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Climate change measure heads toward Jerry Brown

AUGUST 24, 2016 2:55 PM


California is set to extend its historic greenhouse gas emissions targets after the state Senate on Wednesday sent a reauthorization bill to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has vociferously championed policies to combat climate change during his final term in office.

Senate Bill 32 would place in statute his executive order to reduce emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, an expansion of current law that mandates California reach 1990 levels by 2020. It passed the Senate 25-13, largely along party lines, to a round of applause on the floor.

Sen. Fran Pavley, a Democrat from Agoura Hills who authored the original regulation a decade ago, said the success of that law proved there was “not a false choice between a healthy environment and a sound economy.”

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Lawmakers, Jerry Brown claim major political victory on climate change bills

AUGUST 24, 2016 12:34 PM

In giving final approval to a pair of linked climate bills, lawmakers on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016 handed a victory to Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders, who called the measures essential to preserving the state’s ambitious climate program. David Siders The Sacramento Bee


Surmounting political obstacles to policies that have made California a national model on fighting climate change, lawmakers on Wednesday advanced a pair of bills to sustain the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In giving final approval to a pair of linked climate bills, lawmakers handed a victory to Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders, who called the measures essential to preserving the state’s ambitious climate program.

“This is a real commitment backed up by real power,” Brown said.

One of the measures, Senate Bill 32, would require California to slash greenhouse gas levels to 40 percent below their 1990 levels by 2030, extending the state’s authority to enact sweeping climate policies beyond an approaching 2020 limit. The other, Assembly Bill 197, sought to build support for those goals by giving legislators more power over the Air Resources Board. Brown is certain to sign both.

Both bills succeeded despite a lobbying push from the oil industry and reticence from business-oriented Democrats, whose combined resistance scuttled a major 2015 measure that would have mandated a 50 percent cut in California’s petroleum use. That setback fueled concerns that Brown and legislative allies would be unable to overcome the same forces in 2016.

“It isn’t only Donald Trump trying to stop the effort to clean up the air and to combat climate change. There are a lot of Trump-inspired acolytes that even walk the halls of this state Capitol. But they have been vanquished,” Brown said, alluding to the clout of oil companies and to the “very powerful lobbying by these organizations whose goal is to keep the Earth and California dirty.”

The twin legislative successes presage a battle over the state’s cap-and-trade program, which compels businesses to buy permits for the greenhouse gases they put into the air. Encumbered by a court challenge and two subpar auctions of emissions allowances, the system’s fate will likely be central to next year’s legislative session.

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With new climate legislation, Gov. Brown gets even with the oil industry



American flags fly near the Shell refinery in Martinez, Calif.



August 25, 2016, 12:05 a.m.

Gov. Jerry Brown got mad and one year later has gotten even with the oil lobby.

It’s a textbook example of what can happen in a representative democracy when a leader is willing to settle for realistic goals. It’s what results when one doesn’t get too greedy and agrees to compromise.

It’s also symptomatic of one-party control. Dominant Democrats in Sacramento hang together more often than not, and that produces victories when only a simple majority vote is required. And that’s usually.

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How Much Energy Storage Would Be Needed for California to Reach 50 Percent Solar?

About 11 times more than the state is currently building—as well as a much more flexible grid

by Julian Spector

August 24, 2016


If California wants to continue increasing its share of solar power on the grid, it will need greater capacity to store it. The question remains: how much?

A new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory attempts to quantify the answer. The authors model several scenarios in which the California grid generates 50 percent of its power from solar by 2030. To do so will require some pretty major changes, including more flexible baseload generation, as well as more deployment of electric vehicles, exports to other states and demand response.

Those can only go so far, though. To meet the 50 percent photovoltaic threshold economically will require energy storage. The state already has 3,100 megawatts of pumped storage, with 1,325 megawatts of additional storage set to be deployed by 2020, per the state mandate. Under the most optimistic flexible grid scenario and with PV prices falling rapidly to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, California will need another 15 gigawatts of storage by 2030.

That’s more than 11 times the amount mandated currently in California, and 66 times the total megawatts deployed in the U.S. last year. And any delays in the price declines of solar, or the rollout of EVs, or the flexibility of conventional power plants, will raise the bar on the amount of storage required.

That sounds daunting, admitted NREL Principal Energy Analyst Paul Denholm, who co-authored the research with Robert Margolis.

“Storage costs are going to have to come down,” Denholm said. “I don't want to sugar-coat it: we're not there yet.”

But the challenge becomes more attainable if you frame it as getting storage to a price point where it can take the place of peaker plants, the most expensive form of thermal generation. California had 22 gigawatts of fossil-fueled peakers as of 2014, including 14 gigawatts that were older than 25 years and will eventually need to retire.

