We’ll always have Paris

November 5, 2020 by  
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We’ll always have Paris Heather Clancy Thu, 11/05/2020 – 04:58 Nov. 4, 2020, is notable for an ignominious reason — it marked the official U.S. exit from the 2015 Paris Agreement. Whether or not the nation chooses to rejoin the accord depends on which party claims the White House next January. (As I write this, that’s still not clear.) The U.S. bears the distinction of being the only country so far to bail on its 2015 commitment to reduce emissions in line with the pledge to hold global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius by mid-century. But even though the Trump administration has turned its back on climate action, half of U.S. states — representing a $11.7 trillion economy — are still committed.  What’s more, as of early October, more than 1,000 companies — with a combined market cap of $15.4 trillion and including one-fifth of the global Fortune 500 — had committed to setting science-based targets for reducing emissions in line with the Paris goals. Originally, the initiative behind the framework had hoped to sign up 250 businesses by the end of this year — it easily overshot its goal. Close to 300 of those signatories have pledged to act according to the Business Ambition for 1.5 Degrees campaign , the highest level of declared action so far, which includes a target to reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050. And, one hopes, a lot sooner than that. 2020 has been rough for many reasons — from the pandemic to heatwaves and drought, and the horrific wildfires that have devastated millions of acres in California and Oregon. But climate change has been elevated in the national discourse this year like never before, and that gives California’s natural resources secretary, Wade Crowfoot, reason for optimism. “There is new strength and political will to actually tackle the climate crisis,” he said during a keynote conversation during last week’s VERGE 20. We need the best and the brightest companies to help us develop these platforms and then help us meet our public interest goals through the use of these platforms. Given his role in the California government, it shouldn’t surprise you that Crowfoot is laser-focused on how nature can play a role in helping the state reach its carbon-neutrality target — its goal is to achieve this by 2045, before the Paris Agreement deadline. “Not everybody fully understands that our natural and working lands have a critical role to play in California, but [also] across the world, in achieving carbon-neutrality,” Crowfoot said. Smarter forest management, for example, will reduce emissions from catastrophic wildfires and it will accelerate carbon sequestration. “Whether it’s forests, farms, ranchlands, wilderness areas, wetlands, improved land management will help us reduce emissions and maximize carbon removal from the atmosphere,” he said. Accordingly, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent executive order directs the state to conserve 30 percent of its land and coastal areas by 2030 — not just to address climate change but also to combat species loss and ecosystem destruction. The commitment echoes a commitment made by 38 countries. “What I like about 30 x 30 is that it’s a quantifiable goal, it’s easily understood and it galvanizes,” Crowfoot said. “We’re not going to do it all in state government or state agencies, we need private landowners, philanthropy, not-for-profits, the business sector to help us.” In particular, Crowfoot said companies have a crucial role to play in providing technologies — from satellites to geographic information systems to conservation genomics — that can help the state understand the impacts of climate changes on natural ecosystems and species. “We need a scientific basis of understanding but then of course we need the technology to ultimately monitor where our vulnerabilities, our threats are greatest on land and where our opportunities are richest,” Crowfoot.  One example: The state is using lidar, the technology that enables self-driving vehicles to “see,” in its forests to help understand where fire risks are greatest, using that information to proactively address management. In addition, California is using remote imaging technology to better understand evapotranspiration, how water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere. “We need the best and the brightest companies to help us develop these platforms and then help us meet our public interest goals through the use of these platforms,” Crowfoot said. During these uncertain times, and as we bid au revoir to Paris, it would be easy to be discouraged about the future of climate action. If that’s how you’re feeling today, step outside for a recharge — and then let’s get back to the business of sustainability. “You don’t have to rent an RV and go to a national park to visit nature,” Crowfoot said. “Go into your backyard. Listen to those songbirds as you’re commuting from home. Find those insects in your grass. This is the home that we need to protect, it’s the only home we’ll ever have. I’m optimistic. I think we can get this done. The challenges we are facing this year are creating a new resolve, and I think we will prevail.”    Pull Quote We need the best and the brightest companies to help us develop these platforms and then help us meet our public interest goals through the use of these platforms. Topics Policy & Politics VERGE 20 Paris Agreement California 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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How Stockton and California are building resilience from the ground up

November 2, 2020 by  
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How Stockton and California are building resilience from the ground up Deonna Anderson Mon, 11/02/2020 – 00:05 California — as well as the rest of the United States and, in some cases, the rest of the world — is facing three major crises right now: the COVID-19 pandemic; the climate emergency; and racial injustice.  “We’ve had this shock to our system from the pandemic that has exposed these fault lines and the basic lack of resilience in our system, in our economy,” Kate Gordon, director at the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, said during a keynote panel last week at the VERGE 20 conference. “A priority for us at the state is to get a handle on the pandemic because, honestly, without getting a handle on the pandemic and the current fires, we can’t move forward as a state.” So, how is California building resilience in both its rural and urban communities? Let’s start with a local approach. Laying the groundwork for an equitable future Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs was part of the conversation with Gordon during VERGE 20. “As mayor of Stockton, the focus is really on equity and understanding that everything we’re talking about from the pandemic of COVID-19 to the issues with climate change and wildfires in this state … [is] really about people,” Tubbs said, adding that inequality and racism in the U.S. are not abstract notions. We’ve had this shock to our system from the pandemic that has exposed these fault lines and the basic lack of resilience in our system in our economy. It’s necessary, he said, to “understand that the most important investment we can make is an investment in all of our people to be able to live with dignity.” Stockton is an inland city in California’s Central Valley, where the median income is $51,318, according to the U.S. Census . Of the estimated 312,000 residents, about 20 percent live below the poverty line. Before the pandemic, Stockton had been running an 18-month pilot universal basic income program , which gave 125 residents who live at or below the median income line (around $46,000) $500 per month, with no strings attached , meaning they could spend it however they want. At the end of May, Tubbs announced that it would be extended until January . “[And we] now have 30 other mayors throughout this country who are saying a guaranteed income or basic income is a part of a strategy for COVID-19 response, part of a strategy that’s responsive to inequality and also a part of a strategy that’s responsive to climate change,” Tubbs said.  Gordon also pointed to the need for a just transition, which she defined as the same thing as high-road economic development, which typically prioritizes well-paying jobs and environmental sustainability. “We’re talking about a transition to a more sustainable, resilient and equitable economy that provides pathways into that economy, for underserved communities. And for folks who have been left out, frankly, of the current economy,” she said. Greening the entire economy Gordon noted that instead of embracing strategies that replace or displace jobs in the current economy with green jobs, there needs to be a more explicit focus on greening the entire economy. “The entire economy needs to be powered by cleaner energy and cleaner technologies,” she said. “That is a major opportunity across every sector and every region, of the state, of the country, of the world.” And as the economy goes green, people who make decisions need to engage communities in being part of the solutions because the needs of each community will vary, said Tubbs and Gordon. It’s necessary to understand that the most important investment we can make is an investment in all of our people to be able to live with dignity. “I really see this conversation about just transition, honestly, as an opening to a more bottom-up community-driven economic development approach here in California and everywhere, frankly,” Gordon said. California has a program called Transformative Climate Communities (TCC), in which communities most affected by pollution are able to choose their own goals, strategies and projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address local air pollution. Tubbs said that during Stockton’s TCC planning process, one of the main issues that came up was the high cost of utility bills and the challenge of converting to solar. Renters can’t arbitrarily install solar panels on properties that they don’t own. And if residents did own a home, they might not be able to afford it. He said Stockton is looking forward to working with the state to figure out what it can do to provide more community solar opportunities as an option. Just like rooftop solar doesn’t work for everybody, plugging in an electric vehicle in a home garage doesn’t work for everybody. Gordon said that Kern County, California’s third largest county with about 900,000 residents , is a great example of a place struggling with EV infrastructure financing. Like Stockton, Kern County, known for agriculture and crude oil production, is inland and part of California’s Central Valley. Banks don’t think the county is a place where people will want EVs. But California is banning the sale of gas cars over the next 15 years, so every county needs a strategy. “That’s a place where we in government can step in and say, ‘Hey, can we derisk that? Can we provide some loan guarantees? Can we help you out there, because we need to expand these options throughout California?’” Gordon said. “These are not just options for our big coastal cities.” Pull Quote We’ve had this shock to our system from the pandemic that has exposed these fault lines and the basic lack of resilience in our system in our economy. It’s necessary to understand that the most important investment we can make is an investment in all of our people to be able to live with dignity. Topics Community Resilience Policy & Politics California Equity & Inclusion VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by  Sundry Photography  on Shutterstoc.

