New survey reveals that a majority of Valley residents want clean, local electricity, and a choice in service providers

san joaquin valleyPress Release
August 24, 2016

Clean Power Exchange, a program of the Center for Climate Protection, released new survey results about local and renewable energy. According to the survey, electric utility ratepayers in the San Joaquin Valley – from San Joaquin County to Tulare County – are interested in alternatives to the current energy system.

A majority of ratepayers want a choice regarding their electricity service, and they want electricity generated locally with revenues reinvested into the local economy. They also recognize the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and believe that it is important that their electricity come from clean sources.

“Energy is a lot like water in that it is a resource upon which our lives and economies are built,” said Mike Dozier, Executive Director of the Office of Community and Economic Development at Fresno State. “People in the San Joaquin Valley understand that we need to make some real changes to ensure a sustainable future-both economically and environmentally. There’s no better time to explore that here than now,” he said.

Ratepayers across the state have been watching their cost of electricity steadily rise for over thirty years, increasing at a rate of about 4% per year. Meanwhile, state legislators are ramping up requirements to slash greenhouse gas emissions and increase the state’s portfolio of renewable energy sources.

“We conducted this survey in the San Joaquin Valley to find out what ratepayers are thinking as the energy landscape changes so rapidly,” said Ann Hancock, Executive Director of the Center for Climate Protection, the non-profit organization that manages Clean Power Exchange. “We were pleased that folks in California’s heartland are similar to people throughout the state, meaning concerned about climate change and very interested in local solutions to lower emissions.”

San Joaquin County Fresno County Tulare County Stockton Fresno Visalia Combined
Important for electricity to come from clean sources 72% 69% 71% 72% 75% 71% 71%
Important to reduce GHGs 74% 71% 72% 75% 75% 73% 73%
Want choice in how electricity is generated 73% 66% 67% 73% 68% 65% 69%
Local clean/renewable energy owned by community 71% 67% 67% 69% 71% 71% 68%
Supportive of local electricity when $ reinvested locally 69% 66% 69% 71% 66% 70% 69%
Pay more for clean power 24% 23% 25% 25% 23% 26% 24%
Won’t pay any more for clean power 27% 32% 30% 23% 32% 30% 21%
Dissatisfied with bill 37% 35% 28% 37% 35% 26% 34%
Satisfied with bill 59% 60% 66% 59% 58% 70% 61%

 “The results tell us that the San Joaquin Valley is poised to benefit from a local energy program being employed in other parts of the state. It’s called Community Choice Energy (or Community Choice Aggregation),” said Hancock. “It introduces choice and competition into the monopoly energy industry, giving local jurisdictions the independence to deliver innovative programs and lower rates to their residents and businesses,” she said.

Community Choice Energy is a local program, governed by cities and/or counties, that buys and generates electricity for its businesses and residents. Programs are currently operational in Marin County, Sonoma County, the City of Lancaster, and the City of San Francisco. Another program in San Mateo County is launching later this year, with several others set to launch in 2017.

“These new, locally-controlled, not-for-profit agencies have been proving since 2010 that cleaner electricity can be provided at lower rates than the large utilities,” said Hancock, whose organization helped launch Sonoma Clean Power.

“Through this innovative new program, we have succeeded in not only increasing the renewable energy content consumed by the citizens of Lancaster, but also lowering their energy rates,” said R. Rex Parris, mayor of Lancaster where California’s third Community Choice program launched in 2015. “This places money squarely in the pockets of Lancaster residents and businesses, giving them more purchasing power while also keeping more money right here in our local economy,” he said.

Several local policymakers in the Valley, from Stockton to Visalia, have expressed interest in exploring Community Choice Energy as a long-term solution to stabilize electricity rates and lower emissions.

 

PDF of press release

Survey results for cities: Stockton, Fresno, Visalia

Survey results for counties: San Joaquin, Fresno, Tulare

Climate change is real to farmers in California

Don Cameron, vice president/general manager of Terranova Ranch Inc, outlines how climate change is affecting farms in the Central Valley. Cameron also explains how SB 32 will continue to help farmers in the valley build a more resilient agriculture community.

Climate Change Is Real to Farmers in California, by Don Cameron, The Fresno Bee, August 22, 2016.

Valley must fight to remain a hub for clean fuels jobs

The State of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) policy is helping to create jobs in the San Joaquin Valley. Clean fuel manufacturers are using biomass to create fuels like ethanol that will help the state reach its reduction of carbon intensity of transportation fuels goal, lowering emissions by 10 percent, by 2020.