“The way to think about it is not necessarily to compare it to existing storage, but compare it to existing peaking capacity, because ultimately that's what storage is going to have to be replacing,” Denholm said.

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San Bernardino County rejects a controversial solar power plant proposed for the Mojave Desert



August 24, 2016, 3:00 p.m.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has rejected a controversial solar plant proposed for the Mojave Desert’s Soda Mountains, citing concerns that the project would destroy habitat and block ancient trails used by bighorn sheep for thousands of years.

In a 3-2 vote, the board on Tuesday declined to certify documents required under state law in order to issue county permits for the project on public land along Interstate 15 near the entrances to Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park, and less than a mile from the Mojave National Preserve.

“We endorse renewable energy, but this was the wrong project in the wrong location,” said Supervisor Robert A. Lovingood.

“We have hundreds of miles of locations identified for such projects where the land is already disturbed and there are transmission lines,” said Lovingood, whose district includes the Soda Mountains. “When companies come forward with plans to build in those areas we’ll support them.”

Menlo, Calif.-based Regenerate Power, which recently bought Soda Mountain Solar from Bechtel Corp., said it intends to overcome this latest obstacle and press forward with the project.

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The falling costs of US solar power, in 7 charts

Updated by David Roberts on August 24, 2016, 1:30 p.m. ET @drvox


This is basically what owning solar panels is like.


The fate of the world depends on driving down the cost of solar power.

Yes, that’s a melodramatic way of putting it. But it’s not wrong. Any scenario that has humanity avoiding the worst ravages of climate change involves explosive global growth in solar power.

That’s why the US Department of Energy has a program, the SunShot Initiative, devoted entirely to driving down the cost of electricity generated by solar panels — the target is solar power with $1 per watt installed costs by 2020, a 75 percent reduction in costs from 2010.

So how’s that going?

Happily, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) releases a set of reports each year devoted to tracking solar prices; they’ve just released the latest editions. Long story short: Prices are steadily falling, more or less on schedule

There are two reports, one for each type of solar power. One is on "utility-scale solar," which means solar systems larger than 5 MW. The other report is on solar photovoltaic (PV) systems under 5 MW.

Those are two very different markets, but I’m going to squish them together in this post, with the help of a bazillion charts.

Solar is growing, growing, growing

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Here’s how solar roofs fit into Elon Musk’s master plan

They are part of a platform, meant to hasten the growth of clean energy markets.

Updated by David Roberts on August 23, 2016, 8:40 a.m. ET @drvox



Dow Chemical’s PowerHouse solar shingles, on a homeowner’s roof.


Earlier this month, Elon Musk made news again when he announced his intention to offer solar roofs, a product he sensed might need a few words of clarification.

"It's a solar roof as opposed to a module on a roof," he said on an earnings call about the planned merger between his electric car company, Tesla, with his cousin’s solar panel company, SolarCity. "It's not a thing on the roof, it is the roof."

This wasn’t technically the first mention of the solar roof — it also appeared in Musk’s Master Plan, Part Deux, released in July:

Create a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works, empowering the individual as their own utility, and then scale that throughout the world. One ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app.

Intriguing indeed. But we don’t have much more information than that.

Since then, the roofs have been called "out of left field," and "a sweeping expansion of Tesla’s clean energy ambitions," but they are neither. Solar roofs are not some side goof of Musk’s; they’ve been part of his ambition all along. People just haven’t been taking him seriously.

In making sense of this and other Musk moves, it seems to me that a few facts have been, if not missed, at least not emphasized enough.

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UL Working To Ensure Used EV Batteries Can Be Safely Re-Purposed

AUG 24, 2016 @ 08:23 AM

Peter Kelly-Detwiler , CONTRIBUTOR

I cover the energy industry.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Electric vehicles are sexy. They accelerate from zero to sixty in no time. Some of the coolest models from BMW and Tesla have gull-wing doors. And they are beginning to gain traction in the market. To date, some half a million have been sold in the U.S. This year, we are on a record pace both in the U.S. and globally. Last year, 550,000 EVs were sold worldwide. This year, the numbers are already at 308,000 through the first half of the year. Those numbers may appear large, but in the context of the nearly 89 million vehicles sold worldwide last year, they are still quite small, implying tremendous room for future growth.

As EV prices continue to fall, some analysts project that price parity between electric vehicles and gasoline-fueled cars will occur as soon as 2022. That cross-over date may occur soon or it may be later, but this is no longer a question of if, but simply when. So in the very near future, we will have hundreds of thousands, and ultimately millions of electric vehicles ready for the scrap heap. When that day comes, what happens to their lithium ion batteries?

