2023 CASM Climate Corps: Now Accepting Applications!

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Climate Action Santa Monica invites high school and college students to apply for the CASM Climate Corps 2023 program.

Since 2016, Climate Corps have engaged in local climate action for an informative, fun and empowering summer confronting the global climate emergency. Climate Corps is a program of Climate Action Santa Monica (CASM) to engage in climate action in our local community for an informative, fun and empowering summer experience.

A primary partner of the program is the City of Santa Monica, which has integrated sustainability goals and rights into its laws, regulations, and operations through the Santa Monica Climate Action & Adaptation Plan. This plan aims to profoundly reduce greenhouse gases by 2030, and aims for the City of Santa Monica to be carbon-neutral by 2050. CASM Climate Corps members help bring climate policy and action to life in our local community.

In collaboration with our partner, the City of Santa Monica, Climate Corps ages 15 to 21 learn about and have real-world experiences in: 

  • causes and impacts of climate change
  • local sustainability policies and programs
  • communicating feedback to leaders.
  • engaging with and educating the community on sustainability issues.

If you have questions, email us at casmcommunity@gmail.com

2022 CASM Climate Corps Recap

21 youth completed our 2022 Climate Corps program!

We focused on the water system and drought adaptations, organics recycling, and building decarbonization. Corps surveyed at 7 farmers’ markets and created a digital campaign educating on water and drought.

Check out their work on @climatecorps on Instagram and @casmclimatecorps on TikTok.

Applications for our summer 2023 CASM Climate Corps will be available in January 2023. We welcome applications from all youth ages 15 to 21. The program is 5 weeks long during afternoons during SMC and SMMUSD summer sessions.

Don’t derail decarbonization with a narrow-minded solar policy

CASM has joined the 600+ organization coalition to Save California Solar.

The future of rooftop solar is at a crux with a vote in the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on in February that could end “net metering.” California has over 9 gigawatts of rooftop solar out of a total 23 gigawatts of solar, and we will need 3-4 times this amount by 2045 to achieve 100% renewable power per SB100. Santa Monica’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 aspires to 10x our current installed megawatts, partly by cracking the market in multifamily buildings. This will be impossible with the proposed policy that ends net metering for apartment buildings as well.

To displace gas currently burned for half of California’s electricity, solar power must be stored. In 2021, 89% of new, large-scale solar projects included storage, while that number is 15% and growing for rooftop solar.[i] Santa Monicans installed 30 systems with batteries in the last 2 years despite supply shortages. Importantly, three million electric cars using half their battery capacity could replace all evening fossil generation.[ii] “Vehicle-to-grid” is currently being piloted in Torrance and elsewhere.[iii]

The CPUC intended for its new “net billing” policy to incentivize storage,[iv] but it deals a blow to rooftop solar so severe that, with batteries or without, the industry and its 60,000 jobs are at risk. With the highest monthly solar fees in the country, the payback period for rooftop solar would rise to over 18 years, making it an uneconomic investment. For low-income customers, payback periods will lengthen slightly and then dramatically over four years as subsidies decline.[v] Solar sent to the grid earns “Avoided Costs” credits based on wholesale power values that fail to account for costs of adding new transmission lines and disregard other benefits that local generation provides.[vi]

When our community choice supplier, the Clean Power Alliance (CPA), imports cheap solar power from the desert, we pay the costs of transmitting it to Southern California Edison (SCE).[vii] A recent study estimated that maximizing rooftop and community solar would save Californians 2.3 cents per kWh or a total of $120 billion through 2050.[viii]  Extreme heat, droughts of hydroelectricity from the Pacific Northwest, and wildfires caused by climate change multiply the need for distributed systems that are more resilient. In a heat wave last July, a wildfire near a transmission line in Oregon nearly took down the California power system.[ix]

People are motivated to take responsibility for their carbon emissions and electricity reliability by participating in the shift to sustainable energy. The utilities and CPUC claim that rooftop solar shifts costs to everyone else, because power from remote solar farms is cheap at times when rooftop solar sites export to the grid.  However, twelve percent of California solar adopters in 2019 had incomes below $50,000, and an additional 29% had incomes between $50,000 and $100,000—up from 9% and 24% a decade earlier. Solar loans, leases, and power purchase agreements require no money down. If utilities will be provided guaranteed returns for building transmission while rooftop solar investors have their returns eliminated, we are squandering resources needed to reach our climate goals.

