Tuesday, December 11, 2018

COP24 Climate Summit .. Why Am I Here??

Katowice, Poland ... I’ve been at COP21 for nearly two weeks and will be heading home soon.  I’ve been asked by friends back in California what it’s like and why I’m spending so much time here.  COP24 is my fourth COP climate summit.  My first was the landmark COP21 in Paris in 2015.

The setting is Polish coal country.  The host town of Katowice was a major coal producer until their mine closed down around 2001.  All that’s left of the mine is a museum where you can descend into the old shaft and see what it was like for the miners who supplied the energy source that made modern Poland possible. 

The Spodek Arena, Cop24 Venue

The COP24 meeting site is centered around a futuristic arena with a look somewhat like the Starship Enterprise on top of the reclaimed coal mine.  Though this locality is making the transition away from coal and is proud of their newer tourism and service industries, the greater region still relies on coal.  On the way from my AirBNB to the venue every day, I pass over a railroad track where I can see a line-up of coal-laden railway cars heading to a nearby powerplant.

Poland gets a significant portion (about 80%) of their power from coal and their government, despite hosting the climate summit, expects a much-too-slow transition to other power sources. Poland plans to reduce their coal power generation to around 60% by 2030.

Over 22,000 participants from governments, research institutions, media, non-governmental organizations and many others have travelled to southern Poland for many climate reasons.  The statistics below show nearly 14,000 representatives of 198 governments are here.  This is somewhat deceiving as country delegations have many guests. 

COP24 Participant Statistics

Participants have many reasons for coming to a COP.  Government ministers and their staff negotiate the minute details of the climate agreements and implementation documents.  Scientist present their latest findings.  Governments and some organizations showcase their climate work and hold seminars in their “pavilions.”  Non-governmental organizations try to influence the proceedings, connect with partners around the world, hold media events, or otherwise try to impact global climate efforts.

At the COP, there are large meetings of country representatives to review and approve the latest agreements and documents that govern the implementation of the Paris Agreement and related agreements.  These aren’t developed in a vacuum.  Rather, they are discussed, reviewed and dissected at seemingly endless meetings of “subsidiary bodies” and other groups of government representatives.  Most of these are open and many of the non-government participants monitor and attempt to influence these proceedings. 

Single words can cause great debate.  An extreme example occurred when the US (i.e. Trump Administration) aligned itself with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to object to the submission of a scientific report.  At COP21, governments asked their scientific advisory body to work with the leading scientists of the world to report back on the potential and implications of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade. 

Meeting Tom Steyer at COP24

That report was submitted in time for COP24 and it paints a stark picture of carbon emissions, calling for a very quick reduction and ultimately net-zero level of carbon emissions.  An innocuous resolution to “welcome” the findings of this report was objected to by the four countries, including the US.  They would rather just acknowledge that the report exists than give credence to the findings.  They are pushing for language to “take note” of the work of the scientists rather than welcome the findings.  In a statement, the US said, “the United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report." The US isn’t winning any friends here as it as it moves towards the Trump-imposed withdrawal from the COP proceedings in 2020. A side note on all of this … there are two groups of US representatives at the COP, the policy and political folks from the Department of Energy, State Department and elsewhere. There are also career State Department employees who know how to professionally handle international relations. I am told the career folks are handling their tasks honorably and should the US re-engage on climate issues, will be welcomed back into the process.

For many of us the discussions among the country representatives are a small portion of what’s going on.  At any time, there are several dozen “side events.”  There are so many side events, that it can be a major challenge discovering which ones may be of interest.  I attend these side events for several reasons, including connecting with new and old acquaintances, learning the latest in areas of interest, and supporting people I know who have organized or are speaking at the events.  There are also regular press conferences and some of the groups I’m involved with use these to convey information about the COP process or broader climate related information.  The UN makes footage of these press conferences available online.  An example of one I assisted with is here.

Hallway in Country Pavillion Area, COP24

Acronyms abound at the COP, starting with “COP” itself (Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).   LGMA is a Local Government and Municipal Authority.   Youth participate as YOUNGOs  (Youth Non-Governmental Organizations).  Academic and other research entities are RINGOs (Research and Independent Non-Governmental Organizations).  Business groups are part of the BINGO group (Business and Industry Non-Governmental Organizations). 

