Energy Exchange

We already know which grid fixes can keep lights on during bad storms. Here are 3.

After a record-breaking hurricane season and catastrophic wildfires in California, the vulnerabilities of our electric system – and the urgent need to upgrade it – have never been clearer.

It took more than 10 days of around-the-clock work to restore electricity to 350,000 customers after fires struck California wine country last month. Returning service to all 4.4 million power customers in Florida after Hurricane Irma took almost as long – and 70 percent of Puerto Ricans still lack power six weeks after Hurricane Maria.

Such crippling outages contribute to $250 billion in economic losses globally every year.

But there are solutions available on the market today that can reduce the impact of these outages. By investing in technologies that modernize our electric grid, and with careful planning, we can also create a cleaner and more efficient electricity system overall. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Grid Modernization, Renewable Energy, Voltage Optimization / Tagged , | Comments are closed

Methane momentum builds, time for Canada to follow through with strong action

The call to reduce oil and gas methane emissions landed a one-two punch this week that should provide Canada all the motivation it needs to get ahead of this global trend and prepare its energy industry for the future.

First, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook analysis stated the future of the natural gas industry will depend on “industry demonstrating credibly that methane emissions from oil and gas operations are being minimised.” IEA reports as much as 76 million metric tons of methane is emitted around the world each year from both oil and gas facilities. For customers and companies, that’s $34 billion dollars of lost product and profit. There are also significant health and air quality benefits to reducing these emissions as hazardous air pollutants and smog-inducing toxins are removed when companies control methane pollution.

IEA also highlighted that a 75 percent reduction of those emissions is possible today using existing technologies. To put that in context, a reduction on that order would have the same short term climate impact as removing all the vehicles in the world from the road. For all of us, it’s one of the quickest and most affordable opportunities to slow climate change. Read More »

Also posted in Methane, Natural Gas / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

Three reasons Westerners are fighting to defend federal methane waste standards

Westerners are a hardy bunch. They are used to working through adverse conditions and making the best of what the land provides. That includes fighting to defend requirements from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that are designed to cut wasted natural gas and maximize revenue for community projects. This is despite repeated attempts from the Trump Administration to undercut these regulations and sell taxpayers short.

Here are three reasons communities and individuals from across the Mountain West are fighting to defend methane waste rules:

  1. Westerners hate waste: $1.8 billion and counting. That’s the value of taxpayer-owned natural gas that has been wasted since 2013 when the BLM began developing a new set of standards to address this problem. The rules finalized last November would help cut that waste and recover millions more in tax and royalty revenues for the western communities faced with impacts from oil and gas development that need it most.

Read More »

Also posted in BLM Methane, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Data shows two companies stand alone in their New England pipeline practices

This blog post was co-authored with Levi Marks and Matthew Zaragoza-Watkins

Earlier this month we—a  team of economists at EDF, UC Santa Barbara, University of Wyoming and Vanderbilt University—released  a new study on the natural gas pipeline markets in New England which revealed a distinctive pattern showing that local gas utilities owned by two companies—Eversource and Avangrid—routinely ordered large deliveries, then sharply reduced those orders at the last minute. This “down-scheduling” consistently came too late for anyone else to buy that capacity, thus limiting available gas supply in the wholesale market.

One question people ask: Were these two companies acting any differently from other firms, and how can you tell?

We approached this question as we would any research project by thoroughly investigating the data. Over 18 months, we analyzed scheduled gas flows for all 117 delivery points (nodes) on the Algonquin pipeline for every hour of every day in a three-year study period from August 1, 2013 to July 31, 2016, which we downloaded from the pipeline’s public reporting web site. In total, we looked at approximately eight million data points generated from the scheduling patterns of 18 local gas utilities owned by 11 parent companies.

What we found in those public data was clear and irrefutable. Local distribution companies owned by two of those parent companies—and only utilities belonging to those parents—consistently behaved differently than all the others. We don’t know why, but there’s no question that it occurred. The pattern is clear when you visualize the data. Read More »

Also posted in Gas to Clean, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Stopping the self-deal: Preventing pipeline investors from offloading risk on ratepayers

A recent report published by Oil Change International highlights the failure of regulators to protect ratepayers against utility affiliate-backed contracts for new pipeline capacity -in other words, when a regulated utility acts as both the developer and customer for a new pipeline.  It’s a widespread and growing issue. Case in point: Con Ed’s investment in the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia, hundreds of miles from Con Ed’s New York service territory.

Con Ed claims that signing up for transportation service on the pipeline will result in cost savings for customers. But the day Con Ed signed up as a pipeline customer, the company also formed a new “midstream” entity to invest in the pipeline. The new unregulated entity shares the same corporate parent as the regulated utility, but operates under significantly different rules and legal obligations. This transactional structure means that Con Ed’s ratepayers would be  on the hook for paying for the project, while Con Ed’s midstream arm will enjoy a return in excess of risk. From the company standpoint, it’s heads-I-win, tails-you-lose. Read More »

Also posted in Gas to Clean, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

In tackling methane, Exxon signals commitment to maximize opportunity for New Mexico

An announcement last week from one of the country’s largest natural gas producers may have a major positive impact on revenue and clean air in New Mexico. XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil that made a $6 billion investment in acreage in New Mexico’s Permian Basin earlier this year, has now announced a set of commitments to “continually reduce methane emissions” from its production and midstream operations nationwide.

In making the announcement, XTO CEO Sara Ortwein made special note of the methane actions’ impact in the Permian, stating, “In particular, we’re looking forward to applying this approach to our planned expansion in the Permian Basin in New Mexico and West Texas.”

The XTO methane mitigation commitment includes a plan to find and fix methane leaks through inspections using technologies at both existing and new facilities. Further, building on a successful technology pilot project in the nearby Midland Basin, XTO will also focus on emission prevention, moving toward the use of new, less polluting devices for tank batteries and other facilities. Read More »

Also posted in Air Quality, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed