This past June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency introduced its Clean Power Plan – the Obama administration’s strongest measure yet to avoid the risks of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In a report released Oct. 14, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) outlines a practical, effective way to strengthen the Clean Power Plan by delivering much greater cuts in power plants’ carbon dioxide and GHG emissions.
Power plants are the largest sources of carbon dioxide and GHG emissions in the U.S., accounting for around one-third of overall GHG and 40 percent of national CO2 emissions. For the first time ever, the proposed Clean Power Plan would require existing U.S. power plant CO2 emissions to be reduced 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Building on the EPA’s flexible, state-by-state approach to implementation, in its report UCS makes the case that much greater cuts in emissions could be realized – “especially by taking greater advantage of cost-effective renewable energy options.” In fact, U.S. states can produce nearly twice as much emissions-free, renewable electricity than the EPA calculates in the Clean Power Plan – and do so in a way that is affordable, UCS asserts.
Recent water-related catastrophes in places like Toledo, Ohio, Los Angeles and West Virginia highlight an increasingly pressing need for the U.S. to make significant new investments in water resource infrastructure and management. They also cast light on outdated market structures and pricing mechanisms that result in counterproductive, even perverse, use and management of precious water resources.
In a recent article published by online environmental magazine Ensia, long-time water resource specialist, author and journalist Cynthia Barnett delves into the at-times murky world of the political economy of water in the U.S. “We’re subsidizing our most wasteful water use – while neglecting essentials like keeping our water plants and pipes in good repair,” she writes.
How best to restructure water markets so as to make genuinely sustainable use of water resources is a controversial and hotly debated topic among economists, government leaders and agencies, as well as end users. More broadly, it raises the economic issue of how public goods – water, air, knowledge and national security, for example – are priced by markets and allocated among end users. In her article for Ensia, Barnett quotes Amsterdam-based water economist David Zetland, “You can get to sustainability, but you can’t get there without putting a price on water.”
Advances in renewable energy technology, in concert with new triple bottom line-based approaches to government and business, are key enablers of a transition from polluting fossil fuels to locally-appropriate mixes of distributed, renewable energy systems. The renewable energy transition will not only benefit ecosystems and the environment; well designed and executed policies, regulations, public-private partnerships and inclusive, collaborative business models can address societies’ most pressing social and economic challenges as well.
Powering societies wholly on renewable energy technologies widely available today is not only possible, it’s affordable, according to a policy handbook produced by the World Future Council and E3 Analytics.
Appropriately titled, How to Achieve 100 Percent Renewable Energy, the WFC-E3 policy handbook uses eight case studies organized according to four themes – cities and communities; regions and states; national governments; and island governments – to illustrate how innovative policies are promoting and paving the way to “fully fossil- and nuclear-free” societies.
Countries across the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region are making increasing use of renewable energy resources to spur sustainable development. Use of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, for instance, “is poised to play a substantial role in fulfilling the need for increased power generation capacity” throughout the LAC region, according to an NPD Solarbuzz market research report released September 29.
A gigawatt (GW) of PV projects are under construction across the LAC region at present. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, however, according to NPD Solarbuzz’s “Emerging PV Markets Report: Latin America and the Caribbean.”
The PV project pipeline across the LAC region now exceeds 22 GWs across all phases of development, NPD Solarbuzz highlights in its report. Some 9 GWs of PV capacity will be installed over the next five years, with 5 GWs already approved and primed to move ahead into the construction phase.
At least 54-gigawatts (GW) of U.S. offshore wind energy generation capacity could be deployed by 2030, according to a new study funded by the Department of Energy (DOE). The “National Offshore Wind Energy Grid Interconnection Study” (NOWEGIS) focused on helping DOE achieve two goals: reducing the cost of offshore wind energy and shortening the time required to deploy offshore wind generation capacity.
Researchers from ABB, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), Duke Energy, AWS Truepower and the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering joined to produce NOWEGIS. The research team used NREL’s Regional Energy Deployment System (ReDS) model for electricity generation and transmission to survey suitable offshore wind energy asset locations, calculated timelines for deployment of 54 GWs of clean, renewable electricity generation.
Study results indicate that 5 GW of offshore wind power could be online within a decade “using existing collection and interconnection technologies…[B]oth alternating current and direct current methods show promise in transporting offshore electricity to the land power grid,” DOE explains in a news release.
The first nationwide assessment of how solar energy is providing clean, renewable power for schools and communities across the U.S. was released September 18. Produced by The Solar Foundation (TSF) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) with grant funding from the Department of Energy, the first-of-its-kind study reveals that 3,752 K-12 schools have installed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.
