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

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

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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Electric truck fleets will need a lot of power, but utilities aren’t planning for it

August 4, 2020 by  
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Electric truck fleets will need a lot of power, but utilities aren’t planning for it Stephen Nadel Tue, 08/04/2020 – 01:11 As more electric buses and trucks enter the market, future fleets will require a lot of electricity for charging. While some utilities in California and elsewhere are planning for an increase in power demand, many have yet to do so and need to get started. This issue is critical, because freight trucks emit more than one-quarter of all vehicle emissions. Recent product developments offer growing opportunities to electrify trucks and buses and slash their emissions (see our recent white paper ). And just last week, a group of 15 states plus D.C. announced plans to fully electrify truck sales by 2050. Utilities will need to be ready to power electric fleets. Electric truck fleets need substantial power Power for trucks and buses is generally more of an issue than for cars because trucks typically have larger batteries and because trucks and buses are often parts of fleets with many vehicles that charge at the same location. For example, a Tesla Model 3 battery stores 54-75 kWh; a Proterra transit bus battery stores 220-660 kWh. In Amsterdam, a 100-bus transit fleet is powered by a set of slow and fast chargers that together have a peak load of 13 MW (megawatts). This is equivalent to the power used by a typical large factory. And they are thinking of expanding the fleet to 250 buses. California utilities are finding that grid capacity is often adequate in the short term, but that upgrade needs likely will grow in the medium term. Many other fleets also will need a lot of “juice.” For example, a rough estimate of the power needed to serve a fleet of 200 delivery vans at an Amazon fulfillment center is about 4 MW. And for electric 18-wheelers, chargers may need up to 2 MW of power each; a recent proposal calls for charging stations every 100 miles along the U.S. West Coast’s I-5 corridor, each with a peak load of 23.5 MW. Utilities need distribution planning These examples show the need for more power at a given site than most utilities can provide without planning and investment. Meeting these needs often will require changes to primary and secondary power distribution systems (feeders that deliver power to distribution transformers and to end customers) and substation upgrades. For large loads, a new substation may be needed. A paper recently released by the California Electric Transportation Coalition estimates that for loads over 5 MW, distribution system and substation upgrades will be needed most of the time. According to the paper, typical utility costs are $1 million to $9 million for substation upgrades, $150,000 to $6 million for primary distribution upgrades, and $5,000 to $100,000 for secondary distribution upgrades. Similarly, Black and Veatch, in a paper on Electric Fleets, also provides some general guidance, shown in the table below, while recognizing that each site is unique. Now is the time to begin understanding where such upgrades will be needed and start planning for them. California policy pushes utilities toward planning In California, state agencies and a statewide effort called CALSTART have been funding demonstration projects and vehicle and charger purchases for several years. The California Air Resources Board voted in June to phase in zero-emission requirements for truck sales, mandating that, beginning in 2024, manufacturers must increase their zero-emission truck sales to 30-50 percent by 2030 and 40-75 percent by 2035. By 2035, more than 300,000 trucks will be zero-emission vehicles. California utilities operate programs that work with fleet owners to install the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicle fleets. California utilities operate programs that work with fleet owners to install the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicle fleets. For example, Southern California Edison