California dreamin’ becomes reality, Part II

Part I introduced some California programs dating back to the 1970s that are relevant to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, even though the purpose of the programs were to deal with other issues. This second part will introduce more recent programs, which are often specifically targeted at GHG emissions. Later posts will provide more detail. California legislation concerning global warming dates back twenty years: AB4420 of 1988 directed the California Energy Commission (CEC) to prepare and maintain an inventory of the state’s GHG emissions.

Recognizing that there no single solution, or even a small set of solutions, but that a lot of small improvements can add up to large results, California now has a broad set of initiatives, ranging from small targeted efforts to a sweeping cap. Even the cap, AB32, will end up been implemented by regulatory agencies as dozens of smaller programs. Targeted legislation includes the Solar Water Heating and Efficiency Act of 2007 (AB1470) to promote solar water heating and other technologies that reduce natural gas demand. The CEC added cool roof requirements to its Title 24 building energy efficiency standards in 2005. (Cool roofs are often overlooked in the war on global warming.)

Electric power generation has been targeted with a series of measures. The Million Solar Roofs / California Solar Initiative (SB1) is a recent measure in a long series of solar incentives. More broadly, California in 2002 created the California Renewables Portfolio Standard program with SB1078, which required an annual increase in renewable generation by the utilities equivalent to at least 1 percent of sales, with an aggregate goal of 20 percent by 2017. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) accelerated the goal, requiring the utilities to obtain 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2010, which was later codified in SB107 in 2006.

As a result of these mandates, the state’s largest utilities, PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric, have all signed agreements for wind and solar energy, though some may miss the 2010 deadline by a year. PG&E signed a 177-megawatt solar thermal power purchasing agreement with Ausra, a 553-megawatt power purchase agreement with Israel-based Solel Thermal Systems, and has also entered an agreement with BrightSource Energy for a 500-megawatt plan to be announced soon. Southern California Edison has entered into a contract with to buy electricity from a 500-megawatt solar farm (due to open in 2009), and has signed a 1,500-megawatt Tehachapi wind contract with Alta Windpower. San Diego Gas & Electric has contracted to buy 300 megawatts (MW) of solar power, also with Stirling Energy Systems, with the potential to grow to 900 MW within 10 years.

One of the most important steps taken is the 2006 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Performance Standard (SB1368), which prohibits utilities from entering into long-term contracts for electricity that would produce greenhouse gas emissions in excess of a natural gas combined cycle power plant. This effectively eliminates coal without carbon capture and sequestration as a source of power in California.

Transportation has been targeted as well. In 2000 the legislature asked the CEC and Air Resource Board to report on ways California could reduce its dependence upon petroleum. This was followed by the Motor Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emission Regulations of 2002 (AB1493), which requires automakers to reduce global warming emissions from new passenger cars and light trucks beginning in 2009. Under the plan, automakers must meet increasingly clean standards that phase in between 2009 and 2016. (This legislation has been challenged in court, however.) This was followed by the Alternative Fuels Plan of 2005 (AB1007), the Bioenergy Action Plan of 2006 (Executive Order S-06-06 by Governor Schwarzenegger), and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard of 2007 (Executive Order S-01-07 by Governor Schwarzenegger).

The broadest, most comprehensive of the California acts is the 2006 California Global Warming Emissions Cap (AB32). It requires the state’s global warming emissions to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. CARB must prepare a plan by January 2009, adopt regulations by January 2011, and these regulations are to be phased in starting in 2012.

cal-thumb.pngAB32 is a big subject, and will be the subject of a subsequent post, but to illustrate the scope, 44 early action proposals have already been proposed, with nine being given priority: the low-carbon fuel standard, restrictions on high global warming potential refrigerants (two measures), landfill gas capture, truck retrofits to reduce aerodynamic drag, tire inflation standards, anti-idling regulations, sulfur hexafluoride regulations, requiring ships in port to use shore power, and perfluorocarbons in semiconductors. These nine would reduce GHG emissions by approximately 16 million metric tonnes of CO2e, while the other 35 total 26 MMTCO2e. The 2020 goal is 174 MMTCO2e. The follow graph from Next10 illustrates what AB32 seeks to accomplish:

California has also initiated research programs (e.g. the California Climate Change Research Center and the West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership), and partnered with other states and countries.

For more information, please consult the following:

— Earl K.

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