Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts

September 4, 2020 by  
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Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts Bryn Baker Fri, 09/04/2020 – 01:00 On Aug. 14 and 15, the California electric grid operator made the incredibly rare decision to proactively shut off parts of the electricity grid, resulting in limited rolling blackouts affecting businesses and homes throughout the state. Forced outages are a tool of last resort, employed in circumstances of incredible stress to the grid and done to protect against more widespread outages. Record heat for several days across parts of the state strained the power grid so much that it started rationing electricity, for the first time in almost 20 years. Notably, temperatures reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley — the hottest recorded temperature on the planet in more than a century.  While the immediate cause is still being investigated, we do know that California’s grid was experiencing multiple, coincident stressors — high demand, generators not performing when called upon and energy imports not showing up. Rather than thinking of these events as a one-off stroke of bad luck, consider that this soon might be the new normal. And not just in California. Climate change is driving more extreme weather events, including heat waves, everywhere, all while the grid faces increasing demand from electrification of cars, buses, businesses and homes. How should businesses and other large customers be thinking about the increasing strains from climate change with an evolving energy resource mix? Some have suggested clean energy is the scapegoat for the recent blackouts. However, not only was clean energy not the source of the problem , it’s the solution. Clean and renewable energy is core to charting a path forward.  Time to ditch fossil fuels-centric planning In the last 30 years, about one-third of coastal Southern California homes added air conditioners. Higher temperatures put more stress on traditional fossil-fired electric generators, reducing plant efficiency and output, and even caused them to temporarily shut down. In fact, the heat wave last month shuttered a 500 megawatt natural gas unit and a 750 MW gas unit was unexpectedly out of service Aug. 14. Outages of dispatchable fossil generation paired with reduced output from renewables, such as the 1,000 MW reduction in available wind power Aug. 15, resulted in an electric grid unable to meet customer demand. The grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs. California is actively shifting from a fossil-generation-dependent grid to a system that seeks to eliminate carbon emissions by 2045 — an essential step to combat climate change. Corporate customers, cities and governments are lining up behind ambitious clean energy and climate goals. Technological innovation and rapidly declining costs in renewables, storage and other clean energy resources are enabling California’s evolution to a 21st-century reliable , clean energy grid. The state is a leader in solar power, meeting much of the demand during the sunny hours of the day. However, the grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs.  Despite the finger-pointing and calls to move back toward natural gas, including from business groups , the recent experience in California shows that the energy transition shouldn’t be abandoned in the name of reliability Rather smart policy, planning and market designs are critical so that utilities and customers can improve reliability through accelerated deployment of these advanced clean resources as fossil generators retire.  Markets and regional cooperation: Bigger is better California’s electric system is operated by an independent nonprofit organization — the California Independent System Operator ( CAISO ) — that uses competition among power producers to identify the lowest-cost generators that can be used to reliably meet demand. While recent events have been compared to events we saw 20 years ago in California, flaws and fraud responsible then in California’s market design have since been corrected. This time around, the experience suggests that fully expanding wholesale electricity markets throughout the West will be a critical tool to reliably and cost-effectively meet demand in the face of climate change and the energy transition. California may be tempted to go faster alone, but it could get there more reliably and affordably with other Western states.  California’s grid imports electricity from out of state generators, and California’s utilities plan in advance for energy imports that are complemented by in-state generators to meet demand on the hottest days. CAISO does not control the number of imports, which were affected by the recent heat wave that extended beyond California. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. Efforts are underway to expand the CAISO market through the Western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM), which allows coordinated real-time operation amongst a number of utilities and already has brought $1 billion in customer benefits, although this is a fraction of the benefits of a full competitive wholesale market. The type of grid event that occurred in August would be best solved by a western regional transmission organization that optimizes electricity generation and demand throughout the West, rationally manages shared operating reserves and plans/promotes interconnected transmission infrastructure. This type of system will be critical to lowering costs to all customers and keeping the lights on, while meeting the clean energy commitments by customers and states. Even CAISO and the California Public Utilities Commission agree that market improvements may well be needed. California’s approach to ensuring enough generation on the system to meet demand on the hottest days is fractured, complex and undergoing revision. As we chart a path forward, we need to embrace creative solutions and use the tools that we know can work. Businesses require reliable, affordable electricity. A growing number of businesses also know that transitioning the grid to clean energy can save money while continuing to provide expected reliability. Embracing innovation and new technology is in California’s DNA; it also could get by with a little help from its friends. By stitching together the West’s electricity system, reliability and a clean energy transition can work in tandem, most affordably for all customers. REBA is organizing related sessions on clean energy markets during VERGE 20. View more information here .  Pull Quote The grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Utilities California Electricity Grid Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts

The broken system that sends most food waste and organic matter to landfills

September 4, 2020 by  
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The broken system that sends most food waste and organic matter to landfills Jim Giles Fri, 09/04/2020 – 00:15 How about this for a series of maddening statistics? Landfills in the United States generate 15 percent of the country’s emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas with a potential warming impact 34 times that of carbon dioxide. The single largest input into U.S. landfills is food waste, yard trimmings and other organic matter. Sending organic matter to composting facilities rather than landfills dramatically lowers emissions — in fact, expanding composting globally would avoid or capture the equivalent of around 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2050 . Only 4 percent of U.S. households are served by a municipal composting service.  Most commercial food waste is also dumped, meaning that just 6 percent of all U.S. food waste is diverted from landfill or combustion.  In summary: This is crazy. We’re dumping the feedstock for a valuable agricultural resource in landfills, where rather than fertilizing crops it generates emissions that accelerate the climate crisis. I wasn’t aware of quite how broken this system is until I moderated a panel on composting infrastructure at Circularity 20 last week. (Video of the panel soon will be online — sign up for Circularity updates to get notified when that happens.) Afterwards, I called up my fellow moderator Nora Goldstein, editor of Biocycle magazine , in search of solutions.  Goldstein explained that most waste management firms are compensated for every truckload of material they send to landfill. This locks them into the existing model. Some firms might want to move into composting, but doing so would cause a double financial hit: Reduced landfill fees plus upfront expenditures for creating new composting infrastructure. That’s not going to look good in the next quarterly earnings. What can the food industry do to help fix this? Structural change will require government action such as California’s SB 1383 , which commits the state to reducing organic waste by 75 percent by 2025. ( Climate Solution of the Year , according to one industry publication.) But that doesn’t mean the industry can’t take smaller steps without outside help. I heard a bunch of exciting ideas in the panel, during my conversation with Goldstein and in emails I received after the event. Here are a few: Food waste producers should discuss what’s possible with local waste operations, said panel member Alexa Kielty of the San Francisco Department of the Environment. Long-term collaboration between waste producers, local government and disposal companies enables the waste industry to invest in composting solutions. Do due diligence on contractors who offer organics disposal services, advised panel member Kevin Quandt of the Sweetgreen restaurant chain. To see why, read about Quandt’s tussles with less-than-honest contractors in this excellent Los Angeles Times story . Companies involved in the farming end of the food business should incorporate targets for compost use into their regenerative agriculture commitments, Goldstein suggested. Large composting facilities can take years to set up, but food waste producers can investigate smaller-scale options in the meantime, wrote Ben Parry, CEO of Compost Crew, an organics waste collector operating in the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia area.  Speaking of small-scale solutions that companies could collaborate with, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced funding for 13 pilot projects to “develop and test strategies for planning and implementing municipal compost plans and food waste reduction.”  I hope that list provides some ideas for how your organization can get involved in fixing this crazy problem. What did I miss? As always, I value your feedback. Email comments, critiques and complaints to jg@greenbiz.com .  Topics Food Systems Waste Management Waste Compost Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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The broken system that sends most food waste and organic matter to landfills

Episode 78: The Paris pullout, investor power and the era of remanufacturing

June 2, 2017 by  
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This week: Investors mobilize for climate action … why companies are turning a new leaf on deforestation …and why the hottest business trends are circular.

