Wholesale Distributed Generation – Clean Coalition

Wholesale Distributed Generation – Clean Coalition

With the Stay At Home orders in place throughout a large part of the U.S., many of us are now 100% dependent on our home’s electric grid for work — as well as lights, refrigeration, HVAC and entertainment.

Unfortunately, our old fashioned electric grid is not up to the challenges of wildfires and storms, not to mention ever-increasing maintenance costs. Transmitting power long distances over high voltage transmission lines is particularly vulnerable to disruptions. Although this old grid was good for over a hundred years, new technologies — particularly battery storage, solar and smart appliances — are more reliable and less expensive.

These new technologies move the generation and storage of electricity much closer to the buildings that need this power — a design that is called Distributed Generation. In suburban areas there is often enough available roof space for solar panels; power for these systems is generated Behind the Meter (on the customer’s side of the meter). But in urban areas there is rarely enough roof space; instead, large solar power systems can be installed over parking lots, on brownfields, or on warehouse rooftops. With this design the power is generated on the utility’s side of the meter — a concept called Wholesale Distributed Generation.

Wholesale distributed generation makes terrific environmental and economic sense. The Clean Coalition was established in 2009 to accelerate the deployment of wholesale distributed generation. They advocate for a modern, efficient power system that takes advantage of these new solar and storage technologies to provide clean, reliable and more affordable energy.

My guest on this week’s show is Craig Lewis, the Executive Director of the Clean Coalition. I’ve known Craig for almost 15 years — going back to his work at GreenVolts, one of the pioneering solar concentrator companies. Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show as Craig shares how the Clean Coalition is working to create fair, transparent, and effective policies and programs to help power the United States with renewable energy from local sources.

Drawdown – A Plan to Reverse Global Warming

Drawdown – A Plan to Reverse Global Warming

Global Warming or Climate Change — whatever you want to call it — there is a general consensus that burning fossil fuels are heating up the earth. Leaders of both parties are proposing a wide range of solutions to reduce and eventually reverse global warming.  Whether it’s a carbon tax, planting a trillion trees, more nuclear power plants or just solar panels on every building, it is daunting to determine which solutions are most practical.

Whenever global warming solutions are discussed, I refer to a book called “Project Drawdown,” subtitled “The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.” The Project Drawdown effort was led by Paul Hawken and Amanda Joy Ravenhill, who gathered a diverse team of over 200 scholars, scientists, policymakers, business leaders, and activists worldwide to assess, map, and model the most substantive solutions to reverse global warming.

What I particularly like about Project Drawdown is that, for each potential solution, they consider the total atmospheric CO2 reduction, the net cost to achieve these reductions, and the net savings compared to business as usual. The plan includes 80 well-documented solutions in a variety of categories, including energy, materials, food, land use, women and girls, transportation and buildings.

Drawdown is not just a pie-in-the-sky plan that ignores economics, technology and politics.To alleviate your suspense, the top ten global warming solutions are refrigeration, on-shore wind turbines, reduced food waste, plant-rich diet, tropical forests, educating girls, family planning, solar farms, silvopasture and rooftop solar. Please check out the Project Drawdown book or online summaries, and listen to my take on these solutions on this week’s Energy Show.

Climate Smart San Jose with Ken Davies

Climate Smart San Jose with Ken Davies

The global warming crisis is a slow-motion train wreck that requires an all hands on deck response. Individuals, businesses and government all need to pull in the same direction to minimize the effect of this crisis. Unfortunately, our federal government continues to focus more on supporting the incumbent fossil fuel industry instead of the clean energy technologies encouraged by the rest of the world.

The good news is that leadership in many state and local governments are stepping up with practical, effective and affordable climate change solutions — and the City of San Jose is clearly a leader when it comes to implementing these solutions. A key component of the City’s efforts is the award-winning Climate Smart San Jose program. This community-wide initiative focuses on reducing pollution and improving the quality of life for San Jose residents. Basically, it’s the city’s plan to align with the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Our guest on this week’s Energy Show is Ken Davies, Director of Climate Smart San Jose. For over ten years Ken has been at the forefront of Silicon Valley’s environmental efforts. There is no doubt in my mind that the work he and his team are doing in San Jose will exceed our local goals for the Paris Climate Agreement.

Please listen up to this week’s Energy Show as Ken discusses some of the key components of Climate Smart San Jose, including electrification rebates, the Climate Smart Challenge, zero net carbon buildings, vehicle electrification, San Jose’s Reach Code, and 100% green electricity.

Converting a House to Zero Net Energy

Converting a House to Zero Net Energy

Buildings consume 40% of our energy, most of that for heating and cooling. Almost all of this energy is supplied by fossil fuels, resulting in tremendous CO2 emissions. Building electrification solves this problem. Instead of burning fossil fuels in homes and businesses, we can heat, cool, wash and cook using electricity generated from clean, renewable sources.