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Montana Heritage Center renovation will celebrate the states history and geology

October 23, 2020 by  
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A multimillion dollar expansion and renovation project is underway in Helena, Montana for the Montana Historical Society. Led by 80-year-old architecture firm Cushing Terrell, the Montana Heritage Center renovation project includes a 66,0000-square-foot expansion and the renovation of almost 67,000 square feet of existing space. The project will focus on the local land, with expansions appearing to emerge from the earth to reference the Lewis Overthrust, a geophysical event that helped define the state’s landscape with a collision of tectonic plates that drove one plate over another. The expansion project, to be completed in 2024, is 10 years in the making and will cost $52.7 million, nearly doubling the size of the existing 1952 Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building. Inside, the building will preserve the stories of Montana’s people as a repository for historic collections and resources. When it is completed, the center will serve as a place of learning and discovery for local residents and visitors alike. Related: LEED Platinum Stockman Bank harvests rainwater and solar power in Missoula Designers are pursuing USGBC LEED and IWBI WELL certifications in an effort to highlight sustainable architecture. Continuing to pay homage to the existing structure’s history, the design uses the space between two buildings to connect the old with the new via a dynamic entryway. “The vision for who we can be in the future really has also been built into this process, bringing together diverse voices from across our state from east and west, north and south, our tribal nations, men and women, young and old — it will be reflected right here,” said Montana Governor Steve Bullock. “Those voices will shape its architecture and landscaping the way that our mountains and our plains and those winding rivers have shaped each and every one of us. This building design also looks to the future by incorporating sustainable features that will showcase the ingenuity and the values that make Montana such a special place.” For exterior landscaping , the design includes features and plants that mimic the Montana plains, grasslands, foothills, forests and mountain landscapes on a smaller scale, with a trail linking all of the ecosystems together. Thanks to this design, visitors to the center will have an opportunity to experience and feel connected to the diverse Montana backdrop as well as those who have lived within the state’s borders for generations. + Cushing Terrell Images via Cushing Terrell

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California governor issues executive order to conserve 30% of state land by 2030

October 9, 2020 by  
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On Wednesday, October 7, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an executive order to reserve 30% of state land for conservation by 2030. The governor said the move will help preserve biodiversity and prevent further destruction of vulnerable ecosystems. Gov. Newsom explained that the executive order corresponds with existing plans to conserve at least 30% of state land. Following the executive order, state agencies will be required to boost and maintain soil health, restore wetlands , manage forests to reduce fire risks and create more parks and green spaces for cities. The governor said California would be the first state to carry out this type of land conservation. Related: No new gas-powered cars by 2035, California governor says “This is a critical part of the climate change conversation, and it’s so often omitted,” the governor said. “When we talk about climate change , we get so consumed by energy and industry, commercial and residential side of this equation, and we forget our working lands. We forget our natural lands. We forget about species and we forget about animals, and plants, and insects. All of these things that truly make life not only worth living but life even capable of living.” The executive order is just one of many measures that have been put in place by the state to curb environmental degradation. Last month, the governor made an executive order to phase out gas-powered vehicles in favor of zero-emission vehicles by 2035. The executive order does not make it illegal for residents of California to own gas-powered cars or even resell them as used cars. It only aims at ensuring that gas-powered cars are phased out moving forward. “I don’t know of any other state in this country that’s been more forceful and forthright in establishing and anchoring a consciousness around climate change,” Gov. Newsom said. “We just want to fundamentally reconcile the fact we’re no longer living in the 19th century, and we don’t need to drill things or extract things in order to advance our economic goals and advance our mobility needs.” Via ABC7 Image via David Mark

