Sustainable Development

UCLA’s Grand Challenge Project – A 100% Sustainable Los Angeles by 2050

UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) unveiled an ambitious plan to achieve complete sustainability by using only renewable energy and local water for the Greater Los Angeles area by 2050.

UCLA Grand Challenge Project - Sustainable Los Angeles

UCLA Grand Challenge Project – Sustainable Los Angeles (photo –

The $150 million research project, titled “Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles,” is the first of the UCLA Grand Challenge initiative’s six planned projects.

For this first project, UCLA is putting together a team of around 70 faculty and staff members from about 30 UCLA centers and nearly two dozen of its departments.

The team will include experts in diverse fields including urban planning, economics, law, public policy, transportation, environmental science, public health, engineering, environmental science, communication studies and conservation biology.

The $150 million they plan to raise will be used for research on new policies and technologies over the next five years. Their goal is to provide decision-makers with a detailed roadmap by 2019.

This plan will be backed by the research, new technologies and breakthroughs, and will include laws, policies, outreach programs and other recommendations on how to achieve complete sustainability by mid-century.

Many of the recommendations, policies and technologies will first be tried out on the UCLA campus. Highlighted below are some of the goals of the project:-

- Smart electric grid that works with renewable energy systems and smart metering to enable buildings and cars to send energy back into the system;

- Carbon-free public transit and transportation systems;

- Solar energy on every rooftop;

- Decentralized system for water treatment and supply; and

- Developing environment-friendly technologies for ocean water desalination.

Federal support for the project seems likely, considering that Cristin Dorgelo, assistant director for Grand Challenges at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), was present at the launch event at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Dorgelo, who is a UCLA alumna, said this was not just going to be a local effort. She said it can cross outside of UCLA, and the breakthroughs achieved can have an impact on the world’s sustainability-related decisions.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said the perilous effects of climate change are already here. Chancellor Block added that they will light the path for the rest of the world by making Los Angeles environmentally sustainable.

On a related note, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and the Environmental Defense Fund released a set of maps last week called “Los Angeles Solar and Efficiency Report (LASER): Atlas of Investment Potential for LA County.”

LASER shows that if merely five percent of the rooftop solar energy generating potential in LA County is realized, it will create 28,700 local jobs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.25 million tons – equivalent to removing 250,000 cars off the roads.

That’s the impact of just five percent of the potential solar capacity of LA County. The UCLA Grand Challenge project is aiming to put solar energy on every rooftop in Greater Los Angeles.

Google, KKR Make Joint Investment in CA, AZ Solar Facilities

Google and global investment firm KKR announced that they are making an investment in six solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities currently under development by Recurrent Energy in California and Arizona.

Victor Phelan solar project in San Bernardino, CA

Victor Phelan solar project in San Bernardino, CA (photo – Google)

The six facilities (five in Southern California and one in Arizona) together will have a renewable power production capacity of around 106MW.

The six-project portfolio is expected to be operational early next year, and will generate enough electricity to power more than 17,000 homes in the U.S.

The power generated will be sold through long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) to utilities and municipal offloaders including Southern California Edison.

This is Google’s 14th such investment in renewable energy projects. This time, Google is investing $80 million. Together with the earlier investments, Google’s total outlay on all 14 projects adds up to more than a billion dollars.

Kojo Ako-Asare, Head of Corporate Finance for Google, said that investing in renewable energy is at the core of Google’s values. He said that Google strongly believes in making investments that are good for both the environment and for business.

This is the second time that Google, KKR and Recurrent Energy have come together on solar projects. Back in 2011, Google similarly teamed up with KKR and invested $94 million in four of Recurrent’s solar developments.

Kojo Ako-Asare added that Google was proud to continue their partnership with KKR and Recurrent through investments in these fantastic solar facilities.

Ravi Gupta, a senior member of KKR’s Energy and Infrastructure division, said the partnership with Google and Recurrent was ultimately about growing clean energy resources in North America.

Gupta said they believe that as states such as Arizona and California adopt high standards for use of renewable energy, private capital partners can play important roles in helping these states meet their goals.

Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy, said Google and KKR’s continued partnership with Recurrent showcases the strong commitment they have towards a clean energy future.

