snippets

Snippets – City Infrastructure

Today, stories about developing and improving cities and their infrastructure.

The City of Chicago announced the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, which will leverage private investment for retrofits pending City Council approval. For the first project, they will be doing an energy efficiency retrofit of municipal buildings (via Greentech Media).

Bay Area cities begin to adjust to life after redevelopment agencies shut their doors on Feburary 1st. A blog post by SPUR walks through the impact of these changes in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

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Pecha Kucha Rundown: Denser, Part 1

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Noelle and I had fun at Pecha Kucha in San Francisco at the SPUR Urban Center on Tuesday.  For those unfamiliar with the Pecha Kucha format, each speaker has 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide. The format makes for a fun but focused look at what a wide range of professionals is working on and thinking about. Presentations are loosely organized around a theme. The theme this time was “Denser.”

Using my notes, I am putting together a set of posts that lists the presenters in order, along with links to their website (if I could find them) and any major thoughts I jotted down. For some presentations, I took a number of notes. Other presentations have fewer notes (maybe I was looking at the images more carefully?). All of the presentations were more interesting and beautiful than revealed by my notes and these posts.

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Grady Gillies – Architect – UCLA, Suprastudio

DENSE city

dense buildings

dense population

dense space

dense community

Looked at 8 cities as part of the studio, including:

Cleveland, OH – transforming access and landscape

Flint, MI – advantage of a shrinking city’s migration is SPACE

New Orleans – blighted property presents an opportunity

Tucson, AZ – relentless expansion of the city edge

Merced, CA – looking at potential impact of high-speed rail

Toledo, OH – city’s solar industry as a new urban identity

More information on the studio and work:

http://www.suprastudio.aud.ucla.edu/

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Craig Scott – Architect – IwamotoScott

DENSER

environmental / technological performance

spatial / material geometry

urban / architectural experiences

3 focuses of firm’s practice – buildings, installations, and digital fabrications

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Robin Levitt – Detroit

(Anna’s note – his entire introduction was “Robin Levitt, Detroit” but there is a little info on the ever-helpful Wikipedia)

Talking about the de-densification of a city

Birthplace of the automobile

Detroit was the Silicon Valley of its day

1950s saw Detroit’s population peak just under 2 million

[Image of reduction in building density in the downtown district]

Detroit could geographically fit San Francisco, Boston, and Manhattan, but has a much lower population density

Population decline over the years

But actual geographical area of the city was expanding

Ruins now dominate the Detroit landscape

Neighborhoods have been cleared

City looking at a strategy of controlled abandonment

City of Detroit began as farmland, and in many neighborhoods it is returning to farmland

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Parts 2, 3, and maybe 4 coming soon!

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Climate Change Hits Home

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(Image credit: flickr user heidi.nutters, via SPUR)

A recent report by SPUR entitled “Climate change hits home” addresses how we should plan to adapt to climate change in the Bay Area. The report includes a number of strategies to help local communities to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Some of the key impacts discussed in the report include:

  1. Higher average temperatures,
  2. Increased number of heat waves,
  3. Water uncertainty: droughts, extreme storms, flooding,
  4. An increased risk of wildfire, and
  5. Sea level rise.

The SPUR task force responsible for the report then considered how these impacts would affect various areas of planning in the Bay Area and proposed strategies to adapt to them.

The goal of the report is to get local agencies to begin to talk to one another to coordinate responses to climate change. Many of the adaptation strategies proposed in the report will also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – a real “win-win” overall.

A copy of the report is available for download from the SPUR website.

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California’s Clean Energy Future, Part 3

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

The post below consists of Part 3 of my record of the presentation –  Emma Wendt’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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Emma Wendt

Most people don’t think of utilities as wanting to do something to address the clean energy future… You might know PG&E through your utility… We’re a really large but really green utility… We’ve won greenest utility in America for the last 2 years… We have a really green portfolio… We have a significant amount of solar interconnected into our system…

… …

What do we mean when we talk about a sustainable electric system?… … The first step in cleaning up the system is to supply green power… On the customer side, you can add rooftop solar and plug-in electric vehicles. But because you have peaks in demand, and an intermittent demand… you need some sort of storage system to make sure demand can always be met by supply… Also need a way for all of this to talk to each other.

On the renewable side, there are a number of ways you can interconnect renewables into our grid… There are a number of programs – California Solar Initiative, Self-Generation Incentive Program, net energy metering, feed-in tariffs, and the renewable auction mechanism, which are hot of the policy presses…

We have a renewables RFO, where we look  at the feasibility of projects … … and PG&E is looking at more options for owning renewables.

