Thursday, July 30, 2015

California Coast: Get Ready for Sea Level Rise

Adaptation.  Resilience. Readiness.

Whatever you call it, it's time get our coastline ready for this "slow moving emergency."

Active bluff failures at Fletcher Cove, Solana Beach
"Solanabeach-activeblufffailures" by Stickpen - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Sea levels are rising in California as they are throughout the world.  To date the rise has been measured in inches, but it will increase noticeably  in our lifetimes.  What we know and enjoy along the California coastline is going to look a lot different over the next twenty to eighty years.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency recently released a report, Climate Change in the United States:  The Benefits of Global Action.    As world leaders and scientists gravitate towards solutions aimed at capping world temperature increases at 2 degrees centigrade, the EPA report shows the benefits of action, including lessened risks to health, the environment, infrastructure and other sectors.  However, the EPA report also shows that even with a world agreement, we're still going to see big impacts in the U.S. and we're going to have to deal with them.

One of the impacts is sea level rise.  The chart on the left shows expected changes in global temperature with and without global action.  The blue with-action line shows global temperature increases topping out at about 2 degrees centigrade above historic levels.  The chart on the right shows sea level rising even with global action (blue line).  The rise is expected to be about 3 feet by 2100 with action instead of about 5 to 6 feet with no action.

It's not just the rise in sea level that affects the coast.  With rising sea levels comes much higher tides and strong storm surges.  A relatively new term for the highest tides is "King Tides."  We are seeing King Tides with more frequency and with greater impact.

San Francisco during a King Tide
From King Tides Project Photographer 

The implications for the California coastline are huge and California climate leaders admit that not enough attention has been paid to adaptation.  At a recent workshop on the adaptation for the utility sector, Ken Alex, Director of Governor Brown's Office of Planning and Research, described adaptation and resilience as having been the "stepchild" in the climate change discussions.  He said we have to start paying much closer attention to adaptation now as we make infrastructure and other decisions.

Pacific Gas and Electric and other California utilities are looking at climate impacts ranging from sea-level rise to drought impacts on hydroelectric facilities to warmer weather impacts on air conditioner loads.  PG&E is using an expectation of about a one foot rise in sea level by 2040 (the middle scenario below) as they decide how to handle their assets and infrastructure around the coast and bays of the state.

Source:  PG&E presentation to CEC/PUC Adaptation Workshop 7/27/15

EPA, the State of California, private entities like PG&E and others are using projections like the ones above for planning purposes.  The projections are generally based on mid-range analyses by the scientific community .. the rise could be a bit more or less, according to studies.  There has been some recent analysis indicating that sea level rise could be SUBSTANTIALLY higher than these estimates. (Articles here and here).

The California Coastal Commission is finalizing a document to guide local coastal planning and development as sea level continues to rise.  The current 287-page draft of the document, Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance, will be the subject of Commission action at their August 12 hearing in Chula Vista.  The report calls for communities to take a sober and thorough look at impacts and start making tough decisions about addressing them.  Communities from Del Mar to Arcata have recently taken steps to plan for sea level rise impacts. (UPDATE:  The Coastal Commission finalized policy guidance is available here)

Responses to rising sea levels have traditionally fallen into three general categories, as pointed out in a recent report on "armoring" the coast from Stanford Law School:  protection (e.g., armoring structures), accommodation (e.g. elevating structures above inundation levels), and retreat (e.g. prohibiting or relocating development and infrastructure).  (Report here)  The armoring option has included very controversial sea-walls, breakwaters and other structures in the past.  Installing and maintaining the effectiveness of such structures will be increasingly challenging and expensive.  In their recent special report on sea level rise impacts on the San Francisco Bay area, the San Francisco Public Press illustrated these options along with a fourth involving natural barriers, as illustrated here.

In many areas, it is likely we will have to abandon coastal facilities to higher waters by mid to late century.  Some infrastructure, like airports, wastewater facilities and key transportation corridors may be able to forestall abandonment with some engineering solutions.  However, it may be a losing battle and it may become inevitable that much of our key infrastructure will have to be abandoned and moved or somehow elevated above the water impact zone.

