News Archive:

The Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS could kick US climate policy back into action

For the orig­i­nal link, August 8, 2022, click here.


Bt Thor Ben­son, for Pop­u­lar Science

For the past few weeks, cli­mate action in the US appeared to have a bleak out­look. But things are look­ing to change with the pas­sage and intro­duc­tion of two new ground­break­ing bills.

Con­gress passed a bill called the CHIPS and Sci­ence Act on July 28th to boost domes­tic semi­con­duc­tor pro­duc­tion and fund sci­en­tific research. The Sen­ate also just passed an expan­sive bill called the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act (IRA).

Both bills would do quite a bit to help the US fight cli­mate change—much to the relief of many Democ­rats in Con­gress wor­ried about get­ting cli­mate leg­is­la­tion passed before the midterms. But with so much leg­is­la­tion float­ing around, keep­ing track of each bill’s actions can be tricky.

Here’s what you need to know about cli­mate change poli­cies in the IRA and CHIPS act.

Direct cli­mate action from the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act

Screen Shot 2022-08-08 at 8.48.34 AM

The Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act includes roughly $369 bil­lion for cli­mate pro­grams, mean­ing, if passed, it could be the most sig­nif­i­cant cli­mate bill Con­gress has ever passed. The bill offers tax incen­tives to com­pa­nies to increase the pro­duc­tion of wind, solar, and bat­tery tech­nolo­gies. Addi­tion­ally, the bill lim­its the amount of methane a US com­pany can emit, which is cru­cial because methane is a potent green­house gas.

As for ordi­nary folks, the bill offers a $7,500 tax credit toward pur­chas­ing a new elec­tric vehi­cle and a $4,000 tax credit toward pur­chas­ing a used one and more. This is impor­tant because elec­tric cars are bet­ter for the cli­mate than gasoline-​​powered vehi­cles. But, it may have the bonus of con­vinc­ing car man­u­fac­tur­ers to keep build­ing more elec­tric vehi­cles and could increase the build­ing of charg­ing stations.

Whether you’re on the EV side, whether you’re on the sta­tion­ary green power side, see­ing them all in the same bill is crit­i­cally impor­tant,” Daniel Kam­men, a pro­fes­sor of energy at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley. “It mes­sages that $369 bil­lion is being spent in a holis­tic way.”

report from the Rhodium Group, an inde­pen­dent research firm, found the IRA would reduce green­house gas emis­sions by 31 to 44 per­cent from 2005 lev­els by 2030. Green­house gas emis­sions peaked coun­try­wide in 2005, but since then, car­bon emis­sions have shrunk by 20 per­cent. The Biden admin­is­tra­tion has set a goal of reduc­ing emis­sions by 50 per­cent from 2005 lev­els by 2030—so the IRA would pro­vide a sig­nif­i­cant boost.

Cur­rent pro­jec­tions show the IRA wouldn’t get us to the Biden administration’s cli­mate goals by itself, but Kam­men feels that the effects of it pass­ing could “snow­ball.” He says that the ini­tial invest­ment could spur fur­ther invest­ments and break­throughs to help us reach or exceed planned emis­sion reductions.

The CHIPS bill ups fund­ing in sci­ence and technology

The CHIPS and Sci­ence Act mainly focuses on increas­ing the domes­tic pro­duc­tion of semi­con­duc­tors used in com­put­ers, phones, vehi­cles and more. That being said, the bill con­tains other impor­tant pro­vi­sions. It includes roughly $200 bil­lion of fund­ing for sci­en­tific research, which is a sig­nif­i­cant increase in fund­ing. That money could be crit­i­cal in devel­op­ing new technologies—from arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence to nuclear fusion—and could help the US reach its cli­mate goals. Kam­men says the bill’s fund­ing could be ben­e­fi­cial as the US tries to build more renew­able energy.

The more we think about what has dri­ven the remark­able cost declines in solar, in bat­ter­ies and wind, it’s cer­tainly man­u­fac­tur­ing, but it’s also sys­tems inte­gra­tion,” Kam­men says. “That’s a place where the US is bet­ter poised than it may think it is to be a real leader. Clean energy sys­tems require as much smart inter­con­nec­tion as they do great pieces of indi­vid­ual hardware.”

The fund­ing in the CHIPS bill could help the US fur­ther inte­grate its energy sys­tems, mak­ing for more effec­tive and effi­cient energy use in towns and cities. “Assum­ing we get a ver­sion of the Schumer-​​Manchin IRA bill and [CHIPS], it actu­ally sets the US up pretty well,” Kam­men says, “because you get both upstream, smart inte­gra­tion devel­op­ments and $369 bil­lion of deploy­ment money from tax cred­its, so I think they do work together.”

Together, these two bills work to fund urgently needed change in cli­mate pol­icy, con­sid­er­ing there’s only so much time to do some­thing. The CHIPS bill’s invest­ments could also bring us the next gen­er­a­tion of climate-​​fighting tech­nolo­gies and bet­ter inte­grate our exist­ing and devel­op­ing energy sys­tems. The US looked poised to fail in its attempts to fight cli­mate change, but these bills are cre­at­ing some hope.

How data-​​driven research partnerships deepen energy access across supply chains

For the Green­Biz arti­cle, click here.

Offgrid Box in the field

An unpacked “Box” in the field, pro­vid­ing power for water fil­tra­tion and clinic elec­tri­fi­ca­tion. Photo by Sam Miles



Access to reli­able, afford­able and clean energy is increas­ingly rec­og­nized as the “golden thread” tying together and enabling many other Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals (SDGs). Despite progress over the last decade in mak­ing solu­tions to energy poverty more acces­si­ble to the more than 800 mil­lion peo­ple cur­rently with­out elec­tric­ity (and the many more with inter­mit­tent or unaf­ford­able energy) many gaps remain. In par­tic­u­lar, the COVID-​​19 cri­sis has dis­rupted sup­ply and demand for energy, both of which are nec­es­sary to meet SDG 7.

