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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.

SF Chronicle: Reduce Super Pollutants

Reduce super pollutants

The authors of “Carbon neutral not good enough” (Open Forum, July 31) are correct that we need to accelerate our climate goals, but they miss two critical issues: Reductions in carbon dioxide do not benefit the climate for several decades and there are much more urgent steps to cool the climate right away. It is far more urgent to focus on measures that begin to reverse climate change now.

Reducing climate super pollutants methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons benefits the climate and public health right away. These pollutants are tens to thousands of times more damaging to the climate than the carbon dioxide emitted by fossil fuel burning, but they only stay in the atmosphere a short time, so cutting their emissions benefits the climate immediately. We can cut these super pollutants by eliminating diesel use, converting organic waste to energy, and reducing wildfires and open burning of agricultural waste. We absolutely should phase out fossil fuels. But to avert the crisis that is already upon us, we need to focus much more on reducing methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons. Climate scientists agree that reducing these climate super pollutants is the last lever we have left to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Julia Levin, Kensington

The Letter to the Editor is available online (second letter) here.

 

Governor Proposes California’s 2021-22 Budget

Governor Newsom has released his budget proposal for the remainder of FY 2021 and the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.  The Governor has proposed increased funding for wildfire mitigation, including funding for the use of forest waste, and for heavy duty vehicles.  The proposed budget also includes funding for Healthy Soils, agricultural engine replacement, restoration of natural lands, and a Climate Catalyst Fund to provide low cost financing for clean energy development and other purposes.  Unfortunately, the proposed budget does not include funding for organic waste diversion or dairy digesters.

The Governor’s January budget proposal is available here.

CPUC Releases Staff Proposal on Microgrids

SB 1339 (Stern 2018) requires the California Public Utilities Commission to adopt a measures to accelerate the development of microgrids to ensure reliable electricity supplies during Public Safety Power Shutoffs and other grid disturbances.  Microgrids are especially important to keep the power on for emergency and essential services.  The CPUC Staff Proposal for short-term actions that can help microgrids before the 2020 fire season focuses very narrowly on microgrids powered by solar and batteries, which are not sufficient for long-duration outages and will not be effective under all circumstances.

See the ALJ Ruling and Staff Proposal on Microgrids Track 1

New Report Highlights Importance of Bioenergy to Meet Climate Goals

Lawrence Livermore National Labs has just released a groundbreaking report on how California can reach carbon neutrality by mid-century.  The report finds that reaching carbon neutrality is feasible with existing technologies, but only if California invests much more in carbon negative actions that can offset the carbon emissions that can’t be eliminated.  The report highlights several areas where carbon negative emissions are achievable and quite cost-effective:  Bioenergy, biochar and other forms of carbon sequestration, restoring natural and working lands, and carbon capture and storage.  Of these, the report concludes that bioenergy will provide the greatest share of carbon negative emissions by mid-century, and at a small fraction of the cost of carbon reductions under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard or Cap & Trade programs.

Download the Executive Summary and Full Report to learn more.

BAC Comments on CPUC Microgrid Proceeding

BAC submitted comments in late October on the CPUC’s Order Instituting Rulemaking.  BAC urged the Commission to address the need for baseload and flexible generation, to consider opportunities to convert local organic waste to local energy supplies, to include renewable gas for microgrid reliability, to consider the importance of Short-Lived Climate Pollutant reductions, and to consider other upstream benefits like wildfire mitigation and landfill reduction.  BAC’s comments are on BAC’s website.

The CPUC is expected to issue the Scoping Ruling in early 2020 and to complete the development of the microgrid framework by the end of 2020.

See R.19-09-009 BAC Comments on OIR

CPUC Opens New Proceeding on Microgrids

In September, the CPUC launched a new proceeding to develop a policy framework for microgrids.  Microgrids are defined areas of the grid that can operate as part of the larger grid and can also be completely disconnected from (operate independently from) the larger electricity grid.  Microgrids include the energy producers, transmission and distribution lines, and energy end users that are within a defined electricity boundary.  The goal of establishing microgrids is to enable communities to have a fully independent grid that can operate even when there are disturbances to the regional grid.  The recent Public Safety Power Shutoffs have underscored the urgency of developing microgrids, especially for essential services like firefighters and police, hospitals, wastewater treatment, communications, and more.

The CPUC launched the new proceeding to develop the framework for commercializing microgrids.  It will consider the appropriate standards, eligible technologies, rates, tariffs and other issues for microgrid development in California.

See the CPUC’s Order Instituting this new Rulemaking:  OIR on Microgrids Rulemaking (R.19-09-009)

BAC Comments on Updated Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Strategy

State agencies released an updated strategy to reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in November 2016.  The updated draft is focused on strategies to reduce methane emissions and human-caused black carbon emissions.  Although SB 605 (Lara, 2014) requires a comprehensive strategy to address all major sources of SLCP’s, the current draft omitted any strategy to reduce black carbon from wildfire, which is the single largest source of SLCP’s.  BAC’s Comments on the updated draft urge the state to restore sections on black carbon from wildfire, which had been included in earlier drafts, as required by SB 605.  The Comments also urge the state to allocate a higher share of Cap & Trade revenues to SLCP reduction and to identify important research needs for SLCP reduction.

See BAC Comments on Nov2016 SLCP Strategy.

BAC / TSS Consultants’ Article in “Biomass Monitor”

See the Opinion Piece in Biomass Monitor on “Forest Biomass Utilization Combatting Catastrophic Wildfires,” written by Julia Levin of BAC and Tad Mason of TSS Consultants.  The piece explains that catastrophic wildfires are not natural or good for California forests, emit huge quantities of black carbon and other pollutants and threaten California water supplies.  Forest fuel treatment and use of that biomass to produce energy can help restore healthy, more resilient forests and cut pollution from wildfires and fossil fuel power generation.