Energy Exchange

Compensating distributed energy resources for environmental attributes

By Elizabeth B. Stein, Ferit Ucar

Small distributed energy resources, cutting carbon emissions, and making sure people pay appropriately for participating in the electric system: These have been pillars of Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), New York’s comprehensive initiative to re-think utility regulation and reduce carbon in the power sector.

Cutting carbon pollution – decarbonization – will be difficult as long as a carbon price is in effect only for large generators. That approach creates a risk of shifting emissions from large generators to small ones and creates a disincentive for environmentally-beneficial electrification.

Setting a robust price on carbon and applying it to fossil fuel users of all sizes and types would avoid such results and enable the market to drive down emissions efficiently. But in a world without such a broadly-applied price, designing an appropriate compensation mechanism for small generators that produce both environmental benefits and emissions is an interesting economic policy challenge.

There’s a lot to consider. Let’s unpack the issues. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy / Comments are closed

Lessons learned from New York REV: A roadmap to reduce emissions through utility reform

The aftermath of extreme weather events calls for action. Recently, devastating hurricanes, wildfires in California, and the “bomb cyclone” in the northeast have reminded us of our vulnerability to climate change and the strength it takes to rebuild our communities. Months after the effects of Hurricane Maria, much of Puerto Rico remains without power – a painful reminder of the extent to which we rely on electricity, and the work required to maintain the electric grid.

Ensuring reliability of the electric system is integral to protecting our cities and states in the future. After restoring power to millions of New Yorkers in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Governor Cuomo planted the seeds of overhauling the state’s electric system, which lead to the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, an effort to build a cleaner, more reliable, and affordable grid. REV looks to create effective market mechanisms that lead to long-lasting solutions for utilities, customers, and a carbon-free environment.

Part of achieving this vision is decarbonization, or eliminating the use of dirty fossil fuels, which emit more than two-thirds of the United States’ carbon pollution. Environmental Defense Fund’s new whitepaper, “Driving Environmental Outcomes through Utility Reform: Lessons from New York’s REV,” looks at how electric utility reform, specifically New York’s REV, can accelerate decarbonization. The paper outlines fundamental criteria for electric utilities’ modernization efforts to bring about environmental benefits, mainly: building smart platforms to deploy clean energy resources cost-effectively, aligning utility earnings with environmental outcomes, and engaging customers as market participants. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, New York REV, Utility Business Models / Read 2 Responses

Microgrids can help prevent extreme power outages, and cities are taking notice

By Ellen Shenette, manager, EDF Climate Corps

This year, the Atlantic basin had eight consecutive storms develop—the first time in 124 years. The storms—and by storms I mean big storms—have had catastrophic effects on families, communities and the economy at large. Millions of people were left powerless, access to clean drinking water was compromised and homes were destroyed. It will take decades for the country to recover from this devastation, and hurricane season is only halfway over.

And as the intensity of these storms increases, so do their price tags. Together, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which hit the U.S. earlier this fall, are estimated to cost $150-$200 billion in combined destruction. This is an enormous blow to the economy and to tax payers’ wallets.

To those of us on the east coast, this sounds awfully similar to destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York City and New Jersey hard this time five years ago. That’s why it’s important to ask: could the devastation have been avoided, or at least reduced? Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Grid Modernization / Comments are closed

New York becomes first city to hatch a 1.5°C Paris Agreement-compliant climate action plan

 Ellen Shenette, manager, EDF Climate Corps 

Earlier this week, New York City became the first city to devise a plan for meeting the goals outlined in the Paris Accord —the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement from which President Trump pledged to pull the U.S. from. The 1.5°C Paris Agreement-compliant climate action plan comes in response to Executive Order 26 (EO26), signed by Mayor de Blasio that reaffirms the city’s commitment to upholding the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The plan identifies specific strategies for reducing GHG emissions necessary to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as set forth in the Paris Agreement. Leading the charge is the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability (MOS), which has been moving the city’s decarbonization efforts forward by accelerating the implementation of existing projects launched under the 80 X 50 initiative—a goal of reducing GHG emissions 80 percent by 2050.

This landmark piece of climate leadership is a big deal. It’s evidence that cities aren’t just making bold commitments with no plan of how to achieve them; they’re taking action and setting the processes for how to get there. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, EDF Climate Corps / Read 1 Response

Better buildings pave the way for energy independence

By Monica Kanojia, Consultant, U.S. Department of Energy

American cities are home to nearly 63 percent of energy use, despite only accounting for 3.5 percent of land area.  It is estimated that these cities and their buildings will account for 87 percent of domestic energy consumption by 2030.

Since its inception in late 2016, 43 cities and counties have joined the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Communities Alliance (BCA), a first-of-its-kind partnership between DOE experts and leaders from the public and private sectors. Through BCA, cities and counties have access to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable transportation solutions that support mutual goals of creating cleaner, smarter, and more prosperous communities.

Given increasing energy needs, aging infrastructure, and new challenges to ensure clean air and water, local government leaders are developing and implementing strategic solutions to enhance future livability.

BCA now represents more than 40 million Americans in over 20 states, which reflects the importance of energy innovation at the local level. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, EDF Climate Corps, Energy Efficiency, New York REV / Read 1 Response

How ‘Energy Week’ could learn from state clean energy leaders

President Trump’s administration dubbed last week “Energy Week,” including a theme of “energy dominance.” Instead of exploring America’s clean energy potential, we’re waiting for the July release of a report by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) examining whether the early retirement of power plants and impact on grid reliability can be blamed on requiring coal plants to reduce pollution while incentivizing clean energy sources. Taken together, and with the fact that the president pulled the country out of the Paris Agreement, America’s energy agenda gives me pause and cause to worry.

We don’t yet know what the DOE report is going to say, but judging from Secretary of Energy Rick Perry’s past stance on energy and his latest statements on the matter, it could suggest that the coal industry that has long-been economically uncompetitive due to oversupplied, cheap natural gas, could be propped-up to spew toxic emissions into the future.

Here is the reality: climate change is not a political issue; it is the single greatest threat we face as a generation. Clean energy is our best option to prevent the environmental situation from getting worse because it is at the core of every climate issue. Fortunately, Americans agree on this, and know something must be done. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, New York REV, Utility Business Models / Read 2 Responses