A Clean Energy Champion in the White House
The year is winding down, and the holiday parties are in full force! My apologies in advance for the fact that this and next week’s Cliffnotes may be written under the influence of a little more than the usual glass of wine – but with more than usual good cheer!
This week we definitely have something to celebrate: my former boss, John Podesta, heads to the White House as a senior advisor to President Obama. Those who know John know that he’s passionate about the need to transform the American economy from one dependent on fossil fuels to one “powered increasingly by domestically produced clean energy, and energy services and technology.” Though he’s decided to stay out of the Keystone XL decision-making process, I have no doubt he’ll be a fierce advocate on other critical energy and climate issues.
In other national news, this week the Supreme Court heard arguments on the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, a provision of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments that allows the EPA to hold states accountable for pollution they create, but that has travelled downwind into other neighboring regions. According to Adam Liptak of The New York Times, the justices found the issue “tough” but also seemed inclined to maintain the EPA’s authority to regulate these pesky nomadic pollutants. These “good neighbor” provisions are at the heart of a recent petition from the governors of eight northeast states, who have asked the EPA to tighten its restrictions on air pollution from the Midwest and Appalachia. Coral Davenport has a nice piece on this brewing Civil War of Air Pollution.
Meanwhile, one of my favorite issues, clean energy manufacturing, has had a banner week: MI, NC, and WA each just received a grant from the Dept. of Energy to build out clean energy manufacturing programs; a new round of Manufacturing Tax Credits (aka the 48C program) adding up to more than $150 million went out to companies looking to expand or retool their manufacturing operations; and the DOE’s Sunshot program announced $13 million in new investments – to be matched by private dollars – into lowering the cost of solar manufacturing. I’m a little obsessed with the need for the U.S. to build out our clean energy manufacturing capacity to become more globally competitive, and I’ve written about it ad nauseum, including in a new paper released earlier this week, so I won’t rehash those arguments here except to say this: Good jobs! Decent wages! Valuable skills! Export! You get the picture.
I realize that this is the California Climate and Energy News and I haven’t said anything about California yet. Here are some headlines:
- Quebec’s first auction of carbon allowances went ahead as planned last week! (Yes, I realize Quebec is not in California. But we do have a carbon market deal with them and so they’re important. Plus, my mom is from there.) Allowances were only available to Quebecois emitters, and netted the floor price of $10.75 per metric ton of carbon dioxide. The next auction, to be held in February 2014, will be administered jointly by Quebec and California, and will be open to emitters in both jurisdictions; the floor price in that auction will rise to $11.34. For a more complete breakdown of the auction results and what all this means moving forward, read Emilie Mazzacurati’s very informative blog post for Four Twenty Seven Consulting.
- The California Natural Resources Agency has taken up the cause of communicating climate risk with its new draft report, “Safeguarding California”. The report highlights potential risks to California’s economy from climate change, making the simple but powerful point that “Planning key actions now will help us lessen impacts and cope with changes.” To that end, it makes some key recommendations about how to prepare across multiple sectors, including better data collection to inform policy, increased funding for adaptation and mitigation efforts, and better climate risk communication and outreach. More information on the report and recommendations, including a schedule of public workshops, can be found here.
- It’s the time of year for looking back and assessing progress. KCET Rewire’s Chris Clarke looks at California’s renewable energy development over 2013 and marvels at our three-fold increase in utility-scale solar: “The truly striking increase over 2013 (so far) came in the state's solar power output. In December 2012, solar power plants supplied less than three quarters of one percent of the state's monthly power consumption. That was up to 2.69 percent last month.” As Clarke notes, these figures don’t account for rooftop solar production, which was also on the rise and in the news in 2013.
- Like air pollution, the solar story doesn’t stop at our state’s boundaries. (OK, that was lame, but it’s after midnight.) According to Greentech Media, solar installations were up 20 percent between Q2 and Q3 of 2013 – and up 35 percent from Q3 of 2012. If that doesn’t impress you, consider this: for the first time in fifteen years, the U.S. is on track to install more solar capacity than Germany, which has a clean energy agenda so aggressive that it has its own song. California is the big dog in this story: in Q3, our fine state accounted for 455 of the 933 MWs installed.
That’s about it for tonight. Before I sign off, a moment of silence to honor Nelson Mandela, mourned and celebrated this week across the globe. His courage, and his commitment to core principles in the face of overwhelming adversity, will never cease to be an inspiration.