U.S. States & Regions
States and regions across the country are adopting climate policies, including the development of regional greenhouse gas reduction markets, the creation of state and local climate action and adaptation plans, and increasing renewable energy generation. Read More
Over the past few weeks, college students have been shedding light on the future of solar energy on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Out of 19 teams from around the globe and 10 energy performance and livability contests, one overall winner emerged at the recently held U.S. Department of Energy 2011 Solar Decathlon. The winning WaterShed home design, built by students from the University of Maryland, was inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The house included a 9.2 kilowatt rooftop solar array and prominently featured storm water management and recycling components, such as a butterfly roof and pollution filtration.
On September 22, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law three bills that will expand existing renewable energy programs and expedite the permitting process for renewable energy projects. Together, the bills will help businesses and residences invest in renewable energy and assist California in meeting its energy targets and creating clean energy jobs.
S.B. 585 authorizes the California Solar Initiative (CSI) to provide $200 million in rebates to school districts that invest in solar installations. It also increases the overall cost limit on CSI from $3.4 billion to $3.6 billion. California aims to have 20,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power capacity installed by 2020. CSI has provided rebates for public and private sector entities to invest in solar power and is funded through investor-owned utilities. To date, CSI has helped California install 900 MW of solar capacity.
A.B. 1150 extends the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) through 2014. The program provides rebates to residential, commercial, and industrial customers who install distributed generation systems such as wind turbines, fuel cells, solar panels, and energy storage technologies. SGIP is funded through a surcharge on utility bills, and it makes $83 million available in rebates each year. To date, SGIP has provided $619 million in rebates and aided the installation of 348 MW of renewable capacity.
S.B. 16 hastens the CA Department of Fish and Game’s permitting process for renewable energy projects. The department will have 45 days to determine if an application is complete and 60 days after that to issue a permit. The bill also allows developers to pay a fee for an expedited review process.
On September 1, 2011, H.B. 3268 went into effect requiring the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality to develop a streamlined air permitting process for Combined Heat and Power (CHP) generators. Previously, CHP generators faced the same regulations as large-scale powerplants, but under H.B. 3268, they are freed from these regulations and recognized for their net emissions and electricity savings benefits. The reduced regulatory burden on CHP is expected to lower overall CHP system costs, which will ease the strain on the Texas electricity grid as well as create related job opportunities.
With the Northeast still reeling from the impacts of Hurricane Irene, the possibility of even more flooding was almost too much to comprehend. But last week the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee stalled and sent plumes of precipitation toward the Northeast, creating a replay of the floods a few weeks earlier. This time the area along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and New York was in the bulls-eye. Since the ground was still saturated from Irene, this new round of flooding was worse, surpassing the previous record event set in 1972 when Hurricane Agnes dropped a torrential downpour on the area.
This Q&A orginally appeared on Singapore International Energy Week's website.
Q1. The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Do you see an agreement on its successor during negotiations at Durban later this year? Or is an extension of the Kyoto Protocol or a move to a transitional framework a more likely outcome?
Eileen Claussen: The Kyoto Protocol has played an important role in advancing climate change efforts in some parts of the world. Most notably, the European Union established its successful Emissions Trading System and other policies in order to fulfil its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. However, because developing countries are exempt from Kyoto's emission targets and because the United States has chosen not to join, the Protocol covers just one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Japan, Canada and Russia have made clear that they will not take on new binding targets post-2012 without commensurate obligations by the United States and the major developing countries, which are not prepared for binding commitments. Hence, there appears very little prospect of new Kyoto commitments being adopted in Durban.
While our ultimate aim should be a comprehensive and binding international climate framework, we must accept that getting to binding commitments will take time. The Cancún Agreements made important progress in strengthening the existing frameworks in the areas of finance, transparency, adaptation and technology. Further incremental progress in these areas will promote near-term action and will strengthen parties' confidence in one another and in the regime, thereby building a stronger foundation for a later binding agreement. At the same time, countries must continue strengthening political will and policies domestically. In Durban, parties should make concrete progress in implementing the Cancún Agreements--for instance, by establishing the Green Climate Fund and agreeing on stronger transparency measures--while affirming their intent to work toward binding outcomes.
