Category Archives: General

Verizon Invests Big in Clean Energy

This commentary originally appeared on Verizon’s News Center.

Rory Christian PhotoTechnology giant Verizon is making significant strides toward increasing the use of on-site green energy throughout its national portfolio with plans to finish more than $100 million in clean and renewable energy projects across facilities in seven states by the end of this year. The investment is estimated to reduce carbon emissions by over 15,000 metric tons each year, which is comparable to over 2,000 homes’ annual electricity use. Verizon’s video showcasing its plans includes an introduction by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)’s very own Victoria Mills, managing director of Corporate Partnerships.

The move builds on the company’s earlier foray into clean technology, resulting in Verizon’s successful 2005 investment in a 1.4 megawatt fuel cell in Garden City, New York. Fuel cells use an electrochemical process in which oxygen and fuel (natural gas or biogas) react to produce amounts of electricity. The process produces less carbon emissions than more conventional sources of electricity, and enables the possibility of affordable on-site, user-owned power generation that is as constant and reliable as a utility and provides an attractive economic payback for customers.

When selecting locations for solar and fuel-cell energy projects, Verizon was careful to consider sites with favorable zoning requirements, utility partners and regulatory regimes. Despite being financially viable, identifying suitable projects was no simple task. Financing these projects without incentives at the federal and state levels proved impossible, and the incentives often came with conflicting timetables and were difficult to leverage. Read More »

Also posted in EDF Climate Corps, Renewable Energy | Tagged , , , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

The U.S. Can Learn from Renewable Energy Integration in Europe

Raya Salter PhotoLast month I travelled to Amsterdam for European Utility Week (EUW), Europe’s largest “smart energy” conference that was attended by more than 7,000 people, hundreds of exhibitors, utilities, regulators and policy experts.  The theme of this year’s conference was “Pulling in One Direction,” with a focus on greater collaboration between the European power transmission and distribution sectors.  I was invited to speak about EDF’s Smart Power Initiative, which aims to change the trajectory of the U.S. electricity system to help avoid dangerous climate change through smart power policies and clean energy investments.

Why would EUW be interested in EDF’s approach?  Because EDF seeks to knit together key state and regional regulatory agendas to “move the needle” toward a clean and modernized power grid, and to fix the “disconnect” between power transmission and distribution.   Increasing the connection between the wholesale sector (typically has more sophisticated markets including real time pricing) and the distribution sector (has less sophisticated pricing) can unlock the value of smart grid. 

This is one reason why our team seeks to enable smart metering and dynamic pricing for customers on the distribution side.  Dynamic pricing incentivizes the shifting electricity use to periods of lower demand and lower prices (often when clean, low-carbon energy is most available).  Enhancing the flow of information and energy between the wholesale and distribution sector will also empower smart grid solutions such as: reducing wasted energy through energy efficiency and demand response (which rewards customers who use less electricity during times of peak, or high, energy demand) and  increasing the use of clean, distributed generation (like wind and solar).  These innovative solutions will ultimately make the system cleaner, less wasteful and eliminate the need to invest in additional polluting fossil fuel power plants. Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | Tagged , | Comments closed

EDF Steps Up to Protect Ohio’s Clean Energy Standards

John Finnigan PhotoOhio’s clean energy standards have helped jumpstart an industry that is spurring economic development, creating jobs, boosting energy independence and cutting the state’s carbon footprint.  Recently, these standards have come under attack and EDF’s own Cheryl Roberto, Associate Vice President of Smart Power, stepped up to defend them by testifying before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Commission on Senate Bill 58 (S.B. 58).  As a former Ohio Public Utility Commissioner herself, Roberto made it clear that S.B. 58 would destroy Ohio’s clean energy standards and unjustly enrich the state’s electric utilities.

Ohio adopted clean energy standards in 2008, and is one of 29 states with a renewable energy standard and one of 25 states with an energy efficiency standard.  Based on these standards, Ohio will acquire 12.5% of its power by renewable energy and will reduce its energy use by 22% by 2025.  The energy efficiency standard has allowed Ohio to reduce its energy use by over 3%, and the renewable energy standard has already added 466 mw of wind energy in the state, enough to power 466,000 homes.  Ohio is now ranked fourth in the nation for wind energy jobs, with over 5,000 direct and indirect jobs supported by the industry.

Credit: Julia Collins

Credit: Julia Collins

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group of conservative state legislators, is leading a nationwide effort to repeal state clean energy standards, including S.B. 58 in Ohio.  ALEC has previously supported controversial “stand your ground” laws as well as laws classifying environmental civil disobedience as terrorism.  To date, ALEC has failed to repeal clean energy standards in any state.  Read More »

Also posted in Renewable Energy | Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

A New Day For Energy Efficiency In North Carolina

The North Carolina Utilities Commission issued an important ruling this week that reaffirms the importance of energy efficiency as the fastest and cheapest way to reduce pollution from fossil fuels, protect the health of our families and promote our economy.

