Ohio Failed to Protect Customers and Markets – So Federal Regulators Came to the Rescue

columbus-898928_1280The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently rejected Ohio-based utilities FirstEnergy and AEP’s bailout deals, which the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently approved. FERC, which is responsible for ensuring fair wholesale electricity prices, recognized that these backroom bailouts were “abusive,” taking advantage of “captive” customers and harming the competitive market. Fortunately, FERC’s rulings protect customers and markets – which the PUCO utterly failed to do in approving these deals.

FirstEnergy and AEP wanted these bailouts to protect their old coal and nuclear plants, which are losing money because they cost more to operate than the money received from power sales. The companies considered shutting down the plants, but they concocted the backroom bailout deals in a last-ditch attempt to keep them open and money rolling in. Read More »

Posted in Ohio, Utility Business Models| 2 Responses

Four Reasons We Can’t Wait to Plug the Leaks

IMG_4801From articles in top media, to diverse state leaders taking action, there has been a noticeable uptick in public attention on the need for methane pollution limits on the oil and gas industry over the past few months.

It’s great to see growing national and international interest being brought to an issue that was deserving of attention many years ago. But we need to move faster to rein in this problem.

Why the urgency? Here are four reasons:

  1. Americans across the country are seeing the impact of an uncontrolled oil and gas industry on their air quality.
  2. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Leave a comment

The True Cost of Electricity: What We’re Not Paying for Through Our Utility Bills

image oneThe price we all pay for electricity generally does not reflect the “true costs” of producing it. As described in a recent blog post, generating electricity creates harmful pollution, damaging the environment and public health. This comes with a cost, but it is not necessarily paid for by those generating the pollution or purchasing the electricity. These types of costs are known as “external costs.”

For example, a coal-fired power plant releases pollution into the atmosphere, which adversely affects the health of residents in nearby communities. This pollution is an example of an external cost because it causes health problems that neither the plant owners nor the electric users pay for (unless they live near the plant and pay the cost through their health bills).

From coal mining and energy production, to distributing and using that energy, to disposing of waste products, electricity has many external costs. By examining them, we can better understand the true cost of electricity and how it varies depending on the technology or fuel used to generate it. Read More »

Posted in Electricity Pricing, General| 6 Responses

Texas Methane Leaks are a Problem—for California

CA TXAliso Canyon was a big methane release, especially in Los Angeles, but in the grand scheme of methane released every day by the nation’s oil and gas industry, it was a blip. And recent footage from Texas, coupled with a new study of over 8,000 oil and gas wells gives a glimpse at the kind of leaks that are happening outside of California’s borders – leaks that have huge implications for the state.

The Texas infrared footage shows a cloud of methane leaking from a pump jack in an oil field in Texas’ Permian Basin. While these smaller leaks may not be as egregious as the one at Aliso Canyon, they often go undetected and unaddressed, adding up to a large amount of pollution. And as these leaks happen in Texas – with little plans to stop them – the climate footprint of the gas supply system continues to increase.

So what does this have to do with California? California imports nearly 90 percent of its natural gas from regions across western North America, with a large portion coming from Texas production areas like the Permian and Anadarko basins. To put it another way: when it comes to the climate, what happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas. So even while progress is happening to cut oil and gas pollution in the Golden State, there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure imported gas isn’t responsible for significant climate damage before it gets here. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Leave a comment

How Cutting Methane Waste Won the West – By Record Numbers

Cactus and Rig credit EarthworksOver the past few months, hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. have spoken out in support of action on one very important topic: methane.

Methane is the main ingredient of natural gas.  It helps heat our homes and power our economy.  But when leaked or vented into the atmosphere, methane is also a potent greenhouse gas, more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20 year timeframe.

The oil and gas industry is the nation’s largest source of methane emissions, but new action from the Bureau of Land Management could help change that dynamic out West.

The majority of oil and gas production on federal and tribal lands occurs in the western U.S. Unfortunately, the companies that extract the oil and gas that belongs to the American people are allowing way too much methane to escape to the atmosphere. One recent report found that taxpayers may lose more than $800 million in revenue over the next decade due to venting and flaring on public lands if no action is taken. This is a critical reason for why the BLM recently issued a new proposal designed to stop industry’s wasteful methane habits on federal and tribal lands. And why thousands of impacted community members have voiced their support for BLM’s proposal. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Leave a comment

Filling the Gap: How Efficiency Standards could Save Billions in Commercial Real Estate

office building unsplashNo one ignores an opportunity to save billions of dollars. Numbers of that size are enough to make an audience take notice, even in a business like commercial real estate, where deals in the hundreds of millions and billions are commonplace.

Each year the U.S. spends over $400 billion on energy for our buildings, many of which were constructed before modern energy codes existed and, as a result, use more energy than they should. This efficiency gap has led to the creation of a $20 billion retrofit industry, designed to help building owners and managers overcome barriers that deter them from tackling energy costs, like lack of information, misaligned financial incentives, or insufficient capital. In my hometown of Chicago alone, buildings could save up to $184 million in energy costs if they pursued more aggressive energy management – and those are just the ones reporting data. Read More »

Posted in Energy Financing, Illinois, Investor Confidence Project| 2 Responses
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