BlueGreen Alliance

Good Jobs, Clean Environment, Green Economy

Aug 28

The Green Jobs Source for Thursday, August 28, 2014

Editorial note: The Source will be back Tuesday, September 9.

YOU SHOULD KNOW…

 

Heading to the links to celebrate the long weekend? Water management and maintenance cost issues due to extreme weather have put unexpected stresses on golf courses to maintain good conditions. (Daily Climate)

WHAT’S TRENDING

Groundbreaking – The California State Legislature passed groundbreaking legislation to reduce methane pollution caused by leaks in the state’s aging natural gas pipelines. (BlueGreen Alliance)

Win, win, win – In other good news for the state, Californians came a little closer to the goal of getting 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles onto the state's roads by 2025 with the passage of three bills to promote electric vehicles. (Los Angeles Times)

Counter measure – In response to reports that President Obama is not planning on running an international climate treaty through Congress, Republicans start to think about their next moves. Meanwhile, some Democrats grow nervous. (National Journal & The Hill)

Minority support – The Environmental Protection Agency appeals to minority leaders on the Clean Power Plan. (The Hill)

Climate campaigns – Senate candidate Gary Peters is making climate action a big campaign issue in his neck-and-neck campaign. In Florida, it’s also a defining issue for the candidates. (Politico & Inside Climate News)

BLUE-GREEN LINKS

Bloomberg: Renewable Energy Report Recommends Cutting Australia’s Target

The Kansas City Star: Obama needs buy-in from Senate on global 2015 climate change agreement

ThinkProgress: Hawaii’s Largest Utility Announces Plan To Triple Rooftop Solar By 2030

That's it for The Source today. Don't forget to tell your friends about this great resource. You can sign up here.

Posted In: California
Aug 27

How Much Does Rooftop Solar Power Cost? Grid Parity Here or Coming in More Than Half of U.S. States

The following blog by Mike Jacobs, senior energy analyst, Climate & Energy Program was originally posted in UCS' The Equation blog. The original blog post is available online here.  

What’s going on up on the roof?

For more than 120 years, homes and businesses have been buying electricity. Now rooftop solar electricity production is changing the way hundreds of thousands of homeowners get energy. Most have added solar panels because this makes money, and that motivation will keep growing and spreading.

Small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on rooftops have suddenly become the most commonly built, most numerous electric generators, with individuals making decisions based on the cost of the solar panels and the price of their local electric utility.

Over half the states could have rooftop solar that’s as cheap as local electricity prices by 2017

UCS estimates that with rapid declines in the cost of panels and installations, homes in 11 states plus the District of Columbia can use a federal tax credit and financing to make electricity cheaper than they buy it. Seventeen more states are within three years of this tipping point. This map shows where.

solar-power-panel-2-485

This is big news! Some say it is the end of the old ways, a revolution.

How do we reach that conclusion? We start with two National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analyses of break-even for an investment in PV (solar photovoltaic) panels compared with paying the residential rate for electricity. We picked through the NREL studies as we were producing our own update on the rise of solar energy. In their analysis, NREL assessed the available sunshine, projected current and future local electricity prices escalating 0.5% per year, and included financing and federal tax incentives to determine what the cost of solar (in dollars per watt) would need to be to reach break-even.

What was really missing from these NREL studies is a projection of when the break-even point is likely to be reached. Not faulting the lab, just saying that when UCS compared the NREL numbers on break-even costs and other organizations projections of prices, this all became more clear. And much more interesting. Now anyone can look at the map and see there are going to be some changes coming.

NREL’s analysis (and therefore ours) is conservative in some important ways:

  • No state or local incentives are used. Including existing state tax incentives available in 45 states, or other local support for solar generation would lower the break-even cost for a residential PV system (net present value).
  • Some utilities have an optional time-of-use rate structure that also would improve the economics of residential solar. The benefits of this can be seen in this analysis.
  • Also not included in our take on the NREL numbers is a price on carbon, which would recognize a value of avoiding emissions.

Deutsche Bank and NRG have come to very similar conclusions with their own analyses, while others like Citigroup predict continued declines in the cost of solar panels, global demand, and inevitable price parity.

How soon can you get solar?

New energy supplies are often known long before they become practical and economical. Wind power, nuclear power, and shale gas all had been identified as potential energy supplies but were considered too expensive. Wind power and shale gas have come way down in price. Now solar is making its move. And rooftop solar is crossing the threshold, and a solar boom is underway.

If you are interested in getting solar panels on your roof, ask for a quote from a solar firm.  Since our map did not include state and local incentives that can accelerate the economics, you may get an even better answer. Keep in mind that the NREL assumption about how energy prices will change is only an assumption.

