Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update

Here are your wEEkly Updates:

1. International climate commitments: The nations of the world are marking this Earth Day with the signing of the Agreement made in Paris last December to make efforts to limit global temperature rise.

2. New issue of CURRENTS: Why does this matter for local governments? Take a look at interviews from Oakland Program Manager Daniel Hamilton and Mayor Tom Butt of Richmond in the Spring 2016 edition of CURRENTS, now online – and look for a video from the interviews with even more later this spring.

3. The Spring edition of CURRENTS also shares an overview FAQ of the rolling portfolio process supporting stakeholder participation in the planning for the next five years of energy efficiency programs, in response to numerous inquiries. You can track the latest on the rolling portfolio by signing up on the EE Coordinating Committee website (, or see more from your Coordinator here. Upcoming events include public comments on residential and commercial sector program planning this coming Monday (4/25).

4. Also on the rolling portfolio: yesterday afternoon, the CPUC’s Energy Division released its staff proposal on Energy Efficiency Baselines, following the commitments made in October’s rolling portfolio CPUC Decision and responding to AB 802’s requirement that the CPUC allow energy efficiency programs to provide incentives based on metered energy savings. Comments are due back May 10, 2016.

5. New national energy legislation: the U.S. Senate has passed the first broad national energy bill since 2007: the Energy Policy Modernization Act. Learn more about the bill from, and hear why ACEEE thinks the bill is helpful for state and local governments.

6. EE and jobs: The results of the 2016 California Advanced Energy Employment Survey are out, and show advanced energy job growth of 19%. To review click here.

7. Valuing EE for cost savings: a recent survey shows that most Americans still value energy efficiency the most for the cost savings it brings them. Learn more on Energy Efficiency Markets’s site, here.

8. Know businesses in your jurisdictions looking to go green? They may be interested in the Sustainable Brands Conference in San Diego, June 6-7th. Click here for more info.

9. Corporations tackling climate change: To see more on what corporations are already doing to mitigate climate change, click here for a new GreenBiz report, “Accountability for Climate Action.”

10. Leadership in solar: Just in time for Earth Day, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to put in place solar requirements for new construction: all new commercial and residential buildings with 10 floors or less will be required to install solar photovoltaic, solar water panels or a combination of the two starting 2017.

11. Solar and EE, in pools: Solar pool heating is a great way to reduce the energy spent on pool heating. Take a look at these case studies shared by CSE featuring real estate companies, aquatic centers, and schools using solar and energy efficiency measures and leveraging incentives to cut pool energy use and costs.

12. Water and energy efficiency: Every gallon of water that’s wasted not only contributes to drought concerns, but is additional water that needs to be pumped, heated, and treated. Learn tips to start saving from U.S. EPA’s WaterSense Program lead, here.

13. Global water and energy best practices: the Environmental Defense Fund covers what’s needed to create a smart future for water and energy here.

14. Looking for water/EE funds? The California Energy Commission (CEC) released a grant funding opportunity earlier this week for water and energy efficiency demonstrations. Learn more here.

15. Pollution Reduction Strategy: stakeholder feedback. The Air Resources Board (ARB) will conduct a second public workshop to discuss ARB's Proposed Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy (Proposed Strategy) at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, also available online, on May 3rd. For more information click here.

16. Understanding State-Level EE: If you missed Tuesday’s webinar on navigating and leveraging EE resources at the state agency level, you can find it here, and provide feedback on additional energy efficiency 101 resources you’d like to see. (And the SEEC Forum in June will for the first time feature a Energy Efficiency 101 workshop the day before.)

17. Considering Geothermal? A new guide was released this week reviewing opportunities and best practices in California geothermal power generation, direct use, and heat pumps.

18. The 7th Annual SEEC Forum: Call for Posters! Are you registered for the SEEC Forum yet? This year’s Forum will feature a poster session for sharing a project or program’s best practices, a new tool or approach to EE (or a proven one with interesting results), and more – click here to propose a poster.

19. Climate Mitigation Event: For more on applying lessons from Paris in California, TRC is hosting a 4/28 event in San Diego: Climate Change Mitigation: From International Goals to Local Successes and Challenges. Click here for more.

20. Job Announcement: Redwood Coast Energy Authority is hiring for an Energy Technician to assist with the development, implementation, and on-going operation of various energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Click here for more information.

As always, you can keep track of relevant events by connecting to the EE Events Calendar, and find more resources being added daily on the EECoordinator website. If there are events or topics you'd like added, please contact me.

