Climate Change and the Election

The end of the 2016 was a challenging one for most Californians.  People have been in various states of shock, anger, disbelief, and sadness. During the fall I took a Stanford Continuing Studies class about the election.  I have a friend who is a political nut, and I thought the class would be interesting and had many renowned speakers.  David Plouffe, the campaign manager for Barack Obama’s successful 2008 presidential campaign, spoke to the class and said that he was 100% sure that Clinton would win.   So I believed an expert and was shocked when Clinton lost.

Since the election, I have chosen not to blog about some of the more mundane aspects surrounding owning a Tesla waiting to summarize my thoughts about this last month and a half first in this post.  Although politics is a challenging topic to discuss, I believe the current state of the U.S. is very relevant to both a healthy green environment and the long term success of electric cars including Tesla.  I won’t discuss many of the other horrific things that have been said about women and minorities during the election, but just focus in on our environment.

Elites and Technology Elites

During the aftermath of the election, many pundits spoke of the movement being a revolution against the elites.  Income inequality is higher than it has been since the 1920s, and the unorganized Occupy movement a few years ago tried to address the growing discrepancy.

The Industrial Revolution shifted society from an agricultural and handcraft society to a machine driven one.  The Technological Revolution has shifted society from a machine driven one to a highly automated one.  Many people who formerly worked in machine driven factories have lost their jobs to robots.  Additionally because of the ability to communicate globally, we have become a global not national economy, and jobs have moved to places with lower cost of labor.

My career had a direct affect on changing our society.  In Silicon Valley (outside of the defense industry) we always believed that what we were creating was going to be useful and not harmful for people.  Yes, some early chip companies had problems during the manufacturing process that resulted in some major toxic Superfund sites.  But by and large, the technologies we created have freed people up from mundane tasks and have allowed us to communicate in ways that we could not have imagined a century ago.  The large majority of people would be very upset if they no longer had the ability to use the internet or their smart phone.

I do not believe most technological elites realized the deep impact these changes had on some parts of the country.  Looking forward, the biggest change technology could be self driving vehicles.  3.5 Million people are truck drivers today.  If all these jobs were automated in a short period of time, how will these truckers be able to find jobs with comparable incomes?

The Environment and Global Warming

The reason I started this blog was because I care about the environment deeply.  By sharing my experience driving an electric car, I could encourage other people to make similar purchases.  My solar panels on my home are ten years old, and according to my calculations I have recovered all my upfront costs including considering the opportunity cost of the investment.  So my electricity at this point is completely free for both my house and Tesla.

Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

– Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

I am baffled by how many people in the U.S. still do not believe that climate change is occurring and that it is man made.  I have a friend who is a scientist by trade, who watches Fox news and still refutes the fact that global warming is man made.  We had a long civilized discussion about it and now matter what facts he is presented, his only argument is “There are just so many factors that could cause these changes.”  In the end I concluded that talking to him about any facts was futile and he has a deep embedded story that he believed – akin to a religious or non-religious belief.  I also think if he admitted to the reality of climate change, his sense of personal story and ego would crumble.

Trump selected Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of the oil and gas-intensive state of Oklahoma, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Pruitt has fought regulations on our environment and even defended ExxonMobil when it tried to deny climate change and disavow the oil companies’ evidence.  He also stated “The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”

This quote is incorrect, a 2016 survey of the world’s major economies also found that strict environmental policies improved, rather than handicapped, competitiveness in the international market according to the growing consensus among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) economists.  For example, California has the strictest environmental regulations in the country and enjoys the most robust economy in the U.S.

How the environment became a political issue is bizarre.  Richard Nixon created the EPA, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, and George W. Bush signed the extension of the Clean Air Act.  The environment and the future of our planet should not be a political issue.


I am very saddened that my country elected a racist, sexist person without compassion who does not care about the environment.  I will do whatever I can to help make America a good place for everyone not just rich white men.

