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June 9th, 2017 Archives


The Buzz

JUN 2017

Legislation to expand the carbon cap-and-trade program was waylaid by an oil slick of campaign contributions to Assembly Democrats.  Thus, the life span of a key Senate cap-and-trade bill looks as promising as an oiled bird.

Also floundering in the current is Senate legislation that seeks to thwart refilling the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field until a study on the root cause of the massive months-long leak is concluded.

Power utilities aren’t swimming against California’s carbon trading program tide because of the state’s green energy laws. JUICE insists clean energy mandates are not only good for California’s second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, the power sector, but also for the largest source: transportation and petroleum refineries that fuel it.

Although the California sun is strong, the solar rooftop market has dampened because of less favorable rates and a heavy rain season. But outside the Golden State PV installations are booming, a report finds.

At the same time, repowered gas plants on the Southern California coast may get washed up. Both the Los Angeles DWP and Energy Commission are warming to the idea that clean energy can keep the grid and planet robust.

In the nation’s Capitol, the two Republican Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nominees were approved by a key U.S. Senate committee.

The U.S. EPA’s reversal on the Obama Administration’s rule to slash methane emissions from new oil and gas plants and pipes provoked a suit by environmentalists.

–The Editors

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Can California Conquer the Next Phase of Renewables Integration?


Wood Mackenzie’s Chad Singleton examines how one of the world’s largest economies is balancing the pillars of reliability, affordability and cleanliness.

by Chad Singleton

June 09, 2017


The dream of a power grid that is equal parts reliable, affordable, and clean maybe one of the 21st century's greatest ambitions, and no economy is blazing the trail faster than California.

Between its 50 percent state renewable portfolio standard (RPS), aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets and energy efficiency mandate, California has some of the strictest environmental policies on the books in North America. And these policies are progressively getting more stringent with a potential move towards a 100 percent RPS.

These mandates, which have already pushed an unprecedented number of renewables onto the grid by U.S. standards, have introduced a new set of operational challenges. System operators and regulators are currently preparing for and dealing with consequences such as overgeneration, renewable curtailments, local transmission congestion and flexible backstop procurement in order to keep the system reliable. However, the prospect of a system that is both reliable and clean to the level that California has mandated, is simply unattainable without battery and grid edge support.

Since batteries have yet to cross the economic threshold to unleash widespread adoption and many grid edge solutions will require consensus and cybersecurity vetting, California is scrambling to develop incentives and a framework under which these technologies can begin to thrive and help the state avoid stagnation of its environmental progress

Overgeneration and curtailments

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Survey: What Electricity Customers Really Want


SGCC’s latest consumer pulse study finds high levels of interest in grid edge tech, but also hesitancy.

by Julia Pyper

June 09, 2017

Electricity customers have more choice in how they consume and manage their energy today than at any time before, and the number of options available continues to multiply. But what is it customers want? What types of products and services are they being drawn to? And are they following through with a purchase?

That’s what the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative’s (SGCC) latest Consumer Pulse and Market Segmentation Study seeks to shed light on. It examines how customers interact with electricity providers and utility programs, and how they view a broad suite of “smart grid” technologies and programs.

The 2017 survey released last month obtained responses submitted online from 1,652 individuals sampled from each of the nine U.S. census divisions. The respondents were categorized in three broad groups: always engaged, rarely engaged and selectively engaged. Within those segments, the report identified five sub-groups: Green Champions, Movers and Shakers, Technology Cautious, Savings Seekers and Status Quo.

The results show that, overall, consumers are aware of what the smart grid is and are interested in all types of smart grid-enabled programs and technologies. In this year’s “Wave 6” survey, more than two-thirds of respondents said they’ve heard of the smart grid and smart meters -- up significantly from the Wave 5 study. Consumers of all types associated the smart grid with saving money, fewer power outages and clean energy resources.

“The term ‘smart grid’ has made entry into consumers’ awareness like smartphones and the smart home, and people generally feel positively toward the word,” said Patty Durand, president and CEO of SGCC.

“It’s important for consumers to be aware of what’s going on on the grid so they can participate,” she added. “Many want to, research shows, but if they don’t know how to that’s a barrier.”