The list goes on and on for both participants and what they’re talking about.  In the COP context, NAPA is not a wine growing region .. it is a “National Adaptation Program of Action.”  A LEG is not a body part.  Rather, it is the “Least Developed Countries Expert Group.”  The UNFCCC has a long glossary of acronyms and terms for the acronym-confused (here) like me.  The list even includes “NN” for “Not Named.”  No further explanation of NN is given.

I’m here with a few organizations.

I’ve been a long-time Board Member of the InterEnvironment Institute, a California based public policy center that works on a variety of internationally important environmental issues, including natural areas within or contiguous to urban centers, connecting conservation areas and environmental programs to museums and other partners, and collaborative problem solving.  Thanks to the accreditation the Institute enjoys with the Unite Nations, I am able to obtain the necessary credentials to enter the main venue of the COP. 

Michael Paparian, Caitlyn Hughes and Alen Bigelow of
Solar Cookers International Showing a Solar Cooker at CO24

I’m also on the Board of Solar Cookers International (SCI), an organization that promotes human and environmental health through support of carbon-free solar cooking.  Last year, I helped introduce SCI to COP and it has turned out to be a very useful venue to promote solar cooking.  We analyzed all of the country-specific climate plans and found that few mention cooking as an issue and even fewer mention solar cooking (see analysis here). 

Because SCI has an affiliate in England, the UK government allowed us to display a solar cooker and use their pavilion space to meet with interested people for the first week of the COP (it lasts two weeks).  Our display was in one of the busiest areas of the facility and were in constant conversation with country representatives and others interested in deploying more solar cookers in their region, especially in Africa and south Asia.  For the second week, SCI has booth space for similar interactions with participants.  The connections are significant.  As I write this, SCI staff is preparing to attend a dinner with Nepal government representatives, have their third press conference and consider invitations to consult with several African and south Asian countries on improving solar cooker deployment.

Michael Paparian and Climate Bonds Initiative Head Sean Kidney

The other organization I work with is the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI).  CBI promotes the use of green bonds for infrastructure and other projects.  I worked on green bonds when I was with the California Treasurer and I continue to believe they offer a necessary framework for funding infrastructure and other projects.  The specific effort I’m working on is to promote the Green Bond Pledge.  At COP24, I’m participating in finance related side events about green bonds and meeting local government officials and others to promote the pledge and other green bond work.  I even met with two California legislators at COP24 to brief them on how the green bond market could expand with California leadership.

I attended several sessions with the scientists working on climate issues.  I’ve done this at every COP to improve my understanding of what we truly know about climate change.  The mood of the scientists feels much different than prior COPs.  They are more direct, more specific and seem much more scared about what they are conveying.  They know sea level is rising, temperatures are rising and extreme weather events are getting worse.  They’re telling us that we have 12 years to dramatically reduce carbon emissions ratcheting up quickly to get to a 50% reduction in emissions.  We then have until 2050 to get to net-zero carbon emissions.  In 2018, worldwide carbon emissions actually INCREASED.  There’s even quiet talk of a “runaway climate change” scenario if we don’t get emissions under control soon. 

US States, Local Governments and others
proclaim "We Are Still In" the Paris Climate Agreement
Even if the US is pulling out

As I walk the halls of COP24, I proudly wear my California flag pin.  I don’t agree with the climate policies of our national government (an understatement!!) and the world is moving much too slowly on this existential threat.  But I’m happy to be among those from US state and national governments that are “still in” and showing how to move forward with policies that take us towards climate solutions. As California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols told those gathered here, when we’ve set ambitious clean energy and clean air goals we’ve met them faster cheaper and less painfully than expected.

So, why am I here?  To connect, to learn, to assist and hopefully to make a little contribution to the efforts to slow climate change.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Yes, It’s Getting Hotter .. a Lot Hotter

Katowice, Poland – Scientists have spent the three years since COP21 refining and reviewing data, observations and studies.  And since COP21 in Paris, they’ve learned to convey their findings in the clear language policymakers can understand, even preparing a special report directed at policymakers (copy here).

This is the fourth COP I’ve attended.  The sense of urgency the scientists are conveying cannot be understated.  They know what’s happening, they’re scared, and the want policymakers to take steps now to stop the worst effects of climate change.

