Sunday, October 12, 2014

You need to read this Price Waterhouse Coopers report on Climate Change

We've all heard the saying, "There are three sides to every story; yours, theirs and the truth."  When it comes to the relationships between business and government, accounting firms are usually the go-to place for "the truth part" when it comes to the most important medium in the biz-to-gov conversation, financial information.  Yes, there have been examples to the contrary (circa 2008 financial crisis and A+ ratings put on unstable credit default swaps), but for the most part these institutions exist to dig into the numbers and draw out what is really going on, independent of the "he said she said."

Well, one of the most well know accounting firms in the world, PricewaterhouseCoopers has just released a "high level, easy-to-read" report on Climate Change named, "Two degrees of separation: ambition and reality" that, as a patron of this website, you need to read.  Now.

Spoiler alert: the news is not encouraging.  The report basically spells out that as a global society, we are good at setting long term goals.  However, we are not as good at reaching step-by-step milestones in order to reach those long term goals.  The most telling chart from the report is shown below.  It details how we must reduce the global carbon intensity (tons of CO2 / $m in 2013) in order to limit climate change to only 2 degrees C.  This is a 6.2% / yr decrease need.  We are currently only achieving 1.2% / yr.  Globally, humanity is a D student.

I encourage all of you to read this report.  It is an easy read, not overly deep into the processes of accounting, and is meant to be read by the average concerned citizen.  

To me, it is deeply troubling.  This is a global problem to which no single government or company can solve itself.  The only hope is the cooperation of multiple governments on a coordinated effort to evolve economies into lower carbon producing energy sources for future growth.  I hope you review this report and draw your own conclusions.  Enjoy.

Link to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

OC Green Drinks mixer tomorrow night in Laguna Beach. See you there!

A friendly reminder that the OC Green Drinks October event is tomorrow (October 9, 2014) and Nirvana Grille in Laguna Beach, CA.  The even is going on from 6pm till 9pm.  Should be a great time getting togeather and talking about all sorts of common interest with great people.

More information about the event is at this link.  The address is 303 Broadway, Laguna Beach, CA.  See you there Brah!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

OC Congressman Dana Rohrabacher clearly falls on the wrong side of truth, fact and eventually, history

I urge all OC residents who care about the future of their shorelines, communities, families and planet to stop and think seriously about who is representing them in the US House of Representatives.  Incumbent Representative Dana Rohrabacher (who is up for re-election on Nov 4 this year against Democratic Candidate Dr. Sue Savary) was recently featured as part of a gone-viral Daily Show clip where the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology discussed the scientific communities most recent findings about climate change.

After watching this exchange, a lot of adjectives come to mind concerning the way our Congressional "leaders" are essentially turning hard scientific evidence into satire, suggesting that climate scientists and their models are simply employing "scare tactics" and making predictions for reasons of "job security".  The adjective that most clearly defines their behavior and lack of responsibility in approaching this serious issue in a respectful and meaningful way is disgusting.  Simply disgusting.

We've all put up with Rohrabacher's crazy and embarrassing old uncle tendencies in the past.  He openly writes posts on his website about how we need to focus on humanity's greatest concern... out of control space asteroids (I am not kidding, google "rohrabacher asteriod" for an entertaining list of links).  But with an election on the horizon, do yourself a favor and ask, "Is this the representative I really want speaking for me?  Is this who is best for Orange County on the national level?"

I urge you to go out on Nov 4 and vote for who you think is best for you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

YPE Orange County networking mixer tomorrow at Season 52 in Costa Mesa!

OCR is happy to support a great networking event happening tomorrow evening, the YPE (Young Professionals in Energy) fall mixer.  Come on down to meet colleagues and new friends in the energy biz!

The event is going on from 6-8pm at Season 52, 3333 Bristol St, Costa, Mesa, CA.  Click on the link here for more information about the event.

Monday, September 8, 2014

See you at the HB Green Forum and Expo this Saturday, Sept 13

A reminder to everyone of a great, local Orange County event, the 2014 Huntington Beach Green Form and Expo, happening this Saturday, September 13, 2014 from 8 am till 3pm.

There will be a forum session from 8:00 am till 10:00 am at the Shorebreak Hotel right near the pier in downtown Huntington Beach followed by the vendor and organization expo at the pier from 10:30 am till 3:00 pm.  The expo is a great event with a ton of vendors from "all natural" surf wax to information on solar energy and home energy upgrades from a whole host of vendors.

Anil from OC Green Drinks will be there encouraging people to get involved with the social aspects of clean living in the OC!

More information about the event at this link here.

See you there!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Join us August 20 at the Anaheim Packing District!

