Desert Sun: Norma Sierra Galindo wins third term on IID Board.

Despite big money donations from farmers opposed to the IID water policies to serve all Imperial County residents, Norma Sierra Galindo leaves her opponent in the dust.

Norma Sierra Galindo

Imperial County voters re-elected Norma Sierra Galindo to the Imperial Irrigation District’s board of directors, rejecting a bid from Carlos Zaragoza, who was backed by a handful of farmers seeking greater control over the region’s Colorado River water.

With all precincts reporting early Wednesday, Galindo had won 53 percent of the votes, compared to 47 percent for Zaragoza, a property tax consultant. Zaragoza declined to share his opinion on the Abatti lawsuit during the campaign, saying only that he would “support the law as determined by the courts.” He received at least $5,000 from farmers who had previously supported Imperial Valley First, a group that has fought IID over water rights and campaigned against sitting board members in several elections.

Zaragoza received $1,000 in campaign funds from Jimmy Abatti, Mike’s brother and the immediate past president of the Imperial County Farm Bureau, who has previously sued IID several times over its water policies. Zaragoza also got $1,000 each from farmers Kevin Grizzle, Mike Morgan, Jack Vessey and Doug Westmoreland. Separately, Morgan gave $5,000 to Imperial Valley First, which registered to campaign against Galindo.

The complete article can be accessed on the Desert Sun website by clicking here.

More Criticism for Comite Civico-Students Found To Be At Risk-Comite Civico Takes No Action – Desert Sun: Who monitors the monitors? Toxic air alerts went unnoticed

An air monitor at Seeley Elementary School show extremely unhealthful levels of particles in the air, but no one alerted neighbors of school leaders. Now, the same program will be coming to the Coachella Valley.

Neighbors of Seeley Elementary School might have been breathing toxic amounts of dust for weeks during the summer, based on the readings of an air monitor put up at the school by a nonprofit. Despite the sky-high measurements — more than 40 times what the World Health Organization considers a healthy level for PM10 air pollution — no one took action and neighbors were left unaware of the danger.

Now, Comite Civico del Valle, a nonprofit based in Brawley that operates these monitors, is using state funds as it expands its network of monitors to the eastern Coachella Valley, where the same thing could happen again.

Comite Civico says the organization’s goal is to turn community concerns into research — and not necessarily action.

“Everything we did was based on community concerns,” said Humberto Lugo, who manages the organization’s air-monitoring program. “Community concerns (were) that there was not enough regulatory data and not enough air-quality data out there to really make informed decisions about your everyday activities and kind of just understand what’s happening in different neighborhoods throughout the Imperial County.”

Lugo said the organization shares the data it collects through its system of monitors with research partners and legislators, who can use the information to advocate for better regulations and enforcement on sources of air pollution. But in the short term, it is unclear who is tasked with informing the community when monitors show dangerously high pollution levels, just like the one in Seeley did over the summer.

PM10, particulate matter that is 10 micrometers or smaller, could be dust particles or moisture small enough to lodge in the lungs. Six to 10 particles that small can fit across the diameter of a human hair, according to the California Air Resources Board.

According to Lugo, his team was aware of the over 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter averages of PM10 recorded by the school’s monitor, but chalked it up to the construction of a new gym on campus. Up to 20 micrograms per cubic meter is considered a safe level by the World Health Organization.

School was out for the summer, and no action was taken. But as students began filing in for their first week of school in August, the monitor continued to register levels over 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter of pollution. Administrators, educators, parents and students at Seeley said they had no idea.

When The Desert Sun reached out to staff at Seeley Elementary, school officials were unaware of the purpose of the monitor on their campus.

However, they are aware of the often dangerous levels of pollution in the area, and the school has used a flag system to create awareness of the day’s air quality levels. Based on the air quality, the school would raise a flag, colored green, yellow, orange or red to indicate whether it was safe to be outside.

Even though they had a monitor on the campus, Seeley School District Superintendent Cecilia Dial said her staff relied on regional, less granular data provided by the county.

Dial said Lugo’s organization never explained how the monitor could be used by the school or where staffers could access the data it collects. “The monitor was just there as another access point to gather data,” Dial explained.

Students leave Seeley Elementary School on Monday, September 25, 2018 in Seeley, CA. The school is a site for a air pollution monitor operated by the nonprofit Comite Civico del Valle. (Photo: Richard Lui/The Desert Sun)

Please click here to read the entire article.

