Key Insights for Expanding Microgrid Development
C2ES held a half-day Solutions Forum in March 2017 in Washington, D.C., focusing on the benefits of microgrids and examining what is standing in the way of accelerating their deployment. Two panels, comprising business and city leaders, shared their first-hand experience in the small, but rapidly developing microgrid industry. Discussion focused on what developers are learning from successful microgrid projects and overcoming obstacles to deployment. About 100 people, including policymakers, entrepreneurs, and academics, attended the forum at The George Washington University School of Law and 200 watched online.
The nation’s first microgrid architect, Shalom Flank, Ph. D., of Urban Ingenuity, identified three economically viable categories of microgrid frameworks.
- The classic success model, considering primarily the urban situation, is the “combined heat and power (CHP) plus solar” microgrid. These work downtown, on campus, or at a large facility like a hospital. With improvements in modern electronics and controller technologies, these projects can earn even greater revenues (e.g. providing grid services).
- “Thermal only” microgrids pay for themselves. These involve creating a condenser water loop across multiple buildings with heat sources and sinks. They are highly efficient for serving heating and cooling loads. There is no resilience benefit in this instance, but emissions savings are excellent.
- “Solar saturation” microgrids are viable. The current grid can’t accommodate an entire neighborhood where all homes have solar without a microgrid. This kind of project provides emissions and resilience benefits.
Watch our March 8, 2017 discussion at Geoge Washington University.
Photo of 2010 Annapolis, Maryland, flooding courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program via Flickr.
Helping Small Businesses Build Climate Resilience
Wednesday, April 26, 2017, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m., EDT
An extreme weather disaster can force some small businesses to close their doors forever. How can small businesses better evaluate, prepare for, and respond to the increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events that climate change brings?
This free webinar will explore:
- Risks small businesses face from climate and extreme weather
- Challenges to making small businesses more climate resilient
- Resources for small businesses
- Recommendations for engaging small businesses on resilience
Charissa Cooper, Private Sector Liaison, National Capital Region Planner, Maryland Emergency Management Agency
Jon Philipsborn, Associate Vice President, Climate Adaptation Practice Director, Americas at AECOM
Katy Maher, Science Fellow and Resilience Project Coordinator, C2ES
California’s cap-and-trade program received court affirmation this month that the state has authority to auction allowances. But questions remain about the program’s future.
California lawmakers are evaluating ways to achieve the state’s 2030 greenhouse gas reduction goal. One option, championed by Governor Brown, is to extend its cap-and-trade program. But some lawmakers are concerned the program isn’t delivering the expected revenues for state clean energy programs. Others worry it doesn’t do enough to provide equitable environmental co-benefits.
Could the single step of extending the program address these concerns? To some extent, yes.
The debate in Sacramento
Under California’s cap-and-trade program, operating since 2013, emissions are down and economic productivity is up.
But there are some areas of concern. Auction revenues are down. As I’ve noted before, low carbon prices don’t mean a cap-and-trade program isn’t working. They just mean the required emissions reductions are cheap. But California legislators want to use auction revenue to fund other projects like planting trees in urban areas and putting rooftop solar panels in disadvantaged communities. More importantly, a recent analysis shows emitters are more likely to be near disadvantaged communities, raising concern Californians won’t enjoy the co-benefits, like cleaner air, equally.
Legislators have proposed extending the cap-and-trade program through 2030, although they are debating restricting how it operates. Discussion continues about replacing cap-and-trade with a carbon tax approach. This tax proposal would seek to address the first concern, that allowance prices are too low to fund desired programs. Other debate centers around restrictions to force more emissions reductions to occur inside the state. Current rules allow for reductions at sources of electricity outside California, or at limited offset project sites in the U.S. and Canada.
Economic theory tells us that limiting emissions through a cap-and-trade program will achieve the environmental objective at the least cost, through business innovation. Could lowering the cap address other key concerns as well?
Tighter cap = higher revenues
The California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update (Scoping Plan) evaluates policy options to achieve the 2030 goal. The regulator’s preferred approach is to keep existing programs (like the state’s aggressive 50 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard), extend the cap-and-trade program, and require extra emissions reductions at in-state refineries. Its analysis concludes this would meet the 2030 goal, using market-based approaches to minimize costs while prioritizing in-state reductions.
