Economics

Advancing public and private policymakers’ understanding of the complex interactions between climate change and the economy is critical to taking the most cost-effective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Read More
 

Putting the Genie Back: Solving the Climate and Energy Dilemma

by David Hone, Chief Climate Change Strategist, Shell International, and C2ES board member – published by Emerald Publishing, June 2017

Putting the Genie Back: Solving the Climate and Energy Dilemma

Shell Chief Climate Change Strategist and C2ES board member David Hone tells the story of the climate change issue and the transition in the energy system that must be implemented to finally address it.

The book brings together and builds on Hone’s blogs and e-book series, covering many of the pertinent issues of climate change today, including carbon trading and the Paris Agreement.

Stepping away from the emotional aspect of climate change, Hone addresses the topic from an engineering perspective. He argues for a transition in our fossil fuel-based energy system, which ushered in the Industrial Revolution nearly 200 years ago and continues to grow and evolve, even as new sources of energy come into the market and compete.

Webinar - Financing Clean Infrastructure: Private Activity Bonds

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
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Noon-1 p.m. EDTRSVP Here

Financing Clean Infrastructure: Private Activity Bonds

July 24, 2017, Noon - 1 p.m. EDT


States and cities have many tools to encourage private investment in clean infrastructure that reduces carbon emissions. Recently, policymakers have focused on expanding the use of private activity bonds (PABs). During this webinar, panelists will discuss how PABs were used successfully to build the Denver Eagle commuter rail project, and how they could facilitate private investment in carbon capture projects. After the presentations, we will have an interactive discussion on the outlook for investment in clean infrastructure in 2017.

RSVP Here

 

 

Panelists:  

 

 


Jeff Brown
Research Fellow, Stanford Steyer-Taylor Center

Jeff Brown is a lecturer at Stanford’s Law and Business Schools for the joint Law School/Business School course “Clean Energy Project Development and Finance”, co-taught with Dan Reicher and fellow lecturer Dave Rogers. Mr. Brown was named a research fellow at the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance in June 2016. He is researching the interactions of federal energy and environmental regulation, state and ISO power markets regimes, and federal clean energy grants and tax incentives upon the financial feasibility of projects to decarbonize the power and industrial sectors.

 


Marla Lien
Partner, Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell

 

Marla Lien was the General Counsel for the Regional Transportation District (RTD from 2005 through 2016), having served as Associate General Counsel from 1990 through 2005 and then as General Counsel. Marla's current practice focuses on project development including rail and property acquisition. Her experience encompasses the FasTracks Program including the University of Colorado A Line, U.S. 36 BRTD, and other commuter and light rail lines in Denver, as well as the Denver Union Station redevelopment, where she negotiated and drafted contracts with the U.S. DOT, the City and County of Denver, the Denver Union Station Project Authority, and the master developer. 

Patrick Orth
Office of Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)

 

Patrick Orth advises U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) on all environmental, energy and agriculture issues. Prior to joining Sen. Portman’s office, Mr. Orth was the director of federal affairs for America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), where he worked closely with Congress to advance ANGA’s mission. Before joining ANGA, He served as U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson’s (R-OH) Legislative Director from 2011 – 2015, covering energy & environment issues while also managing the congressman’s legislative team. From 2009 to 2011, Mr. Orth served as manager of corporate relations at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, focusing on member development. 

Fatima Maria Ahmad
Solutions Fellow, C2ES

 

Fatima Maria Ahmad co-leads the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative with the Great Plains Institute. Ms. Ahmad focuses on financing opportunities and policy development for energy technologies, including carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS). Prior to joining C2ES, Ms. Ahmad was a Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Fish & Wildlife & Parks at the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), where she helped DOI license 10,000 MW of wind, solar, and geothermal energy. Ms. Ahmad also has volunteer experience with the development of offshore wind in the United States. 

