California Should Not Risk Its Clean Energy Future on Extreme Strategies

California will soon decide whether to combine its electric grid management with western states dependent on coal mining and coal-based electricity. This massive change has been proposed in the form of Assembly Bill 813 and before that in Assembly Bill 726. If passed, either of those bills would provide an avenue for coal-fired electricity to gain access to the California market. This would make the transition to renewable energy even harder.

Unifying California’s grid operations with other western states would be a huge risk. Thankfully better options are available.

[Read more…]

San Diego’s Community Choice Energy Technical Study Stands Up Under Scrutiny

Conservative Assumptions Camouflage this New Energy Option’s Benefits

Originally published by the San Diego Free Press on October 27th 2017
For a primer on Community Choice Energy, see this San Diego Free Press article.

Credit: Pixabay

By Tyson Siegele / San Diego 350

San Diego struggles under the yoke of the highest electricity prices in the state. Meanwhile, thousands of cities across the United States have executed a plan to reduce their electricity prices, called Community Choice Energy. City officials hired an expert to determine if Community Choice would work here too. The technical study, also known as the feasibility study, found that San Diego would benefit from Community Choice, just like thousands of cities before it.

In July, when the City released the technical study, several publications such as the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Voice of San Diegohighlighted the main finding of the study: “San Diego could provide cheaper, greener energy than SDG&E.” Now, having had several months to digest the findings and compare them to Community Choice Energy programs across the state, additional conclusions can be teased out of the study.

SDG&E provides high-cost energy with average clean energy content

To understand the technical study better, one needs context. Stating that CCE can provide “cheaper, cleaner” energy does not allow us to adequately judge the program. How much cheaper? How much cleaner? The following table lists the percentages of *pollution-free electricity from various providers in California. [Read more…]

Study Finds That Community Choice Energy is Cleaner & Cheaper

By Tyson Siegele, SanDiego350
(Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on July 28, 2017)

Community Choice Energy has been taking California by storm. The overwhelming support for and adoption of Community Choice Energy (CCE) only makes sense. All eight operational CCEs across the state charge lower electricity fees than their utility competitors while providing higher renewable energy content. Consumers save money while their children breathe less polluted air.

However, here in the city of San Diego, the mayor and some City Council members have been dragging their feet instead of racing ahead to get the same program up and running locally.
[Read more…]

Environmental Advocates Oppose Gov. Brown’s Deal to Extend Cap and Trade

Credit: Omar Bárcena/Flickr

By David Harris / SanDiego350
Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on July 14, 2017

Concessions to Fossil Fuel Lobbyists Endanger Low-Income Communities

Governor Jerry Brown wants to renew California’s Cap and Trade program for another ten years, which on the face of it sounds like a great idea for the climate. Cap and Trade is designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through a market mechanism that places a reasonable price on carbon.

The new bill introduced just this week to extend the program (AB 398) is being expedited through both the Assembly and Senate. A vote is scheduled for this Monday, July 17th, which is an unusually fast process.
[Read more…]

Community Choice Energy Myths Debunked, SDG&E Misdirection Exposed

By Tyson Siegele / SanDiego350

burned light bulb photo

Photo by Comfreak (Pixabay)

Sempra promotes itself as an upstanding community participant with only the best intentions for its customers, but in conjunction with SDG&E, it charges exorbitant rates and fights tooth and nail behind the scenes to maintain its monopoly. It does so at the expense of electricity consumers. SDG&E and its parent company Sempra have been misleading customers about their stance on Community Choice Energy (CCE).

By reviewing Sempra marketing material and comparing Sempra’s statements to its actions, a clear pattern of misdirection and exploitation emerges.
[Read more…]

SECURITY & CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE REVEALS DISTURBING ATTITUDE SHIFT

By Mark Hughes, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the East County Magazine on 3/5/2017)

On February 21, 2017, an audience of approximately 75 attended the Security & Climate Change: Issues and Perspectives conference, held in the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park. Organized and funded by The Center for Climate and Security (with the support of The San Diego Foundation and Skoll Global Threats Fund). The program focused on the threat climate change imposes on world stability, the burden it puts on the US military, and what they, as well as our local and state governments, are doing to plan for the consequences. The conference was followed by a screening of a new documentary entitled “The Age of Consequences.”

Veteran's Museum

Veterans Museum in Balboa Park. Photo courtesy of the author.

The Mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, started the conference by noting that the city has been diligently working toward sustainability. Evidence of that effort, to name only two, include the city’s enforceable Climate Action Plan (CAP) as well as the largest water recycling effort in the western hemisphere. These projects could not be done without the close cooperation of the military based here (1 in 6 of the Navy’s personnel reside in San Diego, 1 in 4 of the Marines). San Diego, he said, sets the bar, leads the way toward positive, innovative change. [Read more…]

The Benefits of Community Choice Energy – and How California Utilities Aim to Block Them

Originally Published in the San Diego Free Press on 12/22/2016

by Tyson Siegele

In California, the fight is on between renewable energy advocates and the old guard electric utilities. All across California, cities and counties have been moving to implement Community Choice programs because they provide cheaper, cleaner, locally generated electricity. In fact these programs are so good, the utilities hope you never hear about them.

how-it-words-graphic

Community Choice Energy delivery model. The CCE provides energy, the utility provides transmission, and you receive cleaner, cheaper energy. Source: Peninsula Clean Energy