Using the information in the Scoping Plan, let’s examine how CARB’s preferred policy approach would address concerns about revenue and equity.
First, compare actual auction revenue in 2016 with projections of how revenue might change if the cap-and-trade program were extended (see Table 1). Making some conservative assumptions, revenues could double by 2020, from $2 billion without an extended cap to $4 billion with an extended cap. The increase comes mostly from increased allowance demand that would be expected if the business community receives a long-term policy signal in favor of cap-and-trade. Auction revenue could reach $5 billion in 2025, even as the cap (and the number of allowances sold) declines.
Table 1. Relationship between allowance supply and state revenue.
2016 values are calculated from CARB data. Projections for 2020 are based on CARB’s projected auction volumes and our conservative price estimates. Projections for 2025 are estimated assuming a linear cap decline and no significant changes to program allocation rules. Current program rules set a minimum auction price of $15.40 in 2020. The minimum price would be $19.70 in 2025 under the current escalation rate.
Annual allowance sales at auction (tons, all vintages*)
Annual average auction clearing price ($/ton)
Annual state revenue ($)
2016 actual values
2020 projection, BAU policy**
2020 projection, extended cap-and-trade policy***
2025 projection, extended cap-and-trade policy***
*The vintage is the first year in which the allowance is eligible for compliance. California currently auctions a small number of allowances three years in advance (“future vintages”), to promote price discovery and liquidity in the market.
**Assumes auctions are subscribed at same level as 2016, but no future vintages offered.
***Assumes current and future vintage auctions are fully subscribed
Source: CARB data and C2ES calculations.
These calculations are based on the observation that allowance demand (and prices) increase when businesses receive policy signals that buying allowances will be a good long-term investment. Experience in both Europe and the U.S. Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has borne this out. Each of those markets has had periods of low prices. When rulemakers responded by tightening the cap, allowance prices increased.
A key point from those experiences is that the market didn’t wait to respond after the agreed cuts took place – prices increased as soon as the legislation was passed. Legislators can boost state revenue for greenhouse gas reduction programs today by committing to the market through 2030.
Tighter cap = greater co-benefits
But what about concerns that the trading provision doesn’t allow disadvantaged communities to enjoy equal co-benefits, like fewer criteria air pollutants (SO2, NOx, PM 2.5), from the regulation?
It is worth noting that the cap-and-trade program is not the state’s sole policy measure aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Figure 1 shows the reductions each measure in CARB’s preferred plan is expected to produce. The total reductions needed to meet the 2030 target are estimated at 680 million tons (Mt). CARB expects other policies will reduce at least 339 Mt and potentially 489 Mt (the figure shows the high value). The cap-and-trade program is expected to make up the difference, or 28-50 percent of the required reductions.
While a detailed analysis is required to estimate cap-and-trade compliance pathways, it is reasonable to assume that improved energy efficiency and substituting cleaner fuels would play a major role. These actions also reduce criteria air pollutants as a co-benefit. A potential 50 percent cut in these pollutants would make a big difference in the air quality near covered sources.
Figure 1. Projected emissions reductions from the policies included in the Scoping Plan analysis.
Solid black dashes show historic statewide emissions. The dotted line shows a trajectory to meet California’s 2020 and 2030 targets. The colored areas show the reductions from each policy measure, including the potential new refinery reduction measure. The blue dashed area shows the reductions that the cap-and-trade program would need to achieve to meet the 2030 goal.
Source: California Air Resources Board
While cap-and-trade is not a perfect policy tool, it provides emissions certainty while minimizing costs to society. Economic theory and experience show that extending (and lowering) the cap can cause near- and long-term market impacts. These include increased auction revenue and reduced criteria air pollutant emissions, and help address concerns about revenue and equity through the existing cap-and-trade program alone. Other policy options are available – such as modifying the trading rules or creating additional location-specific reduction targets. But legislators may have a simpler option that takes advantage of the flexibility of market mechanisms: Cut the cap, and let businesses respond.
