Assorted Links

A climate skeptic, Representative John Shimkus of Illinois, seeks the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship.

San Francisco transportation officials are facing a shortfall of at least $137 million as they try to move forward with plans for a new subway tunnel for the city’s light-rail service.

Several glazing industry associations successfully appealed changes to ASHRAE Standard 90.1 that would have reduced the amount of glass allowed in commercial building envelopes.

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Chris Field – Director of Dept. of Global Ecology

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On Friday (10/1) and Saturday (10/2), I was in the audience at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, California, as Chris Field, Director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, gave a presentation titled “The Velocity of Climate Change: 2010”.

The post below consists of selected snippets of my record of the presentation. All portions are included in chronological order.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. The presentation is transcribed as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine.

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… What I want to do is talk about pace … in four different contexts … We already know enough to make smart decisions and the challenge is how we go from at atmosphere of doubt to one where we can really make decisions … … The idea of a threshold isn’t necessarily the best way to think of this issue – there are some places that have probably already passed their threshold … we need to instead think of risk management …

Risk = probability x consequence

In terms of the calculation of risk, there’s risk in high-probability events, but also risk in low-probability events that happen over a wide spectrum … Steve Schneider compared climate change to playing with loaded dice …

… … …

Today, I want to talk about the velocity of climate change in terms of the rate of climate change, the history of understanding climate change, the velocity required for ecosystem and societal responses (adaptation), and commitments to future changes.

The warming of the climate system is unequivocal … there is some indication that the pace is increasing … What we do in the future makes a huge difference … It’s really striking that there’s still a tremendous amount of uncertainty about where we’ll wind up … We can see a very wide range between the low end and the high end of temperature impacts … We need research into coping and adaptation strategies …

There is now more thinking about climate change impacts in the context of risk … fire in the western United States … risk of extreme events (2003 heat wave in Western Europe) …

There is also thinking about velocities of ecosystems on the ground … the plants and animals that are best at moving and taking advantage of climate change are the weeds and pests …

… … …

… We are not looking at consequences of a century or two of climate change, but essentially fixed changes … The inertia in the system is really dramatic … The Hoover Dam was completed in 1936, and we are still using it … When we’re thinking of setting up energy infrastructure for the future, we need to remember that the infrastructure lasts for a long time. We’re building the energy infrastructure for the next century now … There are significant emissions commitments from existing infrastructure … In China, much of the infrastructure is new and won’t be retired very fast. In the United States, we have mostly old infrastructure, so the committed emissions could drop rapidly. This type of analysis gives us a sobering picture of the amount of climate change we can’t avoid …

In looking at where the missions are coming from, it’s useful to look per country and per capita … the United States still has fives times the emission per capita as China …

… … …

In terms of the pace of human responses to climate change, there are many reasons we might want to delay: to avoid unnecessary expenditures, to allow natural progress with technology development, and to start from a position of greater wealth … But there are questionable economics in the study of rapid emissions reduction. In a paper in Nature (Wigley et al, 1996), it was concluded that if you want to optimize economically, you would stay with “business as usual” but then deploy technologies aggressively. But the paper didn’t really discuss the implications of delay. Delay doesn’t mean do nothing – it has to mean get prepared with investment and readiness to aggressively deploy technology …

Is the technology available? Humanity already possesses the fundamental scientific, technical, and industrial knowledge now to solve the carbon and climate problem for the next half century …

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This exchange was followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

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Update on Spending on Prop 23

From the New York Times today:

At the start of the campaign for California’s Proposition 23, the ballot measure that would suspend the state’s global warming law, opponents darkly warned that the Texas oil companies backing the initiative would spend as much as $50 million to win the election.

But with three weeks until Election Day, it is the No on 23 coalition of environmentalists, investors and Silicon Valley technology companies that is raking in the cash, taking in nearly twice as much money as the Yes on 23 campaign.

As of Monday, the No on 23 forces had raised $16.3 million to the Yes campaign’s $8.9 million, according to California Secretary of State records. Over the past two weeks, nearly $7 million has flowed into No campaign coffers while contributions to the Yes effort had fallen off dramatically.

Read the entire story here.

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A Quote

Roger Revelle, 1957:

Human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future.

