Carbon Upcycling: Turning CO2 into a New, Sustainable CO2NCRETE Interdisciplinary research team at UCLA discovers a game-changing technology to capture and repurpose carbon dioxide

By George Foulsham

Imagine a world with little or no concrete. Would that even be possible? After all, concrete is everywhere — on our roads, our driveways, in our homes, bridges and buildings. For the past 200 years, it’s been the very foundation of much of our planet.

But the production of cement, which when mixed with water forms the binding agent in concrete, is also one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, about 5 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from concrete.

An even larger source of CO2 emissions is flue gas emitted from smokestacks at power plants around the world. Carbon emissions from those plants are the largest source of harmful global greenhouse gas in the world.

A team of interdisciplinary researchers at UCLA has been working on a unique solution that may help eliminate these sources of greenhouse gases. Their plan would be to create a closed-loop process: capturing carbon from power plant smokestacks and using it to create a new building material — CO2NCRETE — that would be fabricated using 3D printers. That’s “upcycling.”

“What this technology does is take something that we have viewed as a nuisance — carbon dioxide that’s emitted from smokestacks — and turn it into something valuable,” said J.R. DeShazo, professor of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.

“I decided to get involved in this project because it could be a game-changer for climate policy,” DeShazo said. “This technology tackles global climate change, which is one of the biggest challenges that society faces now and will face over the next century.”

DeShazo has provided the public policy and economic guidance for this research. The scientific contributions have been led by Gaurav Sant, associate professor and Henry Samueli Fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering; Richard Kaner, distinguished professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Materials Science and Engineering; Laurent Pilon, professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Bioengineering; and Matthieu Bauchy, assistant professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

This isn’t the first attempt to capture carbon emissions from power plants. It’s been done before, but the challenge has been what to do with the CO2 once it’s captured.

“We hope to not only capture more gas,” DeShazo said, “but we’re going to take that gas and, instead of storing it, which is the current approach, we’re going to try to use it to create a new kind of building material that will replace cement.”

“The approach we are trying to propose is you look at carbon dioxide as a resource — a resource you can reutilize,” Sant said. “While cement production results in carbon dioxide, just as the production of coal or the production of natural gas does, if we can reutilize CO2 to make a building material which would be a new kind of cement, that’s an opportunity.”

The researchers are excited about the possibility of reducing greenhouse gas in the U.S., especially in regions where coal-fired power plants are abundant. “But even more so is the promise to reduce the emissions in China and India,” DeShazo said. “China is currently the largest greenhouse gas producer in the world, and India will soon be No. 2, surpassing us.”


J.R. DeShazo, left, and Gaurav Sant. Photo by Roberto Gudino

Thus far, the new construction material has been produced only at a lab scale, using 3D printers to shape it into tiny cones. “We have proof of concept that we can do this,” DeShazo said. “But we need to begin the process of increasing the volume of material and then think about how to pilot it commercially. It’s one thing to prove these technologies in the laboratory. It’s another to take them out into the field and see how they work under real-world conditions.”

“We can demonstrate a process where we take lime and combine it with carbon dioxide to produce a cement-like material,” Sant said. “The big challenge we foresee with this is we’re not just trying to develop a building material. We’re trying to develop a process solution, an integrated technology which goes right from CO2 to a finished product.

“3D printing has been done for some time in the biomedical world,” Sant said, “but when you do it in a biomedical setting, you’re interested in resolution. You’re interested in precision. In construction, all of these things are important but not at the same scale. There is a scale challenge, because rather than print something that’s 5 centimeters long, we want to be able to print a beam that’s 5 meters long. The size scalability is a really important part.”

Another challenge is convincing stakeholders that a cosmic shift like the researchers are proposing is beneficial — not just for the planet, but for them, too.

“This technology could change the economic incentives associated with these power plants in their operations and turn the smokestack flue gas into a resource countries can use, to build up their cities, extend their road systems,” DeShazo said. “It takes what was a problem and turns it into a benefit in products and services that are going to be very much needed and valued in places like India and China.”

DeShazo cited the interdisciplinary team of researchers as a reason for the success of the project. “What UCLA offers is a brilliant set of engineers, material scientists and economists who have been working on pieces of this problem for 10, 20, 30 years,” he said. “And we’re able to bring that team together to focus on each stage.”

