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On April 30, President Barack Obama signed into law the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015, a much pared-down version of a bill that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Sen. Rob Portman have been pushing for several years. Several other energy-efficiency bills just underwent hearings in Congress. At the same time, the House Appropriations Committee has just voted to slash federal research on energy efficiency, and several bills to impede efficiency efforts are advancing. Thus it remains to be seen whether the EEIA has broken the logjam on energy-efficiency legislation, and will be followed by a gush of other bills, or is an anomaly in a Congress that is much friendlier to fossil fuels than to clean energy. This column begins with a description of the new enactment. It then discusses the other pending energy-efficiency legislation, and it concludes with a summary of the appropriations actions.
Improving energy efficiency is widely acknowledged as the most economical way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the other adverse environmental impacts of fossil use. The United States lacks a comprehensive regulatory program for energy efficiency, although often overlooked are the roles of the state public utility commissions (PUCs). PUCs have long been in charge of setting retail electricity rates and service standards. In recent years, many of them have launched programs and set policies to encourage or require the electric and gas utilities that they regulate to use energy more efficiently or to help their customers do so. This column summarizes the variety of powers and techniques of PUCs to advance energy efficiency, such as the use of energy efficiency targets, utility incentives, shared benefits, on-bill financing, and low-income programs.
Natural gas combustion and the consequential release of Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gases can have very damaging effects on the environment. Recognizing this, a number of analysts have expressed concern that continued use of natural gas will hamper efforts to address climate change, and called for reductions in gas use. This will require major changes in energy consumption patterns, particularly in the residential and commercial sectors, which currently use over one-quarter of all natural gas consumed in the U.S., primarily for heating and cooking.This paper considers whether and how new technologies can be used to promote more efficient natural gas use in the residential and commercial sectors. The focus is on advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), consisting of state-of-the-art meters capable of recording natural gas usage daily or hourly, and transmitting the data to customers in real-time via a wireless network. In addition to this, this paper draws on recent experience with AMI deployment in California, Maryland, and New York to assess how the regulation of local distribution company (LDC) rates affects incentives to invest in AMI.
For decades, federal energy and water efficiency standards have demonstrably saved consumers money, reduced pollution, and increased grid reliability. Recently, however, the political winds have shifted. Immediately upon taking office, the Trump Administration refused to publish in the Federal Register several efficiency standards that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) had promulgated in 2016, and has proposed budget cuts to the parts of DOE responsible for administering the appliance and equipment standards program. With the federal advancement of energy efficiency in doubt, leadership on this issue may fall to state and local actors. This white paper examines how the Energy Policy and Conversation Act (“EPCA”), and the DOE regulations promulgated thereunder, prevent states and cities from outlawing the sale or use of inefficient appliances and equipment. It surveys existing state efficiency laws that cover products beyond federal jurisdiction, and discusses several steps states can take to advance appliance and equipment efficiency in the wake of Washington’s inaction.
The Smart Water for Smart Regions initiative offers a blueprint for the responsible and sustainable utilization of water in the Great Lakes states, working with communities to minimize leaks and reduce flooding through cost-effective, coordinated solutions including.
This report explores a range of national policies to increase energy efficiency, accelerate the adoption of renewable energy technologies and shift energy use to more efficient power systems while reducing the electricity bills of consumers and businesses. The policies considered for the industrial sector are aimed at utilizing the vast potential for cogeneration of heat and power and improving energy efficiencies through technical assistance, financial incentives and expanded research and development (R&D) programs to encourage cost-effective emissions reductions. The policies for residential and commercial buildings include strengthened codes for building energy consumption, new appliance efficiency standards, and tax incentives. The policies considered for the electric generation sector include a market-oriented “renewable portfolio standard” (RPS) and a cap on pollutant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and carbon dioxide.
A nation of renewable-powered, job-generating, self-reliant states is within reach – and necessary; improved renewable electricity technology would allow nearly every state to produce 100 percent of its electricity needs from local renewable sources. This report includes a series of maps that illustrate nationwide renewable electricity potential from a wide variety of sources, including rooftop solar, offshore wind, onshore wind, geothermal, and small hydro. Additionally, this report also includes maps that demonstrate how decreased energy intensity could offset increased electricity demand from high electrification.
Renewable energy serves as a viable solution to replace fossil fuel generation to create a healthier environment. A number of cities across the United States are pledging to reach community-wide goals of 100 percent renewable energy, in order to combat the social, environmental, and economic impacts of climate change; however, many of these cities are unsure of how to meet these commitments. The goal of this report is to utilize qualitative and quantitative data through a national survey and case studies to help understand the mechanisms that will best enable cities and their decision-makers to equitably transition to 100% renewable energy.
This report focuses on an association of city and county governments and metropolitan planning organizations which collaborate to identify new training needs of Kansas City area businesses attempting to adapt to sustainable energy and energy efficiency opportunities. Key findings discusses in this report include that educational institutions and unions need to incorporate significantly more green knowledge and practices into their existing training; if we rely solely on incentives, there is a danger that green practices may fade away when the incentives do; and green knowledge starts at the top—architecture, design, universities and manager professionals need to understand and adopt green practices to enable construction workers to build green.
Policies to spur increased investment in renewable electricity generation can offer significant public benefits, including economic development and energy security, as well as improved public health and environmental quality owing to air pollution reductions. Congress has attempted to formally recognize these benefits by creating the Conservation and Renewable Energy Reserve (CRER) in the 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments, which set aside a portion of the national SO2 allowance budget for renewable energy and energy efficiency. However, the CRER was severely underutilized, and has expired. This study considers modifications to CAA that would increase the number of emission allowances allocated to renewable energy generation to enable renewables to compete fairly in emission trading and clean air compliance markets, and estimates the economic and environmental benefits of these changes.