Thursday, November 30, 2006

Calling Out California On Renewable Energy.

The Sacramento Bee has a great oped by FPL Energy's Dianne Fellman that clearly and cogently makes the case that California is all talk when it comes to renewable energy. Her argument is that California's burdonsome, bureacratic regulatory culture is driving alternative energy entrepreneurs to other states.

Some highlights:

"But the state of California needs to examine what is stopping major investment today from the private sector in order to meet our clean-energy objectives. Regrettably, California is losing its environmental leadership position to other states that are doing more than just talking about renewables."

"What takes months in many states can take a year or more in California. Many other companies have experienced similar frustrations in trying to bring renewable sources online. The result? Investors vote with their wallets, and elect to build alternative-energy power sources in other states."

"Californians are worried about the impacts of global climate change. One of the best things policymakers can do is create a streamlined regulatory process that supports the development of renewables without compromising the other environmental values cherished in this state."

Diane Fellman: State should refocus on renewable energy [Sacramento Bee]

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

GM Makes Pitch For Fuel Cells at LA Auto Show.

Rick Wagoner is in Los Angeles today, pinning GM's hopes on fuel cells and other alternative technology. According to the Wall Street Journal, GM estimates that it will be 2013 before fuel cell vehicles hit the market in any kind of volume, and that numerous obstacles to the rollout remain, not the least of which is GM's enormous debt which will hamper its ability to fund R&D, and the lack of hydrogen fueling stations which will be a major impediment to consumer demand.

There is a pretty good write-up of DOE's position on fuel cells on, which claims that the government plans 40 hydrogen refueling stations in Los Angeles by 2015.

GM Hopes Engine of Future Sells Cars Now [Wall Street Journal]

The hydrogen economy's nitty-gritty details explained by the DOE [autobloggreen]

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Heat is On.

Geothermal energy is the latest industry to line up at the trough created by the renewable energy mandate. According to a UPI article, the domestic geothermal energy market in the US, currently about $1.7 billion, is projected to rise to more than $14 billion.

Officials at a bank in Iceland claim to be in discussions with a "California company" about building a $150-$200 million geothermal plant with a 50 MW capacity.

According to UPI:
Proponents say geothermal power is the most reliable and environmentally friendly form of energy. The Geothermal Energy Association and the Department of Energy want to see the cost reduced to less than 5 cents per kilowatt-hour. The current U.S. capacity is 2,800 megawatts and another goal is to increase the capacity.

The article also notes:
The American West is seen by some, including Magnusson, as the new frontier in geothermal energy. Projects are planned in Nevada, California, Oregon, Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Hawaii.

New funding for U.S. geothermal energy [UPI]

Monday, November 27, 2006

LNG Roundup

More coverage over the weekend of erstwhile California Energy Czar Joe Desmond's move to NorthernStar (the company developing Clearwater Port (the other proposed LNG facility off the Ventura Coast that has flown pretty much under the media radar).

According to the LA Times:
Under state law, Desmond cannot have any communication with the Resources Agency for a year after leaving government service. In an interview, Desmond said that also would include the state Lands Commission, the Energy Commission and the Coastal Commission -- all of which have a part in the NorthernStar terminal deal. But the law does allow him to communicate with the administration itself, including chief of staff Susan Kennedy and Schwarzenegger, and the Legislature.

Also, The Australian online sets the value for the export market of LNG to California at $60 billion, and calls out the Malibu Millionaires as NIMBY's:
Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane has said the market could be worth $60 billion to Australian producers... Yet turning the opportunity into firm sales for Australian firms is proving hard. BHP Billiton is behind schedule in developing an LNG receival terminal called Cabrillo Port in California.
A decision on the proposal has been pushed back to the first quarter of next year and the plan has run into high-profile not-in-my-backyard opposition from celebrities concerned any development off the Malibu coast could affect their property values.

$60bn LNG market a hard nut to crack [The Australian Online]

High-Ranking Schwarzenegger Official Joins Staff of LNG Company [Malibu Surfside News]

Department of Revolving Doors [Los Angeles Times}

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Over the hills...

