Friday, October 7, 2016

California Utilities Preparing for Electric Vehicle Surge

Electric cars, buses, trucks and trains.  They're coming faster than you may think.  Transportation electrification is one of the keys to meeting California, U.S. and international climate goals,

Without plug-in transportation, we won't meet targets of a 40% reduction in fossil fuel use by 2030 and 80% by 2050.  All of those plug-in vehicle will need infrastructure on the other end of the plug ranging from charging stations to storage to renewable energy power generating facilities.

California continues to show leadership in providing incentives for all aspects electric vehicle (EV) deployment from vehicle manufacturing and ownership (see, for example, CalGreenFinance post on manufacturing incentives here) to charging infrastructure.  The state is now looking further into how to assure there will be adequate infrastructure for the increasing number of electric vehicles.  This is part of a larger strategy to address greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector (see prior Climate Dispatch post on California transportation strategies here).

The California EV market is the largest in the nation.  The California Plug-In Vehicle Collaborative recently released the latest sales data for California and the nation, showing there are now over 500,000 plug-in electric vehicles nationwide, with nearly half in California:

California expects the number of  plug-in vehicles to reach one million by 2020 and 1.5 million by 2025.  California utilities are preparing for this surge of electric vehicles, including how to provide enough electricity at the right times of day and deciding what role they should play in delivering that electricity to cars.

To give a sense of the magnitude of the electric vehicle deployment, estimates in the Sacramento Municipal Utility District area suggest that we will need to move from 4300 plug in vehicles on the road today in the area to 240,000 by 2030.  SMUD serves 1.4 million residents.  Similar electric vehicle increases are expected throughout the state.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District Electric Vehicle Projections (Source: here)

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power estimates that 145,000 plug in electric vehicles will be needed in their area in five years and 580,000 by 2030 to meet climate goals.

The California Energy Commission recently held a workshop to explore how electric utilities are responding to the challenges.  As background, they provided a good listing of the various laws, Executive Orders, incentive programs and regulations affecting electric vehicles within their workshop notice (here), including:
  • Governor Brown established the zero emission vehicle (ZEV) Executive Order directing California government to ensure electric charging infrastructure is available to support one million ZEVs by 2020 and 1.5 million by 2025
Tim Olson of the Energy Commission Fuels and Transportation Division
presented overview of California programs 10/5/2016

  • The Governor also established the Sustainable Freight Executive Order to set targets to accelerate adoption of zero emission transportation options in the freight sector by 2030.
  • The California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) zero emission vehicle mandate requires automakers to offer specified numbers of ZEVs for sale in California by 2020. 
  • CARB’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard requires a 10 percent carbon intensity reduction in gasoline and diesel fuel sold in California by 2020 and electric transportation is one option to displace petroleum fuels and help fulfill that objective. 

    California Energy Commissioner Janea A. Scott,
    Lead Commissioner for Transportation chaired recent Utilities & Electric Vehicles Workshop

  • CARB adopted a statewide mobile source strategy to comply with federal ambient air quality standards to reduce ozone forming vehicle tailpipe emissions and ZEVs offer attributes to help achieve that requirement
  • CARB also provides incentive rebates and vouchers in conjunction with federal tax credits to reduce the purchase price of ZEVs and the Energy Commission complements these efforts with its support through its own program to plan and deploy electric vehicle charging infrastructure 3 throughout California as part of the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP).
  • SB350 of 2015 requires utilities, in conjunction with the requirements/processes of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Energy Commission, to plan for electric vehicle deployment and infrastructure.

Investor Owned Utilities: Pilots & Programs 

The investor-owned utilities (i.e. those regulated by the Public Utilities Commission) are evaluating how to assist electric vehicle infrastructure and electric vehicle deployment.  The utilities are seen as a major source of know-how and capital to  improve the infrastructure, but there are concerns from those who worry about the utilities competing with others who want to deploy electric vehicle chargers.

The investor-owned utilities have been told to present transportation electrification plans by January, 2017 (larger utilities: PG&E, SCE, SDG&E) or July 2017 (smaller utilities: Liberty Utilities, Bear Valley Electric, PacifiCorp).  According to PUC Analyst Amy Mesrobian, it is possible for utilities to collaborate with each other on joint projects or to even work with nearby publicly owned utilities.  The utilities regulated by the PUC will also be able to fast-track approval of smaller (less than $4 million) non-controversial projects.

California Public Utilities Commission Analyst Amy Mesrobian
Explains programs affecting investor owned utilities
at Energy Commission Workshop 10/5/2016

The PUC is already working with the utilities on pilot projects to examine the effectiveness of charging infrastructure through the installation of over 12,000 units.

