Energy & Technology

How can we use intelligent efficiency to reduce power sector emissions?

Nobody likes waste. And yet when we produce, distribute and use electricity, we’re wasting up to two-thirds of the energy.

Although we can’t eliminate all of these losses, we could reduce waste and increase reliability through “intelligent efficiency”— technology like networked devices and sensors, smart grids and thermostats, and energy management systems.

If we used energy more efficiently, we’d also reduce the harmful carbon dioxide emissions coming from our power plants — and reduce our electric bills.

That’s why energy efficiency is expected to be a critical, low-cost path for states looking to reduce power plant emissions under the proposed Clean Power Plan.

C2ES is pulling together top experts in sustainability, efficiency, and technology from cities, states and business to explore how we can deploy intelligent efficiency to help reach Clean Power Plan emissions targets. (RSVP for our event Monday, May 18, in Washington, D.C.)

Just as technology can instantly connect us with people across the globe or monitor our calories and whether we’re burning enough of them, we have technology that will allow us to network and monitor how we produce, deliver and consume electricity.

 

Canadian hydropower could help states achieve carbon-cutting goals

Press release

April 28, 2015

Contact: Laura Rehrmann, rehrmannl@c2es.org, 703-516-0621

C2ES: Canadian hydropower could help states achieve carbon-cutting goals

WASHINGTON – Canadian hydropower could help some U.S. states meet their carbon-cutting goals under the proposed federal Clean Power Plan, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) says in a new policy report.

"Canadian Hydropower and the Clean Power Plan” explores the potential for increased hydropower imports from Canada, and the adjustments needed to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed plan to allow states to take advantage of imported hydropower to reduce carbon emissions from the electric power sector.

Canada gets 60 percent of its electricity from hydropower, and more capacity is in the works. More than a dozen U.S. states already import a significant amount of Canadian hydropower.

According to the report, importing hydropower from even a modestly sized new Canadian project (250 MW) could help a state bridge the gap between its current carbon emissions rate and its 2030 target under the Clean Power Plan. For example, Minnesota could get nearly 20 percent of the way toward its proposed target. California, Massachusetts and Washington state could each get about a third of the way toward their targets.

The U.S. and Canadian electricity grids are linked through dozens of connections along the border. But with renewable credit trading systems already in place, a state would not have to be connected to Canada’s grid to leverage Canadian hydropower for Clean Power Plan compliance.

“Hydropower can deliver near-zero emission power quickly and reliably. That makes it a good complement to intermittent renewables like wind and solar,” said C2ES President Bob Perciasepe. “While taking advantage of hydropower's benefits, we also have a responsibility to develop and operate hydropower in a way that minimizes environmental impacts.”

The report outlines some of the steps needed for states to take advantage of Canadian hydropower, including: clarifying how imported hydropower will be treated under the Clean Power Plan, avoiding double counting imported hydropower for compliance purposes, and ensuring that it displaces fossil electricity to receive full credit.

“As proposed, the Clean Power Plan already offers states a wealth of policy options to achieve emission reductions,” Perciasepe said. “Clarifying that imported hydropower can serve as another measure in a state's policy toolbox could add to the plan’s flexibility.”

C2ES Vice President for Policy and Analysis Jeff Hopkins, Senior Fellow Kyle Aarons, and Senior Energy Fellow Doug Vine will discuss the report’s findings Wednesday, April 29, at the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute. Details are below.

Read the report.
Share the infographic.
Read the blog post.

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Canadian Hydropower and the Clean Power Plan
Imports of Canadian hydropower could help states achieve their goals under the Clean Power Plan. Experts discuss policy and technology issues and opportunities.

Date: Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Time: 9:00am - 11:30am
Location: 6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, 1300 Pennsylvania, Ave., NW
Speakers: David Biette, Director, Canada Institute, Wilson Center; Jeff Hopkins, VP for Policy and Analysis, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES); Kyle Aarons, Senior Fellow, C2ES; Brian Rybarik, Inter-regional Director, Mid-Continent Independent System Operator (MISO); David McMillan, Executive Vice President, Minnesota Power; Dave Cormie, Power Sales and Operations, Manitoba Hydro; Doug Vine, Senior Energy Fellow, C2ES, and Derek Murrow, Director, Federal Energy Policy, Energy, and Transportation Program, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

RSVP: http://bit.ly/WilsonHydro

About C2ES
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address our climate and energy challenges. Learn more at www.c2es.org.

Canadian hydropower can help states achieve carbon-cutting goals

About 10 percent of Canadian electricity, much of it generated from hydropower, is exported to the United States. With Canada expected to expand its hydropower capacity in coming years, could some states take advantage of this non-emitting resource to meet Clean Power Plan goals to reduce carbon emissions?

A new C2ES report, Canadian Hydropower and the Clean Power Plan, explores this question, including how the proposed plan would need to be adjusted, and how select states could benefit.

