Coalitions announce plans for OR, WA voter initiatives
October 12, 2015

OR, WA announce new citizen initiatives on climate

Coalitions in Oregon and Washington announced last week that they’ll tackle climate policy with voter initiatives for the 2016 ballot. In Washington, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy said it would push for a carbon cap, with proceeds to fund renewable energy investments and reduce impacts on low-income communities, unlike the carbon-tax initiative in circulation which would be revenue-neutral. Renew Oregon is proposing measures to phase out coal power by 2030 and require state utilities to get at least half of their electricity from renewable sources by 2040. If successful, these policies would align with California’s, whose governor last week signed a sweeping new climate package into law.

Rise of wind, solar eats away at fossil plants’ profits

Onshore wind power is now the cheapest electricity available in Germany and the UK, a Bloomberg report said last week—the first time this milestone has been reached in a large industrial economy. Wind and solar generation is sowing the seeds of its own triumph by reducing the number of hours that coal and gas plants operate, making them spread their fixed costs over fewer kilowatt-hours, thus rendering them less competitive. Renewables’ rise helps explain why US utilities aren’t fighting Obama’s Clean Power rules; why utility CEOs supplying one-third of humanity with electricity called for stable decarbonization policies; and why the Italian utility Enel pledged to be carbon-free by 2050.   

Are the global talks half full or half empty?

The IPCC will shift its focus from defining and analyzing the problem of climate change to focus on solutions instead, the panel’s new head said last week. His pronouncement came as finance ministers gathered in Peru, where the head of the IMF called for a worldwide carbon tax, and the World Bank upped its climate finance pledge by one-third, to $29 billion per year. The approaching Paris talks served as a Rorschach test for pundits and participants, some of whom drew hope from new Chinese and Indian commitments and praised the value of a voluntary pledge framework, while others catalogued the aggregate shortfall of the national promises, lamented the limitations of an unenforceable climate pact, and probed how few of the promises actually represented new efforts to decarbonize.  

How is the electric grid like Switzerland?

If you like net neutrality—allowing everyone’s content to share space equally on the internet —you’ll love grid neutrality for the electric grid. The rise of rooftop generation, adjustable electric vehicle charging, and myriad “Distributed Energy Resources” (DERs) means that users have something to offer the grid. But how? The principles of fair sharing have just been laid out in the industry’s flagship magazine, Public Utilities Fortnightly, and deconstructed by UtilityDive and David Roberts. The key principles: open, transparent access to all; don’t make anyone assume undue risks; and make sure everyone can get reliable, affordable electricity whether they play in the market or not.

Electrified transportation offers novel possibilities

By 2020, batteries in US electric vehicles will provide 75 gigawatt-hours of electricity storage that can help integrate renewable energy sources onto the grid, according to a new Navigant report. That storage can function at the home level, too, with Honda’s new “power exporter” which turns a fuel-cell or battery-powered vehicle into a 9-kilowatt back-up power supply. In Europe, new tests showed that VW isn’t the only automaker whose diesel cars pass their garage tests but pollute several times above legal limits on the highway—another reason to embrace zero-tailpipe-emissions technology to cleanse the air in southern California, or to replicate Paris’s experiment with a car-free day in much of the city.

Winds of change benefit climate-smart villages

A remote Kenyan village, long beleaguered by fierce winds, is the location for a 310-megawatt windfarm, which will be Africa’s largest wind project when completed in mid-2017. Farmers in “climate smart” villages in central India are using technology to both address climate impacts and generate revenue: farmers using a solar-powered pump receive both the energy to pump water for their crops, as well as money for selling excess energy back to the grid. Also in India, in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, a state-owned coal mining company, aims to build 1 gigawatt of solar projects across the country.

If seeing is believing. . .

NASA recently released a visualization tool that depicts how sea ice, carbon dioxide levels, and global temperature have changed over time, and how sea level rise would affect coastlines in the future. Elsewhere in cyberspace, aficionados of virtual reality can experience the melting of Alaskan glaciers in this public service video co-produced by the Sierra Club. 


Image: Many farmers in India manage climate and weather risks with the help of forecasts they receive on their cell phones. Photo by F. Fiondella (IRI/CCAFS), via Flickr.  


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Author Bio

For over 20 years, Seth has covered issues of natural resources and the environment as a freelance journalist for numerous publications, including The Nation, Sierra, Orion, Newsweek, and the Christian Science Monitor.  He is the co-editor and co-author of Salmon Nation: People, Fish, and Our Common Home (Ecotrust, 1999) and author of Saving Our Ancient Forests (Living Planet Press, 1991). He taught environmental journalism for two semesters at Brown University and directed the forestry programs of northern California’s Mattole Restoration Council from 2006 to 2011. Seth’s work with Climate Solutions marks a return to his academic roots: he holds an A.B. from Stanford in Energy Studies (1983), and an M.S. from UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group (1990).