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Mature trees shape a leafy, light-filled home in Mexico

October 9, 2020 by  
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South of Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco, local architecture firm  Estudio Radillo Alba  has completed the Casa R.A., a family of five’s countryside home that takes its site-specific massing from the existing trees on site. Designed for a client who wanted a home that would make the most of the available land surface, the single-family dwelling embraces indoor/outdoor living with floor-to-ceiling windows and patios full of lush vegetation throughout the home.  Five mature trees shaped the design of Casa R.A., with designers arranging the building around the trees’ root systems. Two of the three trees, located at the front of the site, define the location of the garage, while another tree at the side of the home marks the main entrance. The remaining trees in the rear of the property provide shade and shelter to a back terrace. An  open-plan  living area, kitchen, dining space and small powder room reside on the ground floor. The second floor contains the master bedroom along with three secondary bedrooms and three baths. Sections of the home utilize cut-outs to make way for plant-filled patios, accesses and terraces. The home’s material palette stays light, using only mud-brick from a nearby region known for its mud-brick techniques. Related: Brick cladding conceals a family home’s sophisticated, zero-energy systems “The house was conceived as one single block which called for a single choice of material ,” the architects explained in a project statement. “Close to the plot, there is a region known for its production of mud-brick, a technique still practiced in some parts of the country. Its cultural value and its constructive heritage encouraged us to use it as a single material for the project’s envelope. The customized exposed brick covers and protects all structural elements, slabs, and mechanical installations while intending to reveal the constructive system and pay homage to the laborious process of the artisanal material.” + Estudio Radillo Alba Images via Ce?sar Belio

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5 things to know about California’s gas car sales ban