California Investor Owned Utility Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Pilot Program
Source:  PUC Presentation to Energy Commission 10/5/2016

More information on the PUC and investor owned utility programs can be found here.

Publicly Owned Utilities: New Planning Mandates & Challenges

The publicly owned utilities in California are grappling with how to develop infrastructure in their communities.  The 16 largest public utilities, including SMUD, LADWP and others (see chart below) are required under SB350 to develop specific "Integrated Resource Plans" addressing renewable energy, greenhouse gas reduction and transportation electrification issues by 2019.

16 publicly owned utilities subject to SB350 planning requirements
Source:  here

The Energy Commission workshop included presentations from several of the publicly owned utilities and other experts.

Some common themes, included:
  • There are not enough charging locations in place or planned to meet anticipated growth.  In The electric grid is getting cleaner as  more renewable projects come online.  As a result the benefits of electric cars are increasing.
  • Customer choice is helping to propel more interest in electric vehicles.  43 new models are expected in the next four years.
  • Increased range is also helping drive interest.  Upcoming models will get more than 200 miles and that may soon become the expected range. 
  • Transportation electrification helps meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, but more aggressive electric transportation deployment is needed to meet goals

Source:  Electric Power Research Institute presentation 10/5/2016

  • Solar electric generation has caused an oversupply of energy mid-day in California.  There may be ways to use the electric fleet as part of the solution to store electricity or charge during times of abundance.  Fuel-cell vehicles could also be part of the solution if hydrogen is produced with excess power.
  • Time of use rates are an effective way to match electric production peaks with consumer demand.  Electric vehicle charging at the right time can help significantly.
  • Low oil prices have impacted the pace of electric vehicle adoption

Source:  Testimony of Dr. Nancy Ryan of E3 10/5/2016

  • Providing charging in multi-family and rental housing is challenging and must be addressed in order to meet the electric vehicle targets.
  • The fast-charger network must continue to expand to keep up with electric vehicle fleet expansion.  The demand for use of existing fast chargers is very high.
  • Fast chargers will be be even faster in the future as new ones are able to deliver increasing amounts of electricity.
  • Faster fast chargers may cost more and have a greater impact on electric loads.  It is possible that there may be variable pricing among chargers depending on their throughput.  This is likened to paying more for premium (faster EV charging) vs. regular (slower EV charging)
  • Consumer incentives, including incentives for chargers, are important to EV adoption
  • There is not yet a good business case for chargers.  They generally cost more to install/maintain than the revenue they generate.
  • Building code changes to require chargers in new construction or renovations can be helpful.
Copies of presentations from the workshop are online here and some highlights are included below.

Los Angeles Seeks to Meet Challenge

The City of Los Angeles is implementing plans for scaling up electric vehicle infrastructure.  They hope to go from about 23,000 plug-in electric vehicles today to 145,000 within 5 years and 580,000 by 2030.  To do this, new car sales in the region will need to be about 15% plug-in by 2020. 

Marvin Moon of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Describes electric vehicle programs 10/5/2016

The Los Angeles City Council is engaged in pushing for better electric vehicle infrastructure.  They are changing codes to require electric vehicle chargers in new construction.   City fleets, including the police department, will increase their plug-in fleets to 1,600 vehicles.  The city plans to install over 3,000 chargers and encourage at least 10,000 or more public charging stations in the next five years.  The city chargers will include 1,000 curbside chargers.

The Los Angeles Police Department is purchasing many electric vehicles

More on Los Angeles electric vehicle plans in their presentation here.

Sacramento Pushing Fast Chargers

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has several programs to encourage electric vehicle use and plans to expand these in 2017.

Bill Boyce of SMUD describes electric vehicle programs
at Energy Commission workshop 10/5/2016

SMUD is deploying six DC fast chargers in the community, including chargers at the Sacramento Airport, the Sacramento Valley Train Station, Nugget Market in Elk Grove and elsewhere.  They have a "charge free for a year" program to provide a rebate on electricity costs for electric vehicle users.  They are expanding efforts to deploy chargers in multi-family dwellings and low income communities.

For 2017, SMUD is planning to expand their initiatives, including doubling their residential incentive from $300 to $600, providing incentives for multi-family and workplace charging and expanding the DC fast charger network.

Nissan:  Charging, Charging, Charging

Nissan representative John Tillman emphasized the need for expanding charging infrastructure.  He pointed out that California has slightly more than 10,000 level-2 public charging locations, but could use 100,000 or more to meet the rapid pace of electric vehicle adoption.

