Friday, October 31, 2008

Looking Ahead

The election isn't unitl Tuesday but it probably isn't too early to ask "What might an Obama administration look like in terms of Energy and Environmental administrators?"

Grist magazine, publishing in the Guardian (UK), has culled together some predictions for the Obama cabinet. Prominent among the individuals being bandied about are two familiar California names: Mary Nichols and Terry Tamminen.

Grist speculates that Nichols is a candidate for EPA Admisistrator and that Taminen could be considered for "Climate Change Czar" along with Bill Richardson and Al Gore.

On Nichols:

"As one of the key leaders working to implement California's groundbreaking and ambitious 2006 climate law, Mary Nichols has eye-catching qualifications for this job. She's been chair of the California Air Resources Board since July 2007, reprising a role she held from 1978 to 1983 under Gov. Jerry Brown. In the early 1970s, she worked as an environmental lawyer, spending time at the Natural Resources Defense Council, then later going on to serve as secretary for California's Resources Agency and a senior official in the Clinton EPA. Her extraordinarily deep resume would be hard to match if government experience factors heavily in Obama's decision."

On Tamminen:

"As a top advisor to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Terry Tamminen helped engineer California's ambitious 2006 carbon cap-and-trade plan. He then left the state in a quest to become a "Johnny Appleseed" of climate action, spreading plans and ideas for cutting greenhouse gases to leaders across the country, including Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R). He gained administrative experience during a stint as head of the California EPA from 2003 to 2004, and he wrote the 2006 book Lives Per Gallon: The True Cost of Our Oil Addiction. As a Democrat who worked under a Republican governor, Tamminen would be a good fit for Obama's post-partisan philosophy. "
Obama's potential green team [Grist via the Guardian]

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Prop 10 Consultants Getting Bitchy...

Last week we whined about our personal distaste for ballot initatives, noting that the " ballot measure process is ripe for exploitation by special interests." A corollary to that observation is that they also, become "consultant free for alls".

Capitol Weekly has a great piece that airs some of the dirty laundry from the Yes and No camps on Prop 10. The focus of the article is an effort to call into question the credibility of Anthony Rubenstein, an energy consultant affilated with the NO on 10 camp.

Rubestein claims his reputation has been done irreparable harm... the Yes on 10 guys claim no responsibility for the ad hominem attacks on Rubenstein but they do paint him as a shunned suitor who tried to score a $30,000 a month consulting gig with the Yes campaign, but who was rebuffed.

The story has all of the stuff that fans of schadenfreude love: innuendo, bruised egos, attack web sites-- the whole nine yards.

In the end, it only serves to distract from the real debate over the boondoggle that is Prop 10, but it's great sport nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Not So Fast...

SDG&E is rethinking its plan to simply cut off power to soem 45,000 customers when red flag conditions rear their ugly head. The PUC rebuffed the utility's request to amend Rule 14, but said that SDG&E is free to use its professional judgment when to turn off the juice.

The only problem is that "professinoal judgment"doesn't shield the company from lawsuits so, for now, the plan is on hold.

According to the Union Trib:

"On Oct. 2, SDG&E said that to prevent future fires, it planned to cut power to up to 45,000 customers in high-risk rural stretches of the county when humidity was low and winds were high. Most of the utility's 1.4 million customers would not be affected.

A week later, SDG&E put the policy on hold after water districts sued, school officials complained and SDG&E determined it hadn't notified all its customers who rely on electric medical equipment.

Critics of the plan said firefighters wouldn't have water when they needed it, telephones and radios wouldn't work and people on medical devices would suffer.

At the same time SDG&E rolled out the plan, it proposed changing Rule 14, the PUC regulation that specifies the circumstances under which it can cut off power and not be liable to customers for such outages."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What Is Google Up To?

