So far, this year is a microgrid letdown. Here is what’s next

August 14, 2020 by  
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So far, this year is a microgrid letdown. Here is what’s next Sarah Golden Fri, 08/14/2020 – 00:45 I had high hopes for microgrids this year. The cost has fallen, out-of-the-box solutions are more common and businesses and homes understand the expense of losing power. All signs pointed to this being the year of the microgrid.  Yet here we are, at the start of the new fire season, and we’re just launching programs and soliciting proposals designed to add more resilience. What happened? For one thing, regulation moves slowly. The California Public Utilities Commission fast-tracked a rule-making process in September to help accelerate the deployment of microgrids. With that process still underway, the regulator issued a short-term action to deploy microgrids in mid-June . You know, just a few weeks before the start of this fire season.  It’s also tough for major utilities to gear up new technologies — and they’re juggling a lot: clean energy targets; COVID-19 complications; and in some cases, bankruptcy. Pacific Gas and Electric, California’s largest utility and the originator of 2018’s deadly Camp Fire, is simply not on track to ensure clean energy reliability. Instead, the utility is planning to deploy mobile diesel generators . This stop-gap measure is low-tech and dirty — but it should keep sections of communities online in a way that deployments of customer-sited energy assets wouldn’t. To make matters worse, the coronavirus is slowing the deployment of microgrids. Shelter-in-place orders have delayed permitting, construction and interconnection of new projects. The first half of the year was the slowest period for microgrid deployments in four years, according to an analysis by Wood Mackenzie .  Speeding up microgrid deployments  Although 2020 has hit some hiccups (to put it mildly), California is well-positioned to see more microgrids soon.  Utilities are mandated to increase energy reliability while meeting clean energy requirements, and service providers are motivated to secure major utility contracts . The state is also working to address key barriers to accelerate deployment for customer-sited energy projects, according to Wood Mackenzie microgrid analyst Isaac Maze-Rothstein.  Because modular microgrid components are all built primarily in factory, the construction timelines — and total system costs — can be significantly decreased.   Programs such as the California Public Utilities’ Self-Generation Incentive Program encourage more customers to install energy storage at home, and California’s SB 1339 aims to streamline interconnections, which will help bring more microgrids online and keep costs low. Additionally, more out-of-the-box microgrid solutions are coming, simplifying the whole process.  “We are seeing the emergence of modular microgrids over the last year,” Maze-Rothstein said in an email. “Because the components are all built primarily in factory, the construction timelines — and total system costs — can be significantly decreased.” Examples include Scale Microgrid Solutions , Gridscape Solutions , Instant On and BlockEnergy . The value of resilience  A growing body of research is working to quantify the cost of inaction.  We know outages — from extreme weather, natural disasters, physical attacks and cyber attacks — are becoming more frequent. And they’re expensive. Weather-related outages alone cost Americans $18 billion to $33 billion each year between 2003 and 2012, according to the Department of Energy . One of last year’s planned outages in California cost the local economy an estimated $1.8 billion . At the same time, the technologies that would keep the lights on are maturing — and providing a potential new source of revenue. As energy assets become more interconnected and grid operators look for added flexibility, energy asset deployments look increasingly economically attractive. Analysis from Rocky Mountain Institute modeled the economics of solar-plus-storage systems for the approximately 1 million customers affected by last year’s planned power shutoffs in California. It found that those customers would have enjoyed a combined net benefit of $1.4 billion, a calculation that takes into account the value of the energy assets’ contribution to the grid.  In a separate report, RMI showed the falling cost of batteries coupled with better energy management technologies often make the payback period of solar-plus-storage shorter than solar alone.  The calculations show the investments pay back faster for commercial customers, as the economic impacts of shuttering businesses are easier to quantify. This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote Because modular microgrid components are all built primarily in factory, the construction timelines — and total system costs — can be significantly decreased. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Microgrids Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Equipment from Gridscape, one of several companies developing modular microgrids. Courtesy of Gridscape Close Authorship

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So far, this year is a microgrid letdown. Here is what’s next