This map shows the odds of floods at least as high as historic
once-a-century levels, occurring by 2030,
based on Climate Central research. - See more here 

Sea level rise and related tide activity will impact bays and inland areas such as the Sacramento delta.  As the San Francisco Public Press special report points out, there continues to be a development boom along the San Francisco Bay waterfront with limited thought to the long term impacts of sea level rise:
"Developers say they have engineering and financial solutions to deal with any reasonable future flooding risk. But critics, including climate scientists, urban planners and environmental activists, say the current wave of construction might leave taxpayers on the hook for enormously expensive emergency protections and repairs."  San Francisco Public Press:  Major SF Bayfront Developments Advance Despite Sea Rise Warnings
The California legislature is in a concurrent special session right now to look at transportation issues.  It will be interesting to see how they link their transportation and climate change priorities.

Perhaps the best way to summarize the situation was provided last year in a report from the California Assembly Select Committee on Seal Level Rise and the California Economy:
"Sea-level rise has been called a slow-moving emergency. As a result, the future is not all doom and gloom since we have time on our side to prepare and plan for sea-level rise. Sea-level rise is not a surprise. We know it is happening and will only worsen. We must take advantage of the time we have to address this impending emergency now."  (Sea Level Rise: A Slow Moving Emergency, August, 2014)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tracking California Renewable Energy

As I write this post at mid-day on July 23, I can see online that the California electric grid is absorbing over 9,600 Megawatts of renewable energy, meeting 29% of current energy demand.  That's equivalent to the output of about nine major power plants.

July 23, 2015

I know this because a little known agency, the California Independent System Operator (ISO), posts near-instantaneous data about California electric supply and demand (here).  The ISO manages the flow of electricity over long-distance transmission lines for about 80% of California.  The numbers are lower than actual California renewable output since they don't include rooftop solar or some local renewable power generation.  As you'd expect, solar provides a substantial amount of electricity between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on a typical summer day:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Source:  California Independent System Operator

As more California renewables go online, ISO is regularly reporting new record amounts of solar production.  On June 19, they reported a peak amount of 6,217 MW of solar.  Less than a month later, on July 16, they reported a peak solar output of 6,329 MW.

Incorporating increasing amounts of renewables into the electric grid presents some interesting challenges, as I noted in my post about California 2030 renewable energy goals (here).  Assuring the maximum use of renewables in the future will require better coordination of energy supplies across the western U.S., more flexibility to curtail non-renewable power plants, and increased use of energy storage.  Below is a chart showing the amount of energy delivered from various sources on Wednesday, July 22.  Daily summary reports from the ISO on day-before and historical renewable output are available here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Source:  California Independent System Operator

An interesting and innovative initiative of the ISO is to move towards allowing aggregation and grid-deployment of distributed generation sources such as rooftop solar and energy stored in electric vehicle or other batteries.  “With the rapidly evolving grid and quantum growth in distributed generation, this framework for integrating smaller renewable resources onto the high voltage grid demonstrates a significant step in re-designing our energy future with lower carbon emissions and helping California meet its clean energy goals,” said ISO President and CEO Steve Berberich. “This proposal encourages innovation and entrepreneurs to explore opportunities within the wholesale market by combining resources that individually would be too small to participate on their own.”  More information here and here.

If you want to see these sorts of cool graphs and data while out and about .. ISO has an app for that, ISO Today for Apple or Google Play.  I have to admit, I'm captivated by the information on my phone, including a map of renewable energy generation facilities.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

California 2030 Climate Goals: Renewable Energy

50% renewable energy by 2030 is another California climate goal that is reachable and replicable. The California Public Utilities Commission says the major utilities under their jurisdiction are already past 20% renewable and plan to surpass 30% renewable procurement by 2016 (report here).

Governor Jerry Brown set the 50% renewable goal for the electricity sector and getting there was the subject of a workshop held by his representatives recently. (Agenda/presenters here; available slides here)  The 50% by 2030 goal builds on the previously adopted "renewable portfolio standard" goal of 33% renewable use by 2020.

Challenges remain, including improving electricity storage, better interconnection among western electricity producers, better integration of renewables into the electric system and continuing to increase the pace of renewable deployment.

Workshop leaders included Senior Advisor to Governor Brown Cliff Rechtschaffen, California Energy Commission Chairman Robert Weisenmiller, CalISO President Stephen Berberich, PUC President Michael Picker, ARB Executive Offiser Richard Corey, PUC Commissioner Carla Peterman.