Hello all OCRers!  We are very excited to announce a joint social / networking / tour of the brand new Anaheim Packing District event on August 20, 2014 at in the Front Community Room at 440 S. Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92805.   The party starts at 6:30 and goes until 9pm.  It is 100% FREE.

The event is designed to showcase all of the great "green" and "sustainability" minded organizations in Orange County.  Our guest of honor will be Chef Jenny Ross, who is currently kicking butt at Lemon Drop Pressed Juicery & Farm Shoppe at the Packing District, 118 Degrees in Costa Mesa and author of The Art of Living Food.

This is going to be a fun & FREE evening for networking, touring, eating and general hanging out.  We look forward to seeing you all there.  This will also be the send off event for OCR Summer Associate Marla, so be sure to be there to thank her for all her hard work on behalf of OCR over the summer!

See you there!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Part 3: AB 2145, Amend, End or Send?

California  Assembly Bill 2145 makes various amendments to the rules of forming and running a Community Choice Aggregator (CCA) which is a local, public power utility that serves as an alternative electricity supply to monopoly power companies. AB 2145 was introduced to committee in February but obtained recent infamy after it passed the Assembly floor in late May.  While AB 2145 has gone through many modifications some of the proposed amendments include limiting the size of CCAs, increasing their reporting requirements and the most controversial, removing CCA’s status as the default provider for municipality electricity once approved. Proponents of the bill claim that CCA reforms are fair and necessary to ensure transparency while those in opposition say the “reforms” will cripple CCAs in order to protect existing monopolies. Whatever you’re opinion, the bill’s transformation through the legislature is worth a closer look. Its path may have critical implications about where the power truly lies in legislation. Spoiler alert: it might not be where you think!

In my three part piece I will examine what the bill might have done, the factors that effected its creation and how what’s left will affect community choice for years to come. Stay tuned!

Part 3: Amend, End or Send

When the Senate Utilities and Commerce Commission amended Ab 2145, dubbed the Monopoly Protection Bill, removing the CCA kill provision (a change from “opt out” to “opt in”), supporters of community choice everywhere celebrated a battle won. The war, however, is not over.

At least that’s according to the Climate Protection Campaign through The campaign, which was essential in attracting public opposition to the Monopoly Protection Bill, released a position paper following the senate committee vote. It offers 3 reasons to still vote NO on Ab2145.

First is a provision that requires CCA’s to provide NOW their rates for the next 5 years of service. Not project them, but report them NOW with perhaps little chance for future adjustment. This choice of words appears innocuous until compared to the reporting requirements of the utilities, who “shall provide its projected electric supply rate”.

Notice the difference?   The CCA is required to know its rates for 5 years in the future while the utility can get away with a rough estimate. In other words, this provision opens up CCAs to lawsuits that it doesn’t for utilities. says it’s simply not realistic to know what the energy market will be 5 years into the future and asking CCAs to report them is like requesting a crystal ball.  Seems a little unfair to us here at OCR.

Second, when the kill provision was amended out there was an addition to the bill that places a 3 county limit on CCAs. No2145 complains that this designation is arbitrary and may prevent smaller counties from forming a CCA.   Even after pooling their populations, smaller counties may not have enough buying power to compete with the utility monopoly due to the arbitrary county partnership limit. mentions 4 counties, Arcata, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Napa County that say the 3 county limit would interfere with their efforts to form a CCA.  On the one hand if you limit expansion you guarantee CCAs will not become what they are designed to challenge: monopolies.  Right now, nothing is necessarily stopping Marin Clean Energy or Sonoma Clean Power from becoming the next PG&E. However that logic places a great deal of expectation on the snow balling effect of expansion, especially since instituting a CCA is still a difficult process.  Still, it is my opinion that CCA’s maintain a uniquely benevolent and flexible role when they are run locally. I’d hate to see that challenged by the muse of unlimited expansion.

On the county partnership limitation Senator Alex Padilla puts it this way, “when you are establishing a credit union you are asked to define the community of interest, so if community choice aggregation is indeed community aggregation, how do we begin to define the community? Is it small, is it big, is it statewide, [or] is it somewhere in between?”

While Padilla agreed with putting boundaries on CCAs, he also conceded that “not all counties are created equal” but they are instead “varying in terms of population size… geographic area… and rural vs urban.” He supported the bill’s county limit amendment in order to start the conversation on “what ought to be the right number” of counties in a CCA knowing full well that “there is still a lot to be discussed and probably negotiated.”

With the bill set to vote in early August, the time for discussion is now. Is a three county limit reasonable or is it damaging? Is it too arbitrary?  Is county the wrong aspect to look at altogether? Should CCAs be limited by something else, for example, population size? Or perhaps the increased utilization of renewable energy worth the eventual loss of small locally governed CCAS?

