Energy & Technology

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.

Energy efficiency: How Minneapolis is teaming up with utilities to reduce emissions

When the city of Minneapolis set out to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, it soon became clear the goal couldn’t be met without substantial help from the area’s two investor-owned energy companies.

Xcel and CenterPoint Energy provide their customers the electricity and natural gas that powers, heats, and cools the city’s commercial and residential buildings, which accounts for two-thirds of city emissions. Energy efficiency had to be part of the equation.

Utilities are largely regulated at the state level in Minnesota but cities do negotiate franchise agreements that allow utilities use of public property for transmission lines and pipelines. Under new 10-year franchise agreements with the city, the utilities agreed to establish a partnership to help the city reach its goal.

Now in its third year, the Clean Energy Partnership has drawn national attention. It won a Climate Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Department of Energy recognized its software program that helps building owners understand their energy use. Several cities – including Salt Lake City; Santa Fe, N.M.; and Madison, Wis. – have looked to Minneapolis as a model for their own emissions-cutting efforts.

The partnership has set a series of ambitious goals, including reaching 75 percent of households with energy efficiency retrofit services and cutting energy use 17 percent by 2025, and achieving a carbon-free electricity supply by 2040. Steps the partnership has taken include encouraging commercial property owners, landlords, and individual homeowners to conserve energy – as well as continuing efforts to cut the electric and gas usage of city-owned buildings, streetlights, and vehicles.

“The first two years really were a learning experience,” said Luke Hollenkamp, a sustainability program coordinator for Minneapolis. “One of the biggest accomplishments was just getting it up and running.”

Initial work included building databases of energy usage and energy conservation efforts throughout the city and creating a community Energy Vision Advisory Committee (EVAC) – two steps that both proved crucial.

Measure first

The databases, which are managed by the city, were a key early accomplishment, giving the partnership a way to measure progress as well as track participation in its energy conservation programs down to the neighborhood.

“We had known that parts of the city weren’t participating as much in energy efficiency programs as others, but we didn’t know to what scale,” Hollenkamp said. “This gave us a way to track our progress at a more granular level.”

The city in 2013 adopted a benchmarking ordinance requiring all private commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to report their natural gas, electricity, and water usage. Meter readings are automatically uploaded by the utilities and compiled into a publicly available online tool that uses EPA’s Energy Star measures to rate buildings. Overall, the Minneapolis buildings score 74 out of 100, well above the median national score of 50.

Low-performing buildings identified by the benchmarking can be targeted for assistance and all benchmarked properties are encouraged to conserve energy. The city has established a “Minneapolis Building Energy Challenge” to reduce energy consumption by 15 percent by 2020. Participants receive public recognition for their efforts and the city will help connect owners with the technical resources they need to achieve the goal. So far, 15 of 429 eligible buildings have signed up for the challenge.

Audrey Partridge, local energy policy manager at electric utility CenterPoint, said the partnership’s current two-year plan calls for more intensive outreach to tell property managers and owners about programs they may be eligible for to lower their energy usage -- and their bills.

Engage the community

The 15-member community advisory committee – which includes representatives from the community, environmental advocacy groups, major industrial energy consumers, and technical experts – has proved crucial to the program’s success.

“One of the great things that EVAC has done was provide a template for community engagement,” said Bridget Dockter, manager of policy and outreach for natural gas utility Xcel. “That ended up being the source for a pilot program we are actually engaged in now.”

Under the outreach pilot program, the partnership is enlisting neighborhood organizations to test the best ways to reach the two populations that have historically lagged in participating in energy-efficiency programs – lower-income neighborhoods and multi-family buildings.

More than half of Minneapolis residents are renters, making multi-family buildings a key area to target. But how do you persuade property owners to invest in energy efficiency when tenants typically pay the utility bills?

In October 2015, Xcel and CenterPoint began offering free energy audits through the partnership to owners of buildings with at least five units and set up financial incentives ranging from 15 to 25 percent of upgrade costs for efficiency improvements in market-rate buildings. Rebates are available through the utilities under a state requirement.

Dockter said it’s too soon to measure the results, since it can take months after an energy audit to secure the capital for efficiency improvements. But, she said, “we’ve had a handful of buildings actually make the formal investment.”

Setting goals

Early results include an increase in Home Energy Squad visits from 731 in 2014 to 1,198 in 2015. These home energy audits include installation of energy-saving devices such as LED lights, weather-stripping, programmable thermostats, low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators. For a limited time, the city offered no-interest financing to participants making insulation and air sealing upgrades.