Q2. Global GHG emissions increased by a record amount last year. Is the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degree Celsius just a "nice Utopia" as IEA's Dr Fatih Birol put it?
EC: Long-term goals are tricky. On the one hand, they provide a rallying point to help focus attention and orient action, and a yardstick for measuring progress. On the other hand, they are meaningful only if they can be operationalized, and if interim efforts don't appear to be on track, people may be discouraged as a result and the will to act may actually weaken. In the case of climate, a temperature goal is appealing because it is easily related in the public mind to the core issue--global warming. But as a metric, it is several steps removed from the action that is needed: Reducing emissions. From a practical standpoint, a global emissions goal might be more helpful.
Countries' pledges to date clearly do not put us on the path to meeting the 2 degree goal. While achieving the goal is not yet out of the question, it would require a dramatic acceleration of efforts around the globe. The bottom line is that we know what direction we must go. Whatever our long-term goal--indeed, whether or not we have a long-term goal--the immediate challenge is the same: Ramping up our efforts as quickly as possible.
Q3. How much of an impact will the recent nuclear power crisis in Japan have on GHG emissions reduction?
EC: It is still too early to know what impact the Fukushima disaster will have on energy choices and greenhouse gas emissions around the world. The most dramatic example is the recent decision by Germany to completely phase out nuclear power. While many in Germany believe that the gap can be filled by renewable energy and improved energy efficiency, others are deeply concerned that the country will deepen its reliance on coal, making it impossible to achieve its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Other countries must assess for themselves the implications of Fukushima for their energy futures. For those countries choosing to continue or deepen their reliance on nuclear power, the tragedy clearly offers lessons for improving safety. Given the continued growth in energy demand projected in the future, particularly in developing countries, it is difficult to imagine that we will be able to meet the world's energies needs and simultaneously meet the climate challenge without continued reliance on nuclear power. It is therefore imperative that we continue striving to enhance safety and solve the issue of long-term waste disposal.
Q4. Technology is seen as a key enabler to achieve low emissions growth. In your opinion, what are the top three technologies available today that can make the biggest impact?
EC: There are thousands of technologies available today that could make a huge impact with the right policy support, such as a price on carbon. But the problem, at least in the US today, is that it is unclear when such policy support will be forthcoming. So I will pick my top three based on the ones that need the least additional policy support to make a contribution, either because they yield multiple economic benefits beyond climate, or because they benefit from existing policy drivers.
a. Batteries in cars. Batteries can be used in vehicles in a variety of ways. While a battery-only vehicle may only be able to fill a niche market, hybrid vehicles that run on either gasoline or electricity will likely have broader appeal, and start-stop batteries, which turn off the gasoline engine while a vehicle idles, can be applied to just about any vehicle, achieving modest per-vehicle reductions that add up to significant reductions fleet wide. The combination of new US standards for fuel economy and GHG emissions and electric utility interest in selling electricity can drive battery costs down. The potential emission reductions are enormous, but they depend on cleaning up the electricity grid.
b. Information technology. IT can enable dramatic GHG reductions, for example through energy efficiency (e.g. smart buildings that turn on lights and HVAC when they're needed and turn them off when they're not), substituting videoconferencing for travel, and using wireless communication to optimize transportation routing for people and goods. Convenience and time savings are such powerful drivers of IT that it needs little incremental policy support.
c. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) using CO2. CCS is technically available, and potentially a game changer, enabling us to continue to use fossil fuels but with very low CO2 emissions. CO2-EOR is already economic using naturally occurring CO2, and is close to economic using captured CO2. With very little policy support, EOR using captured CO2 could yield some near-term emission reductions while driving CCS costs down, thereby enabling enormous emission reductions in the future.
Q5. Energy efficiency has long been touted as the lowest hanging fruit to address the energy and climate change challenges. Many Asian countries have announced ambitious targets to cut their energy and carbon intensities. For example, as part of its 12th Five-Year Plan, China has indicated that it aims to cut energy intensity by 16 percent and carbon intensity by 17 percent in the next five years. Do you think Asian countries are doing enough? What more can they undertake to help combat climate change?
EC: Efficiency improvements that generate more economic output with less energy input are important for a variety of reasons, including energy supply security, pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction, and improvement of livelihoods. Countries such as Korea, China and India have taken significant measures to improve efficiency, with the result that the energy intensity of their economies has been lowering over the past decade.
