Upcoming Bay Area Events, January 2011

Happy New Year Zero Resource Readers!

Below is a collection of interesting events for the month of January.

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Electric Vehicles + Smart Grid

Dian Grueneich, Former Commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission, Mark Duvall, Director of Electric Transportation and Energy Storage, Electric Power Research Institute and Ted Howes, Partner, IDEO, discuss new technologies and their implications for the future of power generation, while Anthony Eggert, Commissioner, California Energy Commission, Transportation Lead, Diane Wittenberg, Executive Director, California EV Strategic Plan, Diarmuid O’Connell, Vice President of Business Development, Tesla Motors, and Marc Geller, Co-founder, Plug-In America, discuss the future of the electric car in California. At the San Francisco Commonwealth Club, with a networking break between topics.

Thursday, January 13,  9 – 11:30 a.m.

595 Market St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA

$45 member, $65 standard, and $15 student tickets

event link

 

A Look Ahead at California’s Clean Energy Future

Panama Bartholomy from the CEC and Emma Wendt from PG&E discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the new report “California’s Clean Energy Future”, jointly issued by the California Air Resources Board, California Energy Commission and the California Environmental Protection Agency, among others.

SPUR Evening Forum, Tuesday January 25, 6p.m.

654 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA

free to SPUR and Association of Environmental Professionals members, $10 general admission

event link

 

Film, ‘ A Sea Change: Imagine A World Without Fish’

The San Francisco Public library will be hosting two free screenings of  ‘A Sea Change’.  “The documentary film A Sea Change, broadens the discussion about the dramatic changes we are seeing in the chemistry of the oceans, and conveys the urgent threat those changes pose to our survival, while surveying the steps we can take to reduce the severity of climate change.”

Wednesday, January 26, 6 p.m. and Saturday, January 29 at 2 p.m.

Koret Auditorium, Main Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA.

free

event link

 

“Transforum” with Peter Calthorpe: ‘Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change’

Highly influential urban planner Peter Calthorpe discusses his new book, ‘Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change’.

Thursday, January 27, 6:30 p.m.

Hosted by Transform, and held at the SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA.

$15, rsvp recommended.

event link

 

“Save Our Caltrain!” Summit

Attend this summit to learn about and discuss the severe fiscal crisis facing Caltrain, an important Bay Area transit agency that lacks its own dedicated funding, and connect with others working to find solutions. Organized by the Friends of Caltrain.

Saturday, January 29, 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Samtrans Auditorium 1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos, CA

free

event link

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Cancun Climate Summit, part 2

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Global Temperature Anomaly Map 2000-2009, NASA

(see my previous post for background info on the Cancun Climate Summit)

The Cancun Climate Summit, 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) wrapped up on Saturday morning. With modest expectations widely held after the last years’ highly anticipated COP15 in Copenhagen failed to come to an accord, in the end the Cancun summit has succeeded in achieving a broad-based consensus and vision, if not a road map on how to get there.

Delegates from 194 countries remained deadlocked over the week of meetings in Cancun until a compromise was dramatically reached on the closing day. The conference did not produce another legally binding framework like 1997’s Kyoto Protocol- the terms of which expire next year- but it puts into place the building blocks for such an agreement to be forged.

Key goals include:

– Industrialized countries are charged with developing low carbon development plans and strategies and assessments to meet them.

– A Green Climate Fund will be established and administered by the United Nations in order to provide financial support to the climate change mitigation goals of developing nations. A total of $30 billion in “fast start” finance from developed nations will be secured up to 2012, with a goal of $100 billion in longterm funds to 2020.

– For the first time, a U.N. document sets the imperative that global temperatures must not rise more than 2 degrees C, based on pre-industrial levels.

– A new “Cancun Adaptation Framework” will become established to help undeveloped nations with the necessary planning and technical support to implement their climate mitigation goals.

The next U.N. Climate Change Summit will take place next winter in Durban, South Africa.