 

 

 

 

Framework for Engaging Small and Medium-sized Businesses in Maryland on Climate Resilience

Framework for Engaging Small- and Medium-sized Businesses in Maryland on Climate Resilience

May 2017

By Katy Maher and Janet Peace

Download (PDF)

Many small businesses are not aware of the risks they face from changing climate conditions, and may not have plans in place to respond and recover from weather events. This issue is especially important in Maryland, where small businesses—defined as those with fewer than 500 employees—contribute heavily to the state’s economy. This report offers recommendations for both state and local officials on how to engage with small businesses, resources and information needs, and generally, how to best support businesses in enhancing resilience to extreme weather and climate change.

Key Takeaways

  • Use trusted messengers: Identify who businesses regularly engage with. Work with business networking organizations.
  • Leverage existing channels: Incorporate resilience into business activities. Expand resilience efforts to include businesses.
  • Identify opportunities: Form public-private partnerships. Develop business resilience networks.
  • Distribute targeted information: Tailor the message. Identify steps businesses can take.
Janet Peace
Katy Maher
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Connecticut seeks to support nuclear energy

For more than a year, Connecticut legislators have been working to craft a policy to ensure that zero-emission electricity from the Millstone Nuclear Power Station continues to flow until at least 2035 and 2045, when its operating licenses expire.

Millstone, New England’s largest power plant, supplied 45 percent of Connecticut’s in-state power generation and nearly all its carbon-free electricity last year. With around 2,100 MW of installed capacity, the facility generates enough power each year to meet the needs of nearly 2 million Connecticut households. Moreover, the two reactors help avoid the emissions of more than 6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

But Millstone, like other nuclear power plants, faces economic headwinds. Challenges include sustained low natural gas prices, declining renewable energy costs, slow growth in electricity demand, and power markets structures and policies that don’t compensate nuclear for its environmental and reliability attributes. Mandated safety enhancements and other capital and maintenance investments are adding to plant costs. Since late 2012, six U.S. nuclear reactors have been retired prematurely, and seven more are set to close by 2025.

If this trend continues or accelerates, there could be serious climate implications. Nuclear power supplies 20 percent of total U.S. electricity, but makes up 57 percent of zero-carbon electricity. As all recent U.S. nuclear retirements have led to increased fossil fuel-fired generation, any additional loss of nuclear generating capacity would be expected to increase U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide as well as nitrogen oxides. These increased emissions will set back our efforts to fight climate change and regional air pollution. Although nuclear power enjoys bipartisan support in Congress, a federal remedy has failed to emerge, so individual states are taking action. Last August, New York established a clean energy standard to help assist its upstate reactors. In December, Illinois passed a law to support two (i.e., Quad Cities and Clinton) of its six nuclear power plants in a similar fashion. New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania are exploring options to support their nuclear reactors.

In Connecticut, lawmakers have proposed creating additional opportunities for Millstone to sell its power. In the bill’s current form, nuclear power would be able to participate in a state solicitation for carbon-free power. Under this arrangement, the commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection could direct electric distribution companies (i.e., utilities) to “enter into agreements for energy, capacity, and environmental attributes,” provided the proposals are in the best interests of the ratepayers and meet other criteria. At the same time, the bill would increase the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 40 percent by 2040 from 27 percent by 2020. So as not to overwhelm the RPS and inhibit the growth of renewables, only a portion of Millstone’s output should be eligible under the final bill unless the ambition of the RPS is increased commensurately.

To remain economically viable, power plant owners rely on revenues (i.e., energy and capacity) they receive from participating in wholesale power markets. However, low natural gas prices continue to put downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices across the country. In 2016, prices in New England’s electricity market averaged $28.94/MWh – the lowest since the market was established in 2003 and below the average total generating cost for multi-unit nuclear reactors. Owners can also enter into two-party agreements directly with power consumers or other parties. While this offers an alternative revenue stream, these contract prices tend to reflect current circumstances in electricity markets.