 

Read more here: Valley Must Fight to Remain a Hub for Clean Fuels Jobs, by Russ Teall and Neil Koehler, The Fresno Bee, August 7, 2016.

No dejen atrás a las comunidades de bajos recursos en el plan climático

Click here to read the article in English

California se encuentra ante una encrucijada con nuestra estrategia para combatir el cambio climático. La Junta de Recursos del Aire de California (ARB, por sus siglas en inglés), está considerando opciones sobre cómo lograr sus objetivos climáticos para el 2030, en un momento en el que la industria petrolera quiere socavar cualquier intento serio por poner fin a nuestra dependencia en los combustibles fósiles. Mientras tanto, las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero siguen ensuciando nuestro aire, empeorando el cambio climático y asfixiándonos. Como tal, nuestra comunidad está exigiendo reducciones de contaminación y el lograr beneficios económicos para los que más los necesitan.

Reducir la contaminación en comunidades de color y de bajos ingresos es absolutamente fundamental si se espera que la legislación del cambio climático, AB 32, alcance su pleno potencial. Las familias de bajos ingresos sufren algunos de los niveles más concentrados de contaminación en sus comunidades. Según el informe “Estado del Aire” del 2016 de la American Lung Association, Los Ángeles y Bakersfield ocupan los lugares de mayor contaminación del aire en el país.

El plan de ámbito de la ley AB 32 que está desarrollando la Junta de Recursos del Aire es el vehículo mediante el cual la legislación del cambio climático de nuestro estado abordará las necesidades de nuestras comunidades. El plan dictará cómo cumpliremos con el mandato de la ley 10 años más allá del año 2020. Este plan solo se actualiza cada cinco años, así que es muy importante que se desarrolle correctamente.

El plan debe contar con la aportación de nuestras comunidades y debe dar prioridad a objetivos locales y regionales para reducciones de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero y otros contaminantes. La ARB también debe mejorar la transparencia en cómo implementa su plan y evitar que los contaminadores adinerados evadan la ley. El establecimiento de metas concretas para la reducción de emisiones de instalaciones contaminadoras debe ser una principal consideración.

Estrategias adicionales en el plan para el beneficio directo de comunidades vulnerables deben incluir la adopción de objetivos fuertes para electrizar nuestro sector de transporte y acelerar el acceso a la energía limpia para comunidades de bajos ingresos. La ARB debe también considerar seriamente las maneras de reducir la contaminación en comunidades ubicadas cerca de instalaciones contaminadoras—incluyendo la tarificación de las emisiones de carbono.

También debemos aprovechar la oportunidad de expandir el crecimiento que está teniendo nuestro estado en los empleos de energía limpia. Un informe reciente del Centro Laboral de UC Berkeley evaluó las inversiones en la energía renovable del 2002 al 2015, revelando que el programa de California está generando empleos de calidad bien remunerados en zonas económicamente desfavorecidas del estado, incluyendo comunidades que son altamente latinas. Entre el 2002 y el 2015, se sostuvieron más de 32,000 empleos manuales (blue-collar) de construcción en la industria de la energía renovable.

Eso es testamento de lo mucho que podemos lograr si nos enfocamos a invertir en nuestras comunidades. Con este proceso de planificación, la ARB puede seguir impulsando a nuestra economía hacia una transición para alejarnos de los combustibles fósiles y generar la prosperidad y los “empleos verdes” para todos los californianos—especialmente en las comunidades de color de bajos ingresos.

Necesitamos examinar y estar dispuestos a adoptar estrategias innovadoras que impulsen a nuestro estado, especialmente a comunidades impactadas, hacia una economía limpia moderna y más justa, y que nos proporcione los recursos necesarios para hacer frente a los impactos del cambio climático.

Como californianos, nos encontramos en un momento clave para nuestras políticas de aire limpio y cambio climático. La Junta de Recursos del Aire puede continuar nuestro avance contra al cambio climático. Lo podemos lograr mediante la adopción de un plan que incluya beneficios económicos, fuertes medidas para reducir emisiones contaminantes en nuestras comunidades, y responsabilizando a entidades contaminantes para que limpien el aire que respiran nuestras familias.

 

No Dejen Atrás a Las Comunidades De Bajos Recursos en El Plan Climático, by Martha Dina Arguello, La Opinión, August 4, 2016.