Before we get to the conflict and intrigue, let’s look at the basics of this new approach to buying electricity. Community Choice Energy, also known as Community Choice Aggregation, is a way for cities, counties or regions in California to look out for their own energy interests, a hybrid between regulated and deregulated electricity supply. The local utility still provides all of the billing services and infrastructure to supply electricity to the point of use, but they are no longer responsible for selecting the electricity supplier. Instead, the community chooses its energy supplier. Possibly the best part of a Community Choice Energy program is that it allows us choice. While CCEs across the state offer electricity with significantly more renewable content—and at lower costs than the utility—customers can still choose to stay with the status quo. No one is required to buy CCE power, anyone can opt-out. By example, let’s look at an actual program. [Read more…]

From Coal to Climate: the Evolution of an Activist

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, September 22nd, 2016

So, here is a question: what’s about as likely as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly jointly admitting that pretty much everything they’ve ever said was wrong?

climate activist

Before I knew what coal looked like. And smelled. And tasted.

Answer: that a guy with my background would end up as an active member of 350.org.

I grew up in Kansas, famous for Dorothy, sunflowers, and voting against your best interest (as in What’s the Matter With…). I remember my father vehemently wishing he could vote against Ted Kennedy. My mother railing against the Equal Rights Amendment, saying she liked having men open doors for her. Umm, I guess that such chivalry was banned in the bill’s text somewhere. Both of them mourning angrily that the country was ruined, now that Carter had been elected.

Not to spare myself, I also remember a Charles Kuralt interview in which he wondered what conservatism ever brought us. I turned to Dad and said—without a trace of irony—the money for everyone else to live on. I was maybe eighteen at the time, swimming with the rest of the fish in the Republican Kansas water. Unnecessary to point out?

An engineering degree landed me a job going around the country starting up coal-fired utility scale power plants. Doing that, I liked to reflect on the fact that I worked with some of the biggest “engines” in the world. I thought seriously about building my own small power plant, natural gas fired, and selling power to the grid. What fun it would be, I thought, but then found that the economics of small scale were a bit less than profitable. Regardless, it seemed to me that those of us in the industry were like priests of old, tending the sacred fires around which their civilizations turned.

[Read more…]

San Diegans in LA Action to Break Free from Fossil Fuels

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, May 26th 2016

Over a two week period earlier this month, a wave of
Break Free from Fossil Fuels mass mobilizations was held around the globe. The first action saw hundreds of people peacefully shut down the UK’s largest open cast coal mine in Wales. In the Philippines, 10,000 marched demanding the cancellation of a proposed 600-Megawatt coal power plant. In Australia, 2,000 people shut down the world’s largest coal port for a day, with kayakers blocking the harbor entrance while others blocked a critical rail crossing. In Anacortes, Washington, over the course of three days, thousands converged by land and water at the site of two oil refineries. They marched, led by indigenous leaders, and held an overnight sit-in on the train tracks that led to over 50 arrests.  

These were but a few of the many Break Free actions in the campaign which was organized by 350.org with support and participation from a wide range of international, national and local organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity, National Nurses United and the United Church of Christ.

Figure 9 -BillMcKibbenWithSanDiegans AtBreakFreeLA

San Diegans with Bill McKibben – sporting his SD350 tee-shirt – at the end of the march

Closer to home, Los Angeles was the venue for a Break Free from Fossil Fuels action for people from all over California. Los Angeles is the biggest urban center for oil production in the nation and the Porter Ranch neighborhood was recently the site of the largest methane leak in U.S. history from SoCalGas’  Aliso Canyon gas storage facility.

The LA event started with a rally at City Hall which included high-profile speakers Bill McKibben (co-founder of 350.org) and businessman, philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer, plus speakers from many local groups, including Save Porter Ranch and STAND LA – a group dedicated to ending neighborhood oil drilling in LA. McKibben reminded us of our “brothers and sisters around the world who right now are standing with you.”  He talked about the worsening climate crisis – recent loss of coral reefs in the Pacific and the heatwave in Southeast Asia. He said it’s important we turn up the heat and demand real leadership from Mayor Garcetti and Governor Brown, saying we don’t need them to do a “pretty good job”, we “need them really out in front treating it [climate change] like the crisis that it is.” [Read more…]

San Diegans joining L.A. Break Free from Fossils Fuel rally – their stories

By Norma-Jeanne Hennis

Originally published in East County Magazine, May 9th 2016

On Saturday, May 14th, many San Diegans will head to Los Angeles Break Free from Fossil Fuels logoalong with thousands of other Californians to participate in a mass rally in downtown L.A. to Break Free from Fossil Fuels.

It will be one of several mass mobilizations around the globe this month calling for an end to fossil fuel extraction. These rallies will be advocating to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground, an end to environmental racism, and transitioning to 100% renewable energy. The wave of global Break Free mass mobilizations kicked off last week when hundreds shut down the UK’s largest open cast coal mine and 10,000 marched in the Philippines for a rapid transition to renewable energy.

In Los Angeles, rally participants will be calling for keeping California oil in the ground. CA is currently the 3rd largest oil producing state in the nation! Participants will demand an end to drilling next door to homes, schools, and businesses in Los Angeles and the Central Valley, and investigations to prevent fossil fuel disasters like the massive gas leak at Aliso Canyon. Speakers at the rally will include 350.org founder Bill McKibben and philanthropist Tom Steyer.

I asked some of the people going to the rally with local grassroots climate action group SanDiego350, to tell us why they chose to participate and also for their thoughts on the climate crisis and how they address it in their lives.

Christy Bulskov, mother of two, environmental activist and avid conservationist from Encinitas [Read more…]