Power markets are challenging and do not reward nuclear power for its large environmental and system reliability benefit. In the absence of a price on carbon, we need alternatives to ensure nuclear power plants do not retire prematurely. We applaud Connecticut’s proactive approach to recognizing the carbon-free attributes of New England’s largest power source. State leadership on climate has never been more critical. With reasonable policies in place to maintain the existing U.S. nuclear fleet, it will be easier for the U.S. to reduce its emissions and achieve its climate and air pollution reduction goals.

Addressing California cap and trade concerns

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.

Illustrative scenario

Annual allowance sales at auction (tons, all vintages*)

Annual average auction clearing price ($/ton)

Annual state revenue ($)

2016 actual values

168,076,078

$12.73

$2,139,608,473

2020 projection, BAU policy**

133,632,293

$15.40

$2,057,937,311

2020 projection, extended cap-and-trade policy***

259,197,485

$16.00

$4,147,159,760

2025 projection, extended cap-and-trade policy***

211,618,003

$25.00

$5,290,450,075

*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.)

 

Bob Perciasepe on Google's milestone of 100 percent renewable energy

Statement of Bob Perciasepe
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

December 6, 2016

On Google's announcement that it will power its operations with 100 percent renewable energy:

We congratulate Google on achieving its goal of powering its global operations with 100 percent renewable energy.

Google’s achievement is further evidence of the continuing momentum of America’s clean-energy transition. Companies like Google are investing billions of dollars in clean energy and efficiency because it makes sound business sense. Hundreds of companies have not only made commitments like these, but reaffirmed their support for the Paris Agreement and U.S. policies that address climate change.

Businesses like Google are taking climate action because they understand the costs of inaction and see the economic benefits of a clean-energy economy.  Google’s commitment to 100 percent renewable shows that leading companies are committed to making long-term investments that are good for the environment, their consumers and their bottom lines.

Bob Perciasepe's remarks at Harvard University

PREPARED REMARKS BY BOB PERCIASEPE

PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR CLIMATE AND ENERGY SOLUTIONS

CHALLENGES FOR THE NEW PRESIDENT

HARVARD UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Cambridge, MA

November 15, 2016

I want to thank Doctor (Daniel) Schrag and the Harvard University Center for the Environment for inviting me to speak. And my thanks to all of you for coming to listen. Dan and I have been talking for some time about my coming up from Washington to do a lecture. I’m not sure either one of us had quite this backdrop of current events in mind.

What a week. I know folks are still processing what happened seven nights ago and what happens next. The truth is: Elections have consequences. That’s why it’s so important to exercise our right to vote.

It’s too soon to tell exactly what steps the next administration will take on climate and energy policy. The rhetoric of campaigning doesn’t always exactly match the realities of governing. We hope President-elect Trump and his advisers take some time to study the issues and hear a broad range of perspectives.

They’ll find that a majority of Americans support stronger climate action.

They’ll find that many cities and states are promoting energy efficiency, deploying renewable energy, and supporting alternative fuel vehicles.

And they’ll find that business leaders recognize the rising costs of climate impacts, and also see opportunities in clean technologies. You could say they want to “win” in the growing global clean-energy economy.

This evening, I want to explore three questions:

  • What are the climate and energy realities facing this president, and all of us?
  • What might we expect from a Trump Administration?
  • And what can we do to promote environmentally responsible policies in the years ahead?

To put my remarks in context, it helps to know a little bit about my organization C2ES – the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. C2ES is a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank. We work 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.

We believe a sound climate strategy is essential to ensure a strong, sustainable economy. I want to underline that.  It’s a conviction our think tank was founded on.  And it’s a message I hope you’ll leave here with tonight: Environmental and economic progress go hand in hand.

I came to C2ES a little over two years ago because of its reputation:

  • As a Trusted Source of impartial information. We rank regularly among the top environmental think tanks in the world.
  • As a Bridge-Builder. We bring city, state, and national policymakers together with businesses to achieve common understanding.
  • As a Policy Innovator. We explore market-based solutions and other practical policy approaches.
  • And as Catalyst for Business Action. We work with Fortune 500 companies to strengthen business support for climate policy.

