June 26, 2013
by Rebecca Stanfield
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Mayor Emanuel Proposes Ordinance to Drive New Investment to Save Energy in Chicago Buildings

Rebecca Stanfield, Senior Energy Advocate, Chicago
Yesterday, President Obama recommitted his administration and the nation to the job of combating climate change, and made energy efficiency one of the three major strategies to achieve … 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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June 20, 2013
by Greenlaw from NRDC China
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China Environmental News Alert

Greenlaw from NRDC China, NRDC China Program, Beijing
June 20-27, 2013NRDC has been working in China for over fifteen years on such issues as energy efficiency, green buildings, clean energy technologies, environmental law, and green su… Continue reading

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May 29, 2013
by Allison Clements
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FERC Chairman’s Resignation Leaves Big Clean Energy Shoes to Fill

Allison Clements, Senior Attorney, Project for Sustainable FERC Energy Policy, New York
This post was co-authored by my colleague John Moore.
Late yesterday the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Jon Wellinghof… 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 17, 2013
by Denée Reaves
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Latin America Green News: new energy efficiency initiative in Chile, environmental regulation changes proposed in Costa Rica, and mining controversy in Mexico

Denée Reaves, Program Assistant, International, Washington, D.C.

Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.

May 13-May 17 

Chile

According to the Minister of the Presidency, Cristian Larroulet, one of the government’s priorities will be securing the approval of pending energy bills . The proposed bills would streamline electric concessions, allow the construction of an electric transmission “highway”, and establish a 20% goal for non-conventional renewable energies.    Another government goal will be the approval of bills proposed under the Competitive Stimulus Plan, a plan announced two years ago. (La Tercera, 5/16/2013).  

Sergio del Campo, Vice Minister of Energy launched Chile’s new Energy Efficiency Seal initiative that aims to promote responsible energy use among companies. The initiative will identify and reward companies that are implementing efficiency measures that help reduce energy costs, boost competitiveness and reduce emissions.  Forty companies can apply for the seal this year.  (La Tercera 5/16/2013)

Costa Rica

Four Costa Rican environmental groups have formed the Environmental Network Alliance and will present an environmental agenda to presidential candidates.  The agenda will be the outcome of a series of workshops with communities around the country focused on seven central issues: water, coastal & marine, food sovereignty, climate change, extractive industries, biodiversity and urban environment. (El Financiero, 05/13/2013)

The National Technical Environmental Secretariat has launched a public consultation a on a draft modification to the environmental impact assessment regulations. One of the proposed changes is to extend the duration of environmental permits to five years from the current two years.  Another proposal is to create a category of projects that do not need to submit an environmental impact evaluation. (El País, 05/13/2013)

Mexico

The second meeting of the Advisory Board for the Mesoamerican Strategy of Environmental Sustainability will commence on May 20th in Mexico to discuss the implementation of the master plan around the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. In the Mexican capital, representatives from Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá, the Dominican Republic and the host country will be in attendance. (Terra, 05/15/2013)

The Movement against Mining Concessions of Morelos has asked the Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Juan José Guerra Abud to reject the Canadian company Silver Hope’s mining project in Tetlama, Morelos due to its egregious effects on the environment. The movement’s spokesperson, Ignacio Suárez stated in an interview that this project will contaminate the surrounding areas with mercury and cyanide, as well as damage the archeological site of Xochicalco. Suárez has requested an interview with Guerra Abud to discuss these harmful effects. (La Jornada, 5/15/2013)

 

For more news on the issues we care about visit our Latin America News archive or read our other International blogs.

This week’s news was compiled by Denée Reaves.

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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 24, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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New LED streetlight design curbs light pollution

Recent innovations in light emitting diodes (LEDs) have improved the energy efficiency of streetlights, but, until now, their glow still wastefully radiated beyond the intended area. A team of researchers has developed a new lighting system design that… Continue reading

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April 23, 2013
by Pierre Delforge
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Google Wants More Renewable Energy Powering its Expanding NC Data Center

Pierre Delforge, Director, High Tech Sector Energy Efficiency, San Francisco
When Google announced plans to double its investment in its North Carolina data center to $1.2 billion last week, it also touted an innovative program with Duk… 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 13, 2013
by Barbara Finamore
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8 Ways that California and China Can Work Together to Reduce Pollution and Protect the Climate

Barbara Finamore, Senior Attorney and Asia Director, Beijing
I was delighted to see that California Governor Jerry Brown has made climate change and environmental protection a key focus of his visit to China this week. In addition to di… Continue reading

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April 4, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Experts propose research priorities for making concrete ‘greener’

According to a new report, the potential engineering performance, energy-efficiency and environmental benefits of making concrete greener — reducing its sizable carbon footprint without compromising performance — is a challenge worth undertaking. Continue reading

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March 28, 2013
by David Taylor, Contributing Author
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What You Need To Know About Green Mortgage

Making environmentally friendly choices is more than recycling or turning the lights off. Every decision can actually have a positive impact on the world. What many people don’t know is that applying for home loans can lower greenhouse emissions. Thus,… Continue reading

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March 22, 2013
by Greenlaw from NRDC China
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China Environmental News Alert

Greenlaw from NRDC China, NRDC China Program, Beijing
NRDC has been working in China for over fifteen years on such issues as energy efficiency, green buildings, clean energy technologies, environmental law, and green supply chain issue… Continue reading

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March 21, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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New York Times’ David Pogue: Start buying LED bulbs!

LED light-bulbs are on the cusp of going entirely mainstream. With every passing year, their energy-efficiency, light quality, and total lumens output is going up, while their cost keeps falling. Continue reading

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March 21, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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A social network for the solar-curious consumer

The Sustainable Energy Network is an online tool that provides advanced simulations and social encouragement for the adoption of solar power and energy efficiency. Continue reading

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March 15, 2013
by Peter Lehner
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Want a More Sustainable Food System? Cut Food Waste.

Peter Lehner, Executive Director, New York City
I recently shared a stage with the White House pastry chef, the CEO of a $360 million company, and a woman who advocates eating weeds. We were all speaking at the TEDx-Manhattan conference… Continue reading

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March 13, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Uncertainty regarding energy prices is hampering investment in energy efficiency

According to the model developed by BC3 and UPV/EHU researchers, energy price uncertainty is having a negative effect on investment in energy efficiency. Furthermore, they conclude that higher prices of energy and CO2 emission allowances would encourag… Continue reading

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February 26, 2013
by Pierre Delforge
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NRDC-WSP Cloud Computing Study Wins Award

Pierre Delforge, Director, High Tech Sector Energy Efficiency, San Francisco
Thought the Hollywood award season was over?  Not quite!  The Climate Change Business Journal (CCBJ) just awarded the Project Merit award for Smart G… Continue reading

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February 24, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Laser mastery narrows down sources of superconductivity

Uncovering the mechanism behind high-temperature superconductivity — a phenomenon with tremendous value to advances in energy efficiency and sustainability — remains one of the greatest and most pressing puzzles in physics. Now, using precise laser p… Continue reading

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