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia’s Geothermal Energy Proposal Prevails in Senate Appropriations

Sacramento, California – Thursday, in the midst of fevered policy discussions surrounding the fate of California’s clean energy future, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia successfully advanced AB 893, his proposal supporting geothermal, out of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The geothermal procurement mandated in this measure is of immense significance to the Riverside and Imperial County communities in Garcia’s district.

“Areas surrounding the Salton Sea are uniquely ripe for renewable energy development, geothermal being chief among them,” stated Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. “Despite the increased reliability of geothermal, these

The Hudson Ranch geothermal facility

resources have been greatly neglected in energy conversations. I introduced AB 893, to make sure that this tremendous regional opportunity is no longer overlooked and can be integrated into California’s overall energy efforts. In addition to helping diversify our renewable energy portfolio, the inclusion of geothermal would unlock many economic as well as public health co-benefits for underserved areas like ours.”

Read the complete article here:  Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia’s Geothermal Energy Proposal Prevails in Senate Appropriations

From the LA Times: Link California’s clean energy to the rest of the west? Sounds great, but it’s risky

Earlier this week the Editorial Board at the Los Angeles Times wrote the following:

Link California’s clean energy to the rest of the west? Sounds great, but it’s risky

By THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD

JUL 02, 2018

The state of California is considering forming a regional electrical grid to jointly manage power transmission in multiple western states, and the potential benefits are enormous: It would provide a gigantic new market for California utilities to sell the overabundance of solar power they generate

Coal in the Western United States

during the day, as well as giving them access to an equally generous array of hydroelectric- and wind-generated electricity from other states to power the lights when the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean.

Electricity rates would plunge, supporters say, given that the fuel for clean power is free and infinitely self-renewing. Coal plants and natural gas couldn’t compete over the long run and would shut down because, really, who wants to pay extra for dirty air? And eventually the big western skies would be as clear and carbon-free as they were before the first wagon rattled along the Oregon Trail. Best of all, despite the persistent efforts of the climate change deniers running the federal government, the U.S. would be a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Take that, Mr. President!

That’s the pretty picture painted by the people (one of whom is Gov. Jerry Brown) pushing the California Legislature to vote this summer to dissolve the California Independent System Operator, the entity that runs the state’s electrical grid, and replace it with a new regional organization that would buy and distribute electricity among any western states and utilities that want to participate.

But like any big payout, it requires taking a gamble. And right now ratepayer advocates, consumer groups, municipal utilities and some environmental groups say the risks are too great. (Other environmental groups are supporting the big grid proposal because of the potential to spur more states to make the transition to renewables.)

The proposal’s biggest risk is that California would have to hand over control of its power grid to an as-yet unknown entity, sacrificing the safeguards put into place two decades ago after another such gamble — on deregulation — triggered an electricity crisis that plunged the power grid into chaos.

Right now, Cal-ISO is a nonprofit public benefit corporation with board members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. And in addition to adhering to state open-meeting laws and procedural rules, it must operate in the best interests of Californians — not of, say, Utahns, who have already expressed hostility toward California’s climate change policies and their effects on coal revenues. The bill says that the new board must also follow the state’s rules or else California will take its power grid and go home. That’s easier said than done once the state has already signed over management of its infrastructure to a board answerable not to Californians, but to President Trump’s appointees on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Proponents are also worried about a not-inconceivable scenario in which California would be forced to subsidize coal-power plants within the regional market to help Trump achieve one of his campaign promises.

The Legislature should not pass this plan, at least not right now and not in its current form. Under the proposal, the Legislature would give its blessing to the development of a governing board to oversee the regional market without knowing its composition or structure. (The bill specifies that there would be a western states committee with three members from each state to provide unspecified “guidance” to the governing board.) Final details would be worked out later and approved by the California Energy Commission. It’s troubling that the measure provides no mechanism for the Legislature to pull out if the plan evolves into something that may not be in the state’s best interests.

There’s no ticking clock here. California isn’t in danger of falling behind in its green power goals. In fact, it is well on track to have half its power come from renewable sources by 2030, as mandated by state law. Nor is there reason to think renewable power won’t catch on if there’s no regional market. Solar- and wind-generated electricity is getting cheaper every year. Someday — possibly very soon — an interconnected multi-state regional electric grid may be the safest and most sensible way to go for the next phase of clean power. But the risks are simply greater than the need at the moment.

Link to editorial here.

