Climate & Energy

Two proposed solar projects to boost California’s solar capacity by half

Two large solar-power projects were proposed in Southern California this week that together could provide up to 500 megawatts of power, just over half the state’s current solar capacity and enough to provide electricity to about 300,000 homes. One of the projects, proposed by utility Southern California Edison, aims to put solar panels on 65 million square feet of commercial buildings across Southern California. It’s expected to cost $875 million and could be completed in five years, pending approval by the state’s utility regulators. The other project, to be sited in the Mojave Desert, is a solar thermal power plant …

Prasad responds

Carbon taxes work when there’s substitutability and revenue is locked down for environmental goals

This is a guest post by Monica Prasad, who wrote an op-ed in Tuesday's New York Times called "On Carbon: Tax, Don't Spend." It elicited responses from David Roberts and Charles Komanoff.  

Carbon policy details: Part 2

Does additionality matter?

The first follow-up to my recent post on carbon policy details. First, a note to non-carbon-wonks: "Additionality" is a term of art in the world of carbon policy. It describes the degree to which a given activity causes additional carbon reductions -- the idea being that we shouldn't pay for carbon reductions that were going to occur anyway. As a fantastic oversimplification, suppose your car broke down and you had to ride your bike to work. The principle of additionality says you shouldn't be paid for the carbon you didn't emit. (You would have ridden anyway -- what choice did you have?) But if there's an increment of money that would tip you over into getting rid of your car and always riding your bike, that's additional. Theoretically, great idea. Practically? Stupid. To understand why, go back to the test I posited in my earlier post: Does the metric increase or decrease the rate at which we invest capital to lower GHG emissions? The answer for additionality is not what you'd expect, for rather subtle reasons. First off, let's note a couple truths:

Another entrant in the $1/watt solar sweepstakes

Cost of solar cells may be driven down dramatically

Well lookie here! A series of manufacturing process improvements could make the cost of electricity from silicon-based solar cells comparable to today’s prices for coal generation within about four years, according to a company emerging out of stealth today. The company, 1366 Technologies, will be using technologies developed in MIT labs to reduce the manufacturing costs of standard-issue multi-crystalline silicon solar cells. They say they can ultimately reduce costs by about 50%, bringing the cost per watt of solar cells down to $1 (the same cost point Nanosolar is claiming it can hit). They plan on licensing the tech to …

Software calculates eco-impact of printers and copiers

Xerox is offering a new software calculator to help companies reduce the energy suckage of printers, copiers, and other newfangled technology. The calculator will consider factors including type of print cartridge, print color, speed, number of pages printed per month, and Energy Star rating, then create bar graphs demonstrating energy consumption, greenhouse gases, and solid waste produced from use of the machine. Graphs comparing funniness-of-butt-copying to chances-of-being-fired not included.

Boston looks to generate electricity from indoor composting

The city of Boston is looking to build an urban, indoor composting facility. Most cities, if they compost at all, transport food and yard waste in gas-guzzling trucks to dumps outside the city limits, where energy and methane from decomposing biomass get lost to the atmosphere. The first-of-its-kind proposed Boston facility would generate electricity from rotting leaves and fruit, enough to potentially power 1,500 homes. The project would create green jobs, make fertilizer available to sell, and, of course, put all of those colorful New England leaves to good use. The facility is still in planning stages, but Mayor Tom …

Carbon policy details: Part 1

Carbon policy is close to getting the macro right, but plenty of smaller decisions remain

My recent exchange with Gar has made it clear that there is a wide gulf between those details of carbon policy that are theoretically optimal and those which actually impact carbon reductions. Or, to be blunt, those that come up in our weekly staff meetings as actually affecting our decision to consider potential carbon reduction projects and those which simply elicit groans around the conference room of the "great intent, why did they screw up the execution?" variety.* From our perspective, the good news is that our policy does finally appear to be moving not only toward putting a price on CO2 emissions, but getting the really important details (like auction vs. allocation) right. The bad news is that most of the other details are still wrong.

Good gone wild

700 college students and the Clinton Global Initiative in New Orleans for spring break

Commitments to start social-change initiatives and spirited discussions of global issues -- these aren't typical results of 700 college students heading to New Orleans during spring break season. But last weekend, students from a diverse group of colleges, several dozen university presidents, and prominent social change agents -- not to mention Bill Clinton -- spent a day and a half on Tulane University's campus for Clinton Global Initiative University (with a cameo by Brad Pitt). Trying to live-blog an event while you're also trying to finish your senior thesis -- not a good idea. Nonetheless, a belated report from the Clinton Global Initiative's new youth event:

NYT offers special section on green biz

The Sierra Club is embarking on its first product endorsement, putting its logo on Clorox’s new Green Works cleaning products. Various businesses are aiming to bypass carbon neutrality and move straight on into carbon negativity. These and more stories show up in a New York Times “Business of Green” section Wednesday, which covers the green-biz gamut, from companies trying to manufacture safer chemicals, to financial techniques helping to grow the solar sector, to shareholders unconvinced that going green means making green. The rising of green-collar jobs and the growth of academic programs focused at moving students into them are also …

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