At the same time, tran­si­tion­ing to more renew­able energy-​​based elec­tric­ity sys­tems requir­ing bat­tery stor­age, whether in emerg­ing mar­kets or devel­oped ones, will require mas­sive amounts of min­eral resources with sig­nif­i­cant human and envi­ron­men­tal foot­prints. A paper pub­lished by USAID in late 2021under­scores the urgency of address­ing min­ing in the con­text of the green energy transition:

Recent global stud­ies pre­dict demand increases of up to ten times cur­rent pro­duc­tion lev­els for min­er­als like cobalt, graphite, and lithium. No mat­ter the mix of alter­nate energy sources the world turns to, the min­ing sec­tor will be a key player in the years ahead.

To meet the ambi­tious goal of uni­ver­sal mod­ern energy by 2030 — while grap­pling with the con­se­quences of crit­i­cal min­er­als demand growth — har­mo­nized poli­cies, coor­di­nated invest­ment and inno­v­a­tive research are urgently needed. Equally or even more impor­tant, how­ever, are the under­stud­ied and under­sup­ported part­ner­ships that can cat­alyze and scale these efforts to make SDG7 both a life­line and a means of eco­nomic empow­er­ment and equity.

The Congo Power alliance rep­re­sents one such inno­v­a­tive coali­tion approach. Ini­tially launched by Google’s Sup­plier Respon­si­bil­ity team in 2017 to rein­force respon­si­ble min­er­als trade and expand eco­nomic oppor­tu­nity through clean energy, the ini­tia­tive sup­ports com­mu­ni­ties com­mit­ted to the respon­si­ble sourc­ing of min­er­als that are ubiq­ui­tous in elec­tron­ics and his­tor­i­cally tied to con­flict and human rights abuses. This min­eral trade focuses on tung­sten, tin, tan­ta­lum, gold and cobalt, mak­ing this issue par­tic­u­larly crit­i­cal in the African Great Lakes Region, where much of the world’s sup­ply of these min­er­als’ stock lies underground.

A graphic of the Africa Great Lakes region

The African Great Lakes region includes Angola, Burundi, Cen­tral African Repub­lic, Repub­lic of the Congo, Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of the Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Repub­lic of South Sudan, Sudan, Tan­za­nia and Zam­bia. Image cour­tesy of Google, USAID





As part of its over­ar­ch­ing sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy, Google com­mit­ted to max­i­miz­ing our use of finite resources, which includes sup­port­ing in-​​region pro­grams that rein­force respon­si­ble sup­ply chains, and increas­ing the use of recy­cled mate­ri­als. These pro­gram com­mit­ments are also part of meet­ing the expec­ta­tions of Sec­tion 1502 of the Dodd-​​Frank Act, which man­date that all pub­licly traded com­pa­nies com­plete due dili­gence on their sup­ply chains, and report on those measures.

In line with these com­mit­ments, the Congo Power team has invested in 14 com­mu­nity projects since 2017 and has brought a broad group of stake­hold­ers along. On a Public-​​Private Alliance for Respon­si­ble Min­er­als Trade (PPA) del­e­ga­tion with the U.S. State Depart­ment in late 2019, for exam­ple, Google, Nokia, Intel, Apple, Global Advanced Met­als, USAID, U.S. Depart­ment of State, GiZ, the Respon­si­ble Busi­ness Alliance and RESOLVE vis­ited the Idjwi Island min­i­grid and spent time with the Panzi Foundation’s Denis Muk­wege dis­cussing the inter­sec­tion of human rights and respon­si­ble sourc­ing in the region.

As a result of that trip, the Congo Power team focused on build­ing a deeper rela­tion­ship with the Panzi Foun­da­tion and put com­mu­nity health clin­ics at the cen­ter of address­ing power, gen­der, energy equity along with rein­forc­ing respon­si­ble sup­ply chains. The team also con­tin­ues to expand col­lab­o­ra­tions with con­ser­va­tion areas such as Garamba National Park, which is deploy­ing clean power sys­tems to sup­port local eco­nomic activ­i­ties (both min­ing and non-​​mining) in ways that reduce threats to the park’s con­ser­va­tion and bio­di­ver­sity goals.

Four artisanal gold miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at a site visited by the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade delegation in 2019.

Four arti­sanal gold min­ers in the Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of the Congo at a site vis­ited by the Public-​​Private Alliance for Respon­si­ble Min­er­als Trade del­e­ga­tion in 2019. Photo Credit: Alyssa Newman





The program’s launch high­lighted the impor­tance of deep rela­tion­ships between devel­op­ment part­ners, con­sumer brands and NGOs with deep in-​​country oper­at­ing exper­tise, such as Give­Power and Resolve. This multi-​​sector approach is crit­i­cal for draw­ing in fur­ther “down­stream” con­glom­er­ates whose cus­tomers increas­ingly demand end prod­ucts made with respon­si­bly sourced materials.

This strat­egy has suc­cess­fully brought on some of the world’s largest man­u­fac­tur­ers to the alliance’s com­mit­ment to respon­si­ble sourc­ing. Intel has funded two addi­tional phases, and other part­ners are in the process of mak­ing fund­ing com­mit­ments. The alliance col­lab­o­rates with plat­forms such as Cobalt for Devel­op­ment (BMW, Sam­sung, BASF, GIZ, Volk­swa­gen, Good Shep­herd Inter­na­tional Foun­da­tion and oth­ers) and the Fair Cobalt Alliance(Tesla, Fair­fone, The Impact Facil­ity and oth­ers) to rein­force mutual objec­tives in respon­si­ble sourc­ing, and sup­port orga­ni­za­tions that are work­ing on the ground.

