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California Moves to Require 100% Clean Electricity by 2045 (bloomberg.com)
407 points by dsr12 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 378 comments



I think another great move would be to start dealing with excessive energy consumption. Compared to what I'm used to in Europe, California is wasting crazy amounts of energy. Poorly insulated homes, old and inefficient AC/heating units, vertical-drum washing machines (!!!), poorly designed gas stoves, oversized cars, monstrous gas-guzzling trucks, energy waste is all over the place. People behave just as if energy were free.


> Compared to what I'm used to in Europe, California is wasting crazy amounts of energy. Poorly insulated homes, old and inefficient AC/heating units,

Are you living in a particularly new region?

Every time I've seen this come up, the data actually says the opposite: the median US home is better insulated, more recently built and more efficiently climate-controlled. Which is unsurprising, because they're newer, basically. Home technology over the last half century has made huge improvements in energy consumption.

It's true that the median US home is much larger than what you probably see where you are. And obviously that goes to total consumption. But it's not an issue with housing technology at all.


What fraction of apartment buildings in California have double-pane windows? What fraction of commercial buildings in SF/East Bay have operable windows to take advantage of natural ventilation?


Most houses in the bay area do not even have AC, and may turn on the heater for 3 months of the year. It's climate alone is a big household energy saver.


Indeed. The Bay Area is one of the most environmentally friendly areas to live for this reason.

Economist Ed Glazer makes the argument that by not allowing more housing to be built there, more people have to live in more energy consumptive locations (Houston, for example). Housing development policy of the Bay Area has a big environmental impact.


The climate also calls for AC for 3 months of the year if not more. And, compared to Europe, they actually have ACs.


How do they not have AC in the bay area? That seems highly implausible.


Coastal regions tend to have more stable temperatures than inland regions in general due to closer proximity to the ocean (large bodies of water tend to be slow to heat up and slow to cool down). The Bay Area is no exception.


> What fraction of apartment buildings in California have double-pane windows?

One thing that amazed me when moving to California a couple of years ago was reading ads for apartments where the text would gush about the apartment having double glazing!!!1!!

Meanwhile, in Sweden, triple glazing has been the required minimum since the 90s, and older buildings were forced to install a third pane or retrofit new windows or somehow bring it up to code.

These days you can get quadruple glazed windows, but they offer only a very small improvements to triple glazed, so there's not much use.


Sweden is a lot colder than California, it's not surprising that better insulation is required.


Is triple glazing common, standard, or required in any part of the US?

Is double glazing?


For some years I lived in a rowhouse in the Maryland suburbs of DC, built about 1983. The units there had double glazing. Maryland does not have an especially cold climate.

Where I live now we have single panes, but behind storm windows.

On the other hand, we know a family near Boston who live in a big old house. The husband, a mathematician, calculated that they would never recover the cost of replacing the windows. I don't know how far out he calculated, but I expect it was about 20 years.


Double glazing is common for all new installs. And people will tend to use them for retrofits unless they are trying to cheap out. As for California, it doesn't get cold enough here to pay the premium for triple glazing.


My apartment in SF has operable windows, as do most older buildings I've been in. I don't have an air conditioner, and I rarely use the steam heater thingy (radiator?).


How do you not have an air conditioner? What kind of alien creatures are you in SF? Does the weather there really never get above 80?


Sometimes I think San Francisco doesn't have seasons.

https://www.usclimatedata.com/climate/san-francisco/californ...


Right, so the key is California's housing stock is rather old on average, at least from what I can tell.


That's not correct. California's housing stock falls into something closer to the US median. The oldest housing stock in the US is in the North East and Midwest (which tends to be well insulated for Winter purposes). Those regions saw large waves of high population expansion and housing development previously (50+ years ago), which put down an unsurprisingly large base of housing stock.

California's development by contrast has overwhelmingly occurred in the last 50-60 years (their population has increased four fold since 1950, from ~10m to ~40m today). Compare that to Ohio, which has seen a nearly flat population for coming up on 50 years. New York State's population has only slightly increased in 50 years.

The newest housing stock is in the Idaho/Nevada/Arizona region, Texas and the South East (Florida to North Carolina).

The US generally - and much of California - also aggressively uses air conditioning (central or otherwise) and has for a long time, which has further spurred efforts toward maximizing insulation.


Ok, perhaps it's not exceptionally old. But the point is, while the codes are pretty good now, much of the stock was built decades ago, long before the energy efficiency codes tightened up. When many of the houses in Silicon Valley were put up, attic insulation wasn't even used, period.


I've pulled up a random "YouTube star" "building my dream house in california" video and that looks all the world like a single glazed window, in 2018:

https://youtu.be/OWglKkE-0a8?t=2m17s

It also seems to be a wooden construction.. so frankly I don't know what to think. I'm sorry if this seems like very unconventional evidence but then going from building codes to what people are actually building out there is a whole different story, and then you didn't actually provide any data, either.

Though you are spot on with the ridiculously oversized buildings, like a 3 door garage that is so intimately integrated into the structure you're climate controlling it year round.


The wall between the garage and the house is considered an exterior wall, and is insulated the same as the other ones.

Wooden construction does not inhibit insulation. Probably the opposite. It's easier to insulate the voids between studs than it is to insulate a masonry structure. Plus, "stick" building is almost a requirement for seismic reasons in California.

As far as the windows are concerned, I can't tell from the video if they're single glazed or not. Seems crazy to me to do any new construction with those.


Around here, they build a stone wall, then add a layer of insulation against it, then build a brick wall against that.

That layer of insulation had been mandatory since at least mid-80s, and requirements for thickness have increased a few times since.

It's true that they're are houses with low energy labels, but from mid-80s on houses already have a C level - and that's default, with further improvements possible by owners. Currently, minimum allowed label for new buildings is A. But we're already slowly moving to "zero-rated": solar panels supply needed energy (on average, over a year).


Having a stone wall on the inside of the insulated barrier is great for adding thermal mass to the inside. Having all that masonry inside probably helps regulate the temperature nicely. I suspect it's more expensive to do it that way than to use wood studs and batting between them. (Of course it depends on the region you're building in. Wood is cheap in North America, maybe not so much in other parts of the world?)

And because earthquakes are also plentiful in California, we don't want our walls to be too heavy. Tensile strength is more important, as well as flexibility.


California uses a lot of wood because of wood's seismic resistance properties.


modern wooden frame houses with good insulation are very efficient at keeping heat/moisture where it needs to be kept. I am in the process of building new house and recently had same research - build like we used to build house where I am from (eastern europe, brick and mortar) or use something everybody is doing. turned out that this stick frame structure with foam insulation is actually much more efficient.

Attached garages are typically is separated from the rest of the house conditioning space. I do insulation of the garage, but only because I plan to work there. Plus water heater I am installing is actually heat pump, so it should cool garage down a bit.


Modern framing includes construction with "California corners" for a reason - it allows for more efficient placement of insulation.

The framing techniques used in a modern building are far stronger and more energy efficient than you seem to think.


> vertical-drum washing machines (!!!)

There are a number of issues with front-loading washers. While they use less water, they are also worse at cleaning clothes and much worse at sanitizing them. There was a recent post here on HN where a biologist did several experiments in her own washer to show how poorly they sanitized things compared to her older one. They also tend to trap water in the bottom and it gets musty and moldy, which with my spouses allergies is a non-starter.

But I whole-heartedly agree with your other issues. Moving from the Midwest, I can't believe how poorly insulated things are in CA. Our first apartment in Santa Monica had windows that didn't even seal properly when closed. You could very easily stick a sheet of paper through the gap between the window and the frame when it was supposedly closed. Some people even have glass louvres instead of windows in their bathrooms here!


> Moving from the Midwest, I can't believe how poorly insulated things are in CA. Our first apartment in Santa Monica had windows that didn't even seal properly when closed.

... yeah. Because it's in Santa Monica. Without even bothering to ask details about your personal temperature preference or the size or construction date of the homes, I can 100% guarantee you you're using less energy on climate control in SoCal than in "the midwest".

Trying to fix energy consumption by improving construction and code regulation in the major city least in need of climate control, like, worldwide is just a silly waste of resources.

LA is wasteful in many ways. But a city that sits at a 60-70F average basically year-round is just not in need of attention here.


As someone who has lived in both So Cal and the Midwest, I can confirm this.

In So Cal, I didn't have A/C for 10+ years and rarely used the heater (a desktop computer can double as a heater haha).

In the midwest, the A/C or heater is on pretty much 24/7 because even when the temperatures look favorable, there is humidity.


> a desktop computer can double as a heater

Servers are so much better...

http://www.supermicro.com/products/chassis/4U/847/SC847BE1C4...