Harris added that the leadership of these companies in clean energy investments further validates the integral role of solar in the energy economy.

Recurrent has a large portfolio of utility-scale solar facilities to provide competitive clean energy. The company currently has solar projects under development in North America that together have a renewable energy production capacity of more than 2 GW.

UN Climate Change Conference COP19 – World Ready For Climate Change Deal

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (Nov 11-22, 2013) kicked off in Warsaw, Poland with an enhanced sense of urgency in the shadow of Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation in the Philippines.

Christiana Figueres opening address at COP19

Christiana Figueres opening address at COP19 (photo – UNFCCC/Jan Golinski)

In her opening address, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told the 19th session (COP19) participants from 195 nations that “the world is ready” for a climate change deal.

Figueres said there is a groundswell of climate action, not just for environmental reasons, but also for energy, economic, security and governance reasons. Figueres noted that public support and political will now favor climate change action.

One of the main issues that will take center stage in the negotiations over the next 10 days is the way forward on the establishment of the $100 billion Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The GCF is one of the key components of the international climate change agreement. Developed countries have agreed to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to fund efforts made by developing countries to tackle climate change.

The framework for the fund is almost done, and the pledging process is scheduled to begin in Sept 2014.

Another key point of discussion will be about laying the groundwork for the international climate action agreement that UNFCCC participants agreed to establish by 2015 when they met a couple of years ago in Durban, South Africa. This agreement is now scheduled to be put in place at COP21 in Paris in 2015.

U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd D. Stern explained what the United States is doing, and what they hope to achieve from the climate change negotiations at COP19.

Stern said the U.S. has or will provide $2.7 billion in public climate finance for Fiscal Year 2013 in support of climate change mitigation and adaptation actions in developing countries.

Apart from the UNFCCC negotiations, there are a significant number of high-profile events being held in Warsaw timed to coincide with COP19.

The U.S. Center, a State Dept. initiative, has put together a packed program schedule at Warsaw involving various federal agencies and departments including NASA, NOAA, DOE, DOT, DOS, USDA, USAID and others to highlight their climate change programs.

In fact, the U.S. Center also has one event in its lineup sponsored by the California Governor’s Office. The session on “Local Leadership Creating Resilient Communities” will focus on how significant progress is being made on resilience through the State of California’s emerging collaboratives at the regional level, and through local government leadership.

This session will highlight work being done on climate change throughout the U.S., and explain options that can be translated as a platform for communities worldwide.

ACEEE Report – State Energy Efficiency Scorecard

The non-profit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has released its seventh annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which ranks states based on energy efficiency policies and programs.


ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard

ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard (photo –

Massachusetts topped the charts for the third year running, based on its continued commitment to the implementation of the Green Communities Act of 2008.

This law continues to spur more investments in energy efficiency by requiring utilities to save a growing percentage of energy every year through greater efficiency.

Governor Deval Patrick said Massachusetts continues leading the nation in energy efficiency because they consciously made the choice to shape their own future, rather than leave it to chance.

Gov. Patrick added that they will continue to focus on policies that create jobs while decreasing dependence on imported energy sources and protecting the environment by reducing emissions.

The top states in ACEEE’s 2013 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard are (in the order of their ranking) – Massachusetts, California, New York, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Maryland, and Illinois.

This is the first time Illinois is showing up in the top ten on this list. Connecticut also moved up from sixth place and broke into the top five after passing a comprehensive energy bill (Public Act 13-298) earlier this year that authorized a doubling of energy efficiency program opportunities to help businesses and residents in the state reduce their energy bills.

The leading states in building energy codes and compliance were California, Washington and Rhode Island.

Mississippi was one of the few states that showed a huge improvement in their ranking, courtesy of laws passed this year by the Mississippi Legislature mandating an energy code for commercial and public buildings. With the help of this law, Mississippi began implementing lead-by-example programs in public buildings.

Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, who is also president of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, said Mississippi was proud to be the most improved state in ACEEE’s State Scorecard. Presley added that they looked forward to seeing Mississippi emerge as a regional leader in tapping the vast economic benefits of energy efficiency.

Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont are leading states in terms of energy efficiency programs and policies targeting the utility sector. California leads the way in energy-efficient transportation policies, along with New York.

California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister said California continues to earn its reputation as an energy leader by instituting the most advanced energy efficiency standards in the nation, and for pushing the envelope on ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs.

McAllister said these standards have helped California ratepayers save more than $75 billion since 1975, protected the climate by reducing emissions, and grown the economy with local jobs.

Read the full ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard – Download (pdf; free registration required)

American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act Could Create 400,000 Jobs

Senator Edward J. Markey, recently elected as the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, has introduced new legislation which encourages clean energy generation and energy efficiency, and has the potential to create 400,000 new jobs.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy (photo –

The American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act (S.1627), if passed into law, would require utilities to procure 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass, etc. by 2025.

S.1627 also requires both electric and natural gas utilities to improve energy efficiency by 2025. Electric utilities would need to improve energy efficiency equivalent to 15 percent of sales, while the natural gas utilities would have to improve their energy efficiency by 10 percent of sales.

Specifically, the bill seeks to amend title VI of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 to introduce a federal electricity standard for retail suppliers, and a federal energy efficiency standard for electricity and natural gas suppliers.

Many states have already implemented similar standards. A full 30 U.S. states and D.C. have laws that require utilities to maintain a healthy mix of energy from renewable sources. Energy efficiency requirements are mandatory in 24 states.

The proposed bill, if it became law, would quadruple renewable energy production by 2025. It would reduce CO2 emissions by an annual 480 million metric tons by 2025, equivalent to the combined output of 120 coal-fired power plants.

An economic impact analysis of this bill and a similar bill (H.R.5967) with the same name that was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last year by then Rep. Markey came up with following findings:-

- Number of jobs created if the legislation becomes law – 400,000

- Average annual household savings from improved energy efficiency – $39

- Cumulative consumer savings through 2030 – Nearly $90 billion

- New capital investments in the renewable energy technology – $200 billion

Senator Markey said that it’s past time to scale up the nation’s clean energy deployment and innovation, and to get American workers building and exporting solar panels and wind turbines that say “Made in America,” instead of America importing millions of barrels of “Made in OPEC” oil every day.

The bill is supported by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club and a long list of environmental and renewable energy organizations and companies.

S.1627 was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Oct 31, 2013, and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

British Columbia, California, WA, OR Sign Climate Change Action Plan

British Columbia, Canada is teaming up with the West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington to combat climate change on the North American Pacific Coast.

Pacific Coast Collaborative

Pacific Coast Collaborative (photo –

British Columbia’s Premier Christy Clark joined the Governors of the three states after a meeting of the Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC) in San Francisco to sign the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy.

The action plan commits the four governments to a comprehensive strategic alignment for combating climate change and promoting the use of clean energy in a region which has 53 million people and has a combined GDP of $2.8 trillion – this makes it the world’s fifth largest economy.

As part of the agreement, Oregon and Washington will join BC and California as regions that have their own market-based carbon pricing mechanism. Where possible, all four will link their programs to maintain consistency and allow the regional low-carbon economy to expand.

They agreed to take action to expand the use of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), aiming for 10 percent of all new vehicles by 2016.

All four also agreed to transform the market for energy efficiency and lead the way to net-zero buildings. They agreed to harmonize GHG reduction targets for 2050, and develop mid-term targets required for supporting the long-term reduction target.

Another part of the agreement was that all four governments recognize the scientific consensus that climate change had human causes and had very real impacts. They agreed to cooperate with national governments around the world to press for a global agreement on climate change in 2015 at the Conference of Parties in Paris.

BC Environment Minister Mary Polak said climate change was a global issue, and added that by exporting natural gas, BC will be supplying growing markets with a clean burning fossil fuel.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said the Action Plan represents the best of things that the Pacific Coast governments are already doing, and calls for each of them to do more to meet the moral obligation towards future generations and create jobs by leading in the clean energy economy.

California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. said California wasn’t waiting for the rest of the world before taking action on climate change, and they were now teaming up with British Columbia, Oregon and Washington to reduce greenhouse gases.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber said that energy is “the” issue of our time, globally and in Oregon, and no other issue would have a great impact on the state’s quality of life, environment and economy in the coming decade.

Eight-State Coalition Announces Zero-Emission Vehicles Initiative

The Governors of eight U.S. states have signed an agreement for a joint initiative to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the roads in their states by 2025.

Zero Emission Vehicles

Zero Emission Vehicles (photo –

The eight states that are signatories to the MOU are California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The MOU signed by the Governors commits them to pursue the following actions:-

- Alignment of building codes in order to make it easier to build EV charging stations;

- Lead-by-example to include ZEVs in public fleets, and set targets for governmental ZEV purchases;

- Evaluate and consider providing incentives, financial or otherwise, for promoting ZEVs;

- Consider setting up favorable electricity tariffs for home EV charging systems;

- Development of common standards for charging networks and roadway signs;

- Encourage ZEV market growth by establishing public-private partnerships with automobile manufacturers, corporate fleet owners, electricity and hydrogen providers, and other stakeholders;

- Share research and coordinate education and outreach campaigns to highlight the benefits of ZEVs and promote their use; and

- Pursue assessment and development of infrastructure and other requirements for commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

States with ZEV programs together account for 27 percent of the U.S. automobile market, and by working together they can help create more consumer demand and lower ZEV costs through economies of scale and expanding the choices available to consumers.

There are currently 16 ZEV models available in the U.S., produced by eight automobile manufacturers.

Nine of them are electric vehicles that run on batteries, while five are hybrids that can run on both gasoline as well as batteries. The remaining two are powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

By 2015, every major automaker is expected to have ZEVs on sale or lease. Electric car sales in the U.S. jumped to 52,000 in 2012, more than thrice the sales in 2011. This year, more than 40,000 plug-in cars have already been sold in the first two quarters.

California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. said this was not just an agreement, but a serious and profoundly important commitment.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley said they were excited to be collaborating with other states to ensure the success of Zev programs.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber said this initiative will helps states reduce transportation-related air pollution and GHG, enhance energy diversity, save money for consumers, and promote economic growth.

Report – State Clean Energy Actions Update

A report released by the National Governors Association (NGA) provides a categorized update on 348 actions taken by states to support clean energy generation and use.

State Clean Energy Actions

State Clean Energy Actions (photo –

The “State Clean Energy Actions” report lists clean energy actions across seven categories from Nov 2012 to June 2013, and also provides cumulative data for the same from 2008-2013.

The categories into which the state-level activity has been divided are clean energy economic development; lead-by-example initiatives; clean electricity; energy efficiency; alternative fuels and vehicles; clean energy research, development and demonstration; and greenhouse gas emissions.

A lot of the activity and initiatives were focused around financial incentives, improving state building efficiency, renewable portfolio standards (RPS), building codes and shale gas development.

In the period from Nov 2012-June 2013, a total of 41 states and territories took action supporting electricity generation from renewable and clean sources. During the same period, 29 states took actions to improve energy efficiency, resulting in lower demand for electricity.

A total of 29 states took action during this period to expand their supply and distribution networks for alternative fuel, and support increased use of vehicles using these fuels.

California leads the way in financial incentives, having approved Proposition 39 to generate $1.1 billion annually in new tax revenues for the next five years to support clean energy and energy efficiency.

Hawaii approved legislation to establish the Green Energy Market Securitization (GEMS) financing program to help consumers make energy-cost saving improvements. GEMS is funded through a $100 million green infrastructure bond program.

A total of ten states took clean energy economic development actions during this eight-month period, including New York’s expansion of the NY-Sun solar jobs, and Indiana allowing counties to establish infrastructure development zones where property tax is exempt for natural gas infrastructure.

Oregon’s efforts are highlighted in the report in the lead-by-initiative category. Oregon released a 10-Year Energy Action Plan that includes establishing a State Building Innovation Lab to help understand how public sector energy efficiency retrofits must be pursued.

Oregon also created an Alternative Fuel Vehicle Revolving Fund that allows the Oregon Dept. of Energy to offer loans to public entities for purchasing new alternative fuel vehicles or converting existing vehicles.

Earlier this year, the NGA also set up a database of all these clean energy actions that is searchable by category, state and the policy lever used (executive order, legislation, utility ruling, etc.).

