Friday, December 29, 2006

Arnold Digs Deep For Energy Research.

Yesterday, news reports noted that Gov. Schwarzenneger weas resting comfortably after surgery to repair a broken leg, and that he was working on his forthcoming budget proposal from his hospital bed. According to the blogger WattHead, that budget will include $95 million in research funds to create the Governor's Research and Innovation Initiative which will provide funding for major projects that will increase California’s economic strength in key innovation sectors, including cleantech, biotech and nanotech."

Two critical elements of the project will be funding for the Helios Project and for UC Berkeley/UC San Diego, should either of those institutions win BP's grant to create an Energy Biosciences Insitute.

$30 million in lease revenue bonds would be allocated to the Helios project which, according to WattHead is:
"an initiative by the University of California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to create sustainable, carbon-neutral sources of energy. The Helios Project will produce the next generation of super-efficient solar energy technology that will help reduce greenhouse gases and oil dependency.

The Helios Project’s four goals are 1) generate clean sustainable alternatives to hydrocarbon fuels; 2) develop new energy sources; 3) improve energy conservation; and 4) reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The $30 million will be used to build a new energy/nanotechnology research building for the Helios Project."

For more on the BP Energery Biosciences Insitute, check out this earlier post.

Best wishes for a happy and safe new year...

California Governor Proposes $95 Million Research Fund for Cleantech, Biotech, Nanotech [WattHead]

Thursday, December 28, 2006

PG&E Applauds REC Decision.

In comments filed with the PUC yesterday, PG&E came out in support of the commission's pending decision to award ownership of renewable energy credits to consumers, not utilities.

In "carefully" worded comments, the company's Director of Policy Coordination, Bruce Bowen, said:

"There is much in the decision that we can support because we have the same goals of the Commission. Those goals are to ensure the success of the California Solar Initiative and also to ensure that our customers are paying a reasonable amount when investing in solar. We think the Commission struck the right balance."

The decision becomes final in January.

PG&E Supports Customer Ownership of RECs in California [Renewable Energy Access]

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

WalMart Going Solar.

On his blog, Joel Makower outlines the hig points of a confidential RFP issued by Wal-Mart for solar installations at its stores in five states, including California. According the RFP, Wal Mart has set a goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in the next five years.

According to Makower, this is the "largest procurement of solar ever proposed."

This move could be as much about good press as it is about good business. Wal Mart has been getting brutalized in a union-backed public relations campaign and it recently fired its head of marketing after deciding a change of direction was needed.

The RFP requires proposals to be submitted by January 5.

Wal-Mart's Solar Energy Vision [Joel Makower]

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

PUC Decision On Ownership of REC's.

The PUC has made its decision in the argument over who should own renewable energy credits.

According to the San Jose Mercury News:

In a decision closely watched by the solar industry, the California Public Utilities Commission recently signaled its intent to award the ownership of credits earned from renewable energy sources to the residential and commercial owners of such systems -- and not to the utility companies.

If this preliminary decision by the PUC becomes final during its Jan. 11 meeting, it will allow the state to establish a market where these renewable energy credits can be bought and sold.

By establishing ownership, the PUC has cleared the way for trading/sales of REC's.

Extra Boost For Going Green [San Jose Mercury News]

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Christmas Gift form SoCal Edison.

Like the Grinch turning from bad to good and returning all of the stolen presents just before Christmas, SoCal Ed has informed the PUC it wants to rescind a 6% rate increase that is supposed to take effect in January.

Apparently a combination of higher sales and lower costs has left SCE feeling generous.

According to the Desert Sun:
The additional decrease would affect the heavier electricity users in the company's five-tier system. The heaviest users would see rates decrease from about 47 cents per kilowatt-hour to about 28 cents, if the plan is approved.

The average California home uses about 20 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day.

Rates are determined based on utility costs and customer usage forecasts. But if costs are lower or usage higher than expected, a revenue surplus is returned to customers through a rate adjustment the next year.

