Is SB 1139 the Right Answer for California's Geothermal Industry?
The California renewable energy industry is divided over SB 1139.
In concept, the bill is fairly simple. Authored by San Diego Senator Ben Hueso and Coachella Valley Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, it would required utilities to purchase utilities such as Southern California Edison or San Diego Gas & Electric to purchase extra renewable energy from geothermal sources.
“This bill would require, no later than December 31, 2024, each retail seller of electricity to procure a proportionate share, as determined by the Energy Commission, of a statewide total of 500 megawatts of electricity generated by specified baseload geothermal powerplants,” it reads.
The change to utilities’ energy profiles would need to come by 2024.
The bill is considered critical especially by the Imperial Valley, since steam already powers its renewable energy initiatives on the Salton Sea. The bill would allow for new development of renewable energy projects in the area.
"The initiative can help assure the future of the Salton Sea, protect public health, conserve vital species habitat and create stability for meeting California's water supply and energy needs," Jim Hanks, President of the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, told Imperial Valley News.
The bill has support for a number of labor groups because of the job growth potential an expansion to the region’s geothermal energy would bring. It would also fill an energy gap that some believe crucially needs filling.
“For example, in California with the wind and solar resources, there's a significant shortfall when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow,” Terry Page, Director of Regulatory Affairs Innovation for Enel Green Power, said at this year’s National Geothermal Summit.
The bill is estimated to bring in $38 million in annual local revenue and provide for more local economic opportunities.
However, not everyone is happy.
While Imperial is the poorest county in California, renewable energy officials from across the state are calling the deal unfair.
"This does an end run around the competitive process, where all costs and benefits are looked at and evaluated," Nancy Rader, director of the California Wind Energy Association, told the L.A. Times.
In an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee, Rader and two colleagues—Julee Malinowksi Ball and Jack Stewart—claimed that creating jobs in the future would cost jobs right now.
“For example, existing biomass, geothermal, wind and solar facilities directly support more than 4,000 high-wage jobs, many in the Central Valley and Northern California where unemployment remains high” they explain. “Some of these facilities will not secure new contracts because a few retail sellers would be forced to buy the new high-priced geothermal. The net result is that many local communities would suffer both job losses and higher costs while a few communities in the Imperial Valley reap all the benefits.”
Ultimate, they say, the bill would “harm the many to help the few.”
There might be benefits to the bill that reach beyond the immediate energy sector, though.
Jim Madaffer of the California Transportation Commission writing for the Sacramento Bee notes that California losing jobs to states such as Texas, who offering better incentives to companies. He believes that SB 1139 would offer great incentive for one of the world’s most watched and fast-growing companies to stay in its home state: Tesla.
“The Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource has 1,700 untapped megawatts. The area is a prime location for Tesla, which relies on a resource that can be pulled from geothermal power plants: lithium,” Madaffer writes. “It’s estimated that a 100-megawatt geothermal project can bring in more than 300 jobs. It’s also estimated that a project of that size could bring in $150 million in local property tax revenues, and $2 million to $2.5 million annually in lease payments to local governments and private landowners.”
So, in the end, is SB 1139 a good bet for California? It would certainly seem so, though we may find out sooner rather than later. The bill has advanced from the Assembly Appropriations Committee and is expected to be put before the full Assembly for a vote sometime before the end of the month.
UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC
The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.
While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.
"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."
The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.
- Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
- Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
- Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
- Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
- Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.
In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies.
Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”
Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society.
Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."
Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).
Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.