operates the Charge Ready Transport program for medium- and heavy-duty fleets. Normally, when customers request new or upgraded service from the utility, there are fees associated with the new upgrade. With Charge Ready, the utility generally pays these costs, and it will sometimes pay half the cost of chargers; the customer is responsible for the other half and for charger installation costs. Sites with at least two electric vehicles are eligible, but program managers report that at least five vehicles are often needed for the economics to make sense for the utility. One way to do this is to develop and implement a phased plan, with some components sized for future planned growth and other components added as needed. Southern California Edison, for example, has 24 commitments so far, and has a five-year goal of 870 sites, with an average of 10 chargers per site. The utility notes that one charger usually can serve several vehicles and that cycling of charging, some storage, and other load management techniques can reduce capacity needs (a nominal 10 MW load often can be reduced below 5 MW). Through this program, utility representatives are regularly talking with fleet operators, and they can use these discussions to help identify needed upgrades to the utility grid. For example, California transit agencies are doing the planning to meet a California Air Resources Board mandate for 100 percent electric or fuel cell buses by 2040; utilities are talking with the agencies and their consultants as part of this process. California utilities are finding that grid capacity is often adequate in the short term, but that upgrade needs likely will grow in the medium term (seven to 10 years out). They can manage grid needs with good planning (school buses generally can be charged overnight and don’t need fast chargers), load management techniques and some battery storage to address peak needs. Customer conversations drive planning elsewhere We also spoke with a northeastern utility (wishing to be unnamed) that has been talking with customers about many issues, including fleets. It has used these discussions to identify a few areas where grid upgrades might be needed if fleets electrify. It is factoring these findings into a broader grid-planning effort underway that is driven by multiple needs, including fleets. Even within an integrated planning effort, this utility is struggling with the question of when to take action to prepare the electric system for fleet electrification: Should it act on state or federal policy? Should it act when the specific customer request is submitted, or is there something in between? Recognizing that any option has scheduling and cost allocation implications, it notes that there are no easy answers. Many utilities need to start paying attention As part of our research, we also talked with several other utilities and found that they have not yet looked at how fleets might relate to grid planning. However, several of these companies are developing plans to look into these issues in the next year. We also talked with a major truck manufacturer, also wishing to remain unnamed, that views grid limitations as a key obstacle to truck electrification.  Based on these cases, it appears that fleet electrification can have a substantial impact on electric grids and that, while these impacts are small at present, they likely will grow over time. Fleet owners, electric utilities, and utility regulators need to start planning for these impacts now, so that grid improvements can be made steadily as electric fleets grow. Fleet and grid planning should happen in parallel, so that grid upgrades do not happen sooner or later than needed but are in place when needed. These grid impacts can be managed and planned for, but the time to begin this planning is now. Pull Quote California utilities are finding that grid capacity is often adequate in the short term, but that upgrade needs likely will grow in the medium term. California utilities operate programs that work with fleet owners to install the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicle fleets. Topics Transportation & Mobility Clean Energy ACEEE Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Concept of a Tesla Semi truck. Shutterstock Mike Mareen Close Authorship