Beyond pub­lic and pri­vate part­ners, acad­e­mia plays an impor­tant role within this con­sor­tium. Through a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab (RAEL) at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, the Congo Power ini­tia­tive explores how inno­v­a­tive energy solu­tions can improve liveli­hoods and resilience across com­mu­ni­ties in East and Cen­tral Africa. Pre­vi­ously funded research has explored the inter­sec­tion between energy poverty and con­flict, the evo­lu­tion of real-​​time mon­i­tor­ing of decen­tral­ized energy sys­tems, oper­at­ing mod­els for mini-​​grids in urban infor­mal set­tle­ments, the impact of solar-​​home-​​systems on energy, gen­der and social jus­tice, and frame­works for under­stand­ing com­mu­nity participation’s role in mini-​​grid projects.

This is just the begin­ning, how­ever. Many ques­tions remain for the RAEL/​Congo Power col­lab­o­ra­tion to uncover in improv­ing the deliv­ery of sus­tain­able and appro­pri­ate energy solu­tions across the var­i­ous sup­ply chains that con­sti­tute the lifeblood of vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties around the world.

Chief among the initiative’s research ambi­tions is devel­op­ing a deeper sense of how to make $1 of invest­ment in renew­able energy “go fur­ther.” Bench­mark impact met­rics for inno­v­a­tive energy projects are lack­ing in the empir­i­cal lit­er­a­ture, par­tic­u­larly for mini-​​grid tech­nolo­gies, increas­ingly rec­og­nized as the least-​​cost way to elec­trify hun­dreds of mil­lions of those with­out power. Devel­op­ing and doc­u­ment­ing enabling part­ner­ships also offers a key resource for nations, busi­nesses, multi­na­tional aid /​ devel­op­ment orga­ni­za­tions and civil soci­ety to inter­ro­gate poten­tial solu­tions and scale up win­ning con­cepts that can help meet goals set in the Paris Cli­mate Agree­ments and other SDGs.

Fun­da­men­tally, such a private-​​public-​​academic part­ner­ship boils down to explor­ing what kinds of impact — described both quan­ti­ta­tively and qual­i­ta­tively — dif­fer­ent energy deliv­ery mod­els can achieve across insti­tu­tional and geo­graph­i­cal scales. And beyond the eval­u­a­tion of impact: Which nar­ra­tives can most effec­tively com­mu­ni­cate these insights into action­able sup­port for promis­ing solu­tions and their developers?

Guided by such aca­d­e­mic research ques­tions, these part­ner­ships are able to fund imple­men­ta­tion part­ners as well. Nuru, Equa­to­r­ial Power and Off­Grid­Box are three such part­ners in East and Cen­tral Africa, whose oper­a­tions are pro­vid­ing crit­i­cal insights into key techno-​​economic and oper­a­tional chal­lenges to scal­ing energy access.

These orga­ni­za­tions have a wide and diverse foot­print. Nuru builds and oper­ates mini-​​grids across remote, rural, and urban areas of the Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of the Congo (DRC). Their prin­ci­pal instal­la­tion is one of the largest mini-​​grids in Africa, sup­ply­ing more than 1,800 cus­tomers through a 1.3 megawatt solar-​​hybrid instal­la­tion in peri-​​urban neigh­bor­hoods in Goma, DRC. Congo Power sup­ported Equa­to­r­ial Power’s very first instal­la­tion mini-​​grid, a 20 kilowatt-​​peak (kWp) instal­la­tion on Idjwi Island on Lake Kivu (sep­a­rat­ing the DRC and Rwanda) sup­ply­ing over 300 con­nec­tions, includ­ing sev­eral small-​​to-​​medium enter­prises. Off­Grid­Box has deployed one of its 3.4 kWp con­tainer­ized power and water instal­la­tions in Walikale (a min­ing cen­ter in east­ern DRC), with more than 80 iden­ti­cal such deploy­ments around the world.

OffGridBoxes (“Boxes”) ready for deployment at the Rwandan headquarters.

Off­Grid­Boxes (“Boxes”) ready for deploy­ment at the Rwan­dan head­quar­ters. Photo by Sam Miles





To gain deep yet broad insights into the chal­lenge of strength­en­ing the “golden thread,” RAEL researchers within the Congo Power alliance aim to be both method­i­cal yet prac­ti­cal in devel­op­ing research themes from these ini­tial project foci — par­tic­u­larly impor­tant given the chal­lenges of doing in-​​person research through a pandemic.

One theme that con­sis­tently emerges through and across such projects is the impor­tance of “pro­duc­tive” uses of elec­tric­ity — most sim­ply defined as the abil­ity of elec­tric­ity users to gen­er­ate addi­tional income on the basis of improved energy access. When, where and how are infor­mal arti­sans, entre­pre­neurs and labor­ers able to con­vert renew­able elec­tric­ity into improved eco­nomic out­comes for them­selves, their home­steads and their com­mu­ni­ties? These ques­tions have proven par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing to answer, despite over two decades of schol­ar­ship describ­ing pro­duc­tive uses of elec­tric­ity as a cor­ner­stone under­pin­ning the finan­cial sus­tain­abil­ity, and thus scal­a­bil­ity, of energy access solu­tions with high upfront invest­ment costs and low margins.

RAEL researchers have brought novel eval­u­a­tion approaches to tackle this prob­lem, includ­ing live-​​monitoring of elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion of pro­duc­tive use pilots across the region, geospa­tial and remote sens­ing tech­niques lever­ag­ing satel­lite imagery and machine learn­ing, as well as pilot­ing new power qual­ity and reli­a­bil­ity mea­sure­ment method­olo­gies for eval­u­at­ing the state of elec­tric­ity for health ser­vices, includ­ing cold stor­age, through col­lab­o­ra­tions with infrastructure-​​monitoring startup nLine.