This carbon challenge is bigger than cars, aviation and shipping combined

August 13, 2020 by  
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This carbon challenge is bigger than cars, aviation and shipping combined Adam Aston Thu, 08/13/2020 – 02:15 You may not know it, but you rely on industrial heat every day. It helped make the bricks that hold up your home; the cement underfoot. It forged the steel and glass in your car, and it also cooked the aluminum, plastic and silicon in the very screen on which you may be reading these words.  Industrial heat is essential but largely invisible. To transform basic inputs into stuff we need, manufacturers constantly heat (and cool) minerals, ores and other raw materials to extreme temperatures. And for all the magic of this everyday alchemy, industrial heat poses a growing threat to the climate. The world’s kilns, reactors, chillers and furnaces are powered mostly by fossil fuels.  High-temperature industrial heat, over 932 degrees F, poses a particular challenge because that’s the point at which fuels beyond electricity become the mainstay. Overall, industrial thermal energy accounts for about a tenth of global emissions, according to a December study by Innovation for Cool Earth Forum (ICEF, a Japan-backed multinational expert group). At 10 percent, industrial heat ranks on par with the combined emissions of cars (about 6 percent), planes (about 2 percent) and ships (about 2 percent).  Yet while those transport sectors are advancing towards low-carbon solutions — with promising technologies cultivated by multilateral accords — industrial heat lacks any consensus plan and has a long to-do list to develop low-carbon alternatives.  The options include biodiesel, renewable electricity, renewable natural gas, solar thermal, geothermal, thermal storage and hydrogen. Yet as a best guess, if these were market-ready today, renewable thermal solutions would cost from two times to over 10 times more than fossil fuels, according to an October report from the Center for Global Energy Policy (CGEP) at Columbia University.  Making natural gas renewable  In time, decarbonizing industrial heat is likely to require an all-of-the above mix of solutions. But for now, renewable natural gas (RNG) may offer a fix soonest. Chemically similar to the fossil gas piped to our kitchens, RNG is instead generated from the breakdown of organic matter at landfills (the biggest current source), municipal sewage treatment plants, farm waste and similar sites. RNG also can be blended into regular natural gas pipelines with minimal modification, much the way that input from windmills can flow onto the same grid as power generated by a coal plant.  In time, decarbonizing industrial heat is likely to require an all-of-the above mix of solutions. But for now, renewable natural gas (RNG) may offer a fix soonest. In fact, the wind example can help illustrate how early efforts to decarbonize industrial thermal energy are shaping up. In the 2000s, when wind and solar weren’t yet cost-competitive, market players pioneered ways to sell renewable energy indirectly. The solution was a set of standards and trading rules known as renewable energy credits, or RECs. The credits let a business in, say, Pittsburgh buy wind power generated in California, even before renewables were yet available on Pennsylvania’s grid.  What’s more, RECs allow a wind farm to sell both the power it generated and the renewable attributes of that power. As consumer and corporate demand for renewables grew, the value of the RECs rose, thereby incenting new wind and solar projects. Over time, RECs let companies source the renewable energy they needed, even when it wasn’t available locally, which made it easier for companies and states to slowly boost their targets for renewables.  Certifying renewable thermal solutions  Fast forward to 2020, and a team of collaborators is hoping to adapt learnings pioneered with RECs to nurture a nascent market for zero-carbon fuels, such as RNG, that buyers including L’Oréal USA and the University of California System are already using to generate renewable thermal energy. Today, RNG is held back in part by a Catch-22 financial trap. Costs add up quickly: equipment to collect biogas (the unprocessed methane-rich vapor given off by waste); upgrade the gas to pipeline quality; and connect to existing gas pipelines.  Capital needs for smaller landfill projects run from $5 million to $25 million. Larger projects — such as agriculture and wastewater plants — can hit $100 million, according to Jade Patterson, BloombergNEF’s analyst covering RNG. On average, each RNG project requires $17 million of capital investment, based on data from the RNG Coalition. A cement factory blast furnace in Maddaloni, Italy. At that price, most farms or town dumps can’t afford to develop biogas collection on their own. “An effective certification program could give lenders the confidence to fund new installations,” Patterson said. And if farms see reliable demand for their RNG, more are likely to make the investment: supply grows; prices fall; and the Catch-22 can be broken. “Companies are trying to decarbonize the heat piece of their Scope 1 carbon footprint,” explained Blaine Collison, an Environmental Protection Agency veteran and senior vice president at David Gardiner and Associates, a co-convener – along with the World Wildlife Fund and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions – of the Washington, D.C.-based Renewable Thermal Collaborative. “Creating renewable thermal attributes and trading instruments is critical to enable companies to act, to show the actions they’re taking and to demonstrate the reductions they’re achieving.”  The effort to extend a REC model to renewable thermal energy is being co-led by the Center for Resource Solutions (CRS), a San Francisco based non-governmental organization that’s been advancing sustainable energy via policy and market-based innovations since 1997. The first step? CRS is building a set of rules that meet the highest environmental standards and ensure that when customers buy green fuel, such as RNG, they can verify its zero-carbon merits, said Rachael Terada , CRS’ director of technical projects, in a recent webinar .  Now in its first draft, CRS’ Green-e certified fuel certificate standard is focusing initially on RNG, already being produced and sold on a small scale across North America. The standard can be extended to other renewable fuels in time. (Watch out for more news in this space at CRS’ Renewable Energy Markets 2020 , convening online for free Sept. 21-24.) Covering the U.S. and Canada, the CRS Green-e certificate program will establish protocols to create a registry such that each dekatherm (equal to 1 million British thermal units) is unique and cannot be double-counted, Terada said.  An effective certification program could give lenders the confidence to fund new installations. There’s already demand from industry to buy more RNG, said Benjamin Gerber, chief executive of Minneapolis-based M-RETS (formerly Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System), one of CRS’s partners in creating this trading platform.  “Having clear standards for renewable thermal products along with robust trading platforms will help drive greenhouse gas reductions,” Collison said. “We know that there’s a growing corporate need for these solutions.”  Thermal energy, in the long run CRS’ Green-e initiative has the potential to accelerate investment in renewable fuels, and thereby open up ways to decarbonize industrial energy markets.  Before then, companies can take some basic first steps, such as auditing their thermal energy use. “A lot of organizations simply haven’t done the work to understand how they’re heating and cooling their operations,” said Meredith Annex, who heads BloombergNEF’s heating decarbonization research team. The urgency is growing. As industrialization accelerates in China, India and other emerging markets, global demand for industrial heat has grown by 50 percent since 2000, estimates BloombergNEF , and without lower carbon options, will continue to rise.  Without a fix, global climate goals may not be achievable. “Decarbonizing industrial heat production will be essential to meeting the Paris Agreement goals,” notes David Sandalow, a former Obama administration official and lead author of ICEP’s roadmap to decarbonize industrial heat .  Pull Quote In time, decarbonizing industrial heat is likely to require an all-of-the above mix of solutions. But for now, renewable natural gas (RNG) may offer a fix soonest. An effective certification program could give lenders the confidence to fund new installations. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Manufacturing 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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What switching to satellite offices could mean for sustainability