The idea of bringing disparate groups together is part of our DNA. Here are four quick examples:

At the international level, C2ES brought together negotiators from two dozen countries for a series of private discussions that helped lay the groundwork for the landmark Paris Agreement.

Our Solutions Forum is fostering collaboration to reduce emissions, mobilize climate finance, and strengthen resilience to climate impacts. That last one -- climate resilience -- is relatively new.  With communities experiencing climate impacts here and now, it’s something we can’t afford to ignore.

We recently partnered with The U.S. Conference of Mayors to create the Alliance for a Sustainable Future, whose goal is to strengthen public-private cooperation.

And our multi-sectoral Business Environmental Leadership Council is the largest U.S.-based group of companies devoted solely to addressing climate change.

That’s who we are and where I’m coming from. Now, let’s look at the some of the realities facing the next administration.

Realities on the Ground

Depending on your point of view, this was either a “Change Election” or a “Fear of Change Election.” What I can tell you is that it wasn’t a “Climate Change Election” because nobody was talking about it.

Climate change didn’t come up once in any of the presidential debates.  The only question about energy policy came from that guy in a red sweater, Ken Bone. Climate change was not top of mind in the voting booth. Asked before the election where climate change ranked among their concerns, voters put it No. 19 out of 23.

But when asked where they stand, the majority of Americans – of all political viewpoints -- support climate action.  A majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans support funding renewables research, providing tax rebates for energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels, and regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

Americans support climate action because they understand that climate change is occurring, and that human actions are largely responsible.

Here are a few more facts:

  • 2014 was the hottest year globally ever recorded. Until 2015. 2016 has been even hotter.
  • Climate change is a matter of science, but also a matter of dollars and cents. This year, the United States experienced a dozen billion-dollar disasters.
  • Climate impacts like rising sea levels and more frequent and intense heatwaves, downpours, and droughts threaten the way we all live our lives.
     

Another reality is that our energy landscape has already changed. This isn’t your grandfather’s energy system. When I was born, the United States didn’t get any commercial power from natural gas or nuclear. Zero. Now those two sources together are responsible for more than half of our electricity.

Let’s talk a minute about those two. First, natural gas. Thirty years ago, before many of you were born, it was illegal to use natural gas in a power plant.  Now it makes up more than a third of U.S. electricity supply. Coal makes up another third of our energy mix, down from about half 10 years ago.  This change is due in large part to market forces. Natural gas is inexpensive, so utilities have switched to if from coal.

These same market forces are posing a challenge for nuclear energy. Nuclear is responsible for more than 60 percent of zero-carbon electricity in the United States – It’s the biggest source. A number of reactors have been closing prematurely, which could make it even harder to meet our climate goals.

Renewables have been surging as costs have plummeted. Wind and solar generation have grown nearly twelve-fold since 2005. That’s nearly eight times greater than expected.
Thanks to diversifying our energy mix, and improving energy efficiency, power sector emissions have fallen by more than 20 percent in the past 10 years.  We’re moving in the right direction.  The challenge will be to keep doing so.

What to expect

What can we expect from the new administration? I’ve been getting two questions for the past week: What will happen to the Clean Power Plan? And what will happen with the Paris Agreement? So let’s talk about those.

Every new president usually halts regulations that are in the process of being formulated, so we can expect that. For a final regulation, like the Clean Power Plan, a simple stroke of the pen can’t undo it. It’s a process. First, they’d have to do a rule-making, which requires public comment.  Then, they'd need to come back with an alternative plan. That’s because under previous Supreme Court rulings, EPA is still under a legal obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s mandatory. They’ll be sued if they don't.

The Clean Power Plan is currently in the courts. So we could find ourselves replacing the current legal uncertainty with new and different legal uncertainty.

On a positive note, the Clean Power Plan prompted a lot of state environmental officials, public utility regulators and other stakeholders to sit down together for the first time to talk about electricity reliability, efficiency and affordability. We hope those conversations bear fruit.

There’s no doubt that the Clean Power Plan could reduce power plant emissions faster and further than no plan at all. But progress has already been made and I think there are ways it can continue.