Ulimately history will judge whether Google is the altrusistic, save-the-planet-by-revolutionizing-the-world company it professes to be (its mission statement "Don't Be Evil"), or wheter it is the cutrhorat capitalist monster that it makes its rival Microsoft out to be. But for now, Google continues to get a free pass and with that free pass comes the privileges of free media on an almost Obama-like scale.

The New York Times runs what can only be described as an advertisement for a soon-0-be-launched Google service that has something to do with energy.

Google is famously coy about sharing details of its production innovations, a launch strategy that only creates buzz and drives commercial interest.

In the Times article, Google Executiv Ed Lu (an absolute badass who has flown two space shuttle missions and circled the planet 3,.300 times according to the Times--but I digress), hints at a forthcoming consumer tool that will empower consumers to make more informed choices about energy.

The Times reports:

"[Lu] chose to explain Google’s thinking with an analogy. Buying electricity today, he said, is a bit like going to a grocery store where the items have no prices and where you get billed a month later for your purchases. Some engineers in Mr. Lu’s team, are working on tools to turn energy buyers into more informed consumers, he said."

Given that Google's mission is to organize every scrap of information on the planet, one can infer that the company is getting ready to launch some sort of tool that will allow consumers to literally shop for their energy needs. It is a safe bet that information will be categorized in just about every conceivable manner: type of energy (alternaive, fossile, etc.), price, etc.

Google's track record for innovation is impressive so the product-- whatever it turns out to be-- should match the buzz that's already builiding. And you can bet that the Google guys wll find a way to monetize it in traditional Google fashion.

Monday, October 27, 2008

PUC NIxes Wave Energy Deal

Last week the PUC denied a proposed deal between PG&E and Canadian Wave Energy Company Finavera. The deal was for 2 MW of power to be supplied by a wave energy farm 2 miles off the coast of Northern California near Eureka.

According to Greentech Media:

"The commission denied PG&E's request to approve the power-purchase agreement last week, saying the wave energy project is not viable. The technology is too new and unproven, and the power purchase prices agreed by PG&E are too high, the commission said..."

The technology, which didn't fare so well in a trial last year when it sunk on the first day, "uses a series of buoys with pumps to take in water and convert the vertical motion of the waves into pressurized seawater, which then drives a piston that runs the seawater through a turbine for power generation."

Undeterred, PG&E has said it will continue to pursue wave energy as part of its portfolio of renewable energy sources.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ulterior Motives & Ballot Initiatives

As a personal rule, I try to vote NO on ballot initiatives because of my personal opinion that we have an elected legislature for a reason (no matter how dysfunctional it might be), and because the ballot measure process is ripe for exploitation by special interests. Rarely are Propositions what they seem.

No change this year, but before we award the "wolf in sheep's clothing" award for 2008 to Prop 10 which is a transparent attempt by mogul T. Boone Pickens to reap a windfall through his natural gas investments, consider Prop H on the ballot in San Francisco.

Prop H is designed to look like a renewable energy measure. According to the Asscoiated Press:
"Proposition H would amend the city charter to require that San Francisco get 51 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar by 2017, 75 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040."

That doesn't sound terribly unreasonable by San Francisco standards. But the AP points out that Prop H also does something else:

"The proposition would authorize the Board of Supervisors to issue revenue bonds to fund an acquisition of PG&E's San Francisco operations or construction of a new electrical system — depending on what the study finds."

So is Prop H about renewable energy or is it about acquiring PG&E's system through eminent domain? I guess the answer is both, but it begs the question, why are these two radically different agendas buried in the same ballot initiative?

PG&E, not surprisingly, is ponying up to oppose the measure and the utility has stated publicly that the number required to buy it out is in the neighborhood of $4 billion, and that San Francisco residents would pay as much as $400 more per year with a municipal utility. Proponents of the measure say it's less, but that's to be expected.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

U.S. Government Betting on Geothermal

The Interior Department announced yesterday that is making 190 million acres of federal land available for lease by private interests for development of geothermal energy projects. The Federal and state governments will share in the proceeds of any projects developed on the leased lands.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said it is estimated that the available leases could produce enough energy to generate 5,540 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 5.5 million homes.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

"The government has had a geothermal leasing program under way for years. Since 2001, the Bureau of Land Management has issued 380 leases for geothermal projects. Currently, 1,275 megawatts of electricity are being produced from geothermal resources on federal land.

