Trump’s announcement yesterday that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement (although technically not for another three years or so) was a big victory for his die-hard political supporters. A significant percentage of Republican voters simply discount climate science and hate the idea of global cooperation to address it.
Why do they feel that way? There’s been a fair amount of research on the question, but the bottom line is that they must feel like climate policies and programs will have no benefit for them — and may instead drive up their costs and undermine their employment opportunities.
At the same time, the U.S. economy has experienced an uneven recovery since the last recession, which has essentially only benefited the urban, knowledge-based parts of the country while almost completely leaving behind the rest with stagnant or declining wages. And that’s where these Trump voters made their stand and determined the election last year.
The irony though is that climate policies and related investments have a huge potential to benefit these rural areas and compensate for the tectonic economic changes that have left them behind. Just take California’s San Joaquin Valley, a poor and economically challenged part of the state. Our recent Berkeley Law report with Next 10 and UC Berkeley’s Labor Center showed that California’s three major climate programs — cap-and-trade, renewable energy, and energy efficiency — boosted the San Joaquin Valley’s economy by more than $13 billion and created thousands of new jobs to date.
Or take high speed rail, which is a long-term effort to move people around the state on low-carbon electricity rather than petroleum-guzzling cars and airplanes. The Sacramento Bee editorial writers argued in support of the project precisely for its economic benefit to the San Joaquin Valley:
The $20 billion Central Valley to Silicon Valley leg won’t carry commuters until 2025, give or take. But once it does, the forgotten part of California that coastal residents fly over or zip past en route to Yosemite will become connected to the rest of the state and gain their share of California’s bounty. That’s not a boondoggle. That’s fair.
Nationally, a “deep decarbonization” strategy for the entire U.S., with its attendant investments in the electricity grid and vehicle electrification, could generate up to 2 million jobs by 2050, according to ICF International. Many of those jobs would happen in the economically challenged parts of the country that supported Trump and his decision yesterday.
So the solution to building more political support for climate change policies therefore rests within the solutions to combat climate change in the first place. But given recent events, that message is simply not coming across to the parts of the country that need to hear it.
California aims to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and a new bill now in the legislature seeks to get to 100% renewables by 2045. A significant amount of this energy will come from solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, with much of the deployment likely to occur in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
But these facilities often engender controversy related to the loss of agricultural and biologically sensitive lands, among other conflicts. How can stakeholders and policy makers ensure that future solar PV deployment occurs only in “least-conflict” lands (which are least likely to engender objections and possibly litigation) in the San Joaquin Valley region and beyond?
This was a subject that Berkeley Law covered in last year’s report “A Path Forward: Identifying Least-Conflict Solar PV Development in California’s San Joaquin Valley.” It is also the topic for discussion at a free evening event next week, Tuesday, June 6th, from 5:30 to 7pm at Farella Braun + Martel LLP’s downtown San Francisco office.
In addition to my overview of the report, panelists will include:
- Erica Brand, Director, California Energy Program, The Nature Conservancy
- Renee Robin, Senior Counsel, Allen Matkins
- Diane Ross-Leach, Director, Environmental Policy, PG&E Company
For those who missed the webinar held by Berkeley Law on the new report Economic Impacts of California’s Major Climate Programs on the San Joaquin Valley, you can watch a recorded version here and below.
The report assessed the economic and employment impacts of California’s ambitious climate policies on the San Joaquin Valley, including cap and trade, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. In addition to me and moderator Jordan Diamond, the webinar featured:
The video runs about an hour. Happy viewing!
Back in January, Berkeley Law and labor market researchers released a report on the economic and employment impacts of California’s ambitious climate policies on the San Joaquin Valley. The Economic Impacts of California’s Major Climate Programs on the San Joaquin Valley addressed compliance and investment costs as well as the benefits across the region.
Ultimately, our research team found that the economic benefits of California’s major climate programs exceed costs. It was the first comprehensive, academic study of the costs and benefits of these policies on this economically and environmentally distressed region.
To discuss the findings, the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE) at Berkeley Law will host a one-hour webinar with the report authors on Wednesday from 1 to 2pm. In addition to yours truly, the webinar will feature:
You can register for this event here. Hope you can tune in and ask your questions!
A number of prominent leaders in California’s San Joaquin Valley have opposed policies to combat climate change, in part due to the assumed economic costs on the region. But as our UC Berkeley/Next 10 study released last week shows, those policies are benefiting the regional economy to the tune of over $13 billion.
Over the weekend, the Sacramento Bee published an op-ed co-authored by me, Betony Jones and Noel Perry. Here’s a highlight passage on the benefits of renewables and cap-and-trade:
Renewable energy projects have brought $11.6 billion in economic activity to the valley. From 2002 to 2015, renewable programs created about 31,000 direct jobs here, as people were hired to build, operate and maintain generating facilities. Another 57,000 jobs were created indirectly, as suppliers and supporting businesses expanded. That’s 88,000 jobs in a part of the state that really needs them.
