is good for air pollution and climate change.

Plus, dense, walkable areas tend to be buzzy and culturally vibrant. There’s a reason they are often so expensive to live in — lots of people want to live there. Demand exceeds supply.
But creating a dense, walkable area almost always means increasing the density of a built environment that already exists. Especially in developed countries, they’re not building a lot of new cities. They’re working with existing ones. And cities built after the advent of the automobile were generally built around cars, which generally means low density.
Densifying can mean up-zoning to allow greater height in existing urbanized areas, or to allow duplexes, triplexes, or apartments in previously single-family areas. It can mean allowing for mother-in-law units (“accessory dwelling units,” or ADUs, in the lingo) or units along back lanes and alleys. It can mean extending transit to new areas.

But one way or another it means change. It means telling the residents of an area that a bunch more people are moving in. And that always generates resistance, sentiment that has taken on the name NIMBY [Not In My Backyard].

I asked urbanist Brent Toderian, who has worked with numerous cities on densification projects, how he thinks about, and deals with, NIMBYs. (More of our conversation here.)
David Roberts
My hometown of Seattle is full of purportedly progressive people who enjoy urban amenities like everyone else, but if you ask them to up-zone, it’s a revolution. Talk a little about NIMBYs.

Brent Toderian
I work all over the world, and there are NIMBYs everywhere. Density is never easy. Change is never easy. We have a bias towards the status quo and we tend to weigh loss more heavily than gain. That is human nature.
To me, NIMBY is not a pejorative. It means people are saying, “that thing — we don’t want it in our backyard, in our neighborhood.” There’s nothing inherently bad about that. Sometimes it’s a reasonable point! I don’t want an abattoir in my backyard. I don’t want a concrete-batching plant in my backyard. There are things we don’t want in our backyard, and when you combine that with human nature, almost anything in your backyard that you don’t currently have is going to be a challenge.
So I don’t begrudge NIMBYs. I value them. I listen carefully and I learn what they’re afraid of, why they say no. Often I will learn how to do yes better and address their fears, or at least mitigate them.

NIMBYs are not necessarily the problem. They are behaving normally for humans. The problem is politicians and other decision-makers who know better, who don’t do the right thing because of NIMBY fear. If you’ve had a long process, heard from thousands of people, investigated and understood the technical issues, know your aspirations as a city, and you let 10 or 15 individuals at the last minute show up at council and turn it down? I don’t blame those 15 individuals, I blame the leaders.

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Los Angeles County leads the state in clean-energy jobs

A Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF are shown under solar panels that power an electric vehicle recharging station at CALSTART, a Pasadena-based consortium of clean transportation technology companies. A new report shows that 519,500 Californians are working in clean-energy industries. File photo. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Walt Mancini/SXCity)
By Kevin Smith, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
POSTED: 06/19/17, 9:59 PM PDT |
An estimated 519,500 Californians are working in clean-energy industries, and Los Angeles County is leading the way, according to a report released Monday.
The study from the nonpartisan business group E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) revealed that more than $45 billion in public and private investments have been injected into the state’s economy by California’s stringent climate policies, including cap-and-trade legislation, which reduces pollution while increasing clean energy and energy efficiency.

Under cap-and-trade, companies pay penalties if they exceed the current cap on allowable greenhouse gas emissions; the cap gets stricter over time. The trade part is a market for companies to buy and sell allowances that permit them to emit only a certain amount. Trading gives companies a strong incentive to save money by reducing emissions.
California’s climate policies have cut carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking 3.2 million cars off the road. About half of the $1.2 billion spent on clean-energy investments stemming from cap-and-trade has gone to disadvantaged communities throughout the state.

Los Angeles County ranked first among the Top 10 California Counties for clean energy employment with 117,000 jobs, according to the E2 report. San Diego County ranked second with 61,500 jobs, followed by Orange County (45,200), Santa Clara County (34,200), Sacramento County (23,700), Alameda County (22,100), Riverside County (20,500), San Bernardino County (19,800), San Francisco County (18,200), and Contra Costa County (13,300).
On a broader scale, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana region landed atop the list of the Top 10 Metro Areas for clean-energy employment with 161,400 jobs. The Inland Empire ranked fourth with 40,100 clean-energy jobs.


CALSTART, a Pasadena-based consortium of clean transportation technology companies, is playing a big part in California’s clean-energy movement. CALSTART employs 19 workers in Pasadena. But company CEO John Boesel said there are about 35,000 people in California who work in the field of clean-transportation technology.
“I think that could double in another five years,” he said.
CALSTART’s consortium is both broad and diverse.
“We have about 165 member companies, ranging from big fleets like UPS and FedEx to manufacturers like Tesla, GM and Peterbilt,” Boesel said. “But we also work with smaller startups. These companies are working on things like light moving vehicles, biofuels and next-generation batteries. We’ve seen more growth over the past seven years than we saw during the previous 18 years.”


Mary Solecki, E2’s western states advocate, said California will continue to add jobs in the clean-energy sector.
“A similar analysis that was done a year ago by Advanced Energy Economy found there were over 500,000 clean-energy jobs in California, so it’s going up,” she said. “And with the state’s clean energy goals we still have a way to go.”
Senate Bill 350, approved by the state Legislature in September of 2015, mandates a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use by vehicles by 2030. That’s the equivalent of removing 36 million cars and trucks from the road. It also calls for 50 percent of California’s electricity to be derived from renewable resources by that date, and a 50 percent improvement in energy efficiency in buildings through retrofits and upgrades.

“We have a lot of stretching and growth ahead of us,” Solecki said. “We’ll continue to see scaling up of jobs in geothermal, solar and wind energy, and more jobs in advanced transportation and energy efficiency.”


Not so green: how the weed industry is a glutton for fossil

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Not so green: how the weed industry is a glutton for fossil fuels

Producing a few pounds of weed can have the same environmental toll as driving across America seven times – harming cities’ and states’ plans to curb emissions

Paul Isenbergh pays at least $4,000 a month for electricity to grow cannabis. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty

Oliver Milman in Denver

Tuesday 20 June 2017 07.00 EDT
Last modified on Tuesday 20 June 2017 09.45 EDT
s he opens the steel door to the jumble of his office, located in a cloistered warehouse on the west side of Denver, Paul Isenbergh is barking down the phone about a duplicitous business rival. He’s wearing a shirt and rust-colored tie. Yards from his desk, rows of drying cannabis plants are strung up on two clothes lines.
Isenbergh spent 30 years as a real estate broker in Florida. When he moved to Denver in 2011, he didn’t even know medicinal marijuana was legal in Colorado.
“I had been doing my own research and development, you could say, since the 1970s, but I didn’t really know anything about it until I came here,” he said.

Canadian province gambles future on marijuana's 'extreme growth potential'
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He now owns three cannabis-growing facilities, all housed in what were shuttered Denver warehouses. The second largest, a windowless blockhouse that holds around 500 cannabis plants, throbs with energy.
Large 1,000-watt lamps bathe the plants in a blueish hue during the vegetative phase, when the plants are gaining mass, while a fizzing yellow light scorches the vegetation as it enters its flowering phase, producing the buds of weed that are trimmed, cured and sold for around $1,400 a pound. (It used to be much more, before a stampede of growers saturated the local market).
“We are consuming a lot of energy compared to what we would with LED lights,” said Isenbergh, who pays at least $4,000 a month for electricity. “We tried LED but we couldn’t get the right yield from the plants. And this is a weight game. The LEDs just don’t have the horsepower.”
The legalization of cannabis (recreational weed was approved in a statewide ballot in 2012) has reinvigorated previously dilapidated industrial areas of Denver and generated more than $1bn a year in taxable sales. But the voracious energy consumption of growers is rubbing up against the city’s ambitions of cutting greenhouse gases.
And with around half of all US states now allowing cannabis for various uses, hothoused cultivation is increasingly a concern for governors and mayors promising to fill a Donald Trump-sized hole in emissions reductions.

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