Energy Exchange

Clean energy – not natural gas – drove decarbonization in 2017

Despite attempts by the Trump administration and the coal industry to limit clean energy in favor of fossil fuels – including a tariff on solar energy, a thinly-disguised bailout for coal and nuclear power plants (that was rightly rejected), and a dramatic proposed cut to energy research – we are accelerating the transition to a cleaner electric grid. In fact, last year was the first time the reduction in power sector emissions can be attributed more to energy conservation and renewable energy than switching from coal to natural gas.

The new 2018 Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) Factbook* highlights the electric power sector as the driving force behind the decarbonization of the U.S. economy. In total, power sector emissions declined 4.2 percent in 2017, mostly due to the 18.4 GW of new renewable energy we added to the grid (a 14 percent increase over the previous year’s total U.S. renewable capacity). In 2017, renewable generation represented about 18 percent of total U.S. generation (around10 percent from non-hydro renewables alone).

This explosive growth further cements renewable energy’s role in reducing emissions from the U.S. power sector. Let’s dig into the factors that led to this growth, and how we can extend this trend of emissions reductions from renewables beyond 2017. Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, Electricity Pricing, Energy Equity, Grid Modernization, Natural Gas, Solar Energy / 3 Responses

Trump's energy policy: Is China the real winner?

By Xixi Chen, manager, EDF+Business 

This week, President Trump's administration announced plans to cut the Department of Energy’s (DOE) renewable energy and energy efficiency program budgets by 72 percent, according to a leaked draft of the DOE budget for fiscal year 2019. This is the second major blow to the renewable energy industry, coming only days after Trump imposed a 30 percent tariff on solar imports.

I find this ironic. On Tuesday, Trump stood before our country to deliver his first State of the Union address. It was a story on “America First,” and domestic policy took the center stage – tax cuts, trade, the economy, jobs … and more jobs. But as he praised the accomplishments in these areas over the past year, I couldn’t help but see the other side: the opportunities we’re missing and the jobs we’re giving up (now even more so).

I’m talking about jobs in the clean energy and sustainability economy. An industry that is growing faster than any other sector. According to Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) new clean energy jobs report, the solar industry grew 24.5 percent, and has experienced a 68 percent annual growth rate over the last decade. And with this growth comes jobs. Solar jobs now outnumber coal jobs 1.6 to 1 across the country. Today’s increasingly globalized supply chain is partially responsible for this enormous growth.

Trump’s decision to impose a 30 percent tariff on solar imports from Asian markets, including my home country, China, will set this progress back. Here’s what a tariff could do: Read More »

Also posted in Grid Modernization / Comments are closed

Trump kills solar jobs, taxes families and businesses, but he can’t kill solar competitiveness

With President Trump’s announcement this week to slap a 30 percent tariff on imported solar cells and modules, the solar industry once again finds itself in the firing line, targeted by the political whims of elected officials.

This political posturing has created uncertainty in the marketplace. In the last decade, solar has suffered from seven changes to the investment tax credit. And in the last few months, the industry got a double whammy of the BEAT tax – which will negatively affect equity investments in solar development – and the threat from the Department of Energy’s plan to prop up dirty coal while undermining solar. The tariff decision this week – a protectionist attempt by Trump to appeal to his anti-free trade base – is the latest assault on clean energy and a tax on American families, businesses, and utilities who want to go solar. Republicans once considered such actions a “tax on consumers.”

Despite these attacks, solar is still booming. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that in the last five years, the U.S. solar industry has attracted more than $100 billion in investment, realized year-over-year growth rates of 21 percent, and now employs more than 260,000 people. The tariff may slow the growth of solar, but it doesn’t kill its competitiveness. Read More »

Also posted in Energy Financing, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy / Read 1 Response

California says goodbye to its last nuclear power plant. What will replace it?

Last week, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a momentous final decision to close the state’s last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon. This outcome represents the culmination of over a year of effort initiated by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in 2016. When PG&E first brought this to the commission, they called for the closure because the plant had become uneconomic in the face of customers increasingly leaving the utility for Community Choice Aggregators, like CleanPowerSF, and a changing electric grid that relies more on flexible, distributed energy resources like wind and solar.

With its recent decision, the CPUC agreed with PG&E, stating that renewing Diablo Canyon’s license to operate beyond 2025 would not be cost-effective. Read More »

Also posted in California, Energy Efficiency / Read 9 Responses

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 New York, New York REV, Utility Business Models / Read 2 Responses

Give Ohio a real chance to win the Amazon HQ2 bid by keeping state clean energy standards intact

BLOG UPDATE – JANUARY 19, 2018

In 2016, Ohio lawmakers tried to gut the state’s clean energy standards, which had created thousands of jobs and saved Ohioans over $1 billion on their electricity bills. They almost succeeded, until Gov. John Kasich stood up for Ohio’s clean energy economy and vetoed the harmful bill.

Now state legislators are back with a new bill – House Bill 114 – that has the same agenda: Destroy Ohio’s renewable and energy efficiency standards.

By requiring electric utilities to lower energy-use and sell increasing amounts of renewable electricity, these standards send a signal to the investment community that Ohio is open for business. And businesses want clean energy – Amazon, for example, frequently decides where to locate its data centers and other facilities based, in part, on the availability of clean energy. The internet giant is currently looking for a site for its second headquarters (or HQ2), and Columbus, Ohio has just been named one of the top 20 finalists.

If Ohio legislators are serious about winning the estimated 50,000 jobs associated with Amazon’s new HQ2, the lawmakers should maintain the clean energy standards and reject House Bill 114. Read More »

Also posted in Energy Efficiency, Ohio / Comments are closed