How a Western Regional Electric Grid Can Bring us into the 21st Century

WestUSTechnology constantly advances, as do related industries. So, why does it seem like time stands still for the electricity industry? Compare telecommunications: Since the arrival of the telephone in the late 1870s, we’ve seen consistent upgrades to phones and transmission technology, including larger and larger coverage areas. But in the West, the way we make, move, trade, and regulate electricity still involves old coverage maps and 38 difference balancing authorities. California is exploring a way to change that on a large scale.

State lawmakers and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which controls much of the state’s electric grid, are now considering the first steps to create an integrated, western regional energy market. This process, which many are calling “regionalization,” would connect grid operators throughout the West, so they can share resources more easily and efficiently – a common approach in the eastern and midwestern U.S.

The geographic size of a regional grid would help integrate more renewable energy. Due to California’s impressive clean energy leadership in the last decade, we now produce so much solar power that, at times, we cannot use it all when it’s available. If California’s electric grid were connected to neighboring states, California could export its excess clean energy when the sun is shining here, and buy wind from Wyoming when it isn’t. This would increase our ability to rely on renewables and lower our costs.

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Why 10,000 Spills From Oil and Gas Development Can’t Be Ignored

THe "Texon Scar" A massive release of produced water from an oil well in West Texas caused a vegetative dead zone that can be seen from space

The "Texon Scar"
A massive release of produced water from an oil well in West Texas caused a vegetative dead zone that can be seen from space.

Oil and gas development produces massive amounts of air and water pollution that can have severe impacts on our communities and ecosystems.  And data in a recent investigative article could help us understand more about where and how much oil, wastewater, and other fluids are spilled across the country.

According to an EnergyWire  article by Pamela King and Mike Soraghan, in 2015 industry reported more than 10,000 cases of spills across the country.  That amounts to 42 million gallons of harmful fluids – 12 million gallons more than previously reported.
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Posted in Natural Gas, Texas, Water| Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

New Report Highlights Need for BLM to Slash Methane Waste, Pollution

330MThe U.S. Bureau of Land Management should do more to protect taxpayers from unnecessary waste of their natural gas resources. That’s the main takeaway from a new report from the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office.  Its findings again underline the urgent need for BLM to finalize strong new standards to reduce methane waste.

Methane is both the primary component of natural gas and a very potent climate pollutant. In fact, pound for pound, methane is more than 80 times worse for our climate than carbon dioxide in the short term. This means that unnecessary methane waste and pollution like the GAO found in this new report is a double whammy – depriving taxpayers of revenue due to us for the development of our natural gas resources and dangerously accelerating climate change.

The GAO finds that BLM needs more consistent policies in place to better limit methane waste and pollution from the oil and gas production it oversees on hundreds of thousands of acres of federal and tribal lands. It’s a big problem. Read More »

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3 Keys for the American Petroleum Institute’s New Climate Task Force

AdobeStock_56840116The climate change discussion is percolating even in surprising places. The latest sign: the American Petroleum Institute’s recent formation of an internal task force on climate change. Reportedly the new task force’s mandate is to revisit API’s approach to this crucial issue, going into an election year and with ever greater scrutiny on fossil fuels.

It is too soon to know whether the task force will rubber stamp a business-as-usual approach defined by glossing over climate concerns and attacking policy measures, or chart a new path instead.

But if the task force is serious about a fresh look at the issue, here are three keys for the task force to consider as it ponders the future of API on climate. Read More »

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Only the Gold Standard for the Golden State When Targeting Methane Pollution

Golden_Gate_Bridge_bei_NachtAs a major producer and consumer of oil and gas, California can set the bar for reducing methane leaks. And today, the Golden State showed it’s up to the challenge, making a critical change in proposed rules aimed at cutting methane pollution from oil and gas wells, pipelines and equipment of the like – now putting California firmly on the path to adopt the nation’s strongest methane controls anywhere.

This matters because methane, the main ingredient in natural gas and a common byproduct of oil production, is a damaging greenhouse gas, with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.

A big lesson-learned from the months-long, mega-gas leak at Aliso Canyon, and the similarly tragic eight month gas leak in Arvin, CA in 2014, is that oil and gas infrastructure can fail. While leaks the size of Aliso Canyon are rare, it’s an example of the risk we face daily as this infrastructure ages, and a sobering reminder of how important it is to have protections that ensure methane stays in the pipelines—and not in our air. Read More »

Posted in Aliso Canyon, California, General, Methane, Natural Gas| Leave a comment

A Tale of Two Utilities: One Illinois Power Provider Looks Ahead, while the Other Won’t Budge

TaleOfTwoAs a utility executive, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times. It is the age of innovation, it is the age of stagnant tradition. With a nod to Charles Dickens, it is the epoch of environmental improvement, it is the epoch of continued pollution.

Perhaps no state better represents those extremes than Illinois, where Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) in the north is considering new business models and embracing greenhouse-gas reductions, while Ameren in the south is rejecting change and virtually anything related to clean energy.

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Posted in Energy Efficiency, Utility Business Models| Leave a comment
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