In 2015, residential electric use decreased by 4 percent and natural gas use dropped 22 percent from the previous year. Reductions were in part due to energy efficiency improvements as well as a mild heating season, according to the partnership’s 2015 annual report.

Keys to Success

For municipalities looking to Minneapolis as a model for collaboration, Dockter says a key is having strong commitments from every partner to put in the time and resources needed for success.

“It’s important early on to recognize you aren’t going to find some bright shiny object that is the answer,” she said. “It’s a long, systemic answer that you need to build on to really change the direction and the results.”

Al Swintek, government relations officer at CenterPoint, agrees that the partners need to be committed and that the partnership be formal, with regular meetings, documented goals, and work plans so that it produces results. He recommends directly involving “those at the highest levels to help push this forward.”

To Learn More:

Key Insights for Expanding Microgrid Development

Key Insights for Expanding Microgrid Development

April 2017

Dowload the fact sheet (PDF)

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. 

Key Takeaways

The nation’s first microgrid architect, Shalom Flank, Ph. D., of Urban Ingenuity, identified three economically viable categories of microgrid frameworks.

  1. 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).
  2. “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.
  3. “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.
 
 

Video

Watch our March 8, 2017 discussion at Geoge Washington University.

 
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HFO-1234yf: An Examination of Projected Long-Term Costs of Production

HFO-1234yf: An Examination of Projected Long-Term Costs of Production

April 2017

By David Sherry, Maria Nolan, Stephen Seidel, and Stephen O. Andersen

Download the paper (PDF)

This paper seeks to inform the discussion on what the price of HFO-1234yf (2,3,3,3-tetrafluoropropene) might be over the longer term when application and process patents have expired, economy of scale is achieved at production facilities using the most efficient processes, more producers are involved, and a fully competitive global market takes hold. The analysis focuses on the estimated costs of production based on one process currently in use, and a different process at a recently completed facility. We expect that long-term market prices will reflect broader factors of supply and demand. It is also possible over time that new or improved production processes will allow production of HFO-1234yf at lower costs and prices than estimated here.

Stephen O. Andersen
Stephen Seidel
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Bob Perciasepe's statement on President Trump’s executive order related to climate change

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

March 27, 2017

On President Trump’s executive order related to climate change:

President Trump’s actions reflect a fundamental misreading of the economic stakes – and economic opportunities – presented by climate change.

America’s communities and businesses are already bearing the rising costs of extreme weather, sea level rise and other climate impacts, all of which will intensify with more global warming. The “social cost of carbon” is a sensible tool to prudently factor those very real economic costs into government decision-making. Ignoring those costs won’t make them go away.

On the other side of the ledger, the clean energy transition already underway is a powerful engine of economic growth Nuclear energy, renewables, natural gas, and carbon capture and storage technology all have a role to play in creating clean energy opportunity and jobs. The U.S. power sector is getting cleaner every year thanks partly to state and federal policies, but largely to market forces that the Clean Power Plan is designed to accelerate. Withdrawing federal leadership will only jeopardize this promising clean energy transition and the jobs that go with it.

C2ES works every day with leading U.S. companies that see unchecked climate change as a growing risk to their businesses, and see smart investments in climate solutions as a way to create jobs and profits and strengthen their competitiveness abroad. But to keep moving in the right direction, these companies need greater certainty. Instead, the administration’s actions promise confusion, litigation and delay.

An “America first” climate policy must recognize the risks and benefits to the entire U.S. economy and harness market forces to deliver cost-effective solutions. Whatever the impact of President Trump’s executive orders, the administration will face a continuing scientific and economic imperative – and a legal obligation – to deliver credible alternatives. As an organization committed to building bridges and consensus, C2ES is prepared to work with the administration on meaningful climate solutions.

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To reach a C2ES expert, contact Laura Rehrmann at rehrmanl@c2es.org, 703-516-0621

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.

Bob Perciasepe's statement on fuel economy standards review

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.

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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.

Microgrids: Building tomorrow’s resilient, efficient, low-emissions electricity system

The old definition of a microgrid was usually an electricity source, often a combined heat and power natural gas plant or a reciprocating engine generator, that provided fulltime or backup power for an industrial site, military installation, university, or remote location.

Today’s definition is much broader, incorporating cleaner technologies and more diverse customers, establishing microgrids as a key component of tomorrow’s more resilient, efficient and low-emissions electricity system.