The company also announced that it plans to build the largest wind farm in the country: 50 square miles of windmills in Tehachapi. That area has the potential to produce 4,500 to 5,000 megawatts of power - double the power of a nuclear power plant and four times the power of the conventional plant in Relands.

Edison may nix rate hike [Desert Sun]

Recent Southern California Edison decisions will relieve customers [Desert Sun]

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Palo Alto Certified as a Green Power Community.

The city of Palo Alto is the first city in California, and the fourth city in the country, to be certified as a Green Power Community by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Palo Alto qualified for this certification with a two percent green power purchase collectively as a community.

To achieve EPA Green Community status, a combined effort of community member and City enrollments in the PaloAltoGreen Program was needed. To date, nearly 4,300 households and 130 businesses have enrolled in the program. Additionally, the City and the Regional Water Quality Control Plant operated by Palo Alto have committed to purchase renewable energy which results in a combined 912,000 kilowatt-hours annually of wind and solar energy for City facilities.

Palo Alto is First California Green Power Community Recognized by EPA [Yubanet]

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

9th Circuit to FERC: Try Again.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that FERC erred when it claimed it didn't have the authority to overturn longterm energy contracts signed by Gray Davis in 2001, even though it was clear the state was getting gouged. In its ruling, the Court has ordered FERC to take another look, and the decision leaves open the possibility that California could get as much as $1.4 billion in refunds.

In the Sacramento Bee, Gary Ackerman of the Western Power Trading Forum notes that $1.4 billion might be a little high, but that California could have a newfound friend in the Democratic Congress which could pressure the Bush-appointee-laden FERC to give California's claims a more balanced review.

State wins new look at power contracts [Sacramento Bee]

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

BP Taking Solar Mainstream.

BP is launching a cooperative deal with the largest roofing contractor in Northern California to provide homebuilders and homeowners turnkey solar installations using BP's new "Energy Tile" system.

Unlik bulky rooftop solar arrays, Energy Tile is a roof tile that blends in with the rest of the roof and isn't as ugly. BP is betting people will bite on solar if they can do it without the cumbersome panels you typically think of when talking about solar.

The big selling point however, is cost. BP and its partner, Old Country Roofing, argue that by including solar in the original build plan, homeowners can lower their costs. We'll see...

BP Teams with Largest Roofing Company in Northern California [BP Press Release]

Monday, December 18, 2006

UC Davis Gets $3 Million Grant for Hybrid Vehicle Research.

The California Energy Commission has awarded UC Davis a $3 million grant to come up with a way to make electic cars more commerically viable. The school will establish a plug-in hybrid research center at the UCD Institute of Transportation Studies.

According to, PHEV's have some fundamental obstacles to overcome before they take over the market:

The battery’s size and weight as well as other factors have made PHEVs somewhat cost prohibitive but as battery technology and hybrid technology advance, this could become the car of the future.

University of California - Davis gets $3 million for Plug-In hybrid research []

Friday, December 15, 2006

PG&E's (voluntary) Carbon Tax.

PG&E won unanimous approval from the California Energy Commission yesterday for an innovative new program to involve customers directly in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The new program, called "ClimateSmart" will take begin in the spring of 2007.

Not to sound cynical, but while this program sounds interesting on paper, it promises to be a boondoggle in execution. Here are the high (low?) points:

Customers who sign up for the program (it's voluntary) will receive a montly statement from PG&E telling them how many tons of carbon dioxide they were responsible for emitting into the atmosphere last month, based on their usage of electricity and natural gas (apparently "breathing" isn't included in the tally).

Customers will then be assessed a fee for those emissions that PG&E will use to plant trees that soak up carbon dioxide. A typical household will be assessed approximatley $4.31 per month and PG&E estimates that the program will take in $20 million.

According to published reports: "An average home generates about 5.3 tons of carbon dioxide a year, PG&E says, about the same as driving a Honda Civic for 15,000 miles."