 

Martha Dina Arguello es Directora Ejecutiva de Médicos por la Responsabilidad Social, Los Ángeles, (PSR, por sus siglas en inglés), y Byron Gudiel es Director Ejecutivo de Comunidades para un Medio Ambiente Mejor (CBE, por sus siglas en inglés).

 


Clear the Way for Local Pollution Reductions in California’s Climate Plan

 

California is at a crossroads with our landmark climate law. The California Air Resources Board (ARB) is considering options on how to reach its 2030 climate targets at a time when the oil industry is determined to gut any serious attempt to end our reliance on fossil fuels. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions continue to dirty our air, worsen climate change, and choke our lungs. As such, local communities are raising their voices to demand real reductions in air pollution to clean up our air and bring economic benefits to those who need them most.

Reducing pollution in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color is absolutely critical if our state’s climate change law, AB 32, is to reach its full potential. Low-income families suffer some of the most concentrated levels of pollution in their neighborhoods. According to the American Lung Association’s 2016 “State of the Air” Report, Los Angeles and Bakersfield top the list of worst air pollution in the nation.

The AB 32 scoping plan that the Air Resources Board is drafting is the vehicle through which our state’s climate change law will meet the realities of our neighborhoods. Consider it the blueprint for how we will fulfill the mandate of the law 10 years beyond its initial 2020 targets. The scoping plan is only updated every five years, so it’s critical we get it right.

The plan should be informed by grassroots input and it should prioritize bold local and regional targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. ARB should also enhance transparency in implementation and eliminate loopholes for large polluters. Setting direct emission reduction goals for major polluting facilities should be a key consideration.

Additional strategies in the scoping plan to directly benefit vulnerable communities should include adopting aggressive targets to electrify our transportation sector and accelerate clean energy access for low-income communities. ARB should also take a hard look at ways to reduce pollution in communities located near polluting facilities-including carbon pricing.

We also need to seize on the opportunity to expand the growth our state is seeing on clean energy jobs. A recent UC Berkeley Labor Center report assessed renewable energy investments from 2002 to 2015, revealing that California’s renewable energy program is creating quality, well-paying jobs in economically distressed parts of California, including heavily Latino communities. Between 2002 and 2015, over 32,000 blue-collar construction jobs were supported in the renewable energy industry.

That’s a testament to how much we can accomplish if we focus on investing where our communities need it the most. With this scoping process, ARB can continue to move our economy forward to transition away from fossil fuels and bring prosperity and green-collar jobs to all Californians, especially low-income communities of color.

We need to examine and be willing to adopt innovative strategies that catapult our state, especially impacted communities, into a modern and more just clean economy, and provide us with the resources needed to cope with the impacts of climate change.

As Californians, we are at a critical juncture with our climate change and clean air policies. The California Air Resource Board can keep our state on the right path by adopting a blueprint for addressing climate change that includes economic benefits, strong measures to reduce polluting emissions in our communities, and by holding polluters accountable to clean up the air our families breathe.

Martha Dina Arguello is the Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles and Byron Gudiel is the Executive Director of Communities for A Better Environment.

 

No Dejen Atrás a Las Comunidades De Bajos Recursos en El Plan Climático, by Martha Dina Arguello, La Opinión, August 4, 2016.

Lode Elephant Refuge Goes Solar

With their colossal bodies and their inability to sweat, wild elephants are considered especially vulnerable to rising temperatures.

But a sanctuary for retired and rescued elephants near San Andreas is doing its part to help those endangered populations on the far side of the world.

The Performing Animal Welfare Society just went solar. More than 400 panels have been placed atop large barns at the ARK 2000 sanctuary that house eight African and Asian elephants, along with bears and big cats.

One facility switching to clean energy isn’t going to solve climate change, of course.

“But hopefully we’re being a model for other organizations to take this step, too,” spokeswoman Kim Gardner said Wednesday.

PAWS says it will also save $1.5 million in electricity over the next quarter-century, money that until now has been needed to keep the lights on and to cool the produce and meat that the animals rely upon.

Now, that money can be used for some other purpose at the 2,300-acre refuge.

“Being a nonprofit organization, it is our duty to be prudent and protect the precious donor donations,” Gardner said. “That’s always a very high priority.”

The solar panels will reduce PAWS’ carbon footprint by about 25 tons of carbon dioxide per month, the equivalent of burning 4,000 gallons of gasoline, the organization says.

