Monthly Archives: January 2016

Business of Local Energy Symposium March 4th in San Jose – Leading California to Community Choice Energy

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The second Business of Local Energy Symposium, an event that explores the emerging Community Choice Energy market in California, will be held in San Jose on March 4th. Prominent speakers from existing Community Choice Energy (CCE) programs, state energy agencies, and private industry will address an audience composed of local government representatives and private industry. Following its initial success in late 2014, the event focuses on the growing interest in Community Choice in over 80 communities in California. CCEs are a hybrid public utility that buys and sells electricity in local communities. CCEs are set up under California law as Joint Power Authorities (JPA) where single or multiple cities and other jurisdictions can act as electricity retailers while still depending on Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) for maintaining the grid.

Breakout sessions with panel discussions explore the process of creating a CCE, how CCEs boost local economies while enhancing sustainability plus support technology deployment. Experts will discuss how CCEs can play a vital role in achieving significant greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions while promoting distributed energy resources and local jobs. The Symposium will also emphasize how CCE’s can develop such programs rapidly, optimize results for local residents, and collaborate across jurisdictions to improve outcomes. Other presenters will discuss new disruptive technologies that will replace fossil fuel powered vehicles and appliances with more efficient and cleaner electric powered equivalents.

The Symposium presents Community Choice as a platform for innovation so it will include presentations on enhancing grid resilience through microgrid development, storage, and electric vehicle to grid storage applications. Among the timely topics addressed this year will be energy metering (NEM) policies, local energy resource plans, and a new CPUC ruling allowing collective use of virtual net metering for community solar arrays in disadvantaged communities. Registration.

Green Energy must not simply reduce carbon, it must help fundamentally remake the economic system #feelthebern

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economist_chart_800

“So we have ended up, after three decades of worshipping free markets, with a system in which the single most dominant players in setting asset prices are central banks and in which financiers are much bigger receivers of government largesse than any welfare cheat could dream about.” Did Bernie Sanders utter this statement? Or Elizabeth Warren? In fact it issued from a column by that staid defender of free markets since 1843, The Economist magazine (or “newspaper,” as they refer to themselves). The “Buttonwood’s Notebook” column of that esteemed publication included this statement in a fascinating general review of the malaise that infects the world economy and its attendant financial system. Buttonwood’s column especially focuses on the growth of the financial industry and its ill effects on the real economy. It cites various economic studies that show that the financial services world has far exceeded its usefulness as a value creating business, and now exists and grows by means of economy killing “rents,” meaning it has the ability to extract money from the rest of the economy (that is from the lower 99%) through monopoly.

In the same vein, the Economist has just posted a chart (see above) showing that the wealthiest one percent of the world’s population now hold as much wealth as the other ninety-nine percent of its inhabitants. And the trend lines are not encouraging, as they show this phenomenon is accelerating.

At its heart, this is an ideological crisis, but not in the sense most people imagine. The crisis we face is not simply due to the ascent of neoliberal ideology, nor to the massive expansion of government that conservatives claim inhibits positive market forces. The crisis we face comes from the very notion that the moribund ideologies that arose in the context of 19th century struggles between capital and labor contain a logic that can explain the problems we face in the information age.

To be sure, arguments on both the current political left and right contain useful perceptions, but as the Economist article points out, there is no general existing economic theory that explains what is really going on. People, and thus the economy, do not act in accordance with economic models. The ideologies and economic models used to describe the world are not as useful as their proponents contend they are. Economists struggle to find an economic theory as revolutionary and insightful as Quantum Theory has been for physics, or the Theory of Evolution has been for biology and zoology (or even behavioral psychology). Economists have failed in this quest, in part because the scope of the problems we face is not adequately explained in the struggle between free markets and government intervention. An aspect of the problem is simply the contention between centralized and local finance, and with respect to energy between capital intensive versus distributed energy production.

The scaled capitalization of energy production is characterized by further concentration of wealth. Imagine the possible effect on local economies if energy transactions remained largely local. Imagine if the value of gasoline, other fossil fuels, and electricity remained in local economies and were not funneled every day to the large financial institutions that even the Economist admits lead primarily to wealth concentration. However, there is little attention paid to this paradigm by economists, even “micro economists.” Among academic economists, those of the “micro” variety mainly examine the tiny bits of macro paradigms. In a digital age where Amazon and box stores dominate sales, this is understandable. But energy is one area that cries out for accurate micro-economic analysis. Such analysis could reveal the very positive, and locally multiplied effects, of getting our energy for transport, home heating/cooling, water heating, etc directly from sunshine and the winds. Green energy represents a great hope, perhaps our greatest hope, that the insidious concentration of wealth can be forestalled short of political and environmental catastrophe.

Perhaps the revolutionary ideology that can finally enlighten the economists and the rest of us is the still unscripted ideology of economic populism, where local and concentrated capital comes into a healthy balance.