Read the full NGA State Clean Energy Actions report – Download (pdf)

Shedd Aquarium Unveils Solar Installation With 913 Panels

The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois unveiled a large solar panel installation with 913 photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the aquarium’s marine mammal pavilion.

Shedd Aquarium solar array launch

Shedd Aquarium solar array launch (photo –

The 265-kilowatt project will save Shedd more than $100,000 annually in energy costs, and help them maintain power during blackouts.

It is the biggest such solar array project by any cultural institution in Illinois that is funded through a public-private partnership.

The opening of the solar array, attended by Illinois Gov. pat Quinn, kicks off the first phase of Shedd’s Master Energy Roadmap to cut the 83-year old building’s energy consumption in half by 2020.

The roadmap, launched in Jan 2013, was created by Shedd in partnership with the City of Chicago, the Institute for Sustainable Energy Development, Citizens Utility Board, and the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition.

Karen Weigert, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Chicago, worked with the Civic Consulting Alliance and West Monroe Partners to come up a plan.

The experts tasked with creating the roadmap designed a smart building prototype that will make Shedd one of the first clean-powered cultural institutions. Once implemented, the plan will save almost 10 million kilowatt hours annually – equivalent to the power consumption needs of 750 households.

Apart from on-site renewable energy generation, other plan elements in the roadmap include:-

- Advanced intelligence with new sub-meters that will provide real-time information about Shedd’s energy use;

- Reducing energy consumption and improving efficiency by replacing 75 percent of the lights with LEDs;

- Reducing utility bills through automation and control to reduce energy usage during peak periods and take advantage of real-time pricing to use electricity when the price is low; and

- Integrating new energy storage technology.

The total project cost is around $1.1 million, with $250,000 being provided by the State of Illinois.

Governor Quinn said the Shedd Aquarium’s green energy efforts demonstrate how Illinois is paving the way for advancing sustainable energy and next-generation clean technology.

Shedd President and CEO Ted A. Beattie said that preserving and protecting the living world is at the heart of Shedd, and added that they know sustainability and conservation begins at home in the aquarium.

Chris Curtis, president and CEO of Schneider Electric North America which helped Shedd build the photovoltaic panels, said this was an exciting project for them, and also for the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois.

Chicago CSO Karen Weigert said they were thrilled to see Shedd take on significant changes to move towards a complete transition to renewable energy.

Go-Biz, Auto Makers Team Up to Support ZEV Infrastructure in California

The California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) announced an initiative to facilitate and accelerate the permitting and establishment of hydrogen fueling and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

California ZEV roadmap

California ZEV roadmap (photo –

The initiative came about after automotive companies including GM, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai approached Go-Biz earlier this year and pointed out the need for more hydrogen and EV charging stations to support their plans for increasing zero emission vehicle (ZEV) fleets.

California accounts for almost 40 percent of the U.S. market for plug-in electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are slated for launch in the 2015-17 timeframe.

Jim Pisz, North American business strategy corporate manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc., said that when Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell vehicle comes to the market in 2015, a reliable and convenient fueling infrastructure must be ready for customers.

Pisz said they were excited to be partnering with Go-Biz for ensuring the necessary hydrogen infrastructure is in place for successfully launching fuel cell technology in California.

Under this new initiative, Go-Biz will work not only with the auto makers, but also with federal, state and local agencies, hydrogen station developers and hosts, EV regional planners, installers and station hosts, and other interested parties.

The effort will be spearheaded by a new position created at Go-Biz that is being funded with $300,000 provided by the California Energy Commission.

This new position will engage local and state partners for identifying and eliminating barriers to development. The project manager will report directly to the Deputy Director of Permitting at GO-Biz.

Go-Biz Director Kish Rajan said California is a world leader in zero emission technology, and the state’s infrastructure needs to reflect that dynamism.

Earlier this year, California came up with an action plan that provides a roadmap for achieving the state’s goal of having 1.5 million ZEVs on California roadways by 2025.

Director Rajan said Go-Biz was partnering with automotive companies to ensure that California has the necessary infrastructure for meeting the goal of delivering more hydrogen and electric vehicles to market.


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