Source:  Nissan presentation to California Energy Commission 10/5/2016

Tillman also suggested there are "5 R's" to a successful charging network:
  • Reliable - Equipment functions consistently
  • Redundant - Multiple chargers to assure availability to consumer
  • Relevant - Chargers need to be available for all EV connector types
  • Rapid - Need to have 30 minute or less charge times
  • Regional - Chargers need to be available where people need them

Source:  Nissan presentation to California Energy Commission 10/5/2016

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

EcoBlocks as Climate Solution

(April 10, 2016 update:  A summary of the EcoBlocks proposal with contacts has been posted here.  On March 25, the California Energy Commission announced plans to fund $1.5 million of the project costs, contingent on approval by the full Commission.)

Achieving much greater energy efficiency in existing buildings is one of the keys to the California 2030 goal of an overall reduction of 40% in greenhouse gas emissions.  (See Climate Dispatch post:  California 2030 Climate Goals:  Energy Efficiency)

California is now working on measures to reach roughly a 17% reduction in existing building energy use.  This is double the expected energy savings of just a few months ago.  Since many buildings already have efficiency measures and many building owners will not want to retrofit their structures, the savings from buildings that are retrofitted will have to noticeable exceed 17% in order for the state to reach an overall 17% reduction

Getting existing building owners to adopt efficiency measures has been a major challenge.  As the California Energy Commission pointed out in their recent Existing Buildings Energy Efficiency Action Plan, "Breaking through background noise to achieve actual engagement and resulting action is difficult." (p. 84)

One concern raised by the Energy Commission is that building owners are faced with many overlapping messages and the resulting confusion may result in inaction.

Source:  Existing Buildings Energy Efficiency Action Plan, p. 85

A team from U.C. Berkeley and Stanford is working on a novel approach to induce homeowners to install a range of climate-friendly energy, water and transportation retrofits.  Rather than look at retrofits on a single home, they are concentrating on an entire square block of homes.  By retrofitting many adjacent homes at once, a number of measures that aren't practical for a single home suddenly make sense for the collection of homes.  And, all homeowners on the square block should see savings in utility bills.

The innovative "EcoBlock" project was described by Energy and Resources Group Chair Harrison Fraker at the recent Philomathia Forum in Berkeley..  According to Professor Fraker, as much as 45% of California homes are in in old-style cities and suburbs filled with square (or rectangular) blocks.  If we’re going to reach emissions mandates, says Fraker, “we really have to figure out how to decarbonize existing housing stock .. the existing building stock is a major generator of carbon emissions.”

U C Berkeley Energy and Resources Group Chiar Harrison Fraker

Professor Fraker and his colleagues have proposed an EcoBlock pilot project in Oakland to decarbonize a group of 28 homes and a few businesses.  They are hopeful the project will receive initial funding in the next few months.  If successful, the project could be replicated on blocks throughout the state and country.

The goals are impressive.  The EcoBlock pilot project will:
  • use net zero energy
  • be greenhouse gas neutral or better
  • have very low water usage
  • promote electric vehicle usage
  • incorporate energy storage
  • be rapidly deployable
This will be accomplished through a series of inter-related systems.  Solar panels will be the basic energy source, backed up by a storage in batteries, flywheels and shared electric cars.  The batteries, including car batteries, will help manage the electric load of the dwellings.  The homes will be retrofitted to achieve "deep energy" savings through lighting, window replacements and appliances.  All gas-fired appliances will be replaced with super efficient electric units.

Part of the team is a group from Sanford working on the water system.  Rainwater and greywater will be captured for reuse.  Wastewater will be treated and used for irrigation of trees and gardens.  

Professor Fraker says they will be able to reduce total home energy use from 690 megawatt hours per year to 280 megawatt hours with the energy retrofits.  The solar is expected to produce 350 megawatt hours, with the net surplus powering the vehicle batteries.  The utility and transportation savings from will be used, in part, to cover the cost of many of the efficiency improvements.

If successful, the EcoBlock could either be disruptive to the current utility structure, or could give utilities a new mission.  Creative entrepreneurs could retrofit large areas of California while minimizing or eliminating the need for traditional utility customer relationships.  Alternatively, the installation and maintenance of EcoBlocks could be a  new business paradigm for utilities as they evolve into energy and environmental servicers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Climate Comments from COP21: Youth

I was pleasantly surprised by the youth presence at COP21.  There is a new generation eager and ready to address the climate problem.

A substantial portion of the 10,000 non-governmental accredited "observers" at the event were born after the international community took notice of the climate problem in the late 1980s.  At COP21, they weren't just observing.  They were engaged, energetic, articulate and effective.