A new brief, Microgrid Momentum: Building Efficient, Resilient Power, by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) and The George Washington University (GWU) outlines microgrids’ benefits and examines what is standing in the way of accelerating their deployment.

Microgrids currently provide a tiny fraction of U.S. electricity (about 1.6 gigawatts, or less than 0.2 percent), but their capacity is expected to more than double in the next three years.

Three examples of the growing interest:

  • Montgomery County, Maryland, recently entered a public-private partnership to develop two microgrids to power county facilities. Ratepayers won’t have to foot the bill, and the government will get more resilient and affordable power with environmental benefits.
  • In the Denver suburbs at Peña Station Next, a “smart” city is taking shape that will test LED lighting, autonomous vehicles, and a microgrid that uses solar panels and battery storage.
  • In Alaska, the state with the most microgrids, the city of Anchorage is about to deploy a project that will make use of two energy storage technologies and help the area integrate more wind power.

Microgrids not only improve reliability and resilience – keeping the lights on during a widespread disaster that affects the main grid -- but also increase efficiency, better manage electricity supply and demand, and help integrate renewables, creating opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy.

But financial and legal hurdles stand in the way of accelerating their deployment.

Each microgrid’s unique combination of power source, customer, geography, and market can be confusing for investors. Microgrids can run on renewables, natural gas-fueled turbines, or emerging sources such as fuel cells or even small modular nuclear reactors. They can power city facilities, city neighborhoods, or communities in remote areas. As we heard during our research, “If you’ve seen one microgrid, you’ve seen one microgrid.”

The legal framework can be confusing, too. Most states lack even a legal definition of a microgrid, and regulatory and legal challenges can differ between and within states. Issues include microgrid developers’ access to reasonably priced backup power and to wholesale power markets to sell excess electricity or other services. Also, franchise rights granted to utilities may limit microgrid developers’ access to customers.

The report identifies tools that can help address these challenges.

  • Public-private partnerships could play a growing role in overcoming financial hurdles. Mixed ownership microgrid projects, which can include money from public institutions, utilities, and private entities, have increased from nearly zero in 2013, to a projected 38 percent of the market in 2016. Recent examples include microgrid partnerships at Peña Station Next in Denver, Colorado, and two government facility microgrids in Montgomery County, Maryland.
  • States can also play a key role in facilitating microgrid development. Most existing microgrid projects are concentrated in seven states: Alaska, California, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas. Some states, including California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, have created clean energy banks, grants, or other funding opportunities for microgrids. For example, New York established a $40 million grant program (i.e., NY Prize) to create community microgrid projects that can serve as templates for other communities. More state grants or low-cost loans could help launch more microgrids.
  • Linear programming models like the one outlined in the report can help focus a proposed project on cost savings, emissions reductions, or independence from the larger grid; forecast or estimate cash flows and financing needs; and manage power supply and demand.

Microgrids are not a traditional or typical infrastructure investment for utilities, nor has the existing electric power industry been structured to facilitate development of microgrids by non-utilities. We’ll need more dialogue among the finance community, service providers and implementers, and government and regulatory agencies to develop the frameworks and policies needed to foster microgrid development.

C2ES, GW examine how to deploy more microgrids for reliability, resilience, renewables

Press Release
March 8, 2017
Contact: Laura Rehrmann, rehrmannl@c2es.org, 703-516-0621

C2ES, GW examine how to deploy more microgrids for reliability, resilience, renewables

WASHINGTON – Microgrids can reduce emissions and improve the reliability and resilience of the electricity system, but more effort is needed to overcome financial and legal hurdles to accelerate their deployment.

In a new brief, Microgrid Momentum: Building Efficient, Resilient Power, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) and The George Washington University (GW) outline the opportunities and challenges of successful microgrid deployment, and suggest strategies for moving forward.

The report is being released today at a 9 a.m. event at the GW Law School being live streamed at http://bit.ly/MicrogridsLive. Experts from AECOM, the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment, Duke Energy, NRG Energy, Schneider Electric North America, and Urban Ingenuity will discuss the benefits of microgrids and examples of where and how they have been successfully deployed.

Microgrids can run on renewables, natural gas-fueled combustion turbines, or emerging sources such as fuel cells or even small modular nuclear reactors. They can power anything from a hospital to a university to a neighborhood.

