Power can be both clean and reliable

A number of analysts have raised concerns that the proposed Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing power plant carbon emissions, could threaten the reliability of electric power. But a closer look at the U.S. power system and the safeguards in place suggests that these reliability issues are manageable. The greater threat to reliability, in fact, is the rising incidence of extreme weather driven by climate change.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which is overseen by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and government authorities in Canada, is responsible for keeping our power system reliable. NERC develops reliability standards and assesses the power system to anticipate and minimize the risk of disruption. It was established after a 1965 multi-hour Northeast blackout. Since then, the U.S. population has increased by 65 percent and power generation is more than 3.5 times greater with only one comparable blackout, in 2003.

Last fall, NERC issued an initial report identifying reliability issues under the Clean Power Plan that required further investigation. NERC and other analysts have questioned whether our natural gas system can handle more demand if more power plants switch from coal to natural gas. NERC also questioned how the power system will respond to less 24/7 baseload coal generation and more intermittent renewable generation.

Since the NERC report was issued, the Department of Energy, The Analysis Group and the Brattle Group have offered analyses that suggest power plant emissions can be reduced under the Clean Power Plan without compromising system reliability.

Climate Leadership winners: Focus on your message

Photo by Ellie Ramm

Elizabeth Craig of the EPA (left) speaks with three representatives of 2015 Climate Laedership Award winners, Andy Battjes of Brown Forman, Bridgeport, Conn., Mayor Bill Finch, and Alexis Limberakis of Clorox


When it comes to climate leadership, the way a message is delivered can be the key to success.

Winners of the 2015 Climate Leadership Awards found that being creative in communicating ideas on sustainability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions helped the message resonate with constituents, customers, and employees.

Sixteen organizations, including C2ES Business Environmental Leadership Council members Bank of America and General Motors, won Climate Leadership Awards this year. The awards are co-sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Association of Climate Change Officers, and The Climate Registry.

Three winners -- Bridgeport, Conn., Mayor Bill Finch, household consumer product maker Clorox, and wine and distilled spirits manufacturer Brown Forman – spoke at the Climate Leadership Conference about three ways to connect climate goals to your audience.

Companies are planning for Climate Risks

Photo by Ellie Ramm

Emilie Mazzacurati, founder and CEO at Four Twenty Seven, Inc., spoke at a C2ES-sponsored workshop on corporate climate resilience at the 2015 Climate Leadership Conference.

Many businesses are moving beyond identifying the potential risks posed by climate change impacts and are taking the next step: developing solutions.

More intense heat waves, rising sea levels, and heavier rainfall could lower crop yields and labor productivity, increase energy costs, damage property, and disrupt operations.

None of these impacts are good for business.

More than 80 individuals from companies, cities, and nonprofits shared their climate resilience ideas and experiences at a C2ES-sponsored workshop, “Emerging Best Practices for Identifying Climate Risk and Increasing Resilience,” at the 2015 Climate Leadership Conference in Washington.


Public push can spur private investment in EV charging

This map shows that large segments of many major roadways in Washington state do not have any publicly available DC fast charging. Our report demonstrates how the private sector can be the predominant source of funding for publicly available commercial charging stations within approximately five years.

For electric vehicles (EVs) to hit the mainstream and make a meaningful contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they’ll need a robust public charging infrastructure that lets drivers go where they take gasoline-powered cars now. Our recent work for Washington state identified some promising ways to get the private sector to fund more of that infrastructure in the near term, and fund all of it eventually.

The C2ES study was commissioned by the Washington State Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee and guided by an advisory panel of state legislators,  EV experts, and other stakeholders. The findings, which could be implemented in the state through a bipartisan House bill, demonstrate that, with continued public support and accelerated EV market growth in the near term, the private sector could predominantly fund commercial charging stations in about five years.

A frequent question about funding infrastructure for EVs is, “Why not just follow the gas station model?” Under that model, an investor would pay to install and operate equipment and make a profit by selling the electricity to charge an EV.

Putting aside the fact that gas stations make most of their money at the convenience store or repair shop and not at the pump, this business model doesn’t work for EV charging for three reasons. First, the cost of owning and installing EV charging equipment is high. Second, the market for EVs is small in most places and the demand for charging is uncertain. And third, EV drivers are not willing to pay a high price

The core issues in the Paris climate talks

Leaders at the February 2015 UNFCCC conference in Geneva. Photo courtesy UNFCCC.

The final year of U.N. talks aimed at producing a new global climate agreement kicked off this week in Geneva. As negotiators wrestle with the working draft of the new agreement, it’s clear that all the core issues remain very much in play.

The talks, under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), were launched in 2011 in Durban, South Africa, and are to conclude this December in Paris. The aim is a post-2020 agreement “with legal force” and “applicable to all.”

The more immediate goal in Geneva is to produce a “draft negotiating text,” which technically must be in circulation at least six months before Paris. But the text emerging from Geneva will be very far from a finished product. The starting point this week was a 39-page collection of parties’ proposals forwarded from COP 20 in December in Lima. By mid-week, the working draft had grown to nearly 90 pages.

The unwieldy text reflects the wide disparities remaining on all the core issues in shaping the Paris agreement.

Countries will soon begin submitting their “intended nationally determined contributions” to the agreement. That these INDCs (focused primarily on constraining greenhouse gas emissions) will be “nationally determined” suggests that the agreement will have a strong “bottom-up” character. Much of what’s at issue is whether and how to blend in “top-down” elements to create a hybrid agreement that delivers both broad participation and stronger ambition.