August 10, 2020 by  
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What switching to satellite offices could mean for sustainability Jesse Klein Mon, 08/10/2020 – 01:45 When the coronavirus pandemic started in March, many of America’s major cities experienced a mass exodus of people in search of places with more living space for home offices and outdoor areas for easier social distancing. And as many tech companies extend their work from home policies indefinitely , such as Google , which recently announced it will allow employees to work from home until July 2021, this migration could become permanent.  “There is this phenomenon that we know is happening around people leaving the major cities and going to smaller places,” said Lindsay Baker , former first chief sustainability officer at WeWork and founder of space use software app company Comfy . “People sometimes don’t choose to live in cities. They live there because they work there.”   And as employees move away, many companies are starting to reevaluate the necessity of maintaining their large corporate offices or complexes in congested, expensive places with prestigious addresses. In June, a San Franciscan tweeted a photo of three moving trucks on the edge of the city’s financial district near Chinatown and commented that he has seen over 30 in the area. At least anecdotally, both people and companies are leaving town. They are moving out of office buildings because they don’t need them.  But even if remote work becomes the long-term norm for every company post-pandemic, humans still like to work together. There’s still a part of us that wants to physically come together to collaborate and connect. So real estate strategies may turn towards smaller neighborhood satellite offices in multiple suburban locations, instead of one massive complex that serves an entire region or, in some cases, an entire state.  These smaller satellite hubs could allow employees to come together a few times a week and supply high-speed internet and better backgrounds than a kitchen table for important meetings, while also being less crowded for social distancing concerns, giving employees shorter commutes and allowing for a quieter, more accessible outdoor environments than a typical bustling financial district location.  But what will this possible transition to smaller hubs mean for the sustainability of office buildings where building designers and office managers have spent the last decade making every last inch of a multistory building as energy- and waste-efficient as possible? Large complexes have sustainabilities of scale When an influential company builds an HQ, it becomes iconic and synonymous with the company’s brand and image. The most well-known ones become part of the pop culture ethos and get nicknames: The Apple Spaceship, The GooglePlex, The Salesforce Tower, The Amazon Biodomes, The Hearst Tower, The Bank of China Tower, Lloyd’s “Inside-Out Building.” That notoriety incentivizes the company to commit to sustainable designs, technologies and programs for the highly scrutinized building. But the tenants couldn’t heavily invest in those projects without the massive number of people each building serves. And the bigger buildings could have sustainability of scale that smaller offices can’t provide. “I think to an extent you could make a claim that a larger campus or a larger building would be more sustainable [than a smaller office] for the simple fact that you can implement different technologies that have a better ROI,” said Kyle Goehring, executive vice president of clean energy solutions at JLL.  Media Authorship Salesforce Close Authorship These technologies can be as mundane as better, more energy-efficient boilers, lights, heaters, filters and air conditioners or as radical as the Salesforce Tower’s in-building blackwater treatment equipment.  “When you’ve got big buildings, you’ve got more complex, robust mechanical systems,” said Sean McCrady, vice president of Healthy Buildings, recently acquired by UL. And larger, more complex buildings are usually staffed with teams of specialists to run them. They notice when something isn’t running efficiently and work to find solutions. Just having people around in charge of sustainability to notice when the lights on the sixth floor keep getting left on is important. There are other sustainabilities of scale that large campus’ offer that smaller ones can’t. The Google Cafeteria, for example, works on a scale that allows for extremely sustainable operations. It uses ugly fruit , has a food waste reduction program and can serve on and wash real plates instead of using disposable ones. “Even if I bought a Tupperware full of whatever food I had to my office, took it home and washed it in my residential dishwasher, it would have been more consumptive than what Google does,” Baker said. “Because it’s at scale.” According to Baker, tech perks aren’t going away. Even in the time of the pandemic, employees still expect some of the same benefits they enjoyed at their large complexes. But instead of a buffet-style with real plates and a full kitchen in the complex, companies will deliver servings in disposable containers to the smaller hub locations. And with the virus still on everyone’s mind, instead of bulk ordering trail mix, nuts and candy for a bin with scope, single-serving chip bags and cookie packages will feel necessary. Sustainable cafeterias might be replaced with high-waste food delivery services.  Another factor that contributes to more sustainability investment on large corporate campuses is that they are either owned by the company or are in long-term lease agreements, sometimes up to 20 years. Both these situations give the company much more control over building decisions.  “Real estate owners will often say that the stability of long term and big leases help them to be able to make some of these sustainability improvements,” Baker said.  Almost every building expert interviewed for this story mentioned that companies and landlords are more willing to make changes if they have a steady partner to help carry the costs. There’s no point making a bunch of sustainable changes if the company plans to abandon that location in two years. Shifting to a smaller corporate office model with many businesses in each building and each company dealing with many landlords could threaten a company’s ability to influence a sustainable agenda. Smaller satellites could shift incentives  If post-pandemic, companies decided that instead of 100,000 to 1 million square feet organized into a complex, they need 10,000 square feet in 10 separate hub locations, there are a lot more decision-makers at the table, and a lot more split incentives.  “In America, buildings are owned by one entity, managed by a different entity and occupied by another entity,” Baker said. “All of these things getting disrupted means that there’s a little bit of mayhem going on for most buildings.” Essentially, there are more renters, more landlords, more operators and less control for any individual party, making getting anything done more difficult.   Each entity has different incentives that affect the feasibility of sustainable improvements. For example, where a tenant might see a huge advantage in installing solar panels to decrease the utility bill, the owner of the building who passes the electricity bill onto the renter doesn’t have any reason to pay for the solar infrastructure.  “Oftentimes, it’s the owner who’s really in a position of power,” Baker said. “When you have more tenants and shorter terms, split incentives become a much bigger problem, and it’s harder to get an owner to spend the money.” Goehring agreed. “A larger site campus may be able to put in more technologies because you have greater control over that property,” he said. “Whereas if you’re in much smaller sites and you have multiple tenants, you may not be able to implement an on-site renewable or energy-efficient solution because you’re sharing the asset with multiple parties. You may not be able to get agreement.” Essentially, there are more renters, more landlords, more operators and less control for any individual party, making getting anything done more difficult. Adobe already has encountered this problem with its satellite offices across the globe.  “If we have a small office somewhere that we rent, we have no local control,” said Vince Digneo, sustainability strategist for Adobe. “We’re working on strategies for being able to work with landlords.” On the other hand, the fact that the satellite offices are not as tightly controlled also could help green initiatives get off the ground. According to Baker, there’s less bureaucracy, and it could be easier to get decisions made. Moreover, in a smaller office, the people in charge might be more willing to take a chance on a change at a smaller scale. Even overhauling something simple could be a massive undertaking at a huge headquarters.  “Sometimes the best sustainability performance actually happens in the satellite offices of these big companies,” Baker said. “They were able to break down more silos faster. That stuff is sort of the bread and butter of sustainability work.” Sustainability could thrive in a market of flexibility, pressure and competition As corporations need less space, they have more potential locations available to hold them. According to the commercial building experts, fewer constraints, along with the pandemic exodus has created a renter’s market, forcing landlords to be more flexible to compete. To attract companies with sustainability commitments, smaller landlords that didn’t have to think about solar or efficient heating before will hopefully start making changes.  “You can influence the people who own the assets to implement solutions because if they don’t, you are going to go lease a different property or you’re going to relocate elsewhere,” Goehring said.  Baker hopes that the changing market will develop a sense of competition between landlords to be the most sustainable and be in line with the sustainable values and goals of larger companies. That means there’s an opportunity for the massive companies that need space in many places to turn up the heat on more buildings, more regulators and more landlords in more places. With satellite offices, companies could influence sustainable policies and access to renewable energy in many areas, instead of just focusing on the one that is home to the large base.  With Adobe’s many satellite locations, it is able to put pressure on regulators in states outside of its headquarters in California. According to Digneo, Adobe was able to work with local utilities such as Portland General Electric to get renewable energy to its sites in Hillsboro, Oregon, and later in Utah.  We are still far from the end of this pandemic, and we don’t know what the long-term ramifications for our office lives will be. But the private sector is usually quick to adapt and take advantage of a changing market, and the hope is those adaptations will include more sustainable offices, whatever the size.  Pull Quote Essentially, there are more renters, more landlords, more operators and less control for any individual party, making getting anything done more difficult. Topics Buildings Built Environment Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A rendering of Apple’s spaceship-like headquarters in Cupertino.