Elephants are among the many species that scientists say face some level of risk from climate change. Three years ago, a study of more than 8,000 elephants over three generations found that excessive heat increases death rates for elephants of all ages, doubling the death rate for babies younger than 5.

Death rates have also increased during severe droughts, the likes of which may become more common. One 2008 study suggests that older elephants who have survived past droughts may be more likely to endure future ones because they know where they need to travel to find water.

— Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or abreitler@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/breitlerblog and on Twitter @alexbreitler.

Opportunities for Cleaner Air in the Central Valley

Biomass Energy Facility in Delano, CA

Biomass Energy Facility in Delano, CA

For decades, air quality activists and everyone who breathes in the San Joaquin Valley have endured a standoff between industry and public health. Now, with recent efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, we see an opportunity to leverage the focus on climate change to indirectly accomplish what our local air district has not been able to tackle because of a lack of political will. Climate change efforts can be a catalyst for achieving our air quality goals, so advocates should strive to ensure that greenhouse gas reduction measures also address air quality issues.

A relatively new and promising policy mechanism on the scene is Community Choice Energy. It has been described as the most powerful tool available to local governments to reduce greenhouse gases. There’s a lot to learn about Community Choice Energy and how it will connect to our long-standing air quality problem in the San Joaquin Valley.

Once established, local Community Choice agencies take on the role of decision-making about sources of energy for electricity generation. One area that would be interesting to explore would be the degree to which a Community Choice agency might help address the complex issues surrounding biomass energy. Our region is currently trying to figure out what to do with its agricultural waste, following the decline of an unsustainable biomass industry. Feeling the pressure of the growing wildfire hazard from the nearby dying forests, agencies like the San Joaquin Valley Air District and CalFire support reviving the biomass industry.

Air quality advocates know that biomass isn’t the cleanest option for disposing of organic waste and the facilities are nearly always sited in overburdened communities. So how can Community Choice be a part of this conversation? Several possibilities come to mind. First and foremost, Community Choice agencies are public and therefore allow for much greater community input in decision-making about energy. Another is that although Community Choice agencies do not have authority over land-use planning decisions, they can play a role in emphasizing appropriate technologies and locations for facilities that pose minimal risk to communities and the environment. The answer may also be a combination of sustainable agricultural practices combined with a Community Choice investment in clean energies that replace the energy from biomass. These and more possibilities may emerge as we explore how Community Choice fits in with the Valley’s most pressing environmental needs.

Regulators, like our local Air District, tend to tackle pollution with measures that target individuals, like fireplace upgrade programs and DMV registration fees. What’s interesting about Community Choice Energy is that it’s focused on both the individual and municipality. It enhances individual choice, strengthens local control and the leadership of cities and counties, and it has the potential to make a big difference in energy-related impacts on local communities.

Typically in our region, the political climate can prevent any strong measures, but here is an opportunity for individuals to make a simple choice for clean energy. It’s time for our local leaders to begin a public dialog about the potential benefits of establishing Community Choice Energy in the Central Valley.

Can California tune up its climate strategy?

A Hot Issue: Fresno’s Getting Warmer …But We Could Change That.

July marks the first full month of summer. Here in Fresno, the seventh month of the year is the peak of the area’s grueling high temperatures during the season. This summer presented Fresno’s unyielding heat waves slightly earlier than normal, and will continue on until early fall. Just a few days after the summer started, Fresno experienced a record-breaking heatwave. Whereas normal days in the beginning of the season hover around the mid-nineties, parts of Fresno County hit highs closer to 110 degrees, forcing some communities to open cooling centers during the day. It should come as no surprise that the National Weather Service encourages people to stay indoors during hours of blistering temperature highs.

When the summer heat becomes unbearable, people rely on their homes to keep cool. Utility customer’s consumption of electricity goes up during summer months, particularly in areas with significant heat. Such a high demand during these periods not only raises electricity rates but also increases fossil fuel consumption used to produce the electricity, and the use of fossil fuels has a direct link to rising global temperatures.

Climate Change continues to impact the San Joaquin Valley with temperatures steadily rising over the past decades. Studies show an average of 1°C increase during the first half of the century and then a 2°C increase by the second half, combined with a significant decrease in precipitation. One particular concern is the increase of the temperature of daily low temperatures. The Central Valley is noted for experiencing a wide range of high and low temperatures throughout a 24-hour period. But according to studies, this phenomenon is declining as Valley morning and nightly low temperatures are beginning to rise, marking longer stretches of intense heat during summer months. Such elongated temperature highs during the day contribute to rising use of energy consumption throughout a 24-hour period in the season of sunshine. An additional concern about higher than normal overnight temperatures is that many fruit and nut trees grown in the Central Valley require a certain number of “chill hours” in order to produce a crop.

