By Gabriela B. Zayas del Rio, Tom Graff Diversity Fellow, Clean Energy
The system for supplying electricity in the U.S. was premised on the assumption that utilities would make evermore electricity to sell to customers. But, the global need to reduce carbon emissions from traditional power generation, along with the emergence of distributed energy resources – small, grid-connected devices, like rooftop solar and energy storage – have disrupted demand for electricity produced from traditional power plants.
In May, the New York State Public Service Commission introduced a new way to pay the state’s utilities, one where utilities are compensated not just based on how much electricity they produce, but also for producing environmental benefits aligned with the public good. This approach aligns with Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) – New York’s official plan to make its electric grid cleaner, more efficient, and affordable – and comes at a time of unparalleled population growth in New York. Read More
By: John Finnigan and Dick Munson
To compete, or not to compete – that is the question facing today’s electricity industry.
On one side of the debate are utilities with uneconomic power plants, which are unable to prosper in regional, competitive electricity markets. Faced with low natural gas prices and dramatically declining renewable energy costs, these utilities want bailouts for their aging coal fleets, or they want to relive their glory days as monopolies with guaranteed profits and no pesky corporate rivals. Ohio-based FirstEnergy – which has long waged war on clean energy and campaigned for a bailout – serves as the poster child of this camp.
On the other side are those that recognize the myriad benefits of competition. This includes power companies that didn’t double down on coal and do operate their plants efficiently. There are also nontraditional players – like cleantech entrepreneurs and renewable energy producers – who desire access to the market and a level playing field.
Fortunately, the pro-competition side just got a big endorsement from the nation’s largest grid operator, PJM Interconnection. PJM issued a newly-revised report that confirms bailouts and re-monopolization are not the solution, and competitive markets are the best path for lower-cost, cleaner energy. Read More
By Virginia Palacios and Holly Pearen
Plastic pipeline being placed in a trench.
The tragic 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion served as proof of how a small pipeline leak combined with human error can cause a devastating disaster. This has led the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to propose new regulations for gas pipelines across the country in order to prevent another major pipeline catastrophe.
At the same time, utilities are beginning to adopt advanced technologies and methods that provide better data to experts — helping to prevent accidents that threaten public health and safety. If PHMSA requires operators to use these emerging leak detection technologies and quantification and analytical methods, we could see improved utility safety programs and a decline in incidents related to human error. Read More
By Luis Bourgeois, Public Policy Intern, Oil and Gas Program
Until recently Californians were in the dark when it came to the state’s natural gas distribution system and its pollution. But all that is changing now; for the first time ever, consistent data on the annual methane emissions from gas utilities is available for all to see. And what does this data show? California has room to reduce leaks and tighten the integrity of its gas delivery system.
A move toward better transparency
California’s recent step to boost disclosure of the amount of emissions leaked and number of repairs made to gas pipelines and other equipment is the product of Senate Bill 1371 (Leno) passed in 2014, and subsequent regulations from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). SB 1371 took this approach because methane, the main component of natural gas, is a powerful climate pollutant that puts our environment and communities at risk with a leak-prone system across the natural gas transmission, distribution and storage sectors. Read More
By Peter Zalzal and David Lyon
With families across the country starting back to school this week, the official summer season may be gone, but the ozone season is still in full swing.
Ozone, more commonly known as “smog” is a harmful air pollutant that results in respiratory ailments like asthma and can even lead to premature death. For too many Americans, ozone pollution makes the activities that we enjoy doing outdoors in the summer difficult or even impossible. And in recent years, ozone—once a summertime phenomenon impacting mostly larger cities—now affects rural parts of the country and can persist throughout the year. In fact, rural Wyoming and Utah have experienced elevated ozone levels in the winter on par with some of the larger cities in the country. Read More
Each month, the Energy Exchange rounds up a list of top clean energy conferences around the country. Our list includes conferences at which experts from the EDF Clean Energy Program will be speaking, plus additional events that we think our readers may benefit from marking on their calendars.
Top clean energy conferences featuring EDF experts in August:
Aug. 21-26: ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings (Pacific Grove, CA)
Speaker: Abbey Brown, Clean Energy Project Manager
- The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) is a non-profit that advances energy efficiency policies, programs, technology, investment, and behavior. The summer study will be ACEEE’s 19th biennial conference about building energy efficiency. A diverse group of professionals from around the world will gather to discuss the technological basis for, and practical implementation of, reducing energy use and the climate impacts associated with buildings. The event enables sharing of ideas and dialog among leading thinkers, visionaries, and luminaries, in the midst of a magnificent natural setting. On the first day of the conference, Abbey Brown will speak about using outreach to advance regulation and drive efficiency.