Many impor­tant ques­tions beyond how to cat­alyze income gen­er­at­ing uses of elec­tric­ity remain, how­ever. Does street light­ing reduce crime in remote vil­lages or rapidly urban­iz­ing envi­ron­ments? Can decen­tral­ized energy solu­tions bridge the gaps in Africa’s vac­cine cold chains? How can project fun­ders best col­lab­o­rate with pri­vate sec­tor imple­menters, NGOs, and pol­i­cy­mak­ers to opti­mize the impacts of a given energy project, tar­get­ing out­comes as dis­parate as sup­ply chain trace­abil­ity, pro­duc­tive end uses, con­ser­va­tion or women’s empowerment?

Public street lighting provided by Nuru in a community near Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Pub­lic street light­ing pro­vided by Nuru in a com­mu­nity near Garamba National Park, Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of Congo. Photo by Esther Nsapu 

These and many other research ques­tions will guide RAEL researchers as the Congo Power ini­tia­tive con­tin­ues to gain momen­tum and part­ners. A much wider con­sor­tium of part­ners, how­ever, is still needed to con­front the mag­ni­tude of the chal­lenges ahead, and data-​​driven research is crit­i­cal to har­ness the dis­parate per­spec­tives, resources and objec­tives such a big tent approach entails.

For cor­po­rate sus­tain­abil­ity pro­fes­sion­als, join­ing coali­tions such as Congo Power is one way to con­nect many dis­tinct pieces of the chal­lenges that lie ahead: con­fronting cli­mate change by sup­port­ing cleaner energy pro­duc­tion in com­mu­ni­ties at the very start of their sup­ply chains, tack­ling the human rights impli­ca­tions of expo­nen­tial demand growth for min­er­als required for elec­tron­ics infra­struc­ture includ­ing renew­able energy equip­ment and bat­tery stor­age tech­nolo­gies, and ensur­ing the equi­table dis­tri­b­u­tion of poten­tial ben­e­fits from the global energy tran­si­tion are dis­trib­uted equi­tably. No one com­pany or orga­ni­za­tion can move the nee­dle on their own, but it is increas­ingly clear that share­hold­ers, con­sumers, employ­ees and reg­u­la­tors are plac­ing greater respon­si­bil­ity on global brands to step up to the challenge.

Part­ner­ships such as Congo Power pro­vide a clear path­way for private-​​public part­ner­ships to explore and sup­port cutting-​​edge projects, tech­nolo­gies and infra­struc­tures, guided by the most recent empir­i­cal evi­dence of impact. With rig­or­ous, inter­sec­tional and action­able research guid­ing such a pow­er­ful coali­tion of com­mit­ted part­ners, a truly just energy tran­si­tion is possible.

Editor’s note: Ser­ena Patel (MIT), Hilary Yu, Joyce­line Mare­alle (both UC Berke­ley) and Alyssa New­man (Google and UC Berke­ley) also con­tributed to this article.

Author Biog­ra­phy Links:


California can do better than carbon neutrality by 2045

Opin­ion piece in the Los Ange­les Times, May 17, 2022

To jump to the news­pa­per, click here.


      Cal­i­for­nia can do bet­ter than car­bon neu­tral­ity by 2045


Ten years ago, many Cal­i­for­ni­ans could not have imag­ined the cli­mate night­mare we are liv­ing today — dark orange skies dur­ing wild­fire sea­son, heat waves in the dead of win­ter, manda­tory water restric­tions amid crip­pling drought.

With­out urgent action, we may well look back on this moment as the calm before the storm. Over the course of the next decade, California’s biggest cli­mate chal­lenges — hot­ter sum­mers, a shorter rainy sea­son and more destruc­tive wild­fires — could dou­ble in intensity.

It’s against this back­drop that the Cal­i­for­nia Air Resources Board (CARB) last week released a draft of our state’s scop­ing plan, a blue­print for com­bat­ing cli­mate change that will guide California’s pol­icy for years. Despite the stakes for Cal­i­for­ni­ans, and although my research indi­cates the state could actu­ally become car­bon neg­a­tive by 2030, the draft pro­posal would delay reach­ing car­bon neu­tral until 2045. The bar­ri­ers to a tar­get of 2030 are polit­i­cal, not technical.

The draft plan calls for invest­ment in new fos­sil fuel elec­tric­ity resources, and it relies on unproven and costly car­bon cap­ture tech­nolo­gies that would lock in fos­sil fuel pol­lu­tion. Adopt­ing this approach would be lazy, non­sen­si­cal and racially unjust. Dur­ing the cur­rent 45-​​day period for pub­lic review of the plan, Cal­i­for­nia has the chance to choose a smarter path.

An aerial view of wetlands next to a power station

The Hunt­ing­ton Beach Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion includes a nat­ural gas gen­er­a­tor that began oper­a­tion in 2020.

                                                                     (Allen J. Sch­aben /​ Los Ange­les Times)

Renew­able energy, even when cou­pled with energy stor­age, is cheaper than fos­sil fuels. California’s own state laws say that renew­able energy must be pri­or­i­tized before build­ing out expen­sive and pol­lut­ing gas power plants. Instead, Cal­i­for­nia must set ambi­tious tar­gets that imme­di­ately cut pol­lu­tion through no-​​regrets strategies.

If we fall short of the cli­mate action that sci­ence demands, Cal­i­for­ni­ans, and espe­cially lower-​​income Cal­i­for­ni­ans and com­mu­ni­ties of color, will pay the price. What’s more, we could see this failed model repli­cated across other states and nations. It’s not hyper­bole to say bil­lions of peo­ple could be worse off if Cal­i­for­nia fails to lead.