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Electric truck fleets will need a lot of power, but utilities aren’t planning for it

Workplace EV charging: Lessons from sustainability trailblazers

July 14, 2020 by  
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Workplace EV charging: Lessons from sustainability trailblazers Marsha Willard Tue, 07/14/2020 – 01:30 Businesses are reaping the environmental and social benefits of providing electric vehicle charging for employees. That’s according to research published last week by Presidio Graduate School (PGS) and ChargePoint, providers of the world’s largest EV charging network. Last fall, a research team from PGS conducted a study on workplace electric vehicle charging practices. In addition to a review of the current literature, the team interviewed sustainability leaders in 24 organizations across the United States. The findings reveal that while still most common in Europe and in U.S. coastal states, the speed of EV adoption makes creating the charging infrastructure an imperative for both the public and private sector. Leading organizations have made a solid business case for providing workplace charging and other EV related employee incentives or benefits. Below are some key findings of the study: Employers recognize that demand for charging will only grow; in many cities such as Portland and San Francisco EV charging in workplace parking lots is already both an expectation of employees and a city mandate. Business plays an important role in facilitating EV adoption; providing EV charging to employees is increasingly easy to justify to corporate executives.  Providing charging at the workplace increases employee satisfaction and makes it easier to attract and retain workers. Supporting EV commuting and investing in EV fleets help organizations meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets.  Employers are worried less about upfront costs and are thinking long-term about strategies to optimize their investment.  Key strategies to maximize benefit To get the most out of the investment in workplace charging stations, the corporation and other organizations participating in this research study focused on these four key implementation strategies: 1. Assure availability What the study participants learned is that while you may not see a lot of EVs in your parking lots now, they are coming and they catch on faster once workplace chargers become available. Bank of America, for example, saw a 50 percent increase in the number of EV commuters in just one year after installing chargers, reinforcing the theory that EV adoption is mostly hindered by a concern about being able to charge away from home. In trying to determine how many chargers to provide, the participating organizations often underestimated the demand and recommended thinking ahead when planning. Once available, chargers become an important amenity to employees. Study participants reported not only increased satisfaction with the workplace, but ncreasingly, an expectation that chargers be available making them part of nearly all our participating organizations’ recruiting and retention packages. In trying to determine how many chargers to provide, the participating organizations often underestimated the demand and recommended thinking ahead when planning. Some progressive cities such as Salt Lake City and Duluth, Minnesota  are beginning to mandate chargers in all new construction. The required number varies from 1 to 5 percent of spaces depending on the jurisdiction. Forward-thinking businesses, such as those in our study, believe these requirements are conservative and plan to expand the number of available chargers. LinkedIn, for example, which covers about 10 percent of parking spaces with EV chargers, is building toward a target of 20 percent. 2. Allow dynamic pricing Most study participants saw value in providing free charging for employees. What they have learned is that it not only builds employee satisfaction, but also encourages EV adoption. While there is a strong commitment to providing free charging, an increasing number of organizations are opting to charge fees for lingering at the stations. In an effort to optimize the use of the charging stations, it is common to assess a fee after a car has been parked at a charger for more than four hours. This is made possible by using “smart” chargers — chargers connected to a network that allows managers to not only tailor fee structures but to send alerts to users as well as monitor usage and capture greenhouse gas-related data.  3. Optimize energy management Study participants understood that the expected increase in demand for workplace charging will require more attention to power management. In addition to meeting the extra demand without over-tapping their capacity, they also want to assure the most efficient use of the charging infrastructure. Power management features available on some chargers enable site managers to maximize the number of charging ports before having to upgrade existing wiring or panels. These systems also enable management to assure that charging EVs never exceed the maximum aggregate electrical load, thus avoiding potential peak load charges. These systems also enable managers to control when and how much energy is being tapped to maximize consumption during those times of the day when renewable power is most plentiful. Organizations serious about using an EV program to lower their carbon footprints may find an increasing need to invest in renewable power. 4. Source from renewable power Most study participants power their chargers with lines from their existing building panels, so the electricity comes from the same generation source as their buildings. This is the most cost-effective method for powering the chargers, but it links the carbon impact to the generation source provided by the region’s utility. If the local utility is powered mostly by coal generation plants, the carbon savings may be negligible.  Organizations serious about using an EV program to lower their carbon footprints may find an increasing need to invest in renewable power. Amazon, for example, plans to increase its renewable energy usage from 40 percent to 100 percent by 2030 . Bank of America already sources 91percent of its energy from renewable sources and will be rolling out on-site solar generation at more than 60 of its locations in the next two years. A number of the research participants already have invested in their own on-site generation, and 55 percent report that they are looking to add or expand this capability in the future. When self-generation is not feasible, organizations have increasing opportunities to source renewable energy through their utilities.  Electrification of vehicle fleets will markedly reduce greenhouse gasses. Employers have much to gain and much to offer in this transition. Offering on-site, electric vehicle charging not only will contribute to the infrastructure needed to speed this transition, but also benefit companies that offer this amenity.  To hear a fuller story from one of our study participants, visit the recording with Erik Hansen of Workday. Pull Quote Organizations serious about using an EV program to lower their carbon footprints may find an increasing need to invest in renewable power. In trying to determine how many chargers to provide, the participating organizations often underestimated the demand and recommended thinking ahead when planning. Topics Transportation & Mobility Infrastructure Electric Vehicles ChargePoint Collective Insight Thinking in Systems Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Herr Loeffler Close Authorship

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Workplace EV charging: Lessons from sustainability trailblazers

