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June 8th, 2017 Archives


The U.S. Can’t Leave the Paris Climate Deal Just Yet



President Barack Obama signed a letter to the United Nations in 2016 accepting the Paris climate accord.


National Archives and Records Administration

Last week, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. But it will take more than one speech to pull out: Under the rules of the deal, which the White House says it will follow, the earliest any country can leave is Nov. 4, 2020. That means the United States will remain a party to the accord for nearly all of Mr. Trump’s current term, and it could still try to influence the climate talks during that span.

So the next four years will be a busy time for climate policy. Mr. Trump’s aides plan to keep working to dismantle domestic climate programs like the Clean Power Plan. And the world’s nations will meet regularly to hash out details of the Paris agreement, even as the United States’ exit looms. Here is what comes next.

November 2017

Negotiators for 195 nations will meet in Bonn, Germany, to discuss how to carry out the Paris agreement. Every country has already submitted an initial pledge for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. But officials now have to write rules for monitoring and verifying those pledges.

Technically, the United States is still the co-chair of a key committee on transparency measures. In the past, American officials have taken a keen interest in this topic, pushing for robust oversight of emissions. By contrast, countries like China have argued for looser scrutiny for developing nations.

Mr. Trump has offered to “renegotiate” the Paris deal, because he says other countries are “laughing at us” while they renege on their pledges. While countries like France and Germany have ruled out a broad renegotiation of the agreement, the United States could nonetheless try to shape the rules from within.

“The question is whether the Trump administration still shows up for those discussions,” said Andrew Light, a senior climate change adviser at the State Department under President Barack Obama. “If they really are pushing to ‘renegotiate’ the deal, as they say, I don’t see why they wouldn’t go.”

Another thing to watch this fall: a growing coalition of states, cities and companies that are pledging to do as much as they can to meet the United States’ climate goals on their own. They will probably send a delegation to Bonn to reassure other countries that the United States is not completely out of the game.

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Canada’s Strategy on Climate Change: Work With American States



“I think it’s disappointing that the United States’ administration has not stepped up,” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment minister, referring to President Trump’s decision on the climate pact. “But the United States is bigger than the administration.”


Chris Young/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

OTTAWA — The timing was coincidental, but the meeting had a new urgency.

One day after President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord — saying he was elected to serve Pittsburgh, not Paris — the transport minister in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet visited with the mayor of Pittsburgh to discuss climate change.

The meeting was part of a broad strategy by the Canadian federal government to work directly with American states and cities on global warming, and to become a leader on the issue. Though the effort began several months ago, Mr. Trump’s rejection last week of the Paris agreement has energized it.

“I think it’s disappointing that the United States’ administration has not stepped up,” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment minister, referring to Mr. Trump’s decision on the climate pact. “But the United States is bigger than the administration.”

Mr. Trudeau has made battling climate change a top priority since his election in 2015, and Canadian provinces and American states have been dealing directly with one another on a variety of initiatives. Quebec and California have linked their cap-and-trade programs — an effort that Ontario, the most populous province, is set to join. Ontario and Manitoba participate in a climate coordination group primarily made up of Midwestern states.

The government is also working on building alliances with Florida, Indiana, Texas, Michigan, New York and other states.

Immediately after Mr. Trump’s announcement about the Paris accord, Ms. McKenna was on the phone with Jerry Brown, California’s governor, and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington. Both back the agreement, and Canada hopes to coordinate its climate efforts with their states, she said.

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Coalition Of States, Regions Fighting Climate Change Meet In China

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 | Sacramento, CA | Permalink


Governor Brown welcomes new Under2 Coalition members at Under2 Clean Energy Forum.

Aaron Berkovich,-regions-fighting-climate-change-meet-in-china/

June 7, 1:00 p.m.: California Governor Jerry Brown’s mission to fight climate change has taken him to China this week, but he’s not committing to support more ambitious renewable energy goals back home.

The governor was hosting an international forum on clean energy, and former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres congratulated him onstage for what she thought was a new state law mandating all electricity come from renewable sources by 2050. It’s actually a bill passed by Senate Democrats. Brown, off-mic, corrected her, leading to this exchange:

Figueres said, "But it will be. Okay, well you don’t comment, but maybe I can comment in admiration."

