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The Buzz

23 Sep 2016

The California Air Resources Board this week began weighing sweeping amendments to its carbon cap-and-trade program to extend it past 2020 and to call for a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Final action on the changes is not due until spring of 2017.

In Los Angeles, the city council ordered the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, the nation’s largest muni, to study how to get to 100 percent renewable energy...


Los Angeles Eyes 100% Renewable Energy Goal

22 Sep 2016

The Los Angeles City Council ordered the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power on Sept. 16 to study how to move to 100 percent renewable energy.

The council unanimously passed a motion calling for the muni to team up with academics, the Department of Energy, the Southern California Public Power Authority, and others to outline the investments it will need to make to achieve a 100 percent renewable portfolio...


The Buzz

16 Sep 2016

Now that the state has enacted new laws seeking to boost equity in who benefits from addressing climate change, California officials have their work cut out for them, according to a report issued after enactment of AB 197. That law calls for using the state’s greenhouse gas reduction program to improve life in working class communities.

The report came after Gov. Jerry Brown signed four additional bills aimed at promoting environmental justice in state climate policies, including one to spend $900 million of carbon auction money that’s been held...


Overcoming the “Green Divide”

15 Sep 2016

Significantly improved transparency, accountability, and data collection are needed to ensure California achieves the climate equity targets articulated in the newly signed climate protection bills, according to a coalition of environmental justice and labor union advocates.

“The two most daunting challenges are climate change and social equity,” said Rachel Morello-Frosch, professor of environmental science, policy and management at the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health...


The Buzz

9 Sep 2016

Amid the lens of international attention, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation calling for a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in California by 2030. He also autographed an intertwined bill stepping up legislative oversight of the California Air Resources Board, which is in charge of carrying out the legislation, and to assure that low-income communities directly benefit.

This week’s column asks why small-scale renewable generators that feed utility distribution systems get stuck with a transmission access charge...


JUICE: Finding Equal Footing for Small Renewable Wholesalers

8 Sep 2016

Getting recognition in a large family was no easy feat. Being heard above the din of seven older siblings and three younger ones was an ongoing challenge, but the biggest one was overcoming the special treatment my heavily-outnumbered parents gave their first born.

The first step in my long road to getting individual recognition was breaking free from “the little kids” label. Then it took until my mid-30s to make meaningful headway...


The Buzz

1 Sep 2016

Just before the start of Labor Day weekend, lawmakers labored to get several significant climate protection and energy bills to the Governor’s desk. Among them are three bills to direct spending of unspent cap-and-trade revenue and to designate much of the money for pollution reduction from transportation, including from large and small vehicles, and in poor industrialized communities plagued by dirty air...


JUICE: Time to Tax Carbon

1 Sep 2016

The season for a carbon tax is here.

After almost four years, it’s clear that carbon cap-and-trade is a sideshow in addressing climate change.

The real drivers of emissions reductions have been the state’s renewable portfolio standard, energy efficiency efforts, automotive mileage standards, and direct emissions reduction rules for a variety of climate pollutants like refrigerants and black carbon emitted by diesel vehicles...


Community Choice Gaining Critical Mass

25 Aug 2016

Community energy choice is spreading like wildfire because of its greener energy pastures at lower costs. Former ratepayers of Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison—unless they decide not to become part of a city or county aggregation program— get access to power with a bigger slice of green energy, anywhere from 35 percent to 100 percent renewable resources, with base level renewable energy plans undercutting utility power prices...


CPUC Restricts SDG&E’s New Marketing Arm Formed to Fight Choice

18 Aug 2016

State utility regulators approved a plan by San Diego Gas & Electric to fight community choice aggregation in San Diego by establishing an “arm’s-length” marketing organization.

However, the California Public Utilities Commission decision Aug. 18 found that because the marketing operation may provide information about energy it should be subject of all the commission’s affiliate transaction rules that govern operations providing products and services that use electricity...


OPINIONATED: Do Oil & Renewables Mix?

28 Jul 2016

By Fereidoon Sioshansi

Editor’s Note: This guest editorial points out signs of what’s ahead on the climate protection front, particularly given growing pressure in California, from the U.S. EPA and around the globe to slash greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. Sioshansi’s analysis is of particular interest because fossil fueled transportation is the largest source of California’s carbon pollution, almost double that emitted by the electricity sector...