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New local campaigns can bring cheaper and cleaner rooftop solar to communities of color

August 6, 2020 by  
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New local campaigns can bring cheaper and cleaner rooftop solar to communities of color Lacey Shaver Thu, 08/06/2020 – 00:20 There is a new urgency across the United States to address structural and systemic racial inequities in criminal justice , wealth and housing , employment , health care and education . These disparities are also pervasive in energy. One common measure of this is “energy burden,” or the share of take-home income spent on energy bills. Communities of color have been shown to have a 24–27 percent higher energy burden than White Americans when controlling across income levels, and low-income residents experience an energy burden up to three times higher than high-income residents. Rooftop solar has the potential to reduce energy burden in communities of color, but it has not yet lived up to its potential due to systemic barriers: lack of solar education and outreach; financial challenges such as lower income and access to credit; and issues related to home ownership, such as lower ownership rates or roof condition. Rooftop solar has the potential to reduce energy burden in communities of color, but it has not yet lived up to its potential due to systemic barriers. Local governments can play a pivotal role in expanding access to solar for these communities by developing programs that address these systemic barriers and helping to bring the benefits of clean energy to the communities that need them the most. One useful program that local governments can consider is a “Solarize,” or community bulk-purchasing, campaign, which has been shown to reduce solar costs and address marketing and outreach barriers to solar. Cities can take these programs to a new level by partnering with community groups to focus outreach in communities of color and collaborating with financial institutions to develop solutions for low-and moderate-income (LMI) residents. Solar can help relieve energy burden, but has not yet reached communities of color With a simple payback of less than the 25-year life of solar photovoltaics in all 50 states and less than half that time in most states, rooftop solar has reduced energy costs for residents throughout the country. However, these cost savings have mostly benefited White residents. A 2019 report indicated that in census tracks with the same median household income, Black- and Hispanic-majority neighborhoods have 69 percent and 30 percent less rooftop solar installed, respectively, than neighborhoods without a racial majority (versus 21 percent more solar in majority White communities). This is not just because of differences in homeownership. When controlling for ownership, majority Black and Hispanic communities still had 61 percent less and 45 percent less solar installed, respectively, than neighborhoods with no racial majority (versus 37 percent more in majority White neighborhoods). As a result, nearly half of Black majority communities in the United States do not have a single solar system installed. One thing is fairly certain: It is not because communities of color don’t care about reducing their environmental footprint. Recent polls have indicated that Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely, at 57 percent and 69 percent, respectively, to be concerned or alarmed about climate change than White Americans, at 49 percent. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. These frontline communities are disproportionately exposed to higher rates of pollution and climate change impacts from a long history of systemic inequities. Marketing and education through ‘Solarize’ campaigns Solar marketing and education provide essential exposure to the many benefits of solar and are necessary for increased and persistent solar adoption in any community. Unfortunately, this outreach and local solar education have not reached all communities equally. Marketing may not be reaching communities of color as effectively due to the solar industry’s focus on profitable and affluent areas, as well as its lack of diversity at the decision-making level. With nearly 70 percent of small-scale solar concentrated in just five of the most profitable states, most of which offer solar incentives and are highly affluent , large swaths of the country and communities of color have been left out of the solar industry’s marketing. Marketing may not be reaching communities of color as effectively due to the solar industry’s focus on profitable and affluent areas, as well as its lack of diversity at the decision-making level. Furthermore, the lack of persons of color represented in solar companies — almost 90 percent of solar senior executives are White and only 2 percent Black and 6 percent Hispanic —  likely affects which communities are predominantly targeted through marketing campaigns and the effectiveness of those campaigns. The significant lack of solar in communities of color also has resulted in a lack of general knowledge of how to access and benefit from solar. These communities have not fully benefited from the ” solar contagion effect ,” in which residents who see solar being installed in their neighborhood are more likely to install their own solar systems. This is no surprise considering residents are significantly more trusting of their neighbor’s opinions of solar than information communicated by the solar industry. In fact, SolarCity released a report indicating one-third of solar customers were referred by a neighbor and another study suggests that the presence of two to three solar installations in a neighborhood results in one additional installation. Notably, this contagion effect has been shown to be highest in communities of color but has not yet realized its full potential. Community purchasing campaigns can help fill this void if they focus outreach to specific underserved communities. Long the target of scams and predatory lending , communities of color may be more skeptical of solar product offerings that sound too good to be true. Community purchasing campaigns can help