Monthly Archives: September 2013

Jack Gerard And American Petroleum Institute: Deceiving Congress

This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.

Source: WCN 24/7 Flickr

Given the widespread press coverage of the release of the University of Texas methane emissions study, we shouldn’t be surprised that Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API) is spinning a false story about its results. In an email to leaders in Congress, Gerard tells them that there’s nothing to worry about. Methane pollution from gas production is low and getting lower. Wrong.

What the study really said is that technology to reduce methane pollution in the transition from drilling a well to full scale production can be very effective at reducing methane emissions when it is deployed – emphasis on when. This is one of the important points Gerard misses, as no national accounting exists to show U.S. producers currently use these methods as a matter of widespread industry practice.

Gerard also conveniently did not tell Congress that the low wellhead emissions detected by the study are the result of EPA regulations adopted last year – rules API lobbied hard to weaken. Gerard further did not explain to Congress that these regulations don’t apply to all unconventional gas production today. Meaning the UT study is not an example to of “problem solved, we can all go home.” Read More »

Posted in Natural Gas / Comments are closed

The Electric Utility Of The Future

Progressive Power Providers Show a Path Forward

Traditionally, electric utilities have been in the business of providing reliable power to their customers.  Prices for each class of customer are fixed by state regulators and a customer’s choice is pretty much limited to whether they want to turn on the switch or not.  Much of the EDF Smart Power initiative is focused on helping to create new utility business models that change this paradigm by increasing customer choice, providing market feedback on these choices and incentivizing the use of cleaner sources of power.

Several electric utilities are getting ahead of the curve by embracing these changes.  While both own large fossil fuel assets, NRG Energy and NextEra Energy have also been developing utility-scale and distributed renewable generation projects across the country.  NRG Energy develops solar and other renewable projects for government, commercial and other institutional customers, and NextEra Energy, the largest generator of wind and solar power in North America, develops and finances large commercial and small utility solar projects through its subsidiary Smart Energy Capital. Cumulatively, they have provided more than 110 megawatts of distributed solar generation capacity to schools, government and commercial facilities, among others.

Over the past week, two other energy providers, Direct Energy and Viridian, have announced deals with SolarCity to offer no-upfront cost solar installations to their current and prospective customers.  In many cases, these solar installations will provide clean energy at a lower cost than the customer currently pays for dirtier, fossil fuel power.  Direct Energy even took it a step further by agreeing to provide part of the financing for their customers.  Since there are few investors that currently finance solar projects, Direct Energy can expect to earn a very attractive return on their investment.  While solar financing has been around for several years, Direct Energy and Viridian can now offer customer solutions that bundle solar installations with other energy services.

Read More »

Posted in Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models / Tagged , | Read 1 Response

The Oil Patch Environmentalist

My passion for protecting the environment dates back to the 1850s – a farm from the 1850s, that is. I gained an early respect for water and land conservation, learning from my grandfather as he tended to our 4th generation family farm just outside of Neosho in Southwestern Missouri. Our farm is spring fed, so you have to be able to manage your water usage very well. I had the opportunity to participate in all aspects of running a farm, from irrigation to plowing the fields. On top of managing the farm, my grandfather was head of Neosho’s water department and we spent a lot of time hiking and fishing in nature. Water, land and the outdoors were at the center of everything he loved, and through his example it became clear to me at a very young age that managing your impact on the environment was of the utmost importance.

I grew up in Tulsa, just a few hours southwest of the family farm. Once known as the oil capital of the world, Tulsa has a long and proud history of oil production. By some estimates, a quarter of all jobs in Oklahoma are tied to the energy sector. As early as high school, I was involved in environmental advocacy, even in the oil patch. That may sound contradictory – environmental advocacy in the oil capital – but I figured out along the way that the industry and environmental stewardship weren’t mutually exclusive. My family taught me a practical and pragmatic approach to protecting the environment, and reiterated that the lessons of conservation learned on my family’s farm could have relevance to the oil and gas industry that surrounded me.

