California Cap and Trade scores big marketplace wins

by Silvio Marcacci.

Painted California flag
Painted California flag image via Shutterstock.

California’s cap and trade market will expand in 2014 after a successful first year of operations that quelled fears of a European Union-style carbon allowance glut while powering a clean energy economic boom.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced a minimum of 81 million 2014 allowances and 37 million 2017 allowances will be auctioned during 2014, and the minimum reserve price for allowances will be set at $11.34.

2014’s available allowances and minimum reserve price are both increases over this year, when 57 million available 2013 allowances sold at a minimum reserve price of $10.71. But beyond increasing the number and cost of permits, several other developments suggest California’s carbon market will have an even more successful second year of operation.

Carbon Market Success In 2013 Leads Into 2014

Before looking ahead to 2014, it’s worth recapping exactly how the state’s carbon market performed in 2013. CARB held the system’s fourth quarterly 2013 auction last month, selling over 16 million 2013 allowances at $11.48 and over 9 million 2016 allowances at $11.10.

Three positive angles stick out from these auction results. First, all available 2013 allowances sold during the auction while nearly two bids were received for every one available allowance, meaning strong demand exists among bidders. While the November auction’s allowance price was the lowest of the four auctions held this year, it was still significantly higher than the minimum reserve.

Second, all future allowances sold out for the second auction in a row, at the highest clearing price yet for future vintage allowances. With demand and prices rising, California’s carbon market also shows strong future interest from bidders and stabilizes the system moving forward.

Third, the carbon allowance auctions continued to plow revenue into the state’s clean energy economy. $1.4 billion in total auction revenue has been raised, with more than $530 million dedicated to cutting emissions or funding renewables, including $130 million for clean energy projects in low-income communities.

Market Developments Allay Instability Fears

Just like with any start-up, California’s cap and trade system experienced a few growing pains in 2013, but two new developments should allay fears of market instability.

To start, California’s Superior Court ruled the system is within its legal authority to use auctions as a mechanism to sell allowances into the market. The decision dismissed a lawsuit by polluters who argued all permits should be distributed for free. While the ruling may be challenged, it does set a reassuring precedent.

California Carbon Dashboard
California Carbon Dashboard image via CalCarbonDash.org.

In addition to legal authority, daily system interactions should become much clearer thanks to the California Carbon Dashboard, an online resource created to track carbon prices and system news. The website also aggregates CARB announcements, emissions levels by sector, and system interaction with other state policies to provide market participants the clearest possible picture.

Biggest Impact Could Come Outside California

But California cap and trade’s 2014 fortunes won’t only be made internally. The system’s biggest gains will most likely come through linkages to other global carbon markets, and could ultimately make it the center of the world’s second international cap and trade system.

On January 1, 2014, California will formally link its system with Quebec’s nascent cap and trade system. This move will establish North America’s first international carbon market and allow market participants to trade allowances and offset credits across both jurisdictions. By 2020, the linkage is expected to generate at least $2.5 billion for clean energy in Quebec.

California also recently signed a formal agreement to link its climate policies with British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington. Under the plan, California will maintain its cap and trade system while British Columbia keeps its carbon tax. Together, they’ll link where possible, and coordinate with carbon markets being considered in Oregon and Washington.

The state also now has a formal relationship with China to work together on cutting emissions by designing and implementing synchronized carbon trading systems. China is in the middle of launching seven regional carbon markets that once fully operational, will be the largest in the world.

California Cap And Trade: Key To Climate Victory?

As international carbon markets start to develop around the world, California’s success is becoming a model for emulation that could transform the state from the epicenter of America’s clean tech market to the centerpiece of the fight against climate change.

We’re fast approaching the world’s carbon budget, but considering carbon markets cut emissions 17 times cheaper than subsidies, California cap and trade may just hold the key to climate victory.

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This article, California Cap And Trade Expanding In 2014 After Successful 2013, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio MarcacciSilvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

4 States Lead US In Freeing The Grid For Distributed Solar Energy

by Silvio Marcacci

Pro-solar energy state-level energy policies are arguably as strong right now as they’ve ever been across America, just in time for consumers to take advantage of affordable technologies to generate their own clean electricity.