Large percentages of consumers expressed interest in smart grid offerings, with energy storage emerging as the most attractive. Almost three quarters of all respondents said that they're interested in an energy storage system that could provide backup power for their home. In addition, more than half of consumers are interested in rooftop or shared solar and programmable thermostats -- 58 percent and 56 percent, respectively.

But while interest is high, actual participation rates are low. Across all segments, one in five consumers report having already participated in at least one utility program, and 13 percent have used at least one smart grid-enabled product. The most common programs and products are online billing and payment (40 percent), energy use comparisons tools (9 percent) and smart thermostats (9 percent).

Part of the problem is that smart-grid enabled technologies can be complex and may require significant up-front investment. “This presents an opportunity for industry stakeholders to educate consumers by assuming the role of ‘trusted advisor’ and by providing incentives that help boost adoption,” the report states.


Cost is a predominant factor. While most customers see benefits to smart grid products and services, their willingness to pay for them varies. Respondents in the “Green Champions” segment -- described as technologically advanced, college educated and higher income -- were the most likely to pay for smart grid technologies, but they weren’t keen to pay much. Among Green Champions, 40 percent said they would pay just an additional $3-$4 per month.

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As Climate Action Moves Local, Storage Has a Chance to Shine

Store electrons locally, act globally?



by Julian Spector

June 08, 2017

President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change isolated the U.S. diplomatically, but a chorus of more local jurisdictions quickly drowned out the president's speech with some logic of their own.

By now some nine states, 125 cities, 902 businesses and 183 colleges and universities have joined the We Are Still In movement, pledging their own allegiance to the carbon reduction goals set in Paris. Another group of 279 U.S. mayors did the same. These are all entities that the storage industry should be reaching...

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Gov. Brown Heads Back To California After China Visit

Thursday, June 8, 2017 | Sacramento, CA | Permalink


Governor Brown meets with Beijing Mayor Chen Jining.

California Governor Jerry Brown is back in California, after five whirlwind days in China. The trip ended much as it began.

Brown walked through a lush garden and tranquil pond at Beijing city hall to once again sit with a government official.

"Well, I’m very glad to be here," says Brown. "I was a mayor myself, the city of Oakland."

Brown and Beijing mayor Chen Jining pledged in generalities to work together.

Then it was off to Tsinghua University for a remarkably frank discussion with Chinese environment officials and scientists. It contained direct criticism of President Trump’s climate change stance, which more formal meetings have avoided.

Government researcher Dadi Zhou, communicated through a translator.

"Mr. Trump is just fueling such doubts and lack of trust in scientific evidence," said Zhou.

The visit also included talks of California and the university creating a new joint institute for climate studies.

"I’m counting on you and all the smart people at this university," said Brown. "I didn’t study science, I studied Latin and Greek, and that’s not going to help solve our climate change problem."

Over the course of the trip, the governor signed multiple non-binding agreements to collaborate with China on clean technology, including pursuit of joint investment funds and an incubator for cleantech businesses.

State Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols will be one of the officials responsible for hammering out details.

"My dream is that in a few years we’ll see big companies that are bi-national or multi-national," said Nichols.

She lists as a potential product, electric vehicles—

"That can be manufactured in both countries, sold in both countries and where the size of that market is going to be enough to bring down the cost," says Nichols.

Governor Brown says the trip had another overarching goal:

"What I wanted and which I accomplished is to further build the alliance for dealing with climate change."

The results are to be determined, but this week’s trip to China and the governor’s meeting with its president showed he has an international audience receptive to the effort.

  1. pastedGraphic_1.pdf

  1. California Businesses Join Brown's China Trip
    Thursday, June 8, 2017
    Governor Jerry Brown isn’t California’s only representative in China this week—a contingent of business leaders have a parallel group. Like Brown, they’re in Beijing for a global clean technology conference.

  1. pastedGraphic_2.pdf

  1. Coalition Of States, Regions Fighting Climate Change Meet In China
    Wednesday, June 7, 2017
    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.