Rooftop solar doesn’t impact wildlife or native, public and formerly protected lands like remote solar farms do.[x] The Camp fire that burned the town of Paradise was caused by a breakage of a line on a high-voltage transmission tower. Recent studies have shown that deaths of migratory waterfowl at large solar farms increase during the fall migration because they get mistaken for lakes.[xi]

Electrification is essential for decarbonization. California requires rooftop solar on all new buildings and all new car sales to be electric in 2035. Santa Monica has incentives for all-electric buildings and to expand EV charging. Changes in electrical usage will come with buildings going electric and buying electric cars that people plan to charge with their own solar power.[xii] Giving up on the solar market as it becomes mainstream and begins to reach apartment dwellers will leave us all holding the bag of an outdated utility system less likely to decarbonize. The CPUC needs to propose a new, less narrow-minded plan to achieve an equitable and sustainable power system.

CASM has joined the 600+ organization coalition to Save California Solar. Take action here.

[i] https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-12-13/california-proposes-big-changes-to-rooftop-solar-incentives

[ii] From Sunrun https://d1io3yog0oux5.cloudfront.net/_869d2c0d9f215817794acb8b8c0e4c22/sunrun/db/386/2349/pdf/Sunrun+Statement+on+CA+NEM+Proposal.pdf

[iii] Modeling in CA shows that 1200 kWh of EV battery storage per vehicle per year can be used to store and shift usage of renewable energy production: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1d-d5xAjY3iT7YOg5NOoeqKrwK0wi8zyW/view

[iv] https://www.cpuc.ca.gov/news-and-updates/all-news/cpuc-proposal-aims-to-modernize-state-decarbonization-incentive-efforts

[v] https://calssa.org/blog/2021/12/15/payback-periods

[vi] Bill Powers testimony, https://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/SupDoc/R2008020/3824/393386122.pdf and https://cacommunityenergy.org/the-avoided-cost-calculator-and-why-it-matters/

[vii] https://clean-coalition.org/policy/transmission-access-charges/

[viii] https://www.vibrantcleanenergy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/VCE-CCSA_CA_Report.pdf and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnuZgqIc9JQ&t=1451s

[ix] https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-07-12/california-flex-alert-power-grid-heat-wildfire

[x] https://www.vox.com/2021/8/18/22556193/solar-energy-biodiversity-birds-pollinator-land and https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-01-21/biden-priorities-climate-conservation-collide-california-desert

[xi] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/figure?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0232034.g002 https://ca.audubon.org/conservation/solar-power

[xii] Forty percent of EV owners have or intend to install solar per California Vehicle Rebate Program survey

De-Mystifying Recent Fires – with CASM Advisor Bill Selby

On a recent CASM “Climate Conversation,” Bill Selby, a geographer and retired SMC professor, shred insights with CASM youth and Steering members to make sense of the recent fires.  

Excessive burning fossil fuels traps heat energy in the atmosphere causing instability and extreme weather events to occur more frequently.  This has been predicted for decades and is  what we are experiencing now.

The multitude of lightning strikes that ignited recent fires was the result of a bizarre weather pattern:  a tropical storm settled over California, uniting humidity with hot temperatures.  The storm’s significant energy generated lightning, but not enough rain to overcome the heat and suppress fire.

Our environment is changing:  forests, which were moderately dry before are changing into chaparral and oak woodlands.  Our oak woodlands are changing into grasslands, and our grasslands are becoming deserts.  This process of might normally happen over many many centuries, but it is happening over decades now.  More frequent fires are accelerating the change.