Worryingly, the big banks we all have come to resent are moving rapidly to finance capital intensive energy projects that follow the old, failed model, the model that removes wealth from local hands. A clear example of this are the power purchase agreement solar installations on home rooftops, instruments financed by Wall Street. Such agreements have the potential to be packaged and marketed, possibly following in the footsteps of the mortgage instruments that led to the mortgage crisis.

Counter trends, like the Community Choice Energy movement in California are struggling against strong corporate political headwinds emanating from Wall Street. Not just the economy, but the earth itself, appears to ride on the outcome of these struggles.

Melting Icebergs Nourish Ocean. When they are gone what will we get to take their place? Ocean Nourishment, especially with Nitrogen is possible answer

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News reports indicate that melting icebergs are releasing nutrients into the ocean that propel biological activity, activity known as “ocean nourishment” that is known to counter global warming plus help maintain the health of the oceans in the face of atmospheric CO2 caused acidification. But, as icebergs diminish, what can take their place in this vital role? Ocean nourishment with nitrogen deserves more attention and research to determine if it can help counteract ocean acidification.

Leading Authorities and Scientific Community Need a Comprehensive Plan:

The US Congress recognized the threat posed by ocean acidification in 2009 when it passed the FOARAM Act. That law called for a coordinated response by federal agencies to monitor the threat and also develop response strategies to counter the effects of uptake of man made CO2 by ocean waters. Subsequently several government agencies, including NASA, NOAA, the EPA, and eight others collaborated to create the “Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification” to coordinate federal efforts. All of the eleven agencies involved have large or small research programs connected with ocean acidification. According to two reports published in 2014, one by the Working Group itself, and one a by the GAO, key goals called for by the FOARAM Act remain unaddressed. In short, sufficient funding, coordination, and information exchange remains lacking for a comprehensive response to this critical issue. At the start of 2016, the direction and ultimate success of government efforts remains obscure.

One worrisome outcome of the government’s slow response to date is that no comprehensive strategies to mitigate ocean acidification are under serious public discussion. While a great deal of research is under way to monitor the effects of OA, scaled strategies to combat it remain off the table. Obviously, reducing GHG emissions is fundamentally needed, but possible catastrophic effects on the ocean by GHGs already in the atmosphere pose a continued threat for at least hundreds of years. The need for larger scale testing of ideas that could help prevent ocean collapse appears pressing.

Natural ocean processes help store CO2 for immense periods of time. CO2 from the atmosphere mixes with ocean surface waters, then algae and plankton photosythesize some of the CO2 and results in flourishing ocean life. These tiny organisms at the bottom of the ocean food chain stimulate growth of fish and other marine populations. A byproduct is that a small part of atmospheric CO2 gets “exported” to the muddy sea floor, thus removing it for immense periods of time from both the atmosphere and biologically active ocean waters. Enhancing this process has been a much discussed way to help forestall global warming and ocean acidification, as well as increase fish stocks and other marine life.

Ocean nourishment – odd geoengineering plan may still be best hope to stop ocean acidification and species die-offs

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The US Congress recognized the threat posed by ocean acidification in 2009 when it passed the FOARAM Act. That law called for a coordinated response by federal agencies to monitor the threat and also develop response strategies to counter the effects of the uptake of man made CO2 in ocean waters. Subsequently several government agencies, including NASA, NOAA, the EPA, and eight others collaborated to create the “Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification” to coordinate federal efforts. All of the eleven agencies involved have large or small research programs connected with ocean acidification. According to two reports published in 2014, one by the Working Group itself, and one a by the GAO, key goals called for by the FOARAM Act remain unaddressed. In short, sufficient funding, coordination, and information exchange remains lacking for a comprehensive response to this critical issue. At the start of 2016, the direction and ultimate success of government efforts remains obscure.

One worrisome outcome of the government’s slow response to date is that no comprehensive strategies to mitigate ocean acidification are under serious public discussion. While a great deal of research is under way to monitor the effects of OA, scaled strategies to combat it remain off the table. Obviously, reducing GHG emissions is fundamentally needed, but possible catastrophic effects on the ocean by GHGs already in the atmosphere pose a continued threat for at least hundreds of years. The need for larger scale testing of ideas that could help prevent ocean collapse appears pressing.

Natural ocean processes help store CO2 for immense periods of time. CO2 from the atmosphere mixes with ocean surface waters, then algae and plankton photosythesize some of the CO2 and results in flourishing ocean life. These tiny organisms at the bottom of the ocean food chain stimulate growth of fish and other marine populations. A byproduct is that a small part of atmospheric CO2 gets “exported” to the muddy sea floor, thus removing it for immense periods of time from both the atmosphere and biologically active ocean waters. Enhancing this process has been a much discussed way to help forestall global warming and ocean acidification, as well as increase fish stocks and other marine life.

A year ago this blog discussed ocean nourishment with nitrogen. It explained possible advantages of this approach and called for more research and testing. But scientific and public discussion of this and other ocean nourishment remains nearly taboo. One New Year’s resolution should be to not let another year pass before much greater attention and action is taken to explore this and other ways to save our oceans.