Initiatives

The Alliance for a Sustainable Future

             

The Alliance for a Sustainable Future

A partnership of C2ES and The U.S. Conference of Mayors

U.S. cities and businesses are exploring how to prepare for climate impacts and how to address the emissions that are the cause – by improving energy efficiency and deploying more clean energy and transportation.

Both see sustainability as a smart strategy for the future.

That’s why The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) formed the Alliance for a Sustainable Future: to bring cities and businesses together to play a more significant role in shaping sustainable communities and achieving climate goals.

 


“Cities are our nation’s economic powerhouses, making them a key proving ground for policies to increase energy efficiency, deploy clean energy, and foster clean transportation.”

- Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, Alliance Co-Chair


 

Cities and businesses are each doing their part to demonstrate climate leadership.

Cities are leading by:

Companies leading by:

  • Investing in clean energy projects
  • Reducing emissions throughout the supply chain
  • Setting an internal carbon price
  • Helping customers reduce their carbon footprint.

 

Together, cities and businesses can accelerate the momentum toward a more sustainable, low-carbon future. The Alliance for a Sustainable Future creates a framework for mayors and business leaders to develop concrete approaches to reduce carbon emissions, speed deployment of new technology, and respond to the growing impacts of climate change.

Goals of the Alliance

  • Empower local leaders to contribute to the design and implementation of state climate plans and other supporting federal, state, and local initiatives;
  • Inform and engage mayors, city officials, and business leaders so that strategic opportunities can be identified and explored;
  • Build new public-private partnerships; and
  • Raise the profile of city and business contributions in accelerating sustainable development, resilience, and climate action to help implement international commitments.  

Through the alliance, city and business leaders will identify barriers to action and share research and analysis on climate and sustainable development solutions. By building crucial links between cities and companies, the alliance aims to spur innovative partnerships.

The alliance will also identify local, state, and federal policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, and promote renewable energy development, and explore how those policies can produce new partnerships among cities and the business community.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the alliance at the USCM’s 84th Annual Meeting in June 2016. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is leading the steering committee, which consists of founding sponsors JPMorgan & Chase Co., Duke Energy, and AECOM, and the mayors of Austin, Des Moines, New York City, Salt Lake City and West Sacramento.

At the alliance’s first public event Sept. 21, 2016, at Climate Week NYC, a panel of city and business leaders discussed ways cities and the business community can work together to reduce carbon emissions.

Read more about the Alliance for a Sustainable Future

For more information, contact C2ES Director of Sustainability and Engagement Amy Morsch.

Blogs:

RESOURCES

Exceeding Expectations: Recent developments in U.S. Carbon Capture Policy

By Fatima Maria Ahmad, Solutions Fellow, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

A version of this article first appeared in the Sep./Oct. 2016 edition of the Carbon Capture Journal

Introduction

Even in an election year, there are areas of energy policy where leaders of both parties and stakeholders from diverse sectors of the economy can find common ground. Encouraged by the landmark Paris Agreement in December 2015 and motivated by the need to avoid stranded assets and preserve jobs in the power sector, policymakers took seriously the challenge of accelerating deployment of carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS or carbon capture). Midway through the year, the International Energy Agency issued a report concluding that financial and policy support for carbon capture is not at a sufficient level to ensure an adequate pipeline of carbon capture projects that will enable the world to stay on track to meet mid-century goals of keeping global warming within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.[1] Bipartisan proposals that are before Congress this year would encourage CCUS technology. State political leaders also supported carbon capture in notable ways this year.

H.R. 4622, the Carbon Capture Act

On Feb. 25, 2016, Rep. Mike Conaway (D-Texas) introduced H.R. 4622, the Carbon Capture Act, a bill to extend and expand Section 45Q, which is the primary tax credit for the use of carbon dioxide in enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR), a form of tertiary production.[2] In the United States, carbon dioxide has been safely used in commercial enhanced oil recovery for more than 40 years. The United States produces about 4 percent of its oil through CO2-EOR. However, most of the carbon dioxide used is from naturally occurring underground reservoirs instead of from man-made sources. In addition to the climate benefits of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide vented into the atmosphere, CO2-EOR maximizes production from existing oil fields and may displace more carbon-intensive imported crude oil.

Rep. Conaway’s bill has 45 co-sponsors: 30 Republicans and 15 Democrats. These co-sponsors hail from 24 states and all regions of the country. This broad support challenges the notion that energy policy debates must be polarized and partisan.

H.R. 4622 provides four changes to 45Q. First, it would remove the existing cumulative cap of 75 million tons of CO2 and make the tax credit permanent. With less than half of the credits left for new projects to use, there is too much uncertainty for carbon capture project developers to secure financing.[3] By making the tax credit permanent, the bill aims to establish certainty that would enable carbon capture project financing.

Second, the bill would increase the value of the credit per ton of CO2. Under current law, there is a credit of $10 per ton of CO2 for EOR and $20 per ton of CO2 for saline storage. Rep. Conaway’s bill would increase these values to $30 for both EOR and saline storage. These increases would ramp up over time reaching their full value in 2025. 