Cliff Rechtschaffen of the Governor’s Office explained that the 50% renewable electric goal is one of the “five pillars” of Governor Browns strategy to address climate change.   The other four include 50% reduction in petroleum use in vehicles (ClimateDispatch transportation workshop review here), doubling energy efficiency savings in existing buildings (ClimateDispatch efficiency workshop review here), carbon sequestration in soils and elsewhere, and reducing short-lived climate pollutants.

One of the workshop presenters, Dr. Nancy Ryan of E3 described four inter-related transitions that need to take place to meet the goals contained in the five pillars Mr. Rechtschaffen described.  The first is efficiency and conservation in energy use, transportation and urban design.  The second is fuel switching to electricity to electricity and hydrogen all sectors.  The third is decarbonizing electricity.  The fourth is decarbonizing fuels.

Source:  E3 Dr. Nancy Ryan presentation

Climate change is an issue “right now” in California, said Energy Commission Chairman Robert Weisenmiller.  “We need to move fast to reduce carbon.”  Weisenmiller pointed out that roughly 20% of California greenhouse gas emissions come from the electricity sector, with roughly half of those emissions coming from out of state facilities that provide power to California.   The amount of renewables needed will likely increase at a higher pace as the transportation sector becomes more electrified and there is greater electrification in other sectors.

California Public Utilities Commission Chairman Michael Picker stressed the importance of better interconnection and transmission capability for system reliability and to assure the access of renewables to the grid.  His comments were echoed by others.

The increased electricity demand could be especially dramatic after 2030, according to Dr. Nancy Ryan of E3.  She presented information from the “California PATHWAYS Project” completed last year by E3 for the AirResources Board, Energy Commission, Public Utilities Commission, California Independent System Operator and the Governor’soffice. The study shows electricity demand relatively stable through 2030, largely due to energy efficiency offsetting any increases in demand.  However, after 2030, the demand goes up, doubling or more by 2050, especially due to the decarbonization of the transportation sector through the introduction of renewable fuels and electrification.
Dr. Ryan said California is well positioned with the currently anticipated deployment of technologies and activities to meet the 2050 California goal of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  However, projections made in the PATHWAYS study suggest that more steps and accelerated deployment will be needed in the next few years to achieve the 40% reduction in 2030.  These projections contributed to the more aggressive goals announced by Governor Brown in his state of the state speech in January.  The need for additive actions was discussed in this workshop and the transportation and efficiency workshops.  The PATHWAYS study showed that without some acceleration in deployment and quicker technological advances, California would be on a trajectory to achieve between a 26% and 38% reduction by 2030, short of the desired 40%.

Though more will need to be done to achieve the overall 40% reduction by 2030, Dr. Ryan said that the electricity sector can meet the 50% renewable electricity goal.  She said that grid scale renewable additions are around 2,400 MW per year and that rooftop solar will account for almost 12,000 MW by 2030.

Source:  E3 Dr. Nancy Ryan presentation

Several presenters discussed the advances that have been made for electricity storage as well as the need to greatly expand available storage using current and improving technologies.  Dr. Ryan said that “deep draw” storage is critical – i.e. storage that can hold up to 8 hours of needed energy.  An example of existing “deep draw” technology is pumped storage where water from one reservoir is pumped to a higher reservoir during low demand times and then released to produce electricity during high demand times.  Emerging battery technologies also have the potential for greater storage.

Phil Pettingill, Regional Integration Director for the California Independent System Operator offered a series of suggestions for improving system efficiency to allow greater use of renewables.  (Cal-ISO – if you don’t know who they are, monitors and deploys electricity in real time to assure that enough electricity is purchased and available for use by the most of the California utilities)  Mr. Pettingill said there are times when renewables are producing too much electricity to be absorbed by the system given the amount of electricity coming from facilities that can’t easily reduce their output.    He offered a series of solutions, many of which were supported by other participants.  Among his suggestions:
  • Retrofit existing traditional power plants to allow them to be turned on, turned down or turned off more quickly.  Currently renewables often have to be curtailed because natural gas facilities can’t be turned down or turned off as needed.
  • Deepen regional coordination to share renewable resources.  Through better integration of power systems across the western states, it is believed that renewable energy can be more efficiently used.  For example, the peak production of solar in California may align with the peak electricity needs in Utah, while the peak wind production in another state may better align with the peak energy use in California.
  • Coordinate time of use rates with system conditions to more accurately reflect real market conditions.  Depending on the season of the year, the time of day for peak system energy use can vary by as much as 4 hours.  Assuring that time of use rates reflect seasonal and other variations may make rates more complicated, but for those who can effectively shift their use in response to pricing signals, the system benefits can be substantial.
Carl Zichella of the Natural Resources Defense Council agreed that a more coordinated regional electrical system is key to the success of renewables, especially as we move towards the 80% 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goal.  He pointed out that there are about 40 regional entities with responsibility for electricity sharing.

