Tag Archives: Pacific Gas and Electric (PGE)

California Public utility & electrical workers running misinformation campaign

[Editor:  My home town, Benicia, California, has elected to join Marin Clean Energy as its electricity provider of choice.  Under California law, the current public utility, Pacific Gas and Electricity (PGE) now must compete with “Community Choice Aggregations” (CCA’s).   This week, a major regional supporter of PGE, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) sent out mailers to homes in Benicia full of misinformation.  The following letter from the MCE staff to their Board of Directors helps sift through the misinformation and the history behind it.  – RS]

Repost from an email, Thu 6/4/2015 11:49 AM

Dear all,

We just circulated the below email to our board regarding the misinformation campaign.  It provides context for the flyer and IBEW’s opposition to public power agencies.   Please feel free to use this information on NextDoor or in any other communications.  And let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you again for your support!

Best,
Allison

Allison Hang
MCE Account Manager
www.mceCleanEnergy.org 

From: Jamie Tuckey [mailto:jtuckey@mcecleanenergy.org] Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2015 10:54 AM
Subject: Misinformation Campaign Circulating Against MCE

Dear MCE Board of Directors,

On Monday the IBEW 1245 (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) issued the attached press release and proposed San Francisco ballot measure to stifle efforts to launch Clean Power SF (San Francisco’s proposed community choice aggregation program). The press release accuses MCE of falsely advertising our power as green, citing that we purchase brown, fossil-fuel power from Shell Oil and market it as green power. The information being distributed by the IBEW is misleading and confusing and seems designed to generate an emotional response from consumers to halt any further competition against PG&E.

Yesterday the attached mailer from the IBEW 1245, which makes similar arguments as the press release and encourages customers to opt out of MCE, was distributed in Richmond and Benicia. We are unaware of any mailers going out in our other member communities.

It is worth pointing out that while IBEW leadership has chosen to use the dues of their members for misinformation mailers in MCE communities where there is choice in power suppliers, and for a ballot initiative in a community that is seeking to allow choice, it is unlikely that the hundreds of IBEW workers who built solar and wind projects for MCE in the last year would vote in favor of that use of their dues.

Please see the information below that clears up the misinformation and provides insight as to why the IBEW would do this.

Facts to explain and respond to the IBEW ballot Initiative and misleading mailer:

What is the IBEW?

  • The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 is a very large union whose members perform electrical work, such as power line maintenance, across California and Nevada. Of their 18,000 member employees, approximately 2/3 are employed by PG&E.

What is the intent of the IBEW’s San Francisco ballot initiative?

  • The IBEW’s ballot initiative is attempting to rewrite the definition of renewable energy so that no out of state supply would qualify as renewable. However, their proposed changes would not limit PG&E from marketing nuclear power as ‘green’.
  • The IBEW wishes to promote California sources of renewable energy because it wishes to promote jobs for its members.  While this is valuable, it should be presented in a clear way and should be considered together with the other goals of a power portfolio, such as greenhouse gas content, public safety, price and local economic benefits.

Why is the IBEW marketing against Clean Power SF and MCE?

  • The IBEW and its primary employer, PG&E, have demonstrated a strong interest in maintaining the power supply structure of the past which was centralized and controlled by a monopoly.
  • PG&E has a history of using misinformation and dollars, and the California ballot initiative process to confuse customers.

o   http://www.localcleanenergy.org/powergrab

  • The IBEW has a history of using misinformation and legal threats to stop municipalization and community choice across California. While IBEW 1245 claims that they are not opposed to community choice programs, they have opposed every community choice or municipalization effort in the last 15 years that might fracture PG&E, including:

o   Opposition to San Francisco municipalization efforts in 2001-2002

o   Opposition to SMUD expansion into Yolo County in 2006

o   Opposition to San Joaquin CCA efforts in 2007

o   Opposition to CleanPowerSF in 2013 and onward

o   Opposition to Sonoma Clean Power in 2014

o   Opposition to Davis Municipalization in 2014

o   Financing 2014 campaigns of politicians who will oppose CCA

o   … and of course, current hostility towards MCE

  • The IBEW has pushed aggressively for jobs even when it means squeezing out other trades and local labor from renewable projects by insisting their electricians have a monopoly on work, even unpacking and carrying solar panels across the work site.

Does MCE support unions and local jobs?