Third, the bill would lower the threshold for qualifying facilities to 150,000 tons of CO2 for both power plants and industrial facilities. Industrial facilities that emit CO2 include ethanol plants; natural gas processing facilities; steel, cement, fertilizer and chemical plants; hydrogen production plants, and refineries.[4] Capture of industrial CO2 emissions is critical because the sector accounts for almost 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.[5]

For these industrial sources, the cost to capture CO2 is often lower than for power plants.  Technology to separate the CO2 stream has been used in natural gas processing for decades.  The by-product CO2 stream is often of higher purity, i.e. less mixed with other gases, than power plant emissions. Importantly, there is no alternative to CCUS to achieve deep decarbonization in the industrial sector because production of CO2 is often an inherent part of the chemical or industrial process. By lowering the threshold for industrial sources of CO2, the bill aims to incentivize investment in industrial carbon capture projects. 

Finally, the bill would allow transferability of the credit within the chain of CO2 custody. This change would allow entities with little or no tax liability to benefit from the incentive by transferring it to entities with the ability to use the credit.   

In the Senate, companion legislation was offered on April 12, 2016, by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) in the form of an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill.[6] The amendment had bipartisan support from two Democrats and five Republicans.[7] While the amendment was voted into the tax title of the FAA bill, the tax title was ultimately dropped for other reasons.[8]

S. 2012, Energy Policy Modernization Act

On Apr. 20, 2016, the Senate passed a broad energy bill authored by Senate Energy Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA).[9] The bill was approved 85-12, demonstrating bipartisan support. Section 3403 of the bill authorizes a new research, development and demonstration program at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on CCUS technology.[10] Section 3404, added by Sens. Heitkamp and Capito and co-sponsored by six Democrats and four Republicans,[11] directs the DOE to report on long-term contracts to provide price stabilization support for carbon capture projects, a mechanism that is often referred to as a Contract for Differences (CfD).[12] The DOE report would identify the costs and benefits of entering into CfDs and would outline options for how such CfDs could be structured and describe regulations that would be necessary to implement such a program.[13]

North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership

On Jun. 29, 2016, President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the North American Climate, Energy, and Environment Partnership.[14] The three nations aim to achieve 50 percent clean power generation by 2025, including through CCUS technology. One of the goals identified in the White House Action Plan is leveraging participation in Mission Innovation[15] by identifying joint R&D initiatives to advance CCUS technology. By highlighting the role of CCUS in achieving deep decarbonization in North America, there is a renewed opportunity to focus on how the three nations can work together.  

S. 3179, the Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage Act

On July 13, 2016, Sens. Heitkamp and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced S. 3179, the Carbon, Capture, Use and Storage Act, along with co-sponsoring Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Bob Casey (D-PA).[16] Republican co-sponsors include Sens. Capito and Blunt and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, putting the Kentucky Republican and some of the Senate’s leading advocates for climate action on the same side.

The Senate bill allows forms of CO2 utilization beyond EOR to be eligible for the tax credit.  Under the bill, utilization is expanded to include the fixation of CO2 “through photosynthesis or chemosynthesis, such as through the growing of algae or bacteria,” chemical conversion of CO2 to a material or chemical compound in which CO2 is securely stored, or the use of CO2 for “any other purpose for which a commercial market exists.”[17] A leading example of carbon dioxide use beyond EOR is algae biofuels. 

The Senate bill would extend the tax credit for seven years and would allow the credit to be claimed for 12 years.[18] For new facilities, the Senate bill increases the value per ton of CO2 of the tax credit to $35 for EOR and $50 for geologic storage.[19] The bill lowers the threshold for qualifying facilities to 100,000 tons for industrial facilities.[20] Finally, the Heitkamp-Whitehouse bill provides the tax credit to the owner of the carbon capture equipment.[21]

Other Federal Efforts:  H.R. 2883, the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act and S. 2305, the Carbon Capture Improvement Act.

Developments this year build on previous efforts to promote carbon capture. On June 24, 2015, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) re-introduced H.R. 2883, the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act, which would extend the publicly traded partnership ownership structure available for certain oil and gas activities to renewable energy development.[22] The bill would also extend the tax treatment to carbon capture for EOR or other secure geologic storage. The bill was co-sponsored by six Democrats and six Republicans.[23]

Additionally, on Nov. 19, 2015, Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced S. 2305, the Carbon Capture Improvement Act, which would allow the use of tax-exempt private activity bonds (PABs) issued by state or local governments to finance carbon capture projects.[24]

From the perspective of project developers, the extension and expansion of Section 45Q will do the most to accelerate the deployment of CCUS technology, although the MLP and PAB efforts will play a critical role.[25] Like with other low- and zero-carbon energy technologies such as wind and solar, multiple and complementary incentive policies are often more effective in enabling investment to drive deployment than any single incentive policy.

