The Official CTBTO Flickr
The annual summer meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) is a meeting of the minds like no other. Utility companies, regulators, staff, advocates, and trade press from around the country gather to discuss emerging trends and challenges, and it’s a great opportunity to understand what is on the collective mind of those empowered to oversee our country’s electricity system.
This month, over a thousand utility professionals attended the 2014 NARUC summer meeting in Dallas, which was dominated by two topics: the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan and the evolving utility business model.
This resulted in some very interesting conversations about changing the regulatory paradigm to incent the use of new technologies, optimize grid operations, and achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Read More
Throughout history, maps have played a critical role in shaping our decisions—helping us determine where we are going and how we are going to get there. Now, we’re using them to define a way to address climate change.
Environmental Defense Fund and Google Earth Outreach have worked together to launch a series of maps that show methane leaks from natural gas pipelines under city streets in Boston, Indianapolis and Staten Island. This new tool has the power to greatly improve cities’ and utilities’ ability to minimize methane emissions that contribute to global warming.
Why care about methane?
A recent tide of scientific studies about losses from the natural gas supply chain has made it clear the critical importance of reducing methane emissions (methane is the primary ingredient of natural gas).
One of natural gas's potential benefits over other fossil fuels is that when burned it produces less carbon dioxide emissions, half as much as coal. If used wisely to rapidly displace dirty coal power plants, for example, natural gas could help the country dramatically reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. Read More
Source: Frank Edens Flickr
America’s electric grid has not been updated since World War II when telephones, dishwashers, and air conditioning were the cutting-edge technology innovations of the century.
Today, this same grid is struggling to cope with the technological advances of the last decade, a reality that hit home for New Yorkers in the wake of Superstorm Sandy when millions of people lost power for days and even weeks.
But New York is taking steps to change this. A proposal to overhaul the state’s utility business model could dramatically change how people interact with their power company.
It could bring in innovative technology to help homes and businesses better manage their own energy needs, while at the same time reduce carbon emissions – changes that would have national implications. Read More
I’ve talked a lot about the inextricable link between the energy and water sectors, but land is a third component in this nexus that’s starting to gain recognition – and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is taking note. In fact, they recently released a 250-plus page report on the energy-water nexus (which I explore in-depth in a recent blog post) with accompanying visuals to illustrate the connection between these three sectors.
What is a Sankey diagram?
The primary graphic used to illustrate the connection between these three resources is the Sankey diagram. At first glance, it may make your head spin, but Sankey diagrams are commonly used to visualize energy transfers (although they are also used for other things, such as migration flows).
For example, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) uses Sankey diagrams in its Annual Energy Reports to illustrate the production and consumption of different energy sources. Since the width of the arrows corresponds with quantity, the viewer can easily see where the biggest impacts lie. In this case, it’s clear to see which energy resources are gulping down our water. Read More
PACE financing allows home owners to install solar panels and repay the loans through their property tax bill. Photo source: Michael Coghlan Flickr.
Last week saw the completion of two exciting finance transactions that will increase investment in and reduce costs for clean energy projects.
In the first transaction, Renovate America, announced that it raised $50 million in venture capital funds to expand operations. The San Diego-based company develops residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, which allow home owners to repay loans for energy efficiency and/or renewable generation through their property tax bill. Renovate America runs the successful HERO program, which in its first two years of operation provided $130 million in financing to homeowners in western Riverside County to retrofit their homes and reduce electricity bills.
So far this year, Renovate America has invested an additional $120 million to fund retrofits across California. EDF hopes the recently announced $50 million capital injection will not only allow Renovate America to continue its California expansion, but to expand to other states in the near future as well. We plan to work closely with Renovate America and their primary competitor Renewable Funding, which closed its venture round in April by raising $20 million. EDF’s collaboration with both companies will help additional states create residential PACE programs, attract investment for homeowners, and create jobs. Read More
Source: Department of Energy
If we can send a man to the moon, we can ensure the viability of essential resources – such as energy and water – in an unpredictable future affected by climate change.
A recent report released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities, attempts to plan for this uncertainty by providing a landmark review of the US energy-water nexus – the first report of its kind from DOE.