Indeed, a CPU is a space heater that can perform math, while incidentally also transmitting that math through space as a software-defined radio.

An Athlon XP was my space heater during my gap decade.


have you seen mining heaters ?


In my Pasadena place, we tried to turn on the heat once. Turned out the furnace had been busted for years.


They installed a furnace?


My apartment in Westwood last year had a heater but no AC, used the heater a grand total of zero times. Makes you wonder why they ever installed it in the first place...


To be fair, if it hits 50 around here people start installing snow chains and dying of hypothermia.


a heater, but not a/c, is part of the building code in LA.

my apartment has a heater and no a/c, but has a flow-through design that naturally keeps it cool in the summer. my heater and my portable a/c unit each get used about 2 weeks a year. the weather is really that great here.


Requiring a furnace is weird.


That's another reason why California's housing policy is so egregious. Ceteris paribus living in California is more environment-friendly than living in the Midwest, so it's a shame that local governments' policy severely limits new construction.


This sort of thing is why I sort of hate energy star everything. Take dishwashers, for example. You can regulate the energy and water usage all you want, but it long ago got to the point where dishwashers that meet regulations basically fail to clean the dishes. Which is fine, it just causes the consumer to wash the dishes by hand either instead of or in addition to using the dishwasher. So now the dishwasher uses less energy/water, but the whole process uses net more water and takes more time.


That hasn't been my experience at all. Our new Bosch dishwasher is exceedingly more effective than the water-guzzler it replaced.


my experience with going from a late-90s model dishwasher to a relatively fancy brand new one last year is that it cleans better, but is slower and simply doesn't dry the dishes at all, and the standing water can leave residues on the dishes if I don't take them all out and towel dry them right away


Ok, as a data point: I have a (new) Bosch dishwasher here in CA. The "Auto" wash cycle takes 2h20 and I can hear the unit flush the water down the drain after initial rinse.

My Bosch dishwasher in Europe does the Auto cycle in less than 90 minutes on a single change of water.

I think it's about different consumer expectations: it the US it seems people don't care so much about energy/water consumption, so other things matter.

BTW, both dishwashers get things done, the dishes do come out clean.


Im doing my washing today. Run it once with detergent, then again without. The first cycle doesnt use enough water to rinse out the soap. I am running off a solar-powered well. I have a literally unlimited green water supply, but must still suffer a watersaving washing machine. Im tempted to crack it open and disable the relevant sensor.


Our Bosch washer on ECO setting takes a long time but washes very well. Not a problem if you are setting it going at bed time.


My Miele dishwasher works very well.


My new AC unit cools very effectively, and is the lowest energy usage of its category.


As someone else who lives in Santa Monica, the extra detail here is that it's so freaking temperate year round that you don't need as much heat/AC.

We typically just ventilate our home during the day and don't run AC, we've never turned the heat on (I don't know if we have heat, actually).


I don't see what about front-loading washers would make them especially prone to standing water or mold. I would expect that vertical washers could just as easily have standing water. Worse, it's probably out of sight behind the drum where you can't clean it.


Because the door is below water level, it needs to be sealed. There is a rubber gasket submerged in water that molds. Top-loaders don't need a rubber gasket.


I've owned both, and the brand-new front loader I just got is definitely worse in several areas with regard to collecting water.

The door gasket is pretty bad (not sloped well enough for water to completely drain away from it), but it's also got a pull-out tray for detergent which also collects quite a bit of water each time.

I did have a top-loader that got a bit musty smelling, though that was largely my own fault- living alone as a bachelor at the time (infrequent use) and habitually starting a load late at night only to fall asleep before I took it out.


I'm not entirely sure what it is. But it's actually a common problem with front-loaders. If we're not extremely diligent in hand drying the washer and leaving the door open, our clothes will smell REALLY musty. It's really bad. The internet is full of anecdotes.

I've never had the same problem with top-loaders. My next machine will most definitely be a top-loader.


have you checked the drainage pipe for blockage? that can cause standing water which may get smelly


I can confirm having owned 2 front loads. We leave the washer door open all the time while idle - sometimes blowing a fan inside to force-dry it out. Otherwise, mold city. It doesn't matter which make/model you buy, they all exhibit the same problem.


Try WhirlOUT every month or two to remove detergent residue: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000DZBLJ6/

You still [probably] need to hand-dry the gasket, but according to my research it's what manufacturers recommend when pushed. I order a box on eBay every 1-2 years, approximately.


I have an LG front loader and I don't have any problems with mold or odor.


Yeah, I have yet to see a side loading washing without the moldy ring on the side of the door. I'm unsure how this is in any way a net improvement, as whatever action people take to fix the mold problem is likely to more than make up for the energy saved processing the water.


We leave ours open when it's not in use. No mold for years.


Same. You have to let the thing dry out.


20 seconds with a damp cloth every few months, which is all our washer requires to keep the door seal crud-free, doesn't seem likely to raise energy requirements much.


They make high-efficiency top loader washing machines that use the same amount of power of frontloaders. I have one, it's much slower(45 to 90 minute wash times) than traditional top loader but is almost completely silent.


I was told that the washing machine should run at max temp about once a month - specifically to sanitise the machine. Can be an empty load (but not required).

If you didn't try that before, give it a shot. Hopefully it'll help.


Strange. I have yet to see a top-loader that washes anywhere near as well as a drum machine. Front-loaders are also much more gentle on the fabric.


any articles about new ideas on this topic ? even if new means using old ways again


Compared to the rest of the USA (low bar), California is a saint. They started doing Energy Efficiency in the 70s, currently spend $1Bn / year on EE. Energy consumption as a whole in the state has flatlined since they started doing EE (1). All that to say, they're trying. It's crazy how much of a difference culture makes.

1: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/california-is-p...


California's appliance efficiency regulations (Title 20) are much stricter than to anywhere else in the US, as far as I know. http://www.energy.ca.gov/appliances/

EDIT - for an example, their clothes washer energy/water requirements got stricter in 2015 and then again in 2018 https://govt.westlaw.com/calregs/Document/IC95DA848BDAD48929...

They also have the strictest building energy codes (Title 24). https://www.energy.ca.gov/title24/


That's probably been the main driver over time


The effects are felt elsewhere, too. Most manufacturers aren't going to design two versions of a model for two regions, the energy efficient one, and the less energy efficient one. They'll just work to make one that fits the more stringent one. California has been one of the biggest drivers of EE nationwide because of that.

It's interesting to see it in practice too; if you move to California and bring a car, part of the registration process is to check the car and make sure it indicates it meets California requirements in design and build (not just smog testing; they do that too, but the actual registration/titling will involve them popping the hood and checking the car has the right markings). And basically every modern car does.


CARB is basically the EPA now. They're the ones that prosecuted Dieselgate, as they're the only regulator who put the screws to VW once they realized what was going on.


The federal government is trying to take away California's right to set their own vehicle standards. Is anything similar happening with these other energy efficiency standards? I believe there were moves to roll these back too at a federal level, eg trying to kill Energy Star:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/03/2...

but if California is able to retain their own standards then these federal proposals would also hopefully be ineffective.


Title 24 itself is broken into 16 climate zones [1], each comes with its' own table of acceptable parameters. The deviation in parameters allows for a wide range of equipment at varying standards.

http://www.energy.ca.gov/maps/renewable/building_climate_zon...


This is possible because CA is the biggest economy in the US (6th largest worldwide) so the manufacturers can't ignore it.



On the topic of large cars, what is the solution here?

I can imagine forcing people to replace A/C units won’t be so objectionable, especially if it’s free to do so, but there may be some real opposition to requiring people to drive different cars. Nobody gets attached to an A/C.

I don’t drive right now - I take public transport everywhere - but I’d love a large car (a Dodge RAM). If I try to buy something small to be conscious of my carbon footprint and energy usage, I think I will end up buying the large car a few years later.

Is there anything at-all I can do to drive a large car while not being part of the problem? I’m looking into carbon offsetting, but that’s all I am aware of for the time being.

I wish Dodge would make an electric RAM 1500, that could make this much easier.


The way Europe deals with cars is they tax the bejezus out of them, and gasoline also.

In some countries, half the price of a new car is tax.

That is why people drive little toy cars there. Everyone would like a nice big comfortable car but they are unaffordable for most.


Well that and then, in some places, you can literally get stuck between houses with the larger ones.


Oh yeah! It’s crazy expensive :(

What I’m trying to grapple with is this desire of mine while trying to be aware of my environmental impact.

If there’s no way to have my cake and eat it too, I won’t get one.