State Policy

A number of states have demonstrated leadership on carbon capture policy in 2016 by voicing growing support for federal incentives. In February, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) adopted a resolution urging Congress and the Obama Administration to support state efforts on CCUS including CO2-EOR.[26] In June, the Western Governors’ Association followed up on a June 2015 resolution supporting CO2-EOR[27] with a letter of support for federal incentives for this technology.[28] In July, Montana Governor Steve Bullock released Montana’s Energy Future Blueprint, which highlights the need for federal and state support of accelerated commercial deployment of CCUS technology.[29] Last fall, the Southern States Energy Board also issued a resolution supporting federal incentives for CO2-EOR.[30]

Conclusion

Despite encouraging progress at the federal and state levels, formidable challenges lie ahead. Developers of carbon capture projects face serious obstacles in obtaining financing. Deployment of carbon capture technology is not on track to meet our climate goals. Fewer than half of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models were able to stay within a 2-degree scenario without CCUS.[31] Without carbon capture, the costs of climate change mitigation increase by 138 percent.[32] Carbon capture projects are capital-intensive and require long lead times to reach commissioning. In this context, the need for action is urgent. 

What we have seen this year is that U.S. political leaders are able find common ground on energy policy where the goals of emissions reduction, energy security, and economic development converge. Looking forward, there is reason to hope that through working together on carbon capture policy this year, elected officials on both sides of the aisle have developed working relationships and built bridges that will enable continued action on climate in the next administration.



[1] International Energy Agency, Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2016 11, 30-31, available at https://www.iea.org/etp/tracking2016/

[2] See H.R. 4622, 114th Cong. (2016) available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4622

[3] The IRS announced that almost half of the credits available under the cumulative cap have been claimed. U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Notice 2015-44, Credit for Carbon Dioxide Sequestration:  2015 Section 45Q Inflation Adjustment Factor (2015), available at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-15-44.pdf

[4] In the U.S., there are states and regions that will have candidates for carbon capture at lower-cost industrial facilities before they do in the power sector.

[5] Global CCS Institute, Global Status of CCS: Special Report – Introduction to Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage 4 (2016), available at https://www.globalccsinstitute.com/publications/industrial-ccs

[7] Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Barrasso (R-WY), Dan Coats (R-IN), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Mike Enzi (R-WY).

[8] Geof Koss, Blame Game Follows Collapse of Senate Tax Talks (E&E News PM, Apr. 12, 2016).

[9] S. 2012, 114th Cong. (2016), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/2012

[10] Section 3403 establishes a new coal technology program, which includes programs for research and development, large-scale pilot projects, demonstration projects, and co-fired biomass-coal projects.  Id.  The section authorizes $632 million annually from 2017 – 2020, and $582 million in 2021.  DOE continues to do substantial work and focus domestic and international policy efforts on CCUS.  An important domestic DOE initiative is the creation of seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships to help develop infrastructure and regulations for CCUS technology and sequestration.  An important international DOE initiative is the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, a ministerial-level panel that meets to advance CCUS RD&D worldwide.

[11] Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Al Franken (D-MN), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Dan Coats (R-IN), and Mike Enzi (R-WY).

[13] As context, carbon capture projects often face steep financing challenges. This is because one of the main uses of CO2 that is in commercial operation today is CO2-EOR and the revenue from the sale of CO2 for EOR is dependent on volatile oil prices. The futures market for oil prices does not enable the type of commercial hedge that is needed to finance these projects. A CfD would address that market weakness by providing a reference oil price that would remain the same over the duration of the contract. When oil prices are above the reference oil price, the developer would pay the U.S. Treasury. When oil prices fall below the reference oil price, the Treasury would pay the developer. By providing certainty, a Federal CfD would make it easier for carbon capture projects to reach financial close.

[14] The White House, North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership Action Plan (Jun. 29, 2016), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/29/north-american-climate-clean-energy-and-environment-partnership-action

[15] Mission Innovation is an initiative that was launched in Paris in November 2015. Through this initiative, 20 nations have committed to doubling their clean energy R&D investments over five years.  The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is an independent initiative spearheaded by Bill Gates that launched simultaneously with Mission Innovation.  Through the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a global group of private investors have committed to commercializing the research that is funded by Mission Innovation. 

 

[17] S. 3179, 114th Cong. § 2 (2016), providing a new Section 45Q(e)(7)(A).

[18] S. 3179, 114th Cong. § 2 (2016), providing a new Section 45Q(a)(3) and 45Q(d)(1)(A).  The determination of eligibility is based on the date that a project commences construction.  This provides greater certainty for investors than the existing cumulative cap of 75 million tons of CO2 but not as much certainty as a permanent tax credit. 

[19] S. 3179, 114th Cong. § 2 (2016), providing a new Section 45Q(b)(1).  The value of the credit ramps up over time.  The Senate bill does not increase the value of the credit for existing facilities.  S. 3179, 114th Cong. § 2 (2016), providing a new Section 45Q(a)(1)-(2).

[20] S. 3179, 114th Cong. § 2 (2016), providing a new Section 45Q(d)(1)(B).  For power plants, the threshold for power plants remains at 500,000 tons.  This would exclude some smaller demonstration carbon capture projects at power plants.  The threshold is 25,000 for projects that utilize CO2.     