(Ashley Lawson is a Senior Solutions Fellow at C2ES. Next on the Climate Compass blog: How carbon capture could play a greater role in the ARB Scoping Plan.)
|NRG Vice President for Sustainability Bruno Sarda and Bank of America Senior Vice President for Environmental Operations Lisa Shpritz at the 2017 Climate Leadership Conference.|
To winners of the 2017 Climate Leadership Awards, leadership means more than taking action in their own businesses; it’s about leading partners, suppliers, and customers as well.
Social responsibility was one of several themes running through the 2017 Climate Leadership Conference in Chicago, where officials from business, government and the nonprofit sector celebrated their achievements and discussed strategies to advance climate action.
Climate leadership has become a habit at IBM, which won the Organizational Leadership Award for the second consecutive year. The company has taken home a Climate Leadership Award in five of the six years the awards have been given.
IBM has been reducing its greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, and has set three consecutive reduction goals. Its latest is to reduce absolute emissions by 35 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.
It is achieving the goal by becoming more energy efficient and procuring more renewable energy, with a goal of contracting renewable power equal to 20 percent of its own annual electricity use by 2020.
Since 2010, IBM has also required all its contracted suppliers to have an environmental management system, inventory their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, establish reduction plans, and publically report their results.
IBM also helps other companies reduce their emissions through its own innovation, technology, and business acumen. For example, IBM’s cognitive computing and data analytics help energy suppliers deliver the right amount of renewable energy to the grid while minimizing the amount of conventional fuel they need to burn.
“As IBM stated a decade ago, climate change is one of the most critical global environmental challenges facing the planet, and that is even more true today,” said Wayne Balta, IBM’s vice president for corporate environmental affairs and product safety. “The company will remain committed to environmental sustainability. It’s good business and the right thing to do for humanity.”
Demonstrating leadership to effect change
Bank of America won an Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management/Goal Achievement Award for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its global operations 37 percent from 2010 through 2015. The bank accomplished more than twice its goal through energy efficiency programs like LED lighting and occupancy sensors, decommissioning unneeded equipment, and optimizing HVAC controls.
Its new goals are to cut emissions from its global operations in half from 2010 levels, purchase 100 percent renewable electricity, reduce energy use 40 percent, and maintain at least 20 percent LEED-certified space by 2020.
Senior Vice President for Environmental Operations Lisa Shpritz said the bank extends its own efficiency to its partners and uses its position of financial leadership to effect change.
“Leaders have to act responsibly so that others may follow,” she said. “It’s a big responsibility, but we’re up to it.”
The bank has committed to investing $125 billion in developing solutions to climate change and other environmental challenges, including at least $10 billion in high-impact clean energy projects, with partners contributing at least $8 billion to date.
The bank also extends its reach through its supply chain. Nearly 200 of its vendors respond each year to a voluntary survey regarding their climate risks and plans to address them, and the bank publishes the results.
“That’s our responsibility as an organization, to take others with us,” Shpritz said.
Creating an example for others
At NRG Energy, winner of a Goal-Setting Certificate, efficiency and sustainability are also part of a culture that extends to its electricity customers.
NRG is already making significant progress on its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for U.S. operations 50 percent between 2014 and 2030, and 90 percent by 2050, through enhancing power plant performance, capturing and storing carbon emissions from fossil-fired power plants; retrofitting coal-fired power plants to accept natural gas; and deploying new renewable energy generation.
NRG Vice President for Sustainability Bruno Sarda said the company’s commitments make business and economic sense, and benefit customers as well.
“We support our customers’ energy objectives by providing renewable energy, distributed energy, and other efficiency solutions for commercial and industrial customers, retail offerings and large, utility-scale renewable energy projects,” he said.
NRG ranked No. 3 in the nation in renewable generation capacity in 2016, with assets that include 36 wind farms in 12 states.
This year, NRG completed the first retrofit of a U.S. coal-fired power plant to capture carbon dioxide emissions. The Petra Nova project, near Houston, was completed on time and under budget. The captured carbon dioxide is used for enhanced oil recovery, increasing production from already developed domestic oil fields while storing the carbon dioxide underground and creating U.S. jobs.
Such projects also show that the technology works and can be replicated.
“We need to create an example for others,” said Sarda. “A sustainable future is a better future.”
Learn more about all of this year’s Climate Leadership Award winners.
Statement of Bob Perciasepe
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)
March 15, 2017
On the administration’s re-evaluation of the fuel economy standards for model years 2022-2025:
Federal fuel economy standards are improving air quality, reducing U.S. reliance on oil imports, and saving drivers money.
Working together, industry and the government crafted a roadmap for fuel economy standards through 2025. Automakers have been meeting the standards, with stronger and lighter materials, hybrid-electric drivetrains, alternative fuels, and other technological innovations. These innovations have occurred at the same time automobile sales in the U.S. have reached record highs and employment is increasing in high technology vehicles. As other nations seek greater fuel efficiency, U.S. automakers should not risk losing their growing competitive global advantage.
Moving to re-evaluate standards for model years 2022-2025 should demonstrate that the technological innovation achieved by the auto industry can continue to advance, providing ample basis for strong standards.
It would be a mistake to use the re-evaluation to remove incentives for advancing innovation. It would also be a mistake to inhibit state and local innovation.
States should continue to lead if they desire to, and we should not harm states’ rights to choose cleaner air and innovative vehicle markets.
The administration should also look to partner with local and state governments to improve transportation systems, helping us reduce the miles we all drive every day. With local action and federal action combined, a more comprehensive approach can continue to reduce emissions, reduce oil imports and save money for every driver.
About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to forge practical solutions to climate change. Our mission is to advance strong policy and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy, and strengthen resilience to climate impacts. Learn more at www.c2es.org.
Companies, Cities Receive Climate Leadership Awards for Reducing their Carbon Impact
- Awards recognize Bank of America, Clif Bar, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Gap, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Lockheed Martin, NRG, Procter & Gamble and U.S. Postal Service
- Atlanta, San Mateo County, California, honored for innovative partnerships
- JetBlue Sustainability Director Sophia Mendelsohn, Atlanta Director of Climate Policies Dr. Jairo Garcia and California Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia honored for individual leadership
March 2, 2017
Contact: Laura Rehrmann, 703-516-0621, firstname.lastname@example.org
CHICAGO – Ten companies and organizations, two partnerships, and three individuals today will receive 2017 Climate Leadership Awards for their accomplishments in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change.
The awards, now in their sixth year, are a partnership program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and The Climate Registry. The awards are being presented this evening at the 2017 Climate Leadership Conference in Chicago.
This year’s awardees represent a wide array of industries including finance, consumer products, retail, aviation, and technology, plus federal and local government.
Awardees have demonstrated leadership in setting and achieving goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving energy efficiency, expanding use of clean energy, and working with partners, suppliers, and employees.
Six of the 2017 awardees were also recognized in past years: Bank of America, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Gap, IBM, Lockheed Martin, and the U.S. Postal Service.
“Business and community leaders understand both the risks of climate impacts and the opportunities of a clean energy economy” said Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). “This year’s Climate Leadership Award winners are helping lead the way to a more sustainable future. We hope their accomplishments will spur others to examine their practices and follow their example.”
“The Climate Registry applauds the 2017 Climate Leadership Award winners for their outstanding dedication to reducing their carbon footprint,” said David Rosenheim, executive director of The Climate Registry. “These organizations and individuals are part of an incredibly important group of leaders who are accelerating the shift to a more sustainable future. We hope that their ability to bring about change will inspire and empower others to act.”
Organizational Leadership Award (5)
- Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW Airport, Texas)
The airport buys energy credits for 100 percent of its energy use, generates on-site solar energy, and uses compressed natural gas and hybrid-electric ground vehicles.
- The Goldman Sachs Group (New York, N.Y.)
Goldman Sachs achieved carbon neutrality across operations and business travel in 2015 and has pledged to maintain it through energy efficiency and renewable energy. It also invested nearly $12 billion in the clean energy sector in 2015, and has deployed more than $65 billion since 2006.
- IBM (Armonk, N.Y.)
IBM is reducing its emissions through energy efficiency, renewable energy, and an enterprise-wide IT system to analyze energy and water use. It requires suppliers to have an Environmental Management System, inventory their energy use and emissions, establish reduction plans, and publicly report their results.
