Category Archives: Jobs

"Risky Business" stands out in growing sea of climate reports

Receding beach on North Carolina's Outer Banks. Source: FEMA/Tim Burkitt

(This blog originally appeared on EDF Voices)

This blog post was co-authored by Jonathan Camuzeaux.

Put Republican Hank Paulson, Independent Mike Bloomberg, and Democrat Tom Steyer together, and out comes one of the more unusual – and unusually impactful – climate reports.

This year alone has seen a couple of IPCC tomes, an entry by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the most recent U.S. National Climate Assessment.

The latest, Risky Business, stands apart for a number of reasons, and it’s timely with the nation debating proposed, first-ever limits on greenhouse gas emissions from nearly 500 power plants.

Tri-partisan coalition tackles climate change

The report is significant, first, because we have a tri-partisan group spanning George W. Bush’s treasury secretary Paulson, former mayor of New York Bloomberg, and environmentalist investor Steyer – all joining forces to get a message through.

That list of names alone should make one sit up and listen.

Last time a similar coalition came together was in the dog days of 2009, when Senators Lindsay Graham, Joe Lieberman, and John Kerry were drafting the to-date last viable (and ultimately unsuccessful) Senate climate bill.

Global warming is hitting home

Next, Risky Business is important because it shows how climate change is hitting home. No real surprise there for anyone paying attention to globally rising temperatures, but the full report goes into much more granular details than most, focusing on impacts at county, state and regional levels.

Risky Business employs the latest econometric techniques to come up with numbers that should surprise even the most hardened climate hawks and wake up those still untouched by reality. Crop yield losses, for example, could go as high as 50 to 70 percent (!) in some Midwestern and Southern states, absent agricultural adaptation.

The report is also replete with references to heat strokes, sky-rocketing electricity demand for air conditioning, and major losses from damages to properties up and down our ever-receding coast lines.

Not precisely uplifting material, yet this report does a better job than most in laying it all out.

Financial markets can teach us a climate lesson

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Risky Business gets the framing exactly right: Climate change is replete with deep-seated risks and uncertainties.

In spite of all that we know about the science, there’s lots more that we don’t. And none of that means that climate change isn’t bad. As the report makes clear, what we don’t know could potentially be much worse.

Climate change, in the end, is all about risk management.

Few are better equipped to face up to that reality than the trio spearheading the effort; Paulson, Bloomberg and Steyer have made their careers (and fortunes) in the financial sector. In fact, as United States Treasury secretary between 2006 and 2009, Paulson was perhaps closest of anyone to the latest, global example of what happens when risks get ignored.

We cannot – must not – ignore risk when it comes to something as global as global warming. After all, for climate, much like for financial markets, it’s not over ‘til the fat tail zings.

Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Cars and Pollution, Economics, Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy | 1 Response, comments now closed

Power plant rule a tipping point for clean energy economy

By Cheryl Roberto, Associate Vice President, Clean Energy Program

For those of us (and all of you) who’ve been urging the government to implement meaningful climate policy, the release yesterday of a plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants has been a long time coming. But it finally came.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon pollution rule for existing fossil-fueled power plants – also known as the Clean Power Plan – are a huge win for our climate.

We also think it could go down in history as the tipping point in our nation’s transition to a clean energy economy. Here’s why:

Old, dirty power plants will be retired

The nation’s fleet of coal-fired power plants is the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. Placing carbon regulations on this source of electricity for the first time in history will transform our energy system.

Utilities have acknowledged that it doesn’t make economic sense to pour money into retrofitting and retaining older, less-reliable coal-fired power plants when they need to focus investments on newer and more reliable plants.

This means that many of the most highly-polluting coal-fired power plants that provide electricity to our homes and businesses today will be retired. It presents a unique opportunity for clean energy solutions to fill the gap in generating capacity.

It may be one of the largest market opportunities in history to drive…clean energy on a national level.

Increasing our use of homegrown, renewable power sources and investing in proven tools such as energy efficiency, smart grids and demand response (which compensates electricity customers for conserving energy) will help fill this gap while reducing our reliance on fossil fuels that pollute the environment and contribute to climate change.

States will lead the way

EPA’s approach provides clear guidance for what limits and metrics must be met, but leaves states the flexibility to design solutions to meet those requirements as they see fit. This will encourage all states (even those which do not embrace the climate challenge) to look at clean energy technology as an attractive option when they seek to comply with the law.

Federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants are exactly the clarity states need to lead us to clean, reliable and affordable energy for all Americans – now and in the future.

Entrepreneurs, investors ready to jump in

What’s more, the new EPA plan – once it's final – will give entrepreneurs, corporations and venture capitalists the market signal they need to go full steam ahead with low-carbon innovations. It may be one of the largest market opportunities in history to drive the development and implementation of clean energy on a national level.

At Environmental Defense Fund, we’re right in the middle of many of these promising solutions, working with state legislators and regulators to clear outdated rules that mire us in the past and discourages innovators.

Paving the way for a cleaner, healthier future

We’re working with financial institutions to develop new funding opportunities for clean energy investments that will help raise the estimated $10.5 trillion needed over the next two decades to transition our world to a clean energy economy.

We’re working with energy research pioneer Pecan Street Inc.in Austin, TX to test customer energy management solutions such as rooftop solar, home energy storage, learning thermostats and time-of-use energy pricing (which incentivizes people to use electricity during periods of low, or “off-peak” energy demand).

And we’re pushing to make energy efficiency a cornerstone of America’s energy policy.

It may not be as sexy as fuel cells and solar panels, butbuilding a more efficient energy system — from power plants to transmission lines to homes and buildings — is the most affordable and cleanest path forward.

The United States is expected to spend about $2 trillion over the next two decades to replace our outdated electric infrastructure. These new regulations are a step in the right direction toward ensuring that these investments are spent on our future and not entrenching us in our past.

