By Ellen Shenette, EDF Climate Corps Analyst
It’s no secret that renewable energy is becoming cheaper, and while we’ve seen companies like Google and Microsoft investing in utility-scale renewables, what about mainstream corporate America? Are large corporations jumping on the clean energy bandwagon or are they dragging their feet? As a data analyst at EDF Climate Corps, I turned to the numbers for answers. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far. An analysis from our recently release report: Scaling Success: Recent Trends in Organizational Energy Management, says it all.
For almost a decade, EDF Climate Corps has been partnering with business to save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving energy efficiency through our graduate fellowship program.
As I followed the numbers, a new clean energy trend stood out: over the last 5 years, clean and renewable energy projects have grown five-fold, with 1/3 of our partner organizations working on at least one clean energy project in 2015. Companies have been using their EDF Climate Corps fellows to decipher the complex landscape of technologies, policies, procurement strategies, and financing options for renewable energy. As we tally the results for our 2016 fellowship program, we expect the focus on clean energy to continue to grow, and don’t plan on it stopping anytime soon.
By now you have all heard the coal industry claims that the Clean Power Plan will kill the coal industry. This week federal judges hearing oral argument on the rule will no doubt hear the same. A new report by Sue Tierney of the Analysis Group clearly demonstrates just how misleading these claims are.
Dr. Tierney’s analysis examines changes in the industry since the 1970’s to unpack the factors that led to coal’s rise through 2000 and steady decline since. It shows how shifting economics for energy production have caused cost-effective lower-emitting natural gas generation and zero-emitting renewables to steadily out-compete coal and erode its market share. The analysis also shows how the industry made a large number of badly misplaced bets that have left them with over-burdened balance sheets, and facing bankruptcy as a result of these self-inflicted wounds.
Citing analyses by the Energy Information Administration and others, the analysis shows the irreversibility of these trends as coal is simply no longer the cheapest form of generation. These trends will also continue to drive a transition to cleaner lower-carbon fuels regardless of the fate of the Clean Power Plan. The clear implication is that industry should focus on preparing for the future and adapting to these new market conditions as opposed to fighting long-delayed protections that will help secure a more stable climate, a sustainable economy and vital public health benefits.
The analysis also examines the significant job losses seen since 1980, and finds that here too the blame has been misplaced. Data clearly show that decades ago, increasing productivity and a shift from eastern to western coal led to significant job losses even while the industry’s overall production was in a period of dramatic growth. Remarkably, coal mining jobs fell by one-half from 1975 to 2000 even as coal production increased by more than 60 percent.
By: Andy Vargas, EDF Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Public Policy Fellow
Hispanic Heritage Month is in full swing! It has also been a welcome way to kick off my placement with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) as a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Public Policy Fellow. Each year, CHCI marks Hispanic Heritage Month with a Public Policy Conference elevating the issues most important to Latino communities. This year, I had the pleasure of representing both CHCI and EDF, introducing a panel on an emerging and critical topic for Latinos: clean energy.
Clean energy is key to protecting Latino communities from disproportionate impacts of climate change and pollution. At last week’s conference, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) highlighted that half the U.S. Latino population currently lives in the country’s most polluted cities. NHLA also noted that asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are more prevalent in inner city Latino communities near carbon-producing power plants.
Conversations around climate change almost always involve carbon dioxide, with good reason. It’s essential to dramatically reduce this pollutant to drive down the total amount of climate warming our children and grandchildren will experience. But, what we’ve also learned over the last few years is that an effective climate strategy needs to do two things: Reduce cumulative warming and the speed at which this warming is happening.
Next to CO2, methane is the most impactful greenhouse gas. While it breaks down faster in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, methane packs 84 times more warming power for the first 20 years after it’s emitted.
About one-quarter of the warming we are experiencing today is attributable to human emissions of methane, with the oil and gas industry its largest industrial source. Fortunately, there are cost-effective strategies to reduce methane emissions across the oil and gas industry. There is nothing as quick, easy, or cost-effective at slowing the rate of climate change right now than reducing oil and gas methane pollution. Read More
If you are anything like the typical Californian, you likely took the opportunity to get outside this summer and explore the great outdoors. Chances are you also took plenty of insect repellent to avoid becoming the latest offering at the mosquito buffet. Here in the Golden State, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is also fighting off BUGs – lest you think the CPUC is branching out into new regulatory territory, they are targeting the kind that harm our environment and public health: back-up generators (BUGs) that run on fossil fuels.
State regulators recently issued a proposed decision to end the use of fossil-fueled BUGs as a form of demand response – a clean energy tool intended to reward people who reduce their electricity use during periods of peak demand, or shift it to times of day when clean, renewable energy is abundant. Unfortunately, dirty, fossil-fueled generators are sometimes used to reduce demand from the electric grid during demand response events, but this does not help California meet its aggressive climate or clean energy goals.
Demand response programs should encourage people, buildings, and companies to use energy in a way that reduces the state’s need to make electricity from polluting sources. That’s why the CPUC’s recent proposal is a huge, positive step forward. However, there are also some changes that could make these advancements even more impactful.
EDF Fellow Will Bittinger co-authored this post
Here’s one fact you may not know about the Clean Power Plan – it can save you money.
The Clean Power Plan puts the first-ever nationwide limits on carbon pollution from power plants. It’s a crucial step in our efforts to combat climate chaos and protect public health. But it can also help American families save money.
EPA’s analysis of the Clean Power Plan concluded that once the rule is fully implemented in 2030, it will lower the average consumer bill by about seven percent.
The Consumers Union, Public Citizen, and the Illinois Citizens Utility Board – all groups that serve and protect electricity customers – have confirmed these benefits. In a compelling amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief, these three leading consumer advocacy groups highlighted the host of empirical evidence showing that the Clean Power Plan can drive electricity costs down and deliver substantial benefits to consumers, especially those in low-income communities.