The final debatable provision in Ab2145 requires the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) deal with complaints against CCA’s. According to opposition, this provision interferes with “sound local accountability and management, runs contrary to existing local oversight” and “would add a costly, lengthy, and unnecessary bureaucratic burden.” Opposition foresees utility attorney-armies filing an onslaught of pointless lawsuits, financially crippling CCAs with hostile litigation.

While I can certainly see the danger, I am not convinced of its degree. Just as it’s unlikely that an unchecked CCA will suddenly snowball into a PG&E like monopoly, a new CPU complaint process is unlikely to bury live CCA’s in legal fees.  Then again, crazier things have happened.

So what’s the take away from all this debate?  This author believes utilities and CCAs should have the same reporting requirements.  Concerning CCA expansion limits and CPUC regulations, my jury is still out.

In the end, it will be left to you, the California voter, to decide.  What do you think? Comment on our Facebook page here, write your senator, sign a petition or spread the word on social media by going here or support the amended bill, but remember, no choice is a choice. Community voice overcame monopoly power once and if we want to see it happen again, we have to act.

One last thing before I leave you all: if this debate seems far away, note that nearby San Diego and Santa Barbara counties already started the CCA implementation process. How these rules play out will soon affect Southern California and likely Orange County. It’s time to decide in what way. This concludes my 3 part exploration of AB2145.  Thanks for sticking with me!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Part 2: AB 2145, What it is Now

California Assembly Bill 2145 makes various amendments to the rules of forming and running a Community Choice Aggregator (CCA) which is a local, public power utility that serves as an alternative electricity supply to monopoly power companies. AB 2145 was introduced to committee in February but obtained recent infamy after it passed the Assembly floor in late May.  While AB 2145 has gone through many modifications some of the proposed amendments include limiting the size of CCAs, increasing their reporting requirements and the most controversial, removing CCA’s status as the default provider for municipality electricity once approved. Proponents of the bill claim that CCA reforms are fair and necessary to ensure transparency while those in opposition say the “reforms” will cripple CCAs in order to protect existing monopolies. Whatever you’re opinion, the bill’s transformation through the legislature is worth a closer look. Its path may have critical implications about where the power truly lies in legislation. Spoiler alert: it might not be where you think!

In my three part piece I will examine what the bill might have done, the factors that effected its creation and how what’s left will affect community choice for years to come. Stay tuned!

Part 2: The Fans and Foes of AB 2145

In my last post, we saw how the “opt in” provision in California AB 2145 threatened to kill the future of Community Choice Aggregators (CCA’s) across the state. The bill, with this hazardous provision, sped through the legislature without controversy until abruptly amended in the Senate. There, the “opt in” provision was removed and it seemed the worst was over. Yet, for those monitoring the path of AB 2145s through the legislature, the confusion certainly wasn’t.

Why is it that a bill with such obvious consequence should fly through one legislative body and then completely reform in another?

For the answer, look no further than the list of the bill’s few original supporters: PG&E and 3 prominent labor unions.   PG&E already proved their determination to stop CCA’s at all costs, when they spent $46 million in 2010 on a ballot measure that would have made CCA formation near impossible. With their economic clout, the power of their influence comes as no surprise. Labor union opposition is also unsurprising as CCA’s are frequently framed as a threat to the traditional utility employer despite the fact that CCA’s have so far been shown to increase jobs, not lose them.

Interestingly, in a blog post published by the Labor Union International Brotherhood of Electricity Workers (IBEW), jobs were not mentioned.   Criticisms instead centered on the issue of transparency and complaints that Marin Clean Energy, the first California CCA, over reported its benefits.  Whether or not these complaints have merit, a call for increased transparency seems reasonable at first. However, at the end of this post is a link to sign a petition with the title, “Support AB 2145: Stop Shell Oil from Automatically Enrolling Thousands of Californians in their Dirty Energy Program.” This accusation came out of left field following this moderate post, nowhere in the article was Shell Oil even mentioned.

Comments following the petition link included the likes of, “I believe that clean energy is the only way to go“ and “I want to stop our collective planetary suicide,” feedback you'd expect to find at, a site run by the Climate Protection Campaign not a petition in support of the monopoly protection bill. It goes without saying; the petition was misleading the public into signing something with dire consequences for community choice, local power and clean energy under false pretenses of environmental protection.

In the Assembly as well, AB 2145 rode through under false pretenses. Supporters again called for transparency. Assemblyman Bradford repeated the mantra: “community choice, not community force”. Almost all of the supporters of AB 2145 claimed they supported CCAs provided they were reformed. Yet, none of the supporters realistically addressed the detriment that the “opt in” provision would have on future CCAs (essentially stopping them before they start) nor the fact that rate payers already have no choice in regards to their energy without CCAs. Opposition brought to light these and other problems with AB 2145 but it fell on deaf ears in the Assembly, which passed the bill 41 to 12 on May 28th. CCAs were dying while the Assembly was pretending to protect “community choice.”