Vote Solar and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) concluded the policy outlook for distributed generation from solar energy is bright as ever in Freeing the Grid 2013, the 7th annual report card ranking all 50 US states on net metering and interconnection policies.

The report helps policymakers, regulators, and renewable advocates understand the best approaches to these two wonky but critical influences on the growth of solar energy and small-scale renewables across the country. States are “graded” on an A to F scale depending on their policies – and America’s grades just keep getting better.

Freeing the Grid net metering rank image via Freeing the Grid
Freeing the Grid net metering rank image via Freeing the Grid

Sustaining Solar Energy’s Surge

Thanks to plummeting prices, solar power installations are surging across the US, especially among middle class families. But with many state incentive programs set to expire in coming years, progressive net metering and interconnection policies need to be in place in order to sustain the solar boom.

“Renewable resources are now at the scale and cost necessary to allow them to be a real and growing part of our energy landscape,” said Adam Browning, Vote Solar executive director.

Now that we’ve built this new energy economy, it’s critical we keep the way clear for Americans to keep going solar with strong net metering and interconnection policies.”

Net metering is the more controversial and thus better-known policy. At its most basic, net metering means homes or businesses who have installed their own solar systems are paid in full for the electricity they generate but don’t consume and put back onto the grid. Net metering threatens many existing utility business models and has led to high-visibility fights in states like Arizona, California, and Colorado.

By comparison, interconnection is the more boring of the two, often not even registering a blip on most people’s radar screens. However, it may be the more important policy for the future of solar energy. Interconnection procedures are the rules a solar system must follow in order to “plug” into the grid, meaning net metering may not even come into play until solar panels can interconnect.

Good Grades On Net Metering & Interconnection

But enough with the wonky background – let’s get to the good news. More than two-thirds of US states now receive an A or B grade on net metering, with zero states getting a worse grade in 2013 than in 2012. In order to get an A or B, customers must receive full retail value for electricity contributed to the grid, and the state must maintain several other pro-solar policies.

The results for interconnection are a bit less impressive – while half of US states received an A or B grade, the rest are in need of significant improvement. In order to get an A or B, states must maintain good interconnection rules that incorporate best practices, with few or no customers blocked from interconnecting their systems.

Many states should be commended for having good policies in place, but four in particular, aka the “head of the class” states, lead the nation. California, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Utah (surprisingly) received top grades in both net metering and interconnection policy. California, the epicenter of America’s clean tech market, and Massachusetts, home to one of the country’s fastest-growing green economies, aren’t a surprise, but Utah and Oregon seem primed for solar growth.

Freeing the Grid also recognized Washington as its “most improved” state, with a big jump from a D to a B in interconnection procedures by removing unnecessary requirements and procedures for smaller systems and expediting review of larger systems.

Best Practices Light The Way Forward

America is just now starting its transition to a clean economy. Renewables, and solar energy in particular, are becoming a real part of a distributed generation power system that moves toward grid freedom away from a traditional infrastructure of centralized fossil fuel generation and hundreds of miles of inefficient transmission lines. With nearly 20 best practices listed for states to emulate, the path forward is clear.

“Policy design on the frontiers of our fast-changing clean energy marketplace can be a challenge to get right,” said Jane Weissman, IREC president and CEO.

Freeing the Grid helps policymakers and other stakeholders make better sense of best practices and what needs to be done in their own state to clear the way for a 21st century approach to energy.”

Freeing the Grid net metering rank image via Freeing the Grid

This article, 4 States Lead US In Freeing The Grid For Distributed Solar Energy, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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Pacific Coast Collaborative

North American West Coast Governments Sign Climate Change Pact

North American West Coast Governments Sign Climate Change Pact

by Silvio Marcacci

Pacific Coast Collaborative logo via Pacific Coast Collaborative
Pacific Coast Collaborative

They say the West Coast is the best coast, and as of today, that’s definitely true in the fight against climate change.