That’s all for this week!

10 cool advancements in clean energy

The Space Race showed nations can accomplish great things when everyone is committed to a common goal. Increasingly, people are suggesting that same we-can-do-anything attitude be applied to clean energy. In many ways, it's occurring.

Here are 10 things that grabbed my attention in recent days:

1/Solar windows: Much is being written about solar shingles and even solar clothing, but researchers are also studying if windows - think skyscrapers - could double as energy generators. Challenges abound, as this post in environment 360 points out because they have to be clear, but a Maryland company claims to have a way to spray on a see-through solar coating. Researchers and students at UC Merced also are working on something similar here;

2/The smart minds up the road from us at UC Merced designed an innovative low-cost, non-tracking solar thermal collector system that is able to operate with a solar thermal efficiency of 50% at extreme temperatures. Previously, only more complex tracking solar thermal collector systems could achieve this temperature. The system has practical applications in solar heating, cooling, desalination, oil extraction, electricity generation, and food processing, says Ron Durbin, executive director of University of California Advanced Solar Technologies Institute. Here's an ABC 30 story on it;

3/ Speaking of universities and solar cells, the equally smart minds at USC are developing nanocells that could fit on plastic. Think of the possibilities! More here;

4/ Isn't nature great! The humpback whale is influencing windmill blade design. Click here.

5/ Iceland wants to lay an undersea cable to export geothermal to Europe;

6/ A New York company uses on-site wind turbines to meet 60 percent of the power needs of a mammoth manufacturing plant. Gigaom has it - and more here;

7/ Sidewalks that use kinetic energy from footsteps to generate power for nearby appliances. Crazy, but read about it here. Similarly, these trains in Philly can store kinetic energy from braking for further use.

8/  Superman may not be able to change in these booths, but folks will be able to power up their electric vehicle and monitor pollution. Oh, and they can also make a call;

9/ Making good clean power out of bad bad land. Our blog;

10/  The U.S. and U.K. joining forces to develop floating wind power. More here.

These are just a few things that I noted in recent days, but certainly isn't complete. These solar powered bins that text when they're full are pretty cool too. Maybe it's true when people say clean energy is the next industrial revolution.

Video by UC Merced
Photo of people walking by Graham Kingsley


Small stuff drives clean energy movement; but battles loom

My great-grandfather made and lost three fortunes and used to say, "Don't sweat the small stuff."

However, clean energy appears to thrive on the small stuff, despite or perhaps because of the fledgling sector's rather uncertain future. Incremental advances in solar and LED technology have dropped prices and are improving performance, while breakthroughs in biofuel technologies are encouraging the private sector to capitalize promising companies.

The U.S. Department of Energy has been in on the act, issuing rounds of small grants and encouraging clean energy development with seed money in the first half of 2011. The agency announced $11 million for the oft-overlooked geothermal sector, with $6.6 million going to California projects. The agency also committed a partial guarantee for a $1.4 billion loan to support Project Amp, which supports installation of solar panels on industrial buildings across the country.

The private sector, meanwhile, hasn't been sitting on its hands. Chicago-based S&C Electric Co. provided Southern California Edison with an electric storage device that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly on the scenic Catalina Island, Calif. The island is off-grid and relies on diesel generation for its power.

"S&C continues to innovate new solutions," said Jim Sember, an S&C vice president, in a statement.

On an entirely different front, but no less important, is San Diego-based Genomatica, which won the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. Judges said, according to a statement, "By producing the exact same chemicals made today from fossil fuels, but from renewable feedstocks, Genomatica's technology has the potential for broad industry impact."

And the company may do it more cheaply. Major corporations are lining up.

The small stuff is especially important because the winnowing process in the energy sector is not expected to be resolved soon. The oil industry expects to remain dominant for decades and coal will continue to be a big player despite its environmental drawbacks.

Michael T. Klare, author of "Rising Powers Shrinking Planet," says in a recent post on TomDispatch that he believes it will take 30 years for "experimental energy systems like hydrogen power, cellulosic ethanol, wave power, algae fuel and advanced nuclear reactors to make it from the laboratory to full-scale industrial development."

Klare says some will survive, some won't. He likens the coming vetting process to the 30 Years War, between European powers in what is now Germany from 1618 to 1648. The sometime religious conflict was punctuated by fierce battles and loss of life. For instance, Klare says, an eventual shift from petroleum could be intensely risky and potentially fatal for the world's oil corporations.