Being from Oklahoma, there weren’t many career options outside of working in the oil and natural gas industry. I spent nearly ten years working in the industry, starting in the environmental department of a small company and working my way up to the executive team. Read More »

Posted in Natural Gas / Tagged | Read 1 Response

Setting the PACE on Clean Energy Finance

This commentary originally appeared on EDF’s California Dream 2.0 blog.

I spend most of my time working to establish On-Bill Repayment programs that allow property owners to use their utility bill to repay loans for cost-saving energy efficiency or renewable energy upgrades.  Many of my colleagues work on a similar program known as Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”), which uses the property tax bill for repayment.  Since both utility and property tax bills are usually paid, both PACE and OBR are expected to lower the cost and increase the availability of financing for clean energy projects.

Last week, I was invited to attend a meeting of the leading PACE program administrators, property owners and other market participants in the country — and was pleasantly surprised to learn how much progress is being made.

Connecticut launched their program in January and is expected to close $20 million of PACE transactions for commercial properties by year end.  The Toledo, Ohio area expects to have executed $18 million of commercial transactions by the end of 2013.  Sonoma County, with a population of less than 500,000, has already completed $64 million of financings for residential and commercial properties.  In late 2012, CaliforniaFIRST launched a PACE program for commercial properties that has already received 130 applications.

Read More »

Posted in California, Energy Efficiency, On-bill repayment / Tagged , , | Read 2 Responses

Hawaii Races To The Top For Award In Energy And Water Efficiency

Hawaii recently topped the national rankings for energy saving initiatives for the second year in a row. In August, the Energy Services Coalition (ESC) granted the state its ‘Race to the Top’ award for modeling excellence in energy and water efficiency. ESC’s Race to the Top challenge ranks states based on investment per capita in energy savings performance contracting. Hawaii leads with $132.25 per capita, followed by Ohio with $108.58 and Kansas with $97.77. The national average hangs at a low $37.20.

Hawaii sets a strong example for outstanding, innovative energy savings performance contracting. Performance contracts are commonly used for public-sector buildings, especially schools, which often cannot afford the upfront costs attributed to energy and water efficiency upgrades. Under many performance contracts, contractors pay the upfront costs and even guarantee net energy savings for the building owner. The contractor then recoups the investment through a portion of the resulting energy savings. This payment structure enables school districts and other public-sector entities to upgrade existing buildings with improved energy efficiency and without the worry of high upfront costs.  To see why upgrades are so important for school buildings, see my other blog post here.

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Posted in Energy Efficiency, Grid Modernization, On-bill repayment / Tagged , | Comments are closed

California’s LCFS Ruling is a Win for Consumers and Alternative Fuels Companies

By Tim O’Connor and Larissa Koehler

Last week, we saw a big win for California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) – a regulation to diversify the state’s fuel mix with lower carbon sources of energy. After almost a year of deliberation, the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals filed a decision in the case Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, et al. v. Corey, in favor of California.

In its 79-page decision, the Court addressed two major constitutional issues: 1) whether the LCFS was invalid because it directly regulated wholly out-of-state ethanol producers (extraterritoriality); and 2) whether the LCFS was invalid because it impermissibly discriminated against out-of-state producers based solely on origin, thereby violating the Commerce Clause. The court overturned a District Court ruling on both grounds, finding that the state can move forward with the LCFS unimpeded. Of course, the ruling is only a temporary win for California, as additional legal process at the District court — and possibly U.S. Supreme Court — is forthcoming.

Although not required to do so, the Court of Appeals went to great lengths to recognize the importance of California’s leadership in developing and implementing environmental policy. The Court said it did not wish to “block California from developing this innovative, nondiscriminatory regulation to impede global warming… [as] it will help ease California’s climate risks and inform other states as they attempt to confront similar challenges.”

These words of support for the LCFS and California’s leadership are supported by tremendous growth in alternative fuels industries like California biodiesel, and also by analysis that shows fuel diversification can yield long-term price reductions at the pump. The 9th Circuit’s decision which allows these trends to continue is not just a win for the state in a long legal battle, but also a win for California’s consumers and environment.

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