And off to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving... we're loading the hybrid up with some ethanol-gasoline and hitting the crumbling infrastructure for a Thanksgiving road trip... best wishes for a happy holiday to one and all!

(OK, I admit... it's not a hybrid... but a gas-guzzling SUV... sorry.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Joe Desmond Finds A Home.

NorthernStar Natural Gas Inc., announced that Joe Desmond is their new Senior Vice President For External Affairs. Here is the company's press release.

Monday, November 20, 2006

This Idea Might Be All Wet...

AP Reports that a pilot project to generate electricity from underwater tidal flows beneath the Golden Gate bridge could take place as soon as 2009. According to the write-up, several sites are being considered but the Golden Gate is ideally suited:

"but ideal sites must be close to a power grid and have large amounts of fast-moving water with enough room to build on the sea floor while staying clear of boat traffic."

This has "boondoggle" written all over it.

News briefs from around California [San Jose Mercury News-]

Friday, November 17, 2006

Coal Fired Power on the Way Out In Pasadena?

Pasadena Weekly reports that the City of Pasadena, which currently gets about 65% of its electricity from a coal-fired plant in Utah, will meet next week to consider ending that relationship.

The Weekly notes:

In September, the City Council unanimously adopted the United Nations Green Cities Declaration and Urban Environmental Accords as well as the US Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which set targets for the reduction of global-warming gasses as called for by the Kyoto Protocols.

While those agreements promise to put the city among the nation’s most eco-friendly, living up to those lofty goals may come with a cost — specifically, having to pass on a deal that some believe would keep electricity affordable for Pasadena homes and businesses over the next 38 years.

This is precisely the kind of tough decision that is going to have to be made in council chambers all over California given the new renewable energy mandate. It will be interesting to see what comes of all the political posturing and hand-wringing... and what the public reaction will be.

Easy, cheap and dirty [Pasadena Weekly]

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More Wind Power for Northern California.

Big doings in the wind energy sector in Northern California yesterday as the Shilo Wind Power Plant in Rio Vista was officially dedicated. Shiloh is the biggest wind farm in northern California, providing power to PG&E, the MID, and the City of Palo Alto utilities.

According to the write-up:
The 30-story high turbines aren't your Don Quixote run-of-the-windmills. Combined, they can generate 150 megawatts of power at full capacity, enough juice to power more than 100,000 PG&E electric customers, according to Jon Tremayne of PG&E.

In its press release PPM Energy (which owns Shiloh)stated, “Currently, PPM owns or controls nearly half the wind power installed in California since the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) was adopted in 2002.”

Winds of change blow through state power grid []

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ventura County Lands A Jab On LNG Project.

Today the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District ruled that Cabrillo Port will have to comply with onshore air quality restrictions despite the fact that it is 14 miles out in the ocean. Thanks to an anonymous poster on this blog, we learned the other day that, from a statutory perspective that isn't as absurd as it may sound (Thanks again, Anonymous, for the primer on DWPA).

This likely will mean several million dollars in additional cost for BHP Billiton, the company developing the project, but when you're talking about an $800 million deal to begin with, how much of a setback is that really?

Billiton pretty much shrugged off the news as the company is confident that Cabrillo Port is already an environmental net positive:
Company officials said the terminal is good for the environment and could help solve California's energy needs. They said the emission controls they propose exceed industry standards and would improve air quality in the Los Angeles region as well as the Central Coast.

"When we are constructed and operating, Cabrillo Port will improve the air quality and comply with the Clean Air Act in an environmentally sound manner," said Kathi Hamm, a Billiton spokeswoman

Hardly a death blow, but the ruling is still significant and the fight will go on.

Panel: LNG terminal should comply with stricter air quality rules [AP]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Solar Battle Heating Up.

There's a battle brewing over solar energy credits. According to the enviro blog, once the California Solar Initiative goes live in January, the PUC will award ownership of solar power credits to the utilities and not the owners of the solar arrays. The solar guys are up in arms, as you can imagine.

Treehugger points out that neither side can call the energy they sell "renewable" without owning the REC's that represent the environmental attributes of that energy.

Who Should Own Solar Renewable Energy Credits in California? []

Monday, November 13, 2006

Going... going... gone.

