Energy Exchange

The Social Cost of Stagnation: A Call for FERC Action

By: James T. B. Tripp, EDF Senior Counsel

Fossil fuel plantAmerica’s electricity industry – the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. – is at the heart of some of the world’s biggest environmental challenges, especially climate change. Given this connection, you would think an agency called the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would take into account the major environmental consequences of its policies, which fundamentally shape the U.S. power industry. Sadly, you would be wrong.

FERC is charged by law with ensuring wholesale rates and other critical aspects of the electricity industry, such as transmission practices, are “just and reasonable.” Yet FERC’s official policy is to exclude environmental considerations from its regulation of the industry. Why? FERC’s reasoning is based on a combination of questionable statutory interpretation and an approach to energy regulation that is stuck in the past. In fact, FERC’s statutory mandate over wholesale electricity sales and transmission dates back to the 1930s, long before scientists discovered climate change. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate| Tagged | Comments closed

Why EPA’s Press Release Doesn’t Reflect the Real Methane Emissions Numbers

Source: Dan Lurie

Source: Dan Lurie

At first glance, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Sept. 30 press release looked like a winner: Methane emissions from the oil and gas sector dropped by 12 percent in 2013, with a  whopping 73-percent decline from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells making up the largest share of reductions.

The drop in methane emissions shows how effective regulation is in reducing air pollution from oil and gas production. It was led by an early phase of EPA’s air pollution rules, enacted in October 2012, with full implementation expected by January 2015. (Although this regulation targets emissions of volatile organic compounds, it has also reduced methane as a co-benefit.)

Except, the 73- percent decline is not the whole story. It only accounts for 2.3 percent of the total methane emissions reported to EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, leaving a large amount of tons on the table addressed.

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Posted in Air Quality, Climate, Methane, Natural Gas| Tagged , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

While Critics Debate Energiewende, Germany is Gaining a Global Advantage

Source: Frank M. Rafik

Source: Frank M. Rafik

Economics is the focus of many debates surrounding Germany’s aggressive “energy transition” (or Energiewende), which plans to move the country to nearly 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Critics say Energiewende’s costs are unjustifiable, arguing they hurt the country’s international competitiveness and systemic inefficiencies exacerbate these costs.

At first glance, it’s hard to argue with them. The scale of investment in Energiewende can seem intimidating: So far, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates the total cost of Germany’s clean energy expansion at €106 billion. Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal quotes government sources when predicting total costs through 2040 to be about €1 trillion.

By contrast, however, Germany’s annual investment in fossil fuels has been €90 billion; and, investments in Energiewende go into electric grid upgrades that would need to happen in Germany anyway, whereas fossil fuel investments leave the country.

When viewed in context, there are many reasons to believe investments in Energiewende will reap economy-wide rewards, giving Germany a competitive global advantage over other countries that lagged behind investing in the future.

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Posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Energy Financing, Renewable Energy| 3 Responses, comments now closed

Live Stream EDF's Panel Discussions at SXSW Eco Oct. 6-8

sxswecoSXSW Eco attracts a global community to explore, engage, and co-create solutions for a sustainable world. A uniquely inclusive platform for professionals, SXSW Eco examines the critical challenges of our times through a kaleidoscopic lens of design innovation, policy tipping points, technological breakthroughs, conservation practice, entrepreneurial spirit, and a culture of creativity to transform inspiration into action.

EDF will be there in full force, including participating in four panels (CST): Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Texas| Comments closed

Report Finds Opportunity for Natural Gas Job Growth—But it’s not Where you Think

Methane-Cover-Photo-300x213In 1933, Milton Heath senior opened a small, family-run consulting firm to find leaks from natural gas pipelines by conducting vegetation surveys in New England Fields. More than 80 years later, the family business has grown substantially, and now the Texas-based company provides more than 1,200 manufacturing and service jobs across the country. Their business model may have changed—but their commitment to finding and reducing leaks of methane—a potent greenhouse gas—has not wavered.

Stories like Heath’s are the focus of a new report released this week by Datu Research. The Emerging U.S. Methane Mitigation Industry looks at the growing industry that specializes in manufacturing technologies and providing services that help oil and gas companies reduce their environmental impact and deliver a valuable product to market. The report analyzes more than 70 companies that limit emissions of methane and provide high-paying, highly skilled jobs to thousands across the country. These companies are part of an increasingly strong market growing amidst rising awareness of the need to reduce methane pollution alongside the domestic energy boom. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| 3 Responses, comments now closed

Texas Comptroller’s New Report Should Not Play Favorites

lollie-pop flickrRecently, the Texas Comptroller, Susan Combs, decided to come out swinging against renewable energy, specifically wind, in a report entitled Texas Power Challenge: Getting the Most From Your Energy Dollars. It would be easier to take this report seriously if it applied the same pressure and scrutiny to the oil, gas, and coal industries, which have received subsidies and incentives hand over fist. But, no, the attacks seem to focus only on renewables.