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Episode 78: The Paris pullout, investor power and the era of remanufacturing

100 seeds for a sustainable future: Part 9

June 2, 2017 by  
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In part nine of a ten-part series, students advocate for local meals, schools finance for development and foster immersion.

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100 seeds for a sustainable future: Part 9

Infographic: The World’s Greenest Countries

February 15, 2017 by  
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With ice caps melting at an alarming rate, worldwide coral reefs at risk of dying, and the fact that 2016 was the hottest year ever on record, we are becoming more aware of the role we play in combating global warming and saving the environment….

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Infographic: The World’s Greenest Countries

The push for 100 percent renewables: Tallying corporate progress

October 31, 2016 by  
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A new survey shows how companies are buying clean power, why utilities can still do more and which states are the hottest for corporate renewable energy investment.

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Do you really value the services nature provides?

October 31, 2016 by  
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CH2M’s directive to fellow corporations: Don’t decimate the nature your company’s supply chain relies on.

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Do you really value the services nature provides?

Want to learn about aggregated energy deals? A university lesson

October 31, 2016 by  
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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston Medical Center and Post Office Square Redevelopment Corp. plan the largest aggregated commercial and industrial renewable energy deal in the Eastern U.S.

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Want to learn about aggregated energy deals? A university lesson

NASA is almost certain 2016 will be the hottest year in recorded history

October 19, 2016 by  
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There are over two months left in the year, but that hasn’t stopped NASA from suggesting that 2016 will be the hottest on record . The planet has been on a heat streak for some time and the latest projections show that this September will the hottest in 136 years of record keeping – and it’s pretty safe to say that the entire year will follow suit. Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), made a 99 percent certain prediction that 2016 would top the charts all the way back in May, and the newest GISS data shows he was right on track. Last month was .91 degrees Celsius above the baseline period average, coming in a .004 degree hair ahead of September, 2014. This individual month’s data, when added to the numbers recorded for the entire year, paint a fiery picture for climate change ‘s effect on the entirety of 2016. Related: It’s official: 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, as some do not believe 2017 will continue the trend. Jeremy Shakun, climate scientist from Boston College, told Gizmodo he believes the recent El Niño phenomenon contributed to higher temperatures this year and that next year will not be so dire. “Nonetheless,” he said, “the important thing is the long-term warming trend.” If we can continue racing to meet the Paris climate agreement ’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, we might have a fighting chance to stop the trend from continuing. Goddard Institute for Space Studies Via Gizmodo Images via Pexels ( 1 , 2 )

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NASA is almost certain 2016 will be the hottest year in recorded history

NASA says Earth is warming at a rate ‘unprecedented in 1,000 years’

August 30, 2016 by  
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New data has confirmed that the Earth has been experiencing the hottest temperatures on record . The latest findings from NASA’s top climate scientists now reveal the world is heating up at a rate that hasn’t occurred within the past 1,000 years. According to NASA , the planet will continue to warm “at least” 20 times faster than the historical average over the next 100 years. Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies , said that “in the last 30 years we’ve really moved into exceptional territory.” He added, “It’s unprecedented in 1,000 years. There’s no period that has the trend seen in the 20th century in terms of the inclination (of temperatures).” July 2016 was the hottest month on record, and this year the average global temperature peaked at 1.38C above levels reported in the 19th century. That number is dangerously close to the 1.5C limit determined by the Paris Climate Agreement . Nasa warns that temperatures will only increase by leaps and bounds at the rate we are going. Related: New NASA data confirms July 2016 was the hottest month on record If we have even the slimmest of hopes to combat this unprecedented rate of global warming, Schmidt says, “maintaining temperatures below the 1.5C guardrail requires significant and very rapid cuts in carbon dioxide emissions or co-ordinated geo-engineering. That is very unlikely. We are not even yet making emissions cuts commensurate with keeping warming below 2C.” “It’s the long-term trend we have to worry about though and there’s no evidence it’s going away and lots of reasons to think it’s here to stay,” Schmidt said. “There’s no pause or hiatus in temperature increase. People who think this is over are viewing the world through rose-tinted spectacles. This is a chronic problem for society for the next 100 years.” + NASA Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay , NASA , and NASA Earth Observatory

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