While U.S. hydropower is not expected to significantly expand in the near future, hydropower is growing in Canada, where it already supplies 60 percent of the country’s electricity. More than 5,500 megawatts (MW), enough to power about 2.4 million homes, have been added in the last decade. An additional 11,000 MW is either under construction, nearing the construction phase, or has been announced. To put this in perspective, Canada’s entire electricity generation system is about 128,000 MW.

Canadian Hydropower and the Clean Power Plan

Canadian Hydropower and the Clean Power Plan

April 2015

by Kyle Aarons and Doug Vine

Download the full paper (PDF)

Hydropower makes up a sizable share of the U.S. electricity supply. A significant portion of this is imported from Canada, which is linked to the U.S. electricity grid through dozens of connections along the border. Expansion of this resource is possible in both nations, though greater quantities are expected to be developed in Canada in the near future. As a zero-emission, dispatchable, baseload power source, hydropower has the potential to play an important role as states seek to reduce power sector emissions to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan. This report assesses the benefits and challenges of hydropower generally, explores the potential for increased imports from Canada driven by the Clean Power Plan, looks at ways the proposed rule could be adjusted to take advantage of this resource, and analyzes the impact of additional imports on selected states.

Canadian Hydropower Infographic (PDF)

Canadian Hydropower Infographic (web page)

 

 

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States should explore carbon pricing to encourage clean power

C2ES President Bob Perciasepe moderates a Solutions Forum panel with (l to r): Martha Rudolph, Director of Environmental Programs, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment; David Paylor, Director, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality; and Janet Coit, Director, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

States will have tremendous flexibility to choose how to reduce their carbon emissions under the Clean Power Plan, and one idea they should explore is putting a price on carbon.

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) recently brought together legal and economic experts, state environmental directors, and business leaders to explore the potential to use market mechanisms to reduce these damaging emissions efficiently and cost-effectively.

Here are three key insights from this Solutions Forum:

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.

How to reduce home energy costs this winter

“Oh the weather outside is frightful.” That line from the classic song “Let it Snow” usually heard this time of year is a reminder winter is upon us, bringing hot chocolate, holidays – oh, and higher energy bills.

But we can all sing a happy tune about saving energy and money, and reducing our impact on the climate, if we’re a little smarter about how we stay toasty in our homes this winter.

Most homeowners’ largest energy expense comes from space heating, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of a typical household’s annual utility bill (and 40 percent of home energy use).

As for environmental impact, the energy used in residential buildings -- for space heating and cooling, water heating, appliances, electronics and lighting -- is responsible for more than one-fifth of total U.S. energy-related carbon emissions.
 

Space heating accounts for almost 30 percent of a typical home’s energy bill.  Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

US-China climate goals go well beyond business as usual

The climate targets announced this month by the United States and China will require a significant effort beyond a business-as-usual scenario for both countries. More details will likely follow in the weeks and months ahead, but here is what we know so far for each country.

China

China announced a goal for its greenhouse gas emissions to peak by 2030 or sooner. This marks the first time that China has pledged a peak or absolute target for greenhouse gas emissions, rather than an intensity-based target. In business-as-usual scenarios, China’s emissions wouldn’t peak until 2040 or later.

China also announced it would boost its share of zero-carbon energy, which includes nuclear, hydropower and renewables, to 20 percent – up from about 13 percent today. Meeting that goal will require a substantial build-out of nuclear power stations, hydroelectric stations, wind turbines, and solar panels, as well as transmission and other infrastructure. In a separate announcement, China said it plans to cap its coal consumption by the year 2020.

China can’t, as critics claim, sit idly by for 15 years and reach these targets. It will need to significantly restructure its energy system. China will have to add more than 1 GW of zero-carbon power a week for the next 15 years – an amount roughly equal to the entire installed electricity capacity of the United States.

3 reasons to light the holiday season with LEDs

Image courtesy youngthousands, Flickr.

On a dark winter night, twinkling holiday lights lift our spirits. Over the centuries we have gone from decorating trees with candles (not the best idea) to using electric-powered lights, which were first draped around a tree in 1882 by an inventor who worked for Thomas Edison.

Today, thanks to three Japanese scientists who recently won the Nobel Prize for their development of a blue light-emitting diode (LED), we can move beyond Edison and choose an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly light source, the LED bulb. Although they’ve been on the market for some time, LED lights are now coming down in price, making them an even more attractive option for everyday and holiday lighting.

When decorating this season, keep in mind these three reasons why LEDs are a better way to brighten your holidays.

  1. LEDs are a better choice for your pocketbook. With continued advances in LED technology (especially around heat regulation) by producers like GE and  CREE, the cost of home LED bulbs is now nearing the price of compact fluorescent lights. Since lighting is responsible for 14 percent of a home’s electricity use, more efficient bulbs can reduce home energy bills. If you’re wondering how much you could save by making the switch, check out the CREE LED calculator. When it comes to holiday decorating, LEDs will lead to significant savings over the years. For example, lighting the tree with incandescent lights will cost you around $122 over 10 seasons (including replacement strands), compared to just $33 for a tree adorned with LED lights. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if all decorative strands purchased this year were ENERGY STAR rated, Americans would save $45 million and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 630 million pounds annually.
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