But the new plan calls for making more federal land available for such projects. Kempthorne said the new leases could begin to produce significant amounts of power by 2015."

The Chronicle identifies the land up for lease in 12 states: Alaska (3), Arizona (8), California (14), Colorado (10), Idaho (20), Montana (8), Nevada (8), New Mexico (9), Oregon (10), Utah (18), Washington (1) and Wyoming (13).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

L.A. Residents Get Drilled

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday-- much to the chagrin of local residents-- to regulate new urban drill sites in the Inglewood Oil Field in southwest Los Angeles. As many as 600 sites, operated by Houston-based PXP Energy, are planned over the next 30 years, with 24 sites slated for this year alone.

PXP claims that its $2 million environmental review demonstrates conclusively that the wells will not have an adverse impact on local residents. Local residents beg to differ. The Supes claim that their hands are tied-- if they didn't vote to "regulate" the wells, PXP could legally go to the state and get a permit to start drilling anyway.

Last year, the County got almost $7.5 million in tax revenue from the Inglewood Field. PXP estimates that tax revenue will grow by 20% to $9.3 million this year.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Comparing the Candidates' Plans

With the ecnomy continuing to dominate the political conversation, little attention has been paid lately to where the candidates stand on energy. Sarah Palin loves to talk about energy because it is right in her wheelhouse, but she hasn't been doing much talking about anything so voters have not gotten much more than "Drill Baby Drill!"

David Baker breaks out the McCain's and Obama's energy plans in the Chronicle today and concludes that, save for detail and nuance, they are largely the same, and that both could be scuttled by worsening economy.

A brief summary from the Chronicle:

Obama plans to:

-- Cut carbon dioxide emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

-- Create a cap-and-trade system covering the entire economy, auction permits to emit greenhouse gases and use $15 billion of the proceeds each year to fund alternative energy projects.

-- Require that 10 percent of the nation's electricity come from renewable sources by the year 2012. (California law requires 20 percent by the end of 2010.)

-- Increase fuel economy standards for cars by 4 percent each year, offer drivers a $7,000 tax credit for buying advanced technology vehicles, work with automakers to put 1 million plug-in hybrid electric cars on the road by 2015 and make sure all new U.S. cars can run on more than one fuel by 2013. To help carmakers make the switch, he would give them $4 billion in tax credits and loan guarantees for retooling their factories.

McCain wants to:

-- Cut carbon dioxide emissions to 60 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. Under his version of cap and trade, the initial round of permits would be allotted to companies for free, but later rounds would be auctioned. An unspecified amount of the proceeds would be used to fund alternative energy research.

-- Commit $2 billion each year to developing clean coal power plants, which trap the carbon dioxide they produce. He would restructure the tax code to encourage renewable power development and would create a permanent tax credit for research and development.

-- Give drivers a $5,000 tax credit for buying "zero carbon emissions" cars, and offer a $300 million prize to the company that can develop a substantially better and cheaper battery for plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars. Rather than raise fuel economy standards, McCain would crack down on carmakers who don't meet current mileage requirements.

The major differences are on nuclear, offshore drilling and, oil company profits.

Read all about it:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Energy Efficiency Means Big Bucks

The University of California today issued a report concluding that if California improves energy efficiency by just 1 percent per year, proposed state climate policies will increase the Gross State Product (GSP) by approximately $76 billion, increase real household incomes by up to $48 billion and create as many as 403,000 new jobs.

Titled, "Energy Efficiency, Innovation, and Job Creation in California," the study's author is U.C. Professor David Roland-Holst.