Well there's this.... https://workhorse.com/pickup/

But I think it's either still in the concept stage, or maybe in fleet trials. Don't think an ordinary consumer can get one.


Where is this desire rooted in?


All I can really say is I want one because from the moment I saw one on the road, I just knew I had to drive it. I really love the appearance. I've never been interested in cars, but I can't help myself looking at pickups on the road driving by -- especially RAMs. Maybe I'm just a big kid, I've always liked big stuff.

Still... I know they aren't good for the environment, which means I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I just drove one without greatly reducing or eliminating it's impact.


Rent one every few months, drive it for the weekend. Cheaper on every front, scratches that itch, and minimal effect on the environment.

I do that with my wife for convertibles. She loves them, so any time we're on vacation and need a car I try to get one. It's just a couple hundred more for a week's vacation, at the time we'd get the most enjoyment out of it.


I never thought of doing that, thank you!


You can also check whether your area has carsharing. I have access to lots of standard cars of different sizes (some hybrids too), a convertible, an upper-standard BMW and a couple of vans all within walking distance.


Kinda interesting. Could you see this desire being rooted in the advertising of the truck you've been shown for years upon years? Ads for these types of vehicles show dirty, hard-working men doing hyper-masculine things[0]

[0] https://www.ispot.tv/ad/7uYI/ram-trucks-just-the-facts-faste...


That's a good guess -- and may explain it for a number of people, but in my case it's extremely unlikely. I live in the UK, where RAM doesn't really sell vehicles here, so I've never seen any of their adverts before, and had never even heard of the brand until I saw a few on the road. When I have seen them in person, they've always been left hand drive (rather than the usual right hand drive), so pretty much always imported.

I do think love at first sight is a better explanation.


If you're ever in the Austin Texas area look me up and you can drive my Ram 2500 diesel around. It's a highly over-rated experience, IMHO.


I might have to take you up on that offer. It's been too long since I visited Texas.


Look me up when you make to Austin. I live and work about 25 miles east at the place that runs the power grid for Texas.


Visiting the place the runs the grid sounds much more fun than driving a Ram.

I like mine, but I only drive it when I have to. I don't understand people who commute in a pickup.


I totally agree. I got my truck when I had a ranch with livestock, a tractor and all the work that goes with all that stuff. I'm now living in town about two miles from work and really don't need the truck but they're more easily acquired than gotten rid of. Most days I leave the truck in the driveway and drive the wife's Subaru.

As far as grid operations, it's not really that exciting to see in person. Access is tightly controlled and it's pretty much like any other enterprise application shop.

The control room is pretty cool, though: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KatQ9Q_IQk


Do they tax the bejezus out of them, or do they just not subsidise them as much. The amount governments around the world subsidise cars is ridiculous.


Hybrid cars are a great answer - you can get a 3500lb car (like the Camry Hybrid) that gets 40 MPG highway, and often 50 MPG in city/country driving. This is because the car usually shuts the engine off below ~46 MPH. Until you've driven a hybrid, you won't realize how often the engine isn't needed, and just 40 horsepower is enough to propel the car. Often, the engine will run for just a few seconds as you accelerate, then will turn off for the next several minutes, as you coast or maintain speed to the next stop light on battery alone.

Another benefit of hybridization is that AC and other power-hungry accessories can be powered during heavy acceleration without putting any more strain on the engine. It's fun to go for a drive during a hot day, use AC the entire time, and still get (for example) 42.3 MPG.

Plus, you get the instant torque of an electric car. Maybe not quite as much as a Tesla, but you'll still beat an F-150 off the line.


FYI, RAM got spun out of Dodge a few years ago. So now all the trucks are made by RAM, rather than Ram being the model name.


Why isn't a fee&dividend widely accepted as the solution here?

I don't mind if you buy and drive a dodge ram or a Sherman tank, as long as you reimburse me for the harm it does to me and my child.


How would you like me to reimburse you?

I'm being serious -- I would be willing to do something to reduce or eliminate my environmental impact. Would carbon offsetting be enough, or is there something else I can do?


Carbon offsets are tricky. In the current world, that's probably the best you can do, but it's hard to be sure that you're genuinely displacing as much carbon as you want to be. And it certainly won't work for everyone in the world to burn lots of fuel and then make up for it buying offsets.

Anyway, I'm talking about legislative action, rather than individual action -

[Note: I'm assuming (perhaps erroneously) that you're in the USA. If you're not, please pretend for a few minutes that you are.]

What I (and many others) want is, in effect, for it to be mandatory that everyone reimburse everyone else for the harmful effects of their carbon emissions, and for the IRS to mediate all of this.

If the policy is implemented intelligently then you as an individual, don't need to do anything, but as a consumer of goods and services will pay increased prices (the price difference being the amount that you owe society for the harm that your carbon footprint is imposing).

Adapted from [1]:

    - A fee is levied on fuels at their point of origin into the economy, 
      such as the well, mine, or port of entry. The fee is based upon the 
      carbon content of a given fuel, with a commonly-proposed starting 
      point being $10–$16 per ton of carbon that would be emitted once the 
      fuel is burned.

    - A border tax adjustment is levied on imports from nations that lack 
      their own equivalent fee on carbon, increasing the cost of the goods 
      by an amount corresponding to the (estimated)carbon emitted in their 
      manufacture. This ensures that American manufacturers remain competitive 
      in spite of their increased energy costs, and incentivizes nations who 
      want to sell goods into the USA to put a price on carbon as well.

    - The fees collected each month are returned to households as an energy 
      dividend (eg every resident over 18 years of age gets an equal share). 
      Returning 100% of net fees results in a revenue-neutral carbon fee-and-
      dividend system.
Advocates of this policy tend focus entirely on the teleology of it - the incentive it provides for people and businesses to emit less. The arguments I hear in support of the carbon-neutral aspect of the policy mainly point out that this allows us to tax carbon without upsetting fiscal conservatives who don't want to increase the size of the federal government.

But I think they're all ignoring a more important point. It doesn't need to be about changing people's behavior. To me, it's more about justice. I'm not about to tell wealthy businessmen that they can't fly across the country on a private jet every single week. But if their travels are 10% of the reason that my daughter has to live in a world where food is 10x more expensive because the oceans are dead and agricultural yields have been decimated, shouldn't they have to compensate her? It seems to me that, as long as the size of the fee is set properly, a policy like the one described above would be the fairest and most direct way to achieve that.

BTW, an organization un the USA whose sole mission is to lobby for a policy like this is the "Citizen's Climate Lobby" (CCL)[2]. To me, it seems so sensible that I can't understand why it isn't more widely discussed. It could turn out, I suppose, that implementation of the policy is difficult or impractical, but the discussion never even gets that far. Even the CCL's legislative proposal is, in my opinion, woefully lacking in implementation details.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fee_and_dividend [2] https://citizensclimatelobby.org/


The move is towards nearly as powerful, smaller, turbocharged engines that are getting close to 30mpg. Not bad for a 5,500 lb vehicle.


Those smaller, turbocharged engines are designed to game the fuel efficiency tests. Real world experience has shown that they often burn more fuel than larger naturally-aspirated engines of equal power. They are also likely to break sooner due to higher complexity and tighter tolerances, which isn't good from a total life carbon emissions standpoint.


I own two <1 year old VW Polos - one with a 1.2L TSI(small turbo) "Bluemotion" engine, another with a 1.0L MPI(naturally aspirated) engine. The 1.2TSI is much more efficient on paper, but guess which one gets far better milage in real life? Bingo - the 1.0L MPI unit. I frequently get >50mpg on longer journeys in that car, while the 1.2TSI is more like 35-40mpg.


The 1.2TSI is presumably designed to replace a naturally aspirated 1.6L or 2.0L, not to compete with the 1.0L.


Sure - but on paper it's better in every regard than the 1.0L, better mileage, better CO2 emissions, and it's the one that gets the "Bluemotion" badge which traditionally was only given to particularly efficient vehicles. Yet the smaller 3 cylinder engine is the one that is far more efficient here.


Of all the major issues, this one is the simplest - EVs. In fact, the best EVs in the world are made right in California. It helps that EVs aren't just better for the environment, but better cars overall.

Of large cars, Tesla makes a 7 seat SUV and will make a giant truck in about 2 years. Other manufacturers will follow them 2-3 years after that.


What do you like about large cars? The ability to haul cargo? The style? Are you problematically tall?


Dodge is making strides towards that, releasing a mild-hybrid version of the ram for 2019

https://jalopnik.com/the-2019-ram-hybrid-could-hit-a-decent-...


"I can imagine forcing people to replace A/C units won’t be so objectionable..."

> I'd say quite the opposite. We paid 3.5k to have A/C changed in our house this year. Many people don't have that kind of money.