EPA's proposed rule means good jobs, economic development and a healthier planet.

And as a pioneer at the forefront of this movement, EDF is determined to make sure we stay on track.

This blog first appeared on EDF Voices

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Energy, Green Jobs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions | 1 Response, comments now closed

The Many Benefits of Reducing Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants

(This post was written by EDF attorney Megan Ceronsky and legal fellow Peter Heisler)

The newly-released Third National Climate Assessment has some eye-opening news about climate change.

The report confirms that if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced it is likely that American communities will experience:

  • increased severity of dangerous smog and particulate pollution in many regions[1]
  • intensified precipitation events, hurricanes, and storm surges[2]
  • reduced precipitation and runoff in the arid West[3]
  • reduced crop yields and livestock productivity[4]
  • increases in fires, insect pests, and the prevalence of diseases transmitted by food, water, and insects[5]
  • increased risk of illness and death due to extreme heat[6]

Source: Flickr/Eric Schmuttenmaer

Extreme weather imposes a high cost on our communities, our livelihoods, and our lives.  The National Climatic Data Center reports that the United States experienced seven climate disasters that each caused more than a billion dollars of damage in 2013, including the devastating floods in Colorado and extreme droughts in western states.[7]

These are precisely the type of impacts projected to affect American communities with increasing frequency and severity as climate-destabilizing emissions continue to accumulate in the atmosphere.

Fossil fuel-fired power plants are far and away the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, emitting more than two billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012 — equivalent to 40 percent of U.S. carbon pollution and nearly one-third of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.[8]

Yet there are currently no legal limits on the amount of carbon dioxide power plants can release into the atmosphere.

This June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will, at long last, propose Carbon Pollution Standards for existing power plants.

The solutions we need to achieve significant reductions of carbon pollution from our nation’s largest source are at hand — including changes at existing power plants to reduce emissions, shifting utilization towards lower-polluting generation and away from higher-polluting generation, and deploying renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The health-improving, cost-saving, job-creating benefits of these proven techniques should be shouted from the rooftops.

States and power companies are already capitalizing on opportunities to reduce carbon pollution and other health-harming air pollutants by switching to lower-emitting generation.

Look, for example, at Colorado.

The Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act, which passed with bipartisan support and was signed by Governor Bill Ritter in 2010,[9] will significantly improve air quality while ensuring a reliable supply of electricity.

Under the Act, Xcel Energy plans to replace aging, high-emitting coal-fired units in the Denver metro area with lower-emitting resources, including state-of-the-art efficient combined-cycle natural gas plants that can quickly cycle to complement plentiful wind power and energy efficiency.[10] These changes will help Xcel reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its Colorado fleet by 28 percent by 2020 as well as[11] nitrogen oxide emissions by 86 percent, sulfur dioxide emissions by 83 percent, and mercury emissions by 82 percent.

Reducing emissions of these dangerous pollutants will save lives, reduce the number of nonfatal heart attacks, reduce cases of chronic bronchitis and asthma attacks, and avoid hospital admissions and emergency room visits.[12]

Xcel Energy expects that the projects will inject $590 million into the state’s economy and support 1,500 jobs.[13]

Colorado is also leading the way in renewable energy and energy efficiency.  The state’s renewable energy standard (RES) — which was put in place by a ballot initiative in 2004 — now requires investor-owned utilities to supply 30 percent, and municipal utilities and cooperatives to supply 10 percent, of their retail sales with renewable energy by 2020.[14]  Colorado’s energy efficiency resource standard (EERS) sets a goal for investor-owned utilities of 5 percent savings of 2006 peak demand by 2018 through demand-side management programs for their customers.[15]

The RES is expected to avoid 30 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, create more than 30,000 jobs, and generate $4.3 billion in economic output.[16]

As for energy efficiency, in 2013 Xcel's demand-side management plan saved 384.2 gigawatt hours of electricity (exceeding the goal approved by the Public Utilities Commission)[17] and avoided more than 280,000 tons of carbon dioxide and close to 230,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide from electricity generation.[18]

Renewable energy has taken off in recent months and years, replacing higher-emitting sources of energy and creating jobs.  Between 2011 and 2013, wind generation in the United States increased by 40 percent,[19] and in January 2014, the United States had a record month for wind power with generation of nearly 18,000 gigawatt hours.[20]

Xcel Energy recently announced 700 megawatts of new wind energy in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, which it estimates will save customers up to $590 million in fuel costs.[21]  Xcel says it is adding wind capacity “purely on economics and the savings we can deliver to our customers,” as the price of energy from the new facilities will be less than that from the company’s natural gas-fired plants.[22]

Solar power is on the rise as well.  In 2012, rooftop solar panels cost approximately one percent of what they did 35 years ago,[23] and the cost of solar panels fell by 60 percent from 2011 to 2013.[24]  Since 2008, as the cost of a solar module dropped from $3.40 per watt to 80 cents per watt, solar deployment has jumped by about 10 times.[25]  In 2013 alone, solar photovoltaic installations increased by 41 percent, to a record 4.75 gigawatts, outpacing the industry’s own projections.[26]

Utilities and their customers are also seeing the advantages of solar energy. In March 2014, Austin Energy bought 150 megawatts of solar power at a price just below five cents per kilowatt hour — one of the lowest prices for solar yet which will likely lower rates.[27]  And solar produces high-quality jobs, too, with the industry employing about 143,000 Americans at the end of 2013 and surpassing growth expectations for that year.[28]

Along with renewables, energy efficiency will play a key role in reducing carbon pollution while at the same time saving businesses and families money on their energy bills and creating high-paying jobs.

