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Feeling smug about your solar rooftop? Not so fast

Severin Borenstein, professor of business | January 21, 2016

If you installed solar panels on your roof and feel aglow with environmental virtue, you may be in for a rude awakening. There’s a good chance someone else has purchased your halo and is wearing it right now. In most states (including California) power generated by rooftop solar panels earns Renewable Energy Certificates, which quantify how … Continue reading »

A modern equation for energy

Santiago Miret, Ph.D. student, materials science & engineering | September 24, 2015

The global energy landscape continues to change as more and more renewable energy sources and diversified energy systems become a substantial component of the energy infrastructures across the world. Given the onset of these new energy systems, the overarching return of diverse energy sources will become a more and more important factor in the future design … Continue reading »

Energy options: Just say ‘Nein’ to nukes and coal?

Maximilian Auffhammer, professor, international sustainable development | June 2, 2015

On March 11, 2011, I was sitting in a coffee shop in Berlin, dressed appropriately in a black turtleneck and leather jacket, reading about the terrible Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear disaster. The next day I read that the German government was pushing for “Atomausstieg,” which is German for “let’s retire all nuclear generating capacity.” Eighty percent of … Continue reading »

Renewable energy and political geography

Dan Farber, professor of law | April 28, 2014

The Washington Post had a story over the weekend about the concerted campaign by the fossil fuel industry to rollback state laws favoring renewable energy.  This effort was also the subject of an editorial in the Sunday Times. So far, this effort hasn’t gained real legislative traction.  The story attributes this failure to the growth of … Continue reading »

It’s time to refocus California’s climate strategy

Severin Borenstein, professor of business | April 9, 2014

You know this already, but let’s review: Climate change is a global emissions problem. California produces about 1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Over the next few decades, the majority of emissions will come from developing countries. If we don’t solve the problem in the developing world, we don’t solve the problem. And lastly, … Continue reading »

European partnership could signal a new direction for renewable energy

Patrick Donnelly-Shores, former student, College of Natural Resources | January 30, 2014

President Francois Hollande of France announced a new renewable energy partnership between the French and German governments last week. The idea, modeled on the Airbus partnership, would expand cooperation between the governments on renewable energy projects. Airbus, which began in the 1960s, was formed as a joint partnership between primarily between French and German corporations, with Dutch … Continue reading »

Ten energy stories to watch in 2014

Steven Weissman, associate director, Center for Law, Energy and the Environment | January 10, 2014

In our energy law classes at Cal, we like to start the day by talking about Energy in the News. The media never fails us. Every day, there are multiple energy-related stories of significance touching on resource development, new technologies, policy shifts, jobs, regional politics, prices, international relations, or the environment. Once you start looking … Continue reading »

Duke Energy pleads guilty over eagle deaths at wind farms

Patrick Donnelly-Shores, former student, College of Natural Resources | December 4, 2013

In a precedent-setting agreement with the U Fish and Wildlife Service, Duke Energy agreed to pay $1,000,000 in fines related to 160 bird deaths at two wind farms in Wyoming. A subsidiary, Duke Energy Renewables, plead guilty in Wyoming Federal District Court to violations of the Migratory Bird Act, targeted specifically in the deaths of 16 golden eagles since … Continue reading »

Good electricity grids make good neighbors

Daniel Kammen, Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy | November 20, 2013

In the poem “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost asserted that “good fences make good neighbors.”  World history is replete with foreign policy built around physical walls, from Emperor Hadrian, to the Great Wall of China, to the Berlin Wall, the wall between Palestine and Israeli, to the US-Mexico border.  Containment and isolation have often been the cornerstones … Continue reading »

The softer side of hydro

Christopher Hyun, PhD student, Energy and Resources Group | November 13, 2013

What I understand so far is that we are about to visit a company that develops renewable-energy technology. On the way to an old Navy air station in Alameda, I ask my fellow passengers, “So, what do these guys do, again?” Someone mentions wind; I have assumed solar, but I am a bit taken aback … Continue reading »

Rate-design wars are the sound of utilities taking residential PV seriously

Severin Borenstein, professor of business | November 12, 2013

Imagine walking into your supermarket with a bag of zucchini from your garden and saying that you’d like to trade them straight up for an equal quantity of zucchini next month. The store manager would explain that they aren’t in the business of making wholesale purchases at such small scale, and that when they do … Continue reading »

Postcard from Barcelona: Looking at the Catalonian path to sustainability

Steven Weissman, associate director, Center for Law, Energy and the Environment | October 29, 2013

Flying into Barcelona, it becomes immediately obvious that this is a city with its eye on a sustainable future. Right along the waterfront is a large photovoltaic array, perched on four giant supports. It is emblematic of a broader set of initiatives that, for a short time, placed Spain at the forefront of renewable energy … Continue reading »

Why coal cares about FERC

Eric Biber, professor of law | September 16, 2013

I’ve written before about how fossil fuel industries have a strong incentive to kill (or at least stop the rise of) renewable energy now, so that it doesn’t become a powerful political force.  If renewable energy does become a strong enough political force, then there is a risk that it might provide support for ending … Continue reading »

Marketing solar, part two

Catherine Wolfram, faculty co-director, Energy Institute at Haas | March 28, 2013

Several weeks ago I blogged about a solar quote my family received. The quote suggested that we could spend $12,400 to save $39,500 on our future electricity bills. My post raised two issues about the quote, including that the savings summed over the next 25 years were not discounted and that the company was projecting … Continue reading »

When efficiency is not enough

Daniel Kammen, Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy | January 28, 2013

This past week I attended and had the pleasure to speak and debate at the 2013 World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  This was the sixth such summit, and the third I have attended. The stated goal of the meeting is to: bring together global leaders in policy, technology and business … Continue reading »

Why the GOP should embrace renewable energy and energy efficiency

Dan Farber, professor of law | November 13, 2012

There’s a lot of discussion these days about how the Republican Party should reposition itself in light of last week’s election results.  Support for renewables and energy efficiency would make sense as part of a package of policy adjustments — it would strengthen the Party’s appeal to swing voters, women, and younger voters, with only … Continue reading »

Comments on FHFA’s proposed rule on enterprise writing standards for PACE programs

Jayni Foley Hein, former director, Center for Law, Energy & the Environment | September 13, 2012

As we have chronicled earlier on the Legal Planet blog, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)’s court-ordered rulemaking on Enterprise Writing Standards for Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs resulted in thousands of public comments in response to the Agency’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) — the overwhelming majority in support of PACE.  Today (Sept. … Continue reading »

Fossil fuels’ future role in the electricity system

Dan Farber, professor of law | September 12, 2012

If you put aside their environmental impacts, fossil fuels are wonderful for generating electricity.  They are cheap, reliable, and currently in abundant supply.  But the environmental drawbacks are considerable, and the most serious one is their contribution to climate change. To deal with climate change, do we need to adopt an attitude of unremitting hostility … Continue reading »

How much of the grid can be renewable?

Steven Weissman, associate director, Center for Law, Energy and the Environment | June 20, 2012

How far can we go in converting our power supply to renewable sources?  On June 15th, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory provided a partial answer when it released a “Renewable Energy Futures Study.”  The team undertaking this analysis was comprised of experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as from various national labs, … Continue reading »