"...especially if it’s free to do so"

> would be the only way IMO.


get a van instead if you need to move things. Those pickups are ridiculous in their energy consumption and waste of resources.


Minivans have terrible cargo capacity in terms of weight and the cargo area is really easy to get dirty and hard to clean (does anyone even offer a vinyl carpet option?). If someone still made a RWD van with an interior actually meant to haul cargo and barn doors (because it's hard to use a forklift to load things if you've got a hatch) I'd be in the market. The Aerostar and Astro used to fill this niche but they're long gone. The Transit Connect and HHR are a little on the small side.


Physics dictates that the larger, heavier car will consume more energy to move, even if it happens to be electric.


As long as the truck isn’t your daily driver I don’t think it’s a big deal.


There is no doubt room for improvement, but California is already among the most energy efficient states.

https://database.aceee.org/state/california


Only because Californians have outsourced most of their manufacturing and other heavy industry to other states and countries. If we factor in the total energy or carbon emissions cost of stuff we import then California doesn't look nearly as good.


I mean, it's not like your iPhone was made in Missouri.


Yep. And I salute them for their results. According to the US EIA,

"California's total energy consumption ranks among the highest in the nation, but, in 2015, the state's per capita energy consumption ranked 49th, due in part to its mild climate and its energy efficiency programs."

That per-capita figure results from action. Instead of just talking the talk, they've been actively building green capacity for decades.

"In 2016, California ranked ... first as a producer of electricity from solar, geothermal, and biomass resources."

https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=CA

Energy consumed per-capita across the US in 2016: https://www.eia.gov/state/rankings/#/series/12


I'm not against energy efficiency, however, conservation is fundamentally the wrong approach. What is the future going to look like?

- Earth will have another 10,20,30 Billion people living on it

- These people, if we don't screw up and start another war, will want a house, air conditioning, a car, air travel, lots of kids, and more

- Human will inhabit more parts of the Earth that are uninhabitable (Antarctica, Siberia, Canada, Australia), which will require an order of magnitude increase in energy for heating/cooling

- Industry and manufacturing will need to provide for the leisure spending of billions of additional humans (iPhones, Televisions, etc)

- New technologies will require orders of magnitude more energy, such as flying cars, space travel, etc.

The solution to these things isn't to crawl in a hole and try to shave a few % efficiencies out of a washing machine or a pickup truck. Energy isn't a limited resource. It's one of the most abundant things in the universe. With today's technology (Nuclear Fission and one day, Fusion) you could make energy more cheaply and abundantly than the air we breathe.

People should expect to behave as if energy is free. And energy should be free. The problem is that society at large (and NIMBYs and Anti-Nuclear activists) don't have any imagination and therefore set back our civilization and post-scarcity society 50-100 years.


Earth will have another 10,20,30 Billion people living on it

Luckily, we're looking at a very real possibility that we peak at 9 billion and then start to shrink from there. Which creates a whole host of other social issues, but at least gross overpopulation isn't one of them.


Sudden population shifts are really bad for stability.


It's not sudden.


The shifts in the average age and ratio of workers to retirees in Japan and America are absolutely sudden on societal level. 10-20 years is very long for an individual, but it's lightning quick otherwise.


That's at least a 30-40 year trend that everyone who studies demographics was aware of, not a 10 or 20 year trend that suddenly came out of nowhere. Japan's population stopped increasing meaningfully 30 years ago. There's no surprise or sudden jolt to their population declining over the coming decades. They'll have had a half century warning on the problem by the time meaningful decline sets in.

As a recent example, by the time China's population begins flat-lining on growth and or declining in an estimated six years or so at the current trend, we'll have known for 35-40 years that China was set to age rapidly.


30-40 years is sudden for societies. Just because individuals can predict in advance doesn’t mean that the society at large will successfully absorb the enormity of a change and then adapt to it. Hence, sudden.

For what it’s worth I think we’re still dealing with the destabilizing shock of the baby boomers outnumbering other generations, and have been dealing with that since the late 1960s.


> - Earth will have another 10,20,30 Billion people living on it

Unlikely.

> - These people, ... lots of kids, and more

Also unlikely.

> - Human will inhabit more parts of the Earth that are uninhabitable

Unlikely

> spending of billions of additional humans (iPhones, Televisions, etc)

Unlikely

> - New technologies will require orders of magnitude more energy, such as flying cars, space travel, etc.

Yes, likely.

World population is set to decrease. Birth rates in the US, UK, Japan, South Korea, China are all below replacement. This seems to be a general trend that happens when countries reach a certain level of development.

I think most models should show world population peaking, and then declining.

I agree that nuclear is probably our best bet. The high profile screw ups (like Fukushima) are annoying and decrease public trust. But we need to get better at creating/regulating safe nuclear solutions.


You underestimate how much efficiency we've gained. Have you looked up what old fridges used to use? Or compared a 56% AFUE furnace against a 96% unit? Trucks used to get like 6-8mpg, now some get 30mpg.


Not sure if you realize it — using more energy means releasing more of it as heat into the environment. You are literally heating the planet. So even if your energy is produced cleanly (say, nuclear), you still don't want to use crazy amounts of it.


Compared to Europe the US is doing better on carbon reduction seeing as the US went down and Europe went up. I'm not disagreeing that everyone should try to improve and the items you mentioned can be looked at, but comparing to Europe the US looks pretty good.


Do you have a cite for that? It's common in lobbying circles but they studiously avoid mentioning that the US was starting from a substantially higher baseline so EU consumption was still considerably lower. See for example the chart through 2014 here:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/01/climate/us-bi...


One source:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-energy-carbon-iea/global-...

> "Most major economies saw an increase in carbon emissions, though Britain, the United States, Mexico and Japan experienced declines.

The biggest drop came from the United States, where they were down 0.5 percent"


That’s exactly the dynamic I was talking about: the US percentage dropped more but that only made us less far behind the EU than we used to be. That’s not how almost anyone is going to interpret a statement that the US is doing better than the EU.


The US is currently doing a better job cutting emissions than the EU is. You're purposefully misreading the original statement which is very clear:

> "Compared to Europe the US is doing better on carbon reduction seeing as the US went down and Europe went up. "

The US is doing a better job on _carbon reduction_.


Again, you have to look at the actual data to avoid being mislead by that statement since it doesn’t have any context to let you know that the US is still significantly further behind. A single year which is within the range of normal year to year variation doesn’t invalidate a long-term trend.



2017. The charts you linked to end in 2014. In 2017 the US reduced carbon emissions[1]. The EU increased their emissions[2].

1 - https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/fossil-fuels/gas-... 2 - https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-carbon-climatechange/e...


The EU emits 50% as much per capita. A 0.5% reduction for the US isn't better than the EU in absolute terms.


Total output is what really matters, not just the per capita. The earth has a carrying limit for total emissions.

The EU has nearly 200 million more people than the US, roughly 60% more, squeezed into an area less than half the size of the US. Whose fault is that population density? The total EU emissions are ~80% as high as the US in ~45% of the land area (a drastically worse rate of emissions per km2), due to that population density. How do you think that emissions concentration impacts the local environment? Population matters, it's why we wouldn't have to care much if Iceland had 2x the per capita emission output of the US.

If your nation has three billion people - ie vast over-population - you shouldn't have the same per capita emissions considerations or concerns as a nation with three million. I understand that sounds unfair. The earth sets the real limitations and it doesn't care about perceived fairness.

If a country like Nigeria or Indonesia somehow rapidly expanded to five billion people, would it be acceptable for them to have the same per capita emission output of the EU? Obviously not. It'd be an environmental disaster for the planet due to the overall output. Population is the other critical factor in emissions (eg in China's case their emissions would be catastrophic at US per capita levels with 1.4b people in that small of an area).


Only means to decrease total CO2 output is increasing efficiency per capita CO2 output captures this very well. Population will not shrink anytime soon and moving people around at scale is not feasible.


So? Is 6.8 tons per person carbon neutral? No? Then Europe needs to be cutting, not increasing, their emissions.


Misleading chart. It's showing the average across the EU and not the total.


Why should we care about the total? EU and US are different sizes to begin with. Per capita seems to be appropriate here.


Then compare EU against US states individually - I'd wager the US result will drop significantly when you average the per capita results by state.


That is not how averages work.


Besides, doing that will most certainly inflate the number, considering US has many small rural states with much worse emission (per capita) than large, less carbon-intensive states like NY or CA.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_carbon_...

(By the way, what the hell is happening in Wyoming? 111.55 tons per person?)