LA County Choice Program Urged to Rely on Distributed Generation

21 Jul 2016

Los Angeles County is seeking electricity suppliers for a community choice aggregation program that could begin Jan. 1.

“Community choice aggregators represent a significant opportunity for communities to band together and purchase green energy for their residents, at a lower price, than the current structure of for-profit investor-owned utilities now allow,” according to Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Keuhl...


This Week’s Buzz

15 Jul 2016


Regionalizing California’s grid to lower the cost and improve the integration of rising levels of solar and wind power gets a bit of a black eye. In spite of the California grid operator’s intentions to increase grid efficiency and transparency and lower costs by eliminating the current “balkanization,” its first western grid partner, PacifiCorp, plays by different rules.

Current discovers a long-term coal deal the company signed last year in Utah, which is being challenged by ratepayer advocates...


Jon Wellinghoff: SolarCity’s Powerhouse

14 Jul 2016

Part 2

Editor’s Note: Current editor Elizabeth McCarthy interviewed Jon Wellinghoff who’s served at SolarCity’s head of policy planning for two months.

We met in a conference room in the company’s office in Potrero Hill, one of the sunniest parts of foggy San Francisco. The spacious, cubicle-free office occupies more than half of a large converted warehouse, which is filled with natural light from being glass sided...


This Week’s Buzz

8 Jul 2016

The buzz in this week’s issue of Current includes the latest on the turf battle in San Diego between San Diego Gas & Electric and community energy advocates. Like Pacific Gas & Electric when it was confronted with choice in Marin County, the San Diego utility wants to keep its ratepayers from joining a community aggregator.

In foggy San Francisco, from his new digs at SolarCity, Jon Wellinghoff details the challenges and benefits of more solar rooftops, efficiency and other distributed resources...


Some Western States Press FERC to Limit PURPA Eligibility

30 Jun 2016

Federal regulators face pressure from western state energy regulators—who may join California in a regionalized grid and wholesale power market—to tighten eligibility requirements for independent qualifying facilities under The Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act.

That law, according to Allison Clements with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s FERC Project, “continues to play [a critical role] in furthering Congressional intent towards developing zero fuel cost, carbon free renewable energy and reducing reliance on fossil-fueled power generation...


Half Empty or Half Full Solar Glass

23 Jun 2016

Claims that residential solar rooftops result in unfair cost shifting to non-solar ratepayers were vigorously debated at a June 21 meeting held by the federal agency charged with ensuring competition and consumer protection.

Utility cost shifting claims are not based on “substantial evidence,” said Jon Wellinghoff, SolarCity chief policy officer, during a Federal Trade Commission meeting on distributed solar and its market and environmental impacts...


JUICE: Dirty Power

16 Jun 2016

I travelled through unfamiliar lands last week during my drive from Eastern Iowa to San Francisco with my daughter. As bad as the towns we passed dotted with Trump signs, were the coal-filled trains that continually chugged by.

While driving across Iowa, Nebraska and parts of Wyoming, there was a steady stream of locomotives pulling 100 or more box cars brimming with black coal on the rail line that paralleled a good part of our route...


GUEST JUICE: Five Easy Pieces for a Better California Public Utilities Commission

9 Jun 2016

By Todd Edmister

The California Public Utilities Commission and Legislature are exploring various commission reforms, from internal administrative changes to constitutional amendments (ACA 11). Regardless of how these various reform efforts play out, there are some comparatively simple things that the CPUC or its successors (should the constitutional amendments pass) can do to make for a better regulatory regime:

Raise salaries (across the board, but especially in the Administrative Law Judge Division);

Create a “promote in place” option for senior employees;

Hire more accountants;

Disband the Policy & Planning Division and allocate its staff to industry divisions; and

Halt all ex parte communications...


OPINIONATED: Making Solar Affordable in the Golden State

2 Jun 2016

By Andrea Deveau

California, known for its sun-kissed beaches and stark desert beauty, should be leading the way when it comes to the transition away from fossil fuels and toward affordable solar power. But an exorbitant fee that goes directly to the pockets of the state investor-owned utilities is keeping solar out of reach for millions of California businesses and residents.

Most cities in California are fortunate to have more than 250 days a year with sun, so solar power is an attractive, affordable, and environmentally sustainable option for our state...