The leaders of British Columbia, California, Oregon, and Washington just formally joined forces to reduce emissions and transition toward renewables by signing the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, committing to link and maintain their respective climate and renewable energy policies.

This news is significant on multiple fronts, but mainly for the sheer size of its jurisdiction: three US states and one Canadian province that collectively represent 53 million people and a combined gross domestic product of $2.8 trillion – essentially the world’s 5th largest economy and now, the world’s largest green economy.

West Coast-Style Climate Change Action

Today’s agreement is part of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, which includes the four governments plus Alaska, formed to provide a co-operative forum on policy challenges facing the North American West Coast like clean energy, transportation, economic growth, and emergency management.

The four jurisdictions will account for the costs of carbon pollution and when feasible, link their respective clean energy programs to create a stable policy outlook to encourage investment. The plan also commits to adopting and maintaining low-carbon fuel standards across all jurisdictions, and pledges to work toward additional linkages across other North American states and provinces.

“This Action Plan represents the best of what Pacific Coast governments are already doing and calls on each of us to do more together to create jobs by leading in the clean energy economy,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

California’s cap-and-trade system has sold out of all available current permits in each of its four allowance auctions and will link to Quebec’s carbon market on January 1, 2014. British Columbia has maintained a C$30/ton carbon tax for the past five years while working toward a 33% emissions reduction by 2020 goal.

Both governments will maintain their existing programs, and Oregon and Washington have now committed to explore similar policies. Those emissions reductions goals and mechanisms are yet to be determined, but Inslee has said he supports a cap-and-trade system in Washington while Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has called for a price on carbon.

Under the action plan, the jurisdictions agreed to harmonize their 2050 emissions reduction goals while developing shorter-term targets in the interim – certainly a requisite first step toward any kind of larger linkage, but still a long way off considering formal emissions reduction policies would likely require statewide ballot approval.

Toward Green Economies And Global Emissions Cuts

Regardless, today’s action shows the kind of political action that happens when climate policy turns into green jobs. “We are already seeing how our commitment to clean energy is changing the face and fortune of our state, accounting for $5 billion in economic activity and 58,000 jobs,” said Kitzhaber. “Transitioning to a clean economy creates jobs.”

And the West Coast’s climate action could soon have international repercussions. All four signatories said they would work with other national and sub-national governments to secure a global climate change agreement in 2015. With 60 carbon pricing systems either in operation or under development around the world, today’s action could be the biggest sign yet of a truly international carbon market.

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This article, North American West Coast Governments Sign Climate Change Pact, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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The Economic Benefits Of Owning A Chevy EV Spark — Infographic

by — Special to JBS News

In the past few months, we have covered General Motors newest  entry: The Chevy EV Spark.

In a short time, its received good reviews from Consumer Reports and Engadget. And unsurprisingly, GM are looking to make it known just how environmentally and economically friendly the Chevy Spark is. Which is why they’ve released this neat infographic.

SparkEV-EconomicsRecently, Inside EVs discussed the newest infograph from GM about the EV Spark’s economic benefits, which include:

  • For every $150 of fuel purchased, a consumer can buy 107 large cups of coffee; Fifteen digital music records; an activity-tracking bracelet; or three pairs of canvas shoes.
  • A person can save 1,500 minutes (a total of one day) from pumping fuel at a local gas station.

However, the best gift when receiving this new vehicle is preventing more fossil fuels into the air.  Try around 130 barrels of crude oil. While the car is only available in Oregon and California, expect this small yet acclaimed vehicle to gain some market traction in wider release.

This article, The Economic Benefits Of Owning A Chevy EV Spark — Infographic, is syndicated from Inside EVs and is posted here with permission.

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About the Author

A University of Winnipeg graduate who received a three year B.A. with a combined major in Economics and Rhetoric, Writing & Communications. Currently attempting to be a freelance social media coordinator. My eventual goal is to be a clean tech policy analyst down the road while I sharpen my skills as a renewable energy writer. Currently working on a book on clean tech and how to relate it to a broader audience.
You can follow me on Twitter @adamjohnstonwpg or at http://www.adammjohnston.wordpress.com