Can Renewables Contain Extreme Weather Conditions?

Transition away from fossil fuels is economically and technologically feasible today through the mass implementation of 100% renewable grids, argues Renewables 100 Policy Institute founder Angelina Galiteva

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Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s Sharmini Peries and welcome to this edition of Global Warning at the Real News Network.

The extreme weather events associated with a warming planet is here to stay if we follow the consistency of the record setting trends to date. According to NASA, July and August were the 11th straight record breaking months this year. Just so you our audience knows, we state these alarming records repeatedly at the Real News to alert viewers of the gravity of the problem that we are dealing with. To make our case, let’s take up super Typhoon Meranti as it has hit Taiwan with winds up to 185 miles per hour. Expected to rise to 225 miles per hour as it makes its way along Hong Kong, mainland China, and Japan. Meranti surprised many by rapidly intensifying to a category 5 storm in just 24 hours. Typhoon intensity in Asia has increased remarkably over the last four decades fueled by ocean warming. So what is to be done about all of this?

Well we’re going to take up that question with our next guest, Angelina Galiteva. She is the founder and chair of the board for Renewables Hundred Policy Institute. Thanks so much for joining us Angelina.

ANGELINA GALITEVA: It’s a pleasure.

PERIES: Angelina, your organization 100% Renewable Energy just hosted a delegation coming from Brazil. In spite of all the political turmoil that is going on they have signed the Paris Agreement and they’re curious about what California holds in terms of a model for the implementation. Give us a sense of what the models were about and give us a sense of what you had to offer.

GALITEVA: Well as you know the Paris Agreement focused on climate change, greenhouse gas, and mitigating these extreme events that you referred to in the introduction in terms of typhoons, in terms of extreme weather, in terms of resiliency, and it also would have an economic impact. And ratifying this agreement for Brazil also meant that they’re going to join all the other countries in combating climate change and making sure that we have a plan on how we address these issues. Of course one of the biggest portions and contributors to climate change is energy. All forms of energy. How we produce our electricity, the fuels that we use heat and cool and run industries and the fuels that we use to drive our cars.

So electrifying all of the sectors and electrifying them with renewable energy and a growing percentage of renewable energy is important. This is actually a continuation of California’s interactions with Brazil through the US State Department which started last year where we presented the California solution for climate change and California’s cutting edge climate policies as examples that could be utilized by most anybody around the globe. Of course with certain adjustments they’re very technologically based. They’re policy based.

We can learn from each other, and Brazil was very interested and this is the second delegation coming to California. It’s a high level government NGO regulators and utilities. Almost 30 people here trying to find out what California is doing, what are our experience is, meeting with universities, meeting with utilities, meeting with high tech companies such as Apple and Solar City. Meeting with integrators of renewable energy, learning about what the opportunities are so that we could have a program where we exchange relevant experience and benefit from each other’s progress. So we can transition faster to this reality of 10% renewable energy which will hopefully mitigate and curb the global warming that’s occurred at a very alarming pace.

PERIES: And as you know California’s Governor Gary Brown just signed two very important climate bills into law last week. Can you talk about the significance of these bills? Bill SB350 and so far, are you happy with what’s contained in these documents signed by Governor Brown in terms of mitigating fossil fuels?

GALITEVA: Of course and Governor Brown is very, very dedicated to making sure that climate change is addressed. That making sure that this is a moral imperative and it is something that we’re all in together and we have to solve. And he certainly walks the talk and takes a leadership approach that climate is tackled on a very practical and pragmatic level. And the signing and extension of SB32 which was the law passed in 2006 requiring that we reach CO2 levels of 1990 by 2020 is actually something that California is going to achieve.

What happened a few days ago on September 8th was making that goal more aggressive of reducing greenhouse gases to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, which is going to be an even more impressive goal that we have to reach. Of course SB350 which is 350, the 350’s 50% reduction in use of energy. So 50% of improvement in energy efficiency. 50% reduction in the use of fossil fuels and 50% renewable electricity for the state is what this law calls for. So it’s increasing our renewable electricity from what is currently about 28-29% to 50% by 2030.

We beat our 2020 goals of 30% by 2020 and we certainly will reach the 30%. Increase our energy efficiency is going to be very critical because that is important. But even more so the transportation sector because 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions are connected to transportation. So electrifying the transportation sector, making sure that we have mass transit options. Making sure that we’ve got alternative fuels to power our cars and especially trucks whether its biodiesel or hydrogen or some other form of clean renewable fuel, is going to be a very critical step necessary for us to meet these ambitious SB32 goals of 40% 1990 levels. And our governor has made this commitment.