Meanwhile, other corporations are doing what they can to reduce their exposure to energy costs. SC Johnson, the Racine, Wis.-based maker of Pledge and Glade products, is but one of many looking to enhance efficiency. The company says it reduced its greenhouse gas emissions from operations by nearly a third over the past six years by installing a methane and natural gas co-generation plant for its domestic operations, a palm shell generation system in Indonesia -- reducing diesel use by 80 percent and wind power.

In the United Kingdom, Ricoh has debuted a solar and wind powered billboard along London's M4 motorway that's lit only when the weather's conducive. The company already has a version up in New York's Times Square. And in Fresno, the city has added solar-powered parking meters that accept debit cards.

I'm not certain if we needed that last one. But the innovations keep coming. Whether there will be a battle of technologies similar to "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" remains to be seen.

Sun, wind & geothermal get federal boost

The U.S. government has unleashed a relative torrent of measures -- but a relatively modest amount of cash -- to accelerate President Obama's clean energy objectives.

And because they involve wind, sun and geothermal, it's almost as if the god of thunder, also known as The Mighty Thor, son of Odin, played a role. The connection, I admit, is a little obscure, but Marvel just ran the first of the ads for its live-action movie on the wielder of the mystic Mjolnir during the Super Bowl.

The genesis of all this hubbub is the President's goal of generating 80 percent of the nation's electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

The U.S. Department of Energy wants to bring solar prices down to about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour with its "SunShot" initiative. It has a long way to go. reports that the high solar condition industrial industry index is 16.59 cents per kWh.

DOE's plan is to help reduce the cost for utility-scale installations by about 75 percent to about $1 a watt.

I can hear Thor say, "By the bristling beard of Odin," right about now. (Although I'm a closet comic buff, I got the phrase from Jared at

"America is in a world race to produce cost-effective, quality photovoltaics," said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, in a statement. "These efforts will boost our economic competitiveness, rebuild our manufacturing industry and help reach the President's goal of doubling our clean energy in the next 25 years."

U.S. outlay: $27 million for "projects to support the development, commercialization, and manufacturing of advanced solar energy technologies."

Offshore wind received the coordinated might of the U.S. Department of Interior and DOE to "support offshore wind energy deployment and several high priority wind energy areas in the mid-Atlantic that will spur rapid, responsible development of this abundant renewable resource."

Wind remains a big departure from the old-style turn-it-on-and-let-it-run practices of years past in electricity production. Wind turbines are getting bigger and have to be in often remote areas where the wind blows, generating sporadic energy. Transmission lines have to be upgraded or new ones built. And back-ups into the existing grid have to be built to accommodate power spikes as more wind power comes on line.

In the Boulder, Colo.-based Pike Research report "Electricity Transmission Infrastructure," out last year, officials wrote: "In order to reap the full benefits of renewable energy and smart grid technologies, the capacity and information-carrying ability of transmission systems must be increased substantially."

No easy task.

So Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Chu announced what they dubbed "major steps forward."

"This initiative will spur the type of innovation that will help us create new jobs, build a clean energy future, and compete and win in the technologies of the 21st century," Salazar said.

He also said the government is working to synchronize research and development initiatives with "more efficient, forward-thinking planning."

U.S. commitment: up to $50.5 million in project funding.

The final naturally occurring energy targeted (at least in this round) is geothermal.

The DOE wants to test the reliability and efficiency of geothermal power generation at oil and gas fields to determine the low-temperature technologies. Work will be done at the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center near Casper, Wyo. to reduce costs.

DOE's Geothermal Technologies Program is currently paying for 17 projects with a capacity of 3 gigawatts, or enough to power 2.4 million homes by 2020, officials say.

One of the sites, Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 3 near Midwest, Wyo., produces oil and 45,000 barrels of 190-degree water per day from one formation and 28,000 barrels of 210-degree water per day from another. Initially discarded, heat is now extracted from the water and used to operate a 250-kilowatt generator.

Obama said we're going to have to go after and develop cost-efficient ways of extracting energy from all forms of alternative energy. And this pushes the needle forward.

I'd add that we'll have to do it more efficiently and with better regulation. And as my friend in the Texas oil patch says, "Don't forget oil." We will need the stuff and the assistance of the energy companies that produce it to improve our air and national security through domestic ingenuity.

And as for Thor? He'd be all for it. Just be careful of his brother the Evil Loki.

Photo: Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 3 waste water discharge courtesy