  • Yes. As of December 31, 2014, MCE’s contracted power projects have supported more than 2,400 California jobs.
  • MCE has adopted a Sustainable Workforce Policy that supports union labor, fair wages, local labor and apprenticeship programs.
  • In the last year 750,000 union work hours have been invested in MCE renewable projects.
  • MCE has contracted more than $200,000 with RichmondBUILD, the Marin City Community Development Corporation, and Rising Sun Energy Center to train and provide workers to help implement energy upgrades for our energy efficiency programs.
  • MCE has contracted with Schneider Electricto employ IBEW union workers that install energy efficiency load-control devices for MCE customer homes under the My Energy Insightprogram.
  • MCE’s first local solar feed-in tariff project at the San Rafael Airport was built with a local development and design team, local labor, and workforce trainees from the Marin City Community Development Corporation.
  • MCE’s largest local solar project in development requires prevailing wage and local labor, and MCE is working with RichmondBUILD to ensure locally trained workers are employed for the project.

What is MCE’s relationship with Shell? Where does MCE get its power?  

  • Shell Energy North America (SENA) is one of 14 power suppliers that MCE has contracts with. MCE entered into a contract with SENA in 2010 because, of the options that we had available, they allowed us to launch service with the highest amount of renewable energy and were the only company to offer stable rates.
  • The contract with SENA is scheduled to terminate at the end of 2017. As we approach that time, more of our energy comes from other suppliers and less of our energy purchases come from SENA.
  • All of MCE’s long-term contracts (5-25 years) are with non-SENA providers and are for renewable energy supply in California.

Does MCE ‘slam’ customers? What is ‘slamming’?

  • No, MCE does not ‘slam’ customers, but starts service for customers according to state law.
  • The term “slamming” is used to get an emotional response and refers to an illegal practice of switching a consumers transitional wireline telephone company for another service without permission. It was a contentious issue in the late 80s when telephone companies would falsely notify another telephone company that their customer had elected to switch their service.

What is a REC?

  • A Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) is created when one megawatt-hour of renewable energy is generated and added to the electric grid. As the US Environmental Protection Agency describes it, “The REC product is what conveys the attributes and benefits of the renewable electricity, not the electricity itself.”
  • All energy companies in California must use RECs to track and report any renewable energy purchase made.
  • A REC can be purchased ‘bundled’ together with the corresponding electrons or ‘unbundled’ representing the green attribute of the power but without the corresponding electrons.
  • Many unbundled RECs purchased in California correspond to power produced out of state.
  • The IBEW has argued that bundled renewables do not have RECs and represent real power reaching customers’ homes and businesses – make no mistake that bundled renewable resources are also tracked via RECs. The bundled renewables are loaded onto the grid but customers receive substitute power at their homes and businesses based on the most proximal resources. This is the nature of the electric grid and energy markets.
  • The IBEW’s concerns about the usage of unbundled RECs appear to be limited to programs competing with their primary employer, PG&E. Power providers across the state, including PG&E, have long used unbundled RECs in far greater volumes than are used by MCE.

Does MCE use RECs?

  • Yes. In 2014, 30% of MCE’s power supply was from unbundled RECs, mostly sourced from wind farms in the pacific northwest (such as Oregon and Washington State), and 27% of MCE’s power supply was from bundled REC purchases from renewable energy produced in California.
  • In 2015, MCE’s unbundled REC purchases will reduce to 15% of its power supply and bundled, in-state purchases will increase to 35%. This increase is caused by new California renewable energy projects becoming operational for MCE in 2015 as described below. This transition to new California supply has been planned and in progress since MCE’s launch.

Fact: MCE buys California power and supports new power development.

  • MCE buys power in California through many suppliers.
  • MCE has committed $515.9 million to 195 MW of new California renewable energy projects. This includes $353.9 million for solar, $44.7 million for wind, and $117.2 million for waste-to-energy projects.
  • Attached is the current list of all California renewable resources currently under contract with MCE. Some projects that have already come online including:

o   RE Kansas, 20 MW Solar, King County, operational in December 2014

o   Cottonwood, 23 MW Solar, Kern County, operational in May 2015

o   Rising Tree, 99 MW Wind, Kern County, operational in May 2015

Fact: MCE offers more renewable and greenhouse gas free content than PG&E.

  • MCE’s greenhouse gas emissions are lower than PG&E and MCE’s renewable content is higher than PG&E.  Both have been true since MCE’s launch five years ago.
  • Since May 2010, MCE customers have reduced more than 59,421 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to:

o   removing 12,500 cars from the road for one year,

o   the carbon sequestered by 48,705 acres of U.S. forests in one year, or

o   eliminating the energy use of 5,422 homes for one year.

Fact: MCE offers lower rates.

  • MCE has saved customers over $6 million due to lower rates and offers programs to help customers save even more on energy bills.

Fact: MCE is creating demand for local renewable energy projects.