Dr. Hoesung Lee heads the vast group of science advisors to United Nations climate efforts.  “Achieving net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases is necessary,” he told those gathered at COP24.  He also said that we need to start this rapid reduction quickly. “Every bit of warming matter.  Every year matters.  Every choice matters.”

Dr. Hoesung Lee, leader of UN Science Panel IPCC
(photo by Michael Paparian)

Dr. Elena Manaenkova of the World Meteorological Organization also advises the climate policymakers.  She said the latest findings show that the hottest four years on record are the past four years (including 2018).  She also said that the current average global warming of about 1 degree centigrade is not uniform throughout the world.  The Arctic is warming at a rate of about five times faster than the rest of the earth and many land areas are also warming faster than the average.

Dr. Elena Manaenkova of the World Meteorlogical Association
(photo by Michael Paparian)

Those of us from California know first hand the impacts that are already here.   Our recent fires destroyed lives, displaces thousands of people from their homes and caused smoke-related health impacts throughout the state.  Last month, my family wore uncomfortable breathing masks for a time in order to safely go outdoors.

California is clearly not alone.   Island nations face special concerns from sea level rise.  Other areas are facing increased hurricane and storm risk.  The heat, drought, water supply and other impacts California faces are similar to those faces by similar Mediterranean type climate zones.

There are five Mediterranean climate zones in the world, including California/northern Baha, Central Peru, southern & southwest Australia, South Africa Western Cape and the Mediterranean Basin area.

One of the COP24 workshops I attended focused on how to adjust within these climate zones. 

Laurel Hunt of the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative described how her team is working with the policymakers in her region to develop a sustainability plan to address the direct and indirect impacts of climate change, including energy, transportation, public health, water and housing.  Los Angeles is embarking on an unprecedented public collaboration process to engage the citizenry in understanding and developing solutions.

Laurel Hunt of UCLA and the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative
(photo by Michael Paparian)

Tropical and other vector-borne diseases are on the increase in Mediterranean climate regions.  West Nile Virus is on the increase in these areas.  Dr. Orna Matzner, a science advisor to the government of Israel described how a recent outbreak of Leptospirosis could be traced back to public exposure in rivers and streams.  Those water bodies had an increase in stagnant areas caused by lower water flows and drought conditions.

Dr. Olna Matzner, Israel Science Advisor
(photo by Michael Paparian)

Alon Zask of the Israel Ministry for Environmental Protection described how a future water strategy should rely on a combination of steps, including pollution prevention, wastewater treatment and desalination.  He said that “In Israel, sewage is a water source.”  He also said that more than 50% of water used in Israel is now “manufactured” from desalination facilities.  “If we’re talking about adaptation, this is adaptation.

Alon Zask of the Israel Ministry for Environmental Protection
(photo by Michael Paparian)

Geoffrey Danker of Sempra Utilities in California described how they are now addressing both the transition to renewable energy and adaptation of their infrastructure to current and future climate impacts.  They are already protecting low-lying facilities from sea level rise, addressing fire impacts, and taking other steps.  Together with other utilities, they evaluate and learn lessons from every extreme weather or fire disaster.  “The really depressing thing is that every time we get together to evaluate one disaster,” he said, another new disaster that has come along in the meantime. 

Geoffrey Danker of Sempra Utilities
(photo by Michael Paparian)

Dr. Jordan Harris of Adapt Chile said his country has faced severe fires and droughts as have other similar Mediterranean regions.  He summed up the situation for these regions, saying they have become a “climate laboratory” as more and more climate events affect their country.

Dr. Jordan Harris of Adapt Chile
(Photo by Michael Paparian)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

COP24 Report: Time to Get Serious … VERY Serious

COP24, Katowice, Poland – This is my fourth COP.  My first was COP21 in Paris where the international agreements to address climate change finally formalized.  People came away energized and feeling that as countries submitted their plans for climate solutions, we’d truly be on a right path to resolving the climate crisis. 

By my third COP in Bonn, Germany last year, there was a wide recognition that all the country commitments were not enough to avoid catastrophic climate change, but there was hope that countries would start to move more aggressively to curtail fossil fuel use and other greenhouse gas contributors.