And of course there are certain people that have said this may influence California’s competitiveness in terms of the global economy that our environmental goals may somehow impede our economic development which has not turned out to be the case so far. California has progressively grown. Jobs have actually grown and manufacturing has not left the state. We’re now the 6th largest economy in the world and going strong.

So you can have a booming economy and a strong environmental policy because we all live and work and play in the same environment. And having Los Angeles be one of the cleaner cities and not having to deal with Smog and [inuad.] of course benefits everybody. So we want to make sure that we transition to this clean economy and show the world how it can be done in a cost effective manner optimizing all of the assets that we have. Not having stranded investments and making sure that we provide an environment where cutting edge technology can actually succeed and implemented on an escalated fashion so that we move very quickly to a clearer and greener electricity grid and indeed an overall energy infrastructure.

PERIES: Right, give us a sense of when you say electrifying, doesn’t it also take a great deal of energy to electrify a grid? Give us some of the technical background to this that is required in terms of our understanding to see whether California is really proposing a solution that other states can learn from.

GALITEVA: Well let’s say electrifying the electricity grid with 100% renewable energy, right now the goal is 50% renewable energy but keep in mind that California does not count large hydropower into the mix of renewable energy and we also don’t count rooftop systems that have been put and they’re being installed at a very fast pace. Actually the last number I heard was between 6-8,000 rooftops every single month going in California which is another very large portion of renewable energy coming on the grid.

So about 50% is technically 70 or 75% if you count the hydro and the rooftop solar that’s coming in. That is something that can happen with balancing the grid, making sure that you understand the resources that you have. That although renewables are extremely reliable because we know the sun will shine and we know the wind will blow. We know it’s not going to be 100% of the time so we need to be able to balance those resources with power that is available. Which means we need to have more geothermal, more hydropower that we can count on, certainly storage is going to be very important, flexible resources such as being able to ramp up and down the new batteries and new storage technologies are going to be critical.

And of course an opportunity for customers to participate in the new economy. Because if you have a solar system and you put storage in your home and you’re driving in an electric car, if the grid sends you a signal, we have a shortage would like to drain your batteries and we’ll certainly pay you for it, all of a sudden your car, your storage system, your home, become a money making opportunity which was never the case before. So customers are increasingly interested in being able to participate this new energy economy and this new market place. So it’s basically about democratizing the grid and allowing power to flow both ways. No longer just the utilities supplying the customer. But the customer being able to support the grid with necessary services at peak times.

So it becomes an exciting opportunity. Of course it becomes much more complicated. We have to be able to transition very quickly from supply and demand and be able to meet those peak demands. But we believe if we’ve prepared and planned for it, it is something that is infinitely doable. And if we can show that it’s possible here, it can be something that others can incorporate into their energy systems and leap from to solutions without having to make mistakes.

PERIES: Angelina, in your calculations when you project the impact of renewables across the globe, is it possible to actually reverse some of the trends we’re seeing today in terms of these extreme climate conditions?

GALITEVA: I don’t know if we can reverse them. I mean we hear conflicting scientific data. We may be past the point of no return. I’m an infinite optimist. I’d like to believe that we can create an environment where we’re not making it any worst. That we can curb it and certainly slow it down and maybe over time with a concentrated global effort, reverse it.

But renewables right now because they have been so successful in how they’ve been developed and because they are fossil free, they are emission free, they are fuel free, they are now very quickly with mass implementation becoming our lowest cost resource which is an incredible benefit. Because the argument is no longer well why should we invest in all of these expensive extravagant technologies when they’re the lowest cost technologies and they’re the technologies that can allow you to transition much faster because they’re flexible.

Renewables are the only resource that can allow a village in the sunbelt that has never been interconnected to a grid and has no hope of having powerlines be built there in the next decade because it takes very long time to build a centralized power system, to allow those people to come to the 21st century in terms of having power, having industry of some kind of where people can actually work because they have the energy. Having education, having access to doctors across borders, and that is a very quick solution that is an empowerment solution for children, for women, and for everybody in those areas as well.

So a moral imperative is not only to curb climate change and to have the haves and the have nots but to make sure that people, the 2 billion people that have no power right now are empowered with renewable technologies that will not adversely affect climate and they can actually be the ones that built the new cities of the future faster than we can over here because we’ve got outdated infrastructure.

PERIES: Angelina, lots of very interesting things to think about. I thank you so much for joining us today and hope to have you back very soon again.

GALITEVA: Thank you so much. We should be optimistic. The future is green and we can build it. We’ve got the solutions. We’ve got the technologies. We need the political will and the implementation schedules and we’re getting there by signing all these treaties. So I’m optimistic.

PERIES: Well said. I thank you very much. And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

End

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