[21] S. 3179, 114th Cong. § 2 (2016), providing a new Section 45Q(e)(5).  Like H.R. 4622, this would enable rural electric cooperatives without tax liability to benefit from the incentive because the incentive could be claimed by a third-party that puts up the investment funds in the equipment.  This would reduce the cost of capital for these projects. 

[22] H.R. 2883, 114th Cong. (2016), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2883

[23] Representatives Mark Amodei (R-NV-2), Peter Welch (D-VT-At Large), Paul Gosar (R-AZ-4), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3), Mike Coffman (R-CO-6), Jerry McNerney (D-CA-9), Mia Love (R-UT-4), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26), John Delaney (D-MD-6), Chris Gibson (R-NY-19), and Scott Peters (D-CA-52).

[24] Access to tax-exempt private activity bonds will provide project developers an important tool in a broader toolkit of measures needed to help attract private investment and finance carbon capture projects.  The benefits to consumers and businesses of PABs include their tax-exempt status and the fact that they can be paid back over a longer period of time.  S. 2305, 114th Cong. (2016), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/2305

[25] MLPs and PABs will be especially helpful for electric power generation and some industrial sectors where the costs of carbon capture remain high.

[26] National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, ERE-1: Resolution on Carbon Capture and Enhanced Oil Recovery (Feb. 17, 2016), available at http://pubs.naruc.org/pub/66436AF7-DFB2-C21E-43B2-1AE83A02D8F5

[27] Western Governors’ Association, Policy Resolution 2015-06 (Jun. 25, 2015), available at http://westgov.org/images/images/RESO_EOR_15_06.pdf

[28] Letter from Matthew Mead, Governor, State of Wyoming, and Steve Bullock, Governor, State of Montana to Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX-11) and Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) (Jun. 3, 2016), available at http://westgov.org/letters-testimony/343-energy/1195-letter-governors-support-enhanced-oil-recovery-technology

[29] State of Montana, Montana’s Energy Future (Jun. 21, 2016), available at https://governor.mt.gov/Newsroom/ArtMID/28487/ArticleID/4325

[30] Southern States Energy Board, Resolution Supporting Carbon Capture and Storage and Enhanced Oil Recovery (Sep. 28, 2015), available at http://www.sseb.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/6.2015.pdf

[31] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group III Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report (2014), available at https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg3/ipcc_wg3_ar5_full.pdf

[32] Id.

 

How the first US offshore wind project holds lessons for carbon capture

Top: Siemens 2.3 MW Offshore Wind Turbines, courtesy Siemens Press.

Bottom: The ADA-ES 1 MWe pilot unit, courtesy US Department of Energy.

This fall, America’s first offshore wind farm will come online off the coast of Rhode Island, launching a new industry with the potential to create clean energy jobs in manufacturing and in the marine trades, attract private investment to New England, and reduce carbon emissions.

In Europe, the number of offshore wind farms grew from zero to 84 in just a few decades. What lessons can we draw from the growth of offshore wind that could help advance carbon capture technology?

State Leadership

New energy technologies often need both state and federal support to be deployed commercially. Rhode Island has been a leader in supporting offshore wind. In 2010, its legislature authorized a state utility to enter into an offtake agreement for offshore wind power. This year, Massachusetts did the same, and New York announced a new Offshore Wind blueprint.

Rhode Island also brought stakeholders together to create an Oceanic Special Area Management Plan outlining multiple uses for the marine environment. These efforts laid the groundwork for Deepwater Wind to develop the Block Island Wind Farm, a 30 MW, five-turbine project that can provide power for most of Block Island’s 1,051 residents.

Similar state policies could help deploy more carbon capture technology as well. A handful of states have clean energy standards that include carbon capture technology, including Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Utah. This year, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock highlighted carbon capture in his state’s Energy Future Blueprint. Other states could follow this model.

Both the Western Governors’ Association and the Southern States Energy Board have issued resolutions supporting carbon capture technology as did the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners

Financing Support

National policies and early financing support played a role in the success of offshore wind projects in Europe. A report by the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute noted that European nations included offshore wind in national energy policies and established feed-in tariffs to provide incentives for deployment.

Multilateral development banks like the European Investment Bank played a leadership role by lending to early offshore wind projects, paving the way for commercial banks to follow. Once these major factors were in place, then technology development, the establishment of standardized contract structures, and maintaining a certain level of deal flow helped drive efficiencies that brought down costs.

When it comes to financing carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) in the U.S., we have some pieces of the puzzle in place. There is already a basic federal and state regulatory framework for underground storage of CO2, for example.

Still, financing policies are needed to enable investment in carbon capture projects. We should extend and expand commercial deployment incentives like tax credits and open up the use of master limited partnerships and private activity bonds to carbon capture, among other things.     

Regional Approach

A third lesson to draw from offshore wind is that to create new domestic industries, it helps to take a regional approach. Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced funding for a multi-state effort for offshore wind in the Northeast to develop a regional supply chain.  

