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.

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