The measure would also move up emission targets Brown signed last year. He hasn’t rejected it, but is signaling caution.

"I think that’s good, but I don’t want to minimize now our 2030 goals are quite daunting," said Brown. "How do we get to 265 million tons of greenhouse gases. We’re at 430 or thereabouts."

Clean energy experts are divided about whether going to 100 percent renewable energy by mid-century will be technologically or economically feasible.

June 7, 10:40 a.m.: California has several new agreements with China and regions within the country. Gov. Jerry Brown has signed “memorandums of understanding” about developing new, clean technology.

The agreements are non-binding, but they describe a pathway for the two countries to raise new clean technology businesses.

Take the agreement Gov. Brown signed Wednesday evening to much fanfare with the mayor of Beijing. It calls for the two governments to look for mutually-beneficial clean technology projects to fund. Businesses that sprout from that could gestate in Beijing’s Z-Park area—the Chinese equivalent of Silicon Valley—because under the agreement Beijing will also provide space for an incubator.

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What price are Californians paying to fight climate change?

JUNE 08, 2017 4:00 AM



Californians pay about 15 cents a gallon extra at the pump to fight climate change.

Here’s what they’re getting for their money: continued progress in the effort to curb carbon.

Greenhouse gas emissions fell by 1.5 million tons in California in 2015, state officials announced Wednesday. The reduction was the equivalent of pulling 300,000 cars off the road for a year, according to the California Air Resources Board.

The agency said emissions dropped 0.3 percent compared with 2014, and have fallen a total of 10 percent since 2004. The state is on target to meet 2020 benchmarks established in a landmark climate change law passed in 2006.

The results come as the political debate intensifies about climate change and the cost of taking carbon out of the air. Last week President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accord, saying the pact was harming the U.S. economy. On Tuesday, in a clear rebuke to the president, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed an agreement with Chinese leaders to work together to reduce carbon.

The China accord emphasizes working together on developing “green technologies” that could boost job creation. Air Resources Board officials, in releasing the latest carbon statistics, were eager to push the notion that economic growth can coexist with carbon reductions.

“These numbers clearly indicate that the state is on track to achieve its 2020 emission reduction goals and that California can grow its economy while continuing to fight climate change,” said Air Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols in a prepared statement. She said California has added 2.3 million jobs since 2010 while reducing unemployment.

Critics said, however, that California’s climate change initiatives have put a dent into economic growth, and the impact will magnify as new, more stringent carbon targets imposed by the Legislature take effect in the coming years.

“There’s been no free lunch,” said Jeremy Carl, an energy specialist at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

It starts at the corner gas station. California’s cap-and-trade program requires fuel wholesalers, along with other big industrial firms, to purchase emissions allowances in order to generate carbon. In addition, fuel producers – from giant oil refiners to ethanol manufacturers – must purchase a separate type of credits to comply with the state’s “low carbon fuel standard,” which penalizes companies that spew lots of carbon during the production process.

Those costs get passed along to motorists. The total impact is about 15 cents a gallon, according to figures compiles by UC Berkeley energy economist Severin Borenstein.

The expenses go beyond gas and diesel. Food processors, cement manufacturers and others that are required to participate in the cap-and-trade market have spent more than $5 billion on carbon allowances since the program began in 2012, according to Air Resources Board data. Carl of the Hoover Institution said the requirements placed on businesses have created “substantial dead weight” on the California economy.

Californians also will likely pay some premium on their power bills to fight carbon. Electric utilities must adhere to the state’s “renewable portfolio standard,” which requires them to generate one-third of their power with solar and other renewable sources by 2020. Half of their power must come from renewables by 2030.

Solar and wind power costs have declined significantly in recent years, but the price of traditional gas-fired electricity has dropped even further because of plunging natural gas prices, Borenstein said. So Californians are also paying more for electricity, although he couldn’t put a figure on it.

