Climate change

A truly smart city is more than sensors, big data, and an all-seeing internet

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Investing billions in big data and smart technology isn’t the only answer to building more sustainable urban areas. We need to focus on the big levers.

Within 2 years, a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions are likely to be priced

Read the full post at Grist.

It often surprises people to hear that big companies like Exxon use a “shadow carbon price” when assessing future investment opportunities (in other words, they assume a price on carbon even where/when there isn’t one). After all, if you only pay attention to the headlines, it sounds like the big story on climate change is that nobody’s doing anything and we’re all doomed. Why would Exxon think carbon will be priced any time soon?

Well, it turns out that carbon is getting priced, not in the big, dramatic, simple way climate hawks would prefer, but incrementally, piecemeal, country-by-country, region-by-region, still inadequately but in a way that’s starting to add up.

Remaking American Power: Potential Energy Market Impacts of EPA’s Proposed GHG Emission Performance Standards for Existing Electric Power Plants

Download the document.

This report seeks to help inform federal and state policymakers, energy producers, investors, and consumers about the potential impact of state and federal policy decisions associated with the Clean Power Plan as proposed.

Final Report: Implications of EPA’s Proposed “Clean Power Plan”: Analyzing consumer impacts of the draft rule

Download the document.

This report has been prepared by Synapse Energy Economics (Synapse), pursuant to a grant from the Energy Foundation, to enable National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA) members to better understand the consumer impacts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan.

Consumers will ultimately shoulder most of the costs of new environmental initiatives. NASUCA’s members are designated by the laws of their respective jurisdictions to represent the interests of utility consumers in their states. Robust participation by NASUCA members in the decision-making processes which form and implement the Plan is therefore essential to assure that costs are not incurred unnecessarily and to assure that consumers receive the best possible value for money spent.

Recognizing that stakeholders have a wide range of reactions to the EPA’s Plan, the intent of this report is not to take positions as to the Plan’s substance or to comprehend every conceivable issue consumers in a particular state might face. Nor does the report in any way represent the distilled opinions of NASUCA’s membership. Just as individual states will vary in their responses to the Plan, the intent of this report is to be a common resource to help all of NASUCA’s members think through a broad range of potential implications of various compliance approaches to their respective consumers whatever their individual state’s positions.

State Implementation of CO2 Rules: Institutional and Practical Issues with State and Multi-State Implementation and Enforcement

Download the document.

This Release 2.0 of our Section 111(d) White Paper incorporates feedback from the original paper, and also updates the analysis to include the Notice of Data Availability (NODA), issued by EPA on October 28, 2014. Release 2.0 also synthesizes our thinking from the three additional white papers addressing existing state legislation, general state institutional issues, and specific issues with municipal utilities and cooperatives.

We continue to foresee significant institutional challenges for the states. States will still need to:

  • Pass enabling legislation to implement the proposed rule at the state level.
  • Construct institutional arrangements between the universe of regulators (public utility commissions (PUCs), environmental regulators, gubernatorial energy offices) in a state statutory and administrative context.
  • Obtain and concentrate jurisdiction in the appropriate regulatory bodies over all affected entities, including in many states non-jurisdictional entities like cooperatives and municipal utilities.
  • Institute carbon-driven resource planning and dispatch in restructured markets to ensure adequate capacity and reliability.
  • Structure enforceable and constitutional multi-state Section 111(d) plans with interstate enforcement mechanisms, which may well require Congressionally-approved interstate compacts to satisfy EPA state plan approval criteria.

This Release 2.0 focuses on developments since the initial release, specifically individual state institutional
analyses, reliability issues, and potential changes to the proposed CO2 Emission Guidelines from the NODA.

An Assessment of the Energy-Efficiency Gap and its Implications for Climate-Change Policy

Download the document.

Discussion Paper ES 2014-3, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

This Discussion Paper is the third in an annual series supported by the Enel Foundation addressing important topics in international climate policy.

The Harvard Project will co-sponsor a side event, based in part on this paper, at the Twentieth Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima, Peru on Monday, December 8, 2014. For details see here.

Improving end-use energy efficiency—that is, the energy-efficiency of individuals, households, and firms as they consume energy—is often cited as an important element in efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. Arguments for improving energy efficiency usually rely on the idea that energy-efficient technologies will save end users money over time and thereby provide low-cost or no-cost options for reducing GHG emissions. However, some research suggests that energy-efficient technologies appear not to be adopted by consumers and businesses to the degree that would seem justified, even on a purely financial basis. We review in this paper the evidence for a range of explanations for this apparent “energy-efficiency gap.” We find most explanations are grounded in sound economic theory, but the strength of empirical support for these explanations varies widely. Retrospective program evaluations suggest the cost of GHG abatement varies considerably across different energy-efficiency investments and can diverge substantially from the predictions of prospective models. Findings from research on the energy-efficiency gap could help policy makers generate social and private benefits from accelerating the diffusion of energy-efficient technologies—including reduction of GHG emissions.

New Global Warming Remedy: Turning Rangelands into Carbon-Sucking Vacuums

Read the full story from UC Berkeley.

Studies conducted on a ranch in the heart of Marin County and led by UC Berkeley researchers and alums seem to confirm what home gardeners have long suspected: Compost really can save the world.