What’s worse is the Comptroller’s report is not based in fact. One of the main points of contention is the CREZ transmission lines that were built to ease the bottle-necked energy congestion in West Texas. Yes, this congestion was partly due to more wind energy on the power grid needing to make its way to cities in the East, but natural gas very much benefited from the added transmission lines as well. Even Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, a Republican ally of Combs', took her to task for this in a statement to the Texas Energy Report: Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy, Texas| Comments closed

Making the World a Better Place: One Megawatt at a Time

By: Supraja Sudharsan, student at Georgia Institute of Technology

pic-for-blog_sudharsanWhat does it take for a manufacturing firm with 24/7 operations to incorporate sustainability goals into its daily activities? I learned the answer to the question this summer at Owens Corning.

Owens Corning is an innovator in fiberglas™ technology operating in 27 countries around the world, with its products’ end-uses ranging from insulation and roofing shingles to wind turbines. The company has been a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the last five years, and has rallied around climate change issues to achieve key milestones in its energy intensity and greenhouse gas reduction goals since 2002. Having picked the so-called “low hanging fruits” in energy efficiency, Owens Corning now aspires to purchase 100 percent of its primary energy from renewables. In this, the company’s most recent milestone has been the installation of the largest onsite solar PV system in New York State funded by the New York Sun program in 2013.

One reason this has been possible is due to a shift in the cost of renewable technology, with solar and wind approaching grid parity in some regions of the United States. This has provided an opportunity to enter the renewables space that did not exist a few years back. Technologies like net metering, which allows businesses to sell excess clean energy back to the grid and profit from their renewable deployment, and availability of third party energy suppliers in some states, as well as a means to track and retire the renewable certificates and the reporting standards that have emerged around these, have all been crucial for enabling this shift towards greater renewables. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy| Comments closed

Three Ways to Boost Energy Efficiency after the “Low-Hanging Fruit” has been Picked

By: Lana Zaman, graduate student at UC Berkeley

2014berkeleyfellowsCompanies today are increasingly investing in energy efficiency upgrades, both to conserve energy and to reduce operating costs. By lowering greenhouse gas emissions and fuel expenses, energy efficiency benefits the economy as well as the environment in the face of climate change. Being from Bangladesh, a country that is on a trajectory to become completely submerged as sea levels rise, climate change is an important issue to me and is largely the reason why I joined EDF Climate Corps.

Before I began my fellowship, I asked myself: When there exists a seemingly obvious solution to current energy challenges, why aren’t more companies investing in these solutions? What is holding the private sector back from pursuing initiatives that not only save the company money, but can also contribute to mitigating climate change? Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency| Comments closed

Companies Turn to Technology to Engage Consumers in Smart Energy Management

By: Claire Dooley, student at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management

claire_dooley_blog_0Most of us in America would argue that affordable and reliable energy access is a basic life necessity, possibly even a basic human right. However, JD Power & Associates recently reported that only 3% of consumers are actually reviewing their energy usage more than once a month. Interaction with this commodity is almost entirely passive. Utilities do whatever it is they do to keep the electrons flowing, and we pay the bill.

With all of the public attention that energy’s impact on climate change has received in recent months—including IPCC findings that human-induced global warming is unequivocal and a new EPA regulation on coal-fired power plants—consumer awareness and interest in curbing our reliance on dirty energy is on the rise. Concurrently, the massive influx of residential clean energy technologies is providing unprecedented opportunity for the public to participate in climate change solutions. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Storage, Smart Grid| 1 Response, comments now closed

Clean Energy Conferences Roundup: October 2014

Source National Retail Federation FlickrEach month, the Energy Exchange rounds up a list of top clean energy conferences around the country. Our list includes conferences at which experts from the EDF Clean Energy Program will be speaking, plus additional events that we think our readers may benefit from marking on their calendars.

Top clean energy conferences featuring EDF experts in October:

Oct 2: 2014 Energy Competition Symposium, Columbus, OH
Speaker: Cheryl Roberto, Associate Vice President, Clean Energy

  • The future of competitive retail and wholesale energy markets, product innovations for retail customers, and improving the shopping experience for consumers are among the larger themes to be explored at the Retail Energy Supply Association’s 2014 Energy Competition Symposium, a half-day event exploring the leading issues affecting retail energy competition nationally.

Oct 6-7: 2014 Utility Environmental Benchmarking Forum, Charlotte, NC
Speaker: Cheryl Roberto, Associate Vice President, Clean Energy

  • Since 2010, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has hosted the Forum which has provided a platform for the electric utility industry to benchmark their performance on environmental metrics. Now, TVA and Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) are teaming up to ensure the Environmental Benchmarking Forum will continue for years to come. Discussion topics include environmental performance measures and data, lessons learned from leading utility companies and energy providers, and sustainability programs, profitability, and effective implementation. Read More »

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