Unlike most energy supply decisions, the choice of rooftop solar is within your control. If you want to adjust your economics to recognize carbon savings, you can do that too, with this energy choice. There is so much that changes when solar becomes cost-effective. This is just getting started. 

Posted in: EnergyGlobal Warming Tags: 

About the author: Michael Jacobs is a senior energy analyst with expertise in electricity markets, transmission and renewables integration work. See Mike's full bio.

Posted In: Clean Energy, Union of Concerned Scientists
Aug 27

The Green Jobs Source for August 27, 2014

YOU SHOULD KNOW…

Carter Wall is the director of the performance solar division at a Boston-area electrical construction company. She’s one of the women the Department of Energy (DOE) has identified in STEM fields—shorthand for science, technology, engineering and mathematic—in a video series to urge participation in fields with underrepresented populations. (DOE)

WHAT’S TRENDING

With or without you – The Obama Administration is working to hammer out an international climate treaty, but without ratification from Congress. (New York Times)

Unchecked emissions – According to a new draft of a U.N. climate report, unchecked emissions pose one of the singular greatest threats over the coming decades. (New York Times)

Editorial strategy – Noticing a trend in climate-themed editorials this week from the Washington Post? Here’s a further explanation for the motivation to do something about what editorial page editor Fred Hiatt calls "an existential threat to the planet." Here’s the latest editorial. (Washington Post)

Betting on renewables – Germany’s top utility banks on renewable energy investments in order to thrive over the coming years. (Reuters)

BLUE-GREEN LINKS

National Journal: Scientists Go Beyond Science to Explain Their Climate Terror

National Geographic: "Zombie" Servers and Inefficiency Drive Energy Waste at Data Centers

Wall Street Journal: Germany's Expensive Gamble on Renewable Energy

USA Today: Ken Burns: Glacier National Park in trouble

EcoWatch: Women’s Rights and Climate Change: What’s the Connection?

That's it for The Source today. Don't forget to tell your friends about this great resource. You can sign up here.

Aug 26

The Green Jobs Source for August 26, 2014

YOU SHOULD KNOW…

A new MIT study looks at all possible benefits of curbing emissions and suggests policies that cut emissions could be just as good economically as for the environment. (Christian Science Monitor)

WHAT’S TRENDING

Solar surge – Solar energy could be growing faster than it already is if only the right people lead on renewable energy. (Huffington Post)

Climate rule – Attorneys general from 13 states wrote a letter to EPA contesting the agency left out supporting information in the release of the Clean Power Plan. (The Hill)

Slow going – Sales of natural gas powered heavy duty trucks are crawling along despite an otherwise strong market for commercial trucks. (Wall Street Journal)

About face – In a switch from his previous stance, New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown has said man-made climate change has not been proven. A Washington Post editorial explains that our leaders shouldn’t wait any longer to take climate action. (The Hill & Washington Post)

Islands’ dime– In the face of rising seas and other vulnerabilities small islands face, small island states seek to diversify their economies by making investments in renewable energy and more. (Reuters)

BLUE-GREEN LINKS

Bloomberg: China Said to Consider $16 Billion EV-Charging Fund

Climate Progress: Verizon Announces $40 Million Solar Energy Investment

USA Today: FEMA to review Mich. flood damage, need for aid

The Hill: GAO finds no fault with ‘social cost of carbon’

The Inquirer: Fight for clean power

That's it for The Source today. Don't forget to tell your friends about this great resource. You can sign up here.

Posted In: The Source
Aug 25

The Green Jobs Source for August 25, 2014

YOU SHOULD KNOW…

Summers around the country will be hotter in the future. Check out how hot Columbus, OH will be getting. [ http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/6475/images/Source%20Photos/hotsummercolumbus.png ]

The heat island effect is warming up U.S. cities across the country. See how much the summer heat is affecting your nearest metropolis. The above graphic shows how hot Columbus, OH will be getting. (Climate Central)

WHAT’S TRENDING

In the wind – The world’s largest wind turbine maker, Vestas, sees a lot of interest, but uncertainty about the Production Tax Credit (PTC) holds back growth. President Obama is working on tweaking the tax code to prevent this boom and bust cycle. (Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition & The Hill)

Sinking debate – The national debate on climate change has devolved over the years in various ways. (Washington Post)

Campaign issues – A series of public opinion polls shows protecting air and water quality is among the top election issues for Hispanic voters. (National Journal)

Two steps forward – A 515 mile wind and solar energy transmission line is closer to being built. Elsewhere in Silicon Valley, a solar farm wins a power contract but loses a major investor. (The Santa Fe New Mexican & San Jose Mercury News)

BLUE-GREEN LINKS

New York Times: Methane Is Discovered Seeping From Seafloor Off East Coast, Scientists Say

Politico: Lifestyles of the Rich and Parched

ABC Australia: Climate researchers says profitable fruit production safe from climate change for another 50 years

The Economist: Seeing the wood

That's it for The Source today. Don't forget to tell your friends about this great resource. You can sign up here.