- Lockheed Martin Corporation (Bethesda, Md.)
The company reduced greenhouse gas emissions 23 percent from 2010 to 2015 and has a reduction goal of 35 percent by 2020 through efficiency and renewable energy projects. It has conducted supplier sustainability assessments for 166 of its suppliers.
- Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati, Ohio)
P&G has reduced truck transportation 25 percent and is increasing its use of renewables to work toward its goal of reducing its global greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from 2010 to 2020. Its employees have taken steps that have contributed to $20 million in local energy savings.
Supply Chain Leadership Award (2)
- Clif Bar & Company (Emeryville, Calif.)
The company, which powers its facilities with 100 percent green electricity, is one quarter of the way toward its 2020 goal of having 50 supply chain facilities source at least half of the electricity used on Clif Bar’s behalf with green power. Clif Bar offers suppliers free consulting on renewable energy procurement and finance.
- United States Postal Service (Washington, D.C.)
USPS recognizes suppliers with green business practices and requires potential suppliers to submit a detailed sustainability plan. It seeks to increase water and energy efficiency, encourage the use of alternative fuels, and buy environmentally-preferred products.
Individual Leadership Award (3)
- Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, California State Assembly (Sacramento, Calif.)
Assemblymember Garcia engaged his district and other low-income and inland communities on the challenges and issues associated with addressing climate change. By bridging the gap between environmental justice, business, faith, labor, and other stakeholder communities, he has ensured state climate activities will provide more benefits to and investments in low-income communities.
- Dr. Jairo Garcia, Director Climate Policies and Renewables, City of Atlanta
Dr. Garcia develops and oversees municipal and citywide sustainability initiatives to reduce emissions through energy and water consumption, renewables, waste management, and urban agriculture. His efforts have led to regular reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and the installation of solar PV panels in 24 city-owned facilities. After leading the development of the city’s unanimously adopted climate action plan, he is working on a city resilience plan.
- Ms. Sophia Mendelsohn, Director of Sustainability, JetBlue Airways (Long Island City, N.Y.)
Ms. Mendelsohn helped conceive, negotiate, and execute a 10-year binding agreement for 330 million gallons of renewable jet fuel, one of the largest biofuel purchase agreements in aviation history. She has worked with JetBlue’s crewmembers to identify opportunities for emissions reductions by taking steps such as transitioning ground support equipment to electric vehicles and adjusting airplane idling time.
Innovative Partnership Certificate (2)
- Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge (Atlanta, Ga.)
The challenge is a large-scale energy efficiency program working with more than 570 local buildings totaling over 110 million square feet. The challenge has reduced energy consumption 17 percent and water consumption 20 percent from 2009 levels. The challenge, which has produced a guide for cities considering similar voluntary programs, has created or sustained 273 jobs and added $25.9 million to Atlanta’s gross regional product.
- San Mateo County Regionally Integrated Climate Action Planning Suite (RICAPS) Initiative (San Mateo, Calif.)
This county-wide collaboration among government agencies aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2030 from a 2005 baseline. All member jurisdictions are drafting or have adopted climate action plans. County-wide energy use has been reduced by 26.5 million kWh since 2009. The program inventories emissions and provides support and advice on energy efficiency projects, small business outreach, building codes, EV charging, sustainable purchasing, water conservation, and more.
Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management/Goal Achievement Award (2)
- Bank of America (Charlotte, N.C.)
Through thousands of energy efficiency projects, Bank of America has reduced greenhouse gas emissions from its global operations 37 percent from 2010 through 2015, more than twice its goal. By installing LED lighting and occupancy sensors, decommissioning unneeded equipment, and optimizing HVAC controls, the company reduced emissions and saved more than $140 million since 2010.
- The Goldman Sachs Group (New York, N.Y.)
In 2015, the company achieved carbon neutrality across its operations and business travel and has pledged to maintain it. Goldman Sachs reached its goal through renewable energy and energy efficiency measures and by supporting emissions reduction projects. Its energy-efficient building system upgrades resulted in significant energy and cost savings.
Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management/Goal Setting Certificate (3)
- Bank of America (Charlotte, N.C.)