Low population, but exporting coal-based power to the rest of the country? The top emissions are Wyoming, North Dakota, West Virginia, Alaska, and Louisiana, which are all big energy producers, and energy producers tend to have naturally high emissions.


Lots of cows in Wyoming.


The US is producing crazy amounts of natural gas, that probably leads to some reduction in the use of coal. I don't see much policy driving towards sustainable technology.


This already happens in at least two ways.

First way is called demand response, and entails the operator asking some users “how much is the next MW worth to you?” If no one can supply that MW at that price or less, the customer can agree to not consume that MW. It is significant for some operators, but by design of the market, is only an option for industrial customers, really.

Some utilities also offer a limited form of this, where you can allow them to shut off your AC, receiving a discount on your bill, generally.

Both work, in their way. Would have a much larger effect if they were more universal, and of the price signal were felt more strongly by consumers. Which I think was your point.


Europe was built (re-built after WW II) to be energy-efficient. Cars have diesel motors that make half the power of the same model in the USA. Air conditioning in the home is almost unheard-of. Nobody I know there has a clothes dryer that roasts your clothes with gas or electricity - the unit I had when I lived there was a washer/dryer combo with a really powerful spin cycle and then a mild heater coupled with a condensing unit (basically a dehumidifier) - clothes come out damp, so you have to hang them up to get to final dry-ness. All light bulbs are fluorescent, if not LED, and all lights in public buildings are on motion sensors or timer switches.

California skates by because the big population centers need almost zero heating or cooling, relatively speaking. Other than that, our power use would make a German Green Party member see red.


Homes are very poorly insulated here because it's not necessary. The climate is so nice, the heater only runs a month or two out of the year, and not even the whole day. It maybe brings up the inside temperature 5 degrees C. We could get by without air conditioning entirely, but I have it and it gets used perhaps for a total of two weeks in the summer.

Compare that to northern Europe where the outside temperature is below 0C for a lot of the winter, the payoff for properly insulating a house, installing new windows, etc, just isn't there. If you really wanted to save energy, move somewhere where you don't require so much energy to not freeze to death.


IMO California suffers from pride/nationalism on a state level. I grew up there, and everybody took it for granted we were the best at the environment. The most efficient, the most conservation minded, the works. But I left ten years ago and as I travel the states, I realize CA is not always the best. Not even most of the time. But due to this mindset, CA is never challenged to up their game by the good work other states do.


That may well happen. Keep in mind California doesn't have full control as a regulatory state: consider the special EPA waiver that came in, along with EPA itself, during the Nixon era. Many regulations one is accustomed to from the Federal government require such special permission to act. We might see a bevy of tax credits or the like over time to do the lifting.


As someone who lived in 3 Chicago apartments heated by radiator heat and had visible gaps in every single window, I'd be inclined to disagree with this assessment.


What would be the numerical impact of those efficiency gains (accounting for the cost of manufacturing new units to replace less efficient ones that may work just fine)


Hopefully "market forces" will cause this to occur as a by-product of this legislation.


Great suggestion! We've been working on that for decades already.


+ heated ceiling instead of floor in many apartments.


Politicians giving themselves a ~ 30-year runway is a farce. Promise you'll reduce it by 10% in 3 years, and I'll take you seriously.

This is garbage. Just like the return to the Moon promised by Regan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump ... always "15 to 20 years from now" ... and NEVER happens.

By the way - 10% in 3 years would be a perfect milestone to 100% in 30 years.


California generally has a good track record of hitting longer-term environmental goals. 2045 is a long way out, but it is a length that will allow for unclean plants to see through to their end-of-life, rather than kneecapping current plants/projects. I suspect the intent was to signal to energy producers that CA won't make their current investments worthless (otherwise it would drive away developers who have put investments in to our grid).

In other words, this was a "keep investing, but new plants need to be clean" move.


From the bill (sb100),

33 percent by December 31, 2020,

44 percent by December 31, 2024,

52 percent by December 31, 2027,

and 60 percent by December 31, 2030.

The commission shall establish appropriate three-year compliance periods for all subsequent years.


The UK has a law requiring ongoing cuts towards an 80% cut from 1990 to 2050, and we’re about half way through, and about half way there. If the government doesn’t keep to the pathway it can be sued and required to take action by the courts.

https://www.carbonbrief.org/ccc-cut-uk-emissions-61-by-2030-...


I agree with the sentiment but this is probably a more realistic goal. Germany, which is far more organized than the US in many respects, is failing to hit its climate goals for 2020.

It's just harder than people think. Same with public projects going over budget. The budget was never realistic in the first place.


I think "realistic" kind of depends on your goal. If you want to make it under 2C, I don't believe this is particularly realistic (i.e. not soon enough). If you want to avoid controversial actions and major changes to people's loves, sure it maybe too soon.


The pace is already going to beat that legislation at it’s current rate.

This codifies that they don’t drag behind.


> By the way - 10% in 3 years would be a perfect milestone to 100% in 30 years.

That would be a reduction to about 35% of the original after 30 years.


Keep the basis level constant, and 10% every three years fine :)


Always be suspicious when politicians pass legislation that doesn't take effect until after they leave office.


I understand this is amazing and totally love my state for doing it, but man seeing 2045 is always a little dismaying as I wish we could be even more aggressive. 2035 for example. I realize I am being too ambitious, but we went to space in a decade why not 100% clean energy in 1.5?


Politicians generally tend to choose deadlines that are beyond their terms. They get the approval of their voting base today without actually having to do much of anything to reach the goal itself.

I'm reminded of Bush calling for the US to return to the moon by 2020 -- a proposal Obama quietly nixed.

I'd much rather we say, "We're going to increase renewables by X% every year, starting now, to reach the goal of 100% renewables by 2045."


Even 2035 is still beyond most current politicians' terms. 100% clean energy will take a lot of work and more importantly determination. The closer you get to the goal, the more it takes to cover another percent. And you never know who comes next and decides to kick all the plans to the curb and subsidize coal (hypothetically speaking o_O). You need to add some buffers.

Another problem is that nobody else (at this scale at least) got there so it's hard to anticipate all the challenges. Germany, normally at 36% renewable energy, managed to reach that magic 100% figure on a winter early-morning this year. But nothing close to sustained generation. And they plan to get to 100% in 2060+. So California, currently at ~44% renewable energy, could be the first to hit the sustained 100%.

Another problem is that everyone defines "100% clean energy" in different ways, by leaving some sectors out of the count. Will this target cover electrical power or also aims at replacing all non-renewable sources of power for all applications?


Indeed. Don't give me an amazing goal plus a far-off horizon. If you want me to take you seriously, give me a concrete smaller goal and a very soon time-frame.

Instead say, "we will drop it by 10% in 3 years." Now you're telling me some useful truth to which I can hold you accountable (ooh, politicians HATE that). Incidentally, 10% in 3 years would be a perfect milestone to 100% in 30 years, so if these politicians WERE being honest (they're not), then they should have no reason to refuse the 10% in 3 years idea.


We already did that, though. Originally it was 20% of electricity by 2010, 33% by 2020, and 50% by 2030. The first two have already been met.


TLDR:

"This bill would state that it is the policy of the state that eligible renewable energy resources and zero-carbon resources supply 100% of retail sales of electricity to California end-use customers and 100% of electricity procured to serve all state agencies by December 31, 2045."

Source: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtm...


> retail sales of electricity to California end-use customers and 100% of electricity procured to serve all state agencies

From this I take they don't plan to necessarily eliminate all carbon emitting energy sources but rather just the ones used to produce electricity. This would make the goal a little more achievable but also makes it a moving target. As different industries move from burning carbon based fuel to electricity the demand also increases which will still affect the balance between clean and dirty energy.

There are plans to ban ICE engines and other fuel burning applications so the demand for electricity will see a sharp rise. It's more that achievable to be 100% green in 2045 assuming the energy consumption trend of the past. But the future will probably see that trend go from relatively linear to something exponential for at least a few decades until the switch is done. Covering that difference will be the real challenge.


Note how it's end-user consumers (and government offices). So it won't hurt CA's business users, cause them to relocate to other states.

As always, devil's in the details. In the meantime, the headline looks impressive, which is frankly all these critters care about.


I read end-users as simply customers that intend to consume the electricity in CA as opposed to those who buy it to potentially resell it across state borders. This will probably be cleared up later.


Wow. Thanks for contextualizing this goal. Great example.


Going to space probably would've taken a lot longer if there were a ton of legacy low quality low-Earth orbit spacecraft floating all over that we first had to upgrade or remove.


They knew how to go to the moon in 1961, at least in principle. It was "just" engineering. They don't know how to get to 100% renewables, not even in principle. (The 100% plans need a storage technology that doesn't exist, yet.)