As it turns out, while a used EV lithium ion battery will not be that useful in a car anymore, it will still likely have plenty of value in a secondary market for stationary energy storage on the power grid. Some of the larger EV batteries will be capable of storing multiple days’ use for the average residential customer (the new Tesla SP100D highlighted in the August 23rd press release boasts a 100 kWh battery, equal to more than three full days’ home power consumption).  Taken in total, used EV batteries may

Many companies have already recognized this fact, and have begun piloting the interaction of EV batteries with power grids. Among the various initiatives, BMW has been working with Pacific Gas and Electric to optimize the interaction of repurposed EV batteries and the grid. In June, it announced a stationary storage offering that will ultimately involve second-life batteries. Nissan and Eaton have announced a similar offering in the UK, available for pre-order in September. Sumitomo and Nissan have been working on this opportunity for several years. And there are multiple other initiatives as well.

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High-Price Ethanol Credits Add to Refiners’ Woes


SUGAR LAND, Tex. — The oil-refining business has always been a tough way to make money.

Stiff competition, heavy regulation and high operating costs make for some of the lowest profit margins in the petroleum industry. And in the last year, profits have been even harder to come by because of the global fuel glut that has translated into bargain-basement prices for the gasoline and diesel that refiners produce.

But lately, the game has been tougher still for people like Jack Lipinski, chief executive of CVR Energy, an independent operator of two refineries in Oklahoma and Kansas. The problem involves a soaring cost that is outside of his control.

This year, on top of everything else, CVR Energy will have to spend as much as $235 million on credits for renewable fuels. That is nearly double what the company spent last year on the credits, and it exceeds the company’s total labor, maintenance and energy costs.

Mr. Lipinski blames the federal program that requires CVR to buy the credits, but he also suspects a role by unknown market speculators who may be driving up the costs of the credits.

“I have no way of fixing it,” Mr. Lipinski said in an interview at his headquarters in this Houston suburb. “It’s a black pool of speculation that could cause bankruptcies in our sector.”

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Occupying the Prairie: Tensions Rise as Tribes Move to Block a Pipeline

By JACK HEALYAUG. 23, 2016

American Indians vs. Dakota Pipeline

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others are protesting the Dakota Access pipeline, which they say threatens water supplies and sacred lands. By Neeti Upadhye on

Publish Date

August 23, 2016. Photo by Daniella Zalcman. Watch in Times Video »

  1. Embed

NEAR CANNON BALL, N.D. — Horseback riders, their faces streaked in yellow and black paint, led the procession out of their tepee-dotted camp. Two hundred people followed, making their daily walk a mile up a rural highway to a patch of prairie grass and excavated dirt that has become a new kind of battlefield, between a pipeline and American Indians who say it will threaten water supplies and sacred lands.

The Texas-based company building the Dakota Access pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, calls the project a major step toward the United States’ weaning itself off foreign oil. The company says the nearly 1,170-mile buried pipeline will infuse millions of dollars into local economies and is safer than trucks and train cars that can topple and spill and crash and burn.

But the people who stood at the gates of a construction site where crews had been building an access road toward the pipeline viewed the project as a wounding intrusion onto lands where generations of their ancestors hunted bison, gathered water and were born and buried, long before treaties and fences stamped a different order onto the Plains.

People have been gathering since April, but as hundreds more poured in over the past two weeks, confrontations began rising among protesters, sheriff’s officers and construction workers with the pipeline company. Local officials are struggling to handle hundreds of demonstrators filling the roads to protest and camp out in once-empty grassland about an hour south of Bismarck, the state capital.

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EIA: U.S. shale oil production to fall sharply through 2017

Posted by James Osborne

Date: August 22, 2016


    PHOTO: Bloomberg/ Brittany Sowacke)

    The flow of oil from U.S. shale fields is projected by government analysts to fall 14 percent by 2017, as the reverberations of the recent crash in crude prices are felt.

    Production from those shale fields had increased exponentially over the past decade as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques were improved. Shale oil now accounts for more than half of the nation’s crude output.

    But according to a report Monday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, shale oil output – which peaked in 2015 at 4.9 million barrels a day – will fall to 4.2 million barrels by the end of next year.

    The fall is “mainly attributed to low oil prices and the resulting cuts in investment. However, production declines will continue to be mitigated by reductions in cost and improvements in drilling techniques,” the report reads.

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    Energy summit: Oil and gas measures risk unleashing litigation

    Who will be on the hook for compensation claims by owners of inaccessible mineral rights?


    RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post A member of a fracking crew watches over water tanks at an Anadarko Petroleum Corporation site near Brighton on May 19, 2014.


    PUBLISHED: August 23, 2016 at 11:26 pm | UPDATED: August 23, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    Colorado taxpayers could face billions of dollars in compensation claims if two ballot measures to limit oil and gas drilling in the state make it into the constitution, panelists speaking at the Rocky Mountain Energy Summit warned on Tuesday.