Aug 21

Big Win For Energy Efficiency in Los Angeles

The following blog has been cross-posted from the Sierra Club's The Planet blog. The original is available online here

Los-AngelesPhoto by Thomas Pintaric, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

With the help of some amazing coalition work in Los Angeles over the past few years, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) approved a major new energy-efficiency mandate for the utility. The new savings targets put LADWP among the leading utilities in the nation, and Los Angeles among the leading cities, when it comes to energy savings. Serious thanks are in order to Mayor Garcetti, the LADWP board members, and the excellent LADWP Energy Efficiency Department (helmed by David Jacot).

Here's the nitty gritty: Every California utility is required to provide a 10-year energy savings target to theCalifornia Energy Commission. State legislation requires that utilities save at least one percent of total sales each year. Los Angeles' previous commitment was exactly that: one percent every year for the ten years between 2011 and 2020.

On August 5, the utility's board unanimously approved a new plan which would kick our energy-efficiency programs into high gear and ensure that the utility saves 15 percent by 2020 instead -- a 50 percent increase over the last program. Below, Frank Alvarez, an organizer with RePower LA, and coalition members at the Aug. 5 hearing in front of LADWP's board of commissioners. The Sierra Club is a charter member of the RePower LA coalition.

Frank-Alvarez-LADPW-hearing

When fully up and running, LADWP will save over two percent of its annual energy use and has plans to invest upwards of one billion dollars on energy saving projects across the city. The utility has come a long way over the last five years, from the time when Los Angeles was one of the worst-performing utilities in the state, to being the clear leader of the pack.

"We've long known that our utility has the potential to perform as well or better than the best utilities in the nation on energy efficiency," said Evan Gillespie, western region deputy director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "To get there, we needed the city to commit to saving at least two percent annually and allocate sufficient funding to do so. We also knew that we had to engage the public in new ways and ensure that every single customer in the city -- from apartment dwellers to industrial facilities, to small business and schools -- could benefit with programs tailored to their needs."

Key to all of this work has been a partnership between the city and the public. In 2012, LADWP adopted guiding principles that have informed its project development ever since. The adopted principles include commitments to serving low-income communities, prioritizing programs that spur job development, transparency, and collaboration with community-based organizations. The principles spurred expanded programs targeting small businesses, low-income homeowners, renters, and more while providing grants to community-based organizations to help spread the word about opportunities for customers to reduce their energy use and lower their bills.

All of this work has paid off; over the last two years the city has doubled spending on efficiency and seen its energy savings double as well. You can read about these victories in this Sierra magazine article from late 2013, Repower LA.

Then the big news came last week with the LADPW commissioners hearing testimony from a packed room with people from all over the city calling for better standards for the city. Below, a young woman from Venice YouthBuild gives testimony at the hearing in favor of energy efficiency.

LADPW-hearing

Jasmin Vargas, Beyond Coal organizer in L.A., helped translate the testimonies of two Spanish speakers before the LADWP, and said more than 20 organizations were represented.

"When our coalitions win, we all win," said Vargas. "We came together last Tuesday with labor groups, environmentalists, youth groups, and social justice organizations with a united message: 'equity, good jobs and climate action now!'"

Gillespie said LADWP board members were blown away by how much support increasing the energy-efficiency mandate had.

"During the hearing, LADWP board president and retired congressman Mel Levine noted he'd never seen so many people at a LADWP meeting," said Gillespie. "He praised the coalition for the breadth and depth of support for energy efficiency. As he moved to open the vote, he jokingly dared his fellow commissioners to vote no, and the motion passed unanimously!"

Vargas says the next steps are to work with communities to increase participation in the wide array of programs offered by LADWP, while making sure that efficiency is utilized to ease the transition away from the city's dirty coal plants. While the City approved the transition away from coal last year, the utility is still crafting its replacement strategy.

Learn more about what the Sierra Club is doing to move Los Angeles beyond coal.