According to Sant, UCLA is the perfect place to tackle sustainability challenges.

“As one of the leading universities in the world, we see ourselves as having a blue-sky approach,” Sant said. “We see ourselves wanting to develop technologies that might be considered fanciful at one point but become reality very quickly. So we see ourselves looking at a blue sky and saying, well then, let’s come up with ideas which will change the world.”

Cooperation May be the Key to Survival for Airbnb in the Sharing Economy UCLA professors project the future of Airbnb based off lessons from past startups.


The short-term home rental company Airbnb seemed to have come out the clear blue sky, but this “disruptor” in the rental business may disappear just as fast into thin air unless it is perceived as a cooperator and “partner,” according to an opinion piece by Paavo Monkkonen, assistant professor of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and research fellow at the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate.

Using as an example one of the original peer-to-peer disrupters of the music industry — Napster — Monkkonen and co-author and UCLA Urban Planning alum Nathan S. Holmes explain that Napster failed where iTunes, led by Apple’s Steve Jobs, found success because of a cooperative business model that worked with the music industry.

Monkkonen and Holmes, point out that the multibillion dollar (and growing) company based in San Francisco already is threatened by resistance and hostility from local governments, which the authors say has the potential to turn Airbnb into “the Napster of the short-term rental market.”

Click here to read the full opinion.

New Report Calls for More Consistent Policies for Mobile App Transportation and Taxi Services


WASHINGTON – Innovative transportation services such as car sharing, bike sharing, and transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft are changing mobility for millions of people, yet regulation of these services often varies greatly across geographic areas and industry segments.  Policymakers and regulators should formulate consistent policies that encourage competition among new and traditional transportation services — such as taxis and limousines — in order to improve mobility, safety, and sustainability, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

California was the first state to establish statewide regulations for transportation network companies and as such UC researchers played a large role in the report. The report was authored by a diverse group of academics and practitioners, including Brian Taylor, director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. Taylor served as chair of the committee. Other notable members of the committee include Michael Manville, Cornell University and Jennifer Dill, Portland State University, both of whom are alumni of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The availability of on-demand transportation services through smartphone apps is increasing shared mobility. The growth in these services follows and amplifies a recent rebound in taxi and public transit use. As of June 2015, Uber provided more than 1 million rides daily worldwide, while Lyft operated in 60 U.S. cities with more than 100,000 drivers.

The rapidly expanding services provided by TNCs, however, raise policy and regulatory challenges with regard to passenger and driver security, public safety, insurance requirements, employment and labor issues, and accessibility and equity. Current regulation of taxis and other for-hire transportation varies considerably across and within jurisdictions, even when the services offered are similar. Most large cities with sizeable street-hail markets extensively regulate taxis, while smaller cities where dispatch service is the norm tend to have lighter regulation. This pattern raises public policy concerns when taxi regulation is more stringent than that of TNCs. Leveling the regulatory playing field requires a reassessment of existing regulations governing taxi, limousine, and TNC services to determine the minimum necessary to ensure quality service and allow effective competition.

“Smartphone applications and GPS data are making feasible transportation services that have never before been realized on a large scale, and these services have the potential to increase mobility while reducing congestion and emissions from surface transportation if regulated wisely to encourage concurrent ride sharing,” said Taylor, who is also a professor of urban planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. “A key hurdle for policymakers at all levels of government is to both promote and facilitate innovations that meet the public’s mobility needs while achieving greater policy consistency among these new services and between them and traditional taxi and limousine services.”

To address public safety concerns, regulations currently focus on background checks of drivers, vehicle inspections, and minimum standards for vehicle liability insurance. Procedures for driver background checks are based on common practice but their efficacy has not been rigorously evaluated; likewise, the safety benefits of viewing shared driver ratings and operator and vehicle images on mobile apps have not yet been well-documented. Therefore, regulators at the state and federal levels should evaluate these safety requirements for their effectiveness and cost, the report says.

Regulated taxis offer critical transportation for people with disabilities in many areas, and although TNCs have introduced pilot programs to provide such services, they do not currently provide wheelchair-accessible services on an extensive or reliable basis, the report says.  About 10 percent of the U.S. population has a physical limitation; 3.6 million people use a wheelchair and another 11.6 million use a cane, crutches, or a walker. A decline in taxi fleets due to the continued rapid rise in TNCs could decrease the availability of for-hire vehicles for a substantial number of these travelers unless the quantity of TNC services for those with disabilities expands.