  1. pastedGraphic_3.pdf

  1. Brown Meets With China's President Xi Jinping
    Tuesday, June 6, 2017
    Gov. Jerry Brown spent his first three days in a blizzard of meetings. He met with heads of some of China’s most populous regions, national ministers and even Chinese President Xi Jinping.

  1. pastedGraphic_4.pdf

  1. Brown Talks High-Speed Rail...While Riding High-Speed Rail
    Monday, June 5, 2017
    “I’m the foremost promoter of high-speed rail in America.” That’s how California Governor Jerry Brown described himself – while riding a high-speed train in China Monday.
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Gas holes: Trump administration targets Obama methane rule GOP Congress failed to kill

California should stop buying energy from polluting states, says environmental group

By Michael Mott

This article was published on 06.08.17.

When it comes to Obama-era environmental protections, congressional Republicans have been on a killing spree since capturing both chambers. For the first time since the election, one survived.

The Obama-era rule prevents oil and gas drillers from venting, burning or leaking methane on public and tribal lands. Over a 20-year period, methane—the main part of natural gas—can warm the planet more than 70 times as much as carbon dioxide.

Environmentalists celebrated a rare victory on May 10, when the U.S. Senate failed to repeal the rule. On the same day, the Interior Department vowed it would try to roll it back, though the process could take years.

Some have argued the natural gas can play a key role in the future of U.S. energy policy because it’s abundant and environmentally preferable to coal. However, methane’s high-warming capacity means even small leaks can create large climate problems.

In California, the Aliso Canyon leak near Los Angeles in 2015 released 97,000 tons of methane into the air, the single worst natural gas leak in U.S. history.

As of 2014, the oil and gas industry accounted for just 4.7 percent of California’s methane emissions, according to the California Air Resources Board. Most of the rest comes from farms and landfills. The total amount of those leaked emissions was up 11 percent since 2000. About 10 percent of those emissions happened on federal lands.

Data on California methane leaks is hard to come by. CARB only provides aggregated estimates. Scientists have studied specific regions over the last 10 years using atmospheric methods, but that makes it difficult to determine the exact cause and location of the leaks. For the first time this year, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are using aircraft to analyze methane emissions above California because of how scattered the data is.

CARB passed the nation’s toughest methane protections in March—the first major environmental regulations passed since President Donald Trump took office. They require curbing emissions up to 45 percent over the next nine years at oil and gas plants.

And yet, most of the methane damage is being done outside of California.

Tim O’Connor, director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s oil and gas program, said California should use its purchasing power to pressure other states, such as Texas, which annually releases 10 times the emissions that Aliso Canyon did once.

“California imports 90 percent of its natural gas from other states,” O’Connor said. “We are responsible for that. We’re using it.”

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JUICE: The Carbon Goose-n-Gander

JUN  7 2017

Key bills expanding the state’s carbon cap-and-trade program failed to make it to the other side of the Legislature after last-minute vote changes on a controversial measure on the Assembly floor.

Considerable political capital has been expended on extending the scope of the California Air Resources Board’s greenhouse gas trading program beyond 2020—including campaign contributions, arm twisting and tears. But for the electricity sector these days, it’s much ado about nothing.

In contrast, it is much ado for the largest stationary source of emissions in California, oil refineries, and the vehicles that refined petroleum products power.

Among the bills that died is Assemblymember Cristina Garcia’s AB 378. Although granted reconsideration, it was not taken up for a subsequent vote June 5. It sought to add a cap on other harmful air pollutants to an extended carbon cap-and-trade program to protect the constituents of the Bell Gardens Democrat and others in polluted, low-income communities.

An emotional Garcia pleaded late last week for passage, which required 41 votes, while the bill vote was stuck at 38-36. Last minute it fell victim to vote switching and no votes by 15 Democrats, which hold a super majority in the Assembly. Concurrently, a related bill, AB 151 by Assemblymember August Burke (D-Inglewood), fizzled. Tied to AB 378, it would have required the Air Board to work with the Legislature on a greenhouse gas reduction scoping plan or regulations.

Campaign finance records show that Democrats who voted against Garcia’s measure get plenty of campaign money from oil companies, railroads, which haul crude and refined products, labor unions that work on refineries and oil pipelines, and from truckers and farmers, who use a lot of oil to run rigs and equipment. (See related story here.)