The scientists are telling us that we should limit earth temperature increases to 1.5 degrees centigrade and that if it goes above 2 degrees, our troubles will escalate rapidly.  Even if we limit our temperature increases, we’ll still see many impacts, including sea level rise, more extreme weather events, drought and health impacts.  At higher levels, the habitability of large areas of our planet will come into question.

The sense of urgency is clearly prevalent at COP24, but so is a sense that many governments are saying the right things at these sessions, then failing to make the changes necessary to curtail fossil fuels quickly enough. 

Most countries agree there is a problem and are increasing renewable energy.  But many countries are  then continuing to use or even expand the use of coal and other fossil fuels.  Not enough governments are providing the needed climate leadership and some such as the US national government are overtly backsliding in climate commitments.

Sir David Attenborough, still strong in his environmental voice at 92 years, told the gathered heads of governments and others, “Leaders of the world you must lead. If we don’t take action the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

Leading means more than talking, said Dr. Gale Tracy Christiane Rigobert, Saint Lucian Minister for Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development at an event I attended today. We need to be sure these “events as ‘talkshops’ will end with COP24,” she said.

Michael Paparian with St. Lucia Minister Rigobert

Though Poland is hosting COP24, the government is among those that cling to archaic energy sources. New coal projects are still proposed, even though many workers in the coal industry are pushing for a faster transition to clean energy jobs.
To most observers, the issue of coal is clear and immediate. “We must phase out coal,” said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, former President of COP20, Peru Environmental Minister and current leader of World Wildlife Fund’s global climate and energy practice. “There is no Plan B for coal.”

What should come out of this COP to get us on the right path?

Michael Paparian with Manuel Pulgar-Vidal

Mr. Pulgar-Vidal, along with many others, are saying that the existing system of country promises isn’t enough and that there needs to be a clearer set of rules for how countries evaluate their emissions and commit to solutions.  There is some hope that a framework for these rules will emerge during COP24, to be finalized in time for renewed country commitments and actions by 2020.

We’ll see in the next few days if an action path is agreed to by the gathered governments (absent the commitment of the current US national government, of course). 

Arnold Schwarzenegger at COP24
(photo by Michael Paparian)

One individual offered himself as an action example.  Former California Governer Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “Nobody is better at action than I am because I make action movies .. but this is the real world.”

Let’s hope that the real world and real leaders take the real action steps we need.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Youth Ask Courts To Protect Their Climate Future

Is 21 the Magic Climate Number?

August 14, 2017 update:  Plaintiff Sophie Kivlehan and her grandfather James Hansen penned an excellent op-ed about the case in the Boston Globe ... a copy of "OK US Government --  See You In Court" is here.

21 is a number that's come up a lot in recent climate discussions.

It took world leaders 21 years to reach the agreement on climate change announced in Paris last year at COP21.

It took 21 young plaintiffs, all under 21 years old just a few months to get the green light to proceed with a lawsuit against the United States Government asserting that inaction on climate deprives them of life, liberty and "a climate system capable of sustaining human life."

The case could have interesting implications for the Donald Trump administration when the case goes to trial in 2017.

The youth, ages 9 to 20, are asking the courts to order the U.S. Government, among other things:
"to prepare and implement an enforceable national remedial plan to phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down excess atmospheric CO2 so as to stabilize the climate system and protect the vital resources on which Plaintiffs now and in the future will depend." (First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, filed 9/10/15, copy here)
Plaintiffs and attorneys hold hold a press conference on the steps of the Federal Courthouse in Eugene.
Twenty-one youth plaintiffs are suing the federal government in an attempt to force
science based action on climate change change.
(Robin Loznak/ZUMAPRESS.com reprinted with permission)

Fossil fuel interests and the U.S. Government tried to get U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken to toss the lawsuit.  But in a ruling in early November, Judge Aiken ruled the case can proceed, saying (on page 21!!):
"plaintiffs' alleged injuries - harm to their personal, economic and aesthetic interests - are concrete and particularized"
Judge Aiken's ruling (copy here) also discusses the relation of the relief sought in the lawsuit to U.S. climate commitments:
“Although the United States has made international commitments regarding climate change, granting the relief requested here would be fully consistent with those commitments. There is no contradiction between promising other nations the United States will reduce CO2 emissions and a judicial order directing the United States to go beyond its international commitments to more aggressively reduce CO2 emissions.”