PG&E pleads guilty to manslaughter in 2018 wildfire deaths

June 18, 2020 by  
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Utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) pled guilty this week to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of unlawful fire starting, admitting its faulty power lines began a horrendous 2018  wildfire . Dubbed the Camp Fire, the blaze in question started in Butte County,  California  on November 8, 2018. The fire killed at least 84 people, destroyed about 18,000 buildings and devastated the town of Paradise, making it California’s most destructive wildfire ever. Related: Climate change heightens California’s drought and wildfire risks Butte County Superior Court Judge Michael Deems read out the names of people who’d died in the fire one by one as their photos flashed on a screen. After each charge, PG&E CEO and President Bill Johnson said, “Guilty, your honor.” “Our equipment started that fire,” Johnson admitted. A year-long investigation led by Butte County District Attorney Michael Ramsey determined that PG&E’s outdated equipment caused the 2018 fire. The brutal grand jury report concluded the  utility  company ignored repeated warnings about old, poorly maintained power lines that failed to adhere to state regulations, showing a “callous disregard” for people’s lives and property. PG&E’s plea is part of an agreement with Butte County prosecutors to avoid further criminal proceedings against the utility company. The plea deal includes pledging billions to improve safety and assist Camp Fire victims and accepting closer oversight. The company will pay $3.5 million in fines and a half million in costs. PG&E will also put $15 million towards water for residents, as the Camp Fire destroyed Miocene Canal, one of the area’s vital water sources. “I am here today on behalf of the 23,000 men and women of PG&E, to accept responsibility for the fire here that took so many lives and changed these communities forever,” Johnson said in a written statement. In January 2019, wildfires drove PG&E to file for bankruptcy. The utility has paid out tens of billions in victim settlements and lost billions more in damaged equipment during 2015, 2017 and 2018 wildfires. PG&E has agreed to skip paying out shareholder dividends for three years, which will save about $4 billion. Ramsey said this is the first time any major utility has been charged with homicide stemming from a reckless fire. Still, he is not satisfied with the fine and thinks PG&E should pay much more for the  deaths  and damage that Camp Fire caused. + NPR Image via Pexels

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PG&E pleads guilty to manslaughter in 2018 wildfire deaths

154 elephants have mysteriously died in Botswana

June 18, 2020 by  
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Botswana wildlife conservation officials are investigating the mysterious death of 154 elephants in just 3 months. Wildlife officers in the country have said that there has been a sudden surge in deaths of elephants in the northwestern part of the country. The deaths are not associated with poaching or poisoning, according to the Regional Wildlife Coordinator, Dimakatso Ntshebe. The carcasses of these animals were found intact, suggesting that they were not killed by poachers. Normally, poachers will kill elephants for their meat or tusks. According to the regional coordinator, preliminary investigations have also ruled out poisoning via humans and anthrax as the possible causes of death. Anthrax was the first suspect on the list of possible causes, as it naturally occurs in the soil and harms wildlife in Botswana. But initial investigations by scientists have ruled out the possibility of anthrax and poisoning. Related: Mass poaching in Botswana leaves behind 90 tuskless elephants These recent deaths are raising alarm considering that elephant populations all over Africa have been under threat from poaching , poisoning and anthrax. Today, Botswana is home to almost one-third of all the elephants on the continent. Due to efforts to protect wildlife in the country, the population of elephants in Botswana has risen to 130,000 in 2020 from just 80,000 in the 1990s. The same can’t be said about other countries with less stringent wildlife laws. The deaths of these elephants in Botswana comes at a time when wildlife conservation efforts have been dealt a big blow in the country. Last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi lifted a 5-year ban on big game hunting, prompting uproar from conservation groups. Although the growing number of elephants in Botswana might seem like a positive move to the rest of the world, it is not much welcomed by the locals. Farmers have raised complaints about the elephants destroying crops; it is such complaints that prompted the president to allow big game poaching again. Besides the mysterious elephant deaths, Botswana still grapples with the problem of poachers. According to the Wildlife Conservation Officers in Botswana, the Okavango Delta alone has lost over 25 elephants to poachers between December 2019 and May 2020. The situation has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, as poachers take advantage due to the lack of safari tourists. The Regional Wildlife Coordinator now says that they are intensifying surveillance in high-risk areas to curb poaching. Samples from the dead elephants are also under scrutiny to determine the exact cause of death so that intervention measures can be taken. Via Reuters and Yale Environment 360 Image via Anja

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154 elephants have mysteriously died in Botswana

Utilities are the new cool

April 9, 2020 by  
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Thriving in the age of climate change pivots around electricity, and that means electric utilities are at the center.

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Utilities are the new cool

Leading states have designed new ways to help utilities fight climate change

February 27, 2020 by  
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An inside look at innovations afoot to manage energy demand in at least 13 states.

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Leading states have designed new ways to help utilities fight climate change

Driving a zero-emissions future: GM’s holistic approach to meeting long-term energy goals

January 20, 2020 by  
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Sponsored: CMS Enterprises talks with global sustainability leader Rob Threlkeld of General Motors about the roles renewable energy plays in helping GM meet its energy and business goals.

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Driving a zero-emissions future: GM’s holistic approach to meeting long-term energy goals

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