I feel the same way about nearly everything in California. For example the first phase of the HSR project, which will serve pretty much no purpose whatsoever, is planned for 2029 which means realistically 2035, which might not even be in my lifetime. Meanwhile, in China, https://twitter.com/CarlZha/status/1034348241402265601


Authoritarian governments don’t have to answer to individual communities so long as the overall population has their basic needs covered and only minorities are dissatisfied.

California is one of the more democratic (small “d” is the relevant one here) of the States, and that generally means compromise, transparency (making horse trading more difficult), accountability and compensation for the dissatisfied, no matter how small of a minority they might be.

If San Francisco and Los Angeles could just dictate terms and agreed that it is better that the 4 or so largest population centers in the State have a direct high speed rail line with each other, you could eschew all of that and get it done in a few years.


I'm with you. It's awesome that we're doing this and I think it will be good for future generations.

Long term infrastructure investments take a long time, and it's weird to me to think that we might not even be around to enjoy the benefit, but needing to be done is needing to be done. I think this is exactly the kind of change in thinking we need, that we should take on such efforts, even if they take a long time, now.

However, I also concur, I wish we could be even more aggressive. It would be interesting to know if there is a staggered approach and if those dates are sooner (didn't RTFA... to be honest, maybe it was in there). Maybe we'll be 65% electric by 2035 or something, that would still be pretty great, right?


It would be nice if there were say goals of over 90% by 2030; that gives you 12 years to build and decommission or convert existing fossil-fuel plants to sustainable alternatives.

The hard problem is the storage and peak handling, hopefully with 90% you could cover that too.

A real space-race goal - the kind that I would really have expected from America - would be to be carbon neutral within a decade. That would initially spur investment in natural carbon sinks whilst massively rewarding innovation in that area (which we desperately need - we have two centuries of carbon that needs removing from the atmosphere).

Heck, it would also be wise to investigate geo-engineering - to understand in detail how our planet works, and develop methods for altering it. Could we develop technology which would allow us to, say, counter a massive volcano (or a super volcano?).


Agreed. Sadly, I believe the way things are going, geo-engineering will be required, not optional. At planerary scale, clearly it's a non-trivial problem, but we probably should be working on it much harder.

I like your inspiration for setting such goals as carbon neutral in America. That's the kind of thinking we need.


These sorts of transitions take a lot of time. There's a lot of infrastructure to build and a lot of infrastructure to decommission.

In addition to the political problems, extensively noted by others here, there are also the social problems.

Power plants and the associated industries are full of low-skill/education workers. Some can be re-trained into other industries, but some cannot.

An example is happening right now in Arizona. With so many coal plants being shut down, the Navajo Nation and other nearby tribes are being devastated.

These are already people who were dirt poor, living in a place that few want to go. There's few opportunities for employment. The one industry they had was supplying coal to utilities as far away as California. They even built a pipeline to flush coal clear across the state to Nevada.

Now all those jobs are going away, and there's zero industry left.

They're trying to build solar farms, but companies like Southern California Edison aren't interested in buying the power because solar plants can be built closer to home, and don't need new transmission lines to be built.

So a bunch of left coast technocrats get to pat themselves on the backs for saving the environment, while further marginalizing the people who saved the environment for them for a thousand years.


I'm more cynical about California than most, but these policies are a positive force for environmental change and history has shown they aren't empty promises.

Like all policy change, it will create winners and losers. While it's unfortunate Navajo Nation may be the latter, it shouldn't mean we stop moving forward.


Or another way of putting it, the Navajo Nation may lose in the short term, but without these transitions, they and everybody else could end up losing much more over a far longer timescale.

I do, however, believe that green power policy should include assistance to the people and communities affected negatively by decarbonization, as the pain to those folks is much higher than it is to wealthy Californians who merely pay slightly higher taxes to get the new energy production and efficiency measures installed.


assistance to the people and communities affected negatively by decarbonization

The utilities could just build the new power plants where the old ones were. Same result, without an overt handout.


The Navajo Nation has excellent solar resources. And new solar projects are being built on the reservation:

https://tucson.com/business/tribally-owned-solar-power-plant...

http://ktar.com/story/2189238/navajo-nation-kayenta-solar-re...

https://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/news/2018/01/26/navajos-...

You wouldn't be able to replace the annual energy output of the Navajo Generating Station just with solar farms built on former NGS land, of course, because coal can be turned into electricity in a much smaller area. But if you consider the 44,000 acre leased area of the Kayenta Mine that supplies NGS with coal, you could actually get more annual energy production from the same area by switching to solar.


Like all policy change, it will create winners and losers

Translation: It sucks to be poor. And an indian. Where did I park my Tesla?


Also, what does "Clean Electricity" mean? I signed up for CleanPowerSF which only cost me 2¢/kWh more, if I remember right: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CleanPowerSF


It's relatively easy for one person to source clean power themselves, just means that technically your payment goes to a wind farm instead of the grid as a whole, but really doesn't change much for the grid. It's much harder for everyone to get clean power, then you get very advanced issues balancing the variable nature of renewable generation.

In this case I believe it means carbon-free, so Nuclear is still technically viable though very unlikely any new Nuclear will be built. Will be mostly existing hydro, nuclear and geothermal with new solar & wind phasing out gas plants.


I appreciate your enthusiasm, but this is like comparing apples to pitbulls. Both of these goals are big milestones, but fundamentally different.

With space, everything that was created and invested was brand new. There was not too much worrying about existing infrasture. Often, there would be thousands of people working to make 1 individual mission happen. Energy in the US is a lot different. For instance, you have to keep the massive machine that is the electricity transmission and distribution grids running.

Here's a scope of the challenges of 100% renewables, for anyone without a background in this (one should view challenges as opportunities):

First, there's a lot of existing generation that would need to be sunsetted and even more that would need to be created. In fact, given the intermittency of renewables, there would need to be a multiple more of capacity than there is now given the capacity factor, usually divide 1/CapacityFactor (see more on that here: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/57582.pdf). So, 4 GW of installed wind capacity is really only expected to output ~1 GW at any point in time, given the intermittencies.

Second, there will have to be a lot of upgrades made to the transmission grid (sending power long distances from large scale renewable generators to population centers), and the distribution grid (sends power to all the buildings and homes in a city). The distribution grid upgrades to be made will have to help it handle a lot more rooftop solar, home batteries, and electric vehicles.

Third, there will have to be a lot more storage installed. Electric vehicles can have a large impact here, but there will still be a need for in-home and grid-scale batteries. Batteries are also just getting to the point where they're economically-feasible in some uses. There is still a ways to go for batteries to be economical enough to be widespread, especially grid-scale. Physical storage of electricity will likely have to grow too (think: pump to a higher lake when prices are low, and let it flow back down and turn a turbine when it's needed).

Fourth, and this is definitely my opinion (and what I'm working on), is that we are going to have to make everything work together more. We can't have all these batteries, solar panels, and other connected appliances and thermostats do whatever they want at the distribution level. We will have to change to time-varying rate structures for end-consumers, but this won't be enough either. Communication and coordination will yield the best results.

I tried to be brief. If anyone has any more questions or thoughts about this, I would love to hear them!


would you be disappointed if you had 95% clean energy in 2035?


Is nuclear part of the bill? It is clean but I don't see any mention of it either way in the article other than in the graph of current sources.


Whenever I ride around Berkeley, CA I see a sea of "nuclear-free zone" signs on roads filled with Prius traffic. It's not so easy to understand the real agendas here.


> It's not so easy to understand the real agendas here.

The real agenda has a lot more to do with impressing your neighbors with how eco-conscious you are (ideally via cheap signals like signs and bumper stickers) than it does with costly and difficult initiatives like figuring out how to meet the world's energy requirements in a sustainable way.


The real agenda has a lot more to do with impressing your neighbors with how eco-conscious you are (ideally via cheap signals like signs and bumper stickers)

This tired bullshit again?

Yes, we understand that everyone could be doing more to help some cause, and that some people care more about appearances than improving the world, and some people do legitimately good deeds for ‘selfish’ reasons like increased self-esteem.

The “virtue-signaling” “every decent action in the world is done just to impress one’s tribe” meme is getting old.


If you say you support something, but don't want to take actions that demonstrably promote what you are supporting, you are virtue signalling. It's quite simple, and it's maddening.


"Maddening" implies discomfort. If people didn't virtue signal, it would eliminate that discomfort. You don't like the discomfort, otherwise you would have written that you find virtue-signaling being maddening an enjoyable experience. If it was neutral, you wouldn't use an emotional word to describe it. Since you don't find the feeling enjoyable or neutral, and because of the meaning of "maddening," that means you don't like it. Therefore, to prevent your discomfort, you support people not virtue-signaling.

