Californians Earn Energy Credits For Fighting Climate Change
California residents and small businesses will save on their April electricity bills thanks to the state’s comprehensive strategy to combat climate change under its groundbreaking Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). Since its 2006 passage, AB 32 has reduced carbon pollution and the public health impacts of burning fossil fuels while solidifying California’s place as a global leader in clean energy.
For millions of Californians, it’s now about to also (literally) pay them dividends.
Beginning April 1, the California Climate Credit will be distributed to residential and small business customers of California’s investor-owned utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric, which collectively serve more than two-thirds of the state’s electricity demand.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
For residential customers, the credits will appear on utility bills in April and October. The amount of the credit varies by utility, this year ranging from about $30 to $40 for households. Eligible small businesses, including schools and hospitals, will receive the credit monthly.
Polluter pays, customers gain
These utility bill savings are a result of a key component of California’s plan to achieve AB 32’s goal of reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020—the cap-and-trade program—which requires the state’s largest emitters to acquire a shrinking pool of permits (known as allowances) for every ton of pollution they emit. This puts a price on carbon to help level the playing field for carbon-free energy sources for electricity generation, such as renewables like wind and solar, and also energy efficiency programs to reduce the need for new power plants and encourage customers to use less. It also puts a hard limit on pollution to ensure California achieves AB 32’s emissions reduction target.
The California Air Resources Board sells pollution allowances at quarterly auctions. The six auctions to date have raised just under $1.7 billion—with roughly 40 percent ($663 million) earmarked for clean energy investments to further the goals of AB 32, and the balance distributed to utility customers via the Climate Credit and other programs (publicly-owned utilities must use the value of pollution allowances allocated to them exclusively for the benefit of their customers, but are outside the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission and are not required to issue Climate Credits on monthly bills).
Why households get the same amount
While the credits vary by utility, every household within each utility’s service territory receives the same amount. This ensures customers using use less electricity are not penalized by receiving a smaller credit, which would otherwise blunt incentives for efficiency and conservation. This is particularly important to protect low-income households—who, by necessity, spend more of their income on basic needs like energy and tend to conserve more than wealthier households.
Making the credit do more
Customers who invest their savings from the Climate Credit in a low-cost energy efficiency option—such as a programmable thermostat or an advanced power strip—can cut their electric bills even more while supporting California’s efforts to transition to clean energy. Replacing just one incandescent light bulb with a new LED, for example, can save more than $50 over the life of the bulb—more than doubling the value of the credit. A handy list of other great options to help customers get the most of the credit is available on EnergyUpgradeCA.org. The site also has factsheets, FAQs, and opportunities to get engaged and help spread the word about the credit.
The way forward
As the urgency in addressing climate change continues to mount, the Climate Credit offers yet another reminder that transitioning off of a carbon-based energy diet need not come at the expense of businesses' and households' bottom lines. Under AB 32, California has put a price on carbon to boost clean energy and promote energy efficiency, and is distributing the bulk of the proceeds directly to utility customers.
For the states and countries around the world watching California to show the way forward on climate, I'd say sounds like a pretty good approach.
This post originally appeared on the NRDC's Switchboard blog.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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