Further, most shared mobility services require users to have a credit card on file with the provider and arrange the trip using a smartphone. However, roughly 8 percent of U.S. households lack bank accounts that allow them to have credit cards, and 50 percent of adults earning less than $30,000 and 73 percent of adults over age 65 do not own smartphones. The committee concluded that local officials should ensure that the mobility needs of low-income, older and disabled riders are met as these new services expand and evolve.

In addition, policymakers and regulators should examine the pros and cons of alternative employment classifications of both TNC and taxi drivers. While new mobility services offer expanded opportunities for flexible, part-time employment for students or those seeking transitional income between careers, TNC drivers and most taxi drivers are classified by their companies as independent contractors, which limits their access to benefits tied to employment. This lack of benefits raises policy issues concerning employer-provided health care, workers’ compensation for injuries, and vacation and sick leave for those for whom such work is their sole source of income.

Policymakers and regulators should also consider whether traditional for-hire and shared mobility services are best monitored and regulated at the state, regional, or local level on the basis of market and service characteristics and regulatory capabilities. In addition, transportation planning bodies should develop methods for incorporating shared mobility into transportation planning initiatives and promote collaboration between public- and private-sector transportation providers.

Other UC researchers contributing to the report were Susan Shaheen of UC Berkeley and Daniel Sperling of UC Davis. Sperling is chair of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), which initiated and funded the study.

The study was sponsored by the TRB, a program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.  For more information, visit


POV: The Problem with Los Angeles’ economy The topics of professor Michael Storper's new book on urban economies discussed on KCRW.

Why do some public organizations deny it? Don’t shoot the messenger, please. 

I was recently on the radio show “Which Way LA?,” with a panel discussion devoted to our book on San Francisco and Los Angeles.

One of the panelists was Mr. Hasan Ikhrata, who is the Executive Director of the Southern California Association of Governments.  This is what is known as a “council of governments” under California state law, and a “metropolitan planning organization” under federal law.  Basically, it’s a place where the governments of a region come together to analyze the region’s past and future and consider ways forward, to improve the lives of people in the region.  That’s the goal they state on their website.   Organizations such as SCAG are important, because they produce ideas for the many scattered governments in the region and try to get everybody on the same page to understand and solve problems.

Mr. Ikhrata’s position in our radio debate was surprising, as it was in the interview our team conducted with him during the research for our book.  I would characterize it as “deny everything.”   What I mean by this is that he did not even admit that Southern California has a problem.  But if slipping from 4th place to 25th place among metropolitan regions in the USA is not a problem, then I’d like to know why.

Listening to the interview, Mr. Ikhrata did the following:  first, even though he knows perfectly well (and I stated it clearly before he spoke) that our book compares the whole five-county Southern California region to the whole 10-county Bay Area, he tried to change the subject, speaking about the city of San Francisco and emphasizing its smallness.  This is an elementary error that nobody in his position could possibly commit without it being a deliberate attempt to divert attention.

He attempted to make four other points, which range from vague to clearly inaccurate. First, he noted that So Cal has received a lot of immigrants, as if this is the reason for its economic decline.  But he knows that both So Cal and the Bay Area had the same proportion of immigrants in 1970 (11% each) and the same now (respectively 38% and 39%).  It’s true that the origins of the immigrants are somewhat different, but it’s simply not true to characterize LA as more an immigrant gateway than the Bay Area.

We also clearly show in our book that LA’s slippage is not primarily because it received more of its immigrants from poorer origins than the Bay Area. Instead, it’s that the quality of opportunities (and wages) offered to immigrants in the Bay Area have gotten progressively better over time than in LA, whether for educated or less-educated immigrants and from any origin group.  So don’t blame immigrants, Mr. Ikhrata, blame the failure of LA’s economy to capture the industries that give people high-quality opportunities.