Woody Hastings, from the Climate Protection Campaign, asserts that misinformation about CCAs pushed forward by the PG&E and its labor union IBEW was rampant in the Assembly. It was these lies and Assemblyman Bradford’s political clout as Chair of the Utilities and Commerce committee that enabled the bill’s smooth ride through the Assembly.

In regards to transparency, Hastings said that despite PG&E’s unfounded attack on CCAs, he supported a provision in the original bill that required a uniform accounting system for greenhouse gas emissions. Uniform emission reporting would ensure data was accurate and comparable. Unfortunately, in another show of Sacramento politics, that provision was amended out early in the process, to avoid the Senate Environmental Quality Committee where the bill would likely have died.

PG&E and AB 2145 political allies met their match however, when a list of local governments, businesses and nonprofits in opposition to AB 2145 quickly ballooned from 140 to 200. The opposition united and earned its own political influence. Senator Alex Padilla stated in late June, “for the last, literally weeks, my office has been in recite of phone calls, faxes, email, notes being dropped off, you name it, expressing concerns about the ‘opt in’ vs ‘opt out’ provision of the bill in print. That was sort of loud and clear.” What was loud and clear during the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications committee meeting on June 23rd was that organized, persistent and targeted action of a populous could not be ignored. There the “opt in” provision was finally pushed out of the bill.

With “opt in” dead, the question now becomes how much opposition towards AB 2145 is left and will it be strong enough to go head to head with continued PG&E support?

Interested in hearing more about the battle over AB 2145? Stay tuned for my third and final blog post as we look at what’s left in the bill and what it means for Orange County. Until then, feel free to learn more at


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A 3 Part Look at AB 2145: What it was, What it is Now and Why it Matters

California Assembly Bill 2145 makes various amendments to the rules of forming and running a Community Choice Aggregator (CCA) which is a local, public power utility that serves as an alternative electricity supply to monopoly power companies. AB 2145 was introduced to committee in February but obtained recent infamy after it passed the Assembly floor in late May.  While AB 2145 has gone through many modifications some of the proposed amendments include limiting the size of CCAs, increasing their reporting requirements and the most controversial, removing CCA’s status as the default provider for municipality electricity once approved. Proponents of the bill claim that CCA reforms are fair and necessary to ensure transparency while those in opposition say the “reforms” will cripple CCAs in order to protect existing monopolies. Whatever you’re opinion, the bill’s transformation through the legislature is worth a closer look. Its path may have critical implications about where the power truly lies in legislation. Spoiler alert: it might not be where you think!

In my three part piece I will examine what the bill might have done, the factors that effected its creation and how what’s left will affect community choice for years to come. Stay tuned!

Part 1: Bad Bill Defanged

Two weeks ago proponents of local jobs and clean energy across CA gave a collective cheer as AB 2145, dubbed the Monopoly Protection Bill, was robbed of its most threatening clause. The bill was viewed as an end to Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) which are the beloved alternative to monopoly generated power.

As it stands right now, CCA serve as an alternative to monopoly produced, no-choice electricity. Instead of accepting power from the region’s mega-utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE) or San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) small governments have the opportunity to switch the provider of their constituent’s energy to a CCA, a small public agency that buys electricity from mostly local suppliers. CCA micro-utility generally have the mechanisms to provide electricity that is more locally produced, more renewable and more cost effective than the state regulated mega-utility.  Sound to good to be true?

Well, the secret to their success lies in 2 little words “opt out.” When a CCA is voted in, the surrounding community is automatically switched so the CCA becomes their default provider and rate payers are allowed to “opt out” if they want to return to the monopoly generated electricity. Having thousands of guaranteed customers gives CCA’s the economy of scale they need for their micro to compete against a larger, established competitor.

Since the opt-out provision came to CA in 2002 two successful CCA’s have launched, first in Marin County and second in Sonoma County.  Today, upwards of 6 more projects are on the table. While not without their controversy, CCA’s are viewed by many as a critical and innovative tool in the fight against climate change through competition.

Yet, if AB 2145 passed the senate in the form that it passed the Assembly, the magic of the CCA would have fizzled. 62nd district Assemblyman Steven Bradford sponsored the bill with an “opt in” clause that would have forced each member of the community with an approved CCA to send in notice that they wanted to opt into the CCA.  Imagine trying to get every person to not only pay attention to their mail, but to actively respond to it! Eric Brooks of the San Francisco Green Party speaks for the more than 200 organizations listed on the bill as opponents who say that this provision would kill any CCA before it even started.