DOE is taking a similar approach with CCUS and launched seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships to characterize CO2 storage potential in the U.S. and to conduct small and large-scale CO2 storage injection tests. Millions of tons of CO2 have already been stored for decades in West Texas as part of enhanced oil recovery operations. The regional partnerships characterized the potential for more CO2 storage in deep oil-, gas-, coal-, and saline-bearing formations as illustrated in the Carbon Storage Atlas. To date, the partnerships have safely and permanently injected more than 10 million metric tons of CO2 in these types of formations.    

Investing seriously in carbon capture technology has economic benefits including for electrical workers, boilermakers, the building trades, and steelworkers. A new CO2 commodity industry could be created to reuse CO2 to make other products.

Carbon capture also has environmental benefits, helping us address emissions from industrial plants, which are the source of 21 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and from coal and natural gas power plants, which currently supply two-thirds of U.S. electricity.

This fall, as we celebrate the beginning of the new offshore wind industry in the U.S., let’s keep thinking big about what is possible with carbon capture technology. With sufficient financial and policy support, we can create skilled jobs, attract private investment, and lower CO2 emissions.  

Cities and businesses join to build resilience

How does a city become resilient? With more communities facing climate impacts, including more severe storms, heat waves, and sea level rise, it’s a question many city planners are struggling with. And it’s a question best answered through collaborative efforts.

To move its resilience planning forward, the City of Providence brought together state officials, city departments, local businesses, universities, hospitals, utilities, and others for a two-day workshop facilitated by C2ES. At the workshop, AECOM and IBM led city and community officials through the Disaster Response Scorecard where participants discussed the risks they face, strategies in place or needed to lessen those risks, and how they can respond now and in the future to minimize loss of life and damage to critical infrastructure.

Providence has already seen rising sea levels and increased flooding. In Rhode Island, sea level could rise as much as 2 feet by 2050 and 7 feet by 2100. The Third National Climate Assessment says the region will experience heat waves, more heavy downpours, and more coastal flooding.

With its extensive waterfront, Providence is on the frontlines of climate change. As Mayor Jorge Elorza told the Providence Journal, “We simply can’t afford to kick the can down the road. By planning ahead we can make wiser investments … to minimize our risk and enhance resilience.”

Cities like Providence are one of many working to strengthen their resilience to climate change now, rather than waiting for a disaster to occur. C2ES held a similar exercise with the City of Anchorage, and will soon hold resilience workshops with Kansas City, MO, Miami Beach, FL, and Phoenix, AZ.

Cities across the U.S. are looking to change how they prepare for and respond to extreme weather and climate change impacts. Strategies to improve resilience include:

  • Working with community leaders. Cities are working together with diverse community groups to raise citizens’ awareness of climate change and extreme weather. For example, Providence recently held a workshop with faith-based organizations on hurricane preparedness.  
  • Partnering to pool resources. The adage “There’s strength in numbers” holds true. Through memorandums of understanding, cities are partnering with their local businesses and non-profits to prepare for and respond to extreme weather. Some businesses are funding collaborative resilience efforts. PG&E will award $1 million  to local governments in their utility territory that propose resilient solutions, focused on disadvantaged communities, that others can replicate.
  • Visualizing and combining information and data. Mapping of climate change risks can help people understand vulnerabilities. The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council has mapped sea level rise, storm surge, and other risks to coastal communities in the state.
  • Developing innovative solutions. The City of Hoboken, N.J., which experienced devastating flooding during Hurricane Sandy, is partnering with BASF to build a park and parking garage that can double as floodwater storage. Once finished, it could hold at least 1 million gallons of excess water.

Innovative solutions like these could help communities improve their resilience to climate change and extreme weather events, and C2ES will continue to share new approaches and best practices

Cities flex their muscles to improve existing commercial buildings

With up to 70 percent of total global emissions originating within the boundaries of cities, local governments are at the center of the fight against climate change.

One area where local governments are stepping up to meet this challenge is the building sector, which offers a variety of opportunities to reduce energy demand. Local governments have long sought to improve energy performance among new buildings, however, new buildings aren’t replacing older ones at a fast enough rate to put a noticeable dent in commercial building energy use. In response, cities are working to improve the performance of the existing commercial building stock.

The new C2ES brief, Local Climate Action: Cities Tackle Emissions of Commercial Buildings, explores four commercial building policy strategies that leading cities are adopting: energy use benchmarking and disclosure mandates, retro-commissioning, retrofitting, and requirements for building upgrades to meet current codes. The brief offers examples of how these policies are developed, structured, and implemented. We looked at several examples in an earlier blog post.

These policies are showing promise for reducing emissions in cities that adopt them. For example, New York City is pursuing a suite of building actions, including a local law that requires buildings greater than 50,000 square feet to ensure all lighting systems meet current city standards in common areas and non-residential tenant spaces greater than 10,000 square feet by 2025. Those non-residential spaces must also be sub-metered, and energy use disclosed to tenants. The city intends to extend the policy to include buildings between 25,000 and 50,000 square feet. The move is expected to reduce annual emissions by about 60,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2e) and cut energy costs by $35 million annually.