To date, 5 new local renewable projects are under contract with MCE. These include:

    • 1 MW solar project in San Rafael (San Rafael Airport)
    • 10.5 MW solar project in Richmond (Chevron brownfield)
    • 1.5 MW solar project in Novato (Cooley Quarry)
    • 1 MW solar project in Novato (Buck Institute)
    • 4 MW landfill waste-to-energy project in Novato (Redwood Landfill)

Jamie Tuckey
MCE Director of Public Affairs
mceCleanEnergy.org

    Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) Declares Pipeline and Oil-by-Rail Regulatory System “Fundamentally Broken”

    Repost from DeSmogBlog
    [Editor:  This excellent DeSmogBlog article is more about the power of the oil industry lobby than it is about Rep. Speier.  For video and transcript of Rep. Speier’s comments go to YouTube: “Congresswoman Speier calls PHMSA toothless kitten.” On her Facebook page, Speier recommends more about PHMSA’s pipeline regulatory failings at POLITICO Magazine.”  – RS]

    Congresswoman Declares Pipeline and Oil-by-Rail Regulatory System “Fundamentally Broken”

    By Justin Mikulka, April 23, 2015 – 04:58

    The system is fundamentally broken.”

    Those were the words of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) during an April 14th hearing on oil-by-rail and pipeline safety.

    For anyone expecting the soon to be released oil-by-rail regulations to make any meaningful improvements to safety, it would be wise to review the full comments made by Rep. Speier.

    It has been more than four years since a gas pipeline exploded in Speier’s district in San Bruno, California resulting in eight deaths, huge fires and destruction of a neighborhood. In her testimony she recounted how the state regulators were clearly in league with industry prior to this accident. And in the time since she has come to find that federal regulators, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), “does not have the teeth—or the will—to enforce pipeline safety in this country.”

    PHMSA is the agency also in charge of the new oil-by-rail regulations as it is a division of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). One thing is certain — the new regulations won’t address the volatility of Bakken oil. The White House has already decided that the regulations will not deal with this issue and instead they left it up to North Dakota to deal with it.

    North Dakota passed regulations that went into effect April 1 that require the oil to be “conditioned” prior to shipment by rail to address the volatility. However, as has been documented on DeSmogBlog before, conditioning doesn’t remove the volatile and explosive natural gas liquids from the oil. That requires a process known as stabilization.

    So with no rules in place to require the oil to be stabilized, future train accidents involving Bakken oil will very likely be similar to the seven that have occurred since July 2013. Huge fires, exploding tank cars and the now all too familiar Bakken mushroom cloud of flame.

    There have been seven accidents and it has been the same in all of them. But the White House has decided that the regulations don’t need to address this issue.

    Recently the Department of Energy (DOE) got involved in the discussion about Bakken crude with the release of a document called Literature Survey of Crude Oil Properties Relevant to Handling and Fire Safety in Transport.

    It is interesting that the DOE is commissioning reports on this topic since the department has no regulatory oversight of oil-by-rail. The report received little attention upon its release, although it was immediately touted by the American Petroleum Institute (API) as proving that the characteristics of crude oil had nothing to do with the fires occurring in the Bakken train accidents.

    The API press release stated, “The Department of Energy found no data showing correlation between crude oil properties and the likelihood or severity of a fire caused by a derailment.”

    During the recent hearing, this new DOE report was cited twice by two separate members of Congress. They both used the report to question a statement recently made by Federal Railroad Administration acting administrator Sarah Feinberg regarding the need for the oil companies to reduce the vapor pressure and volatility of oil for rail transport. Reducing the vapor pressure and volatility would require stabilization.

    Early in the hearing, Rep. Lou Barletta (D-PA) read a question that contained the exact same description of the report’s conclusion as the API press release.

    You [Feinberg] have recently called on the energy industry to quote ‘do more to control the volatility of its cargo.’ You may have seen a recent report from the Department of Energy where the agency found no data showing correlation between crude oil properties and the likelihood or severity of a fire caused by a derailment.”

    Rep. Barletta received $106,540 from big rail in the last election cycle.

    Later in the hearing, Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) read the exact same statement. It appeared even Feinberg was a bit surprised at being asked the exact same question by two different congressmen as she responded, “I’m happy to take that question again.”

    Rep. Babin received $37,550 from the oil industry in the last election cycle with $7,500 coming from Exxon Mobil.

    So, while the API wasn’t at this hearing, they had two members of Congress directly reading prepared questions that echoed their press release on the DOE report word for word.

