Category Archives: Renewable Energy

The Business-Policy Nexus: The Next Frontier for Corporate Sustainability Leadership

By: Tom Murray, Vice President, Corporate Partnerships Program

As we approach the 25-year anniversary of EDF’s work with the corporate sector, it’s an opportune time to reflect on our successes and plan for the work ahead.

 

Corporate Leadership graph v3

Over the years we have worked with McDonalds, Walmart, FedEx, KKR and many others to integrate sustainability into their operations, strategy, and supply chain management.  Together, we have kick-started market transformations in sectors including fast food, shipping, retail, private equity and commercial building energy efficiency.  While we’ve made great strides, there remains a huge distance to go in order to fully protect our natural resources, clean up our dirty energy system, and turn the corner on global greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Looking ahead, the opportunity and need for more aggressive private sector leadership has never been greater.  Moving from environmental progress today to full scale solutions tomorrow will require a new type of corporate leadership. This next step will require a willingness to align corporate sustainability operations, strategy AND policy. Read More »

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Solar in Texas: It's Really Happening this Time (Really)

iStock_Solar_InstallerEvery year, it seems, is predicted to be the “year for solar,” and for certain states this may ring true.

But in Texas, despite having a close relationship with the sun and its heat (2011 gave us 100 days over 100 degrees and no rain), we have yet to realize our potential for solar energy development, the highest potential of any state in the nation. Texas currently only has about 213 megawatts (MW) of solar energy installed (compared to over 237 MW in little ol’ Massachusetts). Recent developments, however, make me encouraged that the next few years will be the catalyst for finally fulfilling that potential.

Austin

A few weeks ago, the Austin City Council voted on an ambitious solar step forward, directing a “utility-scale solar target of 600 megawatts by 2017, a rooftop solar target of 200 megawatts by 2020, explicit language enabling third-party solar ownership, a floor price for the value-of-solar tariff…and a mandatory strategy to procure 200 megawatts of fast-response storage.” The resolution will require the municipal utility, Austin Energy, to obtain 60 percent of its electricity generation from renewables over the next decade, and to be completely carbon-free by 2030. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing| 2 Responses, comments now closed

Policy Change is Key to Meeting UNC Clean Energy Goals

Source: Caroline Culler

Source: Caroline Culler

Take thousands of people, put them on a college campus – and watch the energy and water usage spike. That's what happens in the fall at universities across the country when students flood back to classrooms and dorms.

The nation's oldest public university system is keeping a keen eye on utility meters. The University of North Carolina (UNC) is on its way to reducing energy and water use by 30 percent by 2015.

Also noteworthy is UNC's goal for 2050, when the university's 17 campuses aim to be carbon neutral.

Slowing down UNC's progress are North Carolina statutory restrictions that make it difficult for campuses to finance and use their own renewable energy. Read More »

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Utility 2.0: Optimizing Energy Use by Making Customers Part of the Solution

Source: designmilk flickr

Source: designmilk flickr

New York is re-examining the way energy is regulated, priced, and distributed in the state in order to emerge with a 21st century business model. This change will deliver on a broad range of objectives, including increased customer value and environmental benefits, among others. However, achieving greater system efficiency could lead to the most impactful outcomes for customers, the environment, and society as a whole. Not only does increasing system efficiency have the potential to significantly reduce costs, energy use, and carbon emissions, it also makes the customer an integral part of the solution to meeting our future energy needs.

The challenge

Electric utilities are tasked with meeting consumer demand for electricity at all times and, until now, have done so primarily by installing additional infrastructure on the electric grid whenever needed. While this has resulted in a fairly-reliable way to meet our energy needs, it has and continues to be extremely expensive and inefficient given the evolution in how energy is used today. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, New York, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| 1 Response, comments now closed

Good News: EPA Standards Could Lower Electricity Bills

Source: Brendan Wood

Source: Brendan Wood

Millions of Americans are watching their bills more closely as middle-class incomes continue to stagnate in the nation's uneven economic recovery.

So it's frustrating to hear opponents of climate action once again use the threat of higher electricity rates as a scare tactic to try to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. We know it has many people concerned.

The good news is we have more evidence than ever before to prove our opponents wrong.

 

We pay the same rates for power now as in 1994

Electric rates in the United States have remained steady over the last 20 years, even as consumption of renewable energy increased 40 percent, statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show. Over the same time, we reduced coal plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by more than 75 percent.

Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Clean Power Plan, Climate, Energy Efficiency, General| 2 Responses, comments now closed

Elon Musk's Love-Hate Relationship with Texas

 (Source: Governor Rick Perry)

Texas Governor Rick Perry meets with entrepeneur Elon Musk
Source: Governor Rick Perry

For months now there has been much secrecy and mystery surrounding the location of electric car revolutionary Tesla's new $5 billion Gigafactory. The factory will supply cheaper batteries for the company’s Model 3 electric car and will be large enough to manufacture more lithium-ion batteries than the entire industry produces now. Due to its sheer scale, the factory is expected to reduce the cost of batteries by almost one-third and create close to 7,000 jobs directly and thousands more indirectly.