Of course, Assemblyman Bradford doesn't see it like that. According to Bradford, this bill is entirely different than Prop 16, a failed CA ballot measure pushed forward by PG&E that would have required a super majority (2/3 vote) to form a CCA. Yet proposition 16 would have at least left CCAs in the hands of citizens responsible enough to vote, not to entire populations over-busy and overburdened with junk mail. Jamie Tuckey, communications director of the CCA Marin Clean Energy, says that expecting that type of initiative out of the populous is unrealistic, no matter how much “climate zeal” they have.

Even so, Bradford maintains that his 4 year stint in the Conservation Core outweighs his previous employment for Southern California Edison and proves that Ab 2145 was not about monopoly protection at all, but transparency and choice! This of course, assuming that Californians had a choice in the current system of power company monopolies.

Regardless of Bradford’s intentions, it’s pretty clear that AB 2145, as it passed through the Assembly, was a CCA-Kill Bill. Lucky for CCA supporters everywhere, the “opt in” clause is now off the table.  With that most controversial piece amended out, it’s anyone’s guess if the bill will pass the Senate or what it will mean for CCA’s if it does. But I am getting ahead of myself! Stay tuned for my next installment as I look at how that dangerous clause made it so far through the CA legislator and what eventually brought it down!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hello Marla ~ OCR's Summer Associate!

My name is Marla and I am thrilled to be working with OC Renewables as its Summer Associate! Although a native Southern California resident, I spend the school months attending a small but mighty liberal arts college in Washington. I was lucky enough to receive a modest grant from my school that allows me to pursue my interest in sustainability by helping to grow the scope of OCR for ten weeks this summer. Essentially, I am here to help serve the Orange County Community in its pursuits for a more sustainable future!

I am working with leadership to develop a plan to make OCR a more valuable resource for Orange County residents interested in sustainability, green technology, and conservation. To start, we are strengthening our network and looking into revamping the website. When we are done, it will serve as a one stop shop for information on the nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies and programs geared towards environmental concerns in Orange County. The goal is to make information on these organizations centralized and accessible so that every resident who wants to get more involved or just wants to know “what’s going on with the environment in the OC” recognizes that they can turn to the OCR to get them where they want to go!

While transforming OCR into a local sustainability hub is our primary focus, I am eager to hear from you, the Orange County community, what interests or questions you have related to sustainability. What sorts of topics would you like more information about? What kinds of blog posts would you be interested in reading? How can OCR help you promote sustainable living in your life? What do you think are the most important issues related to the environment in Orange County and how can OCR positively influence those issues?

I want to make the best use of my ten weeks (from now until the first week in August) and your ideas are greatly appreciated. I can be reached at The more information I have, the better I can help OCR serve you!


Monday, April 14, 2014

A fresh perspective on why PV efficiency matters

Last week I was able to attend the 10th International Conference on Concentrator Photovoltaic Systems (CPV-10) to hear an update on the area of PV where I spend most of my daylight hours.  While progress in CPV is encouraging, with 2014 on track to be the largest install year for CPV technology, one of the most interesting talks was give by Senior IBM researcher Dr. Bruno Michel titled "Ecological and Economical Advantages of Efficient Solar Systems".  Sounds amazing, right?  Lets take a minute to explain the message of this talk in simple English.

While today there are many reasons for "going solar", the business really got moving when solar was seen as a way to fight against traditional fossil fuels which release carbon into the atmosphere which increases the amount of solar energy held under the atmosphere as heat which accelerates erosion of nature's natural dampening features (such as polar ice) which therefore further accelerates warming and climate change.  The idea is simple, if we generate all of our electricity from renewables, including photovoltaics, then carbon stays in the ground and the world is a big happy place.

Well, Dr. Michel's talk takes this idea and simply says, "not so fast."  In his work, he looks at how sunlight should be treated given the goal of reducing global warming and not just production of electricity from sunlight.  This new approach revolves around the idea of what happens to sunlight once it enters our atmosphere and the phenomenon known as albedo.  Shown below, albedo is the measure of percentage of sunlight that is reflected back into space by a given surface.  The lower a surface's albedo, the higher percentage of sunlight that is absorbed by the surface and converted, generally, into heat.  The higher the albedo, the higher percentage of sunlight that is reflected back into space before it contributes to heating of the planet.