Microgrids currently provide a tiny fraction of U.S. electricity (about 1.6 gigawatts GW, or less than 0.2 percent), with most projects concentrated in seven states: Alaska, California, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas. But capacity is expected to more than double in the next three years as communities explore ways microgrids can improve resilience and reliability, increase efficiency, better manage electricity supply and demand, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Each microgrid’s unique combination of power source, customer, geography, and market can make financing projects a challenge. And the existing legal framework lacks definitions and guidelines that would facilitate deployment, according to the brief.

Among the potential solutions outlined in the brief:

  • Public-private partnerships could play a growing role in overcoming financial hurdles. Mixed ownership microgrid projects, which can include money from public institutions, utilities, and private entities, have increased from nearly zero in 2013, to a projected 38 percent of the market in 2016. Recent examples include microgrid partnerships at Peña Station Next in Denver, Colorado, and two government facility microgrids in Montgomery County, Maryland.
     
  • States can facilitate microgrid development. Some states, including California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, have created clean energy banks, grants, or other funding opportunities for microgrids. For example, New York has established a $40 million grant program to create community microgrid projects.
     
  • A clearer legal framework is needed to define a microgrid, and set forth the rights and obligations of the microgrid owner. Most states lack even a legal definition of a microgrid, and regulatory and legal challenges can differ between and within states. Issues to resolve include the rights and obligations of microgrid owners to their customers and the interconnected utility, cost allocation, and access to wholesale power markets to sell excess electricity or other services.
     
  • Linear programming models can help focus proposed projects on cost savings, emissions reductions, or independence from the macrogrid. These models can also be used to forecast or estimate cash flows and financing needs and determine strategies for managing power supply and demand. They could also be useful during a project’s development and operational phase.

“Today’s microgrids, incorporating cleaner technologies and more diverse customers, can be a key component of tomorrow’s more resilient, efficient and low-emissions electricity system,” said report co-author Doug Vine, senior energy fellow at C2ES. “We need the finance community, service providers, and government and regulatory agencies to develop the frameworks and policies that can foster microgrid development.”

“Microgrids aren’t a typical infrastructure investment for utilities, and the power industry hasn’t been structured to help non-utilities invest in them,” said co-author Donna Attanasio, senior advisor for energy law programs at The George Washington University Law School. “Microgrids exist in a complicated legal space and we’ll need to work on legal definitions, market access, and their relationship to franchise rights to get more projects underway.”

“Each project’s starting point is likely to be unique,” said co-author Ekundayo Shittu, assistant professor at George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science. “We developed a model that helps project developers test many technology combinations to determine the optimal resource mix of their intended system design. With additional work, the model could be fine-tuned to help better estimate project cash flows and returns, costs, and emissions, making it easier to find financing.”

Read the brief at: https://www.c2es.org/publications/microgrid-momentum-building-efficient-resilient-power

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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.

About GW Law: Established in 1865, The George Washington University Law School is the oldest law school in Washington, DC. The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a charter member of the Association of American Law Schools.

 
About SEAS:  Founded in 1884, the mission of the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) of The George Washington University is to serve the global community by providing high quality undergraduate, graduate and professional educational opportunities; and stimulating and promoting innovative fundamental and applied research activities. Learn more about all the schools at George Washington University at: https://www.gwu.edu/

Microgrid Momentum: Building Efficient, Resilient Power

Microgrid Momentum:
Building Efficient, Resilient Power

March 2017

By Doug Vine, Donna Attanasio, and Ekundayo Shittu

Download (PDF)

Summary

Microgrids are not a traditional or typical infrastructure investment for utilities, nor has the existing electric power industry been structured to facilitate development of microgrids by non-utilities. This research paper seeks to identify financial and legal barriers to the development of microgrids and provide recommendations for overcoming them. 

Key Takeaways

  • Microgrids currently provide a tiny fraction of U.S. electricity, but their capacity is expected to more than double in the next three years.
  • Each microgrid’s unique combination of power source, customer, geography, and market can make financing these projects a challenge.
  • States can play a key role in facilitating microgrid development.
  • A clearer legal framework is needed to define a microgrid, and set forth the rights and obligations of the microgrid owner with respect to its customers and the macrogrid operator.
  • Franchise rights granted to utilities may limit microgrid developers’ access to customers.
  • Linear programming models can help microgrid project developers or energy managers tailor their proposed projects.
  • Greater dialogue among all stakeholders is needed to develop supportive frameworks and policies.

Video

Watch our March 8, 2017 discussion at Geoge Washington University.

 
Donna Attanasio
Doug Vine
Ekundayo Shittu
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Year Ahead: We must strengthen climate action wherever possible

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:

·      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.

 

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