 

More on the outcome of the COP16 Summit:

U.N. Climate Talks End, The Wall Street Journal

Progress on Climate Fund, but Questions Remain, Mother Jones

The United Nations Framework on Climate Change website

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GreenTRIP Certification

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GreenTRIP is a certification program developed by TRANSFORM, an organization that “works to create world-class public transportation and walkable communities in the Bay Area.” According to the TRANSFORM website:

GreenTRIP is a powerful new certification program that rewards residential in-fill projects that apply comprehensive strategies to reduce traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. GreenTRIP certification standards supports projects providing appropriate amounts of parking and offer effective incentives for new residents to drive less and own fewer vehicles. Since these types of developments create less driving and use less land for parking, there’s more space for shops, services, and affordable homes – plus less traffic and pollution.

For more information on the certification and the pilot projects, visit the TRANSFORM website.

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3rd Round of AC Transit Cuts Averted – For Now

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AC Transit and the union representing its bus drivers and mechanics reached a new three year contract deal on Tuesday after months of painful arbitration. Both parties were ordered to binding interest arbitration after the union took the agency to court over an imposed contract in July. The agreement will save the agency a projected $38 million over the life of the contract.

The new contract will require that union members make co-pays for medical visits and take a stepped-down pay decrease over the next three years (6 % in the first year, 5% in year two, and 3% in year three).

The agreement avoids the December implementation of deep weekend service cuts that could have been a debilitating blow to an already tested ridership that has borne both two rounds of cuts (amounting to over 14% of service) and a fare increase during the past year. AC Transit has also instituted management cuts and spending reductions during its fiscal crisis.

Interim General Manager Mary King issued a statement saying, “There are no winners or losers in this arbitration. Both AC Transit and the union focused on what is best for the riders and taxpayers of this district and what is in the long-term interest of maintaining public transit for the people we serve.”

Although the December cuts have been avoided for now, the agency will still be struggling with a budgetary deficit.

Read more at AC Transit’s website and in the SF Examiner.

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Regional Bike Sharing in the Bay Area

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photo: a bike sharing system in the St. Etienne metro region wikimedia commons

Regional transit authorities have recently announced that they will go ahead with a new bike sharing program slated to start next year and  attributed as the first of-its-kind regional effort at a comprehensive bike sharing program in the nation.

The pilot program will put 1,000 new bikes on the road, and up to 100 kiosks around the Bay Area, with approximately half the amount being placed within the City of  San Francisco, and the other half being placed along the peninsula transportation corridor that includes Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto and San Jose.

With transportation accounting for more than half of the air pollution in the Bay Area (SFMTA), the bike share project aims to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled by encouraging people to increase bike travel for short trips in dense urban and downtown areas.

The Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) has approved an initial $4.29 million grant for the estimated $7 million project, that will be managed by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and facilitated by a regional partnership between BAAQMD, SFMTA, SamTrans, Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority, San Mateo County and Redwood City. The participating jurisdictions and transit agencies will also contribute to the funding of the program.

When rolled out, the bike system will require users to buy a yearlong subscription and will utilize smart cards, GPS tracking and wireless technologies.

Read more:

San Francisco Bike Sharing Moves Ahead with Regional Plan and Funding: MTC grant to area partnership moves SFMTA plan forward, San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Authority(SFMTA) press release

Bike sharing project expected to begin next year, SF Chronicle

Bay Area maps out bike sharing effort, New York Times Green blog

Election Day 2010 – Go Vote!

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So… it’s finally Election Day 2010. There are a couple propositions on the California ballot – Prop 23 and Prop 26 – that have implications for energy and transportation policy. Statewide ballot measures just need a majority to pass.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Proposition 23

Who is funding Prop 23?

