Energy Exchange

Women in Power: Her Plan Could Make the Low-Carbon Energy Economy a Reality

WIPThis is the fifth in a series of posts about leading women in the power, environmental science, advocacy, policy, and business sectors. To see previous installments, please use the ‘Search’ field in the left sidebar to search for ‘Women in Power.’  

Working out the specifics of how to restructure incentives for public utilities may not be the trendiest aspect of the clean energy future, but it’s key to making the low-carbon economy reality one day.

Audrey Zibelman, chair of the New York Public Service Commission, says the devil is in the details. Among the many things on her plate today: A bold initiative to overhaul the state’s utility business model, the first such reform in the nation.

Zibelman spoke with me about what it will take to transform America’s electricity industry and change our energy habits. Read More »

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Is Global Clean Energy Investment at a Tipping Point?

By: Qiao Feng, Clean Energy Research Intern, and Peter Sopher, Clean Energy Policy Analyst

statistics-76197_640Last week, amidst the U.N. Climate Summit and historic climate march, governments, investors, and financial institutions took the opportunity to make big announcements about their investment in clean energy. Bank of America announced a $10 billion initiative to speed up investment in clean energy, U.N. climate leaders announced a public-private partnership to mobilize more than $200 billion in clean energy financing globally, and New York proposed a $5 billion clean energy fund that could replace the city’s soon-to-expire renewable-energy and efficiency mandates.

So clean energy finance must be skyrocketing upward, right? It’s hard to know now what the 2014 numbers will bear, and we probably won’t see that kind of analysis till 2015, but looking at global investment in renewable power and fuels (excluding large hydro-electric projects) for 2013, these numbers were 14 percent lower than investments in 2012, and 23 percent below the 2011 record, suggesting a downward trend.

However, as conveyed in the Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014, if the drop in renewable investment were a cloud, it would have several silver linings: Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Financing, Renewable Energy| Leave a comment

New Jersey Transit Becomes a Leader in Microgrids

Source: WallyFromColumbia

Source: WallyFromColumbia

Superstorm Sandy crippled much of New Jersey’s critical infrastructure when it swept through the state two years ago. Stuck without power at home, many of the state’s residents also couldn’t get to work because the operations center for New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) flooded, damaging backup power systems, emergency generation, and the computer system that controls train operations.

New Jersey is doing its best to make sure that won’t happen again. After a highly competitive grant process, NJ Transit last week received $1.3 billion in federal funds to improve the resilience of the state’s transportation system in the event of devastating future storms. The funds include $410 million to develop the NJ TransitGrid into a first-of-its-kind microgrid capable of keeping the power running when the electric grid goes down.

Microgrids are different from traditional electric grids in that they generate electricity on-site or nearby where it’s consumed. They can connect to the larger grid or island themselves and operate independently. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Electric Vehicles, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, New Jersey, Smart Grid| 2 Responses

EDF Debuts Clean Energy Video and Raises a Glass to Austin and Pecan Street Inc.

Last night, EDF, CleanTX, Pecan Street Inc., and Google hosted one of the clean energy events of the season.

We brought everyone in the Austin clean energy community – from legislators to cleantech entrepreneurs to EDF members – together to celebrate the tremendous progress our great city has made as a clean energy leader over the years, serving as an incubator and hub for some of the most exciting and innovative companies in the clean tech sector. After all, it is the collective hard work and dedication of everyone that put Austin on the map as a global leader in the clean energy economy.

We also kicked off the evening with a screening of our new video that highlights what the smart grid is doing for American energy. Set in Austin’s Mueller neighborhood, one of the world’s largest green-built communities and Pecan Street Inc.’s testbed for energy innovation, this short film tells the dynamic story of a clean energy future from within the American home. It gives people who live in a connected community a chance to express what clean energy means to them personally, from independence and innovation to health and reliability. The heroes of the film are ordinary people from the community who are part of this quiet revolution.

Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Texas| Leave a comment

The Business-Policy Nexus: The Next Frontier for Corporate Sustainability Leadership

By: Tom Murray, Vice President, Corporate Partnerships Program

As we approach the 25-year anniversary of EDF’s work with the corporate sector, it’s an opportune time to reflect on our successes and plan for the work ahead.

 

Corporate Leadership graph v3

Over the years we have worked with McDonalds, Walmart, FedEx, KKR and many others to integrate sustainability into their operations, strategy, and supply chain management.  Together, we have kick-started market transformations in sectors including fast food, shipping, retail, private equity and commercial building energy efficiency.  While we’ve made great strides, there remains a huge distance to go in order to fully protect our natural resources, clean up our dirty energy system, and turn the corner on global greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Looking ahead, the opportunity and need for more aggressive private sector leadership has never been greater.  Moving from environmental progress today to full scale solutions tomorrow will require a new type of corporate leadership. This next step will require a willingness to align corporate sustainability operations, strategy AND policy. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy| 1 Response

Solar in Texas: It's Really Happening this Time (Really)

iStock_Solar_InstallerEvery year, it seems, is predicted to be the “year for solar,” and for certain states this may ring true.

