FirstEnergy Can’t Hide Any Longer

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Magnifying_glass_with_focus_on_glass.pngOver the past few months, I have written a good deal about FirstEnergy, the massive electric utility serving customers across six states, and specifically its attempts to saddle Ohioans with the cost of its risky investments. The company has asked the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to guarantee profits for its uneconomic power plants through customer-funded subsidies.

FirstEnergy has also prevented opponents of its bailout from examining all relevant information to the case, including the credibility of its key witnesses. But, last week, the PUCO rejected these attempts to hide information about FirstEnergy’s embattled $3 billion proposal. As we near the start of the proposed bailout hearings on August 31st, this decision is a victory for transparency – and places the utility’s proposal on shakier ground than ever.

The full story involves a consultant – Judah Rose of ICF International – who FirstEnergy hired to justify the bailout. Rose was asked to project future electricity market prices, which would determine the economic value of the power generation plants in question. This contributed to how FirstEnergy settled on the figures for its bailout request. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, FirstEnergy| Comments are closed

Hydraulic Fracturing and the EPA Water Study: Where Do We Go from Here?

804px-Environmental_Protection_Agency_logo.svgIt’s been two months since EPA released its much anticipated draft report on hydraulic fracturing, and organizations like ours are busy preparing their official comments, which are due at the end of August.

But based on what we have learned so far and what has been written in the media, it’s important to spend some time on what the report said – and didn’t say – and what it all means.

“Is Fracking Safe?”

Scouring the EPA report for statements proving or disproving that hydraulic fracturing is safe will surely reveal both. It is true that water supplies have been contaminated by activities related to hydraulic fracturing. It is also true that the number of documented contamination events make up a small percentage of all wells. But “Is it safe?” is a red herring. Read More »

Posted in General, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Another Tech Giant Supports North Carolina Renewable Energy Policies

solar-cells-491701_1280

SAS Institute, Inc. – a North Carolina-Based technology company – has joined big names like
Apple, Facebook, and Google in a growing chorus of high-profile tech firms urging lawmakers to protect North Carolina’s burgeoning clean energy economy.

SAS told state lawmakers in a recent letter: “Technology companies value North Carolina’s existing energy policies, which enable us to operate and grow our businesses in a sustainable manner.”

At stake is North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS), which requires utilities to get 12.5 percent of their energy from sources such as solar and wind by 2021.The REPS and other thoughtful clean energy policies have helped create new markets that are attracting investments, building businesses, and creating jobs. The results are impressive.

North Carolina’s clean energy industry is growing

Today, North Carolina’s clean energy industry includes more the 1,200 firms providing nearly 23,000 jobs. In 2014, the industry generated nearly $5 billion in gross revenues for the state’s economy.

Much like North Carolina’s world-class university system, the growing clean energy economy makes the state an attractive choice for business leaders who are looking for the right place to invest and grow their businesses. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, North Carolina, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| Comments are closed

Texas vs. France: A Look at Who’s Bigger, Hotter, and More Prepared for Climate Change

txIf you drive around the Lone Star State, you’re sure to see bumper stickers that say, “Texas: Bigger than France.” It references an ongoing debate about which “country” is bigger (something Texans feel very strongly about), but a closer look (aka, a quick Google search) reveals Texas and France are roughly equivalent in size. This, however, is where the similarities end – at least until recently.

Earlier this summer, France and the rest of Western Europe were in the grips of a record-breaking heatwave. Texans are certainly no strangers to crippling heat, even if we have been enjoying a relatively mild summer (so far) with regular spring and summer rains. But one year of El Nino climate patterns does not mean Texas is in the clear. Nor does it mean one abnormally hot summer in France is the last one they’ll see.

Global climate change predictions show that extreme heat and drought are on the rise, meaning both Texas and France increasingly need to consider water in their energy decisions. Why? Because as temperatures increase, so will our energy demand, which means an increase in demand for water, too.

Both France and Texas are facing some tough times ahead based on climate models, but their responses are very different. Read More »

Posted in Energy-Water Nexus, Texas| Read 4 Responses

Sizing Up EPA’s New Voluntary Methane Reduction Program

Flare tanks credit Earthworks

The U.S. oil and gas industry released more than 7.3 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere in 2013, a three percent increase over 2012 – that’s an amount of gas worth nearly $2 billion, and enough to supply about 6 million American homes. The sector is the largest source of industrial methane pollution in the country. And not even the industry disputes that methane is a potent greenhouse gas.

So what are we going to do about it?

Earlier this year, the Administration took the first and most important step so far, setting a national goal to reduce oil and gas methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent over the next ten years (to achieve this, rules will need to cover both new and existing emitters, but that’s another story). The first round of proposed regulations is due later this summer.

In the meantime, yesterday EPA released the draft framework for its updated voluntary Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program. Well-designed voluntary initiatives like this one have always been a potential complement to concrete rules, helping to define and showcase best practices. We commend the agency on this new effort.

But did EPA hit the mark – will this program achieve real, measurable, verifiable benefits for the environment? Does it fairly recognize and reward those companies that step up to innovate and lead? Let’s take a closer look at the proposal against a list of critical elements necessary for an effective voluntary program. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Read 1 Response

New Study Emphasizes Need to Find and Fix Methane Leaks; Reveals Limits of Voluntary Action

T_S image 2A study published today in Environmental Science & Technology confirms official figures from the Environmental Protection Agency showing that an enormous amount of methane – about 80 billion cubic feet per year – is escaping from thousands of key nodes along the nation’s natural gas interstate pipeline system. This equals the 20-year climate impact of 33 coal-fired power plants and more than $240 million worth of wasted natural gas per year, enough to meet the yearly heating and cooking needs of over a million U.S. households.

The study also shows the limitations of voluntary measures to address the industry’s methane problem. Companies that volunteered for this study, for example, reported emissions 30 percent lower than companies that were not involved. For some equipment, the difference was more than seven-fold. The performance gap between volunteer and non-volunteer companies reinforces doubt about industry claims that it can manage methane emissions on its own, underscoring the need for standards that create a level playing field across the sector.

Major Challenge, Big Opportunity

The study also confirms that major emission sources are widely distributed, intermittent, and unpredictable. In this case, a relatively small number of large leaks from ill-performing equipment and facilities accounted for 40 percent of the methane leaking from the country’s pipeline transmission and storage infrastructure. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed
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