By: Amy Chiang, student at the University of Michigan, the 2015 EDF Climate Corps fellow at General Motors
I was already level with the roof on a ladder when my General Motors supervisor pointed out the irony of my situation. As an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps fellow, I was destroying the homes of the young maple tree seedlings trying to grow in the rain gutter of a Detroit home. I’m all for trees, but not when they take up residence in a rain gutter.
But how did I find myself on a roof in Detroit? Partly because my answer to the “are you scared of heights” question was “no,” but also because I was embedded for a summer in GM’s foundry division as part of my EDF Climate Corps fellowship.
With a background working in clean, renewable energy resources, I did not expect my next project would be on sustainability at an aluminum foundry – where raw metal inputs are melted down and cast into the desired part. However, it turns out that foundries actually consume the most energy in the vehicle manufacturing process – second only to paint – with 50 percent of the energy consumed in the furnaces used to melt and hold the metal. To assist in future energy reduction, this summer I developed a matrix to help GM compare their furnaces and aluminum foundries to realize energy savings. Read More
A new Massachusetts law requiring gas utilities to annually report the location and age of known gas leaks has, for the first time, enabled the mapping of gas leaks from natural gas distribution pipelines across the state. This effort parallels EDF’s methane mapping project, as part of which it is publishing maps of methane leaks from utility pipes in various U.S. cities, highlighting the scale of the problem and the need for thoughtful utility and regulatory responses.
The issue is multidimensional. Gas leaks have both environmental and economic consequences, in addition to public safety implications. Most states only require utilities to address leaks that pose a present or future public safety threat. Other leaks can and do continue unabated for years, wasting gas and imposing an undue economic burden on ratepayers. The environmental implications are also serious. Methane, which is the primary constituent of natural gas, is a greenhouse gas, 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. Read More
Since the president announced in January a national goal of reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry nearly in half by 2025, an outpouring of voices has supported the move. Now, EPA has proposed rules to help meet that target, and we’ve seen another wave of support – everyone from editorial boards in the heart of oil and gas country to massive investors like California’s pension funds has recognized that the rules are a manageable, commonsense means for reducing methane pollution.
The one voice that’s been silent? The companies with the opportunity to adopt the proven, cost-effective technologies and services to not only reduce pollution but also prevent the waste of the very energy resource they’re producing. Now another voice has emerged to make the case directly to these companies that it’s worth constructively engaging in the rulemaking process: the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a group of shareholders dedicated to promoting environmentally and socially responsible corporate practices. Read More
California’s “big three” utilities are taking important steps toward achieving a clean energy future – one in which we will better utilize renewable sources of energy, give customers more choice and control, and keep the state on course to cut pollution.
One way they are doing this is through Distribution Resource Plans (DRPs). Signed into state law in 2014, DRPs are roadmaps for California’s investor-owned utilities – including Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric – to incorporate more distributed energy resources, like rooftop solar and electric vehicles, onto the grid. Each investor-owned utility in California is required to develop a DRP, and the big three submitted their initial plans on July 1, 2015 – a milestone in and of itself.
Upon analysis, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) sees the DRPs as a considerable step in the right direction. However, there are aspects of the plans we think could be improved to ensure California’s electric grid is able to take full advantage of already existing and future distributed energy resources. Read More
FirstEnergy isn’t the only utility trying to stick Ohioans with the cost of its poor business decisions.
AEP Ohio has also presented a similar proposal to bail out several old, uneconomic coal plants, asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to guarantee the purchase of power produced by its coal plants. The utility tried the same tactic earlier this year and failed, but is now back with an updated proposal. Last week, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed testimony opposing the deal and recommended that AEP Ohio should invest in grid upgrades if the PUCO decides to approve AEP Ohio’s proposal.
Ohio has a competitive retail electric market, meaning customers can buy electricity from many different sellers. But utilities still have a monopoly when it comes to service territories. So if you live in AEP Ohio’s territory, the company will deliver your electricity – even if you purchase it from a different provider. Since AEP Ohio’s bailout proposal applies to its entire service area, essentially the utility wants to force all of those customers to pay for its coal plants, including those who don’t buy their electricity from AEP Ohio. Read More
By: Lauren Navarro and Tim O’Connor
Every day thousands of Americans suffer from dirty air – costing the young and old their health, livelihood, and in many cases, their lives. As California is home to the top five most polluted cities in the country, we need action.
Thankfully, after many long hours of debate and negotiations at the state capitol, the California Legislature passed SB 350 (De León) last Friday. The California State Assembly passed the bill, with a 52-26 vote with bipartisan support before passing it on to the senate where it was approved in a concurrence vote. This bill increases California’s renewable energy mix to 50 percent and doubles the energy efficiency of existing buildings. Both of these provisions will serve to combat dirty air and fight climate change, while ushering in a new era for the state’s electricity system – one defined by a cleaner, more resilient, and dynamic electric grid. Read More