This draws us to a simple conclusion: if you want to cool the planet, then the sunlight getting through our atmosphere has to be converted into something other than heat or thrown back to space. This begs us to then look at the performance of solar panels today with albedo in mind, which is shown below.  Taking a look, the albedo of all solar technologies is pretty low, at around 5%, meaning only about 5% of the sunlight incident on today's solar panels is sent back into space.  But, what is more shocking is the portion of sunlight which turns directly into heat.  c-Si is 81%, m-Si is 82%, and thin film is 87%!  This begs Dr. Michel to ask the question, if you are really interested in doing your part to prevent climate change, should you (a) put solar panels on your roof and stop your usage of fossil fuel or (b) paint your roof white and forget the solar.

The answer should surprise you, because if your using today's most popular solar panels (c-Si, thin film) its (b).  As someone working towards wide use of solar for generation of our energy needs, this was surprising to me, but it makes total sense and is explained well in Dr. Michel's presentation, which is linked here.

 But alas dear solar brethren, not all hope is lost!  The real point of Dr. Michel's presentation is simply that efficiency matters.  As seen above, if you can use technologies which capture the maximum sunlight to electricity conversion, then the amount of sunlight driven to heat is reduced.  If you combine the high electrical efficiency of a CPV system with thermal capture, i.e. hot water generation, then you really have a high efficiency system, driving only 18% of incident sunlight into heating, while extracting nearly 80% useful energy, as seen below.

To me, this simply is a reinforcement of a couple key things.  First:  know thy enemy.  If your personal goal is combat climate change, then do your research and act accordingly.  However, if you goal is to force your utility out of business, the get all the solar you want, of any kind.  If your goal is to do both... then get efficient solar, such as CPV!  Second, efficiency matters.  While it doesn't always seem like it, efficiency is very important.  We live in a world with finite resources, and efficiency simply means doing more with less.  My personal feeling is there will always be a place for efficiency in any industry, and I don't think renewable energy is any different.  The presentation from Dr. Michel simply reinforces this notion with a new perspective, science... and numbers... and ... stuff.

Links to consider:

Audio of Dr. Michel giving his talk at CPV-10
PDF of the presentation (same links as above)
Other reading on the subject

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Renewables in Ohio too successful, so GOP wants to freeze progress

Liberace used to say, "Too much of a good thing is wonderful!"  Well, apparently not in Ohio.  State House and Senate Republicans are moving to "freeze" renewable energy mandates passed nearly unanimously in 2008 in a story first reported by The Columbus Dispatch.

The article states, "This is the latest attempt by House and Senate Republicans to respond to the concerns of utilities and business groups that say parts of a 2008 energy law have unreasonably high costs."  In a stroke of complete non sequitur, Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina even references Solyndra (can you believe it!) in trying to make a case for freezing progress on renewable energy goals.  Solyndra was a case of direct investment by the Federal Government into a start up company.  The mandate in Ohio is a requirement for utilities to adopt renewable energy IF it meets certain goals in cost and performance, SO THAT THE CONSUMER IS PROTECTED.  Contact info for Keith Faber is at this link here if you care to call him, write him or visit him and let him know your thoughts on the subject.

While you can read through this article and try to make sense of the "reasons" for freezing progress in adoption of renewable energy, the truth is there is little sense and this is very clearly a protectionist move by incumbent utilities whose business plans and grid profitability are under direct threat of the rapidly increasing adoption of renewables.  The industry term for this event is the utility death spiral, and as sure as the day is long, it is coming.  While some utilities / IPPs are innovating their way towards success in the age of renewables (case in point is AES who is pioneering the way on grid storage), others choose to funnel would-be R&D dollars to lobbyists to try and preserve their archaic business plans with politicians.

While I urge those passionate about the issue to contact their friends and family in Ohio to speak up on the issues, truth is there is little that can be done to stop wide progress to the way our society consumes and generates electricity, even if politics (temporarily) suspend progress.  The reality is that very motivated and smart people are working very hard to completely renovate the way energy moves through our homes and businesses, and the changes are going to come sooner than everyone realizes.  If you live in the sunbelt, then it wont be long before solar panels on the roof coupled with storage in your home, as planned by little known companies such as Tesla and Solar City, means you simply will not need a grid connection.  Couple this with passive solar design and efficiency electrical appliances and you won't need any energy connection.  On that day I guess I'll put my old electric bills in the garage with my Kodak film camera and hamburger land line phone.

Links to consider:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Register for the BDR Fun Run 2014 on April 27!

As we climb out of the winter slumber here in Orange County, April also represents the time to reconnect around the annual Brian D. Robertson Memorial Fun Run, happening this year on April 27 at Bolsa Chica State Beach.  This is the 3rd year OCR has supported this event and worked to preserve the memory and legacy of solar power pioneer, husband and father Brian Robertson.

