Last week the New York Times reported that, for the first time in history, clean energy resources like solar and wind are becoming cost competitive with conventional coal in some markets. This paradigm shift, where clean energy is beginning to compete head-to-head with traditional energy sources, calls for a change in perspective.
This ‘change in perspective’ is a movement toward what I would describe as “sustainable sustainability” – in which “sustainable” means the ability to stand the test of time, and “sustainability” refers to an environmentally responsible approach to making, moving, and using energy. In other words, we must find a way to ensure clean energy resources remain competitive in the marketplace and become ‘business as usual’ resources in the overall energy mix. The International Energy Agency (IEA) does a great job of explaining the need for this shift:
In the classical approach, variable renewables are added to an existing system without considering all available options for adapting it as a whole. This approach misses the point. Integration is not simply about adding wind and solar on top of ‘business as usual’. We need to transform the system as a whole to do this cost-effectively.”
Source: CPS Energy
While many are prophesizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) as doomsday for the electricity sector, Texas utilities are telling a different story. The CPP will limit – for the first time ever – carbon emissions from existing power plants. One utility in particular, CPS Energy in San Antonio, “has already embraced a low-carbon strategy that anticipates this rule,” making it the most well-positioned utility in the state, if not country.
Homegrown energy, literally
CPS Energy has excelled using its commitment to create local, clean energy jobs. In its Request for Proposal (RFP) for a 400 megawatt (MW) solar energy plant, the utility included a specification for the creation of local solar jobs. And it worked. Most recently, the utility announced the launch of the Mission Solar Energy Plant – a 240,000 square foot manufacturing plant that will employ upwards of 400 San Antonians. To assist with future expansions, CPS also helped create a program at Alamo Colleges to train its future workforce for clean energy jobs and, admirably, almost one out of every five employees is a veteran. Read More
In order to fund the transition to a low-carbon economy at a pace rapid enough to prevent runaway climate change, the International Energy Authority has estimated that an annual $1 trillion will be required globally. What policies or mechanisms can be used to facilitate private capital engagement on so grand a scale?: Green banks, which are government-created financial institutions that use attractive interest rates and other incentives to leverage money from the private sector to fund clean energy projects.
Earlier this week, EDF co-hosted the first day of the two-day, second annual International Green Bank Summit in our New York City headquarters, bringing together green bank stakeholders from around the world. The summit focused on how green banks can better leverage limited amounts of public capital to engage and accelerate the deployment of private capital into essential energy efficiency, renewable energy, and climate change mitigation initiatives.
Green banks are catalysts
With one dollar of public finance leveraging about three dollars of private capital, global green banks have catalyzed nearly $20 billion dollars to date in clean energy projects around the world and expect to raise more than $40 billion over the next five years. So far, only a handful of countries have developed green banks. Read More
By: Audrey Hornick-Becker
From left to right: Bruce Schlein, Director, Alternative Energy Finance, Citi; Vic Rojas, EDF senior manager, financial policy; Bryan Garcia, President, Connecticut Green Bank; Alfred Griffin, President, NY Green Bank. Source: Maria Jiang.
Last week, EDF co-hosted a successful first-of-its-kind Resilience Finance Symposium in New Jersey, attended by about 120 participants from a wide spectrum of public and private entities in the state, region, and country.
Held on November 12 with Governor Christie’s Administration and the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture + Design, the all-day Resilience Finance Symposium: Building Resilient and Sustainable Energy Solutions for New Jersey’s Key Infrastructure featured a series of panels on solutions that help keep the lights and heat on during critical times, like microgrids and energy storage, as well as innovative ways of financing resilient energy systems.
A main topic of discussion was the impressive progress New Jersey has made toward making the state’s energy infrastructure more resilient in the two years since Superstorm Sandy caused a massive weeks-long power outage. Panelists pointed to Sandy success stories – those instances when power stayed on even when the grid went down – and discussed the need to make these kinds of successes the norm rather than the exception. Read More
By: Jorge Madrid, EDF Coordinator, Partnerships and Alliances, and Marilynn Marsh-Robinson, EDF Project Manager
We’ve spent nearly 15 years collectively working on clean energy solutions for both rural and urban communities, often with under-resourced and underrepresented people at the front of our minds. One question, among many, that is consistently on the minds of elected officials and advocates alike is: How will clean energy policies affect low-income families and communities of color? This is a critical question to answer because low-income families, including a disproportionately large percentage of African Americans and Latinos, spend a greater portion of their income on utility bills. This means spikes in electricity costs can interrupt monthly finances, and even slight increases can take away from other basic needs like housing, education, and food.
Unfortunately, the concern about cost impacts on low-income families and communities of color is also frequently used as an argument against transitioning to a clean energy economy. Sometimes these arguments come from elected officials and advocates with genuine concerns, while other times, they come from industry groups who are trying to protect their own interests by pitting these communities against clean energy. In both cases, incomplete or outright misinformation muddies the water and impedes effective policy dialogue. Read More
As the recent midterm elections have thrust American politics to the media’s forefront, battles for political power are fresh in our minds. While Democrats and Republicans are not the contestants in governments outside of the U.S., struggle for power among groups whose ideals clash are the bedrock of political systems everywhere, including Germany, where politics play a major role in shaping the country’s energy transition.
Political actors in countries with coordinated market economies, such as Germany, prefer dialogues, strategic concessions, and trade-offs that give rise to policy decisions unanimous among main stakeholder groups. However, for Energiewende – Germany’s aggressive plan to transition to nearly 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 – unanimity is constrained. That’s because two interest groups, the Conventional Energy Coalition (CEC) and the Sustainable Energy Coalition (SEC), support fundamentally different energy systems that oppose each other. Read More