Regulation as a Platform for Innovation

To get anything accomplished, you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. One unsung story buried in last week’s release of EPA’s new source methane rules may make good options even better – driving innovation and offering industry more options to meet the methane challenge.

The new rules target a pervasive problem: methane – the primary component of natural gas – leaking throughout the oil and gas value chain. Methane emissions represent a waste of saleable resources, a reputational risk, and a contributor to both poor local air quality and climate change.

Under the EPA’s framework, oil and gas operators must take steps to minimize  emissions from new and modified sources – from finding and fixing equipment leaks to swapping out equipment to reduce methane vented from pneumatic controllers and pumps,. Companies in Colorado working to comply with the state’s similar rule have reported that putting similar measures in place are cost-effective, even generating positive returns from selling the captured gas.

But what should an agency do when the solutions available now are reasonable but not perfect? Existing strategies don’t monitor all the time—only a few days a year. So leaks and malfunctions can be missed, or leak for months before they are fixed. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Leave a comment

3 Policies Driving Innovation in the Electricity Sector

solar photoAs rapid changes in energy technology – both in renewable and fossil fuel sources – transforms the way we power our lives, we have a chance to leave our children a prosperous world and reduce the effects of climate change. But, to scale fast enough, we need smart policies – at all levels of government.

National policies are essential to raise our level of ambition, put a price on carbon, limit emissions from key sectors, and spur innovation. For example, the Clean Power Plan would accelerate the adoption of clean energy technologies. But, many states are taking strides to promote innovative technologies and paving the way for national policy. Read More »

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Climate, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Grid Modernization, Utility Business Models| 4 Responses

How Hot It Gets Vs. How Fast: Understanding The Two Kinds Of Climate Pollution

Methane-3D-ballsBy Ilissa Ocko and Steven Hamburg

A new study published in Nature Climate Change has caused some misunderstanding about the role short-lived climate pollutants like methane play in climate action, with some going as far as to argue that people are placing too much emphasis on methane. In fact, the analysis does far less to disrupt current thinking than these observers have suggested.

The study led by Myles Allen of the University of Oxford with five colleagues from around the globe is entirely consistent with the substantive scientific view that our best chance to limit warming and reduce its damages is to aggressively reduce emissions of both long-lived (i.e. carbon dioxide) and short-lived (i.e. methane) climate pollutants simultaneously, in order to reduce both the magnitude and the rate of warming.

The study focuses only on the first of these two metrics of climate change, the long term magnitude,  based on the authors’ stated assumption that the primary goal of climate policy is to limit “peak” warming (consistent with the Paris Agreement to keep global average temperature change well below 2ºC). Because carbon dioxide determines peak warming, the study is an important reminder that stabilizing climate requires progressive reductions of CO2 and other long-lived climate pollutants. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| 5 Responses

Three Ways Methane Standards Can Help the Oil and Gas Sector Rebuild

nat gas header 5A massive wave of market and societal forces is changing the oil and gas industry. Low commodity prices are driving out weaker players with excessive debt, and forcing those that remain to become leaner and more efficient. As climate change effects worsen and countries move to fulfill their commitments from the Paris climate agreement, public scrutiny of oil and natural gas and their impacts only intensifies.

The question is not will industry change to meet these challenges — it’s how. It’s about what opportunities can propel industry to come back stronger out of the depths of the commodity slide, as a leaner, cleaner industry standing on firm ground that it can play a meaningful role as societies work to transition to lower-carbon economies.

While natural gas remains a fact of life, and switching from coal to natural gas has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions, scientific research has demonstrated that potent methane emissions from the oil and gas system are undermining that climate benefit. The latest U.S. inventory shows over 9 million metric tons of oil and gas methane emissions, packing the same climate impact over a 20 year timeframe as over 200 coal-fired power plants. That’s a lot of methane no matter how you slice it. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Rubber-Stamp Regulators: Ohio Gives FirstEnergy Another Go-Ahead

approved-pixabayAt least in theory, government officials are supposed to monitor electric utilities and ensure they do not abuse their monopoly power. For more than a century, these independent regulators have protected customers from unfair, above-market prices and provided a check on giant corporations.

That social contract is being tested in Ohio.

In an unprecedented move, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today allowed FirstEnergy to seek a new power plant bailout – a full day before opponents were to offer their objections. So, without listening to the arguments against the deal, the PUCO rubberstamped the utility’s request for a rehearing.

Unfortunately, this is not the PUCO’s first rubber-stamping. FirstEnergy’s original proposal would have forced customers to pay $4 billion to subsidize the utility’s old and dirty power plants, which could no longer compete in the market. That proposal was almost laughable since the power plants were not needed, and certainly not at such a high price – other companies proposed to offer the same amount of electricity at significantly lower prices. Read More »

Posted in FirstEnergy, Ohio| Read 3 Responses

You can Help Shape the Clean Energy Conversation: Vote for SXSW Eco Panels

sxswecoPublic voting is open for SXSW Eco 2016 – one of the world’s most high-profile environmental conferences. Cast your vote by May 20 to help determine which panels, workshops, solo talks, and bootcamps the conference will feature Oct. 10-12 in Austin, TX.

Whether or not you plan to attend the conference, your opinion matters: SXSW Eco aims to highlight breakthrough ideas and discover new ways of addressing critical environmental challenges, locally and globally. In other words, what matters to you, matters to SXSW Eco. Read More »

Posted in Energy-Water Nexus, Solar Energy, Texas| Read 2 Responses
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