We certainly hope you can join all the OCR and BDR faithful for a fun run 5k or kid friendly 1 mile on Sunday, April, 27.  Click on this link here or the link below to be taken directly to the registration page at  The day schedule is posted below:

Event schedule and times:
10:00am - Bib Pick-Up & Late Registration
11:00am - Kids 1Mile Fun Run/Walk Start
11:30am - 5K Run/Walk Start
12:30pm Awards Celebration & Official Race End
1:00pm Earth Day Park / Race Clean-Up

Please email us if you have any questions or visit the race website at for more information.  For any Eastcoasters who read our blog, there is PA based BDR Fun Run as well in Washington Crossing, PA on April 6th also.  See you there!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A little bit of perspective

For all those potential green tech entrepreneurs, thinkers, tinkerers, you don't have to be broke in your twenties with no wife / husband or kids to give your idea a try.  Use the experience and wisdom of your years to reach results faster with less time and energy.  The graphic below reminds us that these major (and hip) institutions had some, how do we say, more seasoned founders.

Just remember, you can be your own Dick Proenneke!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Much ado about water

I've been noticing that when I travel outside of the state recently, everyone seems to be asking me about the water situation in California.  I constantly hear, "What is deal with water out there?" or, "What is CA doing to do about this terrible drought?" or "Have you started drinking sea water yet!?!?!?"

I have to admit, I didn't know there was a problem.  In fact, I'm still not sure if there is a problem.  I keep hearing there is a problem but if there was a real problem then I have to believe the price of water would go up.  Supply and demand, right?  So, I went back and looked at my water bills for the last two years, and I am paying the exact same $/gal that I paid in 2012.  Funny enough, cost of trash pickup went up 3%, but water has stayed exactly... the ... same.

This all got me thinking about the annual water report for Orange County published by MWDOC.  The most recent is at this link.  Right in the front of the report is the breakout below for residential use.  The first time I saw that nearly 60% of all water usage in Orange County is for landscaping I nearly fell out of my chair.  

So, the point of this post is simple.  Orange County residents on average use 60% of their water for their landscaping.  That is crazy.  So as we all wait for the rainstorm to roll in this weekend, please make sure your sprinklers are off.  Also, if we are in a water crisis, my opinion to the powers that be is to try economics, raise the price of water.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

DOE Solar Decathlon 2015 coming back to Irvine

Its official, Orange County knows how to party. And by party I mean host the bi-annual DOE Solar Decathlon.. like a boss. 2013 was the first year the event was held outside of the National mall in Washington DC, and from the looks of this announcement from DOE last week, they liked what they saw.

OC Renewables is proud to start spreading the news that the 2015 DOE Solar Decathlon will be coming back to the Great Park in Irvine, Orange County, CA.  DOE has also released the list of participating schools, which is reproduced below.  Congrats to all of these teams and I think I speak for everyone at OCR when we say that we look forward to the event!

Congrats to:
  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  • California State University, Sacramento
  • Clemson University
  • Crowder College and Drury University
  • Lansing Community College and Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • New York City College of Technology
  • Oregon Institute of Technology and Portland State University
  • Stanford University
  • State University of New York at Alfred College of Technology and Alfred University
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • University of Florida, National University of Singapore, and Santa Fe College
  • The University of Texas at Austin and Technische Universitaet Muenchen
  • University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, Irvine; Saddleback College; Chapman University; and Irvine Valley College
  • Vanderbilt University and Middle Tennessee State University
  • West Virginia University and University of Roma Tor Vergata
  • Western New England University, Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá, and Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana
  • Yale University

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Jeremy Grantham's recent GMO letter is very optimistic on renewables

Jeremy Grantham is a very well know investment strategist, economist, fund manager, all around idea man when it comes to big global trends.  Last year he gave a riviting interview with Charlie Rose on everything from the National debt to the promise of renewables.  The video can be watched below.

He latest newsletter just published and is hosted at this link.  In it, he remains bullish about the outlook for renewable energy in our society and even has some nice things to say about Tesla's product.  I always enjoy reading his insights and I hope you will too!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Stanford Presents Plan for 100% Renewable Grid in California by 2050

In a comprehensive paper, researchers led by Dr. Mark Jacobson at Stanford University have released a report detailing how California can be transitioned to a completely renewable grid, powered by wind, water and sun, by 2050.  Below is a copy of the Abstract, and the full report is hosted at this link here.


This study presents a roadmap to convert California’s all-purpose (for electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, industry) energy infrastructure to one derived entirely from wind, water, and sunlight (WWS) generating electricity and electrolytic hydrogen. We outline the requirements, costs, benefits, and policies needed for the conversion. The plan contemplates all new energy capacity powered with WWS by 2020, 80-85% of all energy use powered with WWS by 2030, and 100% by 2050. Electrification plus modest efficiency measures would reduce California’s end-use power demand ~44% and stabilize energy prices since WWS fuel costs are zero. Complete conversion of California’s energy system to WWS by 2050 would create 205,000 net permanent jobs, eliminate ~16,000 (4,800-29,600) state air pollution deaths/yr, avoid $131 (39-296) billion/yr in health costs (6.9% of California’s 2010 gross domestic product), and reduce 2050 global climate costs by $48 billion/yr. The California air-pollution health benefits plus global climate benefits from eliminating California emissions would repay the $1.15 trillion capital cost of the 631 GW installed power of a 100% WWS system within ~6 years.