By the same token, if our state sets an ambi­tious but achiev­able goal — like car­bon neu­tral­ity by 2030 or 2035 — the ben­e­fits rip­ple widely. Other states and nations are look­ing to Cal­i­for­nia. If we set an ambi­tious tar­get and focus future pol­icy toward meet­ing it, oth­ers are more likely to adapt as well. Even when cli­mate goals are not reached, they keep poli­cies and invest­ments mov­ing in the right direction.

Last sum­mer, when he directed CARB to exam­ine accel­er­at­ing California’s cli­mate tar­gets to 2035 or sooner, Gov. Gavin New­som said “sci­ence demands we do more.” Hav­ing just announced a his­toric $32-​​billion invest­ment in cli­mate pro­grams over the next five years, he must now step in and ensure that reg­u­la­tors live up to his call to increase cli­mate ambi­tion across the board.

To get this plan­ning process back on track, reg­u­la­tors must start by cor­rect­ing the flawed method­ol­ogy that is the under­pin­ning of their cur­rent pro­posal. CARB’s eco­nomic and jobs mod­el­ing fails to incor­po­rate both the true cost of delay­ing emis­sions reduc­tions and the full health and soci­etal ben­e­fits from more ambi­tious emis­sions reduc­tions. Put sim­ply, Cal­i­for­nia can cre­ate more jobs and more pros­per­ity with renew­ables than we can with fos­sil fuels.

In devel­op­ing the scop­ing plan, CARB staff used a mea­sure called the social cost of car­bon, which puts a dol­lar value on the dam­ages cre­ated by addi­tional green­house gas emis­sions. The prob­lem is, these esti­mates vastly under­es­ti­mated the costs of delay­ing cli­mate action.

If we don’t begin to rapidly reduce fos­sil fuel pol­lu­tion, the impacts on California’s health­care sys­tem, our econ­omy, our food sup­ply and our com­mu­ni­ties will be orders of mag­ni­tude greater than what CARB has accounted for. Reg­u­la­tors can cor­rect this by align­ing with experts’ lat­est analy­sis, which cal­cu­lates the true social cost of car­bon at $50 per ton of pol­lu­tion emit­ted.

As a next step, reg­u­la­tors need to acknowl­edge it is far too late in the game to gam­ble our state’s future on unproven car­bon cap­ture tech­nolo­gies that may never mate­ri­al­ize. CARB’s draft scop­ing plan projects that Cal­i­for­nia will use 100 mil­lion met­ric tons (MMT) of direct air cap­ture in 2045. Glob­ally, only 0.01 MMT of annual direct air cap­ture is hap­pen­ing today. It is unre­al­is­tic to assume we can scale up this tech­nol­ogy so much overnight, and fool­ish to direct invest­ment to unproven exper­i­ments when afford­able nat­ural car­bon removal solu­tions like com­post­ing and tree-​​planting are read­ily avail­able now.

We have afford­able renew­able energy tech­nolo­gies avail­able today that not only cut car­bon emis­sions but also tackle our state’s air pol­lu­tion cri­sis. California’s scop­ing plan should mobi­lize a vast expan­sion of renew­able energy tech­nolo­gies. Instead, the cur­rent pro­posal calls for 10 gigawatts of new nat­ural gas gen­er­at­ing capac­ity — the equiv­a­lent of 33 large new gas plants.

There is still time for CARB and New­som to deliver a bold cli­mate blue­print that cen­ters equity and pub­lic health and focuses on a no-​​regrets approach of renew­able energy invest­ment. It’s California’s legacy and lives around the world that are at stake. We can­not afford to fall short.

Daniel Kam­men is a pro­fes­sor of sus­tain­abil­ity at UC Berke­ley. He is a for­mer coor­di­nat­ing author of the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC),  Kam­men in cur­rently serv­ing in the Biden-​​Harris Admin­is­tra­tion as Senior Advi­sor for Energy & Inno­va­tion at the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tional Devel­op­ment (USAID) 


One way to combat Russia? Move faster on clean energy

Sammy Roth — Feb­ru­ary 26, 2022 - Los Ange­les Times


The sun sets behind an off­shore wind farm in the Irish Sea off the coast of England.
(Paul Ellis /​ AFP/​Getty Images)

Direct link:–02-26/one-way-to-combat-russia-move-faster-on-clean-energy


When a geopo­lit­i­cal cri­sis sent gaso­line prices sky­rock­et­ing four decades ago, Pres­i­dent Carter called on Amer­i­cans to achieve “energy inde­pen­dence” from Mid­dle East­ern oil exporters. He installed solar pan­els on the White House, donned a cardi­gan sweater to stay warm and took steps to boost domes­tic oil production.

Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine has again upended global energy sup­plies, threat­en­ing to raise gas prices that are already higher than ever in Cal­i­for­nia. The U.S. oil indus­try wants Pres­i­dent Biden to ease restric­tions on drilling, and Europe has already started import­ing more fos­sil fuel from the United States to reduce its depen­dence on Russ­ian supplies.

But dou­bling down on oil and nat­ural gas isn’t the answer, some secu­rity experts say — and nei­ther is energy independence.

The war in Europe adds to the urgency of tran­si­tion­ing to clean energy sources such as solar and wind power that are harder for bad actors such as Rus­sia to dis­rupt, those experts say. The con­flict also high­lights the impor­tance of the U.S., the Euro­pean Union and other allies work­ing together to con­front the cli­mate cri­sis while tak­ing global secu­rity into account.

There’s been a lot of con­cern about depen­dence on Russ­ian [nat­ural] gas, and whether that inhibits coun­tries’ abil­ity to stand up to Rus­sia,” said Erin Siko­rsky, direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-based Cen­ter for Cli­mate and Secu­rity. “The more that coun­tries can wean them­selves off oil and gas and move toward renew­ables, the more inde­pen­dence they have in terms of action.”

It’s also impor­tant to remem­ber that cli­mate change poses a major national secu­rity threat, with the Defense Depart­ment and other fed­eral offi­cials warn­ing last year that wors­en­ing climate-​​fueled haz­ards are likely to drive a surge in global migra­tion, stok­ing polit­i­cal insta­bil­ity. That helps explain why the U.S. Army released its first-​​ever cli­mate strat­egy this month, set­ting a goal of slash­ing its planet-​​warming emis­sions in half and pow­er­ing all bases with climate-​​friendly elec­tric­ity by 2030.

Siko­rsky pointed out that Defense Sec­re­tary Lloyd J. Austin III has called China the “pac­ing threat” for the U.S., mean­ing it poses greater sys­temic chal­lenges than any other nation. The cli­mate emer­gency, Siko­rsky said, is America’s “shap­ing threat.”

It is shap­ing every­thing in the back­ground now that the United States is deal­ing with,” she said.

Even before Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin launched his attack on Ukraine this week, Euro­pean nations were mak­ing plans to cut their reliance on energy exports from Rus­sia. The coun­try sup­plies more than one-​​quarter of Europe’s oil and nearly 40% of its nat­ural gas, a dif­fer­ent planet-​​warming fuel used for heat­ing and elec­tric­ity generation.

But Russ­ian aggres­sion has sped up the E.U.’s plans. Euro­pean offi­cials are expected to release a strat­egy next week for reduc­ing the continent’s use of fos­sil fuels by 40% over eight years, and ramp­ing up non-​​polluting energy sources.

It’s a plan designed to slow the cli­mate cri­sis, which is wreak­ing havoc around the world by exac­er­bat­ing wild­fires, floods, droughts and heat waves. But cut­ting back on fos­sil fuels would also help to limit Russia’s geopo­lit­i­cal influence.image

Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in Decem­ber. (Alexei Nikol­sky /​ Asso­ci­ated Press)

UC Berke­ley energy pro­fes­sor Daniel Kam­men — who pre­vi­ously served as sci­ence envoy for then-​​Secretary of State John F. Kerry — lamented that Europe “has clearly needed higher moti­va­tions than cli­mate change to cut the Gor­dian gas knot with Rus­sia.” But if Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine pushes the E.U. to act, he said, it could be a sil­ver lin­ing to an oth­er­wise tragic situation.

For all we talk about how inex­pen­sive renew­ables are, and how quickly energy stor­age is com­ing down in price, that hasn’t been enough when it appears that ‘just’ the cli­mate is at stake,” Kam­men said. “Now Euro­pean sov­er­eignty is at stake.”

Still, there’s no guar­an­tee Europe will fol­low through on its lat­est cli­mate com­mit­ments. Even if the geopo­lit­i­cal cri­sis under­scores the ben­e­fits of shift­ing to renew­able energy, it could also dis­tract global lead­ers from the longer-​​term cli­mate crisis.

And in the mean­time, one of Europe’s strate­gies for deal­ing with con­strained Russ­ian gas sup­plies and ris­ing prices dur­ing the last few months has been import­ing more liq­ue­fied nat­ural gas from the United States. It’s an option made pos­si­ble by frack­ing, which opened up “shale plays” in regions such as west Texas and made Amer­ica the world’s largest oil and nat­ural gas producer.

Putin hates U.S. shale because of the influ­ence it gives the U.S. and the world, and the flex­i­bil­ity it gives us,” said Daniel Yer­gin, a Pulitzer Prize-​​winning oil his­to­rian and vice chair of research and con­sult­ing firm IHS Markit.

The Amer­i­can Petro­leum Insti­tute — a fos­sil fuel indus­try trade group known as API — has urged Biden to respond to the Ukraine cri­sis by allow­ing more oil and gas drilling on fed­eral lands and approv­ing new facil­i­ties to export liq­ue­fied nat­ural gas.

Twenty-​​seven Repub­li­can sen­a­tors made a sim­i­lar demand in a let­ter to Energy Sec­re­tary Jen­nifer Granholm last week, call­ing U.S gas exports “a depend­able source of energy and a reli­able alter­na­tive to strate­gic com­peti­tors like Russia.”

But those steps would carry long-​​term cli­mate con­se­quences,spew­ing more heat-​​trapping pol­lu­tion into that atmos­phere. They’re also unlikely to result in new energy sup­plies com­ing online quickly enough to make a mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ence in Europe.

API’s answer for all of the world’s prob­lems is to remove con­straints on domes­tic oil and gas pro­duc­tion,” said David Vic­tor, an inter­na­tional rela­tions pro­fes­sor at UC San Diego. “It’s just a very well-​​rehearsed argument.”

Rendering of the proposed liquefied natural gas expansion at the Energia Costa Azul facility near Ensenada, Mexico. The plant is operated by IEnova, a Mexico-based energy company and a subsidiary of San Diego's Sempra Energy.

And if Europe fol­lows through on com­mit­ments to ratchet down fos­sil fuel com­bus­tion — per­haps by invest­ing in green hydro­gen or long-​​duration bat­ter­ies — the U.S. could also reap the ben­e­fits, Vic­tor said. That’s because Cal­i­for­nia and other states, like Europe, have a grow­ing need for clean power sources that can keep the lights on when the sun isn’t shin­ing and the wind isn’t blow­ing. Euro­pean invest­ments to scale up those early-​​stage tech­nolo­gies could help drive down costs for everyone.