How does the election impact Tesla and the environment? I think Tesla does need to consider the impact of autonomous vehicles on those who depend upon driving as the source of our income.

My far my biggest fear is climate change as the U.S. needs to be the leader in solving global warming, and if we don’t act fast the problems may be irreversible.


Solar Roof Tiles

Tesla’s latest event was labeled as Powerwall 2 but the more interesting part of the event was when Elon announced a set of solar tiles for roofs.


These new solar tiles are available in a few styles including a Tuscan style one in an orange color and more modern grey tile ones shown above.  All the styles are made of glass that are stronger than conventional roof tiles.  Elon claimed that installing or replacing a roof would be cheaper with these Solar City tiles than a conventional roof!

Elon also announced Powerwall 2 with twice as much energy storage than the first iteration, along with PowerPack 2 for the commercial market.


The goal is to have solar on your roof, a Powerwall in your garage, and a Tesla in your driveway.


I have already had solar on my house for 10 years, and I actually have a flat roof where you cannot even see the panels.   My house is quite unusual, but if I had a conventional house without solar I would seriously consider these new panels.  I wonder if only Solar City can install them or can you buy them at retail stores like Home Depot?

Part of the timing of this event was clearly to influence the vote on the merger. My small number of Tesla shares will in no way influence the outcome, but I have not yet decided how to vote.





New Options for Buying Power

The electric bill you receive is actually for two products:  the infrastructure, use and maintenance of the physical wires between your building and the grid, and the second is the actual energy you use.   My county is now following the lead of a group of cities and towns in Sonoma County by looking to adopt a community choice energy (CCE) program.  A CCE program allows municipalities to seize control of the actual costs of energy.  With a CCE program in Northern California, PG&E will still maintain the physical infrastructure and send the bills to the end customers, but the CCE will buy energy from 3rd parties.

Energy Cost

The graphic shows two parts of the energy bill.  The infrastructure part is the set of physical power poles and wires allowing you to charge your home, and billing the customers electronically or by snail mail.

The actual energy can come from a variety of sources:  nuclear, wind, solar, conventional power plants, and hydroelectric.  A CCE program would offer residential and commercial electricity customers new energy options, including higher renewable energy content at competitive rates. If formed, electricity customers in San Mateo County would be able to choose between Peninsula Clean Energy and PG&E as their electricity purchaser.

At the moment in Northern California, the only option for both services is PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric), who owns the monopoly franchise for 2/3 of California from Bakersfield to the Oregon border.  PG&E rates are technically set by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), but the company is a for profit enterprise.  The California State Legislature is currently looking at an overhaul of the CPUC.  One recent controversy was a very damaging environmental leak in Aliso Canyon (Porter Ranch) by the Southern California Gas & Co releasing over 150 million pounds of methane into the environment.  Methane is approximately 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide to trap heat.

Why is a CCE an interesting alternative?  Four main reasons make a CCE a positive choice for all customers.  Customers can now select from a variety of energy mixes.  They can choose to have a percentage of their electricity strictly from renewables.  Secondly a CCE is a non-profit organization not accountable to public shareholders seeking a return on investment.  Any surplus funds are reinvested in local renewable energy.  A goal of the CCE in San Mateo County will be to achieve greater greenhouse gas reductions and a sustainable energy future.  Fourth customers will have energy rates lower than current for profit PG&E rates as demonstrated today in Sonoma County.

I attended one of their public meetings and found the concept very positive.  At a simple level because this will be a non-profit organization, rates will be lower.  The county is also very interested in moving towards more renewable energy, and securing power sources closer to the county to reduce the amount of energy lost in long transmission.  The Tesla Powerwall as a possible addition to the mix was also briefly discussed in the meeting.

EV Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently released of a study of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from an electric car powered by the local electric grid. The results demonstrated that on average throughout the United States, an electric car produces the same amount of green house gases as an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle with a rating of 87 miles per gallon (mpg).