TODAY is Shout Out for Solar Day

OCRenewabler's... HAPPY GO SOLAR DAY. Here is an article from ASES Executive Director Seth Masia with an update on where we are today with solar in our society. Enjoy!

Unity on Shout Out for Solar Day

The recent attacks on solar arrays for homes and businesses have opened some fault lines within the renewable energy community.
Specifically, with the backing of fossil fuel companies and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), investor-owned utility companies across the country are trying to roll back the net metering rules that encourage the operation of small solar arrays in 43 states. (For background, see Utilities Fight Net Metering State by State.)
Utility companies actually love solar and wind power. They’ve found that free fuel is a great concept and that they can make money selling the power, which turns out not to be as intermittent and undependable as they still claim. But for-profit utilities (as opposed to municipal utilities) love solar and wind only when it’s generated by very large central generating plants – large wind and solar farms. When power comes from central plants it can be sold and billed on the traditional transmission line model, a business model invented by Thomas Edison and Samuel Insull in 1883.
But when solar and wind are used to generate power at small user-owned stations, on rooftops and ranchland, users don’t pay for the electricity they use on site. That constitutes only about 1 percent of America’s power right now, but it’s growing fast – according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, installations in 2013 rose to 4.3 gigawatts, up 27 percent over 2012, and small arrays accounted for 20 percent of that in the third quarter.
Up to 90 percent of those small arrays are installed by leasing companies. And so we have a sorry divide opening between homeowners and small business owners and leasing companies and small installers on one side, and for-profit utility companies on the other.
Solar equipment companies are neutral in this game. They want to sell photovoltaic panels and inverters to large developers and to small-array owners.
Not quite analogous is the divide in wind. Utilities love big wind farms and hate small wind installations. Manufacturers of large wind turbines for utility-scale use do not sell small wind turbines for farmers, ranchers and small businesses. In general they wouldn’t mind if the small wind industry simply blew away.
It’s important for voters and consumers to understand that when a for-profit utility company boasts about how much solar and wind it uses, that doesn’t mean the company wants you to have your own power generating system. They don’t. And they’re working behind the scenes to kill net metering so you won’t want your own system. If you already have one, they’re working to charge you more simply for using it.
If utility companies were really interested in the rapid growth of renewable energy, they would work to revise their own outdated business model. They’d admit in public that distributed generation saves money on fuel and infrastructure, and thus benefits all ratepayers. And they’d figure out how to share the cost saving with the ratepayers who contribute power to the system by building solar and wind with their own money.
In the meantime, solar and wind advocates can’t risk being recruited to the wrong side in this debate. The American Solar Energy Society supports America Supports Solar, Vote Solar, and the dozen other pro-solar political initiatives. We’d like to see all these movements declare explicitly that they unite on the side of small arrays as well as big ones. ASES chapters in 43 states expect your support in maintaining the growth of small systems, through net metering and feed-in tariffs. We oppose efforts by for-profit utility companies to kill the goose.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Facts about tax dollars and energy in the US

First off, Happy New Year!  Now, down to business.  The recent 60 Minutes segment on the Clean Tech industry has received an enormous negative backlash from seemingly every nook and cranny of the industry calling for everything from corrections to the reporting to out right reversal of most of the information reported.  Here are links to just a few of the protests:

Us here at OC Renewables had a similar feeling about the story.  It seemed incredibly one sided, showing how tax payer dollars went to companies and institutions trying to develop technology and products in clean tech, with some of them failing.  As anyone who plays in the world of new technology and new products should know, most new things will fail.  However, what 60 Minutes completely missed was that this failure is NOT A BAD THING.  Technologists and engineers know that failure is a valuable tool meant to weed the good ideas from the bad and push the development of new technology and ideas forward.  The only bad failure is prolonged failure.

But, the other shocking part of this story was the complete lack of balance.  It was never once mentioned how much tax payer money goes towards conventional sources of energy.  And, even more shocking, there was no mention of emissions from conventional energy vs clean energy.  Why on earth the staff at 60 Minutes thought they could get this one over the clean tech industry is 100% beyond me.

If you want to see some real facts on tax dollars in energy, check out the image below, and you can decide for yourself if tax payer dollars are being spent fairly with regards to energy in the US.