As we reviewed these four policy categories, two conclusions became clear:

  1. Although policies like New York’s retrofitting requirement are not common in U.S. cities, replicating them broadly could provide widespread co-benefits in our communities and possibly contribute measurable greenhouse gas reductions at the national level.
  2. A larger energy transformation is needed to achieve the aggressive community emissions targets cities have set, and that won't happen without stronger collaboration.

While a number of federal programs provide cities with technical assistance and funding, additional support could be provided by U.S. states and businesses in the form of complementary programs, private investment, and active engagement in policy development. We’ve already seen more of this kind of collaboration through initiatives like the City Energy Project. The increasing number of businesses publicly committing to climate goals indicates there are many more opportunities.

In addition, the Clean Power Plan requires states to meaningfully reduce emissions from the power sector. Properly designed, state implementation plans for the Clean Power Plan could incentivize utilities and commercial building operators to improve the performance of the building stock.

If the actions of New York City, Seattle, and others are any indication, local governments have the potential to enact policies that foster climate action. These key players must continue taking bold actions to help create a policy environment across the country that promotes high-performing buildings, no matter when they were built. 

Local Climate Action: Cities Tackle Emissions of Commercial Buildings

Local Climate Action:
Cities Tackle Emissions of Commercial Buildings

September 2016

By Todd McGarvey and Amy Morsch

Download the brief (PDF)

As a significant source of emissions, cities have an important role to play in addressing the carbon footprint of activities occurring within their boundaries. Among many actions targeting different sectors, cities are actively pursuing improvements in the energy performance of commercial buildings. This brief explores several policies that leading cities are adopting: energy use benchmarking and disclosure mandates, retro-commissioning and retrofitting policies, and requirements for building upgrades to meet current codes. Our review finds these policies stand to deliver and facilitate emissions reductions in cities that adopt them. However, it should be noted that achieving deep reductions and a true market transformation will require collaboration between cities, state and federal agencies, and a range of non-government entities. The need for such a collaborative approach is applicable not just to addressing emissions from buildings, but indeed is relevant broadly to city efforts to reduce emissions.
 
Amy Morsch
Todd McGarvey
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Putting carbon capture technology in context

 

Photos by Dennis Schroeder / NREL, Iberdrola Renewables, Inc., U.S. Department of Energy

Wind and solar power were once considered expensive and were not widely deployed. Today, skeptics say the same about technology to capture, use and store carbon dioxide emissions (CCUS or carbon capture).

So what lessons can we draw from the experience of the wind and solar industries as they’ve become more mainstream to facilitate a faster and broader deployment of carbon capture technology?

Wind Energy

The cost of wind energy has declined by more than 60 percent since 2009 and average nameplate capacity increased 180 percent between 1998-99 to 2015. These improvements have led to an installed wind capacity of 74,821 MW in the United States, enough electricity to power nearly 20 million average U.S. homes every year.  

These wind energy milestones in cost reduction, performance improvements, and scale of deployment were supported by the Production Tax Credit (PTC), a federal deployment incentive. It’s reasonable to assume that the PTC would have been even more successful if it had been maintained consistently instead of experiencing periods of uncertainty regarding its fate, leading to boom-and-bust wind power development cycles.

Ongoing federal research and development (R&D) also spurred improved wind industry technology. For example, in 2007, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory initiated the Gearbox Reliability Collaborative in response to industry-wide technology challenges. That research led to improved gearbox designs, reducing the overall cost of wind energy and showing how collaborative industry efforts and federal support for R&D can resolve performance challenges.  

Solar Energy

Solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies experienced similar dramatic cost declines due to economies of scale and improved manufacturing and performance. The cost of utility-scale solar has fallen more than 54 percent since 2011. The efficiency of all PV cells steadily improved between 1975 and 2010, supported by multi-decade R&D programs like the Department of Energy’s Thin Film PV Partnership.

These cost declines and performance improvements were facilitated by the Investment Tax Credit, another federal deployment-focused incentive, and the Section 1603 Treasury program, a federal loan guarantee mechanism to support project financing. Strong state policies like the California Renewables Portfolio Standard enabled developers to enter into above-market power purchase agreements. The experience of utility-scale solar PV demonstrates that overlapping policies are essential to achieve financing for first-of-a-kind projects.

Lessons for carbon capture

We can draw three key conclusions from wind and solar energy’s experience:

  • Stable, long-term deployment incentives that build on previous public and private investments in technology research, development and demonstration (RD&D) are essential to facilitate a large volume of projects;
  • As more projects are deployed, costs are reduced through economies of scale, learning from experience, and technological innovation;
  • Ongoing government support for RD&D can deliver cost reductions by supporting innovation and overcoming performance challenges.

In contrast to wind and solar, the U.S. lacks an effective federal incentive for commercial deployment of CCUS—despite being a world leader in public and private RD&D for early stage technology demonstration. Fifteen commercial-scale CCUS projects are operating globally; eight of those are in the United States. But that’s not nearly enough to meet our mid-century climate goals.

