Author Archives: Jim Marston

Fossil Fuel Industry's Tired Battle Against Clean Energy is Also a Losing One

Source: Alternative Energies

Source: Alternative Energies

The assault on successful renewable energy legislation continues, long after the facts have proven that state renewable policies deliver clean, affordable, and reliable energy solutions that the majority of Americans support. Apparently, the fossil fuel industry and its so-called “free market” allies didn’t get the memo.

There’s a great line in the opening scene of Ridley Scott’s 2000 blockbuster Gladiator where a soldier says to his general, as they are about to slaughter an overmatched foe, “People should know when they’re conquered.” The general replies, “Would you? Would I?”

So I can’t really blame the fossil fuel industry for fighting old battles in an effort to undo approaches that have increased investment in renewable energy in states around the country, created thousands of jobs, and continue to lower energy costs with each passing day. Read More »

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

Fossil Fuel Industry and Koch Brothers Align to Kill Extension of Wind Energy Tax Credits

Jim Marston, Environmental Defense, Austin, TXIt seems that every year, renewable energy advocates are forced to respond to some false claims made by oil or coal interest groups trying to mislead the public and legislators into believing that solar and wind energy are not worth supporting.  Even though wind power is a clean, renewable, homegrown form of energy that is good for people, business and the environment, fossil fuels are simply hardwired into this country's DNA.  So it is not surprising that fossil fuel companies defend their subsidies and tax breaks and don’t want clean energy competitors to cut into their support.  

Around this time last year, renewable energy advocates were announcing good news – the production tax credit that helped spark remarkable growth in America's wind energy industry had been extended through 2013.  And it amounted to more than just a one year bump.  Because the extension applied to projects begun in 2013, rather than completed in 2013, the credit could be applied to more projects over a longer period of time.  Read More »

Posted in Climate, Renewable Energy | Tagged , , | 6 Responses, comments now closed

A Good Day for Clean Energy as President Obama Doubles Down on Renewables

obamaThis commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog

Today president Obama took an important step toward supporting a clean energy future by directing the Federal Government to consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.  This is more than double the current level, making this a significant moment in President Obama’s second term.

Renewable energy has become cost-competitive over the years and the quality of innovative clean technologies has dramatically improved.  These are clean, efficient, homegrown resources that we can count on now, and President Obama’s public support of renewables in this announcement will serve to further drive their competiveness in the market.

This memorandum also directs agencies to update their building-performance and energy-management practices, “by encouraging the use of the consensus-based, industry-standard Green Button data access system (Green Button) and the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star Portfolio Manager.”  Recommendations under this section ask agencies to install smart energy and water meters, participate in demand response where possible and make the data collected from smart meters publically available in order to better manage energy performance and allow for benchmarking. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy | Tagged , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

So Now Trump Wants to "Fire" Clean Energy in Scotland?

This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog. 

DonkeyHotey/flickr

DonkeyHotey/flickr

It’s easy for Americans to laugh at Donald Trump when he goes off on a rant, like when he joined the birthers during the last presidential election. But when Trump starts picking fights with other countries, and wind energy, it’s just embarrassing. As environmentalists and global citizens we feel the need to offer the world an apology for Trump’s attempt to blackmail Scotland, as the country attempts to spur economic growth, cleaner air and a safer climate.

Several years ago, the real estate tycoon took his personality parade to Scotland, where he fought local environmentalists for approval to build a luxury golf resort on a pristine section of the nation’s northeast coast.  Now, because it will affect the view from his golf club, Trump’s begun  a fierce legal battle over Scotland’s plans to install offshore wind turbines near his property.

To fully appreciate Trump’s hypocrisy, it’s worth exploring some of the story’s background.  Back in 2007, when Trump sought approval for construction of the Trump International Golf Links, he promised more than 900 high-end condos, 500 luxury homes, a huge hotel and two 18-hole golf courses.  The project, Trump said, would attract over a billion dollars of investment and generate more than 4,000 full time construction jobs and 1,200 full-time jobs. Read More »

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EDF Energy Innovation Series Feature: Treehouse's One-Stop Shop for Solar

EDF's Energy Innovation Series highlights innovations across a broad range of energy categories, including smart grid and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency financing and progressive utilities, to name a few. This Series helps illustrate that cost-effective, clean energy solutions are available now and imperative to lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.

Find more information on this featured innovation here.

Few people walk into a car dealership and ask to see all of the 2.0 liter engines or only the 200 horsepower cars. Those technical specs are important, but most people shop by model, price or features.

Yet homeowners that want to install solar panels often find themselves buried in a mound of technical details that are not only confusing, but intimidating. And expensive. Austin-based sustainable living retailer Treehouse is changing that and proving that energy innovation is sometimes less about technology and policy and more about thinking like customers.

"The solar industry has done a great job educating people about the benefits of solar energy," said Treehouse founder and president Jason Ballard. "But it's done a bad job of making solar easy to buy." Read More »

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EDF Energy Innovation Series Feature: Green Mountain Energy Company Sparking Solar In Texas

EDF's Energy Innovation Series highlights innovations across a broad range of energy categories, including smart grid and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency financing and progressive utilities, to name a few. This Series helps illustrate that cost-effective, clean energy solutions are available now and imperative to lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.

Find more information on this featured innovation here.

As this series has demonstrated, energy innovation is happening around the world in a wide range of areas, from energy storage and smart grid technologies to renewables, electric vehicles and energy-saving software and services.

