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Advocacy Update February 2021

A bit about policy and climate change

Last summer, California experienced rolling blackouts when grid capacity was stretched to the max by air conditioning loads due to a prolonged, record-breaking heatwave. Earlier this month, Texas faced blackouts due to a record cold winter storm. Both of these events have something in common, and it has nothing to do with renewable energy.

The California outages were the result of incorrect assumptions by the grid operator Cal-ISO. Follow-up investigations placed the responsibility primarily on poor planning and equipment failure. The crisis in Texas was the result of the lack of investment in weatherization protections for crucial infrastructure.  In Texas, natural gas pipes and valves froze, a nuclear plant went off-line, straining the electrical generation system.  Market-based grid operators prioritized profits over investing in weatherizing their infrastructure.

In both cases, the events were a result of  “unusual” weather events. Most agree the extreme weather is associated with climate change. The connection between these two events is that poor choices made by humans triggered them.  It was human error, not renewable energy, that caused these events. It just goes to show you how crucial effective policy is in our race to a carbon-free energy future.

Natural gas restrictions continue

The list of cities and counties supporting natural gas restrictions continues to grow. To date, 42 cities and counties in California have imposed restrictions on natural gas. As regional policymakers develop decarbonization plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it becomes clear that our reliance on fossil fuels, like natural gas, is a huge barrier. Combined with recent studies about combustion byproducts’ adverse health effects makes a very compelling case for all-electric homes and buildings. The transition from fossil fuels to renewables is just getting underway. Expect to see more restrictions in the future. It is the only way we can even come close to meeting our statewide mandated climate goals. 

California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission proceedings

There are lots of conversations happening in Sacramento. Here are just a few topics policymakers are working on:

CPUC-  Long-Term Gas Planning Rulemaking – A  25-year strategic plan to outline the process of replacing gas-fueled technologies. The commission is well aware that we cannot meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals with our current system, relying heavily on fossil fuel, namely natural gas.

CEC – Updates to the 2022 building codes – A portion of the conversation centers around beneficial building electrification and energy efficiency codes. Do we push harder to building codes that effectively mandate building electrification? 

CEC – Load Management Standards – It seems fitting to mention this proceeding after calling out the CA and Texas blackouts. Managing loads on the grid is a crucial component of a carbon-free electricity supply. The CEC is seeking public input on ways to improve efficiency and manage loads on the grid. One aspect includes assessing the potential and impacts of demand response(DR). There will be a public workshop and a formal docket for those willing to provide feedback on this ruling. 

These are just a few of the conversations going on related to residential energy efficiency. We encourage you to contribute and share your knowledge in shaping future legislation.

Charley Cormany

Executive Director