Mr. Trump has also said he wants to “cancel” the Paris Agreement. The bottom line is that he could legally pull the U.S. out of it. Let’s think through, practically, how that would work out for us. Consider that virtually every country in the world has committed to taking climate action. The Paris Agreement is a bottom-up, flexible framework. It relies on peer pressure. If we want to hold other countries accountable, we have to hold up our end. If we walk away from our commitments, we also give up being a player in the innovative energy and transportation technologies that can create U.S. jobs. China, Brazil and the US led the world last year in employment in renewable energy.

The Paris Agreement has widespread support among the business community. Eleven major companies we work with, including Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Microsoft, National Grid, and Shell, signed onto a C2ES statement applauding governments for bringing the agreement into force so quickly this month. Businesses say the agreement provides long-term direction, promotes transparency, and addresses competitiveness.

Because the Paris Agreement is flexible, there are a lot of ways for an individual country to tailor its efforts. It was also designed to be durable – It can survive shifts in political currents. The nearly 100 other countries that have already ratified it are reducing emissions for a variety of reasons, including economic opportunities and health benefits to their people. I expect they will remain committed to moving forward.

As for what else we can expect – we’ll have to wait and see. From opening up public lands and offshore areas to more drilling to re-assessing pipelines to appointing agency leaders with very different priorities from the past eight years, we’re going to see changes.

What we can do

So that brings me to my final question tonight: What can we do to promote environmentally responsible policies in the years ahead? Let’s look at four vantage points – federal, state, local, and business.

First: The executive branch has been the focus of climate action for a number of years.  That’s going to change. I want to posit that it may be time to return our focus on the legislative branch. Three areas where bipartisan support already exists are: building infrastructure, incentivizing carbon capture technologies, and preserving the nuclear fleet.

Both presidential candidates talked about the need to modernize our aging infrastructure. That’s not just roads and bridges. We need to modernize our electric grid to move renewable power from where it’s generated to where it’s needed. We need to improve the natural gas pipeline system to reduce leaks. And we need to expand electric vehicle charging. The electric grid should be able to accommodate clean energy technologies like energy storage, time-of-day pricing, and grid-to-vehicle interfaces.

Millions of miles of pipes carrying drinking water and wastewater are nearing end of life.  And it takes a lot of energy to move a gallon of water. The nation’s utilities lose about $2.6 billion dollars annually from trillions of gallons of leaked drinking water.

Infrastructure projects can also help communities be more resilient to extreme weather, make communities more livable, increase property values, and save energy and water. And, of course, infrastructure projects create jobs.

The second area where we could make progress is carbon capture, use and storage, or CCUS. Some of you might be skeptical about this as “clean coal.” The truth is, there’s no scenario for achieving the emission cuts we need globally without carbon capture. We need to keep emissions out of the air not only from coal and natural-gas power plants around the world, but also the industrial sector like steel, chemical, and cement plants. The industrial sector is responsible for more than 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases.

Right now, there are bipartisan bills in the House and Senate that would spur carbon capture technology. Imagine Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, on the same bill. It’s true.

A third area where we might get some bipartisan agreement is preserving our nuclear fleet. There’s a bill right now that both Senators Whitehouse and Inhofe support. From a climate perspective, it doesn’t make sense to prematurely close nuclear plants when, in the short- and medium-term, they cannot realistically be replaced by zero-emission power sources. Keeping these reactors operational also buys us time to address energy storage and transmission challenges to support more renewable generation.

Let me add one more area as a possibility where we might see some agreement at the federal level: helping the communities most affected by the transition to clean energy. Remember that market forces – not regulations -- have mainly been driving the decline of coal.  And natural gas will continue to displace coal in our power generation fleet at current prices.  There are no plans for new coal-fired power plants in the United States. What coal communities need is opportunities for new jobs. The United States could be world leaders in manufacturing clean energy and transportation technologies. More Americans work now in the solar industry than work in either oil & gas extraction or coal mining. It will take a concerted effort involving education and training, but we have to help.

