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The Revolution will be Solarized

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  • Apr 8, 2015 12:00 am GMT

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By Jorge Madrid

construction-646465_640There’s a clean energy revolution happening in California – and it has the potential to topple the old polluting forces while fighting climate change with the power of the sun.

California is not only producing the most solar power in the country – 8.5 gigawatts, enough to power two million homes – it’s producing more solar power than the rest of the country combined. In 2014 alone, the state more than doubled its solar power, becoming the first state to generate five percent of its total electricity from utility-scale solar. This record does not even count rooftop solar and distributed generation (where California also leads the country), bringing the state closer to an estimated seven percent of its total power generation from free sunshine.

The solar industry employs more than 54,000 Californians – nearly one-third of all solar workers in the nation – and solar jobs in the state grew by 16 percent in 2014 alone (compared to 2.2 percent overall state job growth in 2014). California solar jobs are expected to grow by another 17 percent in 2015.

California cities are the vanguard of this revolution, with Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento leading the charge. New research finds that California’s cities and urban centers could generate enough solar to meet the state’s power needs three to five times over, without developing a single additional acre of the state’s natural areas.

This solar revolution could not come sooner for my hometown of Los Angeles. The city is in a fight to rid itself of coal power by 2025, while also battling the impacts of climate change that are stressing our energy grid and worsened by fossil fuels.

Los Angeles’ historic heatwaves are expected to increase in number and frequency in the coming decades; some regions will experience triple or quadruple the number of heat days. The city broke its all-time record for energy demand last year on a particularly hot day, with nearly double the peak energy demand experienced on a typical day in the city. Pollution-free solar power can help us convert a potentially dangerous heat source into a source of cooling.

Statewide, record heatwaves will continue to drive up energy demand while the worst drought in at least 1,200 years and record-low snowpack has slashed in half the state’s available hydro-electric power. To help make our energy future less vulnerable to these and other impacts of climate change, we need a clean energy revolution now more than ever.

But, here’s the thing about a good revolution: it can’t rely on a few remarkable events, it needs a solid foundation to sustain itself and it needs to empower people, the true lifeblood of any revolution.

Forward-thinking state policy has been a solid foundation and driving force, including the Governor’s recent commitment to achieve 50 percent of California’s total energy from renewable sources by 2030. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has the opportunity to develop clear plans to integrate renewable energy, energy efficiency, advanced storage, and other enabling technologies that can displace dirty “peaker” power plants to balance the grid during periods of variability or when electricity demand exceeds supply.

Speaking of balancing the grid, we need to move our energy demand to align with our peak solar production (when the sun is shining brightest, roughly 11 AM to 4 PM). Right now, most electricity demand occurs later in the evening when people get home from work and flip on their appliances and electronics, causing a mismatch between demand and clean energy supply. Fortunately, policies like ‘Time of Use’ pricing and ‘Demand Response’ – energy management tools that incentivize customers to reduce their energy use during times of high demand – can put the power in the hands of the people to advance the clean energy revolution and displace dirty and costly fossil fuels.

Finally, and most importantly, any worthwhile revolution needs to uplift and empower all people. Our clean energy revolution needs to be equitable, affordable, and accessible to all Californians, especially low income people, communities of color, and communities overburdened by fossil fuel pollution. While there are still many equity questions to answer, we are making great strides forward.

Step outside into the sunshine, California’s clean energy revolution is happening live!

This post originally appeared on our California Dream 2.0 blog.

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Joris van Dorp's picture
Joris van Dorp on Apr 8, 2015

“Fortunately, policies like ‘Time of Use’ pricing and ‘Demand Response’ – energy management tools that incentivize customers to reduce their energy use during times of high demand – can put the power in the hands of the people to advance the clean energy revolution and displace dirty and costly fossil fuels.”

What a ridiculous statement.

That’s like saying that the solution to having inadequate health care is to make health care more expensive in order to incentivise people to reduce their demand for health care. And then having the gall to call this policy ‘putting health care in the hands of the people’.

Where does EDF’s craziness end? When we are all living in a full-blown Orwellian nightmare?

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on Apr 8, 2015


Time shifting energy use to reduce carbon emissions is an Orwellian nightmare? 


Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Apr 9, 2015

The best way to prevent global warming is to remove excess CO2. Thus, this needs to be priority number 1, along with whatever clean energy systems that can completely replace fossil fuels. All countries (that use fossil fuels) must set aside a small percentage into CDR. It can’t be that much of a big deal – nature has shown us how.

Joris van Dorp's picture
Joris van Dorp on Apr 9, 2015

Forcing people to change their energy consumption patterns to correspond to the weather and calling that “putting power into the hands of the people” is Orwellian.

Bruce McFarling's picture
Bruce McFarling on Apr 9, 2015

By inspection, “energy management tools that incentivize customers to reduce their energy use during times of high demand” is not equal to “Forcing people to change their energy consumption patterns to correspond to the weather”.

Because “giving an incentive to”{+} is not equal to “forcing”

Just as we are not necessarily forcing people to use fossil fuels by allowing them a massive tacit subsidy, we are giving them an incentive to use fossil fuels. It is when we block alternatives to fossil fuel use that we are then forcing them to use fossil fuels.

{+ as a preferable way to express what is meant by the truly atrocious corporatism ‘incentivize’.}

Joris van Dorp's picture
Joris van Dorp on Apr 10, 2015

Because “giving an incentive to”{+} is not equal to “forcing””

The intention of the ‘incentive’ is to prevent society from consuming fossil fuels during periods of low RE productivity which occur on a daily basis. In order to achieve that intention, energy prices must rise to whatever level is high enough to force customers to shut down their operations on a daily basis or switch to extremely expensive stored energy.

Moreover, the customers who will feel this force (!) the most are energy intensive industries competing internationally, and low income customers.

Are you confident that you can explain to those groups how they are merely being ‘incentivised’ as opposed to being forced? If so, I’d be interested to know how you would go about explaining that.

Furthermore, EDF is a committed anti-nuclear organisation so yes, they ARE in fact blocking the only viable alternative to fossil fuels. 




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