Energy Exchange

Ozone Pollution in the West: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Clint_Eastwood1Long familiar in major urban areas, smog – what we experts call “ground-level ozone” pollution – is quickly becoming a serious problem in the rural mountain west, thanks to rapid expansion in oil and gas development. Smog serious health impacts like aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks, and even premature death. In areas like the Upper Green River Basin in Wyoming, smog levels have sometimes rivaled those in Los Angeles.

Now, the Environmental Protection Agency and several western states are putting the pieces in place to fix this problem: EPA through proposed revisions to  the health-based ozone standard that will better protect people from pollution, and states like Wyoming and Colorado through strong policies that are helping to reduce the sources of ozone pollution in the oil and gas industry.

In official public comments filed this week with EPA, EDF and a broad coalition of western environmental and conservation groups supported a more protective ozone standard and pointed out the importance of this issue to the intermountain west–where most of the country’s oil and gas production from federal lands occurs.

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Posted in Air Quality, Colorado, Natural Gas, Wyoming| Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ohio Pressed Pause on Economic Growth When It Froze Its Clean Energy Standards

BldgWindSite_SP1141512_PArnold_RFOhio shot itself in the foot last year and we’re only now learning just how bad the damage is.

In May of 2014, the Ohio Legislature froze the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards as a result of political pressure from Ohio’s largest power company, FirstEnergy, and other groups. This freeze came after efficiency measures led to more than $1 billion in savings for Ohioans, clean energy companies invested more than $660 million in 2012 alone, Ohio boasted the nation’s largest number of wind-component manufacturing facilities, and the state created 43,000 in-state jobs within the clean energy sector.

Needless to say, from 2008, when Ohio enacted its clean energy standards, to 2014, when it froze them, the Buckeye State was a clean energy powerhouse. But, as the Center for American Progress reports, when Ohio put a freeze on its clean energy economy, it hit the pause button on its entire economy.

According to the report, the freeze cost Ohio millions of dollars in energy investment. That equates to job losses, cancelled projects that would have brought sustained tax revenue to Ohio, and shifting operations to other, business-friendly states. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Ohio, Renewable Energy| Tagged | 2 Responses

Plugging Away – San Diego’s Plan to “Charge” Toward a Cleaner Grid

Source: Flickr/Kazuhisa OTSUBOWe love electric vehicles (EVs) in California and we want that love to spread. Why? It isn’t because of the cool factor – though, believe me, EVs like the Tesla are undoubtedly cool. Instead, it’s because these cars can offer significant benefits to the environment, electric grid, and economy.

California policymakers feel the love: in March 2012, Governor Brown signed an Executive Order that put an ambitious – and important – goal in place to provide the infrastructure for up to 1 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), which includes fuel cell powered vehicles along with plug-in hybrid and battery EVs, by 2020 and put 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025.

Here are some of the potential benefits of electric vehicles:

  • Reduce harmful pollution. Because EVs don’t produce any emissions from the tailpipe when they are drawing on energy from their battery – unlike traditional gasoline-powered vehicles – they can greatly reduce the amount of harmful pollution from which California suffers. Targeting tailpipe emissions, the largest contributor to dangerous emissions, will help the state meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets and reduce harmful pollutants that are causing elevated levels of smog.
  • Integrate more renewable energy. By charging at times when renewable energy is abundant (i.e., during the day to take advantage of solar and late at night to soak up wind power), EVs can enable the grid to handle more clean energy resources while still maintaining reliability.
  • Avoid increasing use of fossil fuel resources. Because solar power becomes unavailable when the sun goes down, the grid sees a steep increase in the use of fossil fuel-powered energy before sunrise and after sunset. If EVs charge during the day and then draw upon that stored energy when renewable energy is unavailable it will reduce the need for fossil-fueled generators to provide energy during these times of the day.
  • Avoid costs to utilities and residents. Capitalizing on the ability of EVs to integrate more renewables onto the grid can offset the need for additional, expensive transmission and distribution infrastructure as energy needs increase over time. In addition, EVs present an attractive financial proposition – by reducing or eliminating the amount that drivers spend at the gas pump, those who purchase an EV can recover the upfront cost of the car in a matter of years.

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Posted in California, Clean Energy, Electric Vehicles| Tagged | 5 Responses

March Madness in Austin, Texas: Come for SXSW, stay for ETS!

ETS15Today, I stand at the precipice of SXSW, the annual music, film, and interactive festival that descends upon Austin, Texas every March. In a few weeks, we locals will be on the other side of SXSW, recovering from the three-week burst of good-timin' madness and getting ready for the next event that's always right around the corner.

Lucky for me, what comes next is the Energy Thought Summit! From March 24-26th, thought leaders and innovators from around the world will once again come to town, this time to discuss one of humanity's most complex issues: energy.

Hosted by Zpryme, the Energy Thought Summit (ETS) seeks to be a different kind of conference: less stuffy, more collaborative. ETS "stands for more than thought leadership through energy — it’s about combining industry expertise, radical ideas, and the insatiably creative from all walks of the energy ecosystem and exploring how we connect." Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy| Leave a comment

New York’s ‘Reforming the Energy Vision’ Just Got a Little Bit Clearer

NYC_SpringNearly a year ago, the New York Public Service Commission (Commission) initiated a groundbreaking effort, called ‘Reforming the Energy Vision’ (REV), to overhaul the longstanding electric utility business model. In the months since starting the REV proceeding, the Commission has sought advice from Department of Public Service staff, industry stakeholders, and environmental non-profits, among others, quietly refining its vision while largely refraining from big pronouncements about the progress of the proceeding.

That changed late last month when the Commission issued its ‘Track 1’ order establishing the ‘vision’ component of the REV proceeding. We are now starting to get a better sense of what sort of future electric marketplace the Commission anticipates and what role utility companies would play in this new marketplace. We can also begin to assess the extent to which this new marketplace will lead to the improved environmental outcomes stated as a goal of this proceeding. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, General, New York, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Read 1 Response

Illinois Steps Up and Gives Energy Efficiency the Respect It Deserves

Source: flickr/justinwkern

Source: flickr/justinwkern

Energy efficiency may be the Rodney Dangerfield of electricity policy. Compared to bulky power plants, it gets little respect.

Part of the problem is efficiency is hard to visualize. A new refrigerator, even if it uses 50 percent less power, still looks like a refrigerator. And, insulation is buried within walls, whereas it’s hard to miss a nuclear reactor or even a wind turbine.

Another issue is power companies see efficiency as competition and want to limit its development. FirstEnergy, for instance, lobbied to freeze Ohio’s energy efficiency standards, abandoned its own conservation programs, and led efforts to do away with demand response, an innovative energy management program that rewards people and businesses for conservation.

So, the Illinois Power Agency’s (IPA’s) recent decision to put efficiency and generation on the same level provides some much needed respect. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Illinois| Comments are closed
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