Moving to the states, which have always been the incubators of policy, we’ve seen a lot of progress on clean energy. Twenty-nine9 states require electric utilities to deliver a certain amount of electricity from renewable or alternative energy sources. Ten states that are home to a quarter of the US population already have a price on carbon and are successfully reducing emissions. Those states are California and the nine Northeast states, including Massachusetts, in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI has added $243 million in value to Massachusetts’ economy. Massachusetts has also been named the most energy efficient state in the country for the last six years.

Every state has either an operational wind energy project, a wind-related manufacturing facility, or both. Some of the biggest wind energy producers are Texas and Iowa. They won’t want to reverse the economic prosperity they’ve seen as a result. America’s first offshore wind farm has just come online off Rhode Island, launching new industry with the potential to create jobs in manufacturing and the marine trades.

Time and again, we’ve seen leadership at the state level and I expect that will continue.

On environmental policies, so much often comes down to the local level.  Many cities have already taken the ball and are running with it. They’re improving the energy efficiency of buildings, deploying cleaner energy, and encouraging cleaner transportation.

Cities see the real and rising risks of climate change. They’re dealing with the impacts now. They also see opportunities to for energy and transportation systems that are cleaner and more efficient than today. To keep their efforts moving forward, partnership and collaboration will be key, especially between cities and companies.

That’s why we at C2ES recently launched a partnership with The US Conference of Mayors called the Alliance for a Sustainable Future. The main goal is to spur public-private cooperation on climate action and sustainable development in cities. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is leading the steering committee. Founding sponsors include JPMorgan & Chase Co., Duke Energy, and AECOM, and the mayors of Austin, Des Moines, New York City, and Salt Lake City.

Finally, business leadership has been and will continue to be crucial in transitioning to a clean energy and clean transportation future. A C2ES study found more than 90 percent of the companies in the S&P Global 100 Index see climate change as a business risk. They see rising sea level and more frequent and extreme heat waves, downpours and drought damaging and disrupting their facilities and operations, supply and distribution chains, and water and power supplies.

More than 150 companies -- from Alcoa to Xerox -- signed the White House American Business Act on Climate Pledge.  They committed to cutting emissions, reducing water usage, and using more renewable energy. Business leaders see opportunities in clean energy and transportation.

Here’s another thing to think about, the power of the consumer. In the past year, three in 10 Americans say they’ve rewarded companies for taking steps to address climate change.

The reality is that we have strong momentum in the right direction.  Our economy has begun decarbonizing. Power sector emissions are down, thanks largely to market forces and to incentives for renewable energy that have strong bipartisan support. Many cities, states and companies, along with a number of congressional Republicans, want to keep that momentum going. Smart investments and technological innovation have started America on a clean-energy transition. Building on that momentum will protect communities from rising climate damages and will contribute to strong and sustained economic growth.

The longer we wait to address climate change, the costlier it will be. I urge all of you to work at the local and state level to support common-sense policies that lead us toward a sustainable future.

Businesses continue to lead on climate

Business leaders at COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco, explain how investments in clean energy and efficiency make good sense for everyone. L to R: Elliot Diringer, Executive Vice President, C2ES; Cathy Woollums, Senior Vice President, Environmental Services and Chief Environmental Counsel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy; Nanette Lockwood, Global Director, Policy and Advocacy, Ingersoll Rand; Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Sustainability Director, Mars Incorporated; Tamara “TJ” DiCaprio, Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability, Microsoft.

Businesses have invested billions in clean energy and efficiency because it makes business sense.

At a side event at the U.N. climate talks in Marrakech, Morocco, leaders of major companies reiterated the benefits of those investments – for their companies, customers, the environment and the economy -- and said they will keep moving toward sustainability.

“We see a clear business case for this,” said Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Sustainability Director at Mars Inc. The global food and candy company has committed to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 2040. Working toward energy efficiency helps the company cut costs, he said, but also motivates employees who are working toward a higher purpose.