According to MapLight.org:

Total Contributions in Support of Prop 23: $10,654,560

Total Contributions in Opposition to Prop 23: $31,245,543

Top Contributors in Support of Prop 23:

Valero Services, Inc. $5,075,315
Tesoro Companies $2,040,637
Flint Hills Resources $1,000,000
Marathon Petroleum Company LLC $500,000
Adam Smith Foundation $498,000
Occidental Petroleum Corp. $300,000
Tower Energy Group $200,000
CVR Energy Inc. $150,000
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assoc. $102,568
National Petrochemical & Refiners Assoc. $100,000
World Oil Corp. $100,000

Image credit: MapLight.org

Top Contributors in Opposition to Prop 23:

Thomas Steyer & Kathryn Taylor $5,099,000
National Wildlife Federation $3,000,000
L. John & Ann Doerr $2,100,000
The League of Conservation Voters $1,250,000
Vinod Khosla $1,037,267
Gordon Moore $1,000,000
James Cameron $1,000,000
Robert J. Fisher $1,000,000
ClimateWorks Foundation $900,000
Sierra Club $855,890
The Nature Conservancy $800,000
Bill Gates $700,000
Claire Perry $500,000
Green Tech Action Fund $500,000
John P. Morgridge $500,000
Julian H. Robertson Jr. $500,000
Pacific Gas & Electric $500,000
Wendy Schmidt $500,000

Image credit: MapLight.org

What is Prop 23?

From the Official Voter Information Guide:

SUSPENDS IMPLEMENTATION OF AIR POLLUTION CONTROL LAW (AB 32) REQUIRING MAJOR SOURCES OF EMISSIONS TO REPORT AND REDUCE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS THAT CAUSE GLOBAL WARMING, UNTIL UNEMPLOYMENT DROPS TO 5.5 PERCENT OR LESS FOR FULL YEAR. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

  • Suspends State law that requires greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020, until California’s unemployment drops to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters.
  • Suspends comprehensive greenhouse-gas-reduction program that includes increased renewable energy and cleaner fuel requirements, and mandatory emissions reporting and fee requirements for major emissions sources such as power plants and oil refineries.

Summary of Legislative Analyst’s Estimate of Net State and Local Government Fiscal Impact:

  • The suspension of AB 32 could result in a modest net increase in overall economic activity in the state. In this event, there would be an unknown but potentially significant net increase in state and local government revenues.
  • Potential loss of a new source of state revenues from the auctioning of emission allowances by state government to certain businesses that would pay for these allowances, by suspending the future implementation of cap-and-trade regulations.
  • Lower energy costs for state and local governments than otherwise.

Why does Prop 23 matter?

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council:

Proposition 23 would stop progress on curbing global warming emissions and transitioning to clean energy by “suspending” California’s landmark law, AB 32, until unemployment is below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters.  This unemployment threshold has only been reached 3 times in the past forty years.  Prop 23 would pull the rug out from the one sector of our economy that is actually growing – clean technology and clean energy – and create loads of uncertainty for businesses that have already made investments and are looking to expand.

According to the supporters of Prop 23:

We all want to do our part for global warming, but implementing our current plan is not the way to go. Families and businesses simply cannot afford to pay fifty percent or more in higher electricity and utility costs, and even more at the gas pump. A Yes vote on Proposition 23 temporarily postpones a new, costly program until our economy stabilizes and people are back to work, making it easier for families to make ends meet.New rules, regulations, and fines are about to take effect under California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), which will increase energy costs by billions of dollars and destroy more than a million jobs. Proposition 23 would suspend those new rules until the economy improves and unemployment drops.

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Proposition 26

Who is funding Prop 26?