Consumer activists are already blowing holes in the idea, noting that PG&E plans to spend the bulk of the money generated by the program, at least initially, on marketing, not planting trees.

Interesting program. Good thing there's no chance of fiscal mismanagement here.

How much do you pollute? [San Jose Mercury News]

Truckee: No Deal.

Truckee Donner Public Utility District Commissioners voted 4-1 not to approve a new contract with a coal-fired, out of state power plant that would have locked in prices for 50 years at roughly half the going rate. The move came just weeks before a new California law takes effect banning future long-term deals with plants that emit more heat-trapping greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, than is emitted by plants fueled by natural gas.

In addition to grassroots pressure from residents and the environmental advocacy community, the Commissioners also received letters from the Governor, both of California's US Senators, and a California Energy Commissioner, urging them to reject the deal (the CEC letter warned of future financial penalties for carbon emissions if Truckee locked in with the coal-fired plant.

For now, Truckee will continue to get its power from the same place, albeit on short-term contracts until it finds a more environmentally friendly supplier.

Truckee rejects coal deal [Sacramento Bee]

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pistols at dawn!

There's nothing like a good old fashioned poltical catfight played out in the media! Writing in the Malibu Times, former Long Beach Councilman Frank Colonna offers an elegantly worded, but stinging rebuke, of the Malibu Millionaires.

Colonna is perturbed over-- what he believes to be-- Malibu's support of an LNG facility in Long Beach as an alternative to Cabrillo Port. He calls the MM's NIMBY's and hypocrites, claiming that their objection to Cabrillo Port on environmental grounds is ridiculous given that they, themselves are inveterate polluters. (Colonna calls Malibu "one of the least environmentally friendly regions in Southern California" due to its chronic septic tank and runoff pollution problems).

Summarizing his displeasure, Colonna states:
"For a region that makes no shortage of high-pitched pronouncements on how everyone else should live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, it should come as a fairly humbling blow to be exposed as a persistent polluter. And yet, Malibu's public leaders and celebrity residents show no signs of slowing down the pace of scolding the rest of Southern California."

But all of this might be a moot point if a published report in yesterday's Press Telegram is to be believed: Long Beach Oil and Gas Director Chris Garner scoffs at Sound Energy Solutions' offer of $500 million over 40 years to the City of Long Beach. Garner said that number is not "fair and reasonable for a project of this magnitude."

Given this development, along with Long Beach Mayor Foster's recent comments, it doesn't look like there's going to be an LNG terminal in Long Beach any time soon.

NIMYBY-ism in Malibu? [Malibut Times]

$500M for LNG plant not worth it [Long Beach Press Telegram]

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

More Coal Debate.

Truckee is the latest city in California to find itself on the horns of a "coal dilemma." The Sacramento Bee reports that the Truckee Donner Public Utility District is going to have to make the same decision Pasadena had to make a few weeks ago: renew a long-term contract for electricity from coal-fired plants or get its power elsewhere at a higher rate?

As of August, coal was the top fuel for electricity in the United States, accounting for 48 percent of power generation, according to the Energy Information Administration.

In California, by contrast, natural gas is the top source, providing nearly 38 percent of generation, according to 2005 California Energy Commission statistics. Coal is second, at 20 percent, slightly more than half of which comes from out of state.

A law that takes effect Jan. 1 aims to further reduce California's reliance on coal. That law calls for regulations that would prohibit utilities from committing long-term to buying power derived from plants that emit more heat-trapping greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, than is emitted by plants fueled by natural gas.

Truckee officials are hustling to make the decision before the January 1 law takes effect.

Coal fuels energy debate [Sacramento Bee]

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Southern California May Face Summer Shortages

Forecasters still believe that California risks a shortage of electricity, particularly in Southern parts of the State.