His second claim was that LA’s economy is “diverse.”  As someone working in economic matters, he knows that this term means nothing when applied to a regional economy.  It could be applied to the people of a region, in which case the two populations are indeed “diverse,” by which we mean composed of people from many different cultures and birthplaces.   It could mean what economists call, more accurately, “diversified,” meaning having many different industries and not specializing in much of anything.  This is exactly what we document for LA, and show that it’s a main reason for LA’s slippage down the ranks of regions.  All the world’s wealthy great city-regions are strongly specialized, such as New York in finance or SF in high technology.  LA used to be strongly specialized and is no longer, and this is one main reason why it has become relatively poorer.  So Mr. Ikhrata’s assertion that LA’s economic diversity is a positive thing is exactly wrong.

This is linked to a third assertion he made, which is that because the Bay Area is so specialized in such high-wage activities as information technology or biotech (how terrible is that?) that it will one day collapse, as a one-horse town vulnerable to shocks.  But we show in our book that Silicon Valley is now in its 7th incarnation and that the Bay Area continues to develop wave after wave of new technology and entrepreneurship, the way LA used to do in the middle of the 20th century.   In any case, where is Mr. Ikhrata’s evidence?  There is a long scholarly paper trail on specialized cities that shows that they are not, on average, more vulnerable to decline than highly diversified ones.  It’s the wrong question in fact.  The issue is whether a city-region stays dynamic, innovative and entrepreneurial in whatever it’s activity happens to be, whether it’s highly concentrated in a few sectors or spread over many.  He cited absolutely no evidence for his assertion about impending Bay Area doom, because there isn’t any evidence to cite.

Finally, he repeated that Southern California creates more “high tech” jobs than the Bay Area! I especially liked this brazen, unsupported claim.  But it’s not true.  Not only does the Bay Area create jobs that are “higher high tech” than LA (higher up the technology skills chain and paid much, much more than in LA), but it creates more of them in an absolute sense, even though its economy is only half the size of LA’s.

One doesn’t expect perfect accuracy in every public debate.  Economic development is a complicated matter.  But in our book we chased down every clue we could find and all of our conclusions are amply documented with the best available evidence.  Mr. Ikhrata is in a position of public responsibility.  Why would he deny that the Southern California region has a serious problem and not then turn his organization into a forum for trying to help the region get out of this predicament?  Isn’t that what his organization says it is there to do, with the taxpayers’ money?

One reason he might be denying that the problem exists is that SCAG’s track record is a miserable one.  In our book, we carefully analyzed thirty years of SCAG reports for how their authors viewed the present and future of the Southern California regional economy.  They got it wrong about 95% of the time, hardly ever mentioning the new economy of IT and new forms of entrepreneurship.  They looked backward to the old days of manufacturing.  They advocated strengthening low-wage industries such as logistics.  This was actually before Mr. Ikhrata took up his job at SCAG, so we can’t hold him responsible for the errors of his predecessors. All the more reason for him not to be defensive, but instead to turn his organization around to be realistic, admit the problem, and get to work helping the governments of Southern California to change their vision and move forward into the 21st century.  The well-being of millions of people depends on it.

Luskin Center Deputy Director Briefs U.S. EPA Leadership and National Conference Participants on Advancing Climate Justice Luskin Center representative at EPA Conference

One of the most significant events in the arena of climate justice took place when California’s Senate Bill 535 (SB 535) was signed into law, stated Charles Lee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and one of the nation’s most prominent leaders on environmental justice.  SB 535 mandates that at least 25% of the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund investments go to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities.

Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center, was one of four SB 535 leaders from California invited by Lee to meet with senior EPA staff and also speak on a panel at the National Environmental Justice Conference on March 12 and 13th in Washington D.C. In addition to Callahan, the other panelists were the “father of SB 535” Shankar Prasad of the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA, and formerly with the Coalition for Clean Air); Mari Rose Taruc, organizing director for the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and coordinator of SB 535 Coalition; and Arsenio Mataka, assistant secretary of environmental justice and tribal affairs, CalEPA.

The panelists shared the “backstory” of the efforts to conceive, pass and now implement SB 535.  They provided first hand perspectives on lessons regarding their successes and challenges—past and present, as well as implications for other parts of the nation.