Many energy efficiency measures are classified as "low hanging fruit," meaning the energy savings and other benefits they produce far outweigh the cost of investing in them. Asian countries are currently focusing on exploiting these low hanging fruit, notably in the industrial and power sectors, as well as in appliances and equipment, and large commercial and public buildings. Eventually, achieving additional energy savings will require more expensive investments, and targeting more difficult sectors, such as small and medium enterprises and households.
Asian governments will need to adjust policy tools to meet these new challenges. Policy certainty and appropriate price signals are important to ensure the efficiency improvement potentials of current investments are maximised. One way of providing these is through cap-and-trade type systems, such as those being considered or developed in China, India and Korea. This will also require the phase-out of subsidies that artificially decrease energy prices and encourage consumption rather than conservation. Though progress is slow, several Asian countries have taken or are taking steps in this direction as well.
Limiting the growth of or reducing energy consumption is, of course, essential. However, shifting to less carbon-intensive sources of energy is equally important in the medium to long term. As such, many Asian countries should also be commended for investing in developing less GHG-intensive energy sources.
The Pew Center's September 2011 newsletter highlights a new intiative focused on expanding carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery, a new brief on international climate assistance, the lessons we can learn from Hurrican Irene, and more.
During the last weekend of August, the Eastern U.S. braced for a walloping. Hurricane Irene spiraled up the Atlantic coast, ripping trees out of the ground in North Carolina and drenching much of the rest of the coast. When I heard that Irene was making her way up toward my hometown of Ridgewood, NJ, I had flashbacks to Hurricane Floyd, a devastating storm in 1999 that brought us much destruction and devastation.
On June 9, 2011, the Maine Legislature established oil savings targets and commissioned the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security to make recommendations for cutting oil consumption by at least 30 percent in 2030 and 50 percent in 2050 (from 2007 levels).
An Act to Improve Maine’s Energy Security
LD 553 proposes that the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security, with input from stakeholders and the state’s renewable energy & energy efficiency trust, establish targets to reduce Maine oil consumption by at least 30 percent in 2030 and 50 percent in 2050 (from 2007 levels). The targets should prioritize increasing energy efficiency and transitioning to renewable energy in transportation and heating. The targets should draw on existing data and analyses related to the state’s climate change and energy use plans. The Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security should make recommendations with any suggested legislation by December 1, 2012, along with cost and resource estimates for technology development.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend as an observer the launch of the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative, facilitated by the Center and the Great Plains Institute. In the short time since the launch, the EOR Initiative has generated notable
Carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR) works by injecting CO2 into existing oil fields to increase oil production. It is not a new concept. In fact, around 5 percent, or 272,000 barrels per day, of all domestic oil produced comes from oil recovered using this technique, which was first deployed in West Texas in 1972. Decades of monitoring CO2-EOR sites have shown that in properly managed operations the majority of CO2 is retained in the EOR operation and not released to the atmosphere. One of the initiative’s goals is to better understand the role of CO2-EOR for carbon storage as this industry grows to produce more than 1 million barrels per day, or around 17 percent of domestic oil supply in 2030.
On July 11, 2011, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed two bills that will encourage greater use of electric vehicles. The bills create a council to explore the uses of electric vehicles and provide grants to eligible car-sharing organizations to purchase and use electric vehicles.
Electric Vehicle Adoption Act
House Bill 2902 creates the position of Electric Vehicle Coordinator for the State of Illinois, to be appointed by the Governor, who will be the point person for electric vehicle related policies. The bill also creates the Illinois Electric Vehicle Advisory Council to investigate and recommend policies for greater electric vehicle adoption in Illinois. The Council is required report its finding to the Governor and the General Assembly by December 31, 2011.
Alternative Fuels Car-sharing Program
House Bill 2903 authorizes the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to make grants to not-for-profit car-sharing organizations to purchase and use electric vehicles. The vehicles must be registered in the State of Illinois and remain in Illinois for five years after purchase under the program. The Bill sets aside $500,000 to the program, which comes from the modification of the existing Illinois Alternative Fuels Act, and may not exceed 25 percent of the grantee’s project cost. The law is effective immediately until the end of fiscal year 2013.