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California’s new rooftop solar mandate

Steven Weissman, LEGAL PLANET

The California Energy Commission’s new mandate receives mixed reviews.

The recent decision of the California Energy Commission to require the inclusion of rooftop solar photovoltaics on most new homes has engendered praise from some quarters, and criticism from others. Some see this new policy as a positive force, helping to reduce the cost of solar and contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Others despair policy makers’ tendency to choose technology winners and losers, and argue that the least cost choices are usually the best.

There is no disputing that the state’s new policy is a landmark event that may or may not set the stage for broader solar adoption across the country. Regardless of where you might find yourselves in the cheering section, allow me to offer several red flags to watch for, when considering critical perspectives on the topic of requiring rooftop solar:

1. When someone argues that rooftop solar is foolish because central station solar is cheaper, they are ignoring, or at least minimizing the import of, the difficulty in siting central station solar, the decade-long process of making such a project happen, the direct land use impacts of that technology, the need for more transmission lines and all of the related land-use impacts, the reduced reliability resulting from concentrating so much solar generation in one area as clouds roll by and nighttime falls, the potential of local grid benefits from local generation, and the way onsite generation can contribute to a broader strategy to make the use of energy more efficient and less impactful.

Read more at http://legal-planet.org/2018/05/18/californias-new-rooftop-solar-mandate/

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California moves to require solar panels on all new homes

Kathleen Ronayne, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jumping out ahead of the rest of the country, California on Wednesday moved to require solar panels on all new homes and low-rise apartment buildings starting in 2020.

The new building standard — unanimously approved by the five-member California Energy Commission — would be the first such statewide mandate in the nation. It represents the state’s latest step to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Robert Raymer, technical director for the California Building Industry Association, called it a “quantum leap.”

“You can bet every other of the 49 states will be watching closely to see what happens,” he said.

The commission endorsed the requirement after representatives of builders, utilities and solar manufacturers voiced support. It needs final approval from California’s Building Standards Commission, which typically adopts the energy panel’s recommendations when updating the state’s building codes.

The requirement would apply only to newly constructed homes, although many homeowners are choosing to install rooftop solar panels with the help of rebate programs.

Read more at https://apnews.com/afa0978eff8443af9e5d7c77a3c285bf

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Sonoma County solar power plant on wastewater ponds canceled

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A combination of factors, including President Donald Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels, have prompted cancellation of a major solar power project on six wastewater holding ponds in Sonoma County.

Sonoma Clean Power, the county’s public power supplier, also cited requirements by PG&E and the state Division of Safety of Dams as reasons for terminating a contract approved in 2015 for development of a 12.5-megawatt solar power system on the holding ponds owned by the Sonoma County Water Agency.

The developer, San Francisco-based Pristine Sun, missed its latest deadline to complete the project March 31, prompting Sonoma Clean Power to cancel the deal five days later, said Deb Emerson, the electricity provider’s director of power services.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8253476-181/sonoma-county-solar-power-plant

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Global greenhouse gas emissions rise for the first time in 3 years

Emily Holbrook, ENERGY MANAGER TODAY

The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced today that greenhouse gas emissions rose 1.4% in 2017, marking the first rise in three years.

As the IEA points out, emissions have reached a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes (Gt), a resumption of growth after three years of global emissions remaining flat. The increase in CO2emissions, however, was not universal. While most major economies saw a rise, some others experienced declines, including the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico and Japan. The biggest decline came from the United States, mainly because of higher deployment of renewables.

The report states, improvements in global energy efficiency slowed down in 2017. The rate of decline in global energy intensity, defined as the energy consumed per unit of economic output, slowed to only 1.6% in 2017, much lower than the 2.0% improvement seen in 2016.

The growth in global energy demand was concentrated in Asia, with China and India together representing more than 40% of the increase. Energy demand in all advanced economies contributed more than 20% of global energy demand growth, although their share in total energy use continued to fall. Notable growth was also registered in Southeast Asia (which accounted for 8% of global energy demand growth) and Africa (6%), although per capita energy use in these regions still remains well below the global average.

Read more at https://www.energymanagertoday.com/greenhouse-gas-emissions-rise-for-the-first-time-in-3-years-0175767/

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New greenhouse gas report highlights successes, challenges, and opportunities for Sonoma County and California

Ann Hancock, CENTER FOR CLIMATE PROTECTION

The Center for Climate Protection just released the new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions report for Sonoma County for 2016. The good news is that emissions from electricity have gone down since the inception of Sonoma Clean Power, the region’s Community Choice Energy program. The reduction of emissions in electricity was so significant that Sonoma County’s overall GHG emissions were lower in 2016 than they were in 1990 even though the County’s population increased during this same period.

Emissions shown in millions of tons of equivalent carbon dioxide (eC02). (www.climateprotection.org)

As other communities throughout California consider Community Choice Energy, Sonoma County’s GHG report offers them powerful proof that Community Choice Energy works to lower GHG emissions.

The report also reveals that Sonoma County, similar to other communities, is challenged to reduce emissions produced by transportation. This sector now accounts for about 70% of Sonoma County’s emissions.

Read more at https://climateprotection.org/updated-greenhouse-gas-inventory-highlights-successes-challenges-and-opportunities-for-california/

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How solarized is western and northern Sonoma?