By Ray Dorantes at KYMA: Over 200 million dollars for Salton Sea restoration project

EL CENTRO, Calif. – Over $200 million dollars from Proposition 68 and state funds are being invested in the Salton Sea. State officials at a press conference said they’re working to prevent a regional environmental disaster.

California State Senator Ben Hueso and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia hold a press conference in El Centro.

West Shores Vice-Mayor Mark Gertz said it’s about time because the area is becoming a major health hazard.

“Because the lives of the residents and the flora and fauna of the Salton Sea basin are life-depending upon that. The local high school in Salton Sea has four times the state level of asthma. School children in mecca are getting nosebleeds and asthma much higher than the state levels,” Gertz said.

Senator Ben Hueso, 40th Senate Disctrict, said he understand the problem.

“It’s not just a Riverside or Imperial Problem, it’s a statewide problem that people should be very concerned about not addressing,” Hueso said.

State Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia explained the allocation of the funds.

“It’s broken down into a 170 million dollars that will go directly to the Salton Sea management program for this first phase of this 10-year plan. It is 30 million dollars that will go directly to the Salton Sea authority to begin these efforts immediately. And then ten million of those will go towards the 20 million-dollar cost of cleaning up the new river,” Garcia said.

Gertz appreciates the amount but said that it’s not enough to solve a problem that has a price tag in the billions.

“This will not fund all of the ten-year plan. To not address the sea at large is going to incur long-term disastrous results,” Gertz said.

You can read the complete story and watch a video here.

Despite fear of Trump, California considers sharing control of power grid

Another news story about the scheme to hand control over California’s energy choice to others who don’t believe in climate change or robust renewable energy.

Opponents see it as a direct threat to California’s clean-energy policies.

It could cede at least some control over California’s power lines and electricity market to coal-producing states such as Wyoming and Utah whose energy policies do not align with California’s. The proposed regional grid organization also would operate squarely under the oversight of a federal government that, under President Trump, is searching for ways to keep coal-fired power plants alive.

“You’ve got to look at who we’re partnering with,” said Loretta Lynch, former president of the California Public Utilities Commission. “We’re not partnering with people who want to be clean and green.”

The new system, critics fear, could even open California’s electricity market to the kind of manipulation that plunged the state into rolling blackouts during the 2000-01 electricity crisis.

You can read the complete story on the San Francisco Chronicle’s web site by clicking here.

From the Daily Mail: A ghost town in the making

With sandy beaches and warm water year-round, Salton Sea in California was the perfect family getaway of the 1950s and 60s. It attracted Hollywood’s elite – Rock

Hudson water-skied there, Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis visited their friend Guy Lombardo’s yacht which was moored there. The Beach Boys were members of the North Shore yacht club, Sonny Bono was a visitor and President Dwight Eisenhower golfed there.

Business was booming – hotels, motels, casinos and yacht clubs popped up along the lake’s 116-mile shoreline helping to create enclaves including Bombay Beach and Salton City. Residents and developers quickly reaped the benefits of the influx.

Click here to read the complete article.

Why Am I Paying $65/year for Your Solar Panels?

Below is a great article from Lucas Davis, a UC Berkeley professor that published a report a few years ago about the closing of San Onofre, the nuclear facility north of San Diego, and how replacing the nuclear energy with natural gas was the equivalent of adding 2,000,000 vehicles to the roads of California.

Why Am I Paying $65/year for Your Solar Panels?

700,000 California homes now have solar panels; what does this mean for everyone else’s rates?

“This is the future,” one of my neighbors recently told me, proudly showing off his rooftop solar panels, “Forget the old, inefficient utility.” The panels do look great, and, for a moment, I got caught up in my neighbor’s “green glow” of eco-righteousness. Should I be doing “my part” for climate?

But wait a second. I already am! As Severin Borenstein has been pointing out for years, a big part of the reason why rooftop solar is so popular in California is our electricity rates. And because of the way rates work, every time another neighbor installs solar, my rates go up. I’m tired of it. Why should they get all the “green glow”? Why should I be paying more for their rooftop solar, particularly given that grid-scale renewables are so much cheaper?

Almost 700,000 homes in California have installed solar, about 5% of all homes in California. Today I want to figure out what this means for the rest of us. No fancy econometrics, no complicated model. I just want to do a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation to try to figure out how big of a deal this is.

brick

Note: Green glow. Image licensed under creative commons.