Although there were many compelling findings in this 250-plus page report, for me there were two compelling themes worth noting: 1) energy and water are fundamentally intertwined, but so is land in this nexus, and 2) the Federal Government has an important role to play in providing support and leadership to the entities that govern these resources so that they may begin planning for the effects of climate change more holistically and collaboratively.
The energy, water…and land nexus
The DOE report affirms that the energy and water sectors are highly interconnected, but it also sheds light on a third component that’s becoming increasingly difficult to isolate from the energy-water nexus: land. Read More
Source: flickr/Jason Holmberg, Richmond, CA
There they go again… with the same lament we always seem to hear from Big Oil lobbyists when it's time to protect public health:
Don't put environmental protections on fuels, because that "will hit low-income and middle-income families the hardest." In other words, if you make us clean up our act, then we'll be forced to raise gas prices, which hurts vulnerable people… You don't want to hurt them, do you?
Hmmm. Do oil companies really care about vulnerable populations like low income people and communities of color? Could it be that they are using these families as a smokescreen for killing environmental protections and protecting their profits? Let's look at the facts and see if we can cut through some of this smoke.
Oil companies are among the most profitable enterprises in the world — last year the "big five" made $93 billion in profits, or $177,000 per minute. Even in my home state of California, which is at the forefront of environmental protections, Chevron is still the largest company by revenue (take that Apple and Facebook!). Many polluters have been claiming for decades that clean air standards will "cause entire industries to collapse," but those dire predictions have never come true. The idea that we have to choose between environmental protection and economic growth has always been a false choice. Read More
The U.S. electric grid has not been updated since World War II when telephones, dishwashers, and air conditioning were the cutting-edge technology innovations of the century. Today, this same grid is struggling to cope with the technological advances of the last decade, a reality that hit home for New Yorkers in the wake of Superstorm Sandy when millions of people lost power for days and even weeks.
But New York is taking steps to change this, first by initiating a proceeding in April to overhaul the state’s utility business model, and now by opening the proceeding to comments. EDF filed our comments (Track 1 and Track 2) in this case last Friday, July 18th, and commends the New York Public Service Commission for the opportunity to provide our input on this exceedingly important policy that will have national implications.
New York played a leading role in establishing today’s utility business model. Thomas Edison developed the first power plant on Pearl Street in Manhattan in 1882, serving 85 lighting customers. Read More
By: Emily Reyna, Senior Manager, Partnerships and Alliances
Clean energy and clean tech sound exciting, but most people don’t see these businesses as a major part of our economy, especially when traditional fossil fuels rule at the pump.
But thanks to policies like California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and cap and trade, more and more businesses are giving us options when we need to get from point A to point B, and they form an increasingly important source of economic growth in the state. From cars running on used vegetable oil (biodiesel) to cars you can plug into your house, new and exciting innovations are fast coming to market.
The new interactive Green Roads Map that EDF created in partnership with CALSTART, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), and the Natural Resources Defense Council, shows that we have many emerging options for our cars and transportation fleets, and that clean transportation is a flourishing industry in California.
The Green Roads Map is more than just a collection of dots – the map presents an important picture of the investors, researchers, producers, and salespeople who are transforming our economy and transportation system today. Read More
Paramount Theater in Austin, TX. Source: Nicholas Henderson Flickr
They say everything is bigger in Texas and often that's true, especially when it comes to big hair and the bravado of politicians. This amounts to a lot of drama and theatrics. I mean, as someone who grew up in Dallas, I can tell you that the soap opera by the same name wasn't too far off the mark.
Being a mighty oil and gas (and wind!) state, this drama often translates into fights with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other environmental regulators over pollution reduction. Texas is the number one emitter of carbon emissions and second biggest water-polluter in the nation. Texas doesn't really have solid ground to stand on.
Yet as of 2012, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (current GOP and Koch-brothers backed candidate for Governor) has sued the federal government over environmental regulations sixteen times. And of the 25 total lawsuits pending against the federal government, Texas has only prevailed five times. Exemplified yet again in June when the Supreme Court ruled seven to two that yes, in fact, EPA is allowed to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from most large industrial facilities, like power plants and factories, despite Texas’ arguments. Read More