Tag Archives: Cap-and-trade

At Paris climate talks, nations will look to California

By Sammy Roth, The Desert Sun

California has long led the world in tackling climate change. Now, Golden State leaders hope the rest of the world will follow their lead.

Negotiators from more than 190 countries will gather in Paris two weeks from Monday, in a last-ditch effort to strike a deal that averts catastrophic levels of global warming. Gov. Jerry Brown plans to lead a delegation of eight lawmakers, and they’ll be joined by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, and many other environmental advocates who want to see world leaders draw inspiration from California.

California isn’t a country, but for the purposes of Paris it might as well be. It’s the world’s eighth-largest economy, and the federal government often adopts the state’s ambitious environmental policies. Brown’s administration has worked with national and regional governments in Canada, Mexico, China and elsewhere on programs to slash carbon emissions. The governor has made it clear he wants California to play a prominent role in Paris. “The real source of climate action has to come from states and provinces,” Brown said earlier this year at a climate summit in Toronto. “This is a call to arms. We’re going to build up such a drumbeat that our national counterparts — they’re going to listen.”

When Brown and others arrive in Paris, they’ll have quite a story to tell. California now gets a quarter of its electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind, a figure expected to double by 2030. Californians use the same amount of energy today as they did in the 1970s, even as per-person energy use has spiked across most of the country. Policies to discourage gasoline consumption have led to cleaner fuels and helped put more than 150,000 electric vehicles on the road, a number that is growing quickly.

While California’s climate efforts are by no means perfect, world leaders can learn a lot from the state’s multi-pronged approach to global warming, policy and legal experts say. The key lesson, they say, is that the state has acted on climate without inflicting economic disaster. The state has outpaced the rest of the country in job growth and GDP growth since the height of the Great Recession, even as carbon pollution has fallen.

The Desert Sun interviewed nearly a dozen lawmakers, academics, activists and researchers about what California is doing to address climate change. Here’s a primer on what they think the nations of the world should — and shouldn’t — learn from the Golden State…[Read More]

Read full article in the Desert Sun

Ivanpah plant faced emissions deadline

By David Danelski, The Press-Enterprise

The operators of a Mojave Desert solar power plant at the center of the Obama administration’s push to reduce carbon emissions faced an unusual task this week. They had to prove to state air quality officials that they were complying with California’s cap-to-trade program to get carbon polluters to reduce their emissions.

The Ivanpah solar plant in San Bernardino County makes electricity by focusing heat from thousands of mirrors onto water boilers mounted on top of three towers. Steam from the water then turns turbines that generate power. But the plant also needs to burn significant amounts of carbon-emitting natural gas to operate and thus is required to be in the state’s cap-and-trade program.

This week, Ivanpah and the state’s other carbon emitting power plants had to meet a Nov. 4 deadline to demonstrate how they had complied with the state’s cap and trade program this year and last, said Dave Clegern, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, which oversees the cap-and-trade program. The power plants needed to show that they had reduced their carbon emissions by 10 percent or prove they had complied by buying pollution credits from other firms that had cut their own carbon emissions by more than 10 percent, Clegern said.

It is not clear exactly how the Ivanpah plant complied with cap and trade rules. The paperwork that plant operators submitted to the state is considered confidential, Clegern said. David Knox, a spokesman for NRG Energy, which operates the plant, said in an email that “Ivanpah complied through California carbon allowances and approved greenhouse gas offsets.”

Read full article in the Press-Enterprise

Related article: Desert plant has pollution problem – Oct. 16, 2015

Desert plant has pollution problem

By David Danelski, The Press-Enterprise

A solar power plant at the center of the Obama administration’s push to reduce America’s carbon footprint by using millions of taxpayer dollars to promote green energy has its own carbon pollution problem.

