Oh, Kansas

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2013-06-07_Kansas legislature website_Fullscreen capture 672013 114130 AM

I live in California. Even more specifically, I live in the Bay Area, which has generally embraced both that sustainability is a pretty good long term goal and that public money can be used pretty effectively to address and promote that goal.

At the other end of the sustainability spectrum is a recent story about Kansas.

The Kansas legislature’s Committee on Energy and Environment is proposing House Bill No. 2366, which would ban all state and municipal funds for anything related to “sustainable development” [via Bloomberg]. In the bill, sustainable development is defined as

development in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come.”

The full text of the bill (only 2 pages long) is worth reading:

Fullscreen capture 672013 120249 PM.bmp

You can also read it online here (PDF).

As noted by the somewhat snarky Bloomberg article, “… House Bill No. 2366 shouldn’t affect the wind industry, because Kansas already doesn’t support wind development with public funds.”

Oh, Kansas.

looking-back

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.

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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Some Shameless Self-Promotion

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I am a contributing author to Energy, Sustainability and the Environment: Technology, Incentives, Behavior. The book was just released by Elsevier, and you can find it on Amazon here.

Many thanks to friends and mentors Nick Rajkovich and Bill Miller for all their work on the chapter we wrote together.

I got my copy from the publisher in the mail last night.

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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Upcoming Event – The Cost of Building Green

The Cost of Building Green

Co-sponsored by AIA SF Committee on the Environment (COTE) and Structural Engineers Association of Northern California (SEAONC)

February 8, 2011 (Tuesday)

6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

AIA San Francisco, 130 Sutter Street, Suite 600

Peter Morris will be addressing ‘the cost of getting to zero’, looking at both Davis Langdon’s cost experience with very high performing and living buildings, and at strategies for budgeting these goals to ensure that they can be incorporated early in the project.

Peter Moriss is a Principal with Davis Langdon, an international Construction Consulting firm. Peter heads the company’s research group, with a particular focus on construction economics and sustainability. He has served as a member of the USGBC Research Advisory Committee since its establishment in 2006, and as its chair from 2008.

The event is free. More info and links to RSVP here.

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A Quote

R.K. Stewart, 2007 AIA President, addressing an audience of mostly architecture students at UC Berkeley:

I like to remind myself and my clients that just meeting code means it’s the worst building I’m legally allowed to build.

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Resilience vs. Sustainability

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This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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photo by Derek Jensen

Is the glass half-sustainable or half-resilient?

Have you noticed the word ‘resilience’ cropping up in places where you might expect to see the word ‘sustainable’? Are the speakers making a real distinction here, or are they just moving on from yesterday’s buzz word? Let’s find out.

First, Merriam Webster defines the two words as follows:

resilience:

1. the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress

2. an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

sustainability:

1. capable of being sustained

2a. of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture> 2b. of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods<sustainable society>

Wow. Does the increased use of ‘resilience’ mean planners and policy makers are becoming more pessimistic? Are they already assuming the worst and now aiming for damage control instead of wise action? Well, maybe. But in all honesty, there is a difference, and it is important to make the distinction. This is not an either/or occasion, but more of a both/and.

Perhaps it seems obvious, but it is crucial to use the right words in order to come as close to the precise meaning as possible. ‘Sustainable’ is a very pro-active word, but it says nothing about the context in which it operates. The word ‘resilience’ by contrast implies a built in complexity; it is a word of reaction, and of endurance. The terms converge, but they are on separate tracks. My point is this – not only do the right words communicate to others better, but the right words can also re-frame the ‘same old thing’  in a beneficial and insightful way. In other words, if sustainability starts at home, maybe spin should too.

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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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Curitiba Brazil’s Green Exchange

Curitiba Brazil has a number of innovative waste management programs. Follow this link to view a short video that features Curitiba’s Green Exchange Program. The program operates by exchanging fresh food for recyclable items that residents collect and bring to a transfer station.

Also see information here on the documentary A Convenient Truth, a film that chronicles how this typical South American city is transforming itself  through innovative, sustainable community initiatives.  Curitiba’s ideas and expertise are being exported to other cities around the world. I haven’t seen the doc yet, but it appears to be worth a look.

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.