fill this void if they focus outreach to specific underserved communities. However, partnering with a trusted local community organization that understands the community dynamics can build trust and enable solar education to come through community leaders, newsletters and events. These sources have shown to be most effective for increasing solar uptake in low-income and communities of color . For communities with minimal solar exposure (again, nearly 50 percent of Black communities have zero solar), these campaigns provide the essential education to drive community-wide solar adoption. Bringing down solar costs and — in some cases — reducing credit barriers The top barrier to installing residential solar is typically financial, regardless of income or race. Solarize campaigns have shown to help lessen these financial barriers by reducing solar costs by about 20 percent . These cost savings result from removing solar company costs for customer marketing and using economies of scale. The cost and time savings with this simplified process can be even more prevalent in jurisdictions that streamline solar permitting given the high volume of installations that come with Solarize campaigns. While this discount has been shown to be a leading factor to participate in Solarize campaigns at every income level, these savings alone do not solve the compounding issues of overall cost and creditworthiness facing communities of color. First, Black and Hispanic families have significantly lower median household incomes, 41 percent and 27 percent lower than White families, and therefore additional incentives beyond Solarize may be necessary to enable participation. Second, they are more likely to have lower credit scores that can result in challenges in obtaining a loan to pay the upfront cost ($16,500 for the typical 5 kW system) or meeting the credit requirements for a solar power purchase agreement or lease . This situation can lead to higher interest rates and make solar less economic or uneconomic for these community members. To make Solarize campaigns work for LMI residents, cities can develop partnerships with local green lending institutions (a Green Bank, community development financial institution or local credit union) to address cost and credit barriers. Connecticut’s version of Solarize, the Solar for All Campaign , offers a great example of using a financial partnership to expand the reach of a typical Solarize campaign to LMI residents. To make Solarize campaigns work for LMI residents, cities can develop partnerships with local green lending institutions to address cost and credit barriers. After realizing that business as usual wasn’t spurring solar uptake in low-income communities, the Connecticut Green Bank created new incentives specifically for LMI residents, paired solar with energy efficiency upgrades, instituted “no money down, no credit required” Solarize offerings and recruited contractors with experience reaching underserved markets. In three years, this multifaceted approach increased solar penetration in Connecticut’s low-income communities by 188 percent, and helped over 900 low-income households go solar. Pairing Solarize with community solar to bring solar to renters Lack of home ownership is a major barrier to solar in communities of color due to a long history of discriminatory housing policies. Black and Hispanic households are less likely to own their homes, at 43 percent and 46 percent, respectively, versus 72 percent of White households . With a higher percentage of renters, it is much more difficult for communities of color to access residential solar due to a split incentive between the landlord, who typically decides whether to pursue capital improvements, and the renter, who pay the utility bills. Further, for people of color that do own their home, many live in older homes that need significant roof or structural repairs to support a solar system. One successful way that cities are expanding solar access to renters is through community solar projects, which enable participants to subscribe to a local clean energy project and receive the associated credits on their electricity bill. Combining marketing and outreach on parallel Solarize campaigns and community solar projects can leverage limited local government resources and more effectively reach both renters and homeowners. This has been an effective strategy for NY-Sun’s community solar Solarize option and Denver’s parallel Solarize and community solar campaigns . Take action today to implement a Solarize campaign The American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator , co-led by Rocky Mountain Institute and World Resources Institute, is launching a residential solar cohort this summer to help local governments implement Solarize campaigns and accelerate residential solar adoption in their community, with a particular focus on historically marginalized communities. If your local government is interested in learning how a community purchasing campaign can help expand solar access in your community, please reach out to Ryan Shea at rshea@rmi.org to learn more. Pull Quote Rooftop solar has the potential to reduce energy burden in communities of color, but it has not yet lived up to its potential due to systemic barriers. Marketing may not be reaching communities of color as effectively due to the solar industry’s focus on profitable and affluent areas, as well as its lack of diversity at the decision-making level. Community purchasing campaigns can help fill this void if they focus outreach to specific underserved communities. To make Solarize campaigns work for LMI residents, cities can develop partnerships with local green lending institutions to address cost and credit barriers. Contributors Ryan Shea Topics Energy & Climate Cities Finance & Investing Social Justice Solar Community Energy Equity & Inclusion Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute RMI Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off NREL researchers work on a photovoltaic dual-use research project at the UMass Crop Animal Research and Education Center in South Deerfield, MA. Photo by Science in HD 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

