Trump Promises a Renaissance for Coal – But These Clean Energy Numbers Tell a Different Story

A big part of President Trump’s agenda involves rolling back critical environmental protections. And yet, the issue that most people think won him the 2016 election is the economy.

From coast to coast – and especially places in between – jobs were the most pressing concern for American voters. So Trump has promised he will create 25 million new ones over the next decade by, among other things, reviving America’s declining coal industry.

“We’re gonna put the miners back to work,” he told a roaring crowd in West Virginia last year.

But for all the bluster about bringing coal production back to life, Trump is not just ignoring market realities – he’s also overlooking the biggest economic opportunity since the computer revolution. Read More »

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Texas Should Get Its Head in the New Solar Market Game

What would a world powered by clean, low-water energy look like? If you visit Israel’s southern region, you don’t have to imagine.

In 2011, Arava Power in the southern Israeli desert launched a 4.9 MW solar field (enough to power more than 3,000 U.S. homes). Since then nearly 200 times as much capacity – both fields and rooftops – has been installed in the region. By 2025, it’s likely solar will provide 100 percent of daytime electricity, plus excess, along the border with Jordan.

With solar technology more advanced and cheaper than ever, solar power can take off quickly in Texas, as it has in Israel.

The Arava Desert, where many of Israel’s solar fields are located, averages about 360 days of sunshine per year. Austin, where I live, averages about 300 days per year, and it’s not even as sunny as West Texas. But in January 2017, solar provided just 0.4 percent of power across the vast majority of the state. There is huge opportunity for solar growth in Texas. Read More »

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Looking to the States to Improve Natural Gas Storage Policies

Stories about gas storage rarely make headlines, but the fact is there are hundreds of underground natural gas storage facilities peppered across the country, and when something goes wrong, the impacts can be devastating. For example, in 2015 a leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility in Southern California ended up displacing thousands from their homes and was considered one of the biggest environmental disasters in modern U.S. history.

Historically, state agencies have been responsible for regulating these facilities – resulting in a patchwork of protections. But after Aliso Canyon, the federal government stepped in to provide uniform safety standards applicable across the country. Read More »

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New Study Highlights Need for California Market Refinements to Better Harness Clean Energy

A new study, jointly conducted by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) – the entity responsible for overseeing much of California’s electric grid – First Solar, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), demonstrates the untapped potential of utility-scale solar. The study shows that utility-scale solar can provide key services needed to ensure electric grid stability and reliability – better known as ancillary services – at levels comparable to conventional, fossil fuel driven resources.

California needs to reduce reliance on natural gas for ancillary services

In CAISO’s market, ancillary services are overwhelmingly provided by natural gas-fired resources, and their share of the pie has been increasing in recent years.

This growing reliance on natural gas for ancillary services merits attention for many reasons.   Read More »

Posted in Aliso Canyon, California, Clean Energy, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory Makes Progress but Misses Forest for Trees

In its draft 2017 GHG inventory, published this week, the EPA estimates methane emissions from the oil and gas industry were lower than their previous estimate in the 2016 inventory.

The vast majority of the decrease comes from methodological changes in how EPA does these estimates and does not represent actual reductions from improved industry practices. We expect to see fluctuation in EPA estimates in future inventories as the agency continues to revise their accounting methods; this inventory should not be viewed as the final answer. But, to see the actual trend in emissions, you should compare 2015 emissions to their updated estimate of 2014 emissions, not the estimate from last year’s inventory. EPA estimates a mere 2% reduction in actual emissions, largely attributable to reduced drilling activity and well completions, which is a result of lower oil and gas prices in 2015. This points to the importance of recently enacted regulations, like the EPA NSPS and BLM rule, to drive the much greater reductions needed to minimize waste and the climate impacts of oil and gas. Read More »

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Saving Energy and Doubling Worldwide Water Supplies – One Drip at a Time

Netafim HQOn a warm December day, I stood in a jojoba field in the Negev Desert in southern Israel and watched water slowly seep up from the ground around the trees. First a tiny spot, then spreading, watering the plants from deep below. This highly efficient system is known as drip irrigation, and I was there to meet with the world’s leading drip irrigation company, Israel-based Netafim.

Naty Barak, the Netafim director who I met on the visit, notes that if the world’s farmers increased their use of drip irrigation to 15 percent (up from just under 5 percent now), the amount of water available for use worldwide could double.

Drip irrigation saves more than water. Whereas traditional irrigation typically uses quite a bit of energy, drip reduces the pressure (and power) needed to get the water to the crops while reducing the need for energy-hungry fertilizers. Plus, due to the inextricable link between water and power, saving water results in further saved energy.

Texas has already enhanced its water efficiency, but it could go further and take a page out of Israel’s book. By investing in thoughtful drip irrigation now, Texas could lead the nation on expanding this innovative technology and significantly reduce the energy footprint of its irrigation sector, while protecting water supplies for our growing cities and creating more sustainable farming practices. Read More »

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