The Ivanpah plant in the Mojave Desert uses natural gas as a supplementary fuel. Data from the California Energy Commission show that the plant burned enough natural gas in 2014–its first year of operation–to emit more than 46,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s nearly twice the pollution threshold for power plants or factories in California to be required to participate in the state’s cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions. The same amount of natural gas burned at a conventional power plant would have produced enough electricity to meet the annual needs of 17,000 homes–or roughly a quarter of the Ivanpah’s total electricity projection for 2014.

The plant’s operators say they are burning small amounts of natural gas in order to produce steam to jump-start the solar generating process. They said burning natural gas has always been part of the process. David Knox, a spokesman for NRG Energy, which runs the facility, said the plant still meets a state requirement that no more than 5 percent of its electricity production come from burning fossil fuel.

This rule, however, does not factor in the gas burned to heat water before enough steam is generated to produce electricity. That distinction is significant because it could affect the plant’s customers. Under state law, alternative energy plants can’t use more than 5 percent “nonrenewable” fuel for electricity generation. If a plant goes over that threshold, its electricity can’t count toward the state’s renewable energy goals.

Read full article in the Press-Enterprise

InterSolar 2015: Industry Growth or Decline is Up to Us

By Gerald W. Bernstein
Managing Editor, California Solar

One advantage of living in San Francisco is that the world periodically beats a path to our doorstep. For solar professionals and aficionados, this has happened for the past eight July’s with InterSolar North America at the Moscone Convention Center, the show claiming the highest attendance of any solar event in North America. I have attended these since 2012, by which time attendance had reached approximately 18,000 visitors (excluding exhibitors), a level it has since sustained.

What I find interesting in trade shows is walking the exhibit floors, talking with company reps, talking with press people who have attended many conferences over time, and “taking the pulse” of the event. InterSolar expands this opportunity with the companion conference comprised of 45 sessions on a variety of solar topics and over 200 speakers at the InterContinental Hotel next door.

This year’s emerging issue was storage. Conference sessions, press announcements and exhibits provided perspectives on utility scale, commercial, institutional and residential-scale systems with possibly favorable economics (subject of course to the individual user’s tariff structure) and numerous non-quantifiable benefits. But what I sensed as the mood of the show was different. I will be surprised if the organizers write “the mood of the show was optimistic” (as followed the 2012 show) or “the mood of the show was very optimistic” (as followed the 2013 show). I found exhibitors enthusiastic about their products, but I would not describe them as “optimistic.” More telling was the observation of a long-time attendee that the number of exhibitors was down to perhaps 500 this year from 750+ a few years earlier. (And yes there have been recent consolidations, but when have there not been?)

The conference and plenary sessions I attended also conveyed two tones. Industry (including trade association) leaders spoke of the growing number of megawatts and gigawatts of installed PV in an increasing number of states. Declining installation costs were often cited as a driver for future sales, driven both by declining panel prices and by reductions in other (balance-of-system and soft) costs. Individual states have additional demand drivers, such as the proposed RPS increase to 50% in California (in 2030), growing demand for community shared solar systems, and efforts to develop carbon cap & trade systems or markets.

But the elephant in the room (actually, overhanging all events) was clearly the possible effect of the 30% investment tax credit reduction to 10% for commercial investors and the possible elimination of the 30% tax credit for homeowners at the end of 2016. Some speakers minimized these impacts in light of favorable demand drivers such as those above. Conversely, one speaker (citing findings from an unnamed Stanford Business School-George Washington University study I have not been able to identify) warned listeners to “expect a massive drop in the PV industry.”

Yet the dominant theme of speakers was that solar does not have to be a political issue. There are blue and red state customers of solar technology who benefit from lower electric costs. Benefits accrue to rural and urban families. Individuals of all beliefs need to let their senators and representatives know that extending the tax benefits is good for consumers, businesses and the 170,000 individuals employed in this industry.

No one can realistically predict what will happen to the solar industry after the 2016 reduction in tax credits. But one thing seems certain: if we all participate in determining governmental policies regarding solar energy, we can build on recent success. If we stand up for solar, if we become even more engaged, more active, more committed to influencing decision-makers, thought leaders, and policy wonks — that can only bring benefit to our planet.