According to the University's official announcement:

"Our analysis provides solid evidence that California's legacy of energy policy has grown the economy, created jobs and put billions of dollars into the pockets of consumers," commented U.C. Professor David Roland-Holst. "At this pivotal moment in history, as global markets teeter on the financial edge, our study reveals the economic power of energy innovation and efficiency, and the promise for California if the state redoubles its efforts as proposed in the Draft Scoping Plan to implement the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32).

Using detailed data on the changing economic structure over the period 1972-2006, the study examines one of the most potent catalysts of efficiency-based economic growth: household reductions in per capita electricity use. Because it represents over 70 percent of Gross State Product (GSP), household consumption is the most powerful driver of economic activity in the state, and household expenditure patterns are the leading determinant of state energy dependence and employment. "

Friday, October 17, 2008

East Coast Bias

You can't get much more "inside the beltway" than the American Council for Capital Formation, a Washington, D.C. think tank whose Board of Directors is a who's who of former Republican Members of Congress (with a few Dems sprinkled in for diversity) and captains of industry. Yesterday the ACCF looked way outside the beltway and took on AB 32.

ACCF issued a scathing assessment of CARB's scoping plan for AB 32, in the process trashing the bill, and a proposed can and trade system. As press releases go it is long and hard hitting.

Read and enjoy!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Economic Train Wreck Causes A Car Crash

The highly touted, much anticipated Tesla Roadster has hit the skids. Production of the $100,000+ electric sports car has been pushed back at least a year and the company is closing offices and laying off employees due to dwindling funds.

According to the LA Times:

"Before delivering its first production Roadster in February, Tesla raised about $140 million, mostly from venture capital firms such as VantagePoint Venture Partners. To help finance its next project -- a $60,000, four-door electric car called the Model S that it plans to build in San Jose -- Tesla once again looked to capital firms for an additional $100 million or so."


"Tesla maintains that it will be able to fund its Model S project by relying on up to $250 million in loans guaranteed by the Department of Energy, as well as on tax exemptions offered by California worth up to $9 million."

So the government is getting into the car business as well?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Provocative Piece of the Day

Here's one that will wrankle a few folks...

William Tucker pens a longish piece in the National Review rationalizing the use of nuclear power. While he makes some indisputably good points, he also tosses some bombs that will drive the anti-nuclear crowd nuts (e.g., calling uranium "easy on the environment" and essentially calling out the concern over storing spent nuclear fuel as a overblown).

It's a good read though, and here are some highlights:

  • "The solar thermal plants being considered in Florida and California — where they used mirrors to concentrate sunlight to boil water — will cover a hundred or more square miles to match one coal or nuclear plant. We’re building these things because the federal and state governments are providing huge tax subsidies and many states are even mandating that utilities buy the power."

  • "We’re now fomenting 30 percent of the corn crop and replacing only 3 percent of our oil — plus pushing up world food prices. The U.N. is calling biofuels a “crime against humanity.” Supporters talk about “cellulose ethanol” but it’s never been done and they’ve been trying for almost a hundred years."

  • "The average 1,000-megawatt coal plant must be fed by a unit train arriving at the plant every day. Such trains now leave Cheyenne, Wyoming every 12 minutes carrying coal from the Powder River Basin to power plants from Nevada to Arkansas. More than half the nation’s rail freight is now coal. In fact, it’s straining the whole infrastructure and we may have to build new rail lines before long. ... Now lets’ look at nuclear. A 1000-MW nuclear reactor is refueled by a single tractor-trailer arriving at the plant once every eighteen months. "