A recent report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy lays out several policies that states could use to meet their carbon-reduction goals, including energy-efficiency targets, building codes, appliance standards, and new combined heat and power systems.[29]  If adopted, in the year 2030 these policies could:

  • reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by about 600 million tons, of sulfure dioxide by about 980,000 tons, and of nitrogen oxides by about 527,000 tons[30]
  • save 925 million megawatt hours of electricity in 2030,[31] avoiding about $48 billion in energy costs[32]
  • and support 611,000 jobs, creating 6.2 million job-years from 2016 to 2030.[33]

Energy efficiency not only offers a cost-effective way to reduce pollution and positively impact the economy, but also improves comfort and health, increases productivity, and cuts utility bills for homes and businesses, savings that can be spent on other goods and services.[34]

Several organizations have outlined approaches to reducing carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act, and their analysis shows that the Carbon Pollution Standards can protect the climate while at the same time reducing emissions of other dangerous air pollutants.  For example, NRDC estimates that its proposal would reduce harmful sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, saving thousands of lives, preventing 17,000 asthma attacks per year, and avoiding more than 1,000 emergency room visits and hospital admissions per year.[35]

Similar health benefits would be provided by Clean Air Task Force’s proposed framework, which would avoid 446,000 tons (31 percent) of sulfur dioxide and 402,000 tons of nitrogen oxide (24 percent) emissions relative to the base case by 2020.[36]

And Resources for the Future projects co-benefits from sulfur dioxide reductions ranging from $17 billion to $22 billion in 2010 dollars by 2020.[37]

Moving forward under the President’s Climate Action Plan to address carbon pollution from power plants couldn’t be more urgent.  In addition to the reductions in harmful air pollution discussed above, the National Climate Assessment explains that without abating climate change:

“Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours. People are seeing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that thrive in their gardens, and the kinds of birds they see in any particular month in their neighborhoods.

“Other changes are even more dramatic. Residents of some coastal cities see their streets flood more regularly during storms and high tides. Inland cities near large rivers also experience more flooding, especially in the Midwest and Northeast. . . . Hotter and drier weather and earlier snowmelt mean that wildfires in the West start earlier in the spring, last later into the fall, and burn more acreage. . . .”

An upcoming blog will take a closer look at climate change and its impacts on public health in the U.S.  First, though, we will highlight some of the many successes states and power companies have had in deploying clean energy and energy efficiency, and explain the legal foundations for Carbon Pollution Standards that build on this experience and support the expansion of clean energy and energy efficiency programs.

These investments will not only cut emissions of carbon and other pollutants, but also provide homegrown energy, create jobs, and cut utility bills for American homes and businesses.  This is the right path forward for our communities, our kids, and our economy.


[1]  U.S. Global Change Research Program, Climate Change Impacts in the United States, at 222 (2014), available at http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/downloads.

[2]  Id. at 37, 42, 45.

[3]  Id. at 465.

[4]  Id. at 152, 157.

[5]  Id. at 223, 225-26.

[6]  Id. at 224.

[7]  National Climatic Data Center, Billion-Dollar U.S. Weather/Climate Disasters 1980-2013 (2014), available at www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events.pdf.

[8] EPA, Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2012, at 2-4 tbl. 2-1 (Apr. 2014), available at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/usinventoryreport.html.

[9] Press Release, Bill Ritter: Colorado’s Governor, Gov. Ritter Signs Historic Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act (Apr. 19, 2010), http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite%3Fc%3DPage&cid%3D1251573927379&p%3D1251573927379&pagename%3DGovRitter%252FGOVRLayout).

[10] Colorado Clean Air – Clean Jobs Plan, Xcel Energy, http://www.xcelenergy.com/Environment/Doing_Our_Part/Clean_Air_Projects/Colorado_Clean_Air_-_Clean_Jobs_Plan (last visited Apr. 11, 2014).

[11] Id.

[12] Answer Testimony of Leland B. Deck, Before the Pub. Utilities Comm’n of Colo., Docket No. 10M-245E (Sept. 17, 2010), available at https://www.dora.state.co.us/pls/efi/EFI_Search_UI.search.

[13] Id.

[14] Renewable Energy Standard, Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=CO24R&re=0&ee=0 (last visited May 3, 2014).

[15] Energy Efficiency Resource Standard,  Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=CO46R&re=0&ee=0 (last visited May 3, 2014).

[16] Jeff Lyng & Tom Plant, Governor’s Energy Office, Colorado’s 30% Renewable Energy Standard:

Policy Design and New Markets, at 10 (Aug. 2010), available at http://cnee.colostate.edu/graphics/uploads/HB10-1001-Colorados-30-percent-Renewable-Energy-Standard.pdf.

[17] Xcel Energy, Demand-Side Management Annual Status Report:

Electric and Natural Gas:

Public Service Company of Colorado, at 2 (Apr. 2014), available at  https://www.xcelenergy.com/staticfiles/xe/Regulatory/Regulatory%20PDFs/CO-DSM/2013-CO-DSM-Annual-Status-Report.pdf.

[18] Id. at 15, tbl. 6.

[19] Energy Info. Admin., Electric Power Monthly, Table 1.1.A (Feb. 2014), available at http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_1_01_a.

[20] Id.

[21] Xcel Energy, New Mexico and Texas Wind Power: We Are Leveraging the Wind, http://www.xcelenergy.com/Environment/Renewable_Energy/Wind/New_Mexico_and_Texas_Wind_Power (last visited May 1, 2014).

[22] Tom Gray, Citing Low Costs, Xcel Energy Plans ‘Significant Increase’ in Wind Purchases, Into the Wind: The AWEA Blog (July 11, 2013), http://aweablog.org/blog/post/citing-low-costs-xcel-energy-plans-significant-increase-in-wind-purchases.

[23] Dep’t of Energy, Revolution Now: The Future Arrives for Four Clean Energy Technologies, at 4 (Sept. 2013), available at http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/09/f2/Revolution%20Now%20–%20The%20Future%20Arrives%20for%20Four%20Clean%20Energy%20Technologies.pdf.