 

Utilities have a lot of Fixed Costs

It is helpful to take a step back and think about what it takes to deliver electricity. Utilities have lots of what economists call “fixed costs”. For example, utilities have to maintain all the transmission and distribution lines used to deliver power. These costs are fixed (not marginal) because they do not depend on how much electricity is consumed.

truck

Note: Utilities have lots of cool trucks. Image licensed under creative commons.

 

Who pays for these fixed costs? We all do. Every time you use electricity, you help pay for these fixed costs. There is a long history in the United States of regulators setting electricity prices equal to average costs.  Economists have argued that it would be more efficient to set prices equal to marginal cost. But the truth is this didn’t matter much in the past, in part because people didn’t have much choice about whether or not to consume electricity.

Until now. Rooftop solar is an opportunity for consumers to radically reduce the amount of electricity they buy from the utility. In Hawaii there is a lot of talk of “grid defection”, but in 99.9%+ of cases solar homes continue to be connected to the grid. Solar homes use the grid just as much as other households, as they are always either importing or exporting electricity, it’s just that they consume much less grid-electricity.

What this means is that good people like my neighbor contribute much less to paying for utility fixed costs. The fixed costs haven’t gone away, but my neighbor now has a lower electricity bill so pays far less of them. This leaves the utility with a revenue shortfall, and it is forced to raise prices. So who pays for the fixed costs my neighbor used to pay? Everyone else.

wires

Note: Utilities have lots of fixed costs.

 

A key subtlety here is “net metering”. Households who install rooftop solar pay only for the electricity they consume “on net” after solar generation. This is easy and simple, but also wrong. Implicitly, this means that they get compensated for their solar panels’ sales to the grid at the retail electricity rate. This is too high, significantly exceeding what the utility saves from not having to supply that electricity. Under an alternative rate structure, in which households were paid the wholesale rate, you would not have this “cost-shifting” away from solar households.

Cost Shifting 

Ok, but how much cost shifting is actually happening? Outside California, Arizona, and Hawaii, probably not much. But California has a lot of solar, about half of all U.S. rooftop solar. How much have California electricity rates increased due to the 700,000 homes with solar?

spiral.png

Note: Utility Death Spiral? Source here.

 

This is tricky because we don’t actually know how much electricity is being produced by rooftop solar. Almost everyone is on net metering, so we only observe net consumption, not solar production. Fortunately, the California Energy Commission has poured over solar radiation information and other data and estimated that total annual generation from California behind-the-meter solar is 9,000 GWh. About two-thirds of this is residential, so about 6,000 GWh. To put this in some context, total annual residential electricity consumption in California is 90,000 GWh.

So how much “cost shifting” does this imply? The average residential electricity price in California is $0.185/kWh, while the average wholesale price is about $0.04/kWh. Accounting for electricity that is lost during delivery to the end customer adds about 9% more per kWh delivered. Thus, each time a California household produces a kWh, the utility experiences a revenue shortfall of about $0.14. Multiply this by total residential distributed solar generation, and you get $840 million annually. California utilities receive $15 billion annually in revenue from residential customers, so the total shortfall is about 5%.

This is a crude calculation, and it could undoubtedly be refined. For example, distributed solar proponents argue that local generation allows the utility to avoid distribution system upgrades, which would represent an additional benefit. These impacts have been found to be relatively small, but this continues to be an area of active research. On the other hand, I’ve also made an assumption that significantly decreases my estimate of cost shift. In particular, I’ve used the average residential retail price, but California customers actually pay increasing block rates so most solar customers face a marginal price well in excess of the average price.

Conclusion

The total revenue shortfall works out to about $0.01 per kWh, or $65/year for the average California household. This is more than I expected. And, I’d bet most Californians are not even aware that this cost shift is happening.

So why am I paying $65/year for other people to have solar? It doesn’t make sense. Sure, I’m concerned about climate change, but my $65/year could go a lot farther if it was used instead for grid-scale renewables. Moreover, this is almost certainly bad from an equity perspective, as we know that high-income households adopt solar much more often than other households. Rooftop solar isn’t getting rid of the utility. It’s just changing who pays for it.

To read the article please click here.

Lucas Davis

Lucas Davis is an Associate Professor at the Haas School of Business, Faculty Director at the Energy Institute at Haas, and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research focuses on energy and environmental markets, and in particular, on electricity and natural gas regulation, pricing in competitive and non-competitive markets, and the economic and business impacts of environmental policy. His work appears in leading academic journals including the American Economic Review, the RAND Journal of Economics, and the Journal of Political Economy. He blogs along with other Energy Institute researchers at energyathaas.wordpress.com.