Youth gathering for updates, strategizing at COP21

More Than Observers

Timothy Damon of SustainUS made the point that was echoed by many youth.  They will be living in the world impacted by climate change and they want their voice to be heard.

Hearing the Voice of Youth

The voice of youth was heard in many ways.  Some button-holed diplomats, some had a presence with the media, some demonstrated and some were actually embedded within country delegations.

Yann Lesestre and Leslie Tourneville of French youth group
CliMates display the message of zero carbon by 2050
The Australian Youth Climate Coalition pushes
for 1.5 degree cap and money for mitigation

Scientifically Necessary and Morally Just

Dyanna Jaye of SustainUS summed up the passion and effectiveness of youth, saying they move beyond what is perceived as possible to what is "scientifically necessary and morally just::

We Can Change the World

With over 190 countries and 20,000 government delegates, effectiveness of outside constituencies was hard to measure at COP21.  But the successful outcome reflected the hard work of many.  Jessica Olson of the Sierra Student Coalition recognized that change is possible through collaborative action.

The Road Doesn't End in Paris

Finally, Caroline Engle of the Sierra Student Coalition echoed the sentiment of many .. that COP21 is just the beginning.  Much more work lies ahead if we are going to decarbonize our future.  The youth at COP21 are ready to rise to the challenge.

Monday, January 25, 2016

This Week: Climate Events Worth Watching

I don't normally post upcoming events in this blog, but there are two this week worth considering.  Both are free to watch online.

Wednesday all day: Investor Summit on Climate Risk

Climate leaders and financial experts will gather on Wednesday, January 27 for the Investor Summit on Climate Risk.  The event  will take place at the United Nations and is co-hosted by Ceres, the United Nations Foundation, and the United Nations Office for Partnerships.

Participants include United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, COP21 Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, Michael Bloomberg, Al Gore, CERES President Mindy Lubber and many others.

Michael Bloomberg at COP21

Californians on the agenda include California Treasurer John Chiang, California State Controller Betty Yee, CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes and DBL Investors head Nancy Pfund.

A copy of the agenda is here.  The event can be viewed via a live broadcast on the United Nations TV website at

Friday 11-12:30 Pacific Time: The Road from Paris: Climate Solutions Investment

Building on the ideas from the UN Investor Summit on Climate Risk, an interactive forum on finance for a west coast audience will take place on Friday, January 29 from 11 to 12:30 Pacific Time.

One of the participants in the CERES/UN Investor Summit, Ken Locklin of Impax Asset Management, is joining California Clean Energy Fund Managing Director Danny Kennedy in hosting the Friday event, The Road from Paris: Opportunities and Challenges in Climate Solutions Investment.

Experts in climate investment and risk will discuss the policies, financial models and investment flows needed to make Paris a success for both the climate and the economy.

Registration is free at

(Disclosure:  I am one of the presenters at a breakout session in the Friday event)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Climate Comments from COP21: Scientists

At COP21 in Paris last month, I was captivated by the quality and depth of the comments and presentations from political leaders, scientists, youth, activists financial experts and many others.  I captured a variety of comments and share some of them from scientists here.  I'll be sharing more in a future post.

The Scientists:  Time to Act

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up under the auspices of the United Nations in 1988 to gather and analyze the best scientific information available and synthesize it for decisionmakers.

At a gathering at UNESCO during COP21, IPCC members did their best to convey the science as clearly as they could.  But, scientists often have trouble conveying information in a way that is understood and absorbed by policymakers and the public.  As French climatologist Valerie Masson-Delmotte said, "Scientists are not poets."

At the same UNESCO gathering, Dr. Diana √úrge-Vorsatz, Director of the Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Policy at Central European University said that it is possible to limit global warming to an increase of two degrees centigrade.  However, it will be extremely difficult unless strong action is started soon.  Limiting to 1.5 degrees is even more challenging.

Elsewhere at COP21, scientists were concerned that the climate models may be underestimating emissions and impacts.  Dr. Susan Natali of Woods Hole Research Center expressed concern that carbon and methane emissions from thawing permafrost are not being taken into account in climate models.  "These emissions from thawing permafrost are going to amplify climate changes," she said.  Dr. James Hansen expressed concern that even if all emissions stopped today, there will be noticeable further warming from greenhouse gases already emitted.

Dr. Youba Sokona, Vice-Chair of IPCC offered hope, saying that it is possible to limit climate change.  However, like his colleagues, he emphasized the need for swift action.

(All photos by Michael Paparian)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

COP21 - The Deal is Done

The COP21 climate deal is done and it provides a very strong foundation for addressing climate change.