Multiple reports from Friday on the resignation of Joe Desmond as Undersecretary for Energy Affairs. Desmond was targeted by Democrats in the legislature after Arnold tried to rearrange the government energy bureacracy in 2005 and he drew further flack for supporting the Frontier Transmission line.

Acccording to the San Francisco Chronicle, Desmond emailed friends and colleagues that he is jumping to the private sector.

Here's the money quote from the AP write-up:
"I firmly believe California has the energy policies needed in place, and the focus now needs to turn to implementation," Desmond said Friday.

Make of THAT what you will...

Governor's top energy adviser resigns [AP]

Friday, November 10, 2006

Malibu Millionaires Embrace Bureaucracy.

There was a great line in the frat-house comedy movie, "Old School" where the college dean laments his inability to disband an unruly fraternity. A sycophantic student informs the dean, "The thing is, sir... they are very good at paperwork."

Well if there is one thing the Malibu millionaires know, it's movies. The Malibu LNG fight is now entering a new bureacratic netherworld as world's wealthiest NIMBY's are trying to kill Cabrillo Port with paperwork. Their latest move is to challenge the US Environmental Protection Agency's interpretation of air pollution requirements for Cabrillo Port.:
The EPA officials relieved Cabrillo Port of the tightest air regulations by interpreting local smog maps as placing Cabrillo Port in the Channel Islands air basin. Had the factory ship and its 270 tons per year of smog-producing emissions been considered onshore, BHPB would have had to buy and retire 150 percent of that smog generation ashore in Ventura County.

Basically, the EPA has said that Cabrillo Port is to be regulated by offshore rather than onshore smog restrictions. The Malibu Millionaires are up in arms and want to turn out bodies to an Air Pollution Control Board meeting next week in Ventura County to protest the decision.

Here's the problem: the EPA's decision was correct. Cabrillo Port is 14 miles offshore. The terretorial waters of the United States only extend 3 nautical miles off the coast. This 14 miles. Why in the world is it inappropriate to treat this like an offshore facility.

This fiasco in Malibu is getting rididculous.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Stiff Breeze Blowing In Congress.

Lost in all of the post-landslide, Rumsfeld-resignation, oops-there-goes-the-senate-too, commentary, is the defeat of House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo by a wind energy consultant.

Jerry McNerny, now the Congressman-elect from California's 11th district, states on his campaign Web site (in the "Why I Am Running For Congress" section):

"I am running for Congress because I am committed to bringing a lifetime of experience in renewable energy to Washington so we can decrease America's dependence on foreign oil, thus increasing our national security."

Here is more on McNerny's very detailed position on energy.

While McNerny will not have anywhere near the influence Pombo did because of seniority issues, look for him to make a lot of noise about wind energy, and it's a good bet that a lot of his colleagues in the majority will be enthusiastic listeners.

Environmental groups savor Pombo's defeat as sign of new power [Los Angeles Times]

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

87 Gets 86'd.

Well, $150 million later, Prop 87 is toast. The pro-87 guys are already grousing about all the money the "oil companies" put into the campaign, but they apparently forgot that Steve Bing was writing some big checks of his own and about the whole "Bill Clinton broadcast assault." (And, for good measure, let's not forget that the Hollywood crowd weighed in too.)

Bottom line, this was terrible legislation that begat a ridiculously expensive campaign because BOTH SIDES kept upping the ante. This only reaffirms my belief that ballot initiatives are bad news-- we have an elected legislature to pass laws and a governor to sign them, why do we need ballot initiatives?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Primitive Solution to the Renewable Mandate.

Amid great fanfare, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed legislation mandating a basically un-achievable renewable energy mandate for the state of California. Since then, there has been a lot of out-of-the-box thinking on how to meet that mandate (like the UC Davis project that seeks to turn table scraps into energy).

The Modesto Bee reports that the Modesto Irrigation District has just signed a $133 million deal to buy power generated from steam turbines that are powered by.... wood. That's right, we are back at square one. Like cavemen, we have re-discovered fire.