September 30, 2020 by  
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5 things to know about California’s gas car sales ban Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 09/30/2020 – 00:00 Last week — as historic wildfires ravaged the forests of California — Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a history-making executive order: The state will ban the sales of new gas-powered cars within the next 15 years.  It’s a huge move, and the strategy will provide a significant boost to the market for zero-emission vehicles. About 2 million new vehicles are sold in California each year. Essentially, starting in 2035 all of these would have to be electric. The order is equal parts inspiring and jarring for a state that’s built major parts of its economy, as well housing and business development, around the internal combustion engine vehicle. But transportation emissions are the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California, and they’ve been rising in recent years; state leadership needed to take aggressive measures now to reverse this trend.  Vehicle emissions also cause air pollution, so eliminating fossil fuel vehicles will clean up the state’s air (learn more about this topic in a webinar I’m running Thursday with City of Oakland, the California Air Resources Board and fuel company Neste).  The order is equal parts inspiring and jarring for a state that’s built major parts of its economy, as well housing and business development, around the internal combustion engine vehicle. Here are five things you should know about California’s historic executive order: The movement around gas car bans is growing: While California is the first state in America to set such a goal, countries and cities in Europe, as well as China , are taking similar measures. The United Kingdom is poised to move its fossil fuel-vehicle ban from 2040 to 2030, one of the most aggressive in the world and just 10 years from now. Many European cities are tackling transportation decarbonization and air pollution by banning the driving of fossil fuel-powered cars within city centers. The Southern California city of Santa Monica recently became one of the first American cities to ban deliveries with fossil fuel vehicles.  Even in California, the idea of banning new gas car sales in the state has been volleyed around the state legislature for a couple years. Assembly member Phil Ting first introduced a bill in 2018 that sought to achieve the new gas car ban by 2040, but it failed to get support (as did a subsequent bill with a more detailed plan). If you’re wondering why Newsom opted for an executive order: This idea hasn’t been able to make it to light in bill form in California. These movements are messy, and California’s will be, too: Because phasing out fossil fuel vehicles is such a new concept for many, expect a variety of fits and starts — and legal wrangling — around this order and these types of measures in general. A prime example is Madrid, which implemented a fossil fuel-free car zone in 2018. The ban led to protests, followed by a halt of the ban, followed by a reinstatement of the ban after data showed that the ban led to significantly less traffic and cleaner air in Madrid’s city center. California’s order will face legal challenges from the auto industry, and also potentially from the federal level, if the Trump administration is elected again in November. A lot rests on the shoulders of the California Air Resources Board, which is responsible for creating and implementing a plan.  No one is coming for your old gas car: The executive order says that Californians still will be able to continue to drive already-owned gas cars and buy used gas cars after 2035. New cars are on average kept for 10 or 11 years, so it likely will be another decade after 2035 before the gas cars bought up until 2035 will be phased out.  A big question in my mind is how will Californian consumer car buying habits react to this? Will they try to buy gas cars within the next decade to get one in before the ban? Will the ban make them start to see electric as inevitable and thus make the switch sooner? Could you buy a new gas car in, say, Southern Oregon and drive it down into California after 2035? We’re all going to be learning. This is an electric vehicle boost: California tries to shape its policies to be technology-agnostic. That’s why it says “zero-emission vehicles,” which can include EVs, but also fuel cell cars and anything else that can achieve zero emissions.  However, electric vehicles will be the real winner out of this order. EVs have been becoming increasingly cost-effective and convenient, thanks to dropping battery costs and greater availability of EV chargers. Other competing technologies, such as fuel cells, can’t compete as EVs start to scale. This will require a big infrastructure buildout: Expect to see a serious scaling up of charging infrastructure related to helping consumers charge electric vehicles at homes (multi-family included), businesses, stores, gas stations and more. If the state is mandating that its residents can only buy electric cars, it better make sure that everyone has access to convenient and equitable charging options.  Making sure that this order doesn’t disproportionately disadvantage low-income communities that are already paying more than their share for transportation will be key to making sure the order is implemented smoothly and fairly.  Pull Quote The order is equal parts inspiring and jarring for a state that’s built major parts of its economy, as well housing and business development, around the internal combustion engine vehicle. Topics Transportation & Mobility Zero Emissions Electric Vehicles Featured Column Driving Change 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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No new gas-powered cars by 2035, California governor says

September 25, 2020 by  
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California Governor Gavin Newsom’s new executive order bans the sale of all new gasoline-powered cars and passenger trucks by 2035. After that, only zero-emissions new cars will be sold in the state of  California . Californians will still be able to own, drive, buy and sell used cars that run on gas. Over half of California’s current carbon emissions come from transportation. The governor’s office foresees a 35% drop in  greenhouse gas  emissions once the new policy goes into effect. Related: 17,000 Tiehm’s buckwheat, rare wildflowers of Nevada, destroyed “I don’t know of any other state in this country that’s been more forceful and forthright in establishing and anchoring a consciousness around  climate change ,” Newsom said in a press conference Wednesday. “We just want to fundamentally reconcile the fact we’re no longer living in 19th century, and we don’t need to drill things or extract things in order to advance our economic goals and advance our mobility needs.” Priorities stressed in the executive order include setting new health regulations around oil extraction and the communities affected by it, stopping hydraulic  fracking  permits from being issued by 2024 and planning a statewide rail and transit network. The California Air Resources Board is formulating regulations for medium and heavy-duty vehicles to be zero emissions by 2045. “This is an economic opportunity: the opportunity to transform our  economy across sectors, the opportunity to accelerate innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit, the opportunity to bring more companies here into the state of California,” said Newsom. Not everyone favors this turn away from gasoline, and Newsom will likely face political, legal and commercial challenges. In the past, President Trump has objected to California setting its own auto  emission  standards that differ from federal rules. The California New Car Dealers Association released a statement saying that the state’s citizens should have more of a say in this matter. While electric cars are better for the environment than those fueled by gasoline, the lithium necessary for electronic vehicles’ batteries causes another set of problems. Mining for  lithium  affects communities and ecosystems from northern Tibet to the salt plains of Chile to Nevada’s desert. Hopefully, better batteries and the planned statewide rail and transit network catch on and drive down demand for every person to own a private car. Via ABC7 and Salon Image via Pexels

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Advanced Recycling: What, When and How to Scale?