Although California’s investor owned utilities (IOUs) have made promises to expand usage of clean energy, fossil fuels are still a large source in generating power for homes and businesses. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the country generated four trillion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2015. Close to 67% of that electricity came from fossil fuel sources (coal, natural gas and petroleum) while only 13% came from cleaner, renewable sources such as hydropower, solar and wind. According to the IOUs maintaining the grid and expanding the use of renewable energy comes at an ever-increasing price. This month, the California Public Utilities Commission held public hearings in several Central Valley cities to discuss the area’s utility provider rate increase, with the company arguing it is needed for further investment in grid maintenance and clean energy sources.

So, Fresno and its surrounding areas get very hot during the summer, heat waves seem to be getting more intense due to climate change, and the direct culprit behind climate change, fossil energy, is still a major source for powering our electricity to cool us down: sounds like one vicious cycle, right?

Well, first, let’s take a look at that IOU claim that renewable energy costs more. The fact is that solar and wind power prices have dropped dramatically over the past six years. So much so that solar and wind are now at or near “grid parity” in many markets meaning that they are equivalent or lower in cost than conventional power sources. But who will take advantage of this fact and pursue this cleaner, cheaper power on our community’s behalf?

One answer is Community Choice Energy. Community Choice Energy is a program, enabled by state law passed in 2002, that has the power to buy, and may even generate, electricity for its residents and businesses via a not-for-profit public entity; created by the people, for the people. The program offers several economic and environmental benefits such as providing consumer choice, competition in the monopolized utility market, offering lower rates, strengthening the local economy, and utilizing alternative energy sources. The four existing Community Choice agencies in California have proven the concept. Perhaps, more than ever, now is the time to explore a program that emphasizes cleaner, renewable energy sources for its residents at competitive rates. After all, it certainly isn’t getting any cooler over here.

July temperatures in Fresno this year have hit the triple digits on multiple occasions.

July temperatures in Fresno this year have hit the triple digits on multiple occasions.

San Joaquin County – Hub of Electric Vehicle Innovation

EVI Sign

Welcome Sign of Electric Vehicles International, LLC facility in Stockton, California. Recently acquired by First Priority GreenFleet, Ltd.

Named after the lengthy river that runs through it, San Joaquin County was the Valley’s first location where settlers took up permanent residence. With a readily accessible water source, it’s easy to see why it was originally developed for agriculture and ranching. I was born and raised in Tracy (about 30 miles from the County seat of Stockton), and it wasn’t unusual to see cows grazing along town roads as I grew up.

Over the past few decades, San Joaquin County has undergone a stark transformation as farms have given way to more homes and businesses. The influx of commercial development is welcomed by residents seeking growth for the local economy, but inevitably demands more resources. As a lawyer with a background in energy and environmental law, I’ve come to appreciate the magnitude of energy needed to power our communities, and energy’s impact on our environment, including air quality. As our communities grow, it’s clear we must innovate to move toward sustainability.

My enthusiasm for green power was “reenergized” when I learned that Stockton will be home to a renewed electric vehicle production facility. First Priority Greenfleet Ltd has acquired the assets of Electric Vehicles International (located in Stockton), and is looking to build and sell hybrid and electric specialty vehicles, including electric school buses. This is particularly significant in light of the up to $1,000,000 recent award from California Air Resources Board to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to make local school buses safer and less polluting.

First Priority Greenfleet’s acquisition comes at a dynamic time in the electric vehicle market, as car companies around the world are racing to dominate the commercial and mass market. San Joaquin County is already home to another star-studded electric vehicle maker – Tesla. In 2014, Tesla purchased a 431,000 square foot distribution facility in Lathrop, California. The facility, previously owned by Daimler-Chrysler, is currently being utilized for manufacturing Tesla components.

It’s exciting to think of San Joaquin County as a potential hub of energy innovation and greenhouse gas reductions. We’re well-positioned geographically, given our proximity to both the booming Bay Area and to Sacramento, the state capital. Our recent shift toward electric vehicle production is a step in the right direction – proving that communities can reap economic and environmental benefits on their path toward sustainability.