Last 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:
- 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
Also posted in Air Quality, California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Colorado, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Methane, Natural Gas, New York, Utility Business Models
It’s been a big news day in the U.S. Senate, with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid announcing he won’t run for another term.
But that's not the only news.
We have had our eyes on the Senate’s marathon “Vote-a-Rama” budget process that wrapped up around three-thirty this morning.
A number of environmental and energy votes came and went in a flurry of two-minute debates. While the votes mean little in terms of law (the budget bill doesn’t even go to the president for signature), Senators on both sides of the aisle brought up measures as trial balloons to find out where Senators stand on issues that could resurface when Congress takes up other legislation in the future.
Disturbingly, but not surprisingly, polluter lobbyists were hard at work and Senators filed dozens of amendments attacking the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and other environmental measures. Read More
Ask most people what the Beatles and California have in common and they might very well be at a loss. However, the answer is pretty simple: they are both unabashed trendsetters in the face of resistance – the former in their musical style and the latter in its clean energy policies.
Not content with setting a Renewable Portfolio Standard that ends at 2020, Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators are pushing for the Golden State to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030.
To meet this ambitious target, California must build a system that is largely based on renewable electricity, like wind and solar. This is not an easy task. The primary reason? Sunshine and wind are only available at certain times of the day and can be variable during those times.
Traditionally, managers of the electricity grid have relied upon dirty “peaker” power plants – usually fossil fuel-fired and only needed a couple of days a year – to balance the grid during periods of variability or when electricity demand exceeds supply. But, in a world where 50 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources as a means to achieving a clean energy economy, we can’t rely on these dirty peaker plants to balance the variability of wind and solar.
Luckily, technology is available today that can help fill the gap of these peaker plants – and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is starting to embrace it. Read More
Also posted in Air Quality, California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Energy-Water Nexus, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid
Ohio’s clean energy economy celebrated a big win this week. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) denied American Electric Power Company’s (AEP) request for guaranteed profits to operate its aging, uneconomic coal power plants. EDF, along with many other parties, opposed AEP’s proposal.
EDF applauds the Commission for recognizing AEP’s proposal would not benefit Ohio residents and businesses. These old coal plants cost more to operate than the value of power they generate. Plus, they produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions which, if the plants continue to operate, would make it more difficult for Ohio to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set the first-ever limits on carbon emissions from existing power plants.
The Public Utilities Commission’s decision sends a clear message: power companies can no longer rest on their laurels. Clean energy businesses, entrepreneurs, investors, and Ohioans are ready for a new era – one in which utility profits are not placed ahead of Ohio’s best interests.
With gas prices low, an increased use of renewable energy, and weak demand resulting from customer energy efficiency improvements, some utilities like AEP are now burdened by their heavy reliance on coal – and looking to their customers to bail out their uneconomic power plants. Thankfully, yesterday’s decision assures that the market will remain competitive, giving clean energy resources an equal opportunity to compete with legacy fossil fuel plants. Read More
Also posted in Clean Energy, Ohio Tagged AEP
When credibility is your stock in trade, it’s important to have your facts straight. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal blew it.
In an unsigned opinion piece dubbed “Meth Heads in the White House,” the paper dismisses plans expected to be announced by the Obama administration in the next few weeks that would start to tackle the huge amount of methane leaking from America’s oil & gas production facilities.
The question is a significant one, because – as the article notes in passing – methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas (in point of fact, packing more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20 year time frame). According to EPA data, oil & gas operations emit roughly 8 million metric tons of unburned methane annually, enough gas to heat nearly 6 million homes. Read More
By Karin Rives, EDF's editorial manager and editor of the EDF Voices blog
New York’s statewide ban on fracking is a vindication for communities around the country that have been hit hard by unconventional natural gas production, writes Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund’s president, in a Dec. 22 op-ed piece in The Washington Post.
It demonstrates what can happen when oil and gas producers erode public trust by brushing aside legitimate questions – and reinforces the urgent need for strong, sensible regulation.
The growing controversy surrounding our natural gas industry has created a decisive moment for President Obama.
As the administration prepares a policy to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, the president has an opportunity to cut both energy waste and climate pollution – in addition to protecting the ecosystem and public health.
In a second op-ed piece published Dec. 17 in The Hill, Fred lays out five principles that should guide the national methane standards the Obama administration is expected to announce soon: Read More