Posted In: California, Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Sierra Club
Aug 21

The Green Jobs Source for Thursday, August 21, 2014

YOU SHOULD KNOW…

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack says Congress needs to pass alternative funding for fighting wildfires because the growing cost of fighting them is hurting other programs. Fighting wildfires now makes up 42 percent of the Forest Service's overall budget. That's up from 16 percent in 1995. (The Hill) 

WHAT’S TRENDING 

Solar cost – The Union of Concerned Scientists predicts that solar cost parity will be coming to rooftop solar in more than half the U.S. in the near future. (UCS)

Missing out on jobs, investment – Two wind farms that were proposed in Alabama won’t be moving forward after the legislature passed two bills designed specifically to kill the projects. That means Cherokee and Etowah counties will be missing out on hundreds of jobs and millions in new tax revenue. (CleanEnergy.org)

Offshore momentum – The U.S. Department of the Interior has auctioned 80,000 acres off the coast of Maryland for wind energy development. (Delmarva Now)

Florida and climate change – The Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board says now that Gov. Rick Scott has met with climate scientists and heard first-hand how climate is impacting his state and now he needs to act. They said, “Scott has heard from the scientists, and he doesn't have to pretend to be one to address climate change. The next governor and the Legislature should meet this challenge with real solutions rather than denying it exists and leaving future generations to pay for their neglect.” (Tampa Bay Times)

BLUE-GREEN LINKS

Clean Technica: How One Wonky Court Decision Could Unlock Our Renewable Energy Future

E&E News: Calif. takes a crack at climate's effects -- but first, a definition of success

Los Angeles Register: California gives away more water than it has

E&E News: Congressman touts the future of solar -- and hopes he can be a part of it

The Hill: Mark Wahlberg in talks to star in 'Deepwater Horizon'

Wisconsin State Journal: Wisconsin going backward on clean energy 

That's it for The Source today. Don't forget to tell your friends about this great resource. You can sign up here.

Aug 20

Lake Erie toxic algae bloom: Time to scale up solutions we know work

The following blog by Karen Chapman, who is a project manager in EDF's Agriculture Sustainability Program based on Ohio was originally posted on EDF's Voices blog. The original post is available online here  

Pictured at left: Algae bloom discoloring the water in Lake Erie.T Archer/NOAA

The recent drinking water crisis in Toledo was a sober reminder that we need better solutions to address runoff from farms and urban areas.

The crisis resulted when algae containing cyanobacteria – which can be toxic to animals and humans - surrounded Toledo’s water intake in Lake Erie. The toxin can form when large amounts of fertilizers and sewage from farms and urban areas run off the land and end up in waterways.

The problem is not unique to Toledo. Inland lakes across the United States have seen a rise in phosphorus-driven algae blooms in recent decades. Where these lakes supply drinking water for communities, similar scenarios could unfold.

Online platform helps farmers share best practices

In my job at Environmental Defense Fund, I’ve partnered with farmers in Ohio for many years to increase agricultural productivity while reducing nutrient losses to water and air.

Together, we’ve developed platforms such as the Adapt Network that help farmers test nutrient rates and improve time and placement of nitrogen and phosphorus. It also helps them promote soil health initiatives and strategic placement of landscape filters such as buffers and wetlands that keep nutrients from seeping into lakes and streams.

Farms in the Midwest managed to cut fertilizer loss by an average of 25 percent. 

Improving soil health increases its ability to process the nutrients that are applied. It means the crop is better able to use the fertilizers that were spread on the fields and that less is lost.

Another way to improve nutrient use efficiency is to time the applications of fertilizers when they can best be used by the crop – and to avoid the application of fertilizers prior to a rain or snowmelt event when much might be carried off the field. 

Thanks to these programs and efficiency tools, thousands of farms in the Midwest managed to cut fertilizer loss by an average of 25 percent on half a million acres – all while maintaining or increasing crop yields.

Awareness of runoff is growing

Most farmers want to be good stewards and they're open to trying new practices and technology once they see the results on their own farms.

In northwestern Ohio, for example, it was common practice to spread fertilizers on frozen or snow-covered ground during the winter.

With the increasing focus on Lake Erie's algae problems – and the awareness that much of that fertilizer spread in the winter may not actually penetrate down to the soil, but can run off during spring rain and snowmelt – this practice is now widely frowned upon and no longer common.

But a lot more must be done.

Connecting the supply chain for greater impact

Major retailers and food companies today have an interest in sustainable production. It offers a great opportunity for making conservation an integrated part of the business of agriculture in a whole new way, and builds on the good work we’re already doing with farmers on the ground.