The ruling approved a new “shared savings" program that allows Duke Energy to make favorable returns on energy efficiency investments, but only if the company saves their customers money in the process.  The shared savings model is the most common financial tool in the United States to encourage electric utilities to make energy efficiency investments.

The new program will motivate the utility to implement energy efficiency measures as broadly and cost-effectively as possible.  Duke’s investments, in turn, can help ensure a robust market for providers of energy efficiency goods and services.

The shared savings model also provides an additional financial incentive for Duke to achieve the voluntary energy savings it agreed to when the company merged with Progress Energy in 2012.  The merger agreement included a minimum 1% per year energy savings starting in 2014 and 7% cumulative energy savings over five years (from 2014-2018).  If the company achieves certain energy efficiency targets, it will receive a financial incentive.

Notably, the ruling requires Duke Energy to convene a stakeholder discussion on the feasibility of commercial and industrial on-bill repayment and combined heat and power programs, which will enable the commercial sector to achieve high levels of energy efficiency performance.

The commission's decision replaces Duke's avoided cost energy efficiency program, known as “Save-a-Watt.”  That program, which expires at the end of 2013, was successful in motivating Duke to make investments in energy efficiency.  In fact, the company exceeded its energy savings targets.  The downside: Save-a-Watt was overly complex for energy regulators and stakeholders.  In contrast, the new shared savings program is simple, transparent and will continue to expand Duke Energy’s energy efficiency investments.

EDF is pleased to see that the ruling incorporates all of the major elements of an agreement that we helped secure in August with Duke Energy, the Commission Public Staff, North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association and environmental colleagues.  We look forward to watching Duke Energy achieve its full energy efficiency potential.

Also posted in Energy Efficiency, North Carolina, On-bill repayment | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

One Year After Superstorm Sandy, Slow But Steady Progress Toward A Common Goal

Source: Iwan Baan

By: Rory Christian, Director of New York Smart Power, and Mary Barber, Director of Smart Power Initiatives

It was only a year ago that the most devastating storm the Northeast has ever seen slammed into the region. Hurricane Sandy pummeled the states of New York and New Jersey, destroying homes and businesses and knocking out electricity for millions of families for days, weeks and – in some cases – months.

The unprecedented situation shined a much-needed spotlight on the vulnerability of our century-old energy infrastructure, placing the issue front and center for the region’s state and local leaders, electric utility companies and regulators, particularly as climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather events.  Utilities in the region have since begun to fortify flood-prone substations among other reinforcements to the power grid, but improvements that are ‘status quo’ are only part of the solution to future challenges.

Ensuring the adoption of technologies and policies that move the U.S. power grid into the 21st century, making it more resilient, flexible and smarter, can simultaneously accomplish today’s goals while preparing for future challenges – some of which may not yet be apparent.  EDF is working closely with stakeholders to find innovative and pragmatic solutions to help modernize our aging energy infrastructure, an improvement that is crucial to resiliency, safety and storm recovery. Read More »

Also posted in Climate, New York | Tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Historic Agreement Demonstrates Broad Commitment To Build Clean Energy Economy

 This commentary originally appeared on EDF's California Dream 2.0 blog.

With the stroke of a pen, North American efforts to combat climate change and promote clean energy reached a new level today.

I was lucky enough to witness the historic event, as Governor Jerry Brown joined the leaders of Oregon, Washington State and the Canadian province of British Columbia, to sign an agreement that formally aligns climate and clean energy policies in the four jurisdictions.

This signing by these “Fab Four” of the Pacific Coast Collaborative makes sense given all they have in common: they’re geographically connected, share infrastructure, and their combined regional economy accounts for a $2.8 trillion GDP, making it the world’s fifth largest economy.

Read More »

Also posted in California | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

A State Race To Save Energy

Earlier this year, the Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy unveiled a plan to double nationwide energy productivity by 2030.  It’s an ambitious move to greatly increase our nation’s use of energy efficiency, which represents a huge – and largely untapped – opportunity.  Reducing wasted energy through efficiency cuts harmful pollution and saves people money on their energy bills.  After all, the cheapest, cleanest, most reliable electricity is the electricity we don’t have to use.

Source: Church Times

Similarly, the State Energy Race to the Top Initiative (Initiative) is an incentive for states to make voluntary progress to increase their energy productivity. The U.S. Senate is moving forward to make this idea a reality.  Originally introduced as a bill in June, the Initiative has now been filed as a potential amendment, sponsored by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Jon Tester (D-MT), to the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill.  If passed, the Initiative will stimulate energy innovation in both the public and private sectors, and allow states to tailor energy saving policies to their particular needs.