Carbon capture can be used at coal- or natural gas-fired power plants, which are baseload generation resources. It’s also the only way to reduce carbon emissions from some industrial plants, such as facilities producing chemicals, steel, and cement.  Also, over the long-term, we’ll need to integrate biomass energy systems with carbon capture (BECCS). Combining the capture of photosynthetic carbon from biomass with CCUS can enable negative emissions.

While first-of-a-kind, commercial-scale CCUS projects are expensive, we know that as more projects come online, they will become cheaper. SaskPower estimates it could cut costs by up to 30 percent on the next unit to be retrofitted following its current experience operating the world’s first commercial-scale, coal-fired power plant carbon capture project. Developers are exploring novel approaches, including the Exxon and Fuel Cell Energy partnership and the Exelon-supported NET Power project, that have the potential to reduce costs still further. 

It’s essential to extend and expand tax incentives for carbon capture, update state laws to include CCUS technology in clean energy standards, and fund continued carbon capture  RD&D, among other things, if we are going to reach our emissions-cutting goals. 

 

Energy innovation can help power the nation

Jay Premack/USPTO

Innovation to Power the Nation (and the World): Reinventing our Climate Future event held at the Carnegie Institute of Science Auditorium. Keynote remarks by Michelle Lee, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office; and panelists including: Dr. Jayant Baliga, Dr. Kristina Johnson, Nathan Hurst, Bob Perciasepe and moderated by Amy Harder. 

Energy, business and policy experts agree: Current technologies aren’t enough to keep the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, the ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement. We will need innovation to fill the gap.

Where do we need breakthroughs? What do we need do more, do differently or do faster to evolve our energy system to be efficient, dependable and low-carbon? What policies would help drive the innovation we need?

These are some of the questions that guided a recent discussion C2ES helped organize at the Carnegie Institution for Science.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director Michelle K. Lee opened the conversation by  emphasizing the importance of innovation to face the challenges posed by climate change. “History has shown us there are few challenges that innovative minds cannot overcome,” she said.

Here are some of the highlights of the discussion, which you can watch here:

We can vastly improve energy efficiency

Dr. B. Jayant Baliga, an inventor with 120 patents and a professor at North Carolina State University, sees an enormous opportunity to improve energy efficiency, not necessarily through new inventions, but by more widely using some of the technologies we already have.

One of Baliga’s inventions, the insulated gate bipolar transistor (IGBT), dramatically improves efficiency in power flow in everything from appliances to cars to factories, saving an estimated 100 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

Using variable speed motor drives that take advantage of IGBTs can improve efficiency by 40 percent, but only about half of U.S. motors run on these drives, compared with nearly 100 percent in Europe, Baliga said. With two thirds of U.S. electricity used to run motors, the energy savings could be enormous.

Lighting consumes about a fifth of electricity in the U.S. Going from incandescent bulbs to CFLs reduces energy use 75 percent. But in the U.S., only 2 billion out of the 5 billion light sockets have CFL bulbs in them, Baliga said. “We need some encouragement for people to use these kinds of lights,” he said.

Business plays a crucial role

Businesses understand the importance of climate change for both their operations and customers. Nate Hurst, Chief Sustainability & Social Impact Officer at HP, said companies should examine their operations and supply chains to drive energy efficiency, and also make products that are as energy efficient as possible.

HP, along other multinational companies, recently pledged to power global operations with 100 percent renewable energy, with the goal of 40 percent by 2020. The company also announced a new commitment to achieve zero deforestation also by 2020, which means all HP paper and paper-based packaging will be derived from certified recycled sources.

Companies need to diversify their energy sources, but the biggest challenge is price. Hurst suggested government incentives and tax credits can play a role in bringing alternative energy prices down.

Policy is needed at the federal, state and city level

C2ES President Bob Perciasepe said policies to recognize the costs of greenhouse gas emissions, such as a price on carbon, can stimulate innovation. Cities, states and businesses are pressing forward with policies and actions to save energy and expand clean energy. C2ES recently launched an alliance with the U.S. Conference of the Mayors to bring businesses and cities together to speed deployment of new technologies.

One area where more innovation is needed is carbon capture, use and storage. “We know how to do it, but we have to find cheaper ways to do it,” Perciasepe said. “And we have to find ways to use carbon, not just shove it all back into the earth.” For example, the Ford company is testing ways to capture carbon emissions from its manufacturing plants to make plastic for use in the interior of cars.

Hydropower can play a key role

Dr. Kristina Johnson, an electrical engineer and former Undersecretary for Energy at the Department of Energy, said it’s crucial to find new ways to use renewable energy. Her company, Cube Hydro Partners, acquires and modernizes hydroelectric facilities and develops power at unpowered dams.

“When we built our first little power plant in an existing dam, it cost less than $20 million, but it was the equivalent of having planted a million fully grown trees in the rainforest, which would have been a billion dollars,” she said. Hydropower can help provide constant energy to fill in for wind and solar power, she said.

