Archive for green

The Clean Power Plan – how US can reduce greenhouse gas emissions without losing money

Later today at the White House, President Obama and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy will officially release the final Clean Power Plan, carbon pollution guidance for the nation that is also a historic step in efforts to meet and constrain climate change. Briefly stated, it shows how the US can reduce greenhouse gas emissions without losing money.

Power plant and visible emissions (optimist.com)

Today’s release constitutes the final Clean Power Plan, which has been in the works for years. The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever national standards to limit atmospheric carbon pollution from power plants, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States. It follows on from other successful public health measures by reducing soot and other toxic emissions, aiming to reap continuing and increased benefits from the landmark bipartisan Clean Air Act the United States enacted over 45 years ago.

EPA received 4 million comments that public and private individuals and corporations submitted in response to the draft. The final plan reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. In line with recent findings that point to faster and more destructive climate events than those estimated before, the final plan constitutes a full 9% more reductions than the proposal.

States, cities, companies, and individuals have already begun to move to cleaner sources of energy. So far, these state efforts have given the CPP a good head start:

  • All 50 states have demand-side energy efficiency programs.
  • 37 states have renewable portfolio standards or goals.
  • 10 states have already implemented market-based greenhouse gas reduction programs.
  • Half the nation (25 states) has energy efficiency standards or goals in place.

More details about state actions under the final Clean Power Plan:

  • CPP lets states choose how to meet carbon standards.
  • CPP provides states more time and stronger incentives to deploy clean energy immediately
  • CPP sets state targets fairly and in a way that directly includes input from states, utilities, business, other stakeholders, and the public.

In addition, the plan has gained strength from the facts that solar electricity generation has increased more than 20-fold in the past seven years, and electricity from wind has more than tripled.

The White House characterizes today’s final plan as “a fair, flexible program that will strengthen the fast-growing trend toward cleaner and lower-polluting American energy.” It ensures long-term clean energy investment, continued reliability of electric infrastructure, affordable and clean energy for all Americans, and climate action that places the United States among important world leaders.

It does not stop at merely stating principles. The measure also includes a proposed federal implementation plan. From the White House news release:

“We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged. The effects of climate change are already being felt across the nation. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Extreme weather events – from more severe droughts and wildfires in the West to record heat waves – and sea level rise are hitting communities across the country…. The most vulnerable among us–including children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease, and people living in poverty – are most at risk from the impacts of climate change. Taking action now is critical.”

Stay with CleanTechnica for more about the Clean Power Plan, including exclusive in-depth interviews, technical detail, analysis, and further developments over the next days and weeks to come.

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Power bill gets green makeover in CA Senate

With almost no public attention, the California Legislature took a significant step yesterday (May 28) that could help corporations and universities make a complete transition to renewable energy. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve SB 286 with a major amendment requiring that all power sold under the bill to be 100 percent renewable.

Overall, the bill would allow large electricity users to contract with independent power providers through the state’s Direct Access (DA) program, circumventing their local utilities, for an additional statewide total of 8,000 GWh of all-renewable power.

The bill now does exactly what I’ve worked with others to advocate — in a Sacramento Bee op-ed (co-authored with Greg Staple, my colleague at the American Clean Skies Foundation), in the halls of the State Capitol and on this blog.

The text of the amended bill isn’t out yet, and I will post it as soon as it’s available. But the staff analysis published online today summarized the new amendment this way: “Require that all additional DA service be from renewable sources as defined in the RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) program.”

What does this really mean? No, it isn’t a complete game-changer. But yes, it will be an important addition to the state’s overall strategy. Consider that the extra 8,000 GWh would lead to greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to a 2 percent rise in the RPS, while renewables now comprise about 24 percent of the statewide power mix. Democratic leaders will need all the help they can get to reach their new goal of 50 percent by 2030.

Yesterday’s decision reflects complex legislative maneuvering. The Appropriations vote moved the bill off the committee’s suspense file and sent it to the Senate floor for a full vote. The suspense file is essentially a legislative black hole, in which the fate of all bills in the file is decided by the Senate leadership before the meeting with zero transparency. It’s the proverbial smoke-filled back room. Whether this process is good or bad is not my point here. But the decision to drastically amend SB 286 suggests that the bill was carefully evaluated by the Committee chair, Sen. Ricardo Lara, and his close ally, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, according to its potential impact on de León’s top legislative priority this year: SB 350, his landmark bill on greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Their apparent conclusion was that any new Direct Access should give the maximum boost to SB 350 — i.e. by being all-renewable. The bill’s author, Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles), had no choice but to go along.

The switch to 100 percent marks a sharp turnaround for Hertzberg. He introduced SB 286 in February as a mostly brown-power bill, supported by a conventional brown-power alliance of industry groups that simply want cheap electricity with only the legal minimum of renewables. It was a largely Republican, pro-deregulation coalition very similar to the backers of the state’s big deregulatory leap in the late 1990s — which crash-landed in the power crisis of 2000-01. The additional power sold under the bill’s initial version would only have to comply with the state’s RPS, which currently mandates about 24 percent renewables. Then in early May, Hertzberg raised the bar to 51 percent renewables after he ran into opposition in the Senate Energy Committee. The new move to 100 percent risks alienating some of the bill’s industry supporters, some of whom quickly indicated that they are unhappy and may withdraw their backing.

So the bill’s politics have changed along with its substance. A much greener support coalition needs to be organized to help push the bill through the remaining Senate and Assembly votes and to persuade Gov. Jerry Brown to sign it. This effort will be a key test of California’s clean-energy companies as well as the environmental organizationsthat have doggedly pushed the state’s tech firms to go green. Until now, California firms that have seen the light on renewables have found it surprisingly hard to green their in-state power sources, as I have written here and here. But if the amended SB 286 can become law, these firms can become real drivers of the state’s clean-energy transition. They will be able to demonstrate their environmental leadership where it counts most — at home in California.