Amidst all the rumors abounding, closed door meetings, and tax break wars, I wrote about Tesla’s search for the perfect factory location – of which Texas was in the running. Despite Tesla breaking ground near Reno, Nevada a few weeks ago, there was still speculation about where the Gigafactory might be located, and Texas' chances remained somewhat alive.

But no more. Tesla indeed confirmed that Reno will be the home of the Gigafactory. This is great for Nevada’s economy, but as a Texan, it still feels like a bit of a blow – though I’m not surprised.

While Texas Governor Rick Perry personally lobbied for the Gigafactory to make its home in Texas, it doesn’t help that he’s at the helm of a state hostile to clean energy, despite leading the nation in wind power. Although I’m hopeful that future clean tech endeavors will come to Texas, the existing status quo needs to change to combat this hostility.   Read More »

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McKibben and EDF Agree: Plugging Methane Leaks "A Huge Priority"

Methane is flared from a natural gas well site.

Methane is flared from a natural gas well site.

Bill McKibben is at it again—using his formidable analytical and rhetorical skills to challenge comfortable climate assumptions. In this case, the author and activist puts the heat on politicians, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who argue that natural gas can be a “bridge fuel” to a low-carbon energy future.

Since natural gas emits half the carbon of coal when it’s burned, supporting it gives politicians a way to position themselves as both pro-energy and pro-climate. But writing in Mother Jones, Bill questions whether switching from coal- to natural gas-fired electric generation brings any climate benefit at all.

Because natural gas is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas, he points out that if enough uncombusted methane is leaking from the natural gas supply chain, natural gas may be even worse for the climate than coal.

We couldn’t agree more. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Methane, Natural Gas| 1 Response, comments now closed

California Clean Energy Bill Could Open Door for Homeowners and Small Businesses

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Source: Flickr/constellationenergy

Governor Brown has the opportunity to make energy-saving upgrades possible for families and small business owners by signing Assembly Bill 1883 (Nancy Skinner- Berkeley). This bill would significantly lower the cost of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), a tool which enables property owners to take advantage of energy efficiency and rooftop solar PV for their homes or buildings with no money down, allowing them to pay off the investment over time through their property tax bill.

AB 1883 would streamline the PACE process and drive down the fixed transactional costs associated with commercial projects. Lowering these transaction costs is especially important for small businesses because high transaction costs can reduce the economic viability of the smaller energy upgrades that small business typically need. AB 1883 also incorporates new options for financing rooftop solar PV through PACE, which will enable a greater number of homeowners and small businesses to qualify for cost-saving solar PV contracts. Read More »

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Clean Power Plan to Reward Texas, not Wyoming Coal-Backers

Source: Aurora Lights

Chronicle readers would be forgiven if they opened their papers last weekend and thought it was 2005. That’s because the Koch brothers-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation published an editorial that echoed the pro-coal rhetoric we heard nearly 10 years ago when then-TXU wanted to build new power plants across Texas that would burn Wyoming coal.

Sure, this weekend’s piece had a different news hook – the new Clean Power Plan that will require Texas to reduce carbon emissions from power plants like every other state. But TPPF’s conclusion was the same: better, cleaner technology is bad and coal is king. As Yogi Berra would have said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Texas is the number one carbon emitter in the U.S. and power plants, together, are the largest emitters. Our state represents close to 10 percent of the entire nation’s carbon emissions. The Clean Power Plan will simply require Texas to adhere to the rules all other states have to follow. I love Texas more than the average person, but I don’t think we should get special treatment simply because some of our energy companies doubled-down on fossil fuels. And I certainly don’t think we should rely on Wyoming coal when Texas is the nation’s energy powerhouse. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Clean Power Plan, Climate, Energy Efficiency| 1 Response, comments now closed

Forward-Looking Analyses are Key to Comparing Clean Energy Benefits

Source: Kuebi,  Kuebi = Armin Kübelbeck

Source: Kuebi, Armin Kübelbeck

Good science should spark debate. It’s the nature of the field, after all. You ask questions, search for data and then debate what it means or what actions the data should spur. Such a debate is underway now, and it is adding fuel to an old fire.

In May 2014, Dr. Charles R. Frank of the Brookings Institution published a working paper comparing the net benefits of replacing coal and gas plants with five no- and low-carbon fuels – solar, wind, hydropower, nuclear, and combined cycle natural gas. Avoided carbon emissions and low energy and capacity costs are deemed benefits, whereas higher emissions, energy and capacity costs, and unique fuel-specific deficiencies (i.e. toxic waste from nuclear power, intermittency of wind, solar, and hydro, etc.) comprise costs.

In late July, The Economist promoted several of this working paper’s primary findings, namely that wind and solar are expensive fuel sources with relatively sparse net benefits – compared to nuclear, combined cycle gas, and hydropower – when replacing coal plants.

Many refute the validity of this conclusion, and response from the scientific community was swift. Read More »

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