Today, EDF working with Walmart, General Mills, United Suppliers and other influential food companies, agribusinesses and grower organizations to drive transformative change. Our common goal is to improve water and air quality while achieving high levels of productivity across America’s agricultural system.

Scaling up projects like these is a necessity. We must send strong signals that producing the food we all eat cannot come at the expense of our streams, rivers and lakes – or of the people who depend on them for drinking water.

Aug 20

Public Workers Team Up in Texas

The following blog has been cross-posed from CWA's Resistence Growing blog. The original is available online here.

The 2014 CWA Public, Healthcare & Education Workers Conference brought 110 activists from around the country to San Antonio for a weekend of organizing, movement building and rallying against bad trade deals.

CWA Public Worker, Healthcare and Education Workers Vice President Brooks Sunkett opened the three-day conference, which also included a community forum on the flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

CWA's public, healthcare and education workers members meet in San Antonio. As part of the conference, participants joined in a TPP Forum with allies and community partners.

Sunkett talked about the continuing assault on public workers across the country, from challenges to workers' bargaining rights to attacks on public worker pensions and the privatization of important social services. He cited members of CWA Local 1040, who are working to stop the closing of facilities that assist the mentally challenged. "It's all about ideology, not cost," he said.

"It's good to be among brothers and sisters struggling the way you're struggling," said TSEU President Judy Lugo. "You're all fighting the same fight."

Speakers also included CWA D6 Vice President Claude Cummings, Texas Rep. Al Green, State Sen. Carlos Uresti, and State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.

Attendees listened to presentations on fighting privatization, public pension challenges and the significance of the Supreme Court's recent Harris v. Quinn decision.

Workshops focused on public sector organizing, messaging, team building and the Affordable Care Act. While sector-specific teach-ins targeted healthcare, higher education, public safety and state and local government.

Public workers were especially engaged on beating back the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a wide-ranging trade deal that threatens the livelihoods and wellbeing of working families. A public forum on the TPP featured CWA President Larry Cohen; Hal Suter, chairman of the Sierra Club's Lone Star chapter; Bob Cash, director of the Texas Fair Trade Coalition; and radio commentator and author Jim Hightower. And it wasn't a public worker-only crowd – environmentalists, call center workers, advocates of fair trade and members of coalition group Texas Forward all joined CWAers in learning more about how the agreement could jeopardize our jobs, health, environment and more.

Activists walked away from the forum with a stack of reading material – and a sense of urgency to raise awareness about this dangerous trade agreement. "We really need to educate our members on this and get them engaged and talking about it," said Lugo.

Read more at: http://www.cwa-union.org/news/entry/public_workers_team_up_in_texas

Aug 20

The Green Jobs Source for Wednesday, August 20, 2014

YOU SHOULD KNOW…

Federal health officials said that the West Virginia state Department of Health and Human Resources lacks a program and properly trained staff to assess community-wide chemical exposures—like the incident on the Elk River when chemicals leaked into Charleston’s water supply in January. The federal officials called on the state to start a program and hire and train staff for it to ensure they’re ready for any future problems. (Charleston Gazette)

WHAT’S TRENDING

A smart decision – Microsoft is the latest business to break ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC ) over its anti-clean energy stances. (Inside Climate News)

Getting it right – A recently signed Executive Order by President Obama will help ensure that companies that have a history of repeated and egregious behavior in terms of worker safety don’t get federal contracts. The order requires bidders for federal contracts to disclose their labor-law violations going back three years and by putting an official at each federal agency in charge of tracking the disclosures. (New York Times)

Rousing Raleigh on climate – A retired Air Force general is visiting Raleigh, NC to highlight how the military is pushing clean energy innovation and the importance of clean energy to our national security. (WRAL)

Cleaning it up – In Minneapolis, the city is working with utilities to become more sustainable. As city leaders renew franchise agreements, they are requiring more of a commitment to clean energy. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Remembering bipartisan climate consensus – Believe it or not, but there was a time when elected leaders of both political parties understood and wanted to take action to address the threat of climate change. (This Week)

Raising awareness – A meeting held last night by the BlueGreen Alliance in Erie, PA drew attention to the need to get our infrastructure prepared for climate change to create good jobs and protect the safety and health of our communities. (Erie TV News)

BLUE-GREEN LINKS

Associated Press: Scientists meet with FL Gov. Scott on climate change

Energy Collective: Court Upholds FERC Order 1000: Major Victory for Clean Energy and Consumers

Midwest Energy News: Advocates: Wisconsin solar fight could spill into other states

renews: US Wind wins Maryland auction

That's it for The Source today. Don't forget to tell your friends about this great resource. You can sign up here.