Other areas where innovation would boost clean energy would be small modular nuclear reactors, although more work needs to be done on handling the waste, and an economic way to store or reuse emissions from fossil fuel plants, she said.

The last question asked by moderator Amy Harder of The Wall Street Journal was: What is the most important invention society needs to make and bring to scale to address the challenge of climate change?

What our panelists said:

  • A visionary new source of power,
  • Enhanced versions of the sources already known, such as ocean currents or solar power,
  • The right economic incentives to scale the solutions we already have, and
  • New materials that can be reused and recycled without compromising quality.

Preparing for more summer heat waves

Heat Wave PhotoClimate change is causing longer and hotter heat waves that take a toll on public health and on a community’s economy, prompting some local governments to take action.

Heat can be deadly. From 2006-2010, exposure to extreme heat resulted in 3,332 U.S. deaths. The elderly and the poor are among the most vulnerable due to pre-existing health issues and limited access to air conditioning. But young outdoor enthusiasts are also at risk. Five hikers died during a heat wave this summer in Arizona, where it got as hot as 120 degrees F.

Heat waves are not only dangerous, they’re also expensive. Extreme heat can damage crops and livestock, reduce worker productivity, drive up energy costs, and increase demand for water resources. A 2011 heat wave and associated drought in the Southwest and Southern Plains cost $12.7 billion.

A hotter, drier Southwest

While it’s hard to determine how climate change influences individual extreme weather events, we do know climate change exacerbates both their frequency and intensity.

In the Southwest, residents are expected to see an additional 13 to 28 extremely hot days (temperatures of 95F or hotter) by mid-century, and 33 to 70 additional days by the end of the century. Higher temperatures will also exacerbate droughts and fire cycles.

How to prepare

The Southwest region has already taken steps to prepare for the impacts of more extreme heat. This is especially critical for urban areas, where stretches of heat-absorbing concrete and asphalt create a heat island effect, increasing temperatures in some cities by up to 15 degrees above surrounding areas

In Southern California, the city government in Chula Vista is working to implement 11 strategies to help adapt to the impacts of climate change. They include using reflective or “cool” paving and roofing to reduce the urban heat island effect, and amending building codes to incentivize water reuse and lower demand for imported water.

In Arizona, the city of Phoenix’s Water Resource Plan includes short- and long-term strategies to deal with water shortage scenarios, including monitoring supplies and managing demand, developing increased well capacities for water storage, and coordinating with neighboring counties to secure additional water resources.

A council of local governments in Central New Mexico is working to determine the impacts of heat waves on infrastructure, including the role of extreme heat in degrading asphalt and pavement, and what types of pavement materials are most resilient to extreme heat.

Early efforts to improve climate resilience can help a community prepare for costly extreme weather events and more quickly bounce back from them. Local governments like the cities of Phoenix and Chula Vista and those in New Mexico are demonstrating strong leadership that can be an example for others. Coordinating with partners in state government and the business community, including through the C2ES Solutions Forum, can ensure local governments’ resilience plans provide maximum protection against the heat waves of the future.

How millennials can shape our climate future

Governments, businesses and universities are focusing increasing resources and attention on what is now our nation’s largest generation, millennials.

Generally defined as those born between 1982 and 2000,  millennials now represent the largest share of the American workforce. They’re more educated than prior generations. They’re more culturally diverse. And they’re more socially conscious.

How will this millennial generation shape our climate and energy future? Consider just two observations about how millennials want to live and get around -- housing and transportation.

A study found more than 6 in 10 millennials prefer to live in mixed-use communities. They’re more interested in living where amenities and work are geographically close. More than a third of young people are choosing to live as close as 3 miles from city centers.

As for transportation, millennials drive less than other generations. They’re opting for walking, biking, car-sharing or public transit. From 2001 to 2009, vehicle-miles traveled dropped 23 percent for 16- to 34-year-olds.

These preferences point to a future that is low-carbon and more sustainable. Dense urban living and mixed modal transportation options can result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A 2014 report from the New Climate Economy notes that “more compact, more connected city forms allow significantly greater energy efficiency and lower emissions per unit of economic activity.”

Millennial demands are influencing other sustainability topics, too. A Rock the Vote poll earlier this year found 80 percent of millennials want the United States to transition to mostly clean or renewable energy by 2030. An earlier poll from the Clinton Global Initiative found millennials care more than their parents’ generation about the environment and would spend extra on products from companies that focus on sustainability.

These facts indicate that this generation of 75.4 million people (in just the United States) wants to live differently than previous generations. Energy policies and technology habits will need to change to keep pace.

Government is paying attention, with President Barack Obama calling on millennials to tackle the challenge of climate change. Businesses, like energy providers, are working to deliver service in a seamless and more socially connected way. And universities are offering more sustainability-focused programs than ever before. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)’s program list is growing, and university presidents are being asked by students to join the Climate Commitment to reduce emissions and improve resilience to climate impacts.

While millennials wield huge influence, the real power of change will come from all generations working together to develop innovative solutions and implement pragmatic policies to shape a low-carbon future and environmentally stable and economically prosperous planet for all who will inherit it.

 

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