[24] Ian Clover, US Solar Power Costs Fall 60% in Just 18 Months, pv magazine (Sept. 20, 2013), http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/us-solar-power-costs-fall-60-in-just-18-months_100012797/#axzz2qg0NDEBG.

[25] Dep’t of Energy, Revolution Now: The Future Arrives for Four Clean Energy Technologies, at 4-5 (Sept. 2013), available at http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/09/f2/Revolution%20Now%20–%20The%20Future%20Arrives%20for%20Four%20Clean%20Energy%20Technologies.pdf.

[26] Lucy Woods, GTM and SEIA: 41% Growth in US Solar Market for 2013, PVTECH (Mar. 5, 2014), http://www.pv-tech.org/news/gtm_and_seia_41_growth_in_us_solar_market_for_2013.

[27] Eric Wesoff, Cheapest Solar Ever? Austin Energy Buys PV From SunEdison at 5 Cents per Kilowatt-Hour (Mar. 10, 2014), https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Cheapest-Solar-Ever-Austin-Energy-Buys-PV-From-SunEdison-at-5-Cents-Per-Ki.

[28] The Solar Foundation, National Solar Jobs Census 2013, http://www.thesolarfoundation.org/research/national-solar-jobs-census-2013 (last visited May 1, 2014).

[29] American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Change Is in the Air: How States Can Harness Energy Efficiency to Strengthen the Economy and Reduce Pollution, at iv (Apr. 2014), available at http://aceee.org/research-report/e1401.

[30] Id. at 21 tbl. 7.

[31] Id. at 18 tbl. 3.

[32] Id. at 22.

[33] Id.

[34] McKinsey & Company, Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy, at 13-14 (2009), available at http://www.mckinsey.com/client_service/electric_power_and_natural_gas/latest_thinking/unlocking_energy_efficiency_in_the_us_economy.

[35] NRDC, Issue Brief Update: Cleaner and Cheaper: Using the Clean Air Act to Sharply Reduce Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants, Delivering Health, Environmental, and Economic Benefits, at 10 (Mar. 2014), available at http://www.nrdc.org/air/pollution-standards/files/pollution-standards-IB-update.pdf.

[36] Bruce Phillips, The NorthBridge Group, Alternative Approaches for Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Existing Power Plants under the Clean Air Act: Practical Pathways to Meaningful Reductions, at 22 (Feb. 2014), available at http://www.catf.us/resources/publications/files/NorthBridge_111d_Options.pdf.

[37] Dallas Burtraw et al., The Costs and Consequences of Clean Air Act Regulation of CO2 from Power Plants, at 10 tbl. 1 (Jan. 2014), available at http://www.rff.org/RFF/Documents/RFF-DP-14-01.pdf.

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy | 2 Responses, comments now closed

President Obama Goes to Walmart

I never really expected to be sitting in a Walmart in Mountain View, CA listening to President Obama speak about environmental commitments, but I am excited for the momentum he is generating, particularly in the private sector, to support the EPA announcement on carbon limits on June 2nd.

So why Walmart?

The President is making a point. Walmart gets about 25 percent of its global electricity from renewables. In the United States over all, only about 2 percent of power comes from solar sources. In 2005, Walmart set a goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy. To date Walmart has 335 renewable energy projects underway or in development across their global portfolio. Having the president hold Walmart up as a role model is a great way to drive other industry leaders to follow suit.

Obama Walmart

This recognition is great news to EDF since we are a key NGO partner to Walmart and have been working with them on environmental solutions since 2005. (See the full EDF – Walmart partnership timeline). In 2008, EDF and Walmart announced a jointly-developed clean energy project to install and assess next generation solar technology at over 30 Walmart facilities. Today Walmart has 250 solar energy systems installed in the U.S. and has a solar energy capacity of 65,000 kW, top of the Solar Energy Industries Association rankings of U.S. companies.

Are industry leaders following suit?

The private and public sector commitments announced today represent more than 850 megawatts of solar deployed – enough to power nearly 130,000 homes – as well as energy efficiency investments that will lower bills for more than 1 billion square feet of buildings. Additionally, the President announced new executive actions that will lead to $2 billion in energy efficiency investments in Federal buildings.

We are especially excited to see companies step up for the President’s Better Buildings Challenge which will improve energy efficiency of more than 1 billion square feet of new floor space by 20 percent by 2020. New to the President’s roster are General Motors (committing 84 million square feet), MGM Resorts (78 million square feet) and Walmart (850 million square feet).

See the complete listing of private and public sector organizations making commitments today for solar deployment and energy efficiency.

Here at EDF, we believe that companies and business leaders must pave the way to a low-carbon and prosperous economy. Today Walmart committed to double the number of onsite solar energy projects at U.S. Stores, Sam’s Clubs and distribution centers by 2020. This is in addition to their goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their global supply chain by 20 million metric tons by the end of 2015.

We think President Obama’s making his announcement at Walmart today was a clear signal to the public and private sector that business needs to step up and publicly commit to ambitious environmental goals. Walmart continues to do this, and we look forward to many other industry leaders following suit.

This blog originally appeared on EDF Biz.

Also posted in Energy, Green Jobs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Partners for Change | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Energy Efficiency and Carbon Pollution Standards: Double Dividends for Climate and Consumers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has embarked on a vital effort — accompanied by extensive outreach to states, power companies, environmental organizations, and other stakeholders, including you — to establish the nation’s first limits on carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants.

EPA was directed to take this critical step for public health and the environment in the President’s Climate Action Plan that was released last summer. Protective and well-designed Carbon Pollution Standards will provide important benefits for all Americans.

Fossil fuel-fired power plants emit 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution, as well as significant amounts of mercury, acid gases, and pollutants that contribute to smog and particulates.