Mr. Pettingill of Cal-ISO gave an example of addressing the regional grid issues assuming 40% renewables in 2024.  In his example, better regional coordination in combination with other steps to eliminate renewable curtailment could reduce carbon emissions by as much as 1.5 million metric tons/year.

Source:  Cal-ISO presentation

Caroline Choi of Southern California Edison brought up the issue of distributed generation (DG) and said it should be counted towards the 50% renewables goal.  She said that her utility is getting 5,000 applications a month for rooftop solar and other DG connections and that DG will play a big role in renewable energy production in the future.  Dan Chia of Solar City said California is the only state that does not count rooftop solar towards their renewable portfolio.  Others, including Cesar Diaz of the Building and Construction Trades Council argue that the existing California policy is the right one and that rooftop solar installations should be counted in addition to, not part of, the utility renewable portfolio.

Mr. Diaz said the jobs impact of the California renewable transition has been impressive, with many quality jobs created in impoverished high-unemployment areas.  He also said that apprenticeship programs are helping thousands move into good jobs.

Source:  California Energy Commission

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is one of the most progressive utilities in the country.  According to Arlen Orchard of SMUD, the utility is experimenting with microgrids, encouraging solar installations for customers and allowing customers who are unable to install their own renewables to pay a slight surcharge to assure all of their power is coming from renewables.  He also said that SMUD 2050 goal is even more aggressive than the California goal.  SMUD plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2050.

The role of natural gas facilities is an issue.  Natural gas has been considered a fuel to help California transition to renewables.  It also helped California move more quickly out of dirtier in-state oil fired plants and imported coal fired electricity.  There is now discussion of how to move away from reliance on natural gas since natural gas is a major greenhouse contributor in the electric sector.  Laura Wisland of the Union of Concerned Scientists questioned why natural gas plants continue online in the middle of the day at times when renewables are available, and sometimes curtailed due to traditional plants being online.  She said the state needs to look carefully at the cost and value of gas plants versus storage and demand response alternatives together with renewable energy. 

About half of California GHG emissions from the electricity sector come from in-state sources and about half from out-of-state sources.  Most of the in-state GHG from the electric sector comes from natural gas facilities, as shown in the graphs below from the latest California GHG Emission Inventory:

Source: California Energy Commission

California Energy Commission Executive Director Rob Oglesby said his agency is funding a variety of research and development projects that will contribute to the renewable goals, including funding for advanced storage, demand response, better forecasting and microgrids.  PUC Commissioner Carla Peterman suggested better coordination between the PUC and Energy Commission on research needs and timing of deliverables to assure that PUC proceedings on utility actions fully benefit from Energy Commission funded research.

V. John White of the Coalition for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology said there are some high value higher cost renewables that could use more support from the state, including geothermal resources in Imperial County and methane from organic materials elsewhere in the state.  He also said more could be done to pursue large scale storage projects, including the PUC ordering utilities to evaluate storage options and report back on how they could pursue them.  He said the electric grid is key to renewable deployment and that a low carbon grid study will be coming out in early August that will detail the issue.

The commitment, creativity and resolve to meet the 2030 goal of 50% renewable energy is there in the California government, utility, business and NGO communities.  By moving noticeably closer to the goals each year, California is showing the world that decarbonization is politically, environmentally and economically viable.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sacramento City Decisions and Climate Change

The Sacramento Bee has published my op-ed discussing how an upcoming Sacramento City Council decision on a mega-gas station relates to larger climate change issues.  The op-ed is reprinted below:

Mega-gas Station will Worsen Climate Change

With great fanfare, the Sacramento City Council adopted a Climate Action Plan in 2012 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change.

The plan is well liked outside Sacramento. Mayor Kevin Johnson received national credit, and was appointed by President Barack Obama to a White House task force.

But to maintain leadership, the council needs to consider climate issues as it makes real world decisions in Sacramento – such as a mega-gas station proposed near Curtis Park.