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

8 cities share how racial justice is embedded into their climate plans

July 20, 2020 by  
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8 cities share how racial justice is embedded into their climate plans Jesse Klein Mon, 07/20/2020 – 02:00 As COVID-19 rampages through vulnerable minority populations with tragic consequences, and protests for racial justice surge among a similar demographic, city climate planners see a renewed focus on climate justice. The pandemic, in some ways, has been a trial run for the anticipated coming impacts of climate change — a not-so-distant future in which low-income and minority populations are the most at risk. As mayors make quick strategic changes to address the short-term COVID crisis, they are also in the midst of planning for similar long-term climate issues. Last week, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group , an organization of mayors from around the global, launched a Detailed Agenda for Green and Just Recovery from COVID-19 to ensure that this crisis propels sustainable innovations instead of a return to old ways.  “Equity is really at the heart of our recovery in the city,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell of her city, New Orleans, during the C40 press conference. “We’ve had 542 deaths [due to COVID-19] in our city and out of the 542, 404 were Black or Brown. Our response to this pandemic is an opportunity to create a much more healthier, more sustainable and equitable city, no doubt about it.” Another organization, Climate Mayors , a network of 438 United States mayors, hopes to provide peer-to-peer sharing between American cities to help adapt to and in some ways reverse our changing climate. It has helped fill the U.S- shaped hole in leadership left by the Trump administration.  “We want to make sure we’re reflecting back to the international community that there is a lot of effort going on to reduce emissions and energy technology,” said James Ritchotte, director of Climate Mayors. GreenBiz recently spoke with eight chief sustainability officers and mayors that are part of the Climate Mayors network to understand what actions they are taking to ensure climate justice is embedded into their climate resiliency plans. Below are excerpts from the interviews, edited for length and clarity. Boston Boston is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050 by focusing on their 86,000 buildings. The city is also investing in seawalls to prevent erosion due to sea level rise.  Christopher Cook, chief of environment, energy and open space On COVID-19 pandemic learnings that can apply to climate change initiatives:  What COVID has put in the forefront is how interwoven racial equity is with our climate crisis. Those social equity gaps in our society show how intentional we have to be in the climate work to make sure that we’re not exacerbating the situation. We have to be very intentional about job creation, or else our most socially vulnerable won’t be able to fully participate. We started very intentional conversations with our Office of Workforce Development to make sure that we are connecting directly with communities of color, and are starting a job training program for city retrofitting. On how COVID-19 gives us a chance to help vulnerable populations:  We can take [the pandemic as an] opportunity to be intentional about creating a cleaner respiratory environment for our citizens, especially those living in affordable housing. People need to have air filters and high-quality HVAC systems. Can we also use this as an opportunity to electrify those systems and retrofit those systems? So as we make buildings more efficient and cleaner from a carbon perspective, can we also make them healthier buildings? Carmel, Indiana Carmel is focusing on making its city greener through transportation initiatives, including more bike access and roundabouts.  Mayor James Brainard On how making the city more bike accessible is an environmental justice issue: Everybody talks about affordable housing, it’s really more about affordable living. A lot of city design requires huge amounts of a poor person’s expenditures be spent on gas, automobiles and insurance. We unveiled 225 miles of bike trails so you can get anywhere within the city of Carmel by bicycle, which is also important for environmental justice. To somebody who can’t afford a car, that makes a huge difference. So many times we’ve designed our cities so that not having a car isn’t even an option. We are also working to make our city beautiful, too. Wealthy people can travel to some of the most beautiful places on earth. But for people who can’t, they have a right to have their city be beautiful as well. So we focused on that through public art and beautiful parks and trails. On environmentalism as a Republican issue:  [Environmentalism] is a Republican issue. It was Teddy Roosevelt that started the national parks. It was Eisenhower who set aside the arctic reserve. It was Nixon and Ford who signed the EPA into existence. The Migratory Bird act was Nixon. The Endangered Species Act was for Nixon. The Republicans were very much environmentalists, starting with Teddy Roosevelt. Ford was always environmentalist, and got a lot done. And it disappoints me that this is something the Republican party has not focused on recently. On how two ideologies can come to the same decision that benefits climate: I had a guy who was very conservative giving me a hard time about spending $750,000 on switching to LED streetlights. So I said to him, “Well, what about the cost savings?” Because of less electricity, the savings will be about a 22 percent a year annualized rate of return on that money we invest. I showed him the bills. And he said “Oh, I guess this is a pretty good idea.” So he didn’t care about the environment. But he did care a lot about the return on investment. By the time we ended the conversation he got to the same place. But not for the environmental reason, but for a fiscal reason. People can get in the same place for different reasons. Houston Houston has committed to 100 percent renewable energy for all municipal buildings on its way to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 .   Marissa Aho, chief of resilience officer On Houston’s strategy for imbedding climate justice into climate resilience: In January we released a report with recommendations particularly related to flood resilience. We focused on three historically underinvested communities in Houston: Independence Heights; Greenspoint; and Kashmere Gardens, which is part of Mayor [Sylvester] Turner’s Complete Communities Plan initiative, which is looking at 10 of our most historically under invested African American and Hispanic, Latinx neighborhoods, and creating action plans to improve quality of life. A majority of the key actions are really understanding that our most vulnerable people, places and systems are disproportionately affected when there is any disruption. So, we have a number of targets but one is to address the huge disparities in life expectancy depending on what neighborhood you grew up in or live in. And that pre-COVID was a 24-year disparity.  Los Angeles Los Angeles is on track for a 45 percent decrease in emissions by 2025 with the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. The city’s climate initiatives was written in conjunction with creating new green jobs as part of Los Angeles’ Green New Deal.   