Investments in Sustainability
The California Energy Commission (Energy Commission) is the first major government energy agency in the country to make transportation energy project funding decisions based on specific sustainability goals. The next generation of fuel production and vehicle manufacturing in California should evolve in a manner that avoids environmentally and socially destructive practices. California law requires the Energy Commission to establish “sustainability goals to ensure that alternative and renewable fuel and vehicle deployment projects, on a full fuel-cycle basis, will not adversely impact natural resources, especially state and federal lands.” California Health and Safety Code section 44271 (a) (2). Under Assembly Bill 118 or the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, the Energy Commission funds projects that meet this directive.
These high standards of sustainability are included in the criteria for evaluating the Energy Commission’s funding decisions. Serving as a guiding principal both to the nation and internationally, stakeholders seeking Energy Commission funding are beginning to incorporate these standards into their project designs. Energy Commission-funded projects are those that:
- substantially reduce life-cycle GHG emissions,
- protect the environment, including all natural resources
- enhance market and public acceptance of sustainably produced alternative and renewable fuels
Project proposers seeking funding from the Energy Commission must explain the environmental implications of their projects. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum use must be described and quantified. Best management practices for water usage and the type, source, volume and collection methods of feed-stocks used in production are considered. If applicable, a description of the renewable energy or cogeneration used in the project and any arrangements with electric utilities for the disposition of the energy generated should be included.
Joining with a wide variety of agencies and industry stakeholders through various working groups, Energy Commission staff agrees that new measuring methodologies are needed to estimate indirect land use changes resulting from production of fuel crops to lands both inside and outside the state. Consideration of international environmental practices is necessary to ensure that all alternative fuels made and used in California are sustainably produced.
In the first years of the Program, the Energy Commission spent $3.6 million on sustainability research and technical projects involving field work needed to establish sustainability standards for the woody biomass fuels industry and to establish indicators & methodologies for best management practices of biomass crops. These studies were expanded into the areas of sustainability indicators for biorefineries and analyzing the effectiveness of regional and local sustainability regulations and practices.
For a more comprehensive discussion of sustainability and how sustainability standards are being developed click here: (LINK)
For 2011-2012, the Energy Commission has proposed $2.5 million for continuing research and technical support in the areas of biofuel feedstock acquisitions, water use concerns, vehicle and component manufacturing practices and verifying the attributes of third-party sustainability certifications.