That’s why it is critical to get these rules right, and to mobilize common sense solutions proven in red and blue states alike in reducing carbon pollution from the power sector.

Of all the available ways to reduce carbon pollution, one of the most cost-effective and time-tested approaches is to reduce demand for fossil fuel electricity through end-use energy efficiency (EE).

EE measures encompass countless improvements, large and small, in the ways we use electricity in our offices, factories, and homes. All of those improvements can add up to big savings, not only in our monthly energy bills but in the total amount of fossil generation needed to power our society.

Dozens of states and power companies are already investing heavily in EE, and have built up decades of experience in measuring and verifying the many benefits it can yield for consumers and for the environment.

Incredible Potential to Cut Emissions and Save Money by Reducing Wasted Electricity

States and power companies around the country have been implementing EE programs for decades, and have increased their efforts in recent years as experience with the benefits of EE has grown.

26 states in diverse regions of the country, from Arizona and Colorado in the Southwest to industrial Midwest states like Ohio and Illinois, now have “energy efficiency resource standards” or similar policies that require utilities to achieve a certain amount of energy savings each year.

State spending on EE programs increased by 28 percent between 2010 and 2012.

As EE policies and investments have grown, so have energy savings.

In 2011, state EE programs saved a total of 22.9 million megawatt-hours — roughly equivalent to the entire annual output of seven 500 megawatt coal-fired power plants.

These savings increased 22 percent since 2010 and, importantly, count only those savings achieved in the first year these EE measures are in place.

Because most EE measures continue to yield energy savings years or even decades after they are installed, the cumulative savings from these state EE programs are much larger.

A recent study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that EE programs and policies are a key reason why residential and commercial electricity demand has remained stable since 2007.

As impressive as these developments are, they only scratch the surface of what could be achieved if we were to fully unlock the potential for EE to save energy and reduce emissions.

An exhaustive 2009 analysis by McKinsey & Company, for example, found that rigorous investment in cost-effective EE could reduce the country’s total energy consumption by 23 percent in 2020.

Energy savings on this scale would yield massive emission reductions — about 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxidein 2020 alone (more than 30 percent of power sector emissions today) – and at a cost per kilowatt-hour saved that is about 85 percent less than the average retail price of electricity.

The report also estimated that realizing these energy savings would create about 600,000 to 900,000 jobs through 2020.

Other national and regional studies have similarly found that EE represents a tremendous “win-win” opportunity for our climate, for families and consumers, and for the economy as a whole.

In 2012, for example, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) issued a report focusing on the potential benefits of scaling-up EE programs in six Southwestern states (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming).

Based on the track record of “best practice” EE programs around the country, SWEEP found that these six states could reduce their electricity demand in 2020 by more than 20 percent while achieving net benefits of about $20 billion – amounting to $2,650 for every household in the region (largely in the form of lower energy bills).

Investments in EE at this scale would also create about 30,000 additional jobs in the region by 2020, and increase wages and salaries by more than $1 billion.

At the same time, these EE measures would reduce carbon pollution by more than 30 million metric tons in 2020, (a 16% reduction relative to expected emissions in 2020), while also reducing thousands of tons of pollutants that contribute to smog, acid rain, and harmful particulate pollution.

EE and the Carbon Pollution Standards

If you’ve read my colleague Megan Ceronsky’s earlier blog, you’ve already heard about section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

That section provides bedrock authority for EPA to issue Carbon Pollution Standards for existing power plants.  It also provides a broad, flexible framework for states and companies to deploy EE and other flexible approaches to reducing carbon pollution from the power sector.

Under section 111(d), EPA and the states will work together to reduce emissions from existing power plants.  EPA will issue “emission guidelines” that identify the “best system of emission reduction” for carbon pollution from existing power plants and the emission reductions achievable using that system.  The states then have the responsibility to develop plans that implement standards consistent with those guidelines.

Just a few weeks ago, Kate Konschnik, Policy Director of the Environmental Law Program at Harvard Law School, released a report that makes a strong legal case for considering EE as part of the “best system of emission reduction” that underpins EPA’s emission guidelines.

As Konschnik argues, the Clean Air Act grants EPA broad authority to consider flexible measures such as EE as a part of the best system of emission reduction for carbon pollution:

[B]ecause it is adequately demonstrated and cost-effective, imposes minimal environmental costs, and reduces overall energy requirements.

Moreover, as Konschnik points out, methods for quantifying and verifying EE-related energy savings and emission reductions are well-developed.

Over the last two decades, at least 35 states and two regional transmission organizations have adopted protocols for measuring and verifying energy savings from EE projects. These savings are now widely used as the basis for critical regulatory proceedings and market functions, including establishing utility rates, compensating EE in regional capacity markets, and carrying out long-term regional resource planning.

In addition, EPA has already allowed several states to credit emission reductions resulting from EE and renewable energy towards compliance with national air quality standards. EPA has also issued detailed guidance to the states on analytical approaches and tools that could be used for future programs.

Ensuring Smooth Implementation of EE in the Carbon Pollution Standards

Under traditional emissions trading programs such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) or California’s cap-and-trade system, the emission reduction benefits of EE are readily observed as emissions from power plants drop.

Under these programs, no separate system for tracking emission reductions from EE is necessary.  As a recent report by RGGI confirms, these programs are also funding significant investments in EE programs that have already helped 815,000 families.

However, some states may choose to directly incentivize EE through policies that credit individual projects and programs for their impacts on energy savings and emissions.

For this reason, EDF has worked with experts in the field to study how measurement and verification for such EE crediting systems could work in a way that is environmentally rigorous and administratively streamlined, and that builds on extensive state and regional experience with existing EE programs.

