Energy Exchange

New global underwriting standard for the buildings sector helps cities tackle pollution

Cities around the world are taking the lead on fighting climate change, making huge commitments to reduce pollution and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. And it’s a good thing they are.

According to C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from cities, and about half of this pollution comes from buildings alone. All in all, buildings account for about 40 percent of all energy use – and up to half of this energy is wasted. With 70 percent of the world’s estimated 9 billion people expected to live in urban areas by 2050, addressing energy use in buildings (and the carbon emission it creates) is essential to catalyzing cities’ efforts. Reducing “building emissions” will require a toolbox of policy, finance, and engagement with public and private sector building owners, managers, and investors.

This week, a tool Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) began designing about five years ago to help investors weigh and value energy efficiency projects is becoming a global underwriting standard for building upgrades. Following successful momentum in the United States, Europe, and Canada, the Investor Confidence Project (ICP) officially joined the portfolio of global certification programs delivered by Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI) including LEED (for green buildings), GRESB (for real estate portfolios), and WELL (for healthy buildings).  GBCI is now providing world-class training and support for ICP’s Investor-Ready Energy Efficiency ™ (IREE) certification. Read More »

Posted in Climate, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Investor Confidence Project / Comments are closed

3 Ideas That Could Shape Our World After The Paris Climate Negotiations

The Paris climate negotiations can set the stage for a global shift on climate change – when our world’s emissions finally stop rising, level off, and begin to fall.

There is reason to be optimistic: from China to the United States, from Europe to South Asia, countries are coming together with commitments to cut climate pollution. And so are cities, companies, investors, entrepreneurs – and even moms. That’s real momentum that could open a new era for how we make and use energy.

The real action starts after we all go home from Paris with the biggest question coming out of COP-21: Now what? I want to share three specific ideas for the future – ideas that could accelerate access to clean energy.

First, the biggest barriers today lie in how to deploy the technology we have or will soon have.  Solar panels, “smart” buildings, electric cars – the cost of these technologies is on its way down. Yet we still face problems of scale, because barriers in policy and finance limit the ability of clean technologies to deploy in ways accessible to everyone. Read More »

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Clean Mountain Air Brings Clarity to Energy Debate at Vail Global Energy Forum

Vail_Mountains-CompressedLast month, I attended the Vail Global Energy Forum in Colorado. Billed as a “mini-Davos” of energy (studiously ignoring the Aspen crowd a few hours down the highway), that moniker may have felt aspirational when the conference launched three years ago. But, this year it paid off: momentum for frank dialogue and global innovation is building on the slopes of the Vail Valley.

Here’s my take on how the clean air of the mountains cuts through the hot air of energy debates to illuminate practical, actionable ideas.

Three big ideas drove the conference:

  1. North American energy independence

Mexico, the United States, and Canada could, together, innovate their way to an energy marketplace that weakens dependence on overseas imports, scales up clean energy solutions, and charts a path to low-carbon prosperity. At times, the discussion was framed by the rise of unconventional oil and gas exploration (yes, “fracking”), collaboration around pipelines (yes, “Keystone”), and whether these could disrupt traditional geopolitical frames. Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Colorado, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Methane, Natural Gas, New York, Utility Business Models / Comments are closed

How Smarter, More Flexible Energy Can Help Communities Weather Future Storms

Last week, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force released a Rebuilding Strategy, which aims to rebuild communities affected by Hurricane Sandy in ways that are “better able to withstand future storms and other risks posed by climate change.”  From an energy perspective, the main goal of these recommendations is to make the electrical grid smarter and more flexible.  This effort would minimize power outages and fuel shortages in the event of similar emergency situations in the future.

The Task Force is led by President Obama and chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan.  The recommendations put forth in the report were developed with Governor Cuomo, Governor Christie, and a number of federal agencies and officials from across New York and New Jersey, representing an unusual opportunity to make changes that will help communities weather future crises.

This key idea – smarter, flexible energy – is central to resilience, safety and quick recovery in a storm, as well as reducing the harmful pollution linked to climate change in the first place.  This has been a key theme of EDF’s efforts to help the Northeast region respond to Sandy.