Callahan emphasized that SB 535 and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) represent a tremendous opportunity to advance climate justice. She also noted the challenge in implementing such a major and unprecedented initiative. Pulling from the UCLA report on SB535 entitled, “Investment Justice through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund,” she provided key recommendations for implementing the GGRF to ensure the investments maximize environmental, economic and public health benefits for communities across California most in need. The recommended evaluation and performance management approach draws from an earilier report “Pathways to Environmental Justice: Advancing a Framework for Evaluation” created by the UCLA Luskin Center in collaboration with EPA and EJ leaders from across the nation.

Luskin Center Director Briefs State Senators on Benefits of California’s Climate Policy Portfolio Faculty member J.R. DeShazo speaks at Democratic Senate policy retreat

California State Senators and Governor Jerry Brown gathered in Sacramento this week for the annual Democratic Senate policy retreat to discuss issues of statewide and national importance. J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center, briefed them on the economic benefits of California’s climate portfolio. The focus of his talk was the tremendous opportunity to build prosperous, healthy and livable communities through the State’s new Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). The GGRF will soon have billions of dollars to support transit, clean vehicles, sustainable communities, energy efficiency, renewable energy, urban greening and more.

Senate President pro tempore Kevin de León invited Professor DeShazo to be part of a three-person panel moderated by Senator Fran Pavley. Pavley authored AB 32, the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 that propelled California as a global climate policy leader. Now the nation and world are watching as California implements an important element of AB 32, the cap-and-trade program, which places the world’s first economy wide cap on carbon pollution and establishes market mechanisms to price carbon credits. These auction proceeds go into the GGRF. Senate Bill 535 (de León) requires that at least 25 percent of the investments benefit disadvantaged communities. DeShazo shared stories about how programs funded by the GGRF have already provided real benefits to low-income communities and households across California, including through job creation, houshold energy cost savings, and clean air health benefits.

Luskin Center research and event organizing is helping to advance the strategic and equitable implementation of climate investments to maximize local benefits to disadvantaged communities. For more information, see our SB 535 research report and this overview presentation.


Luskin Center Debuts Report Advancing Workforce to meet Electrified Transportation Needs

Luskin Center Electric Transport

The Luskin Center teamed with Edison International and Southern California Edison to develop a roadmap for the creation of a wide array of curricula to train the workforce required to meet the demands of transportation electrification.

The report Transportation Electrification (TE) Curriculum Development produces: 1) an analysis of the existing state of TE-specific education and training and 2) recommendations for the future of TE workforce training, developed out of stakeholder engagement.

Increasing TE demand is driven in large part by a new era in the commercialization of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). Although PEV markets are still young, the vehicles are the road today will shift billions of miles of driving to clean electric-drive operation, and PEV adoption is expected to increase significantly in the coming years. This early progress has been achieved in spite of educational deficiencies in the workforce supporting transportation electrification (TE) supply chains. These supply chains include for PEVs, charging stations and electric grid modernization.

TE supply chain are supported by workers requiring a wide range of skills–including electricians,computer specialists, infrastructure installers, PEV-readiness planners, utility planners, corporate strategic planners, and scientists–yet there are relatively few educational and vocational programs dedicated to TE relevant training.

This project addresses this gap. Through the engagement of educational, industry, and other collaborators, this project seeds a multi-phase process of transportation-electrification (TE) curriculum development.

Luskin Center / EDF Report Featured on KPCC-FM

The latest edition of the Los Angeles Solar and Efficiency Report (LASER) was featured in an item on 89.3 KPCC-FM, the public radio affiliate in Pasadena.

In a segment by environmental reporter Jed Kim, Luskin Center deputy director Colleen Callahan highlighted the report’s finding that only 2 percent of Los Angeles County’s solar potential is currently being utilized.

“The fact that 98 percent is still untapped means that we have a tremendous resource sitting on a roof that really is going unused,” Callahan said.

The report estimates growing utilization to 10 percent would result in the creation of an estimated 47,000 jobs. Kim also spoke with Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, a community organizer with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, who said that these efficiencies are best directed at low income communities.

“If we’re going to grow the green economy, if we’re going to grow energy efficiency, we have to start in those communities first,” Judahidi said.

Listen to the entire report here.

Luskin Center Report: Tapping LA’s Vast Rooftop Solar Potential Could Reap Huge Benefits For City’s Most Disadvantaged Communities

LOS ANGELES, April 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — A significantly expanded commercial rooftop solar program in Los Angeles would create thousands of new jobs and spur hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment, with particular benefit to residents living in traditionally underserved neighborhoods in Los Angeles, according to a joint UCLA/USC study conducted on behalf of the Los Angeles Business Council Institute.