    Watch video of the two identical questions asked at the hearing:

    The first important thing to note about the “no data” talking point is that it is true. The report did not find data on this because that isn’t what the report was designed to do. The report reviewed three field sampling studies on the characteristics of Bakken crude oil. None of these studies looked at “correlation between crude oil properties and the likelihood or severity of a fire caused by a derailment.”

    It is easy to say you found “no data” when you know there is none in your source material to begin with.

    Perhaps the most insidious part of this is that no one at the hearing called them on their blatant mischaracterization of the report and their ignorance of the science of Bakken oil and volatility.

    In a recent article about the volatility of oil in Al Jazeera, an actual petroleum engineer clearly stated what is widely known in the oil and rail industries but is “debated” by the API and congress and regulators to avoid having to regulate the Bakken crude.

    The notion that this requires significant research and development is a bunch of BS,” said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, a professor of petroleum engineering at the University of Houston. “The science behind this has been revealed over 80 years ago, and developing a simple spreadsheet to calculate risk based on composition and vapor pressure is trivial. This can be done today.”

    A bunch of BS. The oil industry, DOE, FRA and PHMSA want us to believe that the properties of oil aren’t currently understood. And as outrageous as that assertion is, multiple hearings and reports have been conducted on the matter. And many more will occur before anything is done.

    The DOE report outlines all of the further research the department will be doing on this issue over the next couple of years.

    And as previously reported on DeSmogBlog, the exact same thing is happening with tar sands oil and dilbit. Hearings, studies, reports. With many of the studies and reports being directly funded by the American Petroleum Institute and its members. All dragging on years after major incidents like the Kalamazoo River dilbit spill.

    In her testimony, Rep. Speier didn’t hold back on her feelings about the failures of the regulatory system.

    PHMSA is not only a toothless tiger, but one that has overdosed on Quaaludes and is passed out on the job.

    But the reality is that PHMSA is just a small piece of the much larger puzzle that includes the Department of Energy, the White House, the Federal Railroad Administration and first and foremost, the American Petroleum Institute and their supporters at all levels.

    A couple of days after the hearing, FRA acting administrator Sarah Feinberg appeared on Rachel Maddow’s show to discuss this problem and said the following regarding stabilization of oil.

    The science is still out. The verdict is still out on what the best way is to treat this product before placing it into transport.”

    Watch FRA acting administrator Sarah Feinberg in this Maddow clip:

    But the science isn’t still out. Even in the DOE report, it clearly states that the oil needs to be stabilized to reduce the vapor pressure and that conditioning the oil, as they currently require in North Dakota, does not accomplish this.

    To add to the absurdity of this situation, Feinberg admitted to Maddow that the oil industry stabilizes the oil before it is transported in pipelines or on ships. Apparently the science is crystal clear in those cases.

    So while Feinberg got beat up at the hearing by congressmen and their API talking points, there was Feinberg on Maddow’s show spouting other API talking points.

    Rep. Speier is probably wrong. The system isn’t fundamentally broken. This would be true if the system was designed to keep the public safe, but it isn’t. The system is designed to keep corporate profits safe so the reality is that the system is working as designed. And the bomb trains continue to roll.

      Grant Cooke: Big Oil’s endgame: While fossil fuel costs keep rising, renewable costs fall

      Repost from The Benicia Herald
      [Editor: Benicia’s own Grant Cooke has written a highly significant three-part series for The Benicia Herald, outlining the impending fall of the fossil fuel industry and concluding with good advice for the City of Benicia and other cities dependent on refineries for a major portion of their local revenue stream.  This is the second of three parts.  Read part one by CLICKING HERE and part three by CLICKING HERE.  – RS]

      Grant Cooke: Big Oil’s endgame: While fossil fuel costs keep rising, renewable costs fall

      October 4, 2014, by Grant Cooke

      Grant Cooke, Benicia, California“The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.” — Sheikh Ahmed-Zaki Yamani

      THREE KEY FACTORS WILL PUT TO REST the fossil fuel industry and make the good Sheikh Yamani’s prediction come true. Two of them are discussed here.

      The first is that the carbon emitters will be held accountable and made to pay for using the atmosphere as a garbage can. While still struggling to price the cost of pollution, most nations, as well as California, have come to realize that the heavy carbon emitters need to pay for the damage they have done. A cap-and-trade process is the first method to hold the emitters accountable. While imperfect and not nearly as effective as a straight carbon tax, this system is growing throughout the world. The European Union’s program, which started several years ago and was described by the fossil fuel interests as failing, is now deemed a success. It has become an established part of European culture and corporate practice. Various nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Korea and China have developed cap-and-trade programs as well.