We recently submitted a report to EPA, developed by the Analysis Group, that lays out one possible framework for ensuring both desirable outcomes:

  • Rigorous measurement and verification of EE projects, and
  • Consistent methods for determining emission reductions that are attributable to EE projects

This framework recognizes the diverse approaches to measurement and verification of EE that are in use around the country. But in developing this framework, we were also struck by the significant progress that a number of organizations have made in developing best practices and consensus protocols for evaluating EE projects.

One example is the Department of Energy’s Uniform Methods Project (UMP), which has organized a multi-stakeholder process to develop rigorous yet streamlined measurement and verification protocols for different types of EE projects.

To date, UMP has released protocols addressing seven major EE project types and five “cross-cutting” evaluation issues. Eight more protocols are expected to be finalized in the coming months.

Other notable efforts to develop and encourage best practices in the field include:

EE: Ready for Prime Time

EE represents a historic opportunity to achieve extensive reductions in emissions of carbon pollution and other power sector pollutants that directly harm public health and the environment.

In many cases, EE measures will actually save families and businesses money over time and help strengthen the economy.

Decades of state and utility experience in designing and implementing EE programs have demonstrated that the benefits of EE are real, and that the policies and tools needed to incentivize EE and measure its effects are available.

EPA should fully mobilize the potential of EE by exercising its authority to consider EE in the design of the Carbon Pollution Standards, and by providing guidance to the states to facilitate the inclusion of EE in state plans implementing those standards.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy | 2 Responses, comments now closed

New Carbon Pollution Standards Will Protect Health, Drive Innovation

Source: The Guardian

(This post originally appeared on EDF Voices)

The Environmental Protection Agency announced the nation’s first-ever carbon pollution standards for new power plants this morning—a major victory in the fight against climate change. Right now, there are no limits at all on carbon pollution from power plants, the single largest source of this pollution in the United States.

These standards are a necessary, common sense step that will ensure cleaner power generation that helps protect our children from dangerous smog and our communities from extreme weather. They will also drive innovation, so that America can continue to lead the world in the race to develop cleaner, safer power technologies.

Anticipated direct health consequences of climate change include injury and death from extreme weather events and natural disasters, increase in climate-sensitive infectious disease, increases in air pollution-related illness, and more heat related, potentially fatal, illness. Within all of these categories, children have increased vulnerability compared with other groups.

Scientists warn that the buildup of greenhouse gases and the climate changes caused by it will create conditions, including warmer temperatures, which will increase the risk of unhealthful ambient ozone levels. Higher temperatures can enhance the conditions for ozone formation. Even with the steps that are in place to reduce ozone, evidence warns that changes in climate are likely to increase ozone levels in the future in large parts of the United States.

If physicians want evidence of climate change, they may well find it in their own offices. Patients are presenting with illnesses that once happened only in warmer areas. Chronic conditions are becoming aggravated by more frequent and extended heat waves. Allergy and asthma seasons are getting longer. . . . Rising air and water temperatures and rising ocean levels since the late 1960s have increased the severity of weather, including hurricanes and droughts, and the production of ground-level ozone. That means more asthma and respiratory illnesses, more heat stroke and exhaustion, and exacerbation of chronic conditions such as heart disease.

Cost-effective, low-carbon energy solutions are already helping spur the economy, create good jobs and reduce harmful pollution in red and blue states across the country. Industries are recognizing that these smart power solutions are not only good for people and the environment, but also very good for business.

Many major power companies have recognized the need to address carbon. When these standards were initially proposed, the CEO of PSEG, Ralph Izzo, said, “[t]he Agency’s action establishes a logical and modest standard for new electric power plants and provides the industry with much needed regulatory certainty. The EPA provides a framework for the industry to confront this problem in a cost effective manner.” And the CEO of American Electric Power, Nick Akins, said in June that the new Climate Action Plan can be carried out “without a major impact to customers or the economy.”

Wind topped all new power deployed in 2012, with especially strong growth in Kansas, Texas, Iowa, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota and Oklahoma.  So-called “microgrids”—local generation networks that can run independent of the grid—are unlocking on-site clean power that expands clean energy choices for communities and consumers. And new financing models are driving more efficient use of energy at scale, cutting pollution while saving businesses and families money.

We know we must act now.

The costs of climate inaction are hitting home across the country as extreme weather events batter our communities. From the recent heartbreaking severe floods in Colorado to last year’s devastation from Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast, from crippling drought to terrible wildfires in the West, extreme weather is here and made worse by rising temperatures. The two million Americans who supported the EPA’s initial proposal last year know that doing nothing about climate change is not free. We are paying costs now and will inflict even greater costs on our children and future generations if we do not begin taking aggressive action to reduce carbon emissions.

As Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said earlier this week, “every ton we emit you can check it off against our children and grandchildren.” The naysayers, as always, are out in force and will do everything they can to derail action on climate. Please join Americans across our nation and lend your voice of support during this crucial time. Together with health and environmental groups, businesses, parents and states – red and blue – we can work together to meet this challenge.

Also posted in Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy | Comments closed

Growing Jobs, One Auto Supplier at a Time

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) jointly announced new clean car standards that will benefit America’s economy and our environment.

The standards mean that by 2025 new cars on U.S. roads will average an unprecedented 54.5 miles per gallon.

Those same clean cars will also reduce the levels of dangerous climate pollution from auto emissions.  

Businesses in the auto supply chain are applauding.  According to Fred Keller, Chairman and CEO of Cascade Engineering

The new fuel economy requirements are an example of good regulation developed in the right way. By working with both industry and environmental interests, regulators were able to come up with standards that provide the right incentives and get the right results without putting an undue burden on industry. What’s more, the resulting incentives are positive, as they will encourage manufacturers to develop lighter-weight vehicles and reduce demand for fossil fuels. I recognize it is not always easy to develop regulation in this way, but this should serve as a model for how to do it effectively in the future.

Cascade Engineering has a growing automotive solutions group that focuses on acoustic insulators, chassis & powertrain components, and interior/exterior trim.  

Other companies are praising the new standards as well.