Forecasts for summer 2007 show, "There is a 1% to 6.7% probability of a Stage 3 emergency for Southern California next summer, depending on the availability of the planned power plants, Ashuckian said. There is a 40% to 47% probability of a Stage 1 emergency, which is a public call for conservation and occurs when the reserve margin falls below 7%."

At some point, there is only so far Californians can curtail demand and we'll need to start talking seriously about increasing supplies.

Long Beach LNG Saga May End With Whimper, Not Bang

The explosive debate over whether to locate a liquefied natural gas terminal near downtown Long Beach may be coming to an end.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "Harbor Commission President James C. Hankla, in a Dec. 4 letter to the Long Beach mayor and City Council, questioned whether city officials still want the gas terminal. He said his staff has been working to move the project forward while the city has failed to negotiate a deal with the energy company for lower-cost natural gas for Long Beach residents.

"Hankla warned the City Council that harbor authorities saw no sense in completing the environmental review, already past due and expected to take several more months, absent 'a clear understanding that the city is prepared to support the project.'"

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bonus Coverage: The California Solar Initiative.

The Union trib has a two-part special report on the California Solar Initiative (December 10-11) that is worth a read:

Solar energy's day is dawning [Union Trib- Part I]

Giving solar industry a spark [Union Trib- Part II]

A Hollywood Ending for the LNG Debate?

An oped by author/consumer advocate Tom Elias in today's Daily Breeze speculates that LNG in California is doomed because Gov. Schwarzenneger won't be able to stand up to his erstwhile colleagues in Hollywood.

The author compares the Malibu Millionaires to the Chumash Indian tribe who blocked a similar proposal by claiming "sacred ground":

But now arises the new "tribe," all Malibu residents and property owners. Members include Barbra Streisand, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, Ed Harris, Woody Harrelson, Olivia Newton John, Jane Seymour, Craig T. Nelson, Charlize Theron and Dick Van Dyke.

Malibu may be as sacred to them as Point Conception is to the Chumash, and Billiton's plant might mar the views they've paid millions of dollars to enjoy. So, they've signed letters of protest and turned out for anti-LNG rallies.

Not much new here (but heaven help me if I don't post it!!!)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Long Beach Mayor Doesn't Mince Words on LNG.

In an interview with the Press Telegram, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster left absolutely no doubt about how he feels about the proposed LNG terminal for Long Beach Harbor, when he said:

"This is an unacceptable facility in Long Beach," Foster said. "Putting an LNG terminal in the port is like putting a giant kick-me sign on the back of our city."

Foster, the former SoCalEd boss, vowed to fight the project "citing concerns over location, incentives and liability."

Foster said, ""Why would you put this facility in the nation's busiest port?" Foster said. "There are plenty of offshore options that are reliable and far safer."

For its part, Sound Energy Solutions expressed confidence in the EIR process:

"The release of the final environmental document that will address all issues surrounding the project is imminent and we continue to believe that the (California Environmental Quality Act) process should be completed."

Foster did imply that the deal might be more palatable if Sound Energy Solutions would indemnify the City against third party lawsuits, but that doesn't appear likely.

Mayor vows to fight LNG terminal [Long Beach Press Telegram]

PS, Pictures really are worth 1,000 words-- look at the photograph in this article of Sound Energy Solutions "Safety Manager" Peter Micciche lighting a fire in a church basement to demonstrate the safety of LNG!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Chevron Opens Its Wallet.

Chevron just announced that its 2007 capital and exploratory spending budget will be 20% higher than last year at a whopping $19.6 Billion. CEO Dave O'Reilly was quoted in the company press release saying that 75% of that budget would be dedicated to oil and gas exploration projects.

The company states:

"Capital and exploratory spending of $14.6 billion is budgeted for exploration, production and natural gas-related projects. A significant component of this spending relates to upstream development projects that are building on the company's successful and focused exploration results in recent years, including opportunities in the deepwater U.S. Gulf of Mexico and western Africa."