The report, Sharing Solar’s Promise: Harnessing LA’s FIT to Create Jobs and Build Social Equity, calls for the LADWP’s current feed-in-tariff (FIT) program, also known as CLEAN LA Solar, to be expanded from 100 to 600 megawatts, and to include incentives for solar developers and property owners to focus much of that growth in low-income communities where solar potential is among the most promising in the city. Incentives should also be provided to companies hiring disadvantaged workers for the installation of the solar systems, according to the report.

The CLEAN LA Solar program allows local commercial property owners to sell solar power generated from rooftops and parking lots back to LADWP at a competitive fixed rate. The report finds that expanding the program to 600 megawatts will help Los Angeles achieve a state mandate to generate a third of its energy from renewable resources by 2020.

Prior studies commissioned by the LABC Institute have concluded that Los Angeles has 10,000 acres of rooftop solar potential, enough to support a FIT far larger than the 600 megawatt program recommended in the study released today from the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. And according to the report, over 40 percent of the current CLEAN LA Solar project applications are located in Los Angeles’ solar equity “hot spots,” or neighborhoods with abundant rooftop space for solar installations and also in need of significant socioeconomic and environmental investment. Areas identified as “hot spots” include the San Fernando Valley, Downtown Los Angeles and the region surrounding the Port of Los Angeles.

“It’s very encouraging to see that FIT applications are rolling in from across the city, particularly low-income neighborhoods where the environmental and economic benefits are so important,” said Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of the USC PERE and one of the report’s authors. “Significant growth of the CLEAN LA Solar program is absolutely achievable, which is why we were so encouraged by Mayor Garcetti’s expression of support in his budget message for expanding in-basin solar generation to 600 megawatts,” he added.

“The CLEAN LA Solar FIT program is paving the way to secure our city’s future as a statewide and national leader in solar production, helping our environment and economy alike,” Mayor Garcetti said. “I applaud this program’s successful efforts to direct our abundant supply of sunshine to support local business and workforce development while reducing our carbon footprint.”

The program is already reaping benefits for workforce provider groups targeting disadvantaged workers across the Los Angeles region, including Homeboy Industries’ Solar Installation Training and Certification Program, the L.A. Conservation Corps’ Green Job Training Program and Empower America’s training program for veterans with Solar Provider Group.

The Sharing Solar’s Promise report also identifies areas of potential improvement to the LADWP program, and makes several recommendations designed to ensure that Los Angeles’ diverse workforce is an equal participant in and beneficiary of the FIT. Scaling the program from its current 100-megawatt capacity to 600 megawatts would add stability to the program and increase its potential environmental and economic benefits, researchers concluded.

The report proposes streamlining the FIT application process where possible, in particular moving the permitting process online for commercial, industrial and multifamily rooftop solar projects— which together comprise 69 percent of LA County’s solar potential. It also outlines strategies to expedite the processing of smaller commercial projects, which tend to have greater local economic development and job creation benefits for the local community.

“CLEAN LA Solar installations are already providing clean and sustainable power to communities across the city, from North Hollywood to Downtown Los Angeles to Chatsworth,” said Councilmember Paul Krekorian. “As the FIT continues to expand, it’s important that the process be streamlined and simplified as much as possible, particularly for the applicants that commit to hiring local developers and disadvantaged workers.”

Governor Jerry Brown believes incentives through efforts that include California’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program are important to driving continued solar energy development in the state’s urban areas. “PACE enables homeowners to buy solar panels, install low-flow toilets and make other smart investments that save energy and water without breaking the bank,” he said. “As California confronts a severe drought and a rapidly changing climate, this program gives homeowners another opportunity to do their part.”

According to Sharing Solar’s Promise, California leads the nation in solar job creation with over 47,000 workers, accounting for about one-third of the nation’s total solar industry employment. And across the state itself, job growth in the solar sector (8.1%) outpaced overall job growth (1.7%) in the past year, a trend that is expected to continue.