Administered by the Department of Energy (DOE), the Initiative will be broken into two phases.  In the first phase, following the submission of state proposals through their energy office, DOE selects 25 states to receive funding (a combined $60 million) to move their energy productivity concepts forward.  Although states have complete independence in developing and implementing their own clean energy strategies, the DOE will provide technical assistance upon request.  Eighteen months later, in the second phase, the 25 states will be asked to submit progress reports to DOE.  Based on their projects’ success, DOE will then select up to six states to receive a share of $122 million to continue their energy saving efforts.

Read More »

Also posted in California, Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid, Texas | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Pennsylvania Could Take The Lead On Addressing Air Impacts From Oil And Gas Production

Source: Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg

After being caught off guard by the early winds of the shale gale, Pennsylvania officials have been in a near-constant state of regulatory and legislative activity for the last few years, working to put rules in place to reduce the risks posed by the increase in natural gas development.  We’ve given PA high marks on some of those efforts, and we’ve disagreed strenuously with others.  But we believe in giving credit where credit is due – and the Keystone State certainly deserves credit for the long hours that officials and stakeholders have devoted to improving regulations.

In some critical areas, such as reducing air pollution from leaky equipment located at natural gas processing plants and compressor stations, the Bureau of Air Quality at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has demonstrated real leadership.

Now, DEP has revised its technical guidance document known as Exemption 38, narrowing the eligibility criteria for the air quality permit exemption.  Astonishingly, under the previous version almost all oil and gas production facilities were exempted from the state’s air quality requirements. Past guidance for Exemption 38 considered well sites and all the equipment associated with them to be “minor sources” – even though they can individually contribute to poor air quality conditions, particularly in densely populated areas.   In Pennsylvania 90 percent of wells are concentrated in ten counties, with just three counties accounting for 50 percent of all wells.  Without proper pollution controls and monitoring, this intensive development can easily lead to unhealthy local air quality. Read More »

Posted in General | Comments closed

New Warnings About Methane Emissions

Concerns about the methane problem associated with the U.S. natural gas boom are mounting with each study released. This week scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado (UC) at Boulder published a new paper on methane leakage in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. It reports an alarmingly high level of methane emissions in the Uintah Basin of Utah — 6.2 to 11.7 percent of total production for an area about 1,000 square miles. Findings are based on readings from airplane flights that measured methane in the air on a single day and estimated the proportion of those emissions that came from the oil and gas infrastructure —production, gathering systems, processing and transmission of the gas out of the region. The authors calculated the uncertainty of their measurements, finding a 68 percent chance the leak rate is between 6.2 and 11.7 percent, and a 95 percent chance it is between 3.5 and 14 percent.

This follows two other regional studies conducted by scientists at the same organizations. One released last May in the Journal of Geophysical Research reported a 17 percent methane leak rate for the Los Angeles Basin, which has received quite a bit of attention although, as I’ll explain below, the figure can be misleading.  The second study, conducted over the Denver-Julesburg Basin in 2008, found 4 percent of the methane produced at an oil and gas field near Denver at that time was escaping into the atmosphere. Taken together, these studies are troubling. They should be regarded as alarm bells ringing in our ears. Action by policymakers and industry is needed now.

Any amount of methane lost from the natural gas supply chain should be eliminated whenever possible. That’s because methane retains heat much more effectively relative to carbon dioxide: Over the first 20 years, an ounce of methane traps in heat 72 times more efficiently. Even small amounts vented or released as “fugitives” – unintentional methane leaked as gas moves from the field to your doorstep – can reduce or eliminate the climate advantage we think we’re getting when we substitute natural gas for coal or oil.

Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Methane, Natural Gas | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Pushing Energy Efficiency Finance Beyond Theory To Practice

By: Matt Golden, Senior Energy Finance Consultant, Environmental Defense Fund

New Energy and Loan Performance Data Project Uses Latest in Data Science to Help Capital Markets Engage in Efficiency Lending

Environmental Defense Fund’s Investor Confidence Project (ICP) and the Clean Energy Finance Center (CEFC), in partnership with state and local lending programs, financial organizations and a range of additional stakeholders, are collecting, aggregating and analyzing loan performance and energy savings data from energy efficiency upgrades in residential and commercial buildings.

The Energy and Loan Performance Data Project represents the first concerted effort to combine data from some of the largest US energy efficiency programs in an attempt to develop an actuarially significant dataset to help engage the capital markets.

Nearly 40% of US energy is consumed by both residential and commercial buildings.  Realizing all of the available cost-effective energy efficiency savings would require roughly $279 billion of investment, resulting in more than $1 trillion in energy savings over ten years.  However, currently, only 1% of all US investments are made in energy efficiency projects.  Our goal for this project is to help lay the foundation that will enable organizations to tap into this vast potential market.

Read More »

Also posted in Energy Efficiency, Investor Confidence Project, New York, On-bill repayment | Tagged , , , | 7 Responses, comments now closed