Installed PV capacity among U.S. schools has soared over the last decade, rising from 303 kilowatts (kW) to 457,000 kW, according to TSF-SEIA’s report, “Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools.” That has resulted in prevention of 442,799 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year, the equivalent of saving 50 million gallons of gasoline or taking some 100,000 cars of U.S. roads annually, according to a TSF news release.
Solar energy installations at U.S. schools are not only helping improve the environmental health and quality, they are saving schools, and taxpayers, money, and they are creating good local “green” jobs. Schools are using the resulting energy bill savings to pay teachers’ salaries and buy textbooks and other learning materials, according to the report. Furthermore, study researchers concluded that more than 70,000 additional schools could benefit by installing solar PV systems.
Southern California Edison (SCE) on Sept. 24 commissioned the nation’s largest smart energy storage system at its Monolith substation near Tehachapi, California, a hub of the Golden State’s wind energy generation capacity. Lithium-ion (Li ion) batteries manufactured by LG Chem provide SCE with 32 megawatt-hours of energy storage capacity.
The combination of falling costs, technological advances and supportive government policies are spurring interest — and investments — in grid-scale smart energy storage systems. Integrated with solar energy generation assets, electric vehicle charging stations and smart grid technology, smart energy storage is being viewed as a keystone element of distributed clean energy microgrids and distribution networks that could make for a low-carbon, sustainable energy infrastructure for the 21st century.
Emeryville, California-based Greensmith, a leading provider of intelligent energy storage management software and services, “is seeing dramatic growth in the grid-scale energy storage market,” the company announced in a Sept. 30 press release. So far this year, 23 megawatts worth of projects that make use of Greensmith’s flagship GEMS intelligent energy storage software platform have been commissioned.
Energy storage systems are catching on fast in California following passage of AB 2514 – legislation that requires the state’s three principal investor-owned utilities (IOUs) to install 1.325 gigawatts of energy storage capacity by 2020. It’s not only electric utilities that are deploying smart energy storage systems, however.
California is also offering incentives for installation of distributed, “behind the meter” energy storage systems at utility customer sites. The state government also requires that 200 megawatts of “behind the meter” energy storage capacity be installed, and a growing number, and variety, of organizations are capitalizing on the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CUC) Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) to help meet the state’s goal.
An early leader in the fast developing market for advanced energy storage systems, Millbrae, California-based Stem on Sept, 30 announced it has finalized an agreement with Extended Stay America – the largest company-owned and operated hotel chain in the U.S. – to install and manage a fleet of “energy intelligence systems across 68 hotels in California.”
Even as the economy continues to recover from the near-collapse of the financial system in 2008, the slow pace of job creation and stagnation of real income of the large majority of Americans continues to constrain economic growth and erode the U.S. middle class. That’s not to say there aren’t lots of job openings. There are – it’s just that many of them apparently go unfilled.
While some say there is a dearth of qualified U.S. candidates, a study from Harvard Business School points out that while “America’s capitalists take every chance they get to remind us that they are our ‘job creators’ … it turns out that their least-favorite thing on earth to do is create jobs.”
Cyber security industry leader Symantec is looking to turn that conclusion on its head. In late June, Symantec joined with Life Journey, NPower and Year Up to launch the Symantec Cyber Career Connection (SC3). High school graduates enrolled in SC3 — an intensive short course — receive general professional skills and specialized cyber security jobs training. To cap the program off, they intern at supporting partner companies — a step towards possible full-time employment and a long-term career path. The program is now up and running in Baltimore, New York and San Francisco.
Triple Pundit spoke with Donald Ger, Year Up’s National Director for Partnerships and Innovation, and SC3 student Ashley Williams to gain greater insight regarding the SC3 program’s structure and goals, as well as how the initiative is progressing.
The Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign recently scored a big victory in Indiana. The Indiana chapter of Beyond Coal was a central player in putting together the coalition of grassroots groups that managed to prod Indiana Power & Light to stop burning coal at its Harding Street power plant — the only coal-fired power plant remaining within the limits of a major Midwestern city. The campaign isn’t stopping there.
On Sept. 26, the Sierra Club announced it was joining with Ratepayer and Community Intervenors to file a lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court that challenges a Public Service Commission ruling that would levy a $140 million subsidy on state residents’ electricity bills to upgrade and expand the Dunkirk coal-fired power plant in Chautauqua County. The plaintiffs are being represented by Earthjustice.