September 14, 2020 by  
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Advanced Recycling: What, When and How to Scale?   What is the state of the advanced recycling industry, and what will it take to get it to scale? There’s been a noticeable uptick lately in buzz around advanced recycling (also known as chemical recycling) and the promise of technologies that can fix the broken recycling system. However, the technologies, terminology and applications can be confusing and are not widely understood. This discussion explores the landscape of transformational technologies that stop plastic waste, keep materials in play and grow markets. Speakers discuss the state of the market and highlight the potential for transformational technologies to turn waste plastics back into new materials, decrease reliance on fossil fuels and curb the flow of plastics into marine environments. Speakers Paula Luu, Director, Center for the Circular Economy, Closed Loop Partners Jodie Morgan, CEO, Green Mantra Techologies Mitchell Toomey, Director of Sustainability, BASF Corporation Holly Secon Mon, 09/14/2020 – 11:05 Featured Off

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Wildfires have burned 2.3M acres across California this year

September 10, 2020 by  
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Over 2 million acres of land have burned in California this year alone, according to the U.S Forest Service. Unfortunately, fires are still breaking out and more destruction is expected. The state is bracing for the worst as summer comes to an end. Normally, the period preceding fall is the most dangerous in terms of fire outbreaks, and California has already witnessed more acres burned so far this year than ever recorded in a similar period. Currently, two of the state’s largest fires in history are still underway in the San Francisco Bay Area. More than 14,000 firefighters are deployed to handle these fires and others around the state. During the Labor Day weekend, a three-day heatwave aggravated the situation. Triple-digit temperatures and dry winds are making it hard for firefighters to control the flames. Related: Redwoods, condor sanctuary are damaged in California wildfires The continued increase in temperatures and forest fires is affecting services for the residents of the state. Pacific Gas & Electric, the largest utility company in the state, said it might cut power to 158,000 customers this week. According to the company, this move would be taken to reduce the risk of its powerlines and other equipment starting more wildfires . According to Randy Moore, regional forester for the U.S Forest Service in the Pacific Southwest Region, the state will close all eight national forests in southern California to prevent further damage. He said that the closures will be re-evaluated each day, based on the available risks. The service is monitoring daily temperatures and other weather aspects that are likely to lead to fire outbreaks. This decision consequently means that all campgrounds within national forests remain closed. “The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously,” Moore said. “Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behavior, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire.” Via Huffington Post Image via Steve Nelson / Bureau of Land Management

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How cities can influence the energy system