The stakes of climate change are huge. Scientists and policymakers are talking about capping the overall increase in global temperatures at about 31/2 degrees Fahrenheit. We’re already about a third of the way there, and if we exceed the threshold, the issues move beyond adaptation to societal survival.

The good news is that the solutions are known, achievable and practical.

They include changing the fuels that power our electrical grid, vehicles and factories. Sacramento’s climate plan identifies gasoline and diesel consumption by vehicles as the largest source of greenhouse gases, making up 48 percent of citywide emissions.

Reducing fossil fuel use is the foundation of greenhouse gas reduction efforts. For transportation, this will mean many more electric vehicles and renewable fuels. Under any scenario, you can expect a rapid decline in gasoline sales starting this decade. The number of gas stations, down 30 percent since 2000, will continue to decline.

Given this context – climate change leadership, rapidly declining fossil fuel sales, closing gas stations – it is puzzling why Sacramento’s leaders would support new mega-gas stations in residential neighborhoods. Yet that is exactly what the Sacramento Planning and Design Commission approved recently and what the council will be reviewing soon.

The planning commission approved the proposed 16-pump Safeway regional gas station on Crocker Road in Curtis Park Village. It will pump more than 7 million gallons of gas a year, making it one of the largest gas stations in our region. Increased greenhouse gas from vehicle trips and car idling will add to problems associated with placing the facility close to residences.

The council can show that its stand for greenhouse gas reduction is more than rhetoric. It may be inconvenient to say no to Safeway or the project developer. It may be inconvenient to raise climate issues in the context of actual city decisions. But if we’re going to resolve climate issues, city leaders need to look at every action they take to ensure they are helping solve – not worsen – the climate problem.

Friday, July 10, 2015

California 2030 Climate Goals: Transportation Fuel Use

More California greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation than any other sector.  The most recent inventory from the California Air Resources Board shows transportation emissions of over 172 million tons annually, accounting for 37% of the state total (data here).  90% of the transportation emissions come from on-road sources, with the remainder coming from rail, aviation, off-road and watercraft.

Cutting transportation related carbon emissions by 50% between now and 2030 was the subject of a workshop held by several California agencies earlier this week.   (Agenda and links to slides here) The 50% reduction will contribute to  Governor Jerry Brown's goal of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.  Topics covered included supply chain efficiency, light and heavy duty vehicle technology, clean fuels and smart growth.

There was general agreement that it will take a combination of aggressive but achievable actions to meet the 50% goal. Simon Mui of NRDC offered a scenario (illustrated below) involving deployment of 3.7 million battery and fuel cell vehicles, new vehicle fuel efficiency averages of 50mpg, improved medium/heavy duty vehicle efficiency/electrification, notable reductions in vehicle miles traveled and a 25% reduction in carbon intensity in fuels.  Jamie Hall of CALSTART said there is no "silver bullet" and that we need a combination of policy, regulations and incentives to encourage a variety of technologies.  He also said that there needs to be serious consideration of post 2030 issues and the interim technological steps that will be needed before 2030.

John German of  the International Council on Clean Transportation gave several examples of how many technology forecasts are overly conservative and showed that, in many cases, technology deployment has been faster, cheaper and more effective that projections suggested.  David Green of  the University of Tennessee Center for Fuel Policy gave examples of the quick deployment and expansion of the advanced vehicle market.  Green pointed out that only 15 years ago, car manufacturers abandoned electric vehicles and are now deploying them at a rapid pace.

Chris Sommerville of the U C Berkeley Energy Biosciences Institute said there are many promising developments in the area of biofuels, including recent breakthroughs on the efficient conversion of water to hydrogen fuel.  Some of these may not be commercially viable by 2030, but could contribute to the post 2030 carbon reduction needs.  For the shorter term, he touted ethanol as the most efficient current biofuel.  He suggested that every vehicle sold, including hybrids, should be designed for flexible fuel use so that more ethanol could be deployed (only about 4% of U.S. vehicles are currently flex fuel and there are limits as to the percent of ethanol that can be used in U.S. flex fuel cars).  He also said that Germany has made a much greater commitment to gas from digester technology and is deploy

Reducing vehicle miles travelled, promoting walking and bicycling, and pursuing smart growth strategies received attention.  Kate White of the State Transportation Agency said Californians have doubled their use of non-car transportation in a decade.  She discussed data showing that nearly 23 percent of California household trips are now taken by walking, biking, and public transportation. In 2000, that share was only 11 percent. This increase includes a dramatic increase in walking trips, which nearly doubled from 8.4 percent to 16.6 percent of trips.