We also looked at California’s carbon cap-and-trade program, which affects the valley disproportionately because regulated industries are concentrated here. Cap-and-trade auction proceeds have been spent on high-speed rail, affordable housing, irrigation modernization, electric vehicle incentives and other emissions-reducing projects.
After subtracting compliance and other costs of cap and trade, we found direct economic benefits of $119 million and $200 million with indirect benefits included. Once auction proceeds that have been approved but not yet dispersed are spent, the region can expect $1 billion in direct benefits, plus $500,000,000 in indirect benefits. Cap and trade has netted the valley more than 700 direct and 1,600 indirect jobs from 2013 through 2015.
I’m glad to see these Valley outlets cover the findings, as residents of the region should be the first to learn of the data we found. The report dispels the common assumption that these environmental policies hurt the local economy. While certain Valley industries incur compliance costs, the deployment of clean technologies and other carbon-fighting programs are providing a much greater offsetting boost.
Climate policies are under political attack, both in California and nationally. The common argument is that these policies hurt the economy and destroy jobs, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
To assess those claims, the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) at UC Berkeley Law and UC Berkeley’s Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy, working with the nonpartisan nonprofit Next 10, released today the first comprehensive cost/benefit study of climate policies in the San Joaquin Valley, one of California and the nation’s most economically and environmentally vulnerable regions.
The Economic Impacts of California’s Major Climate Programs On The San Joaquin Valley specifically looked at the impact of cap-and-trade, renewable energy, and energy efficiency programs in the eight-county region.
Why the Valley? Simply put, if climate policies can work in this region, they can work anywhere. In addition, the region’s elected leaders have asked questions about the impact of climate policies on their constituents, raising their concerns both in the state legislature and now nationally in the congress.
After examining the data and using advanced modeling software, we found that these three programs (among the most important in California’s suite of climate policies) brought over $13 billion in economic benefits to the Valley, mostly in renewable energy, and created over 31,000 jobs just in the renewable energy sector alone.
With the relatively new cap-and-trade program, we found that despite the compliance costs in the heavily industrial Valley, the benefits from state spending of the allowance auction proceeds outweighed those costs, particularly due to construction of high speed rail, which is funded in part with these funds. Furthermore, once the state disburses proceeds already collected from the auction, those benefits will increase greatly.
The overall benefits to the Valley are likely to continue and grow through 2030, as the state strives to meet its newly legislated climate goals for that year, via last year’s SB 32 (Pavley) and SB 350 (De Leon, 2015). Those efforts will require at least 50% renewables by 2030, a doubling of energy efficiency in existing buildings, and a more robust cap-and-trade program.
However, the benefits of cap-and-trade may cease if litigation over the auction mechanism (described by Ann Carlson at UCLA Law) is successful, as that mechanism allows the state to spend the proceeds that provide the benefits. Furthermore, federal action to undercut renewables and energy efficiency could also slow the gains.
Ultimately though, California is committed to its path and these programs through bipartisan legislation and regulations. Given the economic data we see in this study, its a path that the state should continue — and it can hopefully now inform federal debates about environmental policy and the need for job-producing programs.
Capitol Weekly in Sacramento yesterday ran an op-ed from me and Jim Strittholt of Conservation Biology Institute on our recent solar PV mapping effort. Highlight passage:
When we combined the separate maps, the result was pretty remarkable: Out of the 9.5 million acres in the stakeholder study area, the groups identified 470,000 acres of ideal, non-controversial land for solar PV development, or roughly 5 percent of the Valley study area. At a generic calculation of 1 megawatt of solar PV production from 5 acres of panels, that means the lands identified could provide 94,000 megawatts of renewable power – greater than all combined in-state generation capacity and enough to power as many as 23 million homes in California with low-cost, clean electricity. And that’s just from the San Joaquin Valley.
To achieve California and the post-Paris world’s climate goals, we’re going to need a whole lot more renewable energy. Given current market trends, much of it will come from solar photovoltaic (PV), which has gotten incredibly cheap in the last few years. But deploying these solar panels at utility scale will mean major changes to our landscapes. And that means conflicts with traditional environmental and agricultural values.
Here in California, these conflicts could slow the state’s effort to achieve 50 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030. A significant deployment of large-scale solar PV will occur in places like the San Joaquin Valley, an agriculturally rich region with lots of solar exposure (insolation) but tremendous poverty and air pollution. To date, many proposed solar PV projects in the region have engendered conflict with agricultural and conservation groups, who fear a resulting loss of valuable lands and the species and farming and ranching that depend on them (a subject of a 2011 joint UC Berkeley/UCLA Law report, funded by Bank of America, called Harvesting Clean Energy).
To address the challenge, Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) partnered with Conservation Biology Institute (CBI) and Terrell Watt Associates to develop a new, stakeholder-based process to find “least-conflict” lands in the eight-county San Joaquin Valley region. The project team convened leaders from the agricultural, conservation, and solar PV development communities, and included tribes and key agencies.