Bank of America, which has twice set and exceeded emissions reduction goals, has set a new goal to cut emissions from its global operations in half from 2010 levels by 2020 through increased energy efficiency at buildings and data centers. The company also set goals to purchase 100 percent renewable electricity, reduce energy use 40 percent, and maintain at least 20 percent LEED-certified space by 2020.
- Gap Inc. (San Francisco, Calif.)
Gap Inc., which has twice set and exceeded emissions reduction goals, has set a new target to cut emissions in half from 2015 levels by the end of 2020. Gap plans to expand its energy usage tracking and efficiency initiatives in lighting and HVAC and explore on-site solar at its distribution centers.
- NRG Energy (Princeton, N.J.)
NRG Energy has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for U.S. operations 50 percent between 2014 and 2030, and 90 percent by 2050. NRG plans to enhance power plant performance, capture and store carbon emissions from fossil-fired power plants; retrofit coal-fired power plants to accept natural gas; and deploy new renewable energy generation.
Get more information on this year’s Climate Leadership Award winners.
The Climate Leadership Conference, now in its sixth year, is organized by two nonprofit groups, The Climate Registry (TCR) and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). This year's conference, March 1-3, features more than 60 speakers and 300 attendees. Learn more at Climate Leadership Conference.
About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to forge practical solutions to climate change. Our mission is to advance strong policy and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy, and strengthen resilience to climate impacts. Learn more at http://www.c2es.org.
About TCR: The Climate Registry is a non-profit organization governed by U.S. states and Canadian provinces and territories. We design and operate voluntary and compliance GHG reporting programs globally, and assist organizations in measuring, verifying and reporting the carbon in their operations so they can manage and reduce it. Established in 2007 as a 501 (c)(3), The Registry’s GHG accounting, verification, and carbon management tools and resources are utilized by hundreds of its members and partner organizations. Learn more at http://www.theclimateregistry.org.
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and The Climate Registry co-convene the Climate Leadership Conference each year around the prestigious Climate Leadership Awards. The CLC is dedicated to professionals addressing global climate change through policy, innovation, and business solutions.
Climate Leadership Conference
March 1-3, 2017 at the Marriott Downtown Chicago
C2ES will host or co-host the following events at the 2017 Climate Leadership Conference.
March 1, 2017
9 a.m. -- 11 a.m.
How Cities Are Driving a New Climate Future
Hosted by: C2ES and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative
This event highlights two important aspects of local climate action: 1) how cities and their leaders are using their platform to facilitate transformative climate solutions, and 2) how cities and private actors are implementing local solutions. Speakers will engage attendees in a discussion about how cities are driving the new climate future through political leadership and action, and present tangible ideas that attendees can take home and put into practice. Who should attend? Local leaders, practitioners and private sector partners.
March 1, 2017
11 a.m. -- 12:30 p.m.
What Makes Infrastructure Resilient?
Hosted by: C2ES
What makes infrastructure resilient? Cities and businesses across the country are taking action to strengthen the resilience of their buildings, transportation systems, energy and water services, and telecommunication systems to climate change. This session will explore issues associated with resilient infrastructure, including challenges and barriers, priorities, innovative solutions, and opportunities for collaboration. Facilitated discussions will allow participants to discuss some of these issues based on their own experiences, and exchange ideas about infrastructure needs and opportunities.
When I wrote a blog a year ago taking stock of the strengthening climate change effort, I reflected on a year of unprecedented progress, capped by the Paris Agreement, and outlined ways we could build on those successes.
At the beginning of the new U.S. administration, the outlook is unfortunately far different. Now, our challenge is to preserve as much of this progress as we can, and to devise new strategies to continue strengthening climate action wherever possible.
Despite coming setbacks, it’s worth reminding ourselves that we have a solid base to work from. Thanks in part to strong policies, but also to growing market forces, the U.S. is on the path to a clean-energy transition, and the continued momentum is strong.
A few examples, just since the election:
- The first retrofit of a U.S. coal-fired power plant to capture carbon emissions (NRG’s Petra Nova project) was completed in Texas, on time and under budget.
- Google announced that its offices and data centers will run on 100 percent renewable power in 2017.
- We saw a record $42 billion bid for an offshore wind lease off New York.