August 12, 2020 by  
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How cities can influence the energy system Heather House Wed, 08/12/2020 – 00:45 As U.S. cities and counties transition to clean energy for their own operations and communities, many are finding that stakeholders and policies beyond their jurisdictions affect their ability to purchase clean energy. Policy and regulatory decisions made by states, utilities, public utilities commissions and wholesale market governing bodies determine the clean energy procurement options available to cities and counties. This can create challenges for meeting locally defined resolutions and commitments. To overcome these challenges and drive faster progress on renewables and carbon-free goals, local governments are starting to engage with old stakeholders in new ways to change the rules of the game. By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. To help cities and counties better understand potential high-impact engagement opportunities, the American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator released a new interactive tool, the Local Government Renewables Action Tracker . The tool highlights efforts by local governments to work directly with the institutions and decision-makers who influence their ability to access clean energy and control the broader electricity system. Here are four ways local governments are engaging with stakeholders to decarbonize their electricity supply: 1. Partnering with investor-owned utilities Cities and counties often are required by state law to buy electricity from a regulated investor-owned utility (IOU) and lack the ability to choose their electricity supplier or generation source. While some IOUs offer renewable energy programs, these options don’t always meet city needs. Worse still, some cities have no options for purchasing renewable electricity. To overcome these circumstances, some local governments are partnering with their utilities. For example, the city of Denver and Xcel Energy developed a partnership agreement in 2018 to define and collaborate on shared climate and energy goals. By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. These types of partnership agreements can lead to the creation of new renewables programs or custom utility solutions that enable local governments to purchase renewables on a large scale. In North Carolina, Duke Energy and the city of Charlotte signed an agreement that laid out the ways they could partner on clean energy work. One year later, Charlotte became the first city to sign a large-scale deal through Duke Energy’s new Green Source Advantage green tariff program. 2. Engaging in state-level regulatory proceedings Many key decisions around the implementation of state energy policies, including decisions that govern IOUs, are made by state public utility commissions (PUCs). PUCs allow stakeholders to voice their needs as electricity customers, which can be a good opportunity for local governments to advocate for more renewables. However, engaging in commission proceedings can be a time-consuming and cumbersome process for local governments with limited resources to navigate. Increasingly, cities and counties are asking for more renewables on the grid by commenting and providing testimony to their state PUC. This includes commenting on their utility’s integrated resource plans (IRPs), long-range plans that communicate how an electric utility intends to develop new generation assets over the next 10 to 20 years. In many states, utility IRPs are required by law and providing input on them can be an impactful way for local governments to influence their regional grid mix and increase renewable energy generation. During the Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) IRP process, the city of Indianapolis submitted a public letter to encourage IPL to explore a more aggressive retirement scenario for the Petersburg Coal Generating Station and increase renewable generation. Indianapolis cited an October report by Rocky Mountain Institute that found that clean energy portfolios declined in cost by 80 percent since 2010, are lower-cost than new gas plants and are projected to undercut the operating costs of existing gas plants within 10 to 20 years. In comments to the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), the city of Atlanta asked Georgia Power to expand residential energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, provide greater access to utility data to improve energy efficiency efforts, increase municipal access to renewable energy and build a new local microgrid to improve community resilience. In response to customer comments such as these, the PSC required Georgia Power to more than double solar energy procurement over the next five years from one gigawatt (GW) to 2.2 GW. Local governments are also increasingly advocating for alternative forms of utility regulation and business models. This includes performance-based regulation (PBR), a type of utility reform that incentivizes electric utilities to demonstrate performance on metrics such as greenhouse gas reduction, efficiency and customer service. This approach contrasts with traditional “cost-of-service” business models that incent utilities to build more physical assets, which generally result in new buildouts of gas power plants and pipelines, locking in emissions for years to come. The city and County of Honolulu and the County of Hawaii have been actively engaged in advancing PBR through workshops, working group meetings, filing written comments to Hawaii’s PUC and creating thoughtful proposals recommending new PBR mechanisms for their utility to adopt. 3. Influencing statewide energy policy When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Local governments are starting to get involved at the state level by calling for changes to state climate and clean energy legislation. There are a few high-impact policy pathways that cities can pursue: Removing barriers to solar Local governments are asking state policymakers to remove barriers that prevent renewable energy procurement. Stakeholder input recently helped pass the Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020 , which created the state’s first clean energy standard and lifted constraints on existing state laws that limited access to third party financing options that can bring down the cost of renewables. Similarly, the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, alongside other large customers and local governments, successfully called for increased access to third-party financing for renewables , which ultimately would make clean energy procurement more affordable for consumers. In