We asked the groups one question: from your perspective, where are the least-conflict lands for solar PV development in the Valley?
And here is where technology came into play. To answer this question, the group worked with CBI’s cutting-edge but straightforward on-line mapping platform, called Data Basin Gateway. This new mapping software allowed for real-time, group-supported mapping as the stakeholders were free to input their own data and share the results, privately at first among their group, and then with the larger stakeholder groups.
Once we overlaid the various stakeholder groups’ final maps, the result was pretty remarkable:
- Out of the 9.5 million acres in the stakeholder study area, the groups identified 470,000 acres of ideal, non-controversial land for solar PV development.
- The amount of land is roughly equal to 5 percent of the entire Valley study area.
- At a generic calculation of 1 megawatt of solar PV production from 5 acres of panels, the lands identified could provide 94,000 megawatts of renewable power – greater than all combined current in-state generation capacity and enough to power as many as 23 million homes in California — just from the San Joaquin Valley.
To be sure, not all of this land, on further inspection, may be practical or feasible for solar PV development. But if even a fraction works, it will accelerate the state’s renewable efforts and reduce the impact of air pollution on Valley communities. Perhaps even more encouraging, this entire process took less than six months, and the resulting maps remain on-line on the San Joaquin Valley Gateway, where stakeholders can update the maps as new data become available and conditions change over time.
You can learn more about the results in the new CLEE/Conservation Biology Institute report released today called “A Path Forward: Identifying Least-Conflict Solar PV Development in California’s San Joaquin Valley,” available on the report page here.
Based on the results, CLEE urges policy makers to encourage solar expansion on these optimal lands and streamline the planning processes to steer more solar PV development there. Such efforts could include:
- Siting and fast-tracking appropriate transmission capacity to these lands;
- Developing permitting incentives for projects proposed in these areas, such as reforms to the Williamson Act and advance mitigation procedures under the California Environmental Quality Act; and
- Further study on the potential compatibility of solar PV with agricultural practices.
CLEE also encourages policy makers to support similar mapping processes throughout the state and eventually for a multi-state effort across the United States. There’s no reason this same process can’t work for a statewide mapping effort and more, or even for technologies beyond solar PV. After all, we’ll need other clean technologies in addition to renewables to meet our climate goals, from energy storage to low-carbon transportation.
To learn more, tune in to a webex briefing from the Governor’s Office today at 4pm (no password required). You can also dial in at 1-650-429-3300, access code 926 702 170. The webex will feature remarks on the report findings from Ken Alex, senior advisor to Governor Brown and director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (and CLEE advisory board member and guest Legal Planeteer), and California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas (both of whom were instrumental in getting the project launched and implemented).
Finally, I encourage readers to review the full report and note the list of stakeholders and others involved to bring this project to fruition, including generous contributions from the Energy Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and others.
Let’s hope this work not only helps resolve conflicts in the San Joaquin Valley to bring more renewable energy on-line but also inspires similar smart planning efforts for clean technology throughout California and beyond.
Solar panels seem like an environmental good, given the clean energy they produce. But when it comes to siting large-scale installations, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley, many traditional environmental groups, as well as agricultural leaders, have been upset with the siting decisions. They argue the facilities are harming endangered species and taking away valuable farmland.
I’ve been involved in a project at UC Berkeley Law to lead a stakeholder-effort to find better, “least-conflict” sites for solar in the San Joaquin Valley. We’re using a user-friendly, on-line mapping tool from Conservation Biology Institute, and the stakeholders (including agriculture, ranchers, and environmentalists) are determining their criteria for “least-conflict” land and then producing maps based on them.
We’re finalizing our report on the project now, which we hope will inform state policy efforts going forward, particularly on transmission siting. But in the meantime, I co-authored with Josh Hohn an article that summarizes some of the initial findings in the latest edition of the American Planning Association’s Northern California issue [PDF]. The article starts on page 4, and here’s an excerpt discussing the project:
A recent stakeholder-driven process, led by UC Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy, and Environment(CLEE), with representatives from the agricultural, range-land, conservation, and renewable developer communities, identified approximately 550,000 acres of “least-conflict” land within the San Joaquin Valley — much of that within [Westlands Water District] holdings. These are salt-affected or other-wise non-farmable lands where neither current agricultural production nor critical habitat would be significantly impacted. Putting the entire area into renewable energy development is unlikely, but a conservative assumption of 1 MW of solar PVper 5 acres equates to 110,000 MW of potential, if intermittent, capacity just on these lands. With historic peak electricity demand in the state at just over 60,000 MW, the generation capacity for solar PV in this portion of the San Joaquin Valley alone is theoretically more than enough to meet our 2030 [renewable energy] goals.
I should mention that the rest of the issue has a lot of good stuff in it if you’re interested in land use. More details on the solar report will be forthcoming early next year.