Two Years of Zero Resource

Over the last two years, we have covered a number of topics, from tiny houses, to DOE rules on showerheads, to definitions of terms.

Since the end of February, when WordPress starting showing the statistics, Zero Resource has attracted readers from all over the world.

Over the last two years, the top twenty most popular posts of all time are:

  1. Death Rays
  2. More Tiny Houses
  3. The Difference Between the CEC and CPUC
  4. Tour a Tiny Apartment in Spain
  5. Putrescible Waste
  6. Finding Data – GDP and Electricity Consumption
  7. Alex Wilson, Founder of EBN – Part 1
  8. Plastic Bag / Retail Bag Laws in the U.S.
  9. Bad News About CBECS 2007
  10. Nina Maritz
  11. Are People Clueless about Energy Savings?
  12. MRF (Rhymes with Smurf)
  13. Resilience vs. Sustainability
  14. The Key System
  15. Visualizing the U.S. Power Grid
  16. Do Green Roofs Improve Solar PV Performance?
  17. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
  18. Local Target Stores & Hazardous Waste
  19. Tiny “Spite” Houses
  20. Houses – Small, Reused, and Prefab

Many thanks to all the Zero Resource readers around the world! We look forward to another year.

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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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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Lighting, Light Bulbs, and Lingering Habits

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Highlighting a few recent stories…

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Research by the California Public Utility Commission staff indicates that if enough existing lighting and lighting for new buildings incorporate the latest technologies, the state could achieve a 60 to 80 percent reduction in light-related energy use. New policies adopted  by the commission promote that goal by encouraging utilities to rethink their current consumer subsidies, which tend to focus on compact fluorescents, in favor of the newer and more energy-efficient technologies. “We need to move on and look at how best to spend our resources on the next step of lighting,” said Theresa Cho, an aide to Commissioner Diane Grueneich. “Our goal is market transformation.” The shelves of Wal-Mart and other big-box stores are already full of compact fluorescents, she said – via the New York Times Green Blog.

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A trio of House Republicans, Joe Barton and Michael Burgess of Texas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, have introduced the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, which would repeal the section of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that sets minimum energy efficiency standards for light bulbs and would effectively phase out most ordinary incandescents – via the New York Times Green Blog.

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The Department of Energy’s inspector general released an audit on Wednesday showing that it is continuing to buy obsolete fluorescent lamps, bypassing the more modern technologies that it spent tax dollars to develop. Yet even more surprising, it is still buying the familiar incandescent bulbs in place of compact fluorescents. The department operates at 24 sites, and the auditors visited seven of them. “Despite the substantial benefits of C.F.L.’s, all of the sites we visited continued to purchase incandescent lights,” the report said – also via the New York Times Green Blog.

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Upcoming Bay Area Events

A few (free!) events that I thought would be of interest to Zero Resource readers. If you know of other events you think folks might be interested in, let me know at anna AT zeroresource DOT com.

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September 22, 2010

CPUC Thought Leaders event – Dr. Peter Fox-Penner, The Brattle Group

10:30 am – 12:00 pm @ the CPUC Auditorium, 505 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco

The Brattle Group provides consulting and expert testimony in economics, finance, and regulation to corporations, law firms, and governments around the world.    Mr. Fox-Penner is recognized as an international authority on energy and environmental policies and electric regulatory planning and competition issues. He will discuss his vision for electric utilities as described in his new book, Smart Power: Climate Change, the Smart Grid, and the Future of Electric Utilities. This will include business models that reflect the new roles and abilities required of utilities adopting Smart Grid technology: balancing and dispatch of energy across a changing grid and management of advanced end-use technologies for energy consumption. According to Dr. Fox-Penner, adopting and adapting to these changes will be one of the primary challenges the industry will face for the next 20 years.

More information and links to register here.

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October 1-2, 2010

The Philomathia Foundation Symposium at Berkeley: Pathways to a Sustainable Energy Future

9:00 am – 5:00 pm both days @ Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Berkeley

Can we emulate the ability of green plants to harness solar energy? Can we create intelligent materials, buildings, and even entire communities that generate their own energy? Can we put a price on greenhouse gases in order to reduce emissions? Can the technology used to produce an inexpensive anti-malaria drug also extract fuel from agricultural waste?

Hear world-renowned experts in solar energy, synthetic biology, climate science, urban design, and other critical areas discuss the best courses of action to achieve a sustainable energy future.

More info and links to register here.

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October 11, 2010

Science at the Theater – Cool Cities, Cool Planet, featuring Art Rosenfeld

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm @ Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Berkeley

How can white roofs cool your building, your city…and our planet? What’s the role of the other carbon – black carbon – in global warming?

More information here.

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Assorted Links

The CPUC has released an action plan for getting to net zero energy in the commercial sector by 2030.

The independent organization retained by the CPUC to examine PG&E’s SmartMeters says that the meters worked properly.

California legislature failed to pass SB 722, the 33% renewable portfolio standard, in this legislative session. Schwarzenegger may call a special session to try to pass it.

California state senators rejected a proposed plan to ban plastic bags statewide.

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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.

In a future post, I will discuss some of the practical ways that these organizations influence energy efficiency policy in California.

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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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