“Rooftop solar on commercial buildings is a critical piece of Los Angeles’ economic development strategy which is why we’ve worked so hard to see the FIT realized,” said LABC President Mary Leslie. “Our CLEAN LA Coalition, including the Sierra Club and leading business, civic and other environmental and community-based organizations, is confident that an expanded FIT will place Los Angeles at the forefront of the clean energy movement in urban America, while spurring long-term economic benefits locally.”

LABC Chairman Jacob Lipa was enthusiastic about the study’s positive outlook on the FIT for workers and businesses alike. “It’s clear that the FIT is successfully creating a strong foundation for a thriving in-basin solar industry, while also stimulating local job growth and generating economic opportunity for the neighborhoods that need it the most,” he said. “Los Angeles has truly set a model for the rest of the country to follow, and we look forward to a bright future for this smart program that is simultaneously bringing in direct investment to the city and decreasing our impact on the environment.”

About the Los Angeles Business Council Institute

The LABC Institute is a forward-thinking research and education organization dedicated to strengthening the sustainable economy of California. Founded in 2010, the Institute provides a bridge between the business, government, environmental, labor and nonprofit communities of Southern California to develop policies and programs that promote investment, jobs and business development. The Institute is the research and education arm of the Los Angeles Business Council, one of the most respected business advocacy organizations in the region. Founded in 1936, the LABC is known as an innovator and catalyst for policy development on a wide range of issues, including education, housing, green building, energy efficiency, transportation and solar development. For more information, please visit

About the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE)

USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) conducts research and facilitates discussions on issues of environmental justice, regional inclusion and social movement building. Since 2007, we have conducted high-quality research in our focus areas that is relevant to public policy concerns and that reaches to those directly affected communities that most need to be engaged in the discussion. PERE is situated within the University of Southern California’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences. For more information, please visit

About the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, founded with a generous gift from Meyer and Renee Luskin, unites the intellectual capital of UCLA with forward-looking civic leaders to address pressing issues and translate world class research and expertise into real-world policy solutions. Research initiatives are supported by teams of faculty and staff from a variety of academic disciplines. The Luskin Center supports these initiatives by funding original research, scholars, conferences, technical internships and solution-oriented speaker series. The Luskin Center is based in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. For more information, please visit


SOURCE Los Angeles Business Council Institute


Convening Advances Path Forward for Investment Justice from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund

By Adeney Zo, UCLA Luskin Student Writer, and
Colleen Callahan, Luskin Center

The Luskin Center convened 150 leaders in government, nonprofits, academia and the private sector on March 21 for a workshop designed to advance climate action in disadvantaged communities. California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund is expected to generate tens of billions of dollars over the next decade to mitigate climate change and create local benefits. Senate Bill 535 (de León) requires that 25 percent of these monies go to projects that provide benefits to disadvantaged communities in California.

“This may be the largest environmental investment opportunity that these communities will see for decades,” stated J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center as he opened the workshop held at UCLA.

But many questions exist about revenue allocation and implementation. The Luskin Center hosted convening supported the development of an analytical and equitable approach for this process. Participants helped identify and refine evaluative criteria to guide investment decisions and performance metrics to track results of the investments for accountability and transparency. A summary of recommendations for a performance metrics tool will be released by UCLA later this year. The convening was a partnership with the SB 535 Quad.

What’s at Stake

Collage1State Senator Ricardo Lara’s keynote address underscored what is at stake. Millions of Californians are struggling economically and breathing dirty air while climate change will exacerbate economic and environmental health risks. Charles Lee, a national environmental justice leader with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, put the event in a national context, stating that environmental actions in California become models for the rest of the nation.

“We are here to build on the momentum started by many of you in this room who organized to pass SB 535, and are now working to fulfill the State’s promise to invest cap-and-trade revenues to benefit California’s disadvantaged communities,” DeShazo added.

Among these leaders were Marybelle Nzegwu at Public Advocates, who introduced Senator Lara’s keynote address at the workshop, along with Bill Magavern, policy director of Coalition for Clean Air, and Mari Rose Taruc, state organizing director for the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. Mari Rose and Bill presented on the key laws in California including: AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 that led to the cap-and-trade program, as well as SB 535 and AB 1532, which require that cap-and-trade revenues result in environmental, public health, and economic benefits for communities in need.