Here's the problem, burning wood is fraught with air quality implications and it costs more than natural gas. But acording to the Bee, we gotta do what we gotta do to meet the consequences of this new legislation:

"The power will be more expensive than conventional natural gas turbine power, Hora said, but will help the MID reach the state-mandated goal of providing 20 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2010."

Apparently, MID was forced to go this route even though it already gets a large chunk of its power from hydro-- but the state doesn't consider hydroelectric power "renewable." Go figure.

MID to add wood as energy source [Modesto Bee]

Monday, November 06, 2006

Davis Looks to Dump PG&E

A movement is underway in Davis, CA and surrounding Yolo County to dump PG&E in favor of the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District. If successful, PG&E would lose 70,000 customers.

Yolo County Supervisor Yamada told the Contra Costa Times:

"Once people realize the savings they can achieve with a public utility -- as opposed to an investor-owned utility that only cares about maximizing their profits -- everyone will want to municipalize," Yamata said. "This could spread to the Bay Area and elsewhere, and that scares PG&E."

Public utility rates are currently about 30% lower than PG&E's.

Cities can vote to dump PG&E for public utility [Contra Costa Times]

Friday, November 03, 2006

Construction Problems Stymie Sempra's LNG Plans.

Sempra revealed in an investor conference call yesterday that it's slow-going on the LNG front:

"Talks to expand the company's liquefied natural gas plant in Baja California have slowed down because of delays in the construction of overseas facilities, Chief Executive Don Felsinger said. "Longer term, we are still very bullish," he said during a conference call with analysts and investors.

The Mexico plant is more than 50% complete. The company's second facility, in Louisiana, is about 30% done, Felsinger said. Both are set to begin operating in 2008."

In other news, Sempra profits soared in Q3 due primarily to power plant sales.

Sempra profit nearly triples on asset sales [Los Angeles Times]

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Delusional in Malibu.

The Malibu Millionaires and the cabal of legitimate environmental activists they have hoodwinked into supporting their cause, were all back-slaps and high-fives yesterday after Gov. Schwarzenegger issued a short statement on Cabrillo Port that amounted to nothing more than a politcal "no-comment."

The anti-LNG crowd crowed in the Malibu Times:

Susan Jordan, director of California Coastal Protection Network's Coastal Advocates, said, "I think it's clear that the governor has gotten the message that we're trying to send to him that this project has to be stopped. While he has made comments in the past in public that appeared to be in support of this project, we're pleased that he's making an indication that at this point he's not supporting any specific project.

"But we would like to see him move even further. We believe the administration needs to take a very critical look at the issue of LNG before they approve any facilities, and particularly that this is a facility that should not be approved."

Note to Susan Jordan: Schwarzenegger is up for reelection in less than a week and he's currently up 16 points. He's not going to take a position on anything even remotely contraversial right now, lest he jeopardize his landslide reelection. I'm sure you are a wonderful lobbyist, but the synchronized surfing exhibition last week had nothing to do with this statement.

Similarly delusional was Malibu City Counci Member Pamela Conley Ulich:

City Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said she felt the governor's message indicated the efforts of the coastal advocacy network, plus those of citizens and celebrities protesting the LNG terminal, have brought the issue back to his attention.

"That's probably why he issued that statement," she said. "I'm cautiously optimistic that he will do the right thing and veto the terminal. But we can't rest on our laurels. We still need to actively lobby the governor and make him realize the safety issues and the fact that we, as a town and as a country, can come together and find alternatives to fossil fuel. We all still need to keep putting on the pressure, writing and phoning and e-mailing."

I have it on good authority that the Governor is considering--after the election-- relocating the proposed mooring for Cabrillo Port to either Susan Jordan's or Pamela Conley Ulich's swimming pool. But that's just a rumor at this point.

Governor says he has no position on LNG terminal [Malibu Times]

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Post Office Gets More Efficient.

Energy efficient, that is. Chevron has just completed a new $18 million solar installation at the postal sorting facility in West Oakland that will save the agency $1 million a year and cut power purchases from PG&E by nearly one-third.

The 1 megawatt array is among the largest in the country and is the size of almost two football fields.

Sun delivers for Oakland mail plant []