The tech­nolo­gies that are going to be used — whether it’s elec­trolyz­ers for hydro­gen or fuel cells that use hydro­gen for heavy trucks — these are all global,” Vic­tor said. “Those economies [of scale] are just mas­sive. That’s how solar got cheap.”

Westlands Solar Park in California's San Joaquin Valley.

West­lands Solar Park in California’s San Joaquin Valley.(Carolyn Cole /​ Los Ange­les Times)

Calls for energy inde­pen­dence, Vic­tor added, “often end up back­fir­ing, because we ben­e­fit from a global tech­nol­ogy marketplace.”

At the same time, bulk­ing up domes­tic sup­ply chains could help the U.S. shield itself against price swings and geopo­lit­i­cal con­flict — par­tic­u­larly when it comes to lithium and other min­er­als needed for clean energy tech­nolo­gies such as batteries.

Just this week, Biden joined with Gov. Gavin New­som to announce a $35-​​million con­tract with a Las Vegas com­pany that oper­ates the nation’s only rare-​​earth mine in the Cal­i­for­nia desert. Biden and New­som also dis­cussed fed­eral sup­port for lithium pro­duc­tion at the Salton Sea, in South­ern California’s Impe­r­ial Val­ley, which has been described as the “Saudi Ara­bia of lithium.”

Boost­ing domes­tic pro­duc­tion of crit­i­cal min­er­als could help com­bat Russ­ian influ­ence, since Rus­sia is a lead­ing pro­ducer of met­als includ­ing cop­per and nickel — a reminder that even the clean-​​energy econ­omy isn’t immune from bad actors.

At the same time, the idea of energy inde­pen­dence is “some­what dan­ger­ous, because it offers you a false sense of secu­rity,” said Sarah Ladis­law, a man­ag­ing direc­tor at the think tank RMI. The real­ity, she said, is that the U.S. will need to find ways to work with Rus­sia and other nations to slash cli­mate pol­lu­tion, even as it strives to diver­sify its own clean energy supplies.

You have to be sen­si­tive to your energy vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and have con­tin­gency plans in place,” said Ladis­law, who pre­vi­ously led the energy secu­rity and cli­mate change pro­gram at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tional Studies.




Berkeley Science Review profile

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Dr. Daniel Kam­men has had a long and illus­tri­ous career defined by his com­mit­ment to expand­ing clean energy world­wide. He orig­i­nally became inter­ested in clean energy as a post­doc work­ing on wind and solar projects in Nicaragua and El Sal­vador in the mid-​​1980s. His research led to a fac­ulty posi­tion at Prince­ton until 1999, when he joined UC Berke­ley. Here, he founded and leads the Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory (RAEL), whose work includes iden­ti­fy­ing novel mate­ri­als for solar pan­els and bat­ter­ies, build­ing com­pu­ta­tional mod­els of regional energy sys­tems to iden­tify oppor­tu­ni­ties for renew­able energy, and imple­ment­ing energy policy.

Although RAEL’s research has resulted in hun­dreds of aca­d­e­mic papers, Kam­men cares deeply about hav­ing a real-​​world impact. He is par­tic­u­larly proud of RAEL’s projects in Africa, as they not only address cli­mate change but also increase peo­ples’ access to energy. One project installs mini solar grids in war-​​torn areas like South Sudan and the Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of Congo. These instal­la­tions pro­vide renew­able energy to power crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture, like health clin­ics and women’s cen­ters. What started out as an aca­d­e­mic exer­cise in his lab is now a way for com­pa­nies to buy Peace Renew­able Energy Cred­its, an inter­na­tion­ally traded vir­tual com­mod­ity that pro­vides a rev­enue stream for devel­op­ers of renew­able energy projects and offers com­pa­nies a way to finance impact­ful projects in these coun­tries. Out­side of Africa, RAEL’s other projects include elec­tri­fy­ing 30 thou­sand taxis in China, defeat­ing a large coal project in Malaysian Bor­neo, and using Google data from 60 mil­lion rooftops to show the mas­sive amount of social inequal­ity in solar panel usage.

When Kam­men isn’t help­ing com­mu­ni­ties around the world tran­si­tion to clean energy, he’s star­ing out into space. He says, “I have some pretty cool tele­scopes. I do a lot of deep space pho­tog­ra­phy, look­ing at exo­plan­ets and plan­ets around other stars.” Clearly Kam­men cares about plan­ets, whether it’s dis­cov­er­ing new ones or sav­ing ours.


For the orig­i­nal: click here.



ERG & RAEL PhD Student Annelise Gill-​​Wiehl cooks at the Boston Marathon!

On Indige­nous People’s Day, Annelise Gill-​​Wiehl fin­ished the 125th Boston Marathon in 3 hours and 15 min­utes. Now that is cooking!

The BostonMarathon is typ­i­cally held in April, but was can­celed in 2020, and post­poned to the fall of 2021 due to the COVID19 Pandemic.


Annelise qual­i­fied in 2019 at the Santa Rosa Marathon, just before start­ing her Ph.D. at the Energy & Resources Group. 

Mul­ti­task­ing, anyone?

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Build Back Better on Climate with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Alex Padilla


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Octo­ber 14, 2021: Build Back Bet­ter on Cli­mate Press Event

RAEL direc­tor Dan Kam­men had the plea­sure to appear with

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen­a­tor Alex Padilla (D-​​CA), Eddie Ahn, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Bright­line Defense, and Rev. Sally Bing­ham, Pres­i­dent Emer­i­tus, Regen­er­a­tion Project.