According to MapLight.org:

Total Contributions in Support of Prop 26: $18,306,433

Total Contributions in Opposition to Prop 26: $6,547,122

Top Contributors in Support of Prop 26:

California Chamber of Commerce $3,937,323
Chevron Corporation $3,750,000
American Beverage Association $2,450,000
Philip Morris USA Inc. * $2,250,000
Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. * $925,000
ConocoPhillips $525,000
Cypress Management Company, Inc. * $500,000
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association $432,948
Wine Institute * $381,093
Aera Energy LLC $350,000
MillerCoors $350,000

* Includes contributions from the Small Business Action Committee

Image credit: MapLight.org

Top Contributors in Opposition to Prop 26:

Democratic State Central Committee of California $1,326,674
Thomas F. Steyer $1,000,000
League of Conservation Voters (Prop. 23 Committee) $900,000
California Teachers Association $505,050
California State Council of Service Employees $500,000
John Doerr $400,000
Ella Baker Center $350,000
SCOPE S.I. $250,000
A.L.L.E.R.T. $200,000
California Public Securities Association $150,000
State Building and Construction Trades Council of California $150,000

Image credit: MapLight.org

What is Prop 26?

From the Official Voter Information Guide:

REQUIRES THAT CERTAIN STATE AND LOCAL FEES BE APPROVED BY TWO-THIRDS VOTE.FEES INCLUDE THOSE THAT ADDRESS ADVERSE IMPACTS ON SOCIETY OR THE ENVIRONMENTCAUSED BY THE FEE-PAYER’S BUSINESS. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

  • Requires that certain state fees be approved by two-thirds vote of Legislature and certain local fees be approved by two-thirds of voters.
  • Increases legislative vote requirement to two-thirds for certain tax measures, including those that do not result in a net increase in revenue, currently subject to majority vote.

Summary of Legislative Analyst’s Estimate of Net State and Local Government Fiscal Impact:

  • Decreased state and local government revenues and spending due to the higher approval requirements for new revenues. The amount of the decrease would depend on future decisions by governing bodies and voters, but over time could total up to billions of dollars annually.
  • Additional state fiscal effects from repealing recent fee and tax laws: (1) increased transportation program spending and increased General Fund costs of $1 billion annually, and (2) unknown potential decrease in state revenues.

Why does Prop 26 matter?

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council:

Proposition 26 is another disastrous measure for California’s environment, public health and local communities.  It would eliminate the ability of a majority of the legislature to enact fees on industries that pollute our air and water and endanger our health.  Currently, a simple majority vote can enact a fee (used to remedy a specific harm), but a tax (used for general purposes) requires a two-thirds vote.  Prop 26 would make it much harder to ensure that polluters are held accountable for the harm caused by their activity.  But Prop 26 goes farther – it also dictates what local governments should do by requiring cities and counties to run costly elections and reach a 2/3 majority to enact a fee.  Prop 26 would make it nearly impossible for local communities to deal with issues like traffic and public safety for large events and would shift the burden to taxpayers for cleaning up hazardous waste and other pollution.  A broad coalition of environmental and health groups, local governments, civic organizations and public safety professionals have come together to defeat this initiative.

According to the supporters of Prop 26:

State and local politicians routinely circumvent the state Constitution’s requirements by disguising taxes as fees because fees are easier to pass than tax increases.  At the state level, the Legislature calls many taxes “fees” so they can pass or increase the tax with a bare majority vote – not the two-thirds vote required for taxes.  At the local level, politicians call taxes “fees” so they can avoid voters and our Constitutional right to vote on most tax increases… Prop. 26 will give voters more control to stop the politicians from using gimmicks to impose hidden taxes on California families just by calling them fees.  No longer will the politicians be able to hide new or higher taxes under the name of a “fee” to try to get more taxpayer money with a bare majority vote of the Legislature – or without any public vote at all at the local level.

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AC Transit Cuts Take Effect Today

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Significant adjustments to nearly 70 transit lines took effect today. According to the AC Transit website:

Significant changes include:

  • Reducing frequency on 28 lines
  • Starting service later in the morning and/or ending earlier in the evening  on 18 lines
  • Eliminating or operating shorter routes on weekends on four lines
  • Reconfiguring service in some areas, including West Oakland/Emeryville, Lakeshore Ave./Grand Ave. in Oakland, Bay Farm Island in Alameda, and San Leandro
  • Discontinuing service to Orinda BART and along Broadway Terrace in Oakland
  • Adding extensions to two lines to replace limited service in Piedmont, and service between Alameda and the Oakland Airport

All changes are listed in detail on the AC Transit website here.