Deeming it a “bailout” at ratepayers’ expense, the upgrade and expansion plan “would result in a plant three times larger than necessary to maintain reliable operation of the region’s power grid,” Sierra states in a news release. Moreover, at a time when the EPA is readying President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the plant – though it would be able to burn both coal and natural gas – would add greenhouse gases and air pollution in the region, contributing to climate change, the environmental NGO highlights.
Perhaps no two companies have made a bigger splash — or more clearly demonstrated the potential of clean technology to revitalize manufacturing, create jobs and spur “green” growth of the U.S. economy — than Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors and SolarCity.
Hot on the heels of Tesla announcing it will build its lithium-ion battery ‘Gigafactory’ in Nevada, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a groundbreaking ceremony for an equally massive SolarCity facility in Buffalo. The manufacturing plant will devote 1.2 million square feet to produce solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, the governor announced Sept. 23.
“Gov. Cuomo shares our view that the United States can return to its place atop the world in advanced technology manufacturing,” SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive was quoted in a press release. “Thanks to the governor’s leadership, we will be able to quintuple the output capacity and economic impact of Silevo’s original commitment. I couldn’t be more excited to partner with the state to make Western New York a global capital for clean energy development.”
At the United Nations Climate Summit 2014, held at U.N. headquarters in New York City on Sept. 23, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for bold commitments to catalyze climate change mitigation and adaptation actions. In response, leaders spanning government, business, finance and civil society announced new initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change.
New climate change action initiatives were announced in the areas of finance, farming and forests. New coalitions between cities, businesses and citizens were formed that aim to reduce GHG emissions and strengthen resilience to climate change, according to a Climate Summit 2014 news release.
“Change is in the air. Today’s Climate Summit has shown an entirely new, cooperative global approach to climate change,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “The actions announced today by governments, businesses, finance and civil society show that many partners are eager to confront the challenges of climate change together.”
A consortium of leading climate change nonprofits and multinational businesses have joined to launch an initiative that aims to see 100 of the world’s largest companies power their businesses solely from renewable energy resources by 2020. Led by the Climate Group, the campaign — dubbed RE100 — counts Ikea, Swiss Re, BT, Commerzbank, Formula E, H&M, Mars, Nestlé, Philips, Reed Elsevier and J. Safra among its founding business members. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) also are working with the Climate Group to see the RE100 through to fruition.
Launched Sept. 22 during Climate Week NYC, the RE100 campaign aims to lead by example. It will serve as a showcase that highlights the economic, social and environmental benefits businesses can realize by going 100 percent renewable — and just how leading businesses are moving towards the goal of 100 percent renewable power. It will also assist companies looking to make the switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources, including “providing guidance as to selecting and implementing the best approach to utilizing renewable power, and information on the financial implications, risks and rewards of different options.”
“We are delighted with the ambition of leading companies to go 100 percent renewable,” Ben Ferrari, director of partnerships for the Climate Group, was quoted in a news release. “We plan to continue to grow this group and expand our outreach in China and India over the coming year. It is an exciting time for renewable power.”
Carbon dioxide emissions from urban transportation could be reduced by 40 percent by 2050 – eliminating an estimated 1,700 megatons of CO2 emissions per year – by expanding public transportation, cycling and walking in cities, according a report from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and the University of California, Davis. There’s much more to be gained, however.
At a time when public services are being cut, expanding public transportation, cycling and walking in cities could save over $100 trillion in cumulative public and private spending. In addition, an estimated 1.4 million early deaths per year could be avoided by 2050 “if governments require the strongest vehicle pollution controls and ultra-low sulfur fuels,” according to a related analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).
A coalition of nearly 350 global institutional investors are calling on world leaders to institute “stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing.” They elaborate by calling for carbon pricing “that helps redirect investment commensurate with the scale of climate change challenge, as well as develop plans to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.”
The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) includes some of the world’s largest and most prominent institutional investors, including Australian CFSGAM, BlackRock, Calpers, Cathay Financial Holdings, Deutsche, PensionDanmark and South African GEPF. Collectively, the 347 institutional investors manage over $24 trillion in assets.
IIGCC’s call for meaningful carbon pricing and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies comes as world leaders meet for the U.N. Climate Summit this week to hammer out details of a global climate treaty and successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
Making sure their presence is felt and their voices heard, over 300,000 people [ed. note: the crowd count has been raised to 400k] took part in the People’s Climate March in Manhattan on Sunday. Organized by a group of environmental, social justice and public interest organizations, the march kicked off Climate Week NYC. A week-long series of events and demonstrations, Climate Week NYC organizers are likewise calling on government leaders to institute strong climate change action plans that are seen as a means of realizing other key U.N. goals, including alleviating poverty and growing socioeconomic inequality.