“These targets, these programs, these goals need to transcend individual leaders, be they in government or in corporations,” Rabinovitch said. “We’re solving long-term problems. We need to put structures and systems in place that are consistent and durable.”

“You’re now looking at decades of investment. Businesses are not going to walk away from this,” said Nanette Lockwood, Global Director, Policy and Advocacy at Ingersoll Rand. The maker of air conditioners and refrigeration systems has committed to invest $500 million by 2020 to develop alternative refrigerants to HFCs and to reduce emissions by 50 million metric tons by 2030. “Once we set a direction and we create value and markets, we continue down that path.”

The C2ES event, co-sponsored with the Edison Electric Institute, featured senior representatives from Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Ingersoll Rand, Mars and Microsoft. They are among the more than 150 U.S. firms that have committed to specific climate actions as part of the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

“Microsoft is committed to its sustainability goals, to its clean energy goals. Our investments in innovation in this area are good not only for the environment, but also for our business and for the economy,” said Tamara “TJ” DiCaprio, Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability at Microsoft, whose operations have been carbon neutral since 2012. Microsoft uses an internal carbon fee to fund energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable communities.

As the largest regulated owner of renewable energy generation in the U.S., Berkshire Hathaway Energy has invested more than $15 billion in renewable projects, and has pledged to invest up to another $15 billion going forward.

“We can bring renewable solutions to our customers at very low cost and sometimes no additional cost,” said Cathy Woollums, Senior Vice President for Environmental Services and Chief Environmental Counsel. “It’s a win for the environment; it’s a win for our customers; and it’s a win for us.”

In a C2ES statement released in October when the Paris Agreement reached the threshold for entry into force, 11 leading companies said they are “committed to working on our own and in partnership with governments to mobilize the technology, investment and innovation needed to transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy.” The statement notes that the Paris Agreement facilitates stronger private sector action by providing long-term direction, promoting transparency, addressing competitiveness, and facilitating carbon pricing.

Speakers at the event agreed on the importance of consistency, transparency and partnerships moving forward. The Paris Agreement, with nearly all of the world’s nations committing to move in the same direction, is sending signals that the business and investment community are internalizing in their long-term investing and decision-making. And working together with cities and states, and other companies, helps them share best practices and go further, faster to reach their goals.

A lot of the progress that has been made, especially in the United States, in reducing emissions has been driven by market and technology forces, and those forces will continue even in the absence of federal action on climate change.

Asked what will change under the new U.S. administration, Woollums said, “We need to give the new administration a chance to develop rational policies. The President-elect understands business. To the extent that the things that we’ve been doing make business sense, we will continue to do those things.”

 

The business of pricing carbon

More companies worldwide are turning to internal carbon pricing as an effective tool to spur the transition to low-carbon technologies, and C2ES is helping organizations to explore this frontier through a new working group to share best practices.

By putting a price on the carbon pollution associated with business activity, companies can account for their operations’ climate impact and incentivize actions to achieve their emissions reduction goals. Pricing carbon also responds to stakeholder and investor calls for climate action and prepares businesses for future carbon pricing regulation.

According to CDP, more than 1,200 companies either currently price their carbon emissions, or plan to within the next two years. Meanwhile, more than 120 companies have joined the World Bank Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition that brings together government, the private sector, and civil society to support effective carbon pricing systems and policies.

This movement isn’t restricted to developed economies. This month, Mahindra & Mahindra became the first Indian company to implement an internal carbon fee (US $10 per ton) to help achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent over the next three years.

There are a range of ways to implement an internal carbon pricing strategy. The most direct is an internal carbon fee, such as the one Microsoft uses in its pioneering program.

Microsoft, which pledged in 2012 to go carbon neutral, implemented an internal carbon price in 2013 to help reach its goal. Microsoft charges the fee on the company’s scope 1 (direct) and scope 2 (purchased electricity) emissions, including its global data centers, as well as a part of its scope 3 emissions (business air travel).