      California’s own program continues to grow, and our carbon offsets are tradable in parts of Canada as well. As it gains momentum, other states are watching California’s program and thinking about adopting their own. Impoverished state governments see cap-and-trade programs as a boon to their environment and a way to garner vital tax revenues. Since increases in personal income tax are so unpopular, cap-and-trade is seen as a way to bring new money into state treasuries without risking voter rebellions.

      The pressure to make the major carbon emitters pay for their pollution is coming from the agreements made at the 2012 UN Conference on Climate Change in Doha, Qatar. At this conference world governments consolidated the gains of the last three years of international climate change negotiations and opened a gateway to greater ambition and action. Among the decisions was to concentrate on a universal climate agreement by 2015, which would come into effect in 2020. The 2015 conference will be held in Paris, and world governments are expecting much greater cooperation and agreement on carbon-reduction policies from the U.S. and other major emitters.

      The world is slowly accepting the reality that the mitigation of climate change is a massive problem. A 2012 report by Climate Vulnerable Forum estimated that more than 100 million people will die and the international economy will lose out on more than 3 percent of GDP ($1.2 trillion) by 2030 if the world fails to tackle climate change. But because governments don’t want to use their funds for environmental cleanup and climate change mitigation, it will be the heavy emitters like the oil, coal and utility companies that will pay.

      This cost for carbon cleanup, added to the increasing costs of extracting hard-to-get fossil fuel resources, will hit the oil industry hard. A 2013 Harvard University report showed that the cost externalities from coal were about 18 cents per kilowatt hour. Most U.S. end-users who rely on coal-generated electricity pay about 10 cents per kWh. If the external costs were added, those users would pay closer to 30 cents per kWh — which would severely impact those users’ lifestyles.

      Grid parity

      The second major factor hastening the end of today’s megalithic fossil fuel industries is “grid parity.” Grid parity is a technical term meaning that the cost to a consumer for electricity from a renewable source (without subsidies) is about equal to the cost from a traditional source — be it fossil fuel or nuclear. The Germans used grid parity to price their feed-in-tariff program, or FiT, that launched Energiewende.

      Simply put, with PGE’s 2014 rate increase a Benicia resident or small commercial consumer pays about 20 (19.9) cents per kWh for electricity from traditional sources. If that same kWh came from a renewable source and cost the consumer an equal 20 cents, then the renewable source would be at “parity,” or equal to the cost of the traditional generation source.

      However, the cost of traditional energy is rising, driven by higher extracting costs, increasing maintenance costs for natural gas pipelines and increases in operating cost at nuclear power plants. At the same time the costs for renewable energy — wind, solar photovoltaic and biowaste fuels — are declining.

      The costs for wind generation have been and still are the lowest. However, the costs for solar are declining rapidly as its use spreads. Deutsche Bank reported in January 2014 that there were 19 regions around the world where unsubsidized PV solar power costs were competitive with other forms of generation. In fact, PV competes directly in price with oil, diesel and liquefied natural gas in much of Asia. This equality of costs with fossil fuel and natural gas is creating a worldwide solar boom in 2014-15.

      In the U.S., almost 30 percent of last year’s added electricity capacity came from solar. In Vermont and Massachusetts, almost 100 percent added capacity came from solar. According to the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association, more solar was installed in the U.S. in the past 18 months than in the last 30 years. Solar PV technology, which has been helped by the U.S. military, is improving so fast that it has achieved a virtuous circle.

      As described by New York’s Sanford and Bernstein investment bank, we have entered an era of “global energy deflation.” This ratcheting down of energy costs may be slow to start, but as they argue, the fossil fuel-dominated energy market will experience a major decline in costs over the next decade. The market is entering a new order that will erode the viability of oil, gas and the fossil fuel continuum.

      The report argues that the adoption of solar in developing markets will translate into less demand for kerosene and diesel oil. The adoption of solar in the Middle East means less oil demand, and the adoption of solar in China and developing Asia means less liquefied natural gas demand. Further, distributed solar in the U.S., Europe and Australia will likely reduce demand for natural gas.

      They reason that while solar has a fractional share of the current market, within a decade solar PV and related battery storage may have such a large market share that it becomes a trigger for energy price deflation, with huge consequences for the massive fossil fuel industry that is dependent on continued growth.

      Even the Saudis are betting on solar, investing more than $100 billion in 41 gigawatts of capacity, enough to cover 30 percent of their power needs by 2030. Most of the other Gulf states have similar plans.

      Grant Cooke is a long-time Benicia resident and CEO of Sustainable Energy Associates. He is co-author, with Nobel Peace Prize winner Woodrow Clark, of “The Green Industrial Revolution: Energy, Engineering and Economics,” to be released in October by Elsevier.