Tag Archives: Carbon Emissions

A Trifecta for Solar Energy and Distributed Generation

We all have good weeks and bad weeks. For proponents of Solar Energy (and all other inhabitants of our planet) this has been an historic week, with major achievements at the International, National and California-state levels. Setbacks will be inevitable, but the events of this week will have memorable and lasting impact.

The first and International achievement was the December 12 Agreement of 188 countries at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris to take measureable actions with the eventual goal of keeping global temperature rise to less than 2ᵒ Celsius (3.6ᵒ Fahrenheit) by 2050 compared with pre-industrial levels. As we have repeatedly been informed, this is the level estimated by numerous scientists to avoid the worst affects of atmospheric warming and ocean rise.

Though yet to be ratified (a process that starts in April 2016), the agreement commits those countries that do ratify the agreement to establish national emission targets and report on progress every 5 years. While the agreement calls for zero net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to be reached during the second half of the 21st century, lowering the target would (according to some scientists) move this goal forward to the 2030 – 2050 timeframe. Either way, implementation of this agreement puts pressure on countries to support low- and non-carbon energy sources, solar very much included, accelerating their deployment and continued improvements.

The second and national achievement has not been enacted as this is written, but is the tentative agreement by Republican and Democratic House party leaders incorporated into the Appropriations bill that would extend tax credits for solar and wind projects from the current end-2016 expiration date through 2021. The agreement was the result of a compromise where-in Democratic Representatives would support eliminating the ban on US oil exports in exchange for Republican support for the Tax Credit extension.

While the vote can still go awry, a senior analyst at GTM Research (who closely follows the Solar market and industry) commented “the extension to the federal ITC is without question a game-changer for U.S. solar’s growth trajectory. Between now and 2020, the U.S. solar market is poised to see a number of new geographies open up with a 30% ITC, within both distributed and utility-scale solar.”

Finally, the third and California state achievement was the December 15 proposed ruling by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to leave in place most of the charges and fees now in place between the state’s major investor-owned utilities (Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric) and customers who have installed residential and commercial PV systems. Though yet to be finalized (in January 2016), the proposed ruling leaves in place most of the terms that allow customers with PV systems to recoup their investments in a timely manner thereby increasing the desirability of these systems.

Challenges to PV-favorable net metering terms and (lack of) other fees have been raised in many states, and regulator decisions have been mixed. The proposed CPUC ruling is perhaps the strongest pushback by any state regulator to utility claims of the high costs distributed PV systems impose on other (non-PV owning) rate payers. While new costs are proposed, and some uncertainty is introduced by requiring PV-system owners to be placed on Time-of-Use rates (with unknown impact on their bills), the proposed ruling is seen as leaving the business environment favorable for continued expansion of distributed generation.

For now the sun shines on distributed generation and the growth of solar-sourced clean energy. Let us hope that all three events help realize solar’s potential contribution to our future energy mix for the sake of maintaining our habitable planet.

San Diego Vows to Move Entirely to Renewable Energy in 20 Years

By Matt Richtel, The New York Times

Last weekend, representatives of 195 countries reached a landmark accord in Paris to lower planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. On Tuesday, local leaders in San Diego committed to making a city-size dent in the problem. With a unanimous City Council vote, San Diego, the country’s eighth-largest city, became the largest American municipality to transition to using 100 percent renewable energy, including wind and solar power.

In the wake of the Paris accord, environmental groups hailed the move as both substantive and symbolic. Other big cities, including New York and San Francisco, have said they intend to use more renewable energy, but San Diego is the first of them to make the pledge legally binding. Under the ordinance, it has committed to completing its transition and cutting its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035.

The steps to get there may include transferring some control of power management to the city from the local utility. Officials said they would also shift half of the city’s fleet to electric vehicles by 2020 and recycle 98 percent of the methane produced by sewage and water treatment plants. Many details have yet to be determined, including how the new power sources will be delivered and managed.

Under the Paris accord, nations offered general, nonbinding plans to reduce their carbon emissions. Officials in the United States envision reaching the nation’s goals mainly through higher fuel-economy standards for cars and a move to cleaner sources of electrical power, something states could help oversee. This is where the actions of a city like San Diego fit in. As the city moves to renewable energy, the State of California can begin to build its bank of carbon reductions and contribute to global goals.