  • "So why are we do we need Yucca Mountain, a huge repository designed to “bury” 77,000 tons of “nuclear waste,” when 95 percent of the material is non-fissioning natural uranium? ... The French have complete recycling. (I know you talk about France’s nuclear power a lot but I doubt you know this.) They take plutonium from spent fuel, mix it with uranium depleted by enrichment, and call it “mixed oxide fuel.” It’s sold all over Europe and Japan. They’re also importing bomb-grade uranium from old Russian nuclear weapons, mixing it with the tailings from uranium mines (another “waste product”) and shipping it to the United States of America as reactor fuel. It’s a treaty engineered by your old colleagues Senators Pete Domenici and Sam Nunn in the 1990s. One out of every ten light bulbs in America is now being lit by a former Soviet weapon! It’s the greatest swords-into-plowshares effort in history — although very few people know about it. Things nuclear, of course, are not the subject of polite conversation.So what’s left when all this reprocessing is done? Essentially nothing. All of France’s nuclear waste from 25 years of producing 75 percent of its electricity is stored beneath the floor of one room at Le Hague. The lifetime output for each French citizen would fit in a soda can. That’s what the incredible energy density of nuclear power can do for the environment."
As I say, it's a "provocative read...

Going Nuclear [National Review]

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

PG&E to Anchor Ruby Pipeline

PG&E will be the anchor customer on El Paso's Ruby natural gas pipeline which will run from Wyoming to the California/Oregon border and which is slated to be online in 2011.

PG&E recently received a favorable ruling from the PUC's Administrative Law Judge for 375,000 dekatherms per day of capacity , but still needs full commission approval. FERC also has to sign off on the pipeline, and El Paso plans to file an application in 2009.

The project appears to have broad support. According to an El Paso news release:

"PG&E's request for Commission approval of its Ruby agreement received support from a number of public interest groups, including the Commission's Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA), The Utility Reform Network (TURN), and Californians for Renewable Energy (CARE). In Commission filings, both DRA and TURN stated that the increased supply diversity that Ruby brings from the Rockies will enhance reliability and promote competition. CARE noted that Ruby's commitment to environmentally responsible operations will be particularly advantageous to California. "

The same release stated, "In June 2008, Ruby announced that it had received more than 1.1 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of commitments from customers under 10- to 15-year contracts and is moving forward with the pipeline project, subject to regulatory approvals."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Scientists Move Closer to Nuclear Fusion

Is nuclear fusion close to becoming commercially viable? While the National Ignition Facility in Livermore is, by all accounts, behind schedule and overbudget, scientists in England are close to achieving controlled fusion in a lab, and this week will begin work on a fusion reactor that could be the future for commercial nuclear reactors.

According to "Unlike nuclear fission, which tears apart atoms to release energy and highly radioactive by-products, fusion involves squeezing two ""heavy"" hydrogen atoms, called deuterium and tritium together so they fuse, producing harmless helium and vast amounts of energy."

Currently, there are two fusion reactors already under construction-- one in France which uses magnetic fields to generate the energy necessary to stimulate the fusion process, and the NIF in Livermore which uses high powered lasers.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Sun Will Come Out To-morrow! To-morrow!

While Arnold was mugging for the cameras and lobbying to become Interior Secretary in an Obama adminstration at a Sunnyvale high tech event (actually at the dedication of a new solar array in a parking lot before a high tech event), the Los Angeles Times was reporting that Southern California Edison has shut off power to over a quarter million-- 10% more than last year-- delinqent residential accounts.

Have no fear, the Governor says, solar is here. According to the Mercury News:

"We all know we're going through tough economic times right now, but that's no reason to slow down when it comes to protecting our environment and investing in clean, green technologies," Schwarzenegger said. Clean-technology businesses are getting venture capital dollars and hiring new employees at a time when nearly every other segment of the economy is lagging, he said."

That sounds a little bit rosy, and a lot like a tough sell.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

From Richmond to Chevron, With Love

"If only oil refineries were portable." That has to be what Chevron is thinking these days. But, sadly you can't just pick up and move a refinery so Chevron's saga in Richmond, CA continues.

For forever it seems, the company has been put through the wringer by the city as it seeks to expand and update its refinery. That unpleasant process may soon seem like a walk in the park, though, if Measure T passes on next month's ballot.