Lauren Faber O’Connor, chief sustainability officer On how Los Angeles plans to address heat issues to benefit lower-income communities:  A big concern of climate change are impacts of heat and extreme heat in Los Angeles. Some of our citywide goals just facilitate a cooler, more resilient city, and I mean cooler as in temperature. This needs to happen citywide but we’re targeting the rollout in communities that are in greatest need and have the lowest tree canopy and the most vulnerability, like an elderly population, low-income population who may not be able to run an AC if they even have an AC. We want to make sure that we’re cooling those neighborhoods, and doing it in a way that meets their needs by focusing on the walk to a bus stop and at the area around the bus stop. The laying of cool pavement to reduce the urban heat island effect by literally paving a lighter shade over our streets. And then combining those with local tree planting to create more canopy cover and doing those things in neighborhoods that need it the most. On focusing money towards overlooked communities: The Transformative Climate Communities Program was created by the state through the climate investments, cap and trade dollars. We worked with local community leaders to prepare projects that would apply for state funding. The first year the Watts neighborhood was awarded a $30 million grant. Watts has a really incredible history, including the Watts riots in the 1960s. It’s a lively community. They’ve suffered a lot of injustices and need more significant and more direct investment. We prioritize that with incredible innovation by electrifying the local buses, electrifying the service in Watts. But also providing an EV Car Share service, bike share and bike lanes, multiple pedestrian improvements to allow for more walking, rooftop solar for home. What’s incredible is that when we hear from our community leaders, they would say to us that Watts is always last. In this project, LA has put Watts in the front of the line. Oakland, California Oakland’s climate action plan to get to carbon neutrality includes funding for a downtown shuttle, constructing electric vehicle charging stations and launching a green retrofitting program for residential houses, among 29 other initiatives.   Daniel Hamilton, sustainability program manager On climate programs that address inequities:  When we talked about the need to create denser urban environments to accommodate more people, the community said, “Well, it’s not just about the densities and the land use. Its about housing discrimination.” The climate solutions to these couldn’t be ignorant of or silent on those types of topics. The action items are designed specifically to address the broader social issues as well as climate issues. It’s not just a greenhouse gas reduction policy. It’s a policy that targets the systems that create the greenhouse gases in ways that address historic inequities and provide some solutions. An example of this would be the action items focused on anti-displacement, so keeping people rooted in Oakland. When we talked about this densification of land uses, housing came up as a big issue. But the final action item doesn’t say “provide greater densities.” The final action item is actually support for the community land trust model to build wealth within the communities to allow people who are in Oakland to stay in the community and not have to move out to second- and third-tier suburbs and drive a lot further to get to the same jobs they exist in today. Orlando, Florida Orlando hopes to power the city entirely off renewable energy by 2050 . But the city’s 2018 Community Action Plan is on an even quicker timeline, establishing goals for 2040 that include getting the government’s 232 buildings up to LEED code, planting 20,000 trees and increasing the electrical vehicle infrastructure.  Chris Castro, director of the office of sustainability and resilience On creating programs that help low-income communities meet overall climate goals:  Low- and moderate-income communities often are spending two and three times as much per square foot on utilities than more affluent communities. The landlords of these homes or apartments are reluctant to make ongoing maintenance improvements to them. So they have very outdated air conditioning systems, outdated insulation and lighting. As a result, they have less resources, but they’re spending more on their utility bills. In one of our notorious communities of color, Paramore, people are burdened by upwards of 18 percent of their household income being spent on utilities . The average across in Orlando is 4.5 percent. That has helped us to develop new programs. We’ve partnered with a nonprofit called SELF, Solar Energy Loan Fund. We helped them establish their regional headquarters in Orlando. They provide funding, specifically to low and moderate income communities for home energy improvements, reducing energy and water use, lighting and HVAC, onsite solar, and even sewer and water improvements. It’s a loan product that is really looking at an unsecured very low interest loan for homeowners. So a person with a low credit score of 500 can get a loan for 5 percent to 6 percent interest from SELF versus getting laughed out of the bank when they’re asking for a loan to get a new AC system. This is an opportunity for people on the low and moderate income spectrum to have the financial tools to make these home improvements that improve quality of life, save energy, save water and reduce carbon right at the end of the day. I think we’ve invested about $150,000 over the last few years to help them out. Richmond, Virginia To reach the city’s goal of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emission by 2050, the sustainability office is focusing on increasing alternative energy options with solar panel installations.  Alicia Zatcoff, sustainability manager On climate mapping helped with the COVID response: We have a pretty sophisticated mapping, the equity index. We have gone through and assessed and about 20 social vulnerability factors including geographic-based and demographic factors, resulting over 140 layers and pieces of data on the map. We rank those pieces of land using our climate equity index to identify where new parks or open spaces could be. We mapped our heat index looking for our heat islands. Using the equity index we can prioritize those areas, which is a different approach than we would have taken a year or two ago. So we’ve done that for climate. And then when COVID hit, we went back to see what the risk factors are for getting COVID and then the factors for getting severe disease or dying. And what we found is they are so closely aligned with the climate risk and vulnerability factors. The community that was on the frontline of climate change, we’re also on the front line of COVID. Saint Paul, Minnesota Saint Paul’s top priorities are to become a carbon-neutral community and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2050. The government buildings are hoping to decarbonize by 2030.  Russell Stark, chief resilience officer  On how car sharing will benefit low-income communities  We are making sure that at the same time that we’re reducing emissions, we’re actually creating a mobility access benefit for our lowest-income communities. For example, car sharing has operated on a round trip model. Most of the parking locations are where the market is, usually around colleges or high density neighborhoods or in some cases better-off neighborhoods. When we thought about expanding our car share was to expand the service into some of our lowest income communities and communities of color. We are partnering with community-based organizations to expand that service into 10 locations that really haven’t had the service before. Topics Cities COVID-19 Racial Issues Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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8 cities share how racial justice is embedded into their climate plans