Want to learn more?  Visit Bill Selby’s blog, Rediscovering the Golden State Want to get notices of upcoming CASM Climate Conversations?   Have a topic you would like to learn more about? Shoot us an email!  climateactionsantamonica@gmail.com

Solar Power Your Condominium

Is your electricity bill climbing?  Many people who are now working at home and generally staying in more are paying more these days.  Help is available if your utility payments are outside of your budget. For others, rising electricity costs may signal that it’s a good time to install solar power.

If you live in a condominium and would like to install rooftop solar but always assumed it would be too difficult, you’re in luck. Installing solar at condo building is easier now thanks to changes in laws that govern condominium buildings.  These changes were explored at a Lunch and Learn webinar recently hosted by Climate Action Santa Monica and the City of Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and Environment. 

Watch the full lunch and learn webinar on Solar for Condos

In the webinar, local real estate attorney and condo law expert, Paul DeSantis, digs into the revised laws as well as the process for getting solar panels installed on a condominium building.  Significantly, two-thirds of condo owners are no longer needed to move forward with a solar project. Insurability and financing are also improved. Paul observes that a single condo owner can now move the process along fairly quickly, while laying a path for other condo owners to install solar as well.

Drew Johnstone, Senior Sustainability Analyst for the City of Santa Monica, provides an overview of solar how it works, how it’s installed and what to expect from your new bill. He also reviews the site conditions required for solar installation and addresses how different types of condominium buildings can lay out a rooftop solar system.

Laurene von Klan, CASM’s co-chair has been heading up the CASM solar program. CASM is working with the city on this project because Santa Monica has huge rooftop solar potential.  She hopes that the new laws can jump start a wave of solar power installations in the city. “We have so many flat roofs on multi-unit buildings and so much sun. Solar power is a natural, do-able way for Santa Monica to generate results for the climate.”

Support is being provided to help interested condominium owners determine if solar power is suited for them and their building.

If you are interested in learning more please email drew.johnstone@smgov.net. You will receive a checklist that will help evaluate your solar potential.  If solar is feasible on your building, a second screening and assistance with layout of a system will provided.

What if you live in an apartment and rent your home? Renewable energy is available to you, too. You can receive 100% renewable energy through the Clean Power Alliance.  And there are other steps you can take to lower your energy carbon footprint. Please check out Renewable Energy Resources for Renters.

Your mobility choices make a difference

In Santa Monica, 64% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from motor vehicle transportation, mostly from private cars. Indeed, this is true throughout much of the world. Clearly, this paradigm must change to prevent further impacts of climate change. To achieve a meaningful reduction in our carbon footprint we must drive fewer miles. While transitioning to electric cars is important, that option is not a silver bullet. We need more options, and they already exist.

We can increase the proportion of local trips that are made by walking, cycling, scooters, electric bikes and other low-speed mobility devices if we re-shape current road designs to serve all road users equitably. Santa Monica, with its abundant sun and relatively flat topography is ideally positioned to take advantage of new mobility technology, with bicycles (and electric bicycles) playing an important role.

Reducing car use and car ownership delivers enormous, much-needed co-benefits such as significant financial savings for individuals, improved air quality, vibrant, human-oriented streets where businesses can thrive, fewer deadly collisions and a natural way to integrate activity into our lives that keeps us healthy and more resistant to disease. Walking, cycling and low-speed mobility are solutions that we can no longer afford to leave under-developed and untapped.  

We invite you to join us and our partners in promoting a healthier, more sustainable vision for our streets. For additional information about climate-friendly transportation choices, visit these sites:

The Electric Big Blue Bus has Arrived, and Not a Moment Too Soon!

The first of 18 electric buses that Big Blue Bus will acquire by 2021 was celebrated by a press event and ribbon cutting this past Wednesday, August 21,2019, at the city’s bus facility on Colorado and 6th Street.  The state-of-the-art vehicle then went into service on BBB route 1 that afternoon.  

These battery electric buses are the key to the transit system meeting its goal of being a zero-emission fleet by 2030.  The agency will not buy any more internal combustion-powered buses; all new buses purchased will be battery electric, eventually replacing the entire fleet with zero-emission buses.

Electric bus battery details

The new 75 passenger bus will have a range of approximately 150 miles which is anticipated to power it for a full day’s service.  A full recharge takes under three hours using ChargePoint Express fast chargers at BBB’s facility.  The bus uses lithium-ion batteries similar to what are used in modern electric cars like the Tesla.  And like all electric vehicles, the bus is extremely quiet, an added bonus for people near our busy streets.

Gillig is the manufacturer of the new buses, which are being built at their plant in Livermore CA.  The powertrain and batteries were developed and built by Cummins at their facilities in Tennessee and Indiana, so the entire vehicle is U.S. made.  It was in development for over 5 years in close collaboration with BBB.  

Celebrating the new Electric BBB!

As the BBB electric fleet grows in the coming years, it will play an important role in meeting Santa Monica’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 (meaning that none of the energy use or transportation in the city will contribute to net greenhouse gas production).  Emissions from transportation are the single biggest source of greenhouse gases in Santa Monica, primarily from private cars.  So using our comfortable, reliable Big Blue Buses for your transportation needs is one of the most important things you can do to address the climate crisis!

What do you think? Are you excited to try out the new electric Big Blue Bus? Leave your comments below. View the Big Blue Bus routes and schedules here. See you on the bus.


Santa Monica Residents,

We have a HUGE potential to reduce our output of global warming emissions, and it’s very simple: If you are ready to dump your old fridge, freezer or A/C unit, please call the City of Santa Monica’s Resource Recovery and Recycling at 310-458-2223. DO NOT leave curbside or alley as this will lead to a dangerous dumping of the harmful chemicals inside the unit.

This old freezer was recently found dumped in an alley in Santa Monica.  If you see one, talk to your neighbor and/or call the City of Santa Monica to request safe disposal.

Here’s what you need to know:

Did you know that refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners contain gases that are 1,000 – 9,000 times more potent at warming our climate than carbon dioxide? 

If refrigerators, freezers and air conditioning units are recycled and disposed of properly by professionals, then 90% of the gases in each unit are captured and purified for reuse or transformed into other chemicals that do not have climate changing capacity. 

If Santa Monica residents dump their units curbside or in the alley and the refrigerants in those units are drained or released by amateurs, then each unit will spew its gases into our atmosphere with enormous temperature-increasing effects on the climate.

In 2016, 170-nations gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, to address the pressing issue with using these climate-warming gases, a.k.a. refrigerant gases a.k.a. HFC’s. Luckily, the countries agreed on an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase out the use of harmful greenhouse gases starting in 2019. Manufacturers will switch to alternatives such as propane and ammonium. Scientists estimate that the Kigali accord can reduce global warming by nearly 1° Fahrenheit

But the proper disposal of any HFC-containing appliance is key in keeping these potent climate warming gases at bay. Any of us updating to a new unit or, simply, downsizing has the power and the responsibility to make sure these gases are recycled or properly disposed of.

Tossing out your ol’ fridge, freezer or air conditioner? Here’s what to do:

  1. ALWAYS dispose of your unit with a professional. Amateur drainage of the harmful refrigerant HFC gases will result in spewage straight into our atmosphere. 
  2. DO NOT leave refrigerators, freezers or air conditioners curbside or alley UNLESS you have already arranged for a FREE pickup by the City of Santa Monica. Please call the city’s Resource Recovery and Recycling: 310-458-2223. In addition to the environmental risk of leaving your unit curbside without proper disposal plans, this can also lead to playing children trapping themselves inside your unit.  Take safety measures such as removing doors!
  3. If you have arranged for pick-up with the city of Santa Monica (310-458-2223) and are asked to leave your unit curbside or in the alley, PLEASE MARK THE UNIT with a visible note: “For City Pickup ONLY – Harmful Chemicals / Para la recogida en la ciudad SOLAMENTE – Productos químicos nocivos”

If you are replacing with another unit, shop stores that offer free or inexpensive recycling of old units. If you are buying a new unit from a reputable store and they offer take your old unit away, you can generally have confidence that it will be handled properly. But feel free to ask if they are approved or alternatively, look for retailers that partner with EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program