On the Senate side, the most far reaching cap-and-trade measure is an urgency bill, SB 775, by Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont). It would raise the price of carbon emissions allowances after 2020.  In addition to setting a price floor and ceiling, and annual price increases, it would limit businesses seeking to exceed the carbon cap by purchasing greenhouse gas emissions offsets. It also would prohibit banking of allowances beyond the year they are issued.

It is not subject to the usual legislative deadlines because it is an urgency measure. If it makes it to the Assembly, its prospects are questionable at best.

The defeated carbon reduction legislation in the Assembly highlights the power of oil to wield influence in Sacramento and the dependence of sometimes climate protection-friendly Democrats on money from big oil and other major polluters.

After the years-long intense and successful effort to get the electricity sector to slash greenhouse gases, state officials must turn in earnest to the oil industry. After all, what is good for the electric goose is good for the oil gander.

With or without a cap on carbon emissions and auction of allowances, the power sector—the second largest stationary source of carbon emissions in California— is expected to meet its share of the state’s carbon reduction goal, set at 40 percent below 1990 emission levels. That is largely thanks to California’s renewable electricity standard.

Since the passage of the state’s first renewable portfolio standard in 2002, set at 20 percent by 2017, significant resources have been dedicated to cleaning up the electricity sector. The renewable standard has continually increased to 33 percent by 2020, 50 percent by 2030 and possibly to 100 percent under Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León’s SB 100. It also would move up the 50 percent mandate by five years.

Carbon and other emissions from private and public utilities have and will continue to drop because of other ground-breaking clean energy programs as well. They include:

  1. The growth of solar rooftops and distributed solar because of the nearly $3 billion provided by the California Solar Initiative;
  2. Billions of dollars dedicated to energy efficiency;
  3. Energy storage, with a possible $1.4 billion endowment under SB 700 by Sen Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco); and
  4. Demand response.

If Democratic lawmakers continue to vote based on who contributes to their campaigns, they’ll be overtaken by the turning tide.

Consider that last week the San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced it was going to cap Bay Area refinery emissions and prohibit increases via offsets and/or the purchase of additional emission allowances. The upcoming vote, which is backed by the state Air Board, could well be adopted by other regional air regulators.

Perhaps even more significant is that after years of carrot and stick approaches to getting utilities to clean up with their carbon pollution, they’ll play a large role in the lucrative electrification of the transportation sector.

Elizabeth McCarthy

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If you don’t like California’s gas tax increase, you’re not alone

JUNE 08, 2017 8:00 PM


California voters overwhelmingly oppose a recent tax and fee package pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democratic-dominated Legislature to pay for road repairs, a new poll finds.

The gas tax law, which ushers in a 10-year program to raise more than $52 billion for transportation projects, is so unpopular it could backfire on Democrats in upcoming elections.


More than half of California’s registered voters oppose the new state law raising taxes on gas and vehicle registration fees.

Source: Berkeley IGS Poll

Fifty eight percent of voters oppose Senate Bill 1, including 39 percent who say they strongly reject the legislation, according to the survey from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. Only 35 percent favor the law, which raises taxes on gasoline and diesel and hikes vehicle registration fees to fix roads and highways.

The opposition is widespread. Voters in all major regions of the state other than the Bay Area, all listed races and ethnic subgroups, and all age categories over 30 are unhappy about it. Strongly liberal voters are the only group in which a large majority supports the law.

Senate Bill 1 endeavors to raise $5.2 billion annually through a 12-cent gas tax increase that begins in November and a new fee based on the value of vehicles.

The bottom line, said poll director Mark DiCamillo, is that people don’t like to have their taxes increased. He recalled how the late pollster Mervin Field, who chronicled public opinion for decades in California, was fond of saying that the pocketbook nerve is the most sensitive political nerve in a person’s body.

“When you are reaching into somebody’s pocket for more money, people start to pay attention and get alarmed,” DiCamillo said.

Democrats in closely contested legislative districts could pay a price for raising taxes, he said. “That’s where you might see it rear its head – in competitive districts,” he added.

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