When the power grid went down on most of New York City following Hurricane Sandy, a number of buildings were able to keep their lights on thanks to existing microgrids and on-site, renewable energy sources.  The Task Force report lays out a path forward for taking these isolated success stories to scale and making these clean technologies available to everyone.

Read More »

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NYC’s Storm Preparedness Means Rethinking How We Make And Use Energy

Source: Metamatic/Flickr

This commentary, authored by Andy Darrell, originally appeared on EDF Voices.

Last Tuesday, I caught a ferry from the lower Manhattan waterfront (just south of the substation that shorted out so dramatically in the midst of Hurricane Sandy) to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. There, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled his vision of a New York that will be far better able to withstand the battering from giant storms that, thanks to climate change, are likely to arrive with increased frequency and fury.

The Mayor began by noting some stark facts:

  • “We expect that by mid-century up to one quarter of all of New York City’s land area, where 800,000 residents live today, will be in the floodplain.”
  • “[Wi]ithin FEMA’s new 100-year flood maps there are more than 500million square feet of New York  City buildings – equivalent to the entire city of Minneapolis.”
  • “About two-thirds of our major substations and nearly all the city’s power plants are in flood plains today.”
  • “A day without power can cost New York City more than a billion dollars.”

A lot of media attention in the wake of the speech focused on Bloomberg’s call for levees and seawalls to keep rising waters at bay. But embedded in the address was also an ambitious but practical rethinking of how New York City makes and uses energy. The plan frames a future in which solar, wind and microgrids play a much larger role in the city: Read More »

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Bloomberg's State Of The City Ideas Good For Health And The Environment

Source: CBS New York

A lot happened yesterday: Brooklyn Nets cheerleaders. Jay-z soundtrack. Kids dancing on stage. The new stadium at Barclays Center. Popcorn. Valentine’s Day. Mayor Bloomberg's birthday? Yes. But also his last State of the City speech.

In his speech and a small briefing in advance, he identified recent environmental wins: clean heat's 170 tons of soot per year gone so far, a 16 percent cut in GHG pollution since 2005, the monumental third water tunnel under city streets, new waterfront parks underway at Fresh Kills, Governors Island and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Mindful of 320 days left in his term (this guy counts data), he announced some ideas that can get done now:

  • Electric vehicles. A network of charging units citywide with 30-minute charges — one third of NYC's taxi fleet to be electric. New York City could become a great place to charge a Tesla, a Leaf or a Volt. With traffic just behind heating oil as the main reason why some neighborhoods have unusually high pollution, that's a good idea for health and climate. It also opens a conversation about the electric grid that extends well past his term. Will those cars run on electricity created by solar, hydro, wind, nuclear, natural gas, coal? Here's an example of how to get it right: Pecan Street Inc.
  • Recycling. Expanded recycling for plastic, including those take-out containers so familiar to New Yorkers.  And – an issue that’s getting a bit of press – ridding our city of styrofoam cups used in schools, delis and restaurants.   This reminds me of EDF’s work with McDonald’s many years ago, getting rid of the Styrofoam clamshell.
  • Third, a citywide bike share program, to launch this summer.  This could end up being one of the largest bike share programs in the world.

Equally interesting are some of the ideas not explicitly framed as "environmental," for instance:

  • A post-Sandy commitment to "rebuilding here," on the waterfront — but doing so sustainably, in a way that "keeps the lights on" in a storm. That will take unprecedented collaboration with state and federal policy makers, tech innovation, architecture and design and efficiency finance.  A first step is to make sure that federal dollars flowing in to the region after Sandy are spent in a way that helps local communities make fully informed choices about not just “where” to rebuild, but “how” to rebuild.
  • And an idea that could reshape the skyline for a long time: "Midtown rezoning." Sound boring? Could be.  But imagine midtown Manhattan with buildings that are far at the forefront of resilience and clean energy – taking full advantage of the latest technologies to generate clean electricity and waste as little as possible. Could Manhattan be the next Pecan Street? This is an opportunity not yet fully-seized. Read More »
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