Jeanie Ward Waller of the California Bicycling Coalition said that 50% of vehicle trips by car are for distances of 1 mile or less.  She and others discussed the new CalTrans goals of doubling pedestrian and transit trips, tripling bicycling trips and reducing vehicle miles traveled by 15% by 2020.  The goals are contained in the most recent CalTrans Strategic Management Plan here.

Implementation of "Smart Growth" and "Sustainable Communities Strategies" under SB375 and other programs is key to achieving the trip reduction targets.  Susan Lea Riggs of the state Department of Housing and Community Development described the new paradigms for implementing transit oriented development and infill projects, including density, distance to transit and development scale.

Denny Zane of MoveLA said that car-centric Los Angeles is demonstrating a desire to implement mass transit measures.  In 2008, over 2/3 of voters in Los Angeles agreed to a sales tax increase to fund transportation projects, including re-instituting a robust rail system throughout the area. His slides showed virtually no rail systems in the 1990s and a robust system that is being completed.

The California transportation system is going through a transformation in response to climate change concerns.  In a very short timeframe, efficiency, electrification and low/no carbon fuels will dominate motorized transit.  Smart-growth strategies and other measures to encourage walking and bicycling will reduce the demand for vehicle trips.  All of this will contribute California continuing to be at the forefront of low-carbon economies.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

California 2030 Climate Goals: Energy Efficiency

While Governor Jerry Brown was in Canada telling the Climate Summit of the Americas that unles we act soon, we are headed towards "ecological collapse" and that "We're on a Titanic unless we turn," (Sacramento Bee), state agency staff and appointees were busy holding workshops delving into the details of how California will achieve a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

Meeting the reduction targets will require creativity, ingenuity and perseverance.  State agencies are aligning their programs with the steps needed to achieve energy efficiency, renewable energy, smart growth and transportation fuel reduction goals.  Their actions have served as a model for other states and countries.

As their work continues, there is a collaborative effort this summer for agencies to bring in experts and stakeholders to review the status and innovations needed to meet the 2030 carbon reductions.

Three workshops this week deal with doubling the already aggressive energy savings goals for existing buildings, cutting transportation fuel use by 50% and getting to  50% renewable energy generation.  Later this month, a workshop will cover issues of climate adaptation in the energy sector.

I attended the efficiency, transportation and renewables workshops.  A few highlights from the energy efficiency workshop are included in this post and future posts will discuss transportation and renewables.

In the workshops, market participants, government agencies and NGOs were engaged.  Challenges are clearly there, but so is the resolve to be successful.  A common theme was that it will be a combination of many actions, short and long term, that will lead to successful carbon reductions.  Achieving the goals will require, according to the Governor's representative Cliff Rechtschaffen, clear interim steps and the right signals to the marketplace.

Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings

California has had cutting-edge building standards for new construction for several decades and regularly improves on them.  Standards for new buildings adopted earlier this year to go into effect 2017 were described by California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister as taking the state "one step closer to the state's 2020 zero net energy goal, where a building produces as much energy as it consumes."

California has already factored successful and broad energy efficiency retrofits, efficient appliance purchases and other improvements in existing buildings into future energy projections.  In order to meet Governor Brown's goal of doubling the expected improvements, existing building energy use will need to be reduce by an ADDITIONAL 17%.  The chart below indicates that some of the programs to get to 17% are already in development (orange), but many more will be needed (blue):

The Energy Efficiency workshop was held by several state agencies,(agenda/speakers here).  They explored options for efficiency through utility and non-utility programs, options for fuels for water and space heating, market transformation strategies and related issues.  Available presentations are linked in the Energy Efficiency Docket Log here.

Energy Commission Chair Robert Weisenmiller said there is a huge potential for improved building efficiency and that we may need to move towards "zero-based thinking" on efficiency programs to consider any and all potentially effective programs.  Jonathan Changus of the Northern California Power Agency expressed concern about consumer and business owner awareness of the value of energy efficiency and suggested that "energy literacy may be lower than financial literacy."

Achieving greater efficiency and carbon reductions will require not only traditional building and appliance improvements, it will also require notable reductions in the use of non-renewable natural gas for cooking and heating.