But innovation isn’t just about inventing new technologies.  It’s about getting those technologies out into the market.  And when it comes to bringing renewable energy options to residential and commercial customers, Texas-based Green Mountain Energy Company was the first to be 100% dedicated to cleaner energy with the electricity market opened to competition in the state in 2002.

Founded in 1997, Green Mountain is the country’s longest-serving retailer dedicated to renewable energy, selling all-renewable energy options directly to residents and businesses in competitive markets in Illinois, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas, and partnering with utilities in other regulated markets.

Read More »

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Energy Issues Aren’t Black And White, And Neither Is EDF’s Approach

I’ve seen many energy issues expand and contract in the years I’ve been with EDF since 1988.  Our organization has celebrated and participated in many victories regarding climate change, including landmark legislation that put limits for the first time on California’s greenhouse gas emissions, the elimination of eight out of 11 new coal plants in Texas as part of the utility TXU’s buyout and federal standards for controlling air pollution from unconventional gas activities.  At the same time, we’ve seen clean energy sources both praised and attacked.

No issue, however, has been as thorny as natural gas.  We used to think if we just switched from coal or oil to natural gas, we could be certain that the climate change scenario would improve dramatically.  But with lingering uncertainty around just how much methane, a very potent greenhouse, is being emitted and is leaking out across the natural gas system, we are still weighing the amount of climate benefit of its use.

When you don’t know something that you want to know, you turn to experts who either have the knowledge or can acquire the knowledge by asking the right questions.  So, as head of EDF’s US Climate and Energy Program, I’ve assembled a team whose judgment I trust to find answers to the question that defines our gas work: How can we minimize the risks associated with operations and maximize the inherent climate benefit of natural gas?

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Plastic And Chemicals Can’t Take The LEED On Green Construction

If it’s not power plants fighting carbon pollution reduction, it’s plastic companies fighting against voluntary standards to make buildings less wasteful.  The Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) building certification system, developed in 2000 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), provides third-party verification for buildings striving to reduce environmental impact.  The system gives credits to builders who eliminate the use of certain plastics and chemicals in building construction, such as PVC and vinyl that are known to be hazardous to workers and occupants.  However, these credits, which once seemed like apple pie, have now been met with opposition from plastic and chemical industries lobbyists.

Recently, these polluting industries have “slipped wording” into the 2014 Financial Services and General Government Appropriation bill, to undermine the federal government’s ability to use the popular and successful LEED standards when building or renovating its office buildings.  The lobbyists claim that LEED standards are not open and transparent, and through a bit of sophistry they have used this appropriation amendment to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the LEED system.

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America’s Aging Energy Infrastructure Needs An Overhaul

No one likes being told “I told you so.”  But since DOE released its report last week, I’ve been tempted.

The report warns that the existing American energy infrastructure is highly vulnerable to climate change.  That increasing temperatures will stress the U.S. water system and enhance the likelihood of drought. That because conventional power plants require huge volumes of water to operate, lower water availability will mean less reliable power.  And that the changing climate will prompt more extreme and frequent storms, increasing energy demand due to extreme temperature changes and threatening our aging and already stressed electric grid with potential blackouts.

In essence, the affirms the many the calls-to-action that EDF and many other groups have been leading for years and the lessons we learned from Superstorm Sandy made painfully real and salient:  Our existing energy technologies and policies were designed for a 20th century climate.  To weather the extremes of a 21st century climate, we need to a 21st century energy system – one  that promotes energy efficiency, enables widespread adoption of homegrown, renewable sources of power and allows people to control their own energy use and reduce their electricity costs.

I have been very encouraged by President Obama’s recent movement on climate change, and the DOE report provides research backing the urgency of his Climate Action Plan.  Hopefully, this recent movement will translate into real national momentum, as our national approach to energy truly needs an overhaul. Read More »

Posted in Climate, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

President Obama’s Plan To Accelerate The Transition To A Clean Energy Economy

Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Today President Obama took an important step toward meeting the promise of his inaugural address to “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”  The headline, of course, is the commitment to take serious action to address the most significant challenge our generation faces – climate change. And, with it, the extreme weather and public health burdens that are already making life harder for vulnerable regions and people nationwide, and that stand to become so much worse as the root cause remains unaddressed.

In his Climate Action Plan announced at Georgetown University, the President laid out his vision for putting in place common sense policies that will cut harmful carbon pollution while driving innovation, cutting energy waste and energy bills, creating jobs and protecting public health. 

Most Americans would be shocked to know that there are no current limits on carbon pollution from power plants. By setting the first standards in history for carbon pollution from power plants in the United States – which produce 2 billion tons of this pollution each year, or about 40% of the nation’s total – the President will help modernize our power system, ensuring that our electricity is reliable, affordable, healthy and clean.  And we can do this in a way that can give industry the flexibility it needs to make cost-effective investments in clean energy technologies.

A modern, intelligent, interactive electricity system will help minimize problems that arise from extreme weather events and other disruptions and maximize renewables, efficiency and consumer choice.  Since the President took office, our country has seen the beginnings of a revolution in the energy sector – technological innovations have put us on track to energy independence and clean, homegrown energy resources constitute a growing share of electric generation capacity.  Reducing wasted energy and using more clean energy offer enormous potential for our health, economy and climate, including:

-          Little to no harmful pollution = improved public health

-          An unlimited, homegrown energy supply = less reliance on foreign oil

-          Economic development = more jobs

-          Stable energy prices = lower electric bills and improved economic stability  

-          A more reliable, resilient energy system = less costly, scary blackouts

-          A global leadership position in the multi-trillion dollar clean energy economy = reclaimed pride and competitiveness for America’s manufacturers

Read More »

Posted in Climate, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Washington, DC | Tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed