Energy Exchange

Permian a litmus test for oil and gas industry’s methane targets

This blog was co-authored by Jon Goldstein and Colin Leyden.

What may be becoming the world’s largest oil field may also be the world’s largest test for the oil and gas industry’s commitments to setting targets for driving down methane emissions.

Several major oil and gas producers, including BP and XTO, have announced strategies in recent months to limit methane emissions. And several more including Shell, Pemex and Statoil have committed to a near-zero methane future and announced plans to release reduction targets this fall.

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Posted in Air Quality, Methane, Natural Gas, New Mexico, Texas / Comments are closed

New study answers the question, ‘What is grid resilience?’

By Rama Zakaria, Michael Panfil

Whether or not our electric grid is “resilient,” and what if anything should be done to make the grid more resilient, has been a topic of intense scrutiny in the past year.

The stakes in this debate reached new dimensions last fall with a highly controversial proposal by Sec. Rick Perry and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which claimed that the resilience of the electric grid is threatened by the premature retirement of uneconomic coal and nuclear plants. DOE’s flawed proposal – to bail out these plants through a profit-guarantee mechanism – was considered and unanimously rejected in January by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency charged with overseeing our nation’s electric grid. DOE’s proposal, in short, was an incredibly bad idea.

When FERC dismissed DOE’s proposal it opened a new proceeding, asking a series of questions around the topic of grid resilience.

A Customer-focused Framework for Electric System Resilience, a new report authored by Alison Silverstein and Grid Strategies, aims to answer these questions. The report, commissioned by Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council, recommends a customer-centric framework for evaluating electric system resilience and concludes that the most effective resilience solutions center upon the wires connecting the grid: distribution, and to a lesser extent transmission. By contrast, generation-related solutions – like keeping dirty coal and uneconomic nuclear plants online past their retirement dates – are the least effective for improving resilience. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, FirstEnergy, Grid Modernization, Market resilience, Utility Business Models / Comments are closed

Four ways California utilities can make a big dent in reducing methane emissions

This blog was co-authored by Tim O'Connor and Ellison Folk, an Environmental Attorney at Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger.

California utilities finally have a set of plans to cut methane leakage from the state’s natural gas pipelines. This is good news, but there are still a handful of improvements that could help make the state’s gas pipelines leak even less.

Methane leakage is a serious environmental and safety issue that afflicts the entire natural gas supply chain. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that must be reduced if California is to reach is ambitious climate goals.

Even before the Aliso Canyon disaster attracted national attention, California passed a groundbreaking law (SB 1371) requiring public utilities to reduce natural gas emissions. Last June, the California Public Utilities Commissioned ruled utilities must adopt plans that implement 26 best practices (See Appendix B) to reduce methane emissions.

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Posted in California, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Boosting power grid resilience with pre-storm community planning and business investments

By Ronny Sandoval, Kate Zerrenner

Eight months after Hurricane Harvey, affected communities are still rebuilding their lives and businesses.

One area that hasn’t required as much attention to rebuild: Texas’ electricity grid. Shortly after the storm, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s main grid operator, said, “The ERCOT grid has remained stable, and competitive electricity markets have continued to operate normally.” That said, nearly 300,000 consumers were without power during the storm’s peak. Therefore, the state’s electricity restoration after Harvey is a story of resilience – and an opportunity to do better the next time around.

Though the impact and $125 billion in damages that Harvey caused were catastrophic, some of the investments and decisions made in Texas well before the storm allowed for faster restoration of power than would have been the case just a few years prior. Plus, renewable energy resources like wind turbines and solar panels can play a role in strengthening grid resilience. Investments in modern technologies – like digital controls, microgrids, and distributed energy – hold the keys to protecting people in towns and cities most susceptible to future powerful storms, and they provide insights for how Texas can prepare for the next power disruption. Read More »

Posted in Grid Modernization, Texas / Comments are closed

How this 300-year-old city is leading on U.S. solar, energy-water, and climate action

By Kate Zerrenner, Jaclyn Rambarran

On May 5, 2018, the city of San Antonio will officially be 300 years old! On that day in 1718, the Presidio San Antonio de Béxar (a Spanish fort) was founded. The city’s tricentennial celebration will culminate in a weeklong celebration of history, art, and culture the first week of May.

San Antonio is a unique place that should be honored in Texas and beyond. In addition to its strong Hispanic heritage, the city boasts a large military population, straddles the border between eastern, western, and southern U.S., and claims to be the birthplace of breakfast tacos.

This growing city also has a powerful role to play in the future of Texas and the United States in terms of climate change and air quality, as evidenced by its initiatives around renewable energy, the energy-water nexus, and climate action. With all this in mind, let’s take a moment to celebrate not just San Antonio’s momentous birthday, but also its impressive efforts to ensure the sustainability of the city going forward. Read More »

Posted in Energy-Water Nexus, Texas / Comments are closed

How this up-and-coming leader is improving energy equity in Illinois

By Illinois Environmental Council

Meet Lavannya Pulluveetil Barrera

IEC: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. How did you come to work on policy issues related to clean energy access?
Lavannya Pulluveetil - EDF
Lavannya: I’m a recent grad with a degree in in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences as well as International Agriculture and Rural Development. I had the opportunity to work on a variety of community-driven initiatives in New York and internationally as an undergrad, and they all showed me the value of connecting people to resources available through local and federal governments. I became involved in policy issues related to energy access because I am hopeful about the work the Environmental Defense Fund is undertaking in Illinois. I was motivated largely by the focus on equity in relation to energy access, and I hoped that my previous work would lend itself to moving the needle forward on some of these initiatives.

Future Energy Jobs Act: Jobs and Development
IEC: The Future Energy Jobs Act includes provisions to grow renewable energy. Specifically, where will solar panels be installed? What was this land used for before the panels were planned there?

Lavannya: Ideally, solar development in Illinois will fit into a larger vision of a just transition for the communities that are most impacted by the aging coal industry. For instance, some communities in Chicago are calling for using old coal plant sites for solar projects, and developers are getting behind this idea locally. Additionally when considering open spaces across the state and brownfield site redevelopment, there is a lot of potential when it comes to transforming the landscape and local economies of communities. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Illinois / Comments are closed