· Some of the world’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, including Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Mark Zuckerberg, launched a billion-dollar fund to invest in cutting-edge clean energy technologies.
The new policy landscape won’t be clear for some time and is likely to evolve. But as we monitor the early signs, and take soundings with policymakers and stakeholders around the country and around the world, we are coming to a clearer view of immediate imperatives, and of opportunities that may lie ahead.
One imperative is ensuring that the United States remains a reliable partner in the global climate effort – by staying in the Paris Agreement, and by working constructively with other countries to establish sound rules for its implementation.
We were encouraged to hear Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson note the importance of the United States staying at the table. Indeed, the Paris Agreement reflects long-standing bipartisan principles. It fully preserves national sovereignty while providing a means of holding other countries accountable. U.S. businesses benefit from full access to the clean energy markets the agreement helps drive.
We were encouraged also to hear EPA Administrator nominee Scott Pruitt express respect for the “endangerment finding” underpinning the regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. What is critical is how EPA chooses to fulfill the inherent legal obligation to regulate emissions, starting with the power sector.
While the Clean Power Plan appears unlikely to survive, decarbonization of the power sector is already underway. Thanks to improved energy efficiency and a more diverse energy mix, emissions dropped more than 20 percent over the last decade. Last year was the third in a row that renewables accounted for more than half of new U.S. power capacity.
Continued tax credits enjoying strong bipartisan support will help sustain that growth. State-level conversations on lower carbon energy policies are continuing as states, cities and utilities find economic opportunity in modernizing the power sector. But the imperative remains: We need an overarching federal framework to deliver sustained, cost-effective emission reductions. We urge the new administration and Congress to get on with the job.
In the near term, we see opportunities for bipartisan steps that benefit both the climate and the economy and strengthen the foundation for a longer-term clean energy transition. These include:
Incentivizing carbon capture, use and storage.
Carbon capture technologies like those deployed this month in Texas are essential to meeting the climate challenge. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was among the bipartisan sponsors of a bill last year to help advance these technologies by supporting the use of captured CO2 in enhanced oil recovery, as recommended by a coalition of industry, labor, and environmental groups we help lead. We expect similar legislation in this Congress.
Advancing nuclear energy.
Bipartisan bills have already been introduced in the House and Senate to spur advanced nuclear technologies. Nuclear is our largest source of zero-carbon energy and the only one that provides continuous baseload power. It will have to play a significant role in any realistic long-term climate strategy.
Modernizing our infrastructure.
A viable infrastructure package could open significant opportunities to address climate change while creating jobs and growth. Examples include:
- A modernized electric grid that can better distribute renewable power and is more climate-resilient.
- Expanded charging and refueling networks for electric, natural gas and hydrogen vehicles.
- Roads and bridges that can better withstand more frequent extreme weather.
One reason we’re confident of continued momentum is that the vast majority of the American people support it. In a Yale survey conducted after the election, nearly 70 percent favored staying in the Paris Agreement. And 70 percent – including a majority of Republicans – supported strict carbon limits on existing coal plants.
Business leaders, too, recognize the growing risks of climate impacts, and the opportunities to create new products, services and jobs.
And a growing number of cities are finding they can save money and create jobs by encouraging energy efficiency and clean energy and transportation.
At C2ES, while we are bracing for setbacks, and are prepared to defend against reversing course, we also will continue working as hard as ever to bring diverse interests together to make progress wherever we can. We face significant new challenges. But from the local to the global level, we’ve got strong momentum. And we can’t turn back.
These "shoes without a footprint" were made from carbon that was captured from power production.
Photo courtesy NRG
Imagine if the carbon dioxide (CO2) that emerges from smokestacks at coal- and natural gas-fired power plants and steel and cement facilities could actually be used for something.
Some innovators are imagining just that.
- Ford is testing using carbon captured from its manufacturing plants to make foam for car seats.
- Kia is exploring converting captured carbon into liquefied CO2 for welding and using CO2 as fuel for biomass materials like micro-algae for automotive parts.
- During New York Fashion Week 2016, NRG showcased the Shoe Without A Footprint, made out of captured CO2.
For even more creative ideas, just look at the semi-finalists for the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon X Prize.