Nam Thai-Tang, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of ALTe, said this:

ALTe applauds any effort to drive towards greater fuel efficiency in the transportation industry. We are encouraged by the new standards and expect that they will help companies like ours that are developing advance hybrid powertrain technologies for America’s vehicles. 

ALTe manufactures electric vehicle powertrains which are used to increase fuel efficiency and lower emissions.

The new clean car standards follow closely after the first-ever national standards for passenger vehicles, which applied to vehicles in model years 2012 to 2016.

The Administration says that, in total, its national program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.

A joint ACEEE-BlueGreen Alliance report found the standards also would create more than a half million jobs by 2030, including 50,000 jobs in auto manufacturing. (These projections are not surprising. Since the restructuring, auto companies have added 250,000 jobs.)

Fuel economy standards benefit American auto companies and the myriad of suppliers because they create certainty, establish the U.S. as leader in fuel efficiency, and provide incentives for innovation.

Unlike many other industries, the auto sector and its many suppliers can plan for the future knowing the regulatory playing field until 2025.

The new clean car standards stand as among the most progressive in the world, driving the U.S. to a leadership position in fuel-efficient vehicles and technologies–  and toward the opportunity to export everything from parts to final assembled vehicles. 

These rules reward innovation in every facet of auto technologies — from changes to traditional combustion engines such as new materials, electronics, engine re-design, and recirculation of exhaust gas to development of a new generation of electric vehicles, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles. 

Seifi Ghasemi is chairman and chief executive of Rockwood Holdings, the world’s largest producer of lithium and lithium compounds.

He responded to the announcement by noting that:

Rockwood believes that the US can be the world leader in a game-changing technological leap forward by making electric vehicles the cars of the future. 

Mr. Ghasemi further described how Rockwood is already expanding and adding jobs:

For the auto industry and battery makers to adopt this technology, they must have a secure and reliable supply of lithium compounds for advanced electric vehicles. To meet the need for these compounds, Rockwood recently invested more than $75 million in two expansion projects that expands the output of our Silver Peak, Nevada, and Kings Mountain, North Carolina, production facilities.  We expanded our Silver Peak site, which is the only US source of lithium raw materials, and we built and recently opened a state of the art battery grade lithium hydroxide manufacturing plant in Kings Mountain.  In addition, we completed a new Global Technical Center at Kings Mountain that will bring together engineers and scientists to perfect and commercialize advanced battery materials.  These investments provide several economic benefits, including the addition of more than 100 new manufacturing and research and development jobs.  These expansions also reinforce our long-term competitiveness in a vital, growing technology.

As the auto sector continues to demonstrate, strong environmental standards can work in concert with a vision for growth in industries across America.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy, What Others are Saying | 1 Response, comments now closed

Why It Matters: the Senate Vote on a Toxic Resolution

When the Senate voted down  S.J Res. 37 by a margin of 53 to 46 yesterday, we at EDF cheered.

The measure would have nixed the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards that were just finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Those new standards are one of the most important steps EPA has ever taken to clean up our air and protect public health.

EDF’s own Fred Krupp summed up the bipartisan vote this way:

[They] voted against S. J. Res 37. That means they voted for cleaner, healthier, safer air for all Americans. They voted to let EPA do its job, and reduce the mercury and other toxic pollution emitted from power plants into the air we breathe. They voted to save up to 11,000 lives each year, to help prevent neurological damage in babies, and to make it safer to eat fish caught in American waters.

But there’s a lot more to say about why this vote was so critical – and why these standards are so important.

First, let’s look at the standards themselves.  

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards limit the amount of mercury, arsenic, acid gases, and other noxious toxins that can be emitted by power plants.

The kinds of pollution covered by the standards are all extremely hazardous to human health. Mercury, for instance, impairs brain and neurological development in babies – including those exposed before birth.

The main way people are exposed to mercury is through eating contaminated fish. All 50 states have mercury fish consumption advisories, meaning that mercury has gotten into waterbodies like lakes and ponds and made the fish in those waters potentially unsafe for humans to eat.

That’s why pregnant women are warned about eating certain kinds of fish. But still, one in ten American women of child-bearing age have potentially dangerous levels of mercury in their bloodstream, and about 400,000 babies are born here every year who were exposed to unsafe levels of mercury in the womb. 

The power sector is the largest source of many toxic emissions, including mercury. Coal-fired power plants emit 50% of all the mercury pollution in our air, as well as 77% of all acid gases, and 62% of all arsenic.

Other sectors have long since reduced emissions of toxic pollutants like mercury. Cost-effective (and American made) pollution-control measures, like scrubbers, are available for power plants too.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards have been in the works for 20 years. Once they’re finally in effect, the standards will ensure that approximately 90% of the mercury in coal burned by power plants is not emitted to our air.

The standards will also:

  • Prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths—every year
  • Prevent 130,000 childhood asthma attacks every year
  • Prevent 5,700 hospital visits every year
  • Prevent thousands of heart attacks every year
  • Prevent thousands of bronchitis cases every year

But S.J. Res 37 would not only have nixed the new standards, it would also have prevented EPA from issuing a rule that is “substantially the same” in the future.

Fred called it a “scorched earth” policy.

It was certainly drastic — a resolution that would jeopardize EPA’s ability to ever protect Americans from the mercury and other toxic air pollution emitted by power plants.

And it was unnecessary. The main arguments against the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were not grounded in reality. 

Opponents said the standards would cost too much and would kill jobs. Actually, the benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are expected to outweigh the costs by at least 3 to 1, and as much as 9 to 1.

And the new standards are estimated to create up to 117,000 jobs between now and 2015.

Opponents also claimed the standards would threaten America’s electrical supply. Wrong again.