Appalachian Trail spared from Atlantic Coast Pipeline

July 7, 2020 by  
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Duke Energy Corp. and Dominion Energy Inc. have canceled the controversial 600-mile-long Atlantic Coast Pipeline that the companies planned to build under the Appalachian Trail. The  energy  giants called off the $8 billion project “due to ongoing delays and increasing cost uncertainty which threaten the economic viability of the project.” This news comes as a win for the environmentalists who have spent years fighting this disruption to the Appalachian Trail in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. The pipeline’s route was supposed to start in the gas fields of Harrison County,  West Virginia , then travel southeast through Virginia, ending in Robeson County, North Carolina. This route would have crossed both the Appalachian Trail and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway. Related: Dakota Access Pipeline placed under environmental review Anti-pipeline activists took their battle to the Supreme Court, striving to preserve nature and protect local  endangered species . In June, the court ruled in favor of the utility companies. So, the pipeline cancellation announcement came as both a surprise and cause for celebration. “Its effective defeat today is a huge victory for  Virginia’s  environment, for environmental justice, and a testament to the power of grassroots action, the hundreds of driven, determined, frontline advocates who never stopped fighting this misguided project,” Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement. Greenpeace also weighed in. “Duke and Dominion had hoped to carve up beautiful mountains, ignore catastrophic climate change, and delay a just transition to renewable energy to build this pipeline, but, thanks to the courageous activists who stood up to them, they have failed,” the organization said. But not everybody was rejoicing. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) issued a statement of regret, insisting the pipeline would have been safely constructed and that the surrounding areas would have been protected. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce also lamented that the estimated 17,000 jobs the  pipeline  project would have created will not come to fruition. “Unfortunately, today’s announcement detrimentally impacts the Commonwealth’s access to affordable, reliable energy,” the chamber said in a statement. “It also demonstrates the significant regulatory burdens  businesses  must deal with in order to operate.” + Huffington Post Images via Fibonacci Blue

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Appalachian Trail spared from Atlantic Coast Pipeline

12 things you should never compost

July 7, 2020 by  
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Composting is an easy and effective way to deal with food waste and fertilize your garden. Compost bins are readily available for purchase in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. You can also easily make your own composter or even simply create a compost pile. Layers of brown material, food scraps and green material decompose, turning into nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Although composting is simple and advantageous, there are still some items that you should never toss into the mix. Here are some compost no-no’s to abide by. Pet waste Although it may seem like a natural material , dog poop and cat litter are not suitable for the compost pile. Remember, in essence, if it’s in the compost, it’s on next year’s lettuce. Do you want cat poop in your lettuce? Besides the yuck factor, parasites, bacteria, germs and viruses that are harmful to humans can survive in this waste. Fish Even though fish scales and other parts break down quickly, it’s not quick enough if you have cats in the neighborhood. Fish is best left out of the mix mostly because it is likely to attract animals. Plus, the smell is likely to offend the neighbors. Meat Meat is another stinky attractant. Not only will your dogs and local wildlife be unable to resist the temptation, but the internal temperatures created during the composting process might not get high enough to kill pathogens. Related: Compostable, portable Stak pods eliminate the need for individually wrapped snacks Treated wood Pressure-treated lumber is a durable choice for fencing, decking and other outdoor projects. But when that wood has served its purpose, find a disposal method where it doesn’t end up in your compost. The chemicals in pressure-treated lumber can leach into your food and also compromise the balance of your compost mixture. Untreated lumber and bark chips can go into the compost, as can other natural materials, such as straw.  Fire ashes Similar to the reasons explained above, wood ash can contain chemicals that affect the end product of compost. However, if you’re certain the ashes are exclusively from clean, untreated, natural wood , it can be a nice addition to the mix. Dairy products All animal products are likely to attract unwanted attention to your compost pile, so cheese, yogurt, milk and other dairy products should not be composted. Although some critters, such as worms, are useful for composting, the rodents and flies that would go after the rotting dairy would just cause problems for your compost pile. Fat, oil and grease Again, these items attract animals , but they also upset the balance and repel some of the water that is essential to the decomposition process. Diseased plants Although the composter is the perfect spot for plants you’ve pulled from the garden or yard, make sure the plants are disease-free. Any bacteria or other infestations can transfer to other plants down the road, so it’s best to dispose of them instead. Weeds For a backyard composter, the temperatures are often lower than commercial facilities that treat all kinds of yard debris, so use caution with which plants you add. Weeds can often survive the heat limitations of a backyard composter, meaning they can pop up again in the garden after you’ve dispersed the compost. Grass clippings with pesticides Grass clippings are a welcome element and typically make up the “green” portion of the compost recipe. However, if your lawn is treated with pesticides , keep the clippings out of the composter and, subsequently, your food supply. The chemicals in the grass can also kill organisms essential to the composting process. Black walnut components While nearly every organic plant, with the exception of weeds, is welcome at the composting party, black walnut trees produce juglone, a substance that can be dangerous or even deadly to many vegetable plants. Plastics It might seem obvious that these are inorganic materials, but some packaging is deceptive in its phrasing and might claim to be compostable. The truth is that many plastic-like polymers still have to reach temperatures only achieved at commercial facilities. So while the label may say it is compostable, read the fine print. It will usually clarify whether the statement pertains to a commercial facility or is suitable for the backyard.  The advantages of composting are both obvious and extensive, so don’t derail your efforts by adding the wrong materials. Instead, focus on the many options you do have to create a healthy compost pile. All organic food scraps, mostly those from fruits and vegetables, can be combined with eggshells and even coffee grounds. For the second element, include brown items such as unprinted paper bags, toilet paper rolls, unbleached napkins, small twigs, leaves and bark. Finally, round out your ingredients with the green from healthy plant materials and untreated grass. Once you get started, you’ll find out just how many items can be diverted from the street cart to the compost pile — a win for your garden and the planet. Images via Shutterstock

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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

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