What action are you taking to demonstrably promote the reduction of virtue-signaling?

It seems like much of the calling out of alleged virtue-signaling is virtue-signaling itself.


Virtue signalling in this context is giving the impression of doing something.

Saying "We should treat the environment better" while being honest about your own [lack of] contribution is perfectly fine.

By the same token, I can complain about a group, and as long as I don't claim that my complaints magically fixed the problem, that's fine.


By the same token, I can complain about a group, and as long as I don't claim that my complaints magically fixed the problem, that's fine.

That's not at all how people use it colloquially.

Nobody is claiming that bumper stickers, Priuses, statements of "thoughts and prayers," or changing one's Facebook profile picture magically fix any problem. And yet those are the exact things that get labeled virtue-signalling.

In this thread alone, jaredhansen mentions "ideally via cheap signals like signs and bumper stickers" - though admittedly doesn't say virtue signals. x220's definition is also at odds with yours. https://hn.algolia.com/?query=virtue-signalling is rife with examples.

The incessant cries of virtue-signalling on the web absolutely do not require someone claiming that they've "magically fixed" any problem, and are almost entirely gate-keeping, goalpost-moving, ad hominem attacks, simple partisanship, and general lazy argumentation.


Okay, I've thought about it a bit more, and I think I figured out how to word things precisely.

A bumper sticker signals "I care".

A prius, in theory, signals "I am actively helping, a lot".

They're both kinds of "virtue signalling", but they're very different in scope.

The 'maddening' thing is not when people signal they care a little bit. It's when people signal they care a lot, but their actions contradict that.


I support not virtue signalling. I would be happier if people said what they meant and didn't virtue signal. I do not virtue signal; I don't care much what people think about my political opinions. I think I'm internally consistent in this regard.


But they are taking actions. You're trying to complain that they're not doing enough to satisfy you.


Not quite. The complaint is that they are taking anti-action too, enough that their net action might be less than zero.


Nobody is chaining themselves to the equipment and preventing energy companies from building more nuclear plants. Heck, judging by the Dakota Access Line protests, that doesn't work anyways in the long run.

The reason why more plants aren't being built is because they are not cost effective compared to other options. You can argue that maybe the government or whoever could do more research to change this, but every company that wants a nuclear plant in the U.S. has one already. Until the engineering and regulatory situation changes so that it's easier to build a nuclear plant than it is to build a solar one, they're going to keep building the latter instead of the former.


I have a prius and I don't care about my neighbor's opinions. It was just available cheap to em used and doesn't use as much gas.

How have you decided you can speak for all prius owners? If people ARE trying to "keep up with the Joneses" by buying priuses instead of SUVs and Corvettes that would be a great agenda.


Who said they are speaking for all prius owners?


Funny enough, there is a solution for more safely disposing of nuclear waste that is coming out of Berkeley.

http://www.deepisolation.com

They are a company to pay attention to IMHO.


Nuclear waste is not an actual problem and the only reason there is no 'solution' is because it has turned into a political shit show.

Worrying about nuclear waste at the beginning of the nuclear age when most of that waste is actually valuable fuel is downright idiotic.


You can't dismiss the waste problem out of hand given the environmental problems at places like Hanford [0] and the costs of safely decommissioning old plants, especially damaged ones like Fukushima [1]. There's abundant evidence that it's a costly, poisonous mess if done badly.

Personally I don't think this is the biggest problem with nuclear power, and it's certainly not in and of itself a reason to switch to alternatives. But it's not an issue to ignore either.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanford_Site

[1] https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/03/24/national/estima...


The output of a nuclear reactor isn’t waste, it is fuel for a different kind of reactor. If we built those reactors (called a breeder reactor) then we could safely and economically use that fuel, recycling so much that the actual waste would go from tons of material filling Olympic class swimming pools, to a few barrels. Nuclear power, done properly, is the cleanest source of energy we have.

Why don’t we? Politics and the lack of military uses.


> the lack of military uses

As opposed to all those military uses of dams and wind turbines. Right. And of course, I wonder what the fuss is all about with Iran, then...

The reason nuclear is in decline is the track record of spectacular disasters: Three Mile, Chernobyl, and now Fukushima. Get at least a generation without massive failures, and people might be willing to give nuclear a chance; but there have been 3 in my lifetime alone!

(Plus, in any country not as big and isolated as the US, any plant is a massive weakness from a defense perspective...)


I mean, if you want to talk about safety records of power production, I'd like to point out that fossil fuels kill about 3 million a year, and biofuel (wood, dung) kills about 4.3 million a year. Those estimates are from 2012.

Nuclear is nowhere close to that over the past half century of use, even if you toss in fatalities caused by nuclear weapons, which is a whole different category.

Realistically, installation of solar and wind is actually more dangerous than Nuclear, because of falls.


What I mean is that the fuel reprocessing designs aren’t miniaturizable, so government money wasn’t spent developing them because they couldn’t be used in aircraft carriers or submarines. When civilian power plants were made, it was basically just scaled up military designs. The same contractors built both.

Also the fact that we use uranium instead of the safer and more abundant thorium is because you can’t make thorium bombs.

The reactors that have failed are these military derivative designs that lack safety features because there is no space for them in a submarine. No modern design has had such a failure, or could have such a failure since they have no reliance on active cooling and have safeguards to structurally prevent a core meltdown.


You can't bring up the externalities of Nuclear and then ignore the externalities of literally every other clean energy source. How many people in China were killed building Hydro plants, how many poisoned by heavy metals manufacturing solar equipment?

Nuclear has its issues, but everything else does too.


"how many poisoned by heavy metals manufacturing solar equipment"

Zero? How many people have died making manufacturing computers, tvs, toys, or appliances; all of which have all the same heavy metals as solar panels by virtue of being electronic goods? This is essentially FUD. A single PV panel can generate 5-10 Mwh over its service life, conservatively. On the low end that is equivalent to about 2 tons of coal. Since coal contains a broad cross section of heavy metals and they become more bioavailable when burned, I think you're better off with the panels.


The people at Foxconn would love to talk with you.


Hanford is a cite of nulcear production for military use and there were problems with that.

It has little to do with nuclear waste for civilian use today and is in no way comparable to civilian nuclear waste and how it is stored.

Also, Fukushima is the exception of the exception, it is a bit of land that can not be used for long while its not a lot of land and its in a nuclear exclusion zone anyway.

I don't want to ignore the issue, but I will just say that the amount of time, ink and energy spend on it is way out of proportion to how much it matters

People keep making the argument that climate change is a existential issue but then saw, well, nuclear is not a solution because of this nuclear waste problem. That is insane reasoning in my opinion.


Just build a fence around Fukushima and ignore it. It's hardly worse than all the toxic coal dumps.


No, it actually is a problem. It has to be stored for millennia, and in a way that does not leak/contaminate surroundings (including ground water). Very little technology /materials can meet those requirements[0], and the current situation is a damn mess[1].

0. http://www.nwtrb.gov/docs/default-source/reports/synopsis-of...

1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/05/0...


Right now nuclear waste can and should be recycled which would reduce the amount of waste: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_waste

Soon it will be possible to use most of the waste as fuel: "...Fast reactors can "burn" long lasting nuclear transuranic waste (TRU) waste components (actinides: reactor-grade plutonium and minor actinides), turning liabilities into assets. Another major waste component, fission products (FP), would stabilize at a lower level of radioactivity than the original natural uranium ore it was attained from in two to four centuries, rather than tens of thousands of years"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_fast_reactor

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_IV_reactor

While there are issues with nuclear power, the worry people have about nuclear waste is greatly overblown to say the least. The amounts generated are manageable and in a relatively short amount of time we can use most of this "waste" to generate electricity. (The same can't be said for coal waste - like just about everything else associated with burning coal, coal waste is an environmental diaster.)


> can and should be recycled

Well, it's not, and there doesn't seem to be much focus by the DoE to do so. Therefore storage of waste is still a major problem if you want to generate electricity with nuclear power plants in the US.


The limiting factor is politics not technology.

The politics around nuclear waste are preventing the construction of reactor designs which exist today which could take waste that exists today and use it with an output with a much more manageable half-life than the waste we have just sitting around right now.


> The limiting factor is politics not technology.

Right... The only technical problem, how to store waste indefinitely, is only a problem because there's a larger political problem that prevents the waste from being recycled/reused. Since the political problem is highly unlikely to be resolved within a few decades, that leaves us with the technical problem of how to deal with the waste as we are currently generating/storing it.


There is already a place to store it in Finland that is going active soon.