Timeline outlining U.S. government knowledge of climate change problems
 presented by plaintiffs during court proceedings
Source here

This federal case is one of many related legal actions brought by youth in several states and countries, all supported by Our Children’s Trust, seeking science-based action by governments to stabilize the climate system.  The case also follows a similar case decided in the Netherlands in 2015.  In the Dutch case, the courts ruled on behalf of youth that the government must more quickly reduce fossil fuel emissions (see Guardian story here).

News of the action in the Our Children's Trust case came to delegates at the COP22 event in Marrakech, Morocco just as they were learning that Donald Trump had won the U.S. election.   The possibility of U.S. courts stepping in on behalf of future generations was well received by those worried about the direction the U.S. might take under the new administration.

"Judge Aiken recognized the inherent sovereign duty of the U.S. government to protect the fundamental rights of young people and future generations to life, liberty, and a climate system capable of sustaining human life," said Elizabeth Brown, staff attorney for Our Children's Trust at a press conference during COP22 on November 11.

Our Children's Trust staff attorney Elizabeth Brown discusses Judge Aiken's decision
at press conference during COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco
(Photo by Michael Paparian)

"These youth plaintiffs now have the opportunity to prove in court that the U.S. has knowingly put them and their generation in grave danger, trading their futures for the short-term profits for a few, in violation of their constitutional and public trust rights," said attorney Borwn.  "Plaintiffs will ask this court to order the federal defendants to put the United States on a science-based path to climate stabilization."

"We as young people have a right to life on this planet," said Daniel Jubelirer, a youth organizer and activist working with plaintiff organization Earth Guardians.  This case going to trial proves that our futures matter .. we'll see President Elect Trump in court."

Daniel Jubelirer of Earth Guardians discusses lawsuit
at COP22 in Marrakech
(photo by Michael Paparian)

"It's clear Judge Aiken gets what's at stake for us," said 17-year-old plaintiff Victoria Barrett, from White Plains, New York.  "Our planet and our generation don't have time to waste.  We are moving to trial and I'm looking forward to having the world see the incredible power my generation holds."

At the Marrakech press conference, Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs (recognized by Economist magazine as one of the three most influential living economists) discussed the importance of this precedent-setting lawsuit to resolving climate issues and protecting future generations.  "The judiciary," he said, "is the final place where citizens have their redress for rights denied."

Professor Jeffrey Sachs discusses lawsuit at
press conference in Marrakech, Morocco during COP22
(photo by Michael Paparian)

Assisting with the court case is climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, who brought the climate crisis to the attention of the U.S. Congress in the 1980s and has been advising world leaders ever since.  His 30 page declaration for the plaintiffs is also an excellent primer on the climate issue (copy here).  Hansen's granddaughter, Sofie Kivlehan, is one of the plaintiffs.  According to Dr. Hansen,
"Simply put: Our government’s persistent permitting and underwriting of fossil fuel projects serves now to further disrupt the favorable climate system that to date enabled human civilization to develop. In order to preserve a viable climate system, our use of fossil fuels must be phased out as rapidly as is feasible. ... Our government’s permitting of additional, new, or renewed fossil fuel projects is entirely antithetical to its fundamental responsibility to our children and their posterity. Their fundamental rights now hang in the balance." Declaration of Dr. James E. Hansen, page 31.
Climate Scientist Dr. Jame E. Hansen at COP21 in Paris
Grandfather of one of the plaintiffs
(photo by Michael Paparian)

In late November, the court said they expect the case to go to trial in the summer or fall of 2017, even though the defendants argued that it could take five years to go through procedural matters and discovery.  Attorneys for the youth said they want to proceed.  “We will push quickly to trial. The urgency of the climate emergency demands it,” said Julia Olson, counsel for Plaintiffs.

If these 21 youth are successful at trial, their case will contribute to needed and rapid solutions to the climate crisis, making the 21st and future centuries more livable century than they would otherwise be.  21 may indeed be an interesting climate number.

Photos of the youth plaintiffs and statements from each can be found here.  This case is also starting to get attention in national media, including a Washington Post story here and New Yorker story here.

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.