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The Koch Brothers and AB 32

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I have previously posted about AB 32 and Prop 23.

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Today, the New York Times published an editorial about the coalition of oil and gas companies and climate change skeptics that are trying to kill it through Prop 23.

…a well-financed coalition of right-wing ideologues, out-of-state oil and gas companies and climate-change skeptics is seeking to effectively kill that law with an initiative on the November state ballot. The money men include Charles and David Koch, the Kansas oil and gas billionaires who have played a prominent role in financing the Tea Party movement.

… …

The prospect that these rules could reduce gasoline consumption strikes terror into some energy companies. A large chunk of the $8.2 million raised in support of the ballot proposition has come from just two Texas-based oil and gas companies, Valero and Tesoro, which have extensive operations in California. The Koch brothers have contributed about $1 million, partly because they worry about damage to the bottom line at Koch Industries, and also because they believe that climate change is a left-wing hoax.

You can read the entire editorial on the New York Times website.

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Peter Darbee, CEO of PG&E – Part 3

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On Tuesday, August 31, I was in the audience at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley as Peter Darbee, CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric Co., responded to moderator questions about the energy industry and the company’s stance on climate change.

The post below consists of Part 3, the final part, of my record of the conversation – all portions are included in chronological order. Read the previous posts on the conversation – Part 1 and Part 2.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. Moderator questions are paraphrased. Responses are included as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine. The moderators were Bev Alexander (BA) and Joey, a student.

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Joey

SmartMeters – I saw your talk at the CPUC  – there were protesters saying Dumb Meters. Talk about the backlash.

Peter Darbee

In California, there has been a tier system of rates… Tiers depend on how much power you use. Originally the tiers were not so steep…all of the rate changes have been amplified in tiers 3-5. In Bakersfield last year…had 17 days over 100 degrees. The previous year had 6… And I’m talking about in July. So folks get rocketed into the higher tiers. There were some folks who didn’t have SmartMeters… Some had SmartMeters for a year and hadn’t had issues until that July… Then they held hearings… And this whole outcome is an inadvertant result of government, freezing the first 2 tiers.

… … ….

… But PG&E could have done better at communications… We kind of assumed they were infrastructure… We assumed that people didn’t give a lot of thought about the meters on the side of the house… We were wrong.

Bev Alexander

In California, it’s a very activist state – you came out in support of AB 32, PG&E advocated decoupling, used to support shareholder incentives for energy efficiency, has a very aggressive RPS at 33% – combined with the federal level, there’s potential for overlapping and conflicting mandates – what works? Why these positions?

Peter Darbee

I’ve done a lot of thinking about climate change…and where is the public on climate change…and they have concerns it may happen…but they don’t want to pay a lot…have to be very attentive to the cost concerns of our customers. What this says is energy efficiency is a no brainer.

…AB 32 envisions a cap and trade system…time to transition to cleaner technologies…for utilities benefits pass through to customers.

… … …

Climate change is a planetary issue, and if a state rigs the system to help themselves, it gets expensive… If we do it in a very expensive way, the people of Ca will revolt, and it will set us back tremendously.

Joey

How did you teach your kids about energy efficiency? What advice do you have for future leaders on climate change?

Peter Darbee

The kids would leave the lights on, the stereo on…in every single room… I instituted a policy that if you leave the lights on, and you’re not in the room, it’s 25 cents…went up as they got older… We now have kids that are tremendously concerned about the environment…

The challenge of climate change will fall more greatly on you and your children…

Write your obituary… The way you create transformational change is you put a stake in the ground for the future…an attractive future…then plan from future back to present. You have a choice.

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This exchange was followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

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Peter Darbee, CEO of PG&E – Part 2

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On Tuesday, August 31, I was in the audience at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley as Peter Darbee, CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric Co., responded to moderator questions about the energy industry and the company’s stance on climate change.

The post below consists of Part 2 of my record of the conversation – all portions are included in chronological order. Read Part 1 here.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. Moderator questions are paraphrased. Responses are included as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine. The moderators were Bev Alexander (BA) and Joey, a student.

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Joey

I want to go back to a shareholder value article in the Wall Street Journal – a professor from Michigan says we should focus exclusively on profit. Why worry about corporate responsibility?