Read full article in the New York Times

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

Renewable energy bill far from perfect, experts say

By Sammy Roth, The Desert Sun

With one week until California’s Legislature closes shop for the year, lawmakers are scrambling to pass an ambitious climate and energy plan. At stake are several top priorities for Gov. Jerry Brown: a 50 percent cut in oil use, a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency in existing buildings, and a 50 percent clean energy mandate.  Some version of the bill will almost certainly pass, despite opposition from the oil industry and centrist Democrats.

There has been little formidable opposition to the clean energy mandate, which is expected to jump-start solar and wind development in the desert and across the state. But for some clean energy experts, the bill leaves a lot to be desired. Critics say the bill doesn’t do enough to promote clean energy sources that can generate electricity around the clock, including geothermal, biomass and solar with storage. They say adding those kinds of power sources to the mix—rather than continuing to focus almost exclusively on traditional solar farms and wind turbines, which can’t provide power around the clock—is needed to keep electricity costs down for homes and businesses, while limiting the carbon pollution. Anything could change before next Friday. But for now, some critics see the bill as a missed opportunity to limit global warming while keeping electricity costs as low as possible.

Building more clean energy will almost certainly lead to higher electricity prices, but the exact costs of transitioning to clean energy are still up in the air. Under California’s current renewable energy mandate—which requires utility companies to buy the cheapest power on the market—utilities have largely opted for traditional solar and wind farms, because they have the lowest up-front costs. Clean energy sources that provide electricity around the clock—like geothermal and solar with storage—typically have higher up-front costs. SB 350 mostly leaves that system in place, but it would instruct utility regulators to consider the benefits of round-the-clock clean energy sources, such as rooftop solar with storage.

Read full article in the Desert Sun

Report: California’s 2030 Energy Goals Will Create $51 Billion in Annual Savings

A new report from Berkeley, Calif.-based Strategen Consulting says California Gov. Jerry Brown’s clean energy goals for 2030 are not only achievable and economically sound, but will generate significant job growth. The report, “Impact Analysis: Governor Brown’s 2030 Energy Goals,” finds that Brown’s plan to reach 50 percent renewables by 2030, which was announced in his inaugural address earlier this year, will create 1.2 million job-years in construction, manufacturing, sales, service and support related to California’s new domestic energy infrastructure, as well as through the economic activity resulting from energy savings.

California is already on track to generate 33% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Meeting the 50% renewables target set out for 2030 will require the continuation of solar and wind installations at similar rates for another 10 years, while adding complementary resources—such as energy storage—to assist with renewable resource integration.

The potential benefits to the state of meeting Brown’s clean energy goals identified in the report include:

  • $51 billion in annual savings from 2030 on.
  • CO2 emissions will be reduced by over 102 million tons per year, a reduction of 42% from 2015 levels.
  • 870,000 job-years created in the wind and solar sectors by 2030 – up from 44,700 today.
  • Enhanced grid efficiency, reliability and resiliency from renewable resources backed by energy storage.

Read full article from Solar Industry Magazine

Reality Check: Are California’s Carbon Emissions Goals Attainable?

By Sam Brock & Rachel Witte, NBC Bay Area

California Governor Jerry Brown announced last week a new plan for reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The executive order calls on the Golden State to decrease carbon emission rates by 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030.

The proposal will serve as an interim goal established by the governor as the state works toward reaching its target of reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050. That’s the more long term plan laid out in Senate Bill 32, legislation introduced by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) at the end of last year.

Has the governor set the bar too high, or is this simply an expression of his faith in California’s climate change policy?

Read full article from NBC Bay Area

California’s New GHG Reduction Target Is A Huge Boon For The Solar Industry

Summary:

  • Governor Jerry Brown accelerated California’s effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions Wednesday, ordering his state to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. California’s goal to reduce GHGs by 40% in a mere 15 years is the most ambitious GHG reduction goal ever in North American history, and will have enormous positive implications for the solar PV industry.
  • In order to realistically meet this goals, an enormous amount of renewable incentives/subsidies would likely be put in place, with solar PV best positioned to take advantage of this. While the entire renewable industry will benefit, from wind, geothermal, etc, solar PV will likely gain the most from Governor Jerry Brown’s new environmental decree. Any such policy changes in California have a disproportionate effect on the U.S. solar industry, as California’s solar market accounts for the majority of the entire U.S. solar market.
  • Leading U.S. solar companies should benefit tremendously from California’s new GHG reduction target, as a huge percentage of these companies’ businesses come from California.
  • While the valuations of solar companies could plummet if solar PV technologies do not advance as quickly as expected, this is highly unlikely given the inherent nature of semiconductor technologies.

Read full article from Seeking Alpha