Com­ments by Daniel Kammen

Advi­sor for Inno­v­a­tive Energy Solu­tions, US Agency for Inter­na­tional Devel­op­ment (USAID)


James and Kather­ine Lau Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Sustainability

Energy and Resources Group & Gold­man School of Pub­lic Pol­icy, & Dept of Nuclear Eng., UC Berkeley

For­mer Sci­ence Envoy, US Depart­ment of State

Coor­di­nat­ing Lead Author, Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC)

Twit­ter: @dan_kammen | URL: http://​rael​.berke​ley​.edu


I could not be more hon­ored than to share the stage with these remark­able Cal­i­for­ni­ans who are craft­ing pro-​​climate, pro-​​justice poli­cies for a healthy state and fed­eral econ­omy.  Thank you, Speaker Pelosi and Sen­a­tor Padilla for your efforts and com­mit­ment to a just, inclu­sive, and sus­tain­able energy transition.

Cal­i­for­nia is com­mit­ted to a car­bon neu­tral econ­omy by 2045, and is in dis­cus­sions to move that date for­ward.  This com­mit­ment has already gen­er­ated eco­nomic and jus­tice returns for res­i­dents of the state, and for our neigh­bors and trad­ing partners.

As part of SB32 and SB100, Cal­i­for­nia com­mit­ted 35% or more (a floor, not ceil­ing) of its Cap & Trade rev­enue funds to meet­ing the needs of com­mu­ni­ties of color, of under-​​served and of fence-​​line com­mu­ni­ties.  The jobs and equity ben­e­fits of this pol­icy are already clear: Cal­i­for­nia now has sev­eral times more jobs in the clean energy sec­tor than in the fossil-​​fuel and cur­rent util­ity sec­tors.  Pres­i­dent Biden’s Justice40 and the Build Back Bet­ter Act builds on the Cal­i­for­nia goal with an expanded fed­eral effort that invests in smart infra­struc­ture to cre­ate jobs, that will also clean the air and water in the most needy com­mu­ni­ties nationwide.

The move to low-​​carbon elec­tric vehi­cle mobil­ity and freight trans­porta­tion addresses the largest remain­ing share of Cal­i­for­nia pol­lu­tion, with over 1 mil­lion EV now in use across the state[1].  Jus­tice is vital to meet­ing cli­mate and com­mu­nity goals. Com­mit­ments by ride-​​sharing com­pa­nies to 100% EV vehi­cles fleets by 2030 and mak­ing low-​​cost lease deals avail­able to dri­vers is an excel­lent exam­ple of a com­mit­ment that can be brought for­ward in time and expanded nation­wide[2].

A clean energy econ­omy is huge lift, but it is not enough.  We must re-​​invest in healthy forests, fire-​​safe com­mu­ni­ties, and a healthy ocean[3].  Build Back Bet­ter begins that rein­vest­ment while launch­ing new sus­tain­able eco­nomic sec­tors such as off-​​shore wind, green hydro­gen, advanced energy stor­age, afford­able green homes, and smart build­ings[4].

The world is mov­ing to clean energy – over the last 2 years, 90% of new power plants installed world­wide over use renew­able energy. The Build Back Bet­ter Act will cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties for US exports, and accel­er­ate all of these crit­i­cally impor­tant clean invest­ments in impres­sive pro-​​job and pro-​​justice ways. As the US gets ready for the inter­na­tional cli­mate con­fer­ence (COP26) next month in Glas­gow, Scot­land, the Build Back Bet­ter Act is what we need eco­nom­i­cally, socially, envi­ron­men­tally, and morally. It is time to act.

[1]   Scott Wiener and Daniel Kam­men (2021) “Why hous­ing pol­icy is cli­mate pol­icy,” The New York Times, March 25, 2019. http://​www​.nytimes​.com/​2​0​1​9​/​0​3​/​2​5​/​o​p​i​n​i​o​n​/​c​a​l​i​f​o​r​n​i​a​-​h​o​m​e​-​p​r​i​c​e​s​-​c​l​i​m​a​t​e​.​h​tml

[2]   Daniel Kam­men (2020) “How elec­tric vehi­cles can help advance social jus­tice,” The San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle, June 21. https://​www​.sfchron​i​cle​.com/​o​p​i​n​i​o​n​/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​H​o​w​-​e​l​e​c​t​r​i​c​-​v​e​h​i​c​l​e​s​-​c​a​n​-​h​e​l​p​-​a​d​v​a​n​c​e​-​s​o​c​i​a​l​-​1​5​3​5​1​2​9​3​.​php

[3]   Such as The Blue Cli­mate Ini­tia­tive, https://​www​.blue​cli​mateini​tia​tive​.org & USAID’s Clean Cities, Blue Ocean Pro­gram,–2021-united-states-launches-clean-cities-blue-ocean-program-tackle-plastic-pollution

[4]   Daniel Kam­men and Manuel Pas­tor (2021) “Car­bon neu­tral isn’t good enough.  Cal­i­for­nia needs to be car­bon neg­a­tive by 2030,” The San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle, July 31. https://​www​.sfchron​i​cle​.com/​o​p​i​n​i​o​n​/​o​p​e​n​f​o​r​u​m​/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​C​a​r​b​o​n​-​n​e​u​t​r​a​l​-​i​s​n​-​t​-​g​o​o​d​-​e​n​o​u​g​h​-​C​a​l​i​f​o​r​n​i​a​-​1​6​3​5​1​1​4​9​.​php

Batteries are “the glue of the clean-​​energy economy”

Episode 537 (Octo­ber 12, 2021)

On the “Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly” Mar­ket­place pod­cast (the hosts of Mar­ket­place), we sat down and talk about the cur­rent and future state of energy storage:

Hosted by Kai Ryss­dal and Molly Wood

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Bat­ter­ies are “the glue of the clean-​​energy economy”

To down­load or lis­ten: click here.

Episode link:


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