Addressing California’s Drought

By California Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller

The California Energy Commission is leading a joint workshop today with state agencies focused on energy, water, planning, climate change and agriculture to examine the impact of the drought on California and its energy systems.


Along with Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister a number of the state’s key leaders in drought response have joined us, including Commissioner Catherine Sandoval of the California Public Utilities Commission, Secretary Karen Ross of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Vice-Chair Frances Spivy-Weber of the State Water Resources Control Board and Deputy Secretary Ashley Conrad- Saydah of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

We are continuing an open, frank discussion about the hardships of the drought, how Californians have responded and what steps we should consider next. With that in mind, here are five facts to put the drought in perspective:
  • Study Finds Climate Change Is Making Drought 20 Percent Worse: A new report published in the journal of Geophysical Research Letters confirms that climate change is affecting California in the form of higher temperatures and more devastating drought. Global warming made California’s drought 15 to 20 percent worse than what it would have been, and dry spells are almost certain to be worse in the future.
This workshop will shed light on the work the state is doing to strengthen the efficient use of water, highlight the research on how water is used and to explore the work needed if the drought persists.

Savings From The Sun

Energy efficiency comes to those who plan. Napa Valley Unified School District has been doing just that for years – starting with lighting, heating ventilation and air systems and even pool equipment. In 2014, the district was ready to take the next step to save more energy and money throughout the district and install photovoltaic (PV) systems on three campuses – Napa Education Center, Vintage High School and Napa High School.

The district applied to the California Energy Commission for $3.5 million in funding from Proposition 39, an initiative California voters approved in 2012 that closed a tax loophole and had rewarded businesses for moving jobs out of state. Now those tax dollars are being invested in our children, our schools and our environment.

Napa Valley Unified estimates an energy savings of nearly $500,000 per year. According to a 2014 Napa Valley Register article, installing solar at the three schools will provide 89 percent of the district’s annual electricity used at those sites, reducing the school district’s annual bill from $539,501 to $58,129. In addition to saving money, the photovoltaic conversion is estimated to spare 542 metric tons of greenhouse gas emission.

To see the list of approved energy expenditure plans by district, visit the Energy Commission’s Proposition 39 webpage and click on Energy Expenditure Plan list.

Groundbreaking Ceremony for Microgrid in Humboldt County’s Blue Lake Rancheria

California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas and leaders from the Blue Lake Rancheria and Humboldt State University broke ground on Monday for a microgrid that will be a self-sustaining, renewable energy system.

The microgrid will enable the Rancheria —a Native American tribe and reservation that houses an American Red Cross Disaster Center—to produce and store renewable energy year-round and during emergencies. The microgrid will combine a solar photovoltaic array and battery storage with an existing biomass facility.

The project is a collaboration between the tribe and Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State. Funding for the project included a $5 million grant from the Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge program.

"This project shows the type of leadership and partnership that can advance California's climate and renewable energy goals, help transform our energy system and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Commissioner Douglas. “This collaborative and innovative project will demonstrate how microgrid systems can increase energy resiliency and planning, a Humboldt County priority. Having a microgrid at Blue Lake Rancheria—an American Red Cross Disaster Center and federally recognized Native American Tribe—can increase public safety in emergency situations and the Rancheria will benefit from it year-round by having renewable energy to use and technology that can store it.”

California Releases Application That Shows Projected Climate Change Impacts on Desert Ecosystems

During this week’s sold out California Climate Change Symposium, the California Energy Commission introduced an application that shows how climate change could alter California desert ecosystems and the natural range of species.

The Climate Console provides information that can improve landscape-level planning to better account for climate change. It was developed by the Conservation Biology Institute (CBI) and leverages Data Basin, a web-based geospatial data management and mapping platform. Both use the results of 20 climate change models that can be added to, downloaded and combined to show how environmental variables—such as temperatures, precipitation and aridity—are expected to shift as the climate changes.

“The Climate Console provides information that local, state, and federal agencies can customize and use to identify vulnerabilities, develop comprehensive and flexible plans and facilitate coordinated planning efforts,” said California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas.

The tool can support state agencies’ climate adaptation efforts tied to climate change mitigation goals established in Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s April Executive Order. That order called for a greenhouse gas reduction goal 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, the most aggressive carbon reduction target in North America.

The Commission worked with CBI to develop the console and make available the climate information that was used to prepare the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan and provide a tool for implementing it.

The console is being expanded statewide and will be linked to Cal-Adapt so users can easily share and add data. The Commission is hosting a webinar on Monday, August 31 for those interested in seeing how the Climate Console works.

Little Things Add Up to Big Savings in Poway

Poway Unified School District takes a common sense approach to energy efficiency. The district started with projects that were easy to implement and had significant returns. As a result, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades, lighting retrofits, and system controls were at the top of the list.

The district applied for, and received $2.1 million for fiscal year 2013-14 through Proposition 39, an initiative California voters approved in 2012 that closed a tax loophole and had rewarded businesses for moving jobs out of state. Now those tax dollars are being invested in our children, our schools and our environment.

