Author Archives: Peter Sopher

Powering Texas: Big, Clean, Market-Driven Changes are Already Underfoot

By: Peter Sopher, policy analyst, clean energy, and Sarah Ryan, clean energy consultant

wind-364996_640 pixabayOver the past century, the electric grid in the United States has experienced only minor changes. There is evidence, however, the power sector is changing. We are moving away from traditional coal generation and toward alternative, cleaner energy sources. And despite our state being primarily known for oil and gas, Texas is no exception.

In fact, Texas’ electricity sector has been trending cleaner over the past decades, driven by deregulation of the electricity market, the development of the massive highway of transmission lines built to carry West Texas wind to cities throughout the state – the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ), and technological progress. Basically, once the market was opened up to competition, the more economic options – which also happen to be cleaner – began to gain a foothold. And there’s no stopping this train.

Where we are and where we’re going

To start, the declining use of fossil fuels to power our lives is perhaps the most significant change in Texas. As shown in Figure 1 below, fossil fuels’ (coal and gas’) proportion of the state’s electricity generation mix shrunk from 88 percent in 2002 to 82 percent in 2013. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Clean Power Plan, General, Natural Gas, Renewable Energy, Texas| Comments are closed

What do Uber and Airbnb Have in Common with Clean Energy?

Airbnb_Uber‘Disruptive’ is a favorite word among entrepreneurs and innovators, but start-up companies like Airbnb and Uber truly have disrupted long-standing industries over the past few years. Beyond their youth and success, what further links these two companies as well as many others (such as Teespring, Postmates, Patreon, and Verbling), is the way they empower people.

Exemplified by Airbnb and Uber, among others, is a new kind of business model that is revolutionizing many sectors, including how we get our electricity. Just like hotel and taxi industries, these disruptive, decentralized trends are taking hold in energy – affording people more choice, enabling existing resources and technology, and empowering people to veer from the traditional provider of services. Moreover, they even allow some people to make money in ways that didn’t exist until recently. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Comments are closed

4 Ways to Invest in the Low-Carbon Economy

career-544952_640Citigroup Inc. recently pledged $100 billion for lending, investing, and facilitating deals related to sustainability, renewable energy,  and climate change mitigation. This is yet another sign that global capital markets are enormously interested in delivering capital into clean, renewable sources of energy. But you don’t have to be Citigroup to invest in the clean energy future.

The industry’s rapid growth presents an interesting diversity of  long-term opportunities for individuals like you and me who might be looking to make investments in a low carbon economy.

Fueled by an increased demand for solar and wind energy, clean energy investment last year beat expectations, rising 16 percent to $310 billion worldwide, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Fortunately, this robust growth is representative of a general upward trend in clean energy investment over the past decade.

Although the vast majority of this money is coming from governments, corporations, and private equity and venture capital firms, people of all income levels can consider whether it is right for them to add clean energy to their investment portfolios. And, you don’t need millions in the bank to make these types of investments – any investor can consider whether to put their money to use  through the four financial instruments described below. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Financing| Read 1 Response

Clean Energy Industry is Not Yet Mature – and that’s a Good Thing

graph-163509_640Last year, global investment in clean, renewable sources of energy grew by a better-than-expected 16 percent to $310 billion, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Industry watchers applauded the strong showing, but the numbers imply more than just robust growth. A careful analysis leads us to two additional illuminating conclusions about the industry’s current level of development and its future.


  1. The clean energy industry is in a development phase

In 2013, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 8.5 percent, with investment comprising 47 percent of GDP. By contrast, GDP in the United States expanded 1.9 percent, with investment comprising 16.8 percent. As a developing country, China’s growth rate is significantly higher, and a telling characteristic for developing countries is that investment makes up a relatively large percentage of GDP.

This pattern doesn’t just hold true for countries; we also see a similar dynamic when looking at industries. According to BNEF, the oil & gas (O&G) industry spent $913 billion on capital expenditures, or capex, last year, while the market capitalization, or market cap, for the top ten companies in the NYSE Arca Oil & Gas Index stood at $1.63 trillion. By contrast, the market cap for the top ten companies in the Wilder Hill New Energy Global Index was much smaller at $164 billion. The Wilder Hill New Energy Global Index comprises 107 companies from around the world that cover a broad spectrum of clean energy technologies. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Financing| Comments are closed

Clean Energy is Just Smart Business for Leaders like Apple, Google

apple-google againApple and Google have changed our lives forever, both because of their technological innovations and sheer size as global corporations. Now, they’re aiming to reshape the energy landscape.

This month, Apple announced plans to spend nearly $2 billion on European data centers set to run entirely on renewable energy, and invested $848 million to secure power from 130MW of First Solar’s California Flats Solar Project under a 25-year power purchase agreement. Google also agreed to replace 370 wind turbines installed in the 1980s with 24 new, more efficient and bird-friendly turbines at the Altamont Pass in the San Francisco Bay Area. Moreover, there has been recent speculation Apple may be working on an electric vehicle to challenge Tesla’s dominance in that market.

These developments are impressive on their own, but they are also part of a new trend among major corporations – whose primary focus is not energy generation – proactively pursuing clean energy projects. So, why are they doing this?

For corporations whose businesses do not rely on fossil fuels, aligning themselves with clean power is proving a prudent move both financially and for public relations. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy| Tagged | Read 6 Responses

5 Reasons the Future of Clean Energy Investing Looks Stronger than Ever

investment LendingMemoWhy invest? To make money.

People don’t invest in an industry to save the world or promote a cause; they invest because they believe the amount they put in will ultimately be returned to them as a much greater sum.

You’ve got to spend money to make money and, when it comes to clean energy, there is a lot of money to be made. Here are five reasons clean energy investment will continue its positive performance in 2015 and beyond.

1. Clean energy investment has been – and continues to be – on the rise

Recent buzz around clean energy investment has centered on a new Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report detailing the global clean energy industry’s strong 2014 investment results, results that even “beat expectations”.  While 2004-2014 saw an extended recession and high unemployment for the global economy, clean energy investment grew five-fold during those 10 years, up from $60.2 billion in 2004 to an impressive $310 billion this past year, according to BNEF. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Financing, Renewable Energy| Comments are closed
  • Policy Analyst, Clean Energy
    Peter conducts research as part of the Clean Energy Program's "Idea Bank," or its internal consultancy. His research centers on many of the moving parts that comprise the electricity sector modernization.

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