The amount of greenhouse gases vary a lot from location to location.  Areas such as upstate New York rely upon a lot of renewable energy have an effective 135 mpg.  Drivers in Kansas using the electric grid and driving a Model S are producing the same CO2 as an ICE vehicle getting 31 mpg. Unfortunately the states in the middle of the country still use coal, which has a high level of carbon dioxide emissions.

I am driving my car without producing any greenhouse gases as it is powered by rooftop solar.  If I were to connect to my local grid, the effective greenhouse gases produced would be equivalent to an ICE getting 77 mpg.

The study acknowledges that emissions are produced during vehicle production and disposal and the amount is larger with larger batteries.  But the Tesla Model S offset occurs below 20,000 miles on a national average basis.

To find out how much greenhouse gas you are producing driving your electric vehicle on your local grid, simply enter the model of electric vehicle and your zip code.

Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Induction Light Bulb

A new energy efficient light bulb has hit the market.  Over the years, the market has been slowly offering alternatives to the high energy consumptive incandescent light bulbs.  Many people struggled with replacing their traditional light bulbs because they liked the warmer light.  The first offerings were fluorescent lights, and the earliest bulbs emitted a harsh blue light.

Since then, the market now offers a variety of choices at different price ranges, life spans, color of resulting light, and electricity use.  Halogen lights, compact fluorescent (CFL) and light emitting diode (LED) lights have been in the market for a number of years.  The best solution for the environment is to use lights as little as possible.  I rarely have lights on during the day and can easily walk around the house at night without lights.  I particularly like LED lights for spot lighting although mine does generate a fair amount of heat.

Recently a new company, Finally Light Bulb, has started selling an induction light bulb.  Induction is used in the Tesla’s motor to turn the wheels.  This light bulb also uses induction.  A coil exists within the light bulb that creates a magnetic field.  This magnetic field reacts with the gas inside the light bulb creating an ultraviolet light.  A phosphor coated glass enclosure transforms the ultraviolet light into a soft white light.

Induction light technology has been around for decades in commercial applications such as streetlights or large public facilities.  This new company is the first to offer induction technology in a light bulb for the home.

Buying a light bulb these days can be quite confusing.   Weighing the upfront cost, the bulb’s life span, the long term energy cost, the ability to dim the bulb, and the light color is difficult.  Consumers have resisted changing away from induction lights because of the upfront cost; they notice the price in the store more than the amount of energy it uses over its life span.

I find it quite interesting that there is a light bulb that uses induction like my Tesla.  Look here for more information about these bulbs and a comparison chart.

Google’s Open Solar Calculator

Google announced a new free tool, Project Sunroof, that allows homeowners in a few select markets (parts of the San Francisco Bay Area), Boston and Fresno to analyze the cost and benefits of installing rooftop solar panels.

The process is very simple, you simply go to this page and enter in the address.  The software told me “Project Sunroof has not reached” my current house, but can show data for a house I used to own in Sunnyvale, California.   Using satellite data, Google shows an overview of your roof.   The tool estimates the amount of roof of your home that would receive direct sunlight.

Below is a screen shot of a satellite view of my former home in the center.  I had no large trees, and the entire house is colored yellow.  The slope of the garage facing towards the north is dark yellow.  No locations are purple, which would indicate shade.    Small sections of the neighbor’s house to the south are purple.

Source Google / Project Sunroof

Source Google / Project Sunroof

Google estimates the house receives 1,917 hours of usable sunlight per year and that 2,297 square feet of roof is available for solar panels.  The house was around 1,400 square feet but Project Sunroof also added in the garage roof and the very large awning along the west side of the house.  The name Sunnyvale indicates correctly that the climate is very sunny.

To get an accurate analysis, you also need to enter your average monthly electric bill.  That amount without air-conditioning and an electric car is relatively consistent month to month.  But this tool does not help you figure out what your bill would be if you added in an electric car.

Just for grins, I ran a test if the average electric bill for month was $100.  The system responded that the recommended solar installation size would be 3.75kW or 225 square feet and would cover 99% of the yearly usage.

The next section outlines the cost in terms of lease, loan or buy.

Cost Estimations on Sunnyvale Home

Cost Estimations on Sunnyvale Home

The tool lists the leasing costs first.  Sure there is no up front cost but your electricity will never be free.  If possible the best solution is to buy the panels and in eight years the initial upfront cost is recovered, and all electricity from then on will be free.  If someone does not have enough money to buy outright they can also take out a loan in order to eventually get free electricity from the grid.  The advantages of a lease over a loan is that the minimum maintenance and repair costs with solar are covered by the leasing company.

After the estimates are given, five solar companies are listed that you can contact.  Curiously enough Elon Musk’s Solar City is not on the list.  The press often states he is good friends with Larry Page of Google.

If the name Google (or Alphabet) was not behind this product, very little press would have occurred.  Many other solar providers have tools like this to determine the viability of solar panels, so this website is not new.  The only thing different is that you do not need to provide any contact information before beginning.    Any encouragement to keep people putting up solar panels is a great thing.




Powerwall Ban in Spain

The Spanish government has already effectively banned the Powerwall in Spain.

This post is bilingual written first in Spanish and then followed by the English translation.

En España, la situación con el Tesla Powerwall es probablemente la peor en el mundo.  Aún antes de poder comprarlo, la OCU, que es una organización del gobierno supuestamente de los consumidores y usuarios, ya ha declarado que el Powerwall solo se puede instalar en lugares que ya tenían paneles solares y no están conectados de la red eléctrica.

El sistema eléctrico es muy diferente en España que en EE.UU. o Alemania.  Aquí en EE.UU. tenemos los monopolios locales pero el gobierno tiene un poco de control.  En Alemania  el treinta por ciento de la energía es renovable.  En España solo tres empresas controlan el  sistema de la electricidad con los combustibles fósiles.

Con un clima soleado y zonas con grandes vientos, el gobierno en España ha parado las instalaciones renovables.  También una persona que quiere generar electricidad tiene que pagar un gran canon. A la mayoría de los ciudadanos no se les permit desconectarse de la red eléctrica; tiene que vivir en un lugar aislado. Tampoco se permite vender a la red la energía sobrante de los paneles solares.  

En 2013, hay una manifestación contra el sistema eléctrico y el aumento de los precios.  El gobierno recientemente ha restringido las manifestaciones; se tiene que obtener un permiso.  La policía saca fotos de los manifestantes.

Afortunadamente el uso per cápita es má bajo en España que en EE.UU.  La gente no vive en un gran casa o conduce tanto. Espero que el gobierno conservador cambie su actitud sobre el medioambiente.

In Spain, the situation with the Tesla Powerwall is probably the worst in the world.  Even prior to being able to order much less purchase a Tesla Powerwall in Spain, the OCU, which is a government organization supposedly of consumers and users,  has already declared that the Powerwall can only be installed in places already with solar panels and not on the electrical grid.

The electrical system in Spain is very different from the United States or Germany.  Here in the United States we have local monopolies but they are at least marginally controlled by the government.  In Germany, thirty percent of the power is from renewables.   In Spain three large companies control the electrical system largely using fossil fuels.

With Spain’s largely sunny climate and areas with heavy winds, the government as put a stop to installing renewables both at the industrial and individual level.  Large tolls are charged for those who want to generate their own electricity.  The government will also only let you be off grid if you are in an isolated place that is too expensive for one of the three companies to reach your location.  The electric companies also will not buy back any energy from a private producer.

In 2013, there was a large demonstration against the current electrical system and the rising rates.  The Spanish government has also recently started restricting protests;  they require any protests to get a permit and then record the photos of all the protestors in a database.

Fortunately the per capita use of energy is much lower in Spain than the U.S.  People do not live in large houses and drive as many cars.  I hope that the conservative government will change and begin to listen to the voice of the many Spanish citizens who are concerned about the environment.