Peter Darbee

I used to have that view – I lived and breathed Milton Friedman… It’s tragic that more people haven’t continued the journey of being realistic… What [the professor] is saying is that if you maximize profit each quarter…line up the quarters…then that will maximize profit forever… But you cut back on expenditures that are needed… There’s such a time between when policies are set and it comes home to roost…

I want to make sure PG&E is here 100 years from now and I’m setting up good people and good culture…

I couldn’t disagree with that teacher more…it’s rubbish.

Bev Alexander

The direction the industry is headed will call for a lot of innovation. How are you shifting the culture? How will the utilities integrate new technology?

Peter Darbee

Utilities have been very conservatively run and prone to not changing…but the environment is of new technology and changing regulation… You could say the risk is that utilities won’t change quickly enough… … Utilities react to their commissions…can be punished for change… … Our commission has been open to change and promoted change…

How do we create innovation? An organization is the shadow of its leader…and of the leaders that have come before… The people who have the best ideas are the people closest to the work…want to create an environment for trial and looking into things.

We had an opportunity to invest in solar in space…structure the risk…so that we only pay for the power if it’s delivered…ensure that they are abiding  by the rules of government. The two principle objections went away.

Bev Alexander

Other technology you’re working with – robust energy efficiency, electric cars, renewables – what are the most important? What are choke points on the grid that need to be addressed?

Peter Darbee

… If we’re going to deal with the carbon problem, we’re going to need all the tools in the arsenal…nuclear, renewables, the first fuel should always be energy efficiency, demand management, carbon capture and sequestration… We’re going to need chips on all the squares… What’s scary is we need a lot from each…from energy efficiency to renewables.

… We’re going to need nuclear… I know a lot of people aren’t keen on nuclear… The storage issue is far less than the challenge of climate change.

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Part 1 was posted yesterday. Part 3 will be posted on Monday.

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Peter Darbee, CEO of PG&E – Part 1

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On Tuesday, August 31, I was in the audience at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley as Peter Darbee, CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric Co., responded to moderator questions about the energy industry and the company’s stance on climate change.

The post below consists of Part 1 of my record of the conversation – all portions are included in chronological order.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. Moderator questions are paraphrased. Responses are included as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine. The moderators were Bev Alexander (BA) and Joey, a student.

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Bev Alexander

Over the last decade, you’ve led the industry through major turmoil…

Peter Darbee

I go different places, around the world and country, and I hear that a utility gets a guaranteed return, so anyone can run that place. Then why were we in financial distress ten years ago?

What’s happening in the industry is very dynamic…deregulation, reregulation…customer choice provides opportunity for others to take over…When government dramatically changes rules, there’s a mad scramble. And there’s the introduction of new technology all the time…these are disruptive technologies. This demands the most of management…

Bev Alexander

You’ve distinguished yourself on the issue of climate change…but you’re a business leader. Why is this a top priority?

Peter Darbee

You have to talk to your conscience. On January 1, 2005, I thought about the awesome responsibility of running a huge company… The question of climate change came up…

How would you feel if you were running this huge company and it had a dramatically negative impact on the planet?… How could you live with yourself if…you did not do everything you could to mitigate your impact?

Also, I owe a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders…so need to reconcile the two. So if we emit as much carbon as we can, and someone sues…the questions could be a problem… I have to do everything I can within the context of my role to reduce carbon emissions… We learned as much as we could about the issue and tried to change the industry… So what we did is called together some of the greatest scientists…put together top people in the country…tried to get to the bottom of the issue…came up with the statement “The earth is warming, mankind is responsible, and the time for action is now.”

Joey

I read your paper on climate change, but other folks in the audience might be concerned – why aren’t other companies on board?

Peter Darbee

… … … Why other companies don’t feel the same way… They love to moan, and say it’ll be horrible if we have to make that change… Folks at PG&E complained 30 years ago about decoupling… Everyone overreacts and creates a boogeyman… But this issue has become so political that we can’t have a conversation about it…and this is true in my own family.

… … I’ve never known anything good to happen when people are screaming at each other…and have lost the ability to listen.

