Energy Exchange

Illinois PUC decision may signal changing tide for natural gas utilities

While economic and environmental concerns have driven significant electric sector improvements, climate impacts of continued reliance on natural gas for heating and cooking has gone largely unchecked. A recent decision by the Illinois Commerce Commission sends a signal that natural gas utilities will not be permitted to invest customer dollars unchecked.

State public utilities commissions regulate natural gas distribution utilities and set their rates of return, one component of which is “return on equity.” These regulators thus have a tremendous influence on the long-term profitability of utilities and their investment decisions. Higher rates of return incentivize greater system buildout — the more the utility builds, the greater their profit.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Illinois, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

California fires, electricity outages need not be “the new normal”

A dire, almost defeatist thread has been running through social media and other commentary around the California wildfires and the widespread, preemptive electricity outages across the state. The sense of urgency about catastrophic side effects of climate change is right on. And it is true that fixing our electric grid will be a long and mighty task.

But we do not —and should not — have to accept this as “the new normal.”

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Also posted in Air Quality, California, Grid Modernization, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Methane regulations can help transform Mexico’s energy sector

One year ago this week, Mexico took an immense step forward by passing the world’s most comprehensive regulations to reduce oil and gas methane emissions. Since then, oil and gas companies and the Mexican government have been collaborating to develop concrete plans to make this happen and to ensure that the country is on track to deliver on its climate goals. In June 2016 Mexico, along with the US and Canada, committed to reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45% by 2025, a target that is in line with the stated goals of the United Nations’ Convention on Climate Change.

But, is this enough? That is a question Mexico’s government and its national oil company, Pemex, should be asking today, because the country deserves more.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Methane, Methane regulatons, Texas / Comments are closed

Texas cities and fleet owners should take a closer look at electric buses

Last month, the city of Houston announced the formation of EVolve Houston, a partnership focused on accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles, slashing transportation-related emissions and delivering cleaner air for the region. Considering Houston has some of the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the country and nearly half of these emissions come from transportation, this strategy is a critical component for meeting ambitious climate goals and improving quality of life.

As the Energy Capital of the World goes electric with the goal of 30% of new car sales being EVs by 2030, cities, transit agencies and fleet owners across the state should also consider how investing in electric buses presents an opportunity to cut pollution, deliver on climate goals and generate economic benefits.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Electric Vehicles, Texas / Comments are closed

Pennsylvania has an opportunity to lead on methane as EPA falters

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing on its proposal to gut key regulations that reduce climate-damaging methane emissions, and protect communities from pollution from oil and gas development. Methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas responsible for 25% of current global warming, is also the main component of natural gas, which is an important energy resource in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is the second-largest natural gas producing state in the U.S. and should act now to ensure its residents do not lose key protections put in jeopardy by the federal government. Gov. Wolf recently committed to join the ranks of states working to limit carbon pollution. By joining the many other oil and gas producing states across the country stepping up to cut methane pollution from existing oil and gas infrastructure, Pennsylvania has a chance to lead by quickly advancing their current rule proposal.

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Also posted in Methane, Methane regulatons, Natural Gas, Pennsylvania / Comments are closed

New time-of-use program empowers Illinois consumers to lower bills, reduce carbon footprint

In early October, the Illinois Commerce Commission approved a new electricity rate that holds tremendous opportunity — a time-of-use rate option for customers of Commonwealth Edison Company, the largest utility in the state. This new pricing structure has the potential to lower bills for consumers, while reducing our reliance on dirty sources of power.

After five years of fighting for a TOU rate in Illinois, EDF and the Citizens Utility Board helped design the voluntary new option for customers, which includes three pricing periods for residential customers: Super Peak (2pm-7pm), Off Peak (10pm-6am) and Peak (all other times), with prices being highest during the Super Peak, and lowest during Off Peak. The pilot will serve residential customers and target electric vehicle owners, whose usage is typically higher but more flexible. The time-of-use option is similar to real-time pricing currently available (also on a voluntary basis) in Illinois, but with distinct, pre-determined pricing periods rather than fluctuating hour by hour as real-time prices do.

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Also posted in Clean Energy, Illinois, Time of Use / Comments are closed