The fee has helped the company reduce its carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions by 7.5 million tons, achieve $10 million in annual energy savings, and invest in 10 billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy as well as support carbon offset projects around the world.

TJ DiCaprio, Microsoft’s senior director of environmental sustainability, said the benefits of the internal carbon fee include:

  • It’s easier to target action. By quantifying the carbon emissions of different parts of the organization, it became clear where reductions were possible to meet the company’s carbon neutrality pledge.
  • It provides incentive to act. The fee for emissions is charged to each department’s budget. This motivates decision-makers to take meaningful action toward emissions reductions, find low-carbon alternatives, and invest in carbon-saving projects. Even simple steps, such as reducing airline travel, made a real difference in the final accounting.
  • It creates a dedicated funding source for action. The fees charged to departments are placed in a centralized fund that Microsoft uses for a variety of projects, from purchasing carbon offsets to investing in programs supporting e-waste recycling.

Among the key lessons for other companies from Microsoft’s experience:

  • Set clear objectives you would like your carbon pricing model to meet.
  • Align your carbon pricing model to support those objectives.
  • Anchor the carbon price across all business units to drive accountability, employee engagement, and a cultural and behavioral change.

While an internal carbon fee prices carbon pollution directly, companies are also using indirect strategies, such as shadow pricing and implicit pricing.

Shadow pricing—a more common approach—is used by companies including BHP Billiton, Duke Energy, EMC, Google, NRG and Shell, as a risk assessment tool. It is the hypothetical or assumed cost of carbon emissions used to evaluate large investment decisions and profitability of projects in light of government regulation and/or the impacts of climate change. Compared to the more direct approach that companies such as Microsoft are taking, however, shadow pricing is not actually reflected in a company or division’s profit and loss statement, thus it may not have the same incentivizing effect.

Implicit pricing, another form that is used by companies including Unilever and Novo Nordisk, is simply a price calculated based on how much a company spends to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, including the cost of complying with regulations. Here, the price reflects actions taken, rather than being a charge that drives change. Recognizing how much a company spends to meet its internal greenhouse gas targets and/or regulatory requirements can encourage greater action. Some companies, for example, employ an implicit pricing strategy as the first step before establishing a direct carbon fee.  

Internal carbon pricing is a relatively new tool that can play a critical role in helping companies achieve aggressive greenhouse gas reductions. Through our Business Environmental Leadership Council, C2ES is engaging companies on internal carbon pricing strategies.  Please contact us if your company would like to learn more about internal carbon pricing as a business strategy.

For more information on the C2ES Working Group on Internal Carbon Pricing, contact C2ES Policy and Business Fellow Manjyot Bhan.

(Contributing: Ryan McCoy)

The Growing Urgency of Climate Change: How Cities and Businesses Build a Sustainable Future

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
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1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.NYU Wagner295 Lafayette Street, Second FloorNew York, NY 10012 

The Growing Urgency of Climate Change:

How Cities and Businesses Build a Sustainable Future

 

Hosted by

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM 

NYU Wagner
295 Lafayette Street, Second Floor
New York, NY 10012-9604

As nations move forward with the landmark Paris Agreement, cities and business are playing a vital and growing role in building a more sustainable, low-carbon future.

In a new partnership, The U.S. Conference of Mayors and C2ES have jointly launched the Alliance for a Sustainable Future to strengthen cooperation between cities and businesses committed to meeting our climate and clean energy challenges.

Please join Alliance leaders as we examine ways cities and the business community can work together to reduce carbon emissions and meet state and national climate and energy goals.

 

Speakers

Tom Cochran
CEO and Executive Director, The U.S. Conference of Mayors

Daniel A. Zarrilli, PE
Senior Director, Climate Policy and Programs, Chief Resilience Officer
New York City Office of the Mayor

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
Baltimore, Maryland

Mayor Javier Gonzales
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Mayor Chris Bollwage
Elizabeth, New Jersey

Josh Sawislak
Global Director of Resilience, AECOM

Bob Perciasepe
President, C2ES

 

 

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