California’s Clean Energy Future, Part 1

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On Tuesday, January 25, I was in the audience at the SPUR Urban Center in San Francisco as Panama Bartholomy, California Energy Commission (CEC), and Emma Wendt, PG&E, gave presentation about California’s clean energy future.

The post below consists of Part 1 of my record of the presentation – the first part of Panama Bartholomy’s 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. I also added any photos or images.

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The speakers were introduced by Raphael Sperry and Geoff Danker.

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Panama Bartholomy

I’m honored to be here… Obviously, I’m a bureaucrat. All my life I’ve wanted to be a bureaucrat. It’s true… … So I have achieved my dreams – I work for the state of California… I am here to talk about what I hope are some of our shared goals… building a  future that’s healthy for our economy, our environment, and our communities… …

I was supposed to talk about, and will talk about, California’s Clean Energy Future…  big ambitious goals. A massive document describes the process of how we’re all going to reach these goals… and how the agencies are going to work on it. In brief, it outlines very ambitious energy goals. It calls for zero net energy buildings… ways to shave peak demand… want to build carbon capture and storage in California by 2020… also want 1 million electric vehicles in California by 2020. So these are the goals. So I’m going to talk about the programs and activities behind the goals to make them a reality…

… … …

I have to give some background, then talk about efficiency…  then major market barriers around energy efficiency and what’s stopping a strong retrofit market, then renewables. Finally, I’ll talk about what’s coming from the Brown administration… …

So some energy context… I’m only going to talk about electricity and natural gas… One of the jobs of the CEC is to measure energy demand and project demand into the future… [looking at a chart] Here, you can see impacts of downturns in the economy… We’re expecting that the economy will pick up later this year or early next, then we will see about 1.2% growth in demand a year. Much of that is from the building sector… We expect to see continued increases in demand, especially from the commercial and residential sectors.

So we have several options. Do nothing. Then we get demand exceeding supply. Or we can build power plants. Or we can find ways to reduce demand… Efficiency is by far our most cost-effective choice in terms of how to meet demand.

Going back to natural gas… California only produces 13% percent of our own natural gas – the rest comes from other areas. We are at the end of the line when it comes to natural gas delivery. We are starting to compete more and more with Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico… …

Overarching a lot of activity on energy efficiency, I have to talk about California’s new climate policy… … AB 32 calls for us to reduce our economy-wide emissions levels to 1990 levels by 2020. This is about a 25-30% reduction in GHG emissions… The big player is transportation. Also, we have to look at electricity generation. The 1/4 of our electricity that we import is equal in GHG emissions to the 3/4 that we produce in-state. The built environment is the second largest wedge when we add the bits together. The built environment dictates how we need to get around, so it has a big impact… We have some work to do…

(Image credit: CA Climate Change Portal)

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Part 2 and Part 3 will be posted soon.

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10 American Cities Running Out Of Water?

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Las Vegas, Nevada (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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24/7 Wall St. evaluated a couple recent studies (from Ceres and the NRDC) and also conducted some of its own analysis, focusing on the 30 largest American cities,  to  come up with the following list of 10 large American cities at the greatest risk of running out of water:

10. Orlando, FL

9. Atlanta, GA

8. Tucson, AZ

7. Las Vegas, NV

6. Fort Worth, TX

5. San Francisco Bay Area, CA

4. San Antonio, TX

3. Phoenix, AZ

2. Houston, TX

1. Los Angeles, CA

You can read more about their analysis and reasons for inclusion of each city here.

A note from Anna – I do not know much about 24/7 Wall St. or their track record on this sort of analysis. I think this sort of list is good for raising awareness that it is not just cities in the dry Southwest that are facing future water shortages. However, there are a few items in this article that gave me pause – first is the consistent misspelling of San Francisco as “San Fransisco”, second is the consistent listing of the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) as the “National Resources Defense Council.”

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Fast-Track Geothermal Project in Nevada


photo credit: freefoto.com

The Las Vegas Sun reports that the federal Bureau of Land Management just approved a fast-track geothermal project in Pershing County, Nevada. The company that proposed the project, Ormat Technologies, plans to build a 30 megawatt plant that covers about 13 square miles.

From the BLM announcement – “The BLM Fast-Track projects are those where the companies involved have demonstrated to the BLM that they have made sufficient progress to formally start the environmental review and public participation process. These projects could potentially be cleared by December 2010, thus making them eligible for economic stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. There are 34 national fast-track projects – 14 solar, 7 wind, 6 geothermal, and 7 transmission lines.”

A list of fast-track renewable energy projects can be found here on the BLM website.

Nevada currently has 11 geothermal plants, 3 of which are on Bureau of Land Management-managed public land.

Anna’s Links – Water and Solar Energy

I recently wrote a post as an overview of the energy-water nexus. Here are a couple articles that highlight the link between solar projects and water.

Armagosa Valley, Nevada (freefoto.com)

Last year, the New York Times ran an article about how a promising solar project in Armagosa Valley,  Nevada, by Solar Millenium ran hard up against western worries about water. The two proposed solar farms would require 1.3 billion gallons of water a year, or 20 percent of the local water available.

The Las Vegas Sun reports on the Skyline Solar facility in Nipton, California, that will use concentrating solar photovoltaic (CPV). CPV plants are expected to use much less water than solar thermal plants, which means they may be better candidates for places with lots of sun, but not as much water.

The energy-water nexus generally refers to needing water to produce energy and needing energy to move and filter water; however, it seemed fitting to include a story about using the sun and water to reduce energy use:

 NPR reports that the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base in North Carolina is becoming one of the largest communities to widely install solar hot water panels. FLS Energy owns and installs the panels and then sells the hot water to the base, which means that there are basically only two main actors and decision-makers needed to install  systems on all 900 homes.  (The base is also planning a LEED Platinum fitness center – more info on the base website.)

Anna’s Links – 5/26/10

A round-up of interesting (and depressing) analysis of the recent oil rig explosion and oil spill…

A “live” feed of the BP oil spill is now posted online (though traffic has been so high that it’s not always possible to view) – U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee.

Experts examining a previous video of the oil leak released by BP estimate that the size of the oil spill is much larger than official estimates – NPR.

Scientists fault the government for “failing to conduct an adequate scientific analysis of the damage and of allowing BP to obscure the spill’s true scope” – New York Times.

Some experts are starting to say that the oil leaks could last for years because “we don’t have any idea how to stop this” – National Geographic.

Aerial photos of the Gulf oil spill show its vast size – NASA Earth Observatory.

A scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab notes that some of the detergents used to clean up spill sites can be more toxic that the oil itself – Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

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Other interesting tidbits from the web…

Two campuses of the University of California system, Berkeley and Davis, have been given  MacArthur grants to launch a new master’s degree program in sustainable development practice – UC Berkeley and MacArthur Foundation.

Developers in Las Vegas are cranking up their sales pitches for brand new homes again, even though the city has 9,500 empty houses and another 5,600 that were repossessed in the first quarter of 2010 – New York Times.

Las Vegas as a whole has been very dependent on growth and construction – the recent drop in new construction had a major impact on municipal funding – Aguanomics and Bloomberg.

Federal officials want public input on a proposal to revise policies for managing urban water shortages in the Central Valley – meetings will be held in Sacramento on May 26, June 23, July 20, and August 19 – The Sacramento Bee.