“It’s definitely more expensive than if we had just stuck with coal and gas,” Borenstein said. Californians pay an average of 15.42 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity, nearly 50 percent above the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Californians seem comfortable with the higher costs, at least for now. A January poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found 56 percent of Californians are willing to pay more for electricity to reduce carbon emissions, for instance.

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BRIEFLY Stuff that matters ALOHA, PARIS


Hawaii now has a state law supporting the Paris Agreement’s climate goals. Gov. David Ige signed the legislation Tuesday — less than a week after President Trump pulled out of the historic pact — committing to a reduction of greenhouse gases and creating a commission to tackle rising sea levels.

The island-chain state is acutely at risk from inundation due to changing climate. In April, water levels broke the 1905 record for highest tides, and experts say it will probably be broken again in 2017.

At least 12 other states have joined Hawaii in pushing back against Trump, creating the U.S. Climate Alliance. The group’s members are pledging to stay the course with regard to commitments to the Paris Agreement and the Clean Power Plan, despite the new administration’s abdication of both.

Since Trump ditched Paris last week, he’s received considerable backlash from local and global leaders alike, including the business community. Now that one state has written its climate commitments into law, the resistance is beginning to look a whole lot stiffer.

Cody Permenter

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US Solar Market Adds 2 Gigawatts of PV in Q1 2017


Utility-scale solar prices fall below $1 per watt for first time; capacity expected to triple over next five years.

by Mike Munsell

June 07, 2017

Following rapid growth across the industry in 2016, the United States solar market added 2,044 megawatts of new capacity in the first quarter of 2017.

As installations grow, prices continue to fall to new lows, with utility-scale system prices dropping below the $1 per watt barrier for the first time, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report.

The first quarter of 2017 was the sixth straight quarter in which more than two gigawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) and more than one gigawatt of utility-scale PV was installed.

The residential and non-residential PV markets are both expected to experience year-over-year growth, even as the quarterly numbers saw a drop from last year’s record-setting pace, the report said.

“The solar market clearly remains on a strong upward trajectory,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Solar is delivering more clean energy, adding jobs 17 times faster than the U.S. economy and creating tens of billions of dollars in investment. With its cost-competitiveness, we know solar will continue to play a growing role in America’s energy portfolio.”

The utility-scale segment continues to drive the market, representing more than half of all PV installed during the quarter. Much of the capacity comes from projects that were originally slated for completion in 2016, but ended up being pushed back due to the extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit. And this entire year is expected to benefit from those “spill-over” projects.

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    “Utility solar is on the cusp of another boom in procurement,” said Cory Honeyman, GTM Research’s associate director of U.S. solar. “The majority of utility solicitations are focused on maximizing the number of projects that can come online with a 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit in 2019, or later by leveraging commence construction rules.”

    FIGURE: Annual U.S. Solar PV Installations, Q1 2012-Q1 2017
    Source: GTM Research / SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, Q2 2017

    The non-residential solar market -- which includes commercial, industrial and community solar installations -- grew 29 percent year-over-year, but was down 39 percent from a record high fourth quarter 2016.

    The report highlighted Minnesota’s growing community solar market. The state nearly doubled its cumulative community solar deployment in Q1.

    Several other states not as well known for their solar markets saw particularly large jumps in installations this quarter, including Idaho and Indiana. Meanwhile, emerging state markets such as Utah, Texas and South Carolina continued their growth.

    More than a half-gigawatt of residential PV was installed in the quarter, down 17 percent from the first quarter of last year. Part of the slowdown can be attributed to national installers pulling back operations in unprofitable geographies and customer acquisition challenges in more mature residential state markets like California.

    According to the report, residential PV installations in California will fall year-over-year for the first time this decade. Despite this, California remains the largest state market for residential solar installations.

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    Digging the Graveyard of Oil’s Past

    As the energy industry evolves, production platforms  in the North Sea, once a crucial source of crude
    oil, are being dismantled and sold for scrap.


    JUNE 8, 2017

    Moored off the port of Rotterdam, Netherlands, Pioneering Spirit looms so large that it is difficult to recognize as a ship. The crew of 450 is dwarfed by the cranes and pipes that dominate the sprawling layers of decks.

