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CPUC Decision Calls for 1,000 MW of New, “Firm” Renewables, Including Bioenergy

The CPUC’s Decision calls for 11,500 MW of new renewable power generation to offset the closure of California’s last nuclear power plant and several natural gas plants along the coast that use “once-through cooling.”  The Decision also calls for 1,000 MW from “firm” renewable power – bioenergy and geothermal – that is available when needed and has a capacity factor of at least 80 percent (is in operation 80% of the time throughout the year).  The new generation must be online by the end of 2026.

The requirement for firm renewable power begins on page 35 of the CPUC’s Decision on Mid-Term Reliability Procurement.

SacBee Piece on Need for Forest Biomass Utilization

Jonathan Kusel, Executive Director of the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment, authored an excellent piece in the Sacramento Bee that focuses on the impact of wildfires on California’s water and power supplies, local communities, and air quality.  The piece underscores the need to put forest waste to beneficial use.

As Jonathan writes, “Legislators, state and federal agencies must prioritize investments in long-term landscape resilience and the capacity of local communities and the workforce.  Investment must also be made in long-term restorative practices, carbon-smart wood utilization, workers and rural communities.  Meaningful restoration requires supporting new community-scale businesses and the capacity to utilize small-diameter trees that cost more to cut and haul than they’re worth. As California invests billions in landscape restoration, a primary challenge will be developing businesses that can utilize small diameter trees and forest waste that are the byproducts of desperately needed restoration.  Without investment in new community-scale businesses, forest restoration will not succeed. Burning piles in the woods is not the answer. Converting biomass to hydrogen is just one example of new technology that can simultaneously utilize forest biomass and help California reach carbon neutrality.”

Read the full article here.

BAC Comments on the CPUC’s Biomethane Procurement Proposal

BAC submitted comments on the CPUC’s Staff Proposal on Biomethane Procurement.  The Staff Proposal recommends requiring California’s gas utilities to procure 75 billion cubic feet of biomethane annually by 2030.  That only represents 4 percent of California’s total gas use.  By comparison, state law requires that 60 percent of California’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2030.  In comments on the Staff Proposal, BAC urges the Commission to:

  • Increase the biomethane procurement target to 150 BCF to help meet the state’s climate, clean energy, waste and wildfire reduction goals.
  • Include all eligible organic waste feedstocks.
  • Base program prices on the carbon intensity of the biomethane to prioritize the lowest carbon sources that help reduce climate super pollutants (Short-Lived Climate Pollutants).
  • Offer additional incentives to maximize the carbon reductions and other benefits of the program

To read BAC’s detailed comments, see R.13-02-008 BAC Comments on Phase 4A Staff Proposal

CPUC Proposes Biomethane Procurement Program

In June, the CPUC released a draft Staff Proposal on biomethane procurement.  The proposal recommends requiring the gas utilities to procure 75 billion cubic feet of biomethane annually by 2030, primarily from organic waste that is diverted from landfills and from landfill gas.  The Staff Proposal also recommends the inclusion of two pilot projects that convert forest waste to biomethane, which will help the state to meet its wildfire and black carbon reduction goals.  Unfortunately, the Staff Proposal excludes biomethane from dairy waste and does not address agricultural waste or urban wood waste at all.

See, CPUC’s Biomethane Procurement Staff Proposal

 

Princeton Study Highlights Need for Bioenergy, Renewable Hydrogen

Princeton University has released a groundbreaking study on how the United States can achieve carbon neutrality.  The study finds that bioenergy – especially biomass with carbon capture and storage – and renewable hydrogen will be critical to achieve carbon neutrality.  The study’s main conclusions related to bioenergy are:

  • Biomass plays an especially important role in achieving carbon neutrality because i) it removes CO2  from the atmosphere as it grows and so combustion of hydrocarbon fuels made with biomass carbon results in no net CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, ii) it can be converted into H2  while capturing and permanently sequestering its carbon, resulting in a net negative-emissions fuel, and iii) it can similarly be used to make negative-emissions electricity.
  • Starting in the 2030s, H2  from biomass with capture of CO2  that is permanently sequestered is a highly cost-competitive technology option because of the  high value of the  associated negative emissions; negative-emissions bio electricity is less valued because of abundant low cost of solar and wind electricity.
  • Hydrogen is a key carbon-free intermediate or final fuel.

You can download the full study here.  The Bioenergy chapter begins on slide 200.

Air Board Adopts Plan to Phase Out Open Burning of Agricultural Waste in San Joaquin Valley

In late February, the California Air Resources Board approved a plan to phase out the open burning of agricultural waste in the San Joaquin Valley, California’s largest agricultural region.  Open burning, which has increased nearly 500% in the past several years, is a major source of air and climate pollution in the Valley.  In fact, open burning of agricultural and forest waste is one of the largest sources of black carbon emissions – a powerful Short-Lived Climate Pollutant that is 3200 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide and is also very harmful to public health, crops, forests, and more.

The Air Board’s plan calls specifically for:

  • A Clean Biomass/Bioenergy Collaborative across state agencies
  • Increased funding for bioenergy and other alternatives to open burning
  • Increased production of liquid and gaseous fuels from agricultural waste

See:  CARB Approved Plan to Phase Out Ag Burning (Feb2021)

CA Board of Forestry Adopts Biomass Utilization Plan

On November 4, the California Board of Forestry adopted a forest biomass utilization plan that recommends many actions to put California’s extensive forest waste to beneficial re-use, including numerous bioenergy recommendations.  Some of the most important recommendations related to bioenergy are:

  • Consolidated permitting
  • State procurement of bioenergy
  • Inclusion of forest biomass in microgrid tariffs
  • Allocating 20% of electricity and gas R&D funding (EPIC and PIER) to forest biomass, including biomass to hydrogen projects
  • Adopting pipeline standards for biomass and hydrogen
  • Incentivizing both electricity and pipeline interconnection for forest biomass projects
  • Incentivizing use of forest biomass under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard
  • Increasing BioMAT category 3 (forest waste) to 250 MW and allowing Community Choice Aggregators (CCA’s) and publicly owned utilities to participate in the program
  • Requiring a portion of new RPS power to be baseload and flexible generation

Read:  Joint Institute Wood and Biomass Utilization Recommendations

BAC’s Comments on Proposed BioMAT Decision

BAC submitted comments in support of the Proposed Decision on BioMAT, which is a 250 megawatt program required by state law (SB 1122, Rubio, 2012).  Most importantly, the Proposed Decision will extend the program end date to the end of 2025.  BAC also supports the Proposed Decision to increase flexibility for developers, set deadlines for utility’s, and to convert to a statewide program in recognition of the statewide benefits that BioMAT projects provide.

See BAC Comments on Proposed BioMAT Decision