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Is the Grid Ready for Electric Cars?

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photo: the Nissan Leaf

There has been a lot of excitement surrounding electric vehicles as the first “mainstream” fully electric vehicles (EV) are hitting the road with the promise of many new models coming down the pipeline in the coming years. But are electric cars a truly “green” solution, or will we be simply replacing one problem (fossil fuel dependence) for another one (increased electricity demand, not necessarily met by “clean” energy technologies)? And, importantly, can the American energy grid sustain a powerful new surge in demand?

Casting around for answers, I have assembled a few of the arguments from both the “worry” and “don’t worry” camps.

Worry

Grid stress could be felt on the local level if, for example, a single neighborhood has a high proportion of electric vehicles on one transformer and regular charging times are not sufficiently staggered or at off-peak hours.

– The only way to adequately manage supply-demand optimization is with smart grid technology that can communicate directly with vehicles and manage charging times. That widespread technology is still several to many years off.

– A 2007 Department of Energy Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNL) report found that even if smart grid technology were in place and charging regularly took place at off-peak hours, the nations energy infrastructure as it exists now could only accommodate a maximum 15% of vehicles being EVs.

Don’t Worry

The average age of cars on the road is nine years and going up.  Thus, it is unlikely that electric cars will hit the road en masse, but rather slowly integrate into the car stock, giving utilities time to prepare for increased demand.

-Incentives provided by utility companies can be enough encouragement to persuade most drivers to charge at off-peak hours in the years before smart grid technologies are widespread. Time-of-use plans can have substantially lower rates at off-peak hours.

– Experiments with “Vehicle to Grid” (V2G) technologies (in which Eletric Vehicles actually can store excess energy when demand is low and feed it back to the grid at peak hours) are already underway around the world, and could play a key role  in the grid of the future. See Journalist Dave Levithan’s article on the subject here.

– The U.S. Government has pledged $2 billion in grants for the manufacture of EV car batteries as well as a $400 million “downpayment” to jumpstart EV infrastructure.

Read more articles on electric cars and grid capacity here:

PHEVs: Will the Grid be Ready?, Matter Network

Can US Power Grid Handle Surge of Electric Cars?, Aol News

8 Myths About the Electric Car, Alt Transport

Is the Power Grid Ready for Electric Cars?, MSNBC Answer Desk

Ford Studying Ways to Charge Electric Vehicles, New York Times

L.A.’s Electric Vehicle/ Mass Transit Experiment

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photo: Wikimedia Commons

The County Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) of  the City of Los Angeles is partnering with EV Connect to bring a large scale roll out of electric vehicle charging stations at strategic locations throughout the city’s transit network.

The pilot program will assess the viability and appeal of integrating electric vehicle charging into a mass transit network. Patrons will be able to leave an electric vehicle at a charging station, and then continue their commute on transit. The partnership will monitor and study the program to create benchmarks for a potential “charge and ride” transportation industry.

The pilot will help Metro move toward its sustainability goals for regional transit. See other environmental initiatives of Metro here.

Read a full story from the Kansas Star on the new program here.

33% of California Energy Renewable by 2020

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photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Last month the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced new standards to increase renewable energy sources into the California energy mix. CARB has unanimously passed a new standard for the state- to increase renewable source energy in California to 33% of energy usage by 2020.

CARB’s press release states that, “The standard will promote green jobs to construct and run renewable facilities in California, reduce hundreds of tons of harmful air pollution, insulate California’s economy from the shock of volatile natural gas prices and help establish the state as a global leader in the research, development and manufacturing of clean, renewable energy sources.”

The new standard is also a significant push toward the fulfillment of the state’s landmark climate bill, AB 32,  coming at a time when AB 32 is under threat via proposition 23 in the November elections.

The new standard is a product of collaboration between CARB, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California Energy Commission (CEC), and the California Independent System Operator (CA ISO).

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