Obadiah Bartholomy of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District  pointed to a studies saying that there will need to be substantial increases in the use of electric space and water heating.  He said we need to make the move towards heat pump water heaters within the next five years if the 2030 reduction targets are going to be achieved.  He provided the following chart comparing natural gas tankless water heaters to heat pump water heaters at various levels of renewable energy use by the electricity provider:

Representatives of the gas utilities recognized the need to pursue more renewable fuels in their systems, including natural gas from organic wastes and energy crops.

Several participants discussed the complex interaction between efficiency and the amount of renewables in the electric utility portfolio and the marginal fuel used by the utility (i.e. the one that won't be used if efficiency is successful).  In some cases, moving from gas appliances to electric appliances could cause an increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the short term but a notable reduction in emissions in the longer term as utilities incorporate more renewables.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Recent Climate Graphics I Liked

Charts and graphs help me visualize trends and issues.  Here are a few of my favorites from the past couple of weeks.

Decoupling Economic Growth and Greenhouse Gas

California Air Resources Board latest California data show further decoupling of greenhouse gas and economic growth

Worldwide Carbon Reduction Pledges

How close is the world to the needed pledges to get us on the path to a maximum 2 degree centigrade temperature increase?  The Carbon Brief updated their tracker showing that 45 countries have made pledges that amount to 55% of the needed carbon reductions.  More pledges are being announced regularly in the lead-up to the Paris climate summit in December.

Media Climate Fail

Media coverage of climate denial has been a frustration for climate scientists and climate leaders.    Media Matters dissects media coverage of climate denial and presidential candidates.  Their analysis and news clips are quite telling.  Link here.

California 2030 Plan

How will California reach 40% Carbon reductions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels?  With 50% reduction in transportation fuel use, 50% renewable energy and doubling efficiency of buildings.  This chart was shown by a representative of Governor Brown at a recent California Energy Commission workshop

Country-specific Greenhouse Gas Emissions

This interactive infographic from the World Resources Institute provides a helpful overview of where greenhouse gas emissions are coming from.  The interactive chart is available at WRI Iinfographic

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A few more climate videos I liked

Several videos caught my interest this week.  This is the second week in a row I'm posting some favorite videos (last week compilation here).  It may not happen weekly, but I'm planning to periodically post notable short video clips.  You may notice some emphasis on leaders and non-leaders talking about climate, clips that provide background on climate issues and climate finance, and clips that relate to California impacts and actions.

Robert Redford Addresses United Nations

Sea level rise in Santa Clara County - California Assemblymenber Rich Gordon hosts an overview of issues and responses in the south San Francisco Bay area

Women and Climate Resilience - World Bank Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte

California EPA head Matthew Rodriguez discusses drought, renewables, climate while at Lyon climate conference last week

Metropolitan Water District General Manager Jeffrey Kithlinger on Climate Change

Soil protection and climate change; a primer from the U N Food and Agriculture Organization

Green Bonds: a 2 minute primer from the Asian Development Bank

Friday, July 3, 2015

Patriotism, Science and Climate Change: 4 thoughts for the 4th

The July 4 holiday has been celebrated since the first anniversary of the 1776 Declaration of Independence.  On July 4, 1777, there were bonfires, bell ringing and fireworks to mark the day.

In my neighborhood in Sacramento, a local realtor is giving away American flags so residents can show their patriotism and pride in the United States.  As flags here and elsewhere are displayed, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how science and environmental values relate to patriotism.

Given that many of our leaders who consider themselves "patriots" are attacking science, scientific reasoning and are denying human caused climate change, I thought it would be a good time to consider the issues of patriotism, science and climate change.

Below, I've compiled some quotes and writings to support 4 patriotic thoughts for this 4th of July:

1.  The Founding Fathers' belief in facts and science helped shape their thinking and our Constitution

The Founding Fathers were "science enthusiasts" says Shawn Lawrence Otto in Scientific American:

"'Facts,' John Adams argued, 'are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.' When facts become opinions, the collective policymaking process of democracy begins to break down." Otto, Scientific American, November 2012

As Bernard Cohen points out in his book "Science and the Founding Fathers" Thomas Jefforson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and James Madison considered science an integral part of life, including political life.  They employed scientific "knowledge in shaping the political issues of the day, incorporating scientific reasoning into the Constitution."

2. Our military recognizes climate change as a clear threat

Patriotism is equated with support for our military.  Our defense leaders are telling us that climate change is an issue and it needs to be addressed.  The military is also at the forefront of experimenting with sustainable technologies.

