Energy Exchange

New Study Confirms the Need for National Methane Policy

1At a time when the oil and gas industry claims that methane emissions from their well sites are coming down, here’s a study that adds scientific weight to the argument that emissions may actually be HIGHER than they claim.

A new study by researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, published today in Environmental Science and Technology, took a look at two key processes in oil and gas production – pneumatic controllers and liquids unloading – and concluded that average methane emissions from pneumatic controllers are 17 percent higher than the estimates industry has been citing, and total emissions from these devices may be more than twice as high as they’ve been saying. According to the UT study, together, pneumatic controllers and liquids unloadings account for 40 percent of total methane emissions from oil and gas production.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming pollutant. Unnecessary venting and leaking of methane – the key ingredient in the natural gas that we use to heat our homes, cook our food, and power many of our industries  – waste a precious national energy resource. Colorado and a few other states are already taking steps to reduce this waste through sensible regulations that cover oil and gas producers, and within two weeks the federal Environmental Protection Agency will announce what it intends to do about this problem. This latest UT study is further evidence that methane leakage is a national problem and national regulation is urgently needed to reduce this powerful pollutant and set a level playing field for the over 6,000 oil and gas production companies in business in the United States today. Read More »

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Bringing Storage Beyond the Closet and into the Socket

rp_ca_innov_series_icon_283x204.jpgEDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.

When someone says the word “storage,” the first thing that usually comes to mind are boxes stuffed into the back of the closet, or that deserted facility with orange doors near the freeway off-ramp.

These days, energy innovators across California are giving storage a whole new meaning – and helping to revolutionize the system that brings electricity to homeowners and businesses alike. One of the entities leading this revolution is Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), a utility in the midst of piloting new battery energy storage technology to determine how effectively it can provide a variety of grid services, including the integration of intermittent renewable generation from solar and wind.

Increasing amounts of distributed energy generation in both urban and rural areas – coupled with increasing customer demand associated with things like population growth and consumer electronics – makes energy storage an important tool to keep generation and energy use in balance. This balancing function is an important asset for integrating renewables into the grid, as storage can soak up solar and wind energy when they are abundant and discharge that energy when it is otherwise unavailable. Through this charge / discharge cycle, energy storage could lower the need for traditional fossil fuel sources and reduce resultant air pollution. Read More »

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Utility 2.0: New York Draws Lessons on Utility Regulation from Across the Pond

By: Gavin Purchas, Acting Director, Idea Bank, and Elizabeth B. Stein, Attorney

parliament-544751_1280When the New York Public Service Commission (Commission) opened its historic “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV) proceeding earlier this year, it recognized that the way utility companies have been regulated is out of sync with innovations in technology, business realities, and evolving customer needs,  including the need to reduce harmful pollution. In order for utility companies to become part of the solution, the Commission has made it clear that everything is up for grabs – even the basic regulatory paradigm governing how utility companies do business in New York.

Luckily, the Commission won’t have to completely reinvent the wheel since a new regulatory paradigm from the United Kingdom could serve as a potential model. This regulatory approach is known as RIIO and is based on the following formulation: Revenues = Incentives + Innovation + Outputs. RIIO was developed by the UK regulatory body, Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, after the country recognized that its previous framework – while extremely effective at achieving cost reductions – stymied innovation. RIIO includes several elements that may be useful in the New York setting, including: Read More »

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Western Governors: Cutting Oil, Gas Methane Good for States

rp_frackingwyo_92689731_rf_0-300x300.jpgLast weekend the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) joined a growing chorus of groups recognizing the importance of action to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. In addition to being the primary component of the natural gas sold at market, methane is a potent heat-trapping pollutant that is responsible for about 25 percent of current warming patterns. As the resolution states:

            "Western Governors recognize the environmental benefits to reducing methane emissions and the opportunities for beneficial use of the natural resource.”

Western governors stepping up on this issue sends the strong message that state leaders and regulators recognize the need to cut emissions of a potent climate pollutant and stop waste of a finite natural resource. The western region is a major center of domestic oil and gas production and these governors understand action to reduce methane emissions means more natural gas will stay in the pipe, benefitting end users and state economies. The west is also already seeing the impacts of a changed climate through droughts and wildfires, again pointing to the need to address this potent climate pollutant. Read More »

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Is Water the New Bottom Line for the Private Sector?

Source flickr-neilsingaporeBusiness and the energy-water nexus

On December 11th, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) Corporate Citizenship Center will host The Energy-Water-Food Nexus: Risks and Opportunities for the Private Sector, the second in a series of roundtables based on a report released earlier this year. The USCCF’s report and surrounding events are highlighting success stories and, more importantly, opportunities for the business community to address the energy–water nexus: the idea that energy and water use are fundamentally intertwined. In order to accurately address water risks across operations and supply chains, businesses must take a more holistic look at their water and power usage.

The business world is quickly beginning to understand the intersection of these two sectors and the significant impact they have on business operations.

In the commercial, industrial, and institutional sectors, energy efficiency and other measures could save as much as 15-30 percent of water use without reducing operations. This is particularly important as businesses consider how they manage water risks in areas where they operate. The 2014 Carbon Disclosure Project Water Disclosure Global Report, conducted on behalf of 573 investors with assets of $60 trillion, reported that 68 percent of responding companies say water is a substantial risk to their businesses, but only 42 percent have publicly demonstrated a commitment to water efficiency. Interestingly, 43 percent of reporting businesses said that water stress and/or scarcity was a top risk driver versus 16 percent that said drought was a top risk driver. This indicates that companies are more focused on longer-term risk management, as opposed to reacting primarily to drought conditions and concerns about short-term profits. Read More »

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Can Birds and Wind Energy Co-exist?

By: Stacy Small-Lorenz, Conservation Scientist, and Jim Marston, Vice President, US Climate and Energy

farm-62260_1280Climate change will have major impacts on birds and their habitats, according to a recent report from the National Audubon Society. Scientists project climate change will drastically alter and shrink habitats in the U.S. for many bird species. These findings add to mounting evidence that natural systems are at serious risk for climate change impacts, which we must act swiftly to mitigate.

One solution is to adopt more clean, renewable energy. Utilities have been investing in large-scale wind energy farms at an impressive rate, resulting in 127 million tons of avoided carbon dioxide a year in the U.S. – the equivalent of taking 20 million cars off the road.

But a tricky challenge persists in the effort to make our energy system more sustainable overall: large, utility-scale wind energy developments have been known to kill bats and birds and risk fragmenting sensitive habitats. And while wind turbines kill far fewer songbirds than building collisions or cats, raptors and bats are still at risk for turbine collisions. Read More »

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