Independent analyses by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Congressional Research Service confirm that industry can comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards while maintaining the reliability of our electric system. And EPA’s compliance framework establishes a clear and orderly process for securing an extended compliance pathway where needed and will allow utilities to make a smooth transition to cleaner generation.

In fact, numerous power companies have already indicated they can comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards on time. In a December opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, the leaders of PG&E, Calpine, NextEra, Public Service Enterprise Group, National Grid USA, Exelon, Constellation Energy Group, and Austin Energy explained how they, and many companies, have long prepared for these clean air standards.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards received a monumental level of public support: 

  • More than 800,000 Americans submitted comments to EPA in support of these new life-saving protections.
  • The U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the standards, saying that “clean, healthy air and water are fundamental American rights.”
  • Scientists support the standards – including dozens from Ohio universities who sent a letter to their state’s congressional delegation opposing S.J. Res 37.
  • Other organizations publicly supporting the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards include: faith, public health, and clean energy groups; power companies; the NAACP; environmental organizations; and groups representing sportsmen, mothers and fathers, Latinos, small businesses, and consumers.

If S.J. Res 37 had passed, it would have been disastrous for both public health and the environment. Fortunately, a group of 53 Senators from both parties stood up to be counted for clean air yesterday. We should all be grateful to them for their vote.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, Health, Policy | Comments closed

New Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Will Protect Children and Save Lives

This is one of the best weeks I’ve had in a long time.

Right on the heels of today’s landmark court decision upholding European laws to reduce airplane pollution, we got another historic moment for the environment and public health.

Today, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson unveiled the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which will place our country’s first-ever national limits on mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

Every decade or so, the United States takes a giant step forward on the road to cleaner, healthier air. Getting the lead out of gasoline was one. Reducing acid rain was another.

Today’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, 21 years in the making, are a new giant step forward.

Power plants are responsible for half of all manmade mercury emissions, as well as 75 percent of acid gases, and 60 percent of arsenic.

Mercury exposure can cause brain damage in infants, and can affect children’s ability to walk, talk, read and learn. Experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of babies are born each year with potentially unsafe levels of mercury in their blood.

Many of the other toxic pollutants also controlled by the new rules — such as chromium, arsenic, dioxin and acid gases — are known or probable carcinogens and can attack the brain, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

Cost-effective and tested technology solutions are available to reduce mercury pollution and other toxic air contaminants from power plants by more than 90 percent. Many states have already led the way in adopting policies to control mercury emissions, helping to drive investment in technology solutions, but this is the first time we’ll have a national standard.

According to EPA, the new rules will:

  • Prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths each year
  • Prevent up to 4,700 heart attacks each year
  • Prevent up to 130,000 asthma attacks each year
  • Prevent up to 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits each year
  • Prevent up to 540,000 missed work or school days each year

The rules will also provide employment for thousands. The updating of older power plants with modern air pollution control technology will support:

  • 46,000 new short-term construction jobs
  • 8,000 long-term utility jobs

The value of the air quality improvements for human health alone will be as much as $90 billion each year.

I can’t overstate the importance of these new standards. We should all thank President Obama, Administrator Jackson, and everyone at EPA for protecting our air – and our health.

This is the perfect holiday gift for America.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy | Comments closed

Let’s Clear the Air: EPA Pollution Standards Will Create New Jobs While Protecting Public Health

Opponents of the Clean Air Act have been yelling that this law’s life-saving health protections are “job killers.”

Just for a moment, let’s ignore the fact that these regulations improve public health and safety and save our lives. It is untrue that these regulations kill jobs.

In fact, just two small parts of the Clean Air Act — EPA’s Cross-state Air Pollution and Mercury and Air Toxics rules — would together create nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next five years driven by new investments.

EPA’s new air pollution standards would limit sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and other unhealthy pollutants that are in the air we breathe. Meeting the new standards, and lowering our air pollution levels, will result in investments in new pollution control equipment and power plants. It will also result in jobs for skilled professionals to do the work of installing and operating that equipment. That means jobs for electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, boilermakers, millwrights, iron workers and engineers – among others.

Among the economic beneficiaries would be the American companies that make pollution control equipment like scrubbers, dry sorbent injectors, and selective catalytic reducers. Take a look at this map:

Pollution Abatement Materials Companies

 

Click to view full-size map

The map is  by no means comprehensive, but it shows some of the companies in the eastern half of the U.S. that are poised to benefit under EPA’s rules.

A Case Study in Job Creation from Installing Pollution Control Equipment

Alstom Power’s James Yann testified before the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Clean Air and Jobs in March of this year.

He described some of the jobs created from just one example of a pollution control technology – a wet flue gas desulfurization “scrubber” that is commonly used to remove sulfur and other air pollutants.

Dependent on the number of scrubbers ultimately installed, Alstom estimates that these clean air regulations will create a total of more than 150,000 jobs over the next five to six years of compliance work. That’s just for direct jobs. In addition, tens of thousands of additional jobs would be created along the supply chain.

Here’s more details to show how it works: 

  • Scrubbers consist of a large number of components including pumps, electrical equipment and wiring, controls, and emission monitors (among many others). Almost all of this equipment can be procured from sources in the United States.
  • Erecting a typical scrubber requires more than 2,000 tons of fabricated steel delivered to the site. This steel represents more than 40,000 man-hours of production.
  • Assembly of the scrubber requires the most man power and a wide variety of trade crafts, typically lasting up to 30 months and employing an average of 700 craft people during that period.
  • In total, a typical wet flue gas desulfurization project will provide the equivalent of about 775 full time jobs over the life of the installation project, not including jobs provided for all the equipment suppliers and delivery services involved in delivering materials and equipment to the site.
  • Scrubber systems require ongoing supplies to operate including ammonia, lime, limestone and activated carbon. Companies making these supplies will need to create additional jobs to meet the increased demand as a result of EPA’s clean air rules.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, Energy | Comments closed
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