The Department of Defense in their 2014 Climate Adaption Roadmap put it clearly:

"Climate change will affect the Department of Defense's ability to defend the Nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security."

The Defense Department  $7 billion investment in renewables is one example of a deepening commitment to alternative energy and conservation.  The Pew Charitable Trusts explored how the Defense Department is leveraging resources to push alternative energy and conservation (report here).

The Center for Climate and Security has brought together retired military and security leaders to address climate change.  The bottom line of their work is clear:
"Climate change presents both direct and indirect threats to human, national, international security" from Climate Security 101

3.  Patriotism and environment are interlinked

President Teddy Roosevelt recognized the relationship between conservation and patriotism and spoke about it on many occasions:
"Let us remember that the conservation of natural resources, though the greatest problem of today, is yet but part of another and greater problem to which this Nation is not yet awake, but to which it will awake in time, and with which it must hereafter grapple if it is to live -- the problem of national efficiency, the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation"  Conservation as a National Duty, May 1908

More recently, Anne Marie Todd of San Jose State University, author of "Communicating Environmental Patriotism" suggests that
"Patriotism has historical roots as an environmental concept:  the belief that a country's greatness is defined by its environment."

4.  Addressing climate change is the patriotic thing to do

As a group of veterans in Montana told their community before Independence Day last year:
"Join us on this Independence Day, reflect on what patriotism means, take steps to reduce your carbon pollution and support efforts efforts to generate clean, domestic, affordable and safe energy for these United States of America."  Flathead News June 30, 2014

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Product Stewardship, Climate Change and the Encyclical Laudato Si’

The climate change message of the encyclical Laudato Si'  is receiving deserved attention for bringing a moral dimension to the climate discussion.  But it goes beyond climate change into related environmental, social and economic issues.

Pope Francis has made it very clear that although the Encyclical has specific meaning for Catholics, the messages are meant for all humanity.  The Vatican emphasized this by bringing in members of other religions and an atheist to attest to the importance of the Encyclical.

One of the messages I glean from the encyclical is the importance of "product stewardship" as one of the many steps we need to take as a society.

Today I joined Catholic Climate Ambassador Betsy Reifsnider to speak to the California Product Stewardship Council  (CalPSC) about climate change, the encyclical and the relation of both to product stewardship.  Betsy did a great job showing the interconnections between the message of Pope Francis' encyclical on climate and other issues such as product stewardship, while I spoke about climate change causes, impacts and solutions.  I believe the CalPSC team felt, as I have, energized and validated by the messages of the encyclical.

Betsy Reifsnider (Catholic Climate Ambassador), Doug Kobold (CalPSC Board)
Michael Paparian, Heidi Sanborn (CalPSC Executive Director)

I worked on product stewardship issues when I was a member of the California Integrated Waste Management Board (now CalRecycle) and represented the state in national discussions over electronic product stewardship from 2000 to 2004.  Product stewardship concepts are fairly simple -- manufacturers should design products for source reduction, reuse and recycling and take back their products at the end of their useful life.  Paint, televisions, computers, cell phones, carpets and even cars have been the subject of product stewardship discussions.

Pope Francis captured the essence of product stewardship more eloquently and succinctly than I've ever seen:

"These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish. ... It is hard for us to accept that the way natural ecosystems work is exemplary: plants synthesize nutrients which feed herbivores; these in turn become food for carnivores, which produce significant quantities of organic waste which give rise to new generations of plants. But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them. A serious consideration of this issue would be one way of counteracting the throwaway culture which affects the entire planet, but it must be said that only limited progress has been made in this regard." Pope Francis, Encyclical, June, 2015, paragraph 22
The connection between product stewardship and climate change was shown several years ago when the Product Policy Institute (now UPSTREAM) used EPA data to show that 37% of greenhouse gas emissions come from products and packaging.  The report is available here.  The bottom line: To reduce GHG emissions we must reduce emissions from production and consumption of manufactured goods and food.

This is where product stewardship groups like the California Product Stewardship Council, UPSTREAM and the Product Stewardship Institute come in.  They work with policy makers, NGOs, governments and industry to promote programs to encourage manufacturers to more efficiently produce products, produce green products, insure product recyclability and take back products at the end of their useful life for recycling into new products.  Their work is an important component of the overall effort to identify and address all of the root causes of climate change.

If you want to read the encyclical, it is available here.