So why are we doing all this? … … We do have the renewable portfolio standard…

Another policy hot off the presses is the TREC decision – only allowed to buy out-of-state renewables for up to 25% of our renewables obligation… …

[Showing 2009 electric power mix.] This is what was actually delivered. We don’t yet have final 2010 numbers…

In the future, we have a ton of contracts for new renewable sources. A large part is solar – both solar thermal and solar PV… … You’ll only see a small amount coming from small hydro – basically the rivers that can be dammed are already dammed up… …

PV program hopes to speed up future PV installations… … if you are a developer of small-scale renewables projects, the RFO comes out next week… … On the utility side, we are planning to build more substations… … We want to build solar PV near our substations…

In reality, renewables projects in California don’t always get built. As of the end of 2009, half of our projects were cancelled or significantly delayed… … transmission is causing the most delays, but other barriers are significant – financing, developer inexperience… permitting, technology risks… site control, and the list goes on.. …

PG&E is involved in a statewide initiative called California’s Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI)… you can’t have clean generation without a way to get it to where the people are. This is a really big problem… …

PG&E customers lead in on-site solar generation… but the best resource is energy efficiency… … PG&E offers a wide range of customer energy efficiency programs… … we also have a program where we work on appliance standards… And we work with retailers… to give them the incentive, then they have control over what they put in front of their customers… …

A cool tool to help customers find out more about EE is also SmartMeters. You may have heard a number of things about SmartMeters… But there is the possibility of seeing what your load is like.

PG&E is also looking at options for plug-in electric vehicle integration… looking at meters for the charging of EVs, and having a separate pricing system… We have a number of partnerships with organizations working on electric vehicles.

… …

We hope that we’ll have a really involved community to help this all move forward.

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

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Part 1 is posted here. Part 2 is posted here.

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California’s Clean Energy Future, Part 2

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

The post below consists of Part 2 of my record of the presentation – the second 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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Panama Bartholomy

… …

That’s the context. Let’s get into solutions. On is zero net energy new buildings…. All new homes will produce as much energy as they use by 2020. But our challenge isn’t really new buildings. Our challenge is existing buildings… … We have 3/4 of the units in California built before there were energy codes. So that’s a real challenge….

So we adopted a very ambitious plan in California… the Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan… [highlighting retrofit goals] If you look just at the building sector and where the GHG emissions are coming from… Lighting represents 12% of all the emissions from the building sector. All the pieces get more and more efficient… Except for the “misc” category… which is basically plug loads… Flat screen TVs are 10% of residential energy consumption… and 1% of California’s total electricity consumption…. So we created standards… We had a choice of either building power plants to power all those TVs, or making efficient TVs… we chose efficient TVs.

… …

The CEC now has the authority to enforce energy reduction in existing buildings… We’re going to start by eventually requiring labeling of buildings… Eventually requiring upgrades at different parts in the lifecycle of buildings to improve energy efficiency… Please join us at the rulemaking.

But there are major market barriers… awareness… lack of coordination among the various programs… lack of a trained home performance workforce… lack of home energy rating system. And lastly, a significant lack of access to capital… One of the ways we’re addressing this is with a new program… Energy Upgrade California.

Now I want to talk about renewables… It’s a law that by the end of 2010, all IOUs need to provide at least 20% of their electricity to consumers through renewables… The IOUs have enough renewables under contract to get to 33% by 2020… … There has been intense growth in the Renewable Portfolio Standard capacity over the last few years…. …

Geothermal right now is the number 1 producer, then wind, then a significant amount of small hydro … You can get the most updated numbers on the CEC website….

There are a huge number of renewable projects going through permitting at the state and local level right now… Almost 51 MW total. Obviously, not all will get through permitting, and not all will get built, but that’s a significant number.

… …

One of the reasons the CEC was created is because we were having trouble getting new power plants built in California in the 1970s… thermal plants. We don’t do solar and we don’t do wind… The average solar project site is over 125 times larger than the average natural gas plant. So there are some major issues there… And the Mojave Desert is not a wasteland – it is a fragile ecosystem.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Is solar a renewable resource if it destroys a fragile ecosystem that can never be replaced? … We’re seeing a need to reassess what we mean by renewable energy in California. So we’re developing the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan… Starting to created a program for the future of responsible renewable energy in the Mojave Desert. … Achieving all cost-effective energy efficiency reduces the renewable energy needed to meet electricity demand… this means we can have much more strategic placement of the projects…

It comes down to a choice. California’s residents, who live mostly in cities, can put down new power plants on tortoises, or they can change some light bulbs …

… … [looking at a map of where the good wind, solar sites are] So either we need major power lines from spots in the desert to where the people are, or we need to put some PVs on a roof… or on a parking lot… …

With electricity you have a lot of options… With natural gas, you don’t have a lot of options. One is solar thermal… And we better do it quick… … Right now in China, you can buy a system for about $200. The alternative is to heat water with electricity for about $150 per year. In the US a system costs about $7500…

In California, about 42% of union trade members are on the bench right now… [looking at a chart] For every MW of construction, we can look at how many jobs are created for different generation technologies… You can invest in renewable, which are a little more expensive up front, but create jobs…and it’s pretty much free after that except for some maintenance…

Now, to summarize Brown’s plan:

  • Build 12,000 MW of localized electricity generation…
  • Build 8,000 MW of large-scale renewable energy…
  • Federal and state agencies should carry out one integrated environmental review…
  • Reduce peak energy demands and develop energy storage…
  • Increase efficiency of buildings and appliances…
  • Develop more combined heat and power…
  • Appoint a clean energy jobs czar…
  • Develop CEQA Guidelines that accelerate permitting of renewable energy projects…
  • Deliver targeted workforce training programs…

We’re not going to achieve these goals in Sacramento… Politicians don’t retrofit homes… … The only way we achieve any of these goals is through leaders in community, leaders in industry, and the leaders in this room. Thank you very much for your time.

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Part 1 is posted here. Part 3 will be posted soon.

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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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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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