I spent the past two weeks watching the proceedings.  Though not inside the negotiation huddles, I could sense the seriousness and dedication of many involved as I watched diplomats scurry to private sessions with a clear sense of purpose.  Many others provided support as needed, whether it be a nudge from Al Gore, a talking-to from Bianca Jagger or an autograph from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Bianca Jagger
Arnold Schwarzenegger

I was very impressed by the youth in attendance.  They were articulate, passionate and effective.  I heard youth representatives engage with United Nations and country leaders as they pushed hard.  They know they are inheriting an earth with problems and they know they'll have to take over addressing them.  As Kentucky native Caroline Engle of the Sierra Club Student Coalition said, the "road doesn't end in Paris."

Caroline Engle of Sierra Club Student Coalition
In response to a question about youth access to decisionmaking COP21 Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres recognized that youth will very soon be the leaders at future COP sessions.  She said her home country of Costa Rica placed three youth within their official delegation to learn how the intricacies of international diplomacy works.  "This process is something you learn by doing .. not in books," she said.
Christiana Figueres receives canoe paddle from Indigenous
group from Panama asking that we all
"paddle in the same direction"

I attended many sessions on financial issues.  Effectively deploying funds, providing loans to low carbon companies and countries, and assuring that investment capital gravitates towards carbon solutions is drawing the attention of business leaders.  Heike Reichelt of the World Bank told one gathering that the next generation of portfolio managers will be looking at the impacts of their investments, not just the standard risk and return numbers.  As Mindy Lubber of CERES said, "this agreement is what business and investors were looking for, sending a strong signal that the low-carbon global economy has officially arrived."

Mindy Lubber of CERES

For most observers, the deal is about as good as you can expect from a diverse group of nearly 200 countries.  The deal acknowledges that we need to do better than limiting global warming to 3.6 degrees farenheit (2 degrees celsius) and addresses many of the issues environmental leaders pushed for.  It was bittersweet for island-naitons and other low-lowing areas because even aggressive implementation will lead to sea level rise that is likely to devastate large areas.

The deal represents a turning point.  The world has finally recognized what the scientist have been telling them for years ... the Earth is in trouble and humans have the power to limit the damage.

I heard scientists continue to raise alarms.  Melting permafrost may release enough methane to trigger accelerated temperature increases worldwide.  Greenland and parts of Antarctica may be approaching tipping points where ice melt is irreversible and sea level rise could be even higher than the three to six feet predicted for the next century.  Several scientists complained about the challenges of presenting information in a way that is understood by policymakers,  "Scientists are not poets," said Valerie Masson-Delmotte at a session on climate science hosted by UNESCO.

Valerie Masson-Delmotte:  "Scientists are not poets"

Getting the deal was just the beginning of addressing the problem.  Now countries large and small need to rapidly decarbonize their economies.  The cars of the future -- a fairly near future -- will not run on fossil fuels.  Natural gas will give way to electricity for heating homes and food.  Better planned cities will help us move more efficiently.  As Governor Jerry Brown told COP participants, we need to "change our carbon intensive way of life ... friendship, beauty, art may need to take the place of commoditization"

California Governor Jerry Brown at COP21

I'm still absorbing and pondering what I learned over the past few weeks and plan to write more about my observations.  For now, it's a good time to savor the success of Paris and get ready for the challenges ahead.

Kenyan and Maasai tribe member Mary Simat:  "Women are the keepers of mother earth"

All photos by Michael Paparian

Thursday, December 10, 2015

COP21 - Some Images

Much is going on at COP21 as the negotiations enter the final phase and the media is covering much of this.  There is anxiousness as some of the final issues are addressed.  We should know more in the next day or two.  In the meantime, here are some photos I've taken in the last few days.
Australian youth with a message for negotiators

From a scientific presentation.  The good news, is it may
take many years to completely melt.  But ...

Dept. of Uh-Oh: some irreversible melting may have started.

COP 21 Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres is presented
with an oar by indigenous representatives from Panama,
urging that we all "paddle in the same direction"

Generations space - the publicly accessible area

Outside the entrance to the restricted COP21 zone:  Apples are
handed to participants on their way in ..
makes up for the item shown further down

The United States Pavilion includes a high-tech globe projecting
a variety of images of climate impacts

Sean Kidney of Climate Bonds Initiative explains state of the
 market at a meeting at OECD headquarters

California State Senator Fran Pavley, author of the landmark
California climate law, AB32

U S Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is still smiling!
One way to get attention of negotiators:  Advocacy
group hands out chocolate with messages on back

Non-governmental organization representatives
get ready to meet with COP21 leadership

But sadness remains over November events in Paris.  I visited the site
of the Bataclan nightclub where emotions and sadness remain high

This is the bicycle of a young victim
who will never have a chance to ride again