September 19, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Examining the source behind Sherpa mountain fitness

The Sherpa population in Tibet is world-renowned for their extraordinary high-altitude fitness, as most famously demonstrated by Tenzing Norgay’s ability to conquer Mount Everest alongside Sir Edmund Hillary. The genetic adaptation behind this fitness … Continue reading

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July 9, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Worldwide renewable energy capacity in 2012 equalled China’s total energy demand (4,860TWh)!

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), by 2018 renewable should overtake natural gas to become the world’s second-largest source of energy (oil is #1). Continue reading

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June 22, 2013
by Radhika Khosla
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Opportunities to Tackle Climate Change as Secretary Kerry Heads to India

Radhika Khosla, Staff Scientist, India Initiative , New York
Fifteen senators wrote in an open letter to the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today about the opportunities to take climate change during Secretary Kerry’s upcomin… Continue reading

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May 28, 2013
by John Moore
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Country’s Largest Electricity Market Holds Power Supply Auction; Results Mixed for Clean Energy

John Moore, Senior Attorney – The Sustainable FERC Project, Chicago

Last Friday, PJM announced the results of its electricity power supply auction for the period June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2017. It’s a mixed bag for clean energy supporters. The good news: the results show an uptick in energy efficiency, wind and solar resources in the market, and overall lower prices for consumers. The not so good news: more coal imports from the Midwest, and somewhat less interest in “demand response” (where customers are paid to reduce their electricity demand during really hot summer days).

Background

PJM manages the flow of electricity over high-power transmission lines in 14 states in the mid-Atlantic region and parts of the Midwest. PJM also operates the largest electric power market in the world, with over 185,000 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity. In other words, PJM is BIG.

As part of its obligation to ensure that sufficient power will be available to meet future energy demand, PJM holds an annual auction for buyers and sellers of future electricity supply. The term for this supply is “capacity.” Power plants, demand response, energy efficiency and transmission lines are sources of capacity.

PJM’s auction applies to a period three years in the future, in part to give investors and developers sufficient time to develop new resources. Its auction is a little like a crystal ball into the region’s future power supply mix. Also, unlike resources in PJM’s day-ahead and real-time energy markets, capacity resources are paid to be available in the future even if their power isn’t needed to meet real-time peak demand.

By any measure PJM’s auction is big money, and annual auction revenues have ranged between $6 and $10 billion annually. To give you a sense of the dollars involved, a 500 MW power plant clearing the auction at $357/MW-day (last year’s price in Northern Ohio) would receive over $65 million in revenue for the year ($357 x 365 days x 500 MW).

There is a lot to like about PJM’s auction, although some benefits come with caveats. For example, it is a lucrative market for demand resources, but some of those resources are backed by dirty diesel generators.

This Year’s Results 

The clearing price was unexpectedly low in most of PJM at $59/MW-day. (In comparison, last year’s auction clearing price, for the planning period 2015-2016, was $136/MW-day in most of PJM). Prices this year were highest in New Jersey ($219/MW-day) and in some other areas. Northern Ohio, at $114/MW-day, was much lower than last year’s $357/MW-day. The auction cleared 169,160 MW of capacity, with a healthy 21% reserve margin.

 PJM’s auction report is available here, and here are some more comparative stats:

PJM Results (PNG).png

Clean Energy Imacts

From our clean energy perspective, key takeaways from this year’s auction include:

First, good news: 1,117 MW of energy efficiency resources cleared, a modest increase over last year’s 923 MW. Still, that’s only about 0.66% of PJM’s total expected peak demand of 169,000 MW.

Notably, in Northern Ohio, FirstEnergy bid far more energy efficiency resources into the auction this year than last year: nearly 200 MW versus 48 MW. We owe a shout out to our NRDC and other colleagues who earlier this year persuaded the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to order FirstEnergy to offer more energy efficiency into the auction.

But . . . a lot of mandated and otherwise likely energy efficiency is not bidding into the auction. In Ohio alone, a recent study found that hundreds more megawatts of energy efficiency should be bid into the auction, saving consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. That means that PJM and the states need to find ways to get more energy efficiency resources into next year’s auction.

Second, also good news: the closure of up to 12,000 MW of coal power plants in PJM over the next several years will not threaten grid reliability. Lower auction prices this year, more imports and new capacity, and lower energy demand mean that coal plant owners have no basis for claiming that the EPA mercury and other standards for power plants will cause blackouts.

Third, a worrisome fact: Coal imports from the Midwest appear to be rising. Nearly 7,500 MW of imported power from neighboring regions cleared the auction, including 4,723 MW from the Midwest. Many of these power imports likely are coal power. Also, PJM may have green-lighted some plants for participation in the auction even though they don’t yet have guaranteed transmission rights into PJM. Hmmm . . . .

Fourth, mixed news: total demand resources clearing the auction declined 16% this year, from 14,833 MW to 12,408 MW. On the positive side, however, slightly more higher-value demand resource products cleared this year than in earlier years.

Fifth, more wind (871 MW) and solar (90 MW) cleared the auction this year.

The Future

Looking beyond year-to-year tweaks, we support long-term auction rule changes to expand the amount of “flexible resources” needed to complement increasing amounts of renewable energy in the grid. In other words, less need for older and dirty “baseload” power plants and more emphasis on nimbler, fast-responding gas turbines, energy storage, wind, solar, and other cleaner power.

Our colleague Mike Hogan at the Regulatory Assistance Project is a leading supporter of “flexibility” markets for electric power. His recent paper What Lies Beyond Capacity Markets is an excellent source of ideas for the next generation of electric power resource adequacy. It’s also a good reminder that PJM’s often-praised capacity market is not necessarily the best solution for the future, whether in PJM or elsewhere.

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May 21, 2013
by Peter Lehner
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China Looks to Ramp Up Energy-Saving Retrofits

Peter Lehner, Executive Director, New York City
When the posh architectural firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill designed the Chemsunny World Trade Center in Beijing, it was more efficient than a typical glass-walled luxury building in Ch… Continue reading

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April 25, 2013
by Frances Beinecke
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Energy Efficiency Helps India Save Money and Breathe Easier

Frances Beinecke, President of NRDC, New York City
Rolling blackouts plagued India last summer. More than 700 million people were left without power for hours a day.  The outages became routine but troublesome. Imagine if you were … Continue reading

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April 18, 2013
by Radhika Khosla
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How One High-Rise Can Help Drive Energy Savings Throughout India

Radhika Khosla, Staff Scientist, India Initiative , New York
The 2013 Clean Energy Ministerial concluded today in New Delhi, with ministers from more than 20 countries meeting to discuss our energy future. As the discussions acknowledg… Continue reading

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April 25, 2012
by Kaid Benfield
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Toronto’s leadership for green roofs

Kaid Benfield, Director, Sustainable Communities, Washington, DC
 
In January of 2010, Toronto became the first city in North America to require the installation of green roofs on new commercial, institutional, and multifamily res… Continue reading

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March 23, 2012
by Amanda Maxwell
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Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 3/17/2012 – 3/23/2012

Amanda Maxwell, Latin America Advocate, Washington, DC
Chile
Only 7% of approved non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE) projects in Chile are currently under construction. Chile currently has 720 MW of NCRE already installed. An addit… Continue reading

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February 21, 2012
by Sasha Lyutse
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Burning trees for power in the Southeast would increase carbon pollution for decades

Sasha Lyutse, Policy Analyst, New York
A new study examining the climate impacts of using biomass to produce electricity in the Southeast adds to a growing body of science challenging the notion that all biomass is carbon-neut… Continue reading

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May 14, 2011
by Amanda Maxwell
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Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: Week of 5.9-5.13.11

Amanda Maxwell, Latin America Advocate, Washington, DC Chile
On Monday, HidroAysén’s hydroelectric proposal in Patagonia was approved after a nearly three year review process.  Immediately following the decision, protests broke out th… Continue reading

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May 10, 2011
by Amanda Maxwell
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HidroAysén’s Approval Takes Chile in the Wrong Direction

Amanda Maxwell, Latin America Advocate, Washington, DC Yesterday, Chile’s environmental authorities approved HidroAysén’s proposal to build five dams on two of Patagonia’s wildest rivers, the Baker and the Pascua.  The 11-to-one v… Continue reading

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March 17, 2011
by Doug Sims
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Obama to Piñera: Make Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency the Base Case Scenario for Building Chile’s Energy Future

Before the emerging energy crisis was exacerbated by events in Libya and Japan, President Obama’s trip to Chile already had energy as a major agenda item.  The visit seemed destined to be a genial affair in which Obama and President Pi&ntild… Continue reading

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March 15, 2011
by Amanda Maxwell
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Presidents Obama and Piñera should not pursue nuclear energy in Chile – now more than ever

Right now, even as Japan is on the verge of nuclear disaster after the recent crippling earthquake and tsunami, U.S. President Obama and Chilean President Piñera are continuing with their plans to sign a nuclear accord ahead of Obama’s visit to&… Continue reading

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