“We know the people in California that will be the most hurt by climate change are people with the least resources to face this problem,” stated Taruc. Yet as Magavern pointed out, the State has not yet defined what it means for an investment to “benefit disadvantaged communities,” and thus we need funding criteria and tracking mechanisms to verify that these investments are truly benefiting hard hit communities.

Implementation of a Landmark Law

Clifford Rechtschaffen, senior advisor for Governor Brown, spoke about the process and opportunities for SB 535 implementation. “We must make the disadvantaged community investment process inclusive, transparent, and accountable,” he stated while disclosing the State’s intent to hold public workshops on SB 535 implementation.

Rechtschaffen also discussed CalEnviroScreen, a tool the State developed to identify disadvantaged communities for the purpose of SB 535 implementation. “CalEnviroScreen can help the cap-and-trade program go to communities that most need it,” stated Rechtschaffen. Manuel Pastor, professor and director of the Program for Regional and Environmental Equity at USC, underscored the importance of this tool, which his research helped inform. The State’s tool measures cumulative risk, using a variety of environmental health and socioeconomic indicators.

Informing an Equitable and Performance-based Approach for Investment Benefits in Disadvantaged Communities

Collage 2Paving the way for the workgroups, Pastor then explained that each participant was grouped into one of six investment-sector focused sessions: 1) Sustainable Communities Strategies Implementation; 2) Low-Carbon Freight Transport; 3) Zero-Emission Passenger Transportation; 4) Energy Efficiency and Residential Weatherization; 5) Clean Renewable Energy; and 6) Community Greening and Forestry.

The charge for participants was to serve as policy analysts within their investment sector area. Pastor implied that the agenda for the workgroups was ambitiously aligned with a complex State process, but employed participants not to be intimidated by it. He spotlighted the important perspective of the environmental justice and community leaders in attendance.

The Greenlining Institute’s Vien Truong then made a presentation on “Criteria and Metrics.” Truong defined the terms as: “Principles capture broad goals, criteria are the objectives, and metrics are how we get there.” She proposed five criteria to drive funding allocation at the program level. The criteria were compiled by the UCLA Luskin Center and the SB 535 Quad, and derived from the relevant laws.

The breakout sessions that followed were designed to allow participants to refine the criteria and propose corresponding metrics. Each group discussed programs in their investment sector for which the criteria and metrics could be applied. Each of the six sessions began with presentations from State agency leaders who spoke about existing programs eligible for funding from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, per the State’s current Investment Plan. The groups then identified whether there were programs in their investment sector not on the table that should be eligible for funding in future three-year investment cycles. Finally, each group provided recommendations on how programs could best be implemented to benefit disadvantaged communities.

Recommendations and Next Steps 

Collage 3After hours of discussion, the six groups came back together. Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the Luskin Center, facilitated a panel in which a representative from each group summarized their discussion. Common themes across the groups included the importance of transparency and authentic community engagement; and leveraging of complementary programs across sectors. Proceedings from these discussions will be included in a report that the Luskin Center will release later this year.

To close out the workshop, a panel of government agency leaders shared how their agencies will approach the opportunity that SB 535 presents. Arsenio Mataka, assistant secretary of environmental justice and tribal affairs at Cal/EPA, summarized the workshop’s importance: “Our goal is helping communities with a sense of hopelessness. If we do our job to meet our requirements to reduce GHG, we can achieve investment justice.”

Hector De La Torre, board member of the California Air Resources Board, emphasized the need to show immediate results to fend off law suits. “We need to show the money is going to the things the law says it will go to,” De La Torre said. Chief Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection, proposed that urban forestry could be a solution to the need for immediate results. “The state has a proven track record investing in urban forestry, and we can show results through projects in urban forestry,” Pimlott said.

Catherine J.K. Sandoval, commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission referred to the importance of selecting appropriate existing programs to fund and in the longer-term, even updating or adding new programs to best address the needs of disadvantaged communities.

Linda M. Wheaton of the California Department of Housing and Community Development emphasized the importance of the convening, stating,“It is time to take advantage of collaboration to develop inclusive and sustainable communities.”

J.R. DeShazo closed the workshop with a call for continued collaboration. He invited attendees to provide additional comments and review the post-workshop report. This report will contain recommendations for the State to achieve investment justice from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, to ensure that the investments combat climate change while providing tangible local benefits to hard hit communities.