Research teams from around the world submitted ideas for using CO2 in building materials, paint, fertilizers, plastics, and even toothpaste. Other ideas include CO2-based fuels and carbon nanotubes that could be used to make environmentally sustainable lithium-ion and sodium-ion batteries. The prize will be awarded in 2020 after the top ideas are tested in real-world conditions.
Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is contributing to a changing climate that is bringing more frequent and intense heat waves, downpours, and drought and rising sea levels. Capturing CO2 from power plants and industrial sources will help reduce these harmful emissions.
In the U.S., we have been capturing CO2 from manmade sources such as commercial-scale natural gas processing plants since the early 1970s. We can offset the costs of capturing and storing carbon dioxide and increase the number of carbon capture projects if we put the CO2 to work.
One way this is already being done is with carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR), where pressurized CO2 is pumped into already developed oil fields to get out more of the oil. CO2-EOR boosts domestic energy production, makes use of already developed oil fields, and stores carbon dioxide underground.
C2ES co-convenes a coalition of industry, labor, and environmental groups encouraging greater deployment of carbon capture technology for CO2-EOR. There’s bipartisan support for incentivizing technologies to capture carbon dioxide from manmade sources and put it to use in marketable ways.
The U.S. produces 300,000 barrels per day, or nearly 3.5 percent of our annual domestic oil production, through CO2-EOR. But we’re mostly using CO2 that isn’t from manmade sources.
For every barrel of oil produced using manmade CO2, there is a net CO2 storage of 0.19 metric tons even considering the emissions from the oil, according to the International Energy Agency and Clean Air Task Force. In other words, EOR using power plant CO2 results in a 63 percent net reduction of the total injected volume of CO2 or a 37 percent reduction in the life cycle emissions from oil.
At the end of 2016, NRG completed construction on Petra Nova, the first American retrofit of a coal-fired power plant to capture CO2 emissions, which are then used for EOR. The Texas project was on schedule and on budget. It’s capturing more than 90 percent of the CO2 from a 240 MW slipstream of flue gas from an existing coal unit at the WA Parish plant. It’s now the largest project of its kind in the world.
Finding more ways to turn carbon dioxide from an energy and industrial sector waste product to a useful commodity could spur the development of new technologies and products while limiting climate-altering pollutants. There’s promise, but also scientific, regulatory, and market challenges.
The Global CO2 Initiative, which advocates a mix of policy, research funding, collaboration, and infrastructure improvements to accelerate commercial deployment, estimates that the size of the global CO2 non-EOR utilization market could be as large as $700 billion by 2030. Aside from EOR, we could be using 7 billion metric tons of CO2 per year for fuels, concrete, polymers and more. That’s about 15 percent of current global CO2 emissions.
The new administration and new Congress need to consider how best to incentivize continued research, development, and commercial-scale application of CO2 utilization. With the right policy incentives, the U.S. can take a leadership role in this vital technology.
Building Efficient, Resilient Power
The George Washington University
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
9:00 AM - 11:30 AM
The George Washington University
Lerner Hall, First Floor
2000 H St, NW
(Southwest corner of 20th and H streets)
Registration for this event is full
Microgrids are an innovative solution to reduce emissions, improve electricity system reliability and resilience, and tighten grid security. But financial, legal and technological barriers can slow their deployment.
Please join C2ES, GW and business and city leaders as we examine the opportunities and challenges of successful microgrid deployment.
Associate Dean for Environmental Studies, The George Washington University Law School
Building Resilient, Secure Microgrids
Microgrid Architect, Urban Ingenuity
Senior Consultant, Energy Advisory, DNV GL
Critical Infrastructure Protection, AECOM
Senior Vice President, Policy and Business Strategy, C2ES
Breaking Down Regulatory & Financial Barriers
Technology Development Manager, Duke Energy
Vice President, Market & Regulatory Policy, NRG Energy
Energy Policy and Compliance Analyst
District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment
Senior Vice President, Strategy, Business Development & Government Relations, Schneider Electric North America
Senior Advisor for Energy Law Programs, The George Washington University Law School
Support for this project was made available by the Duke Energy Renewables Innovation Fund at George Washington University.