    For decades, Edward Heerema, head of Allseas, the Swiss-based energy services company, dreamed of building a giant vessel to install oil platforms offshore. But the Pioneering Spirit has found another purpose: dismantling oil fields in the British North Sea.



    The Pioneering Spirit in the harbor in Rotterdam.

    Credit Carsten Snejbjerg for The New York Times



    Pioneering Spirit crew members work in the shadow of equipment used for laying natural gas pipelines on the sea bed.

    Credit Carsten Snejbjerg for The New York Times



    A crew member aboard the Pioneering Spirit. The 450 crew members are dwarfed by the cranes and pipes that dominate the sprawling layers of decks.

    Credit Carsten Snejbjerg for The New York Times

    With oil prices dropping sharply in the last two years, Mr. Heerema said he was now just focused on finding enough work to meet his payroll. “I can’t say how long it will take to pay for itself. Maybe 10 years, maybe 30 years,” he said of the ship.

    The British North Sea was once a crucial source of oil for the world. At its peak in 1999, it produced about 2.9 million barrels of oil a day, more than Kuwait or Iraq at the time.

    Since then, production has generally been in a long slide as oil fields discovered decades ago are exhausted and high costs discourage new exploration. Its diminishing fortunes have been cemented by the rise of renewables and the push for cleaner alternatives to oil.

    “It is one of those signs that we may be at a tipping point,” said Anthony Hobley, chief executive of Carbon Tracker, a nonprofit group that studies the investment risks of the shifting energy landscape. “We may well be at that critical point in history where people will say that this is the point where the oil industry reached its peak and began to decline.”

    This spring, the Pioneering Spirit headed to the Brent field in the North Sea, a major oil and gas trove named after the Brent goose. The field helped define the business, giving its name to Brent crude, the global price benchmark for oil.

    After 40 years of production, the field is nearly pumped out. And a group of four platforms in the field — giant rigs that stand around 1,000 feet tall and weigh a combined million tons — are gradually being shut down.

    This spring, the Pioneering Spirit transported one platform to its final resting place, a shipyard in Hartlepool in northeast England where it is being dismantled and sold for scrap. An industry in itself, this so-called decommissioning process creates jobs and profits along the journey.

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    Electric Cars Hit 2 Million Across the Globe


    A new IEA report says it was a record year for EV sales last year, but the overall market is still small.

    by Katie Fehrenbacher

    June 08, 2017

    The number of electric cars sold worldwide hit a record level of 750,000 last year, bringing the total number of electric vehicles driving on roads around the globe to 2 million, according to a new report out from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

    The report crunched information on electric cars from countries that have the biggest markets, including China, the U.S., Norway and the Netherlands. While 2 million is a notable milestone for the industry, the figure still only represents 0.2 percent of the total number of light duty passenger vehicles in operation. Needless to say, the electric car market is still in an early stage.

    As the report notes: “electric vehicles still have a long way to go before reaching deployment scales capable of making a significant dent in the development of global oil demand and greenhouse gas emissions.”

    However, IEA projects that there’s a good chance that the number of electric cars on the roads will grow to between 9 million and 20 million by 2020, and potentially 40 million and 70 million by 2025. The wide ranges are based on different scenarios using both current policies, and some more possible aggressive policies implemented by governments. The number of new electric vehicle models available will also play a role.


    Source: IEA Global EV Outlook

    The biggest market, by far, for electric cars last year was China. With 336,000 cars sold, the country accounted for more than 40 percent of global sales, the report found. Chinese automaker BYD, with its Tang, Qin and E6 models, shipped about a third of those cars to Chinese buyers last year, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report that was released in March.

    Thanks to very aggressive policies from Chinese federal and local governments, the country has gone from 100,000 electric cars on roads in 2014 to 650,000 just two years later. Chinese electric car buyers can be exempt from certain taxes, and can get waivers from license plate restrictions.

    China’s electric car vehicles sales were more than double the number sold in the U.S., which totaled 160,000, and was the second largest market by country.

    At the same time, European countries collectively sold 215,000 electric cars last year, with countries like Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, France and the U.K. leading the way.

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