Utah, local governments came together to ask the state to enable high-impact pathways for procuring renewables , leading to the ratification of the Community Renewable Energy Act of 2019. These local governments are collaborating with the state’s electric utility, Rocky Mountain Power, to develop a utility program through which they can purchase 100 percent renewable energy. When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Phasing out fossil fuels Cities and counties are advocating to retire uneconomic fossil fuel power plants by enabling or expanding securitization legislation. Securitization can be used to allow utilities to issue bonds based on the guaranteed returns they are making from the uneconomic plants and use the proceeds to build or buy cheaper renewable energy. The shift to lower-cost generation allows utilities to both make more money and lower rates for their customers while phasing out fossil fuel power plants. Forming a coalition with other local governments can help amplify a city’s message to its state legislators. For example, Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA), a coalition that consists of 33 Colorado counties and municipalities, regularly advocates for state climate policy. Members of the coalition meet with legislators, provide testimony at state legislative sessions, write op-eds and coordinate strategy for local governments. CC4CA’s collective voice was a powerful lever that helped pass one of the strongest state climate bills to date, which includes both short-term and long-term clean energy targets for Colorado. Enabling or expanding community choice aggregation Community choice aggregation (CCA) allows local governments to have full control over their electricity supply, providing the ability to procure renewable energy for their municipal operations, residents and in some cases, small businesses. To make progress toward community-wide renewable energy targets, cities are starting to push for legislation to enable CCA or to expand renewable procurement through an existing CCA. CCA can be a key mechanism for achieving community-wide clean energy goals if a city’s electric utility does not offer the procurement pathways needed to achieve its renewable energy target. Cincinnati has signed the largest municipal renewable energy deal in U.S. history, in part because of the control the city had through its CCA program. Forming a coalition with other local governments can help amplify a city’s message to its state legislators. For example, Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA), a coalition that consists of 33 Colorado counties and municipalities, regularly advocates for state climate policy. Members of the coalition meet with legislators, provide testimony at state legislative sessions, write op-eds and coordinate strategy for local governments. CC4CA’s collective voice was a powerful lever that helped pass one of the strongest state climate bills to date, which includes both short-term and long-term clean energy targets for Colorado. 4. Getting involved in wholesale energy markets Rules made in wholesale markets can impact local government clean energy goals and present obstacles for clean energy procurement. Participation in market-level decisions and stakeholder processes traditionally has been dominated by utilities and generators, but that is starting to change. One recent decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could hamper the development of renewables in states that participate in the PJM wholesale electricity market . The decision directs PJM to implement a  minimum offer price rule for renewable generation resources supported by state policies such as renewable portfolio standards and zero emissions credits. This rule effectively would raise the minimum price of renewables and, ultimately, ratepayer costs across the board. Some states, including New Jersey and Virginia, are considering leaving the PJM capacity market to preserve their ability to offer incentives to develop renewable energy. The PJM Cities and Communities Coalition is the first ongoing collaborative effort for cities to address barriers in the PJM wholesale energy market. As part of the coalition, cities such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago are joining together to provide education to members on market issues, considering becoming formal voting members and identifying priority issues where cities can engage. One of the coalition’s early efforts was a public letter o the PJM Board of Managers during its search for a new CEO, urging the search committee to hire a candidate who could move the PJM market toward a clean energy future. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Identifying and replicating local clean energy successes Engaging with utilities, commissions, state policymakers and wholesale market governing bodies is new and unfamiliar territory for many local governments. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Once they decide to engage, local governments often struggle to dedicate the resources and funding necessary to participate in ongoing efforts. Regardless of the approach, collaborative efforts are key to overcoming these challenges and enabling more effective participation. This allows local governments to leverage limited local resources, reduce political risks and develop a strong collective voice. This collective voice, in particular, often can be more powerful than one local government acting alone. The Local Government Renewables Action Tracker is an important new resource cities and counties can use to see how other local governments are engaging with stakeholders and evaluate the options available for advancing their own clean energy projects and goals. As cities and counties continue to develop their voices as large energy consumers, we should expect to see them get more involved in state regulatory proceedings and legislative hearings, innovative city-utility partnerships and market decision-making processes. Local government engagement such as this has significant potential to accelerate decarbonization in the United States by dramatically expanding local access to renewables for city operations and communities alike. Pull Quote By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Contributors Lacey Shaver Topics Energy & Climate Cities Policy & Politics Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Power pylons at sunset. Photo by  Matthew Henry  on  Unsplash Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash Close Authorship

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How cities can influence the energy system

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