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Part 2 will be posted tomorrow. Part 3 will be posted on Monday.

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The Difference Between the CEC and CPUC

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I know what you’re thinking – a really exciting topic. But this question has actually come up in conversation a remarkable number of times in the last couple of weeks. This is not intended to be a definitive guide, but just to start the delineation between the organizations.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Basics

The CEC is California’s primary energy policy and planning agency.

The CPUC regulates privately owned electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit, and passenger transportation companies.

This post will focus only on the energy aspects of the CPUC’s role.

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The California Energy Commission (CEC)

The five CEC commissioners are appointed by the California governor and must be approved by the Senate. Terms are five years. Commissioners must represent the following specific areas of expertise: law, environment, economics, science/engineering, and the public at large.

The CEC’s responsibilities include:

  • Forecasting future energy needs and keeping historical energy data.
  • Licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts or larger.
  • Promoting energy efficiency by setting the state’s appliance and building efficiency standards and working with local government to enforce those standards.
  • Supporting public interest energy research that advances energy science and technology through research, development, and demonstration programs.
  • Supporting renewable energy by providing market support to existing, new, and emerging renewable technologies; providing incentives for small wind and fuel cell electricity systems; and providing incentives for solar electricity systems in new home construction.
  • Developing and implementing the state Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program to reduce the state’s petroleum dependency and help attain the state climate change policies.
  • Administering more than $300 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding through the state energy program, the energy efficiency conservation and block grant program; the energy efficiency appliance rebate program and the energy assurance and emergency program.
  • Planning for and directing state response to energy emergencies.

The CEC is located in Sacramento, CA.

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The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)

The five CPUC commissioners are also appointed by the California governor and must be approved by the Senate. Terms are six years.

The CPUC regulates investor owned utilities (IOUs) that distribute electricity and natural gas, including Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) and Southern California Gas Company.

The CPUC does not regulate municipal utilities, such as the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD).

The CPUC’s mission is the following:

  • The California Public Utilities Commission serves the public interest by protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure at reasonable rates, with a commitment to environmental enhancement and a healthy California economy.  We regulate utility services, stimulate innovation, and promote competitive markets, where possible, in the communications, energy, transportation, and water industries.

The CPUC has a number of different divisions; the Energy Division assists Commission activities in the electricity, natural gas, steam, and petroleum pipeline industries. Energy Division handles the regulation and Commission approval of official rates and terms of service for energy IOUs.

Because the regulated California utilities are so large, and their programs reach so many customers, CPUC energy policy decisions and goals have wide influence in California. The CPUC touches programs in energy efficiency, demand response, low-income assistance, distributed generation, and self-generation, among others. It has a role in California climate policy. It is overseeing the CA utilities’ switch to Smart Grid technologies. The CPUC regulated electric generation and procurement, electric rates and markets, gas policy and rates, and electric transmission and distribution.

CPUC headquarters are in San Francisco, CA.

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New Water Magazine from Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins University’s Global Water Program has published its first issue of Global Water Magazine, which is available online here.

The magazine will focus the editorial pieces around six main themes: Water & Energy, Water & Food, Water & Health, Water in the Environment, Water Infrastructure, and Water Policy.

In the first issue, there are several articles that I think would be of interest to readers of this blog, listed below.

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Imperatives for Urban Water Professionals on the Pathway to 2050 by Paul Reiter

Abstract: Looking forward to 2050, the challenges of adding 2 billion more people to an already resource-constrained planet will require major changes in the resources efficiency, energy efficiency and cost of urban water systems of the future. A step change including the integration of city planning and urban water system design will be required to optimize the efficiency and resilience of urban water systems in addition to the development of physical and institutional linkages between agricultural, energy and urban water uses.

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The First Stop on the Road to Corporate Water Reporting: Measurement by Eva Zabey

Abstract: External demands on companies to report on their water use and impacts are intensifying. But before reporting, business needs to measure, and many groups are developing approaches to do just that.

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The Energy-Water Nexus: Finding Solutions in the Balance by Jan Dell and Kathy Freas

Abstract: With uncertainties associated to climate change projections, companies and public utilities face a convergence of energy, water and carbon issues that are impacting their operations and planned projects in sectors and geographical regions.

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