Measure T seeks to impose a new business license fee on manufacturers in the city. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, whose Green Party affiliation should probably tip you off as to how she feels about Chevron, is all for the measure, telling the San Francisco Chronicle that "It's only fair that we start turning around the decades of poverty and lack of opportunity."

The Chamber of Commerce takes the opposite position, wondering how the City is going to attract new businesses and create new jobs.

Just to put the measure in perspective for Chevron, if it passes, Chevron's municipal taxes will increase 440x-- Four hundred and forty times.... ($26.5 million). And Obama isn't even president until January!!!!!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Solar in the Round

Solyndra is breaking new ground in the rooftop solar market. The company claims its cylindrical solar tubes can produce more energy by capturing light from all angles. The comapny plans to roll them out in 2009.

Renewable Energy comments:

"Solyndra's technology is a copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS)-based thin-film PV system. The company said that its system invloves rolling CIGS thin-films into a cylindrical shape and then placing 40 of the cylinders into a 1-meter-by-2-meter panel. Solyndra is currently shipping its systems, comprised of panels and mounting hardware, to fulfill more than US $1.2 billion of multi-year contracts with customers in Europe and the United States. The panels' cylindrical modules could be capable of capturing sunlight across a 360° photovoltaic surface and are capable of converting direct, diffuse and reflected sunlight into electricity. "

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Rate hikes, social positions putting PG&E behind the 8 ball?

PG&E's decision last week to crank up rates now in return for maybe not doing so in January hasn't scored the utility any public relations points, but at least it has built up lots of goodwill with its warm and fuzzy social positions right? Apparenty not.

Back in July we told you about how PG&E was contributing big to an effort to derail a ballot initiative seeking to make gay marriage illegal. Well lurking in my news aggregator from Friday is a gem from the Bakersfield Californian-- there is a grassroots move afoot to torpedo PG&E's retail natural gas business in retaliation against the company's stand against what its critics are calling "traditional marriage."

Not only have critics sought out an alternate company to supply homes in PG&E service area with natural gas, they have set up a web site with instructions on how to make the switch.

First a rate increase, then an incensed social backlash, PG&E is catching it from all sides.

Monday, October 06, 2008

"The tipping point on global warming will be less than a decade away..."

David Freeman comes out swinging in the San Francisco Chronice with a passionate defense of Prop 7. I'll let you draw your own conclusions:

Mother Nature demands Californians pass Prop. 7
S. David Freeman
Monday, October 6, 2008

There is no longer a debate in California over whether we need to shift to renewable energy sources. Nor can anyone successfully say that Proposition 7's target of 50 percent renewable by 2025 is too ambitious. Al Gore says we need to do 100 percent by 2018.

Mother Nature is the one that will really call the shots, and the best experts say that the tipping point on global warming will be less than a decade away.

We need more renewable electricity not just for today's uses, but to power hybrid and all-electric cars. Prop. 7 can provide us the carbon-free domestic energy that will drive our nation's vehicles for less than $1 a gallon gasoline equivalent.

The lack of desired progress to date by the electric utility industry in California makes it clear that we need to raise the bar. Prop. 7 does just that in a realistic, well-thought-out manner.
I studied the text of Prop. 7 without any preconceived opinions. My considered judgment is that it clearly meshes with existing California law to achieve two basic and necessary goals.
Prop. 7 doubles the rate at which we shift from the fuels that poison our environment to renewable energy - from 1 percent per year to 2 percent per year.

It also streamlines and shortens the approval process for projects that don't pose serious threats to the environment, so the utilities will have better opportunities to achieve the necessary goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2025.

Prop. 7 strengthens the penalties on utilities for failing to meet the targets by removing the ceiling on penalties, and forbidding that the fine be paid by consumers.