    “You will have years and years of litigation over takings,” said Jamie Jost, a Denver petroleum industry attorney. “Initiatives 75 and 78 could be devastating not only for the industry, but for the state.”

    Initiative 75 would provide local governments a greater say in limiting oil and gas activity within their boundaries, including rules stricter than state standards. Initiative 78 would require new wells be set back 2,500 feet from inhabited dwellings and sensitive environmental areas, including waterways.

    Signatures have been submitted for both initiatives. Colorado’s Secretary of State has until Sept. 7 to determine whether they will make the November general election ballot.


    1. AUGUST 23, 2016 Denver-based PDC Energy joins in on Texas oil rush
    2. AUGUST 19, 2016 Official rejects overdue Peabody tax payment that shorted Routt County more than $91,000
    3. AUGUST 15, 2016 Bill Barrett Corp. to begin drilling in Denver-Julesburg Basin again
    4. AUGUST 15, 2016 Methane “hot spot” over Four Corners linked to oil, gas production sites
    1. AUGUST 14, 2016 In North Dakota, people vs. oil pipeline protest strengthens

    Either measure would reduce future production in the state and the tax revenues that follow. But the bigger legal issue, Jost said, is who is on the financial hook for compensating the owners of mineral rights made inaccessible by the proposed rules if they are adopted.

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    Apple Becomes a Green Energy Supplier, With Itself as Customer

    By DIANE CARDWELLAUG. 23, 2016



    A worker helps install new solar panels at a First Solar plant outside Cholame, Calif. Apple will purchase the electricity generated by the plant to power its stores in California.


    Andrew Burton for The New York Times

    PALO ALTO, Calif. — The words are stenciled on the front of the Apple Store, a glass box sandwiched between a nondescript Thai restaurant and a CVS pharmacy in downtown Palo Alto: “This store runs on 100 percent renewable energy.”

    If Apple’s plans play out, it will be able to make that claim not only for its operations throughout California but also beyond, as the company aims to meet its growing needs for electricity with green sources like solar, wind and hydroelectric power.

    Like other big companies before it, including Walmart and Google, Apple recently received a federal designation for its energy subsidiary that allows it to become a wholesale seller of electricity from coast to coast. In effect, Apple is creating its own green utility company, although the main customer is itself.

    The motives may be economic as much as they are environmental. As a wholesaler, Apple could reduce the cost of its electricity load, which reached 831 million kilowatt-hours in the last fiscal year — enough to power about 76,000 homes for a year. But like a growing number of corporations, Apple is intent on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production — one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

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    Soaring Corporate Demand Causes Utilities To Shoot For The Sun

    Ken Silverstein , CONTRIBUTOR

    I write about the global energy business.

    Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.


    In this Friday, July 8, 2016, photo, Radford Takashima, left, installer for RevoluSun, and lead installer Dane Hew Len, right, place solar panels on a roof in Honolulu. Hawaii is a national leader in rooftop solar power, and the state has an ambitious goal of using only renewable energy by 2045. But people are being shut out of solar incentive programs because of limits set by the state. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)

    A decade ago, Duke Energy DUK -0.54% didn’t own any renewable energy assets. Today it owns or contracts for 3,000 megawatts — a number that it expects to increase to 8,000 megawatts by 2020. Its purchase of a majority stake in REC Solar is a primary vehicle to getting there and one that will focus on selling solar energy to small-to-mid-sized commercial customers.

    Duke is hardly alone. Other utilities are moving aggressively into this new energy world. The choices are stark — to either get into the game or to watch it from the sidelines. As utility customers seek to reduce their bills and to lower their emissions, they are looking to increasingly develop onsite energy sources such as rooftop solar. And while the bigger companies may go a step further and construct localized microgrids, they are all after the same thing:

    “Small-to-mid-sized commercial businesses want to become more sustainable and cleaner,” says Matt Walz, who is now the chief executive for REC Solar, in an interview. “At the same time, they want to save on their electric bills.”

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    California Assembly approves climate change law

    1. AUGUST 23, 2016 12:29 PM

    After an intense floor debate, a bill extending California’s greenhouse gas emission targets squeaked by in the Assembly on Tuesday.

    Senate Bill 32 was seen as a crucial step for reauthorizing the state’s cap-and-trade program. Gov. Jerry Brown, who said he will sign the measure once it is approved by the Senate, attempted to include an amendment specifically extending cap-and-trade authority but was rebuffed by lawmakers.

    The bill now requires a 40 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2030. The current climate law, AB 32, required the state to reach 1990 levels by 2020.

    “With SB 32 we continue California’s leadership on climate change,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount. Rendon acknowledged that the bill does not expressly extend the cap-and-trade program, but said it was “a piece of the puzzle” and that he is committed to continuing the program.

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