The is a great place that has been identified, tested and evaluated in the US. Most experts agree that it is a site that would work perfectly fine.

But guess what, its insane political battles that stopped this from being used and that is still the case.

Even so, without a end solution, there is no problem with storing it in a different place for a couple 100 years as it has a tiny volume.


The amounts of hi-level waste generated are manageable and no one is claiming we are in danger of imminently running out of space. Long before this becomes a problem we will either recycle the waste or use most of this "waste" to generate electricity. While there are issues with nuclear power, the worry some people have about nuclear waste is greatly overblown to say the least.


Only if you don't use it. The intelligent thing would be to burn in in a subcritical reactor[0]. This would let you produce more electricity from nuclear "waste", turning it into different material that's safer to dispose of.

0. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subcritical_reactor


Isn't that mostly because we don't reprocess waste here like they do in France and elsewhere?


You'd think fossil fuels would have taught us the value of foresight wouldn't you? Even if you were aware of the consequence of excessive CO2 from the advent of the era, it could easily have been dismissed. 'Worrying about a bit of extra CO2 at the beginning of the industrial age is downright idiotic. There's a lot of atmosphere around our planet, and a bit of extra CO2 is good for the plants anyhow!'

There's a huge difference in nuclear going from a small chunk of our present day power generation to eras where some see it as being the primary generator for whatever exponential increases in energy we'll be using in the future. This change in scale really should affect how you look at things. Nuclear in particular has some pretty catastrophic fail scenarios, major decommissioning issues, and other problems. These can kind of be hand-waved away at current levels, but can't when you start talking about increasing operations on the order of magnitudes.

And when you start talking about things like this you're also implicitly alluding to breeder reactors, salt-water extraction, and other technologies that not only add substantial complexity (and side issues) but also greatly increase the costs relative to present day nuclear, which poses even more issues in terms of sustainability.

For all intents and purposes solar is pretty much a flawless method of energy production. The one issue is night time production, but there are countless ways to store energy even if we ignore more utopic scenarios like global high energy direct current lines constantly transiting energy to where it needs to go. Given the practically unlimited generation possibilities the loss of energy involved in either storage or transit are not really that big of a deal, and would not affect expected pricing the same way as dealing with nuclear's practical problems of scale will.


> Nuclear waste is not an actual problem

If you're comfortable eating food grown in the soil grown around uranium processing plants then by all means go ahead.


I am fully comfortable with that (not parent though) and have even done so on several occasions.

You do realize we can detect contamination by radioactive elements in quatities many orders of magnitude lower than could conceivably cause any harm right?

On the other hand, I live in Europe and our local government has yet to produce a complete environment monitoring fail such as the Flint incident in the USA.


I would consider Flint to be an infrastructure crisis rather than environmental. Lead piping and insufficient water treatment are due to infrastructure that is inadequate.


Appeal to irrational fear. Are you comfortable with radio towers blasting you with radiation?


> Are you comfortable with radio towers blasting you with radiation?

Nope. I always keep my phone in airplane mode when I'm not using it.


That doesn't change the amount of energy you receive from a radio tower at all...

You should be more worried about wearing sunscreen every day than the amount of energy you get from any wireless antenna. The sun puts out vastly more electromagnetic radiation than any wireless device ever will per cubic foot/meter/whatever.


But how do you turn off the towers?


> But how do you turn off the towers?

You vote for Jill Stein.


that's an old idea


Berkeley is a long-standing home to nuclear physics practitioners, and there are nuclear-you-know-whats designed in the national labs.. its not a settled thing


60% has to be wind and solar, the remaining 40% may be hydro and nuclear.


California is actually in the middle of shutting down the last nuclear source they have.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diablo_Canyon_Power_Plant#Clos...


The sooner it shuts down the better, given the design and risks of the plant[1]

1 - https://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear-power/nuclear-power-accidents...


Absolute bullshit. Its one of the best run and safest nuclear plants in the world.

Union of concerned scientists is nothing but an anti-nuclear lobbying group the same as Greenpeace and others. All they do is spread FUD or outright lies.


I am pro-nuclear and agree that it needs to be shut down. Any nuclear power plant that wasn't built this century needs to go away, we should not be running any pressurized water reactors.

The latest generation of nuclear power plants are very safe and have passive nuclear safety which requires no active measures to shut down a reactor safely which significantly reduces the risk of a meltdown. The biggest problem with nuclear power is old generation power plants that fail and cause negative sentiment towards nuclear power. I really hope we invest in generation IV nuclear power plants which deal with reducing nuclear waste and adds even more safety.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_IV_reactor


Its insane to shut down something liek 20% of the nations power supply that is zero carbon.

The current generation has its problems but shutting down before end of life is a absolutely insane idea in every possible way.

You can't magically replace 20% of the nations energy production with GenIV reactors. That not how technology works.

GenIV reactors are great and the companies building them will hopefully do it in the 2020 but to even then, the focus should be on replacing coal not existing nuclear.


Do you have any references for your assertions about "best run and safest nuclear plants in the world"?

Management of the plant does not discount the safety concerns with the plant location and design, of which there are many critics [1]

1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diablo_Canyon_earthquake_vulne...


Until recently I was extremely pro nuclear, but in the past months I've been researching renewable energy and have changed my mind.

I hope not. For a similar cost you can actually turn coal power into massive carbon storage.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bio-energy_with_carbon_captu...

This is actually pretty ingenious, if it works at industrial scale then it's better than even wind and solar power.


> and have changed my mind.

> I hope not.

Care to explain why you have changed your mind?


The alternatives are better. Nuclear is expensive even before you factor in the decommissioning costs. With those costs factored in it just doesn't make any sense.

Invest that money in geothermal, hydro, solar, wind and eventually tidal power and you get far more bang-for-your-buck.

Convert coal plants to burn biomass combined with carbon capture and geological storage and you get power which - whilst more expensive - removes carbon from the air. The more you use it the more carbon it removes.

Given these developments, why build new nuclear plants?

Closing down plants which are still viable on the other hand seems like pure madness.

If (when?) we can design nuclear plants which are both economical, safe and don't have the externalized decommissioning costs then it would also be foolish not to include them in the mix.


>The alternatives are better. Nuclear is expensive even before you factor in the decommissioning costs.

Nuclear is very cheap for producing the base load. You also shouldn't compare the price of different energy sources in isolation. If an electricity market goes 100% solar and wind for example, it will get power outages soon. Storing the energy of varying power generators is expensive with current technology.

>Given these developments, why build new nuclear plants?

You can create cheap and clean eletricity.

>If (when?) we can design nuclear plants which are both economical, safe and don't have the externalized decommissioning costs then it would also be foolish not to include them in the mix.

Nuclear plants are economical and safe.


Geothrenal is limited geographically. Iceland has plenty but a tiny population. California has a lot but it’s largely tapped out and what we do have is sufficient only for the communities nearby to the plants.

Your hypothetical biomass burning coal plants are still that: hypothetical. If they work at scale, add that to the list.

Damming up rivers has its own problems, but this is largely moot: the majority of lakes in California are dam lakes and damn near every river with good capacity in the State is already dammed up.

Tidal power is likely to have other environmental concerns. If mitigating these concerns still makes it cheaper than nuclear plants, fine, but I’m not going to support the installation of any new tech that screws with coastal ecosystems the same way we screwed up prior river and lake ecosystems.


Yeah, tidal power is a joke. First, its not cheap at all, and the type that produce a decent amount of energy do much more harm to the environment than good.


Nuclear is only expensive because the current climate from anti-nuclear movements buries each plant in red tape and makes them all one off designs.

Windmills would be extremely expensive as well if each one was designed with a custom generator and custom blades.


Yeah, economics is where nuclear really falls apart. Once we get our renewable storage game on point there will be no place in the world for nuclear power, economically.


It's sad, but no.

At this point, people have, apparently rightly, concluded that the need for profit is fundamentally incompatible with running a nuclear reactor.

San Onofre is a good example. It has been plagued by operational and mechanical problems over the years simply because nobody is willing to spend enough money to do it right. Given that, shutting it down is pretty much the only option.


There is only one nuclear power plant in California (Diablo Canyon) and it is scheduled to be decommissioned without a replacement.


New construction of nuclear plants is constitutionally limited in California and has been since well before I was born. Existing capacity is just leftover from before that era.


There may be some imports of nuclear-sourced power from Arizona and Washington state.


That might be a possibility, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that it is actually pretty pathetic we have to import power to make up our energy needs at all.

When I last looked at the stats a few years ago we were importing about 30% of our power from other States and it was trending upwards.


The Californian regulatory environment is very costly. It is natural for power producers to build new capacity elsewhere.

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