The opponents contend in TV ads, paid for by the utilities, that small renewable producers below 30 megawatts would be excluded by Prop. 7. That is just plain wrong. Prop. 7 changes absolutely nothing about which size facility can qualify. Today, both large and small producers qualify for the renewable portfolio standard, a policy that requires a certain percentage of energy be produced from wind, solar, biomass or geothermal energy sources. Utilities must purchase a certain percentage of their power from these renewable producers. If Prop. 7 passes, the same producers, both large and small, would qualify for the standard. The opponents fail to distinguish between facilities that count toward meeting the standard without any size limitations, and plants of more than 30 megawatts that - for siting purposes only - will be approved by the state Energy Commission. The 30-megawatt distinction has nothing whatsoever to do with which facilities qualify for the standard.

Another complaint put forward by the opposition is that the energy commissioners are given authority to excuse the fine for non-compliance in any year if there has been a good faith effort to comply. Please note that the commission, not the utilities, must make the findings of good faith. I would have trouble defending a law that fined a utility for a failure that was in fact beyond their control.

The utilities that lobbied to defeat efforts by the California Legislature to increase the renewable standard don't dare to openly oppose the basic provisions of Prop. 7 that take serious action to avoid the dangers of global warming. Instead, the utilities are funding ads that attempt to poke holes in the language.

But this time the people get to vote, and they know that if the utilities really wanted to provide electricity produced from renewable sources, we would already have it.

Yes, we can reach 50 percent renewable by 2025 or sooner. Indeed, we must. Prop. 7 will help us get there.

Friday, October 03, 2008

California Dreaming

SDG&E is beating back lawsuits over the last couple of wildfires while simultaneously facing the unfortunate reality that it will almost certainly have to face more wildfires in the future. What's a utility to do?

In an earth-shattering policy shift, SDG&E has said that it will now simply shut off power to fire prone areas when high-risk conditions-- like Santa Ana winds--arise. You can almost hear the company sighing heavily and saying "Screw it. Cut the power. We can't win."

This is just one more stop on California's express ride to third world status. The roads are crumbling, the schools are underperforming, we're overdue for a catostrophic earthquake, and this morning we woke up to find out that we will be broke in a month because nobody will loan the state $7 billion. Good times.

You can read all about SDGE's plan in the Union Trib:

SDG&E's fire plan would cut service [San Diego Union Tribune]

Thursday, October 02, 2008

PG&E Has Good News and Bad News

PG&E has good news and bad news. The good news: there is a good chance rates won't go up on January 1, 2009, as originally planned. The bad news: they're going up today. Yesterday actually.

Citing increased costs of $645 million driven by lower hyrdroelectic production and more expensive natural gas, the utility is cranking up rates ny 2%-7%, depending on usage patterns.

The Sacramento Bee writes:

"Under the new rate structure, PG&E said a household using 550 kilowatt-hours per month will see its monthly bill go from $72.12 to $73.40, or 2 percent. A household using 850 kilowatt-hours monthly will see its bill go from $148.44 to $158.11, or 7 percent."

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Limping Economy Threatens Clean Tech Gravy Train

Clean Technology startups enjoyed another banner quarter in Q3, taking in $2.6 billion in venture capital investments, with 43% of that going to California companies. The most active investors were all from the Bay Area and included four venture capital funds and Google. So far, $6.6 billion has been invested in clean tech startups this year-- more than all of last year. Year over year, investment in Q2 and Q3 was up 17% and 37%, respectively.

But all is not well. Experts predict that the economic slowdown (can we finally say "recession" yet?) will impact the industry hard. Industries such as biofuels which are not as far along as other alternative energy sectors on the development curve, threaten to get hit the hardest.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

"One of the quarter's top investors - Wilber James of Rockport Capital Partners - said that although investments in clean technology will continue, venture capitalists will be more cautious about their investment partners and about how much money startups need to break even. "Nobody can just assume the public markets will be available in two or three years," he said. "

The three sectors that raised the most money were thin films for capturing solar energy, smart power grids and algae for producing fuel.