For Poway Unified School District, this has meant new HVAC controls, LED lighting in classrooms and parking lots as well as a real-time dashboard to monitor energy usage across four campuses. The district estimates an annual energy savings of over $250,000 per year.

“This is a program that is successfully providing funding for school districts for energy efficiency projects that will ultimately pay back schools and taxpayers in real dollar savings over time and lower our use of energy, which is a wise environmental choice for our community and state,” said Michael Tarantino, Poway Unified School District director of facilities.

To see the list of approved energy expenditure plans by district, visit the Energy Commission’s Proposition 39 webpage and click on Energy Expenditure Plan list.

Hundreds Gathered in Sacramento to Discuss the Impacts of Climate Change in California

Hundreds of scientists, policymakers and those interested in climate change gathered in Sacramento for the California Climate Change Symposium, which focused on using science to plan policy.

The two-day conference was convened by the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The symposium was held Monday and today at the Sacramento Convention Center.

California Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller opened the symposium on Monday by saying the effects of climate change can already be felt throughout the state.

"California has strong climate policies to share with the world, including developing renewable energy and improving efficiency, which have proven effective at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while continuing to grow the economy,” he said. "Continued leadership is critical because California only represents 1 percent of the world’s GHG emissions. We’ve demonstrated that it is possible to reduce GHG emissions and grow the economy."

Although Weisenmiller's comments focused on California, the conference focused on global issues and solutions. The first day's sessions ranged from analyses projections to impacts on human systems and ecosystems. The keynote speakers were Anthony Barnosky and Elizabeth Hadley, authors of "Maintaining Humanity's Life Support Systems," focused on a consensus paper presented worldwide to help policymakers and scientists find solutions to the world's most pressing issue. They discussed the need to make the science understandable and solutions easily available.

The conference continues today with sessions on public health, integration of GHG emissions, federal support, and local and regional activities. All sessions will be available online by the end of August. More information can be found at

A live webcast of the conference is here:

Strengthening the California-China Clean Energy & Climate Change Partnership

By California Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller 

California’s efforts to combat climate change through innovative policies, advanced technologies and effective programs are demonstrating to the world that having a strong economy, a clean energy system and a healthy environment are not mutually exclusive. But, California cannot tackle climate change alone and China plays a crucial role in the global economy and in cutting the global risks of climate change. To continue expanding California’s collaboration with China, I led a state delegation to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong earlier this month. The delegation included representatives from the California Energy Commission, California Air Resources Board, California Environmental Protection Agency, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, and the California Independent System Operator.

During the trip, the delegation:
  • Renewed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2013 between California and the Province of Guangdong and discussed plans to renew other expiring MOUs with California’s Chinese partners.
  • Furthered our cooperation with the Province of Guangdong by discussing activities and initiatives aimed at addressing new and emerging electricity sector challenges and opportunities.
  • Shared information about greenhouse gas reduction commitments and actions in preparation for the United Nations Conference of Parties 21 scheduled for this December in Paris to negotiate a global climate change agreement.
  • Explored business development opportunities for California clean energy companies interested in entering or expanding operations in Chinese markets.

This latest state delegation to China builds upon the foundation laid by Governor Edmund G. Brown’s April 2013 trade mission to China, which focused on expanding trade and collaborating on initiatives to combat climate change, advance clean energy and improve air quality.

A number of MOUs were signed during the trade mission, creating a solid foundation for California and Chinese government agencies, businesses, civil society, and academia to cooperate with one another. Since then, California has worked with its Chinese partners to develop networking and development opportunities for businesses, hosted forums to exchange clean energy policy information and best practices, and provided technical expertise to inform the development of China’s pilot carbon emission trading systems.

I’m proud to continue California’s relationship with China to tackle energy and environmental issues as we face the challenge of balancing economic prosperity with environmental stewardship. California and China are making great strides and we are committed to ensuring a sustainable future for our citizens.

Santa Ana Unified School District puts Proposition 39 funds to good use

 It’s not every day that a crane pulls up to your school and gently drops in place a brand new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, but it happened for three schools in the Santa Ana Unified School District through funding from Proposition 39, an initiative California voters approved in 2012 that closed a tax loophole and had rewarded businesses for moving jobs out of state.

Now those tax dollars are being invested in our children, our schools and our environment. Proposition 39 funds helped improve the learning environment at schools across the Santa Ana Unified School District.

After conducting a planning, construction and design assessment, the district applied for, and received more than $1.6 million in Proposition 39 funding for fiscal year 2013-14 through the California Energy Commission. The energy-related school improvements included HVAC systems, controls, and programmable thermostats at Harvey Elementary, Monte Vista Elementary and Kennedy Elementary. The Santa Ana Unified School District received an additional $2.3 million for fiscal year 2014-15 for energy projects at 10 schools.

To see the list of approved energy expenditure plans by district, visit the Energy Commission’s Proposition 39 webpage and click on Energy Expenditure Plan list.