Kyle Pennell, THE HEALDSBURG TRIBUNE

The level of solar penetration varies quite a bit between the cities and towns in western Sonoma County. At the highest level, 6.83 percent of homes in Sebastopol have installed solar. This is notably more than Healdsburg, where only 3.02 percent of residents have installed solar.

renewableHave you ever wondered how green western Sonoma County is and how we are contributing to protecting the environment and combating climate change? One major way we do this is by changing the way we produce electricity.

Household electricity consumption accounts for about one-third of all energy use, so by reducing or eliminating fossil fuels in electricity production, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint as individuals and as part of the towns where we live.

Installing solar panels is the easiest and more effective way to make electricity more sustainable. We know that more western Sonoma County residents each year are installing solar panels on their rooftops.

But we were were curious — just how many rooftops have solar and how much electricity gets generated from them in Sebastopol, Windsor, Healdsburg, Cloverdale? If every rooftop in these four towns had solar panels, how much electricity would this generate? Finally, how much carbon emissions would be saved by all of this?

Read more at http://www.sonomawest.com/the_healdsburg_tribune/local_biz/how-solarized-is-western-and-northern-sonoma-county/article_077b691a-15d7-11e8-9cc9-7f3735eb6cca.html

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Marin County goes 100% green energy

Cynthia Sweeney, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Government entities in the North Bay are leading the state with 100 percent renewable electric power.

In October, Marin County was the first in the state to enroll all of its county and city accounts in Marin Clean Energy’s 100 percent renewable electricity program, the company said.

Marin Clean Energy supplies customers with 50 percent to 100 percent renewable energy as an alternative to PG&E.

Called Deep Green, the program now supplies non-polluting wind and solar power for public buildings, streetlights and other civic accounts in the county.

The city and county of Napa also adopted the Deep Green Program in 2017.The city of Sonoma, and the Sonoma County Water Agency have also transitioned to Sonoma Clean Power’s 100 percent renewable energy program, called Evergreen.

Read more at: Marin County goes 100% green energy

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Santa Rosa begins installing solar panels on parking garage roofs

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa has begun installing nearly a thousand solar panels atop four city parking garages, modules that will both shade vehicles from the sun and reduce the city’s energy costs.

“I’m excited to see a much smaller PG&E bill,” said Luke Morse, the city’s parking supervisor as he helped organize the delivery of the panels on Tuesday.

A huge crane began hoisting the photovoltaic panels and the steel canopies that will support them onto garage roofs Tuesday morning.

If all goes well, the installations should take about a month per garage, with the project completed in a few months.

The city estimates the $1.4 million project will pay for itself in about 11 years and save $1.4 million in power costs over the 25-year life of the arrays.

That should help the city achieve about 10 percent of its 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target, said Kim Nadaeu, parking district manager.

Read more at: Santa Rosa begins installing solar panels on parking garage roofs | The Press Democrat

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Chile’s energy transformation is powered by wind, sun and volcanoes 

Ernesto Londoño, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Cerro Pabellón, Chile — It looks and functions much like an oil drilling rig. As it happens, several of the men in thick blue overalls and white helmets who operate the hulking machine once made a living pumping crude.

But now they are surrounded by snowcapped volcanoes, laboring to breathe up here at 14,760 feet above sea level as they draw steam from the earth at South America’s first geothermal energy plant.

With the ability to power roughly 165,000 homes, the new plant is yet another step in Chile’s clean energy transformation. This nation’s rapidly expanding clean energy grid, which includes vast solar fields and wind farms, is one of the most ambitious in a region that is decisively moving beyond fossil fuels.

Latin America already has the world’s cleanest electricity, having long relied on dams to generate a large share of its energy needs, according to the World Bank.

But even beyond those big hydropower projects, investment in renewable energy in Latin America has increased 11-fold since 2004, nearly double the global rate, according to a 2016 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization. Chile, Mexico and Brazil are now among the top 10 renewable energy markets in the world.

So as Latin America embraces greener energy sources, government officials and industry executives in the region have expressed a sense of confusion, even bewilderment, with the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the climate change commitments contained in the Paris Agreement, declare an end to the “war on coal” and take aim at American environmental regulations.

Read more at: Chile’s Energy Transformation Is Powered by Wind, Sun and Volcanoes – The New York Times

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Climate group sees ‘inevitable’ shift to electric vehicles in Sonoma County

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

EV report: Beyond combustion in Sonoma County

Meeting Sonoma County’s climate protection goals will require putting 138,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030 and effectively ending sales of fuel-burning cars, a local environmental group said in a report due for release this week.

“We must now begin to create a future beyond combustion,” said the report by the Santa Rosa-based Center for Climate Protection.

Advocating a dramatic shift in consumer preferences and current automobile industry sales, the report said electric vehicle (EV) sales must grow by 30 percent a year for the next 13 years to meet the county’s goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Sonoma County has an estimated 4,500 EVs rolling now, the center said in its report, “Beyond Combustion: Electric Vehicle Trends, Goals and Recommendations for Sonoma County.

”Sales of plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars, both considered in the EV category, accounted for nearly 5 percent of the state’s new car market during the first three months of this year, according to the California New Car Dealers Association’s latest report.

EV sales have grown steadily from 2.5 percent of the market in 2013 to 3.6 percent last year, the association said.

Read more at: Climate group sees ‘inevitable’ shift to electric vehicles in Sonoma County | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com