San Jose is one of the first cities to establish building codes that pursue a  zero net energy policy by strongly recommending all electric new homes. But what about existing homes? To find out first hand what was involved in getting to a zero net energy home, my wife and I embarked on a project to completely electrify our 50 year old home in San Jose.

I’ve done quite of bit of energy upgrading on homes and businesses over the past 40 years. Nevertheless, I checked in with a few friends who had done some electrification of their homes (thanks to Howard, Jeff and Dick). The steps we took mostly followed conventional wisdom: address the easy and cheap items first (LED lights, controls), extra insulation, solar with battery backup, EV charger, heat pump HVAC, heat pump water heater and induction cooktop.

There were only two real hassles with this electrification project. The first hassle is familiar to anyone doing a renovation or maintenance project: finding the “best” contractor for each individual task. Because building electrification involves so many different types of contractors, there is no one “general contractor” who can do everything both efficiently and cost effectively. We ended up with five different contractors: insulation, pool, solar, electrical and HVAC. Since I’m capable of screwing in a lightbulb, I took care of the LEDs lights and controls. The biggest hassle was on the electrical permitting side and coordinating with our local utility. Nevertheless, when everything was done and connected, we are enjoying a net negative (for the year) electric bill — including all of our heating, cooling, cooking and most of our driving.

Perhaps the most rewarding event was when our local gas utility PG&E sent an inspector to our house to find out why the gas meter almost stopped completely! To learn more about electrifying your home or business, please listen to this week’s Energy Show. And if you are thinking about making the switch from fossil fuel home appliances to electrical appliances run by solar and battery storage solutions, take a look at our 10 steps to whole house electrification.

Environmental Entrepreneurs- Bob Keefe

Environmental Entrepreneurs- Bob Keefe

Entrepreneurs are the job engine in the United States. Many of the companies founded by today’s entrepreneurs have products or services addressing environmental needs. New technologies almost always gain traction through the work of stubborn entrepreneurs, including solar, wind, electric vehicles and energy storage.

Public policies that encourage these new technologies are critical to their success in the market. Without policies such as the solar investment tax credit, net metering, renewable portfolio standards and the wind production tax credit, the solar and wind industries would be a fraction of their current size.  And when these new technologies gain traction with customer economics better than previous energy technologies, adoption of these new technologies accelerates. Just look at how wind, solar and batteries are surpassing fossil fuel energy sources.
These public policies generally do not sprout spontaneously from the minds of politicians. Instead, they are suggested, developed and advocated by public policy organizations. And when it comes to environmental policies for entrepreneurial companies, Environmental Entrepreneurs, or E2, is one of the leading voices. E2’s members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, created over 600,000 jobs, and managed over $100 billion in venture and private equity capital.

Please listen to this week’s Energy Show as we engage with Bob Keefe, E2’s Executive Director, to learn about the genesis of E2, their successes working at the intersection of jobs, economy and the environment; and their plans for the future.

DOE Continues Solar & Storage Progress

DOE Continues Solar & Storage Progress

In today’s accelerated and politicized news cycle it is easy to confuse White House pronouncements with the policies that government employees are actually implementing. The U.S. has about two million hard working government employees (disparagingly referred to as the “deep state”) who are dedicated to their jobs and following well-established laws and policies.

There is perhaps no better example of this dedication and progress than the 100,000 people at the Department of Energy (DOE). Although based on recent events I would say EPA employees are in the running for the hardest working and politically least recognized branch of our government. But I digress.

As a result of long established policies and investments, the U.S. is continuing its worldwide leadership in energy and efficiency technology. Although we could obviously be doing a lot more on many dimensions, it is not complete gloom and doom. Once new energy technologies prove they are better and cheaper, no amount of political backsliding can bring back the old ways of doing things. We are no more likely to resort to heating our homes and offices with wood than we are to replace LED bulbs with short-lived, hot and energy-wasting incandescent light bulbs (regardless of the affects they may have on our complexion).

For 2019 Congress authorized $35 billion in funding to the DOE – more than the $30 billion the President recommended. This $35 billion will be spent as follows:

  • $15b for the National Nuclear Security Administration — basically for weapons and cleanup from past nuclear programs (almost half of the DOE’s budget)
  • $7.2b for environmental management
  • $6.6b for pure science
  • $5b for energy programs – of which $2.5b is for energy efficiency and renewable energy, $1.3b for nuclear energy research, $1b for fossil fuel research and the rest for miscellaneous programs.

The good news is that the DOE is continuing great research into a broad range of renewable energy technologies. The even better news is that there are almost a hundred thousand people hard at work at the DOE striving to make solar, storage and newer technologies better and cheaper – regardless of temporary political headwinds. To learn more about the work being done by the committed people at the DOE, please tune in to this week’s Energy Show.