Clean Energy in California

Day 3: PG&E, SFEnvironment, and NRDC
by -- March 9th, 2010

The energy generators to the policy influencers – the people who make it all happen

A rainy day but a good day! Today we spent majority of our time visiting sites in downtown San Francisco – nice to be back in a city and walk around even if we got a little wet doing it.

We started our day with PG&E at their high tech Energy Center. PG&E uses the energy center to educate students, architects, realtors, and the general public about methods of building and lighting to achieve energy efficiency.  Their exhibits were awesome – see below for pictures.

While the guys from PG&E provided us with a wealth of information, one of the key points that we took away from it was how decoupling has enabled PG&E to be a leader in pioneering energy efficiency programs. With the tie between energy sold and revenue severed, PG&E effectively pursues energy efficient solutions and programs via rebates and behavioral programs. We also learned that PG&E is pursuing a pilot wave energy project in Humbolt county to gain insight on available wave and tidal technologies and their future feasibility on the west coast. Hydrokinetic energy seems like it is still a long way off from being commercially viable in the US; however, it’s projects like this and the involvement of the utility that will hopefully lead to utility scale projects.

The Mitsubishi MiEV – fully electric vehicle

From there we got a tasty bite to eat at Bucca de Beppo, a traditional Italian restaurant. The food was yummy, but after all of the delicious bread and pasta, I found myself in a bit of a food coma. But I rallied on and we walked to the SFEnvironment office to learn about renewable energy and green building in SF.

Hanging outside City Hall  (note the guy sleeping in the background)

SFEnvironment wants to completely redesign Treasure Island into a renewable power generating community with an efficient layout and design. Pretty neat idea – it will be interesting to see if the project pans out. They’re also interested in evaluating something totally new and innovative – urban wind turbines! SFEnvironment is exploring options for putting small scale wind turbines in the city and possibly expanding their interactive (and really cool) solar map to include wind resources.

Our last stop for the day was the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC). We were greeted by a Duke MEM/JD alum who explained NRDC’s efforts in the policy arena to remove the market barriers to energy efficiency and the steps to make AB-32, California’s climate change bill to reduce GHG’s to below 1990s levels, operational and effective in California.

e also heard about the recent ballot initiative to undermine AB-32…and laughed when we learned that the Republican candidate running for office who submitted it titled it the “California Jobs Initiative” to get voter support, which the District Attorney (who is also running for office) promptly changed to “Suspends Air Pollution Control Laws Requiring Major Polluters to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions That Cause Global Warming Until Unemployment Drops Below Specified Level for Full Year.” Just goes to show the importance of messaging.

The day ended at a Mexican bar in the mission for nachos, which we washed down with some cold margaritas. After a lot of laughs, we wound up the night to prepare for our big day at Google tomorrow!

Molly and I in the mission

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