The Power of Three: Mexico Aligns with U.S. and Canada on Oil and Gas Methane Pollution

blog photoMexican President Peña Nieto today formalized Mexico’s plan to join the U.S. and Canada in making oil and gas methane reductions a national priority, marking yet another country taking leadership to address this extremely potent greenhouse gas. The three leaders agreed that each of their countries would develop rules to cut up to 45 percent of methane escaping from across the continent’s oil and gas industries by 2025. It’s a pledge that once fully realized would have the same 20-year climate effect as taking 85 million cars off the road. Featured among a package of broader energy and climate commitments, the common methane reduction goal is a centerpiece.

This announcement is a milestone for North America energy integration and cooperation. But, it’s also an important moment for Mexico. The commitments Mexico is making both in-country and as part of the continental pact on methane, distinguishes Mexico as a clear world leader on energy and climate issues, along with the U.S. and Canada. By taking advantage of low-cost, oil and gas methane reductions, Mexico can make an immediate down payment on its climate goal – cuts can deliver about 10% of the greenhouse gas reductions Mexico pledged, and all at a cost savings. The key will be implementation and what steps Mexico takes next are critical.  Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, General, Methane, Natural Gas| Leave a comment

What is Good Rate Design, and How Will We Get There?

Good process blog post imageAs a former state utility regulator, I know the difficulty of balancing competing interests in making decisions and communicating those decisions to constituents. Solutions deemed “fair” by some parties may have harsh or unintended consequences for others.

This challenge of balancing competing interests is playing out with the current debate on electricity rate design as the system struggles to deal with the impact of new, distributed forms of energy like rooftop solar. From Nevada and Arizona, to Kansas and New Hampshire, we’ve seen these debates leave the hearing rooms of public service commissions and enter the public arena. Increases to fixed charges, changes to net metering, demand charges, time-of-use rates, minimum bills, or a combination of these options, are just some of the policies that states have either implemented in response to this debate, or are currently considering.

But many questions remain about the best path forward: What design will adequately compensate utilities for their investments, support the need to upgrade the electric grid, and encourage new technologies and innovation, while being perceived and accepted as fair? To answer these and related questions, a “good” rate design process needs to be put in place – one built on transparency, fairness, accessibility, and accountability. Read More »

Posted in Electricity Pricing, Utility Business Models| Leave a comment

3 Insider Clues that Demand Response is the Key to a Clean Energy Future in California and beyond

California is at the forefront of the clean energy revolution. Innovative policies have helped make the state number one in solar installations and clean tech, and meet the 33 percent renewable energy goal early. This has provided the courage to set a course for half of the Golden state’s electricity to be renewably-sourced by 2030. Three new clues indicate that demand response (DR) will be the key that unlocks our clean energy future.

Traditional demand response signals customers to voluntarily and temporarily reduce their energy use at times when the electric grid is stressed. But there are also other types of demand response that signal customers, their appliances, and their electric vehicles to increase their energy use when electricity is clean, abundant, and cheap. I refer to it as “secret agent DR” because of its stealth quality. Its automated nature allows customers to benefit from demand response without having to think about it on a daily basis. Instead third party companies provide this service through enabling technologies. Read More »

Posted in California, Demand Response, Grid Modernization| Leave a comment

New York’s Standby Tariff: Standing in the Way of Distributed Energy?

AeonSolarcityviewLate last month, New York took a major step toward rethinking utility economics when it issued the “Order Adopting a Ratemaking and Utility Revenue Model Policy Framework” (also known as Track 2 Order). This action aims to better align New York’s electricity system with Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), the state’s initiative to transform the electric grid into a cleaner, more efficient, and affordable system.

But buried in this 180-plus page document is another important development for New York’s clean energy future: Nearly 10 pages are dedicated to re-examining the state’s controversial standby tariff.

Frequently cited as a major obstacle to distributed power generation (e.g. combined heat and power (CHP) systems, rooftop solar panels, energy efficiency, and storage), the standby tariff is a special electricity rate charged to large commercial and industrial customers who produce some of their own electricity but remain connected to the grid. While utilities say they need standby tariffs to recover the costs of maintaining a reliable electric grid, many potential and existing large electricity customers producing their own power see standby tariffs as perversely designed to undermine the business case for distributed generation.

Unless the standby tariff is fixed in a manner that clears the way for investment in customer-owned and sited distributed generation, it will be hard to make REV’s revolutionary vision for a decentralized, competitive electricity market a reality. Read More »

Posted in Electricity Pricing, Energy Storage, New York, Solar Energy, Utility Business Models| Leave a comment

Clean Heat, Clean Air in Westchester County, New York

New York City may not be the place that comes to mind when you think of clean air, but NYC has done tremendous work in improving air quality – and now our neighbors in upstate Westchester County are following suit.

Seeing the positive health impacts from the phase-out of highly polluting heating oil in NYC, the Westchester County Legislature yesterday approved a resolution to phase out No. 6 and No. 4 oil in their buildings over time – No. 6 heating oil by 2018, and No. 4 oil by 2020.

These oils emit fine particular matter (PM2.5) and harmful chemicals like sulfur dioxide. When burned, they can become lodged in the lungs and worsen respiratory and cardiovascular issues. There were only a few hundred such buildings in Westchester county – compared to thousands in NYC – but that was still too many for Westchester officials to rest on their laurels. The county legislature went to work cleaning their air, and that work is paying off. Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, New York| Tagged | 2 Responses

What We Know – And Don't Know – About Toxic Wastewater From The Oil And Gas Industry

By Cloelle Danforth and Steve Hamburg

For all that we hear and think about oil and gas production, wastewater may not be at the top of our list of concerns. And yet, onshore oil and gas operations in the United States produce more than 800 billion gallons of toxic wastewater each year.

Most oil and gas companies either dispose of this water deep underground, or recycle it for use in other wells. But a growing number of operators are now considering alternate ways to discharge or reuse this water above ground.

Before we can effectively manage this influx of wastewater in new ways, we need to have a better understanding of what’s in it. Read More »

Posted in Natural Gas, Water| Leave a comment
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