Some of Chevron's more high profile upstream projects in 2007 include:

* U.S. Gulf of Mexico - deepwater exploration and development, including
Tahiti, Great White Perdido, Blind Faith and Jack.
* Angola - deepwater developments, including Tombua Landana, and
construction of LNG facilities.
* Republic of the Congo - development of the Moho-Bilondo Field.
* Nigeria - continued development of the deepwater Agbami Field, and
additional deepwater exploration.
* Kazakhstan - expansion of the Tengiz Field.
* Australia - further development of the Greater Gorgon Area natural gas
resource offshore Western Australia.
* Canada - expansion of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project.
* Brazil - development of the Frade Field.

Chevron Announces $19.6 Billion Capital and Exploratory Budget for 2007 [Company Press Release]

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

PG&E Gests Go-Ahead for Geothermal Deal.

The PUC approved PG&E's plan to contract with an Oregon company for up to 120 megawatts of geothermal power under the RPS program. About 12% of PG&E's customer load is supplied by alternative energy sources that qualify under RPS.

According to Renewable Energy

"Since PG&E began its RPS Program, it has entered into contracts for nearly 1,100-megawatts of renewable energy -- wind, geothermal, biomass and hydro resources."

PG&E Cleared to Add New Renewable Geothermal Energy [Renewable Energy Access]

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Hybrids 2.0.

The "Alt Car Expo" is this weekend in Santa Monica. Billed as "The largest presenation ever of electric, hydrogen, natural gas, biodiesel, ethanol, and high MPG cars," the show will feature some models that make the Prius look like a 1972 Chevy.

The agenda is heavy on policy discussion too, with presenations by Terry Tamminen, Ed Begley, JR., former CIA boss James Woolsey and Fran Pavley. Topics will include "alternative fuel technologies, tax credits, transportation solutions and more..."

Admission is free so if you're in LA this weekend and already have your Christmas shopping done, you might check it out.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Berkeley, UCSD on BP's Short List.

The blog is reporting that UC Berkeley and UC San Diego are among five universities being considered by BP as a home for its planned $500 million biosciences energy laboratory, the "BP Energy Biosciences Institute."

According to
The UC Berkeley proposal is believed to be one of five being made to BP, which initiated talks with several leading academic institutions over hosting the proposed Energy Biosciences Institute. Other institutions expected to submit applications include the University of California at San Diego, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge University and Imperial College. BP has said it aims to launch early research programs by the end of 2007.

The institute is expected to focus on developing new biofuel components and improving the efficiency and flexibility of those blended with transport fuels. It will also develop new technologies to enhance and accelerate the conversion of organic matter to biofuels with the aim of increasing the proportion of a crop that can be used to produce feedstock. It will also use modern plant science to develop species that produce a higher yield of energy molecules and can be grown on land not suitable for food production.

As envisioned, the Institute will be part research lab and part training facility for academics and scientists and it will serve as a bridge to the biotech community in an effort to incoporate biotechnology in energy production.

Universities vying to get BP's $500 million bioenergy R&D Fund []

Friday, December 01, 2006

BP & SCE Win Federal Tax Credits For Hydrogen Plant.

The Feds are handing out $1 billion in tax credits to clean power projects across the country and, yesterday, $90 million of those credits were earmarked for a new hydrogen-fueled power plant in Carson.

According to the Daily Breeze:
"Federal authorities awarded $90 million in tax credits Thursday to the hydrogen-fueled power plant planned for Carson by subsidiaries of the BP America oil company and Southern California Edison.

The project, which would convert byproducts from the BP Carson Refinery into hydrogen and burn the gas to make electricity..."
The $1 billion project which will be located next to the existing BP Carson refinery, has a targeted opening of 2012. It would be the largest plant of its kind when built. Notably, the plant will capture and store underground 90 percent of the its CO2 emissions.

Carson plan for a clean power plant wins federal tax credits [Daily Breeze]