But in Texas, despite having a close relationship with the sun and its heat (2011 gave us 100 days over 100 degrees and no rain), we have yet to realize our potential for solar energy development, the highest potential of any state in the nation. Texas currently only has about 213 megawatts (MW) of solar energy installed (compared to over 237 MW in little ol’ Massachusetts). Recent developments, however, make me encouraged that the next few years will be the catalyst for finally fulfilling that potential.

Austin

A few weeks ago, the Austin City Council voted on an ambitious solar step forward, directing a “utility-scale solar target of 600 megawatts by 2017, a rooftop solar target of 200 megawatts by 2020, explicit language enabling third-party solar ownership, a floor price for the value-of-solar tariff…and a mandatory strategy to procure 200 megawatts of fast-response storage.” The resolution will require the municipal utility, Austin Energy, to obtain 60 percent of its electricity generation from renewables over the next decade, and to be completely carbon-free by 2030. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Renewable Energy| 2 Responses

Policy Change is Key to Meeting UNC Clean Energy Goals

Source: Caroline Culler

Source: Caroline Culler

Take thousands of people, put them on a college campus – and watch the energy and water usage spike. That's what happens in the fall at universities across the country when students flood back to classrooms and dorms.

The nation's oldest public university system is keeping a keen eye on utility meters. The University of North Carolina (UNC) is on its way to reducing energy and water use by 30 percent by 2015.

Also noteworthy is UNC's goal for 2050, when the university's 17 campuses aim to be carbon neutral.

Slowing down UNC's progress are North Carolina statutory restrictions that make it difficult for campuses to finance and use their own renewable energy. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, North Carolina, Renewable Energy| Leave a comment

NYC Mayor Launches Energy Efficiency Program Modeled After NYC Clean Heat

Source: Kevin Case Flickr

Source: Kevin Case Flickr

Over the weekend, New York City Mayor de Blasio unveiled an ambitious plan to address energy use in the city’s buildings, called NYC Built to Last. Through this plan, NYC is committing to reduce its emissions by 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. This makes NYC the largest city in the world to commit to a goal like this. Representing three quarters of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, New York City buildings must play a central role in any effective climate action plan, and Mayor de Blasio knows this.

A key component of this plan is the ‘retrofit accelerator,’ a program modeled on the successful NYC Clean Heat program. Retrofit accelerator aims to upgrade 20,000 private buildings, making up 15 percent of citywide built square footage. Of these buildings, 40 percent of them will be low-income housing.

EDF partnered with the City to create NYC Clean Heat, which forged a diverse coalition of financial, real estate, and non-profit communities to launch a $100 million financing program to help phase out dirty heating oils. Last week, the City announced the program met its goal of reducing soot pollution from heating oil in NYC by 50 percent. The program helped 4,000 buildings – half of them affordable housing – convert to cleaner, more efficient heating fuels. Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency| 2 Responses

Utility 2.0: Optimizing Energy Use by Making Customers Part of the Solution

Source: designmilk flickr

Source: designmilk flickr

New York is re-examining the way energy is regulated, priced, and distributed in the state in order to emerge with a 21st century business model. This change will deliver on a broad range of objectives, including increased customer value and environmental benefits, among others. However, achieving greater system efficiency could lead to the most impactful outcomes for customers, the environment, and society as a whole. Not only does increasing system efficiency have the potential to significantly reduce costs, energy use, and carbon emissions, it also makes the customer an integral part of the solution to meeting our future energy needs.

The challenge

Electric utilities are tasked with meeting consumer demand for electricity at all times and, until now, have done so primarily by installing additional infrastructure on the electric grid whenever needed. While this has resulted in a fairly-reliable way to meet our energy needs, it has and continues to be extremely expensive and inefficient given the evolution in how energy is used today. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| 1 Response

U.N. Climate Summit Attendees Should Look to its Hosting City as a Model for Success

nyc clean heat

Next week, climate delegates from around the world will flood into the city for the United Nations Climate Summit, where they will negotiate the finer details of international policies to address climate change. But climate action need not always unfold on global stages. Cities, too, can be prime drivers in improving our environment, and the U.N. Climate Summit’s host, New York City, is a great example.

New York City’s Clean Heat program reached its goal of reducing soot pollution by half in just two years. NYC Clean Heat is a program to replace dirty heating oil in the city’s most polluting commercial and residential buildings.

Successful environmental campaigns require broad support and NYC Clean Heat is no different. EDF helped convene the diverse coalition of city officials, non-profits, and private sector banks to launch a $100 million financing program to help building owners transition from dirty heating oils to cleaner fuels such as natural gas or biodiesel.

Read More »

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