“You are now responsible for the actions that Ryan Zinke will take as Secretary of the Interior,” reads a letter aimed at 16 Democrats and Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine. “I plan to hold you accountable.”
SCOTUS upholds rule meant to incentivize electricity conservation and idle dirty fossil fuel power plants normally used during periods of high demand
“Demand response provides tremendous benefits to our environment, helps consumers save money and makes our electricity grid more reliable,” says Earthjustice. (Photo: Image Catalog/flickr/cc)
In a decision heralded as “great news for consumers and the environment,” the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld a rule meant to incentivize electricity conservation and idle dirty fossil fuel power plants normally used during periods of high demand.
As Timothy Cama explains for The Hill, the court ruled (pdf) that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) “did not exceed the authority Congress gave it when it wrote its ‘demand response’ rule, mandating that electric utilities pay customers to reduce use during peak demand periods.”
At the Natural Resources Defense Council blog, senior attorney Allison Clements offered further background:
In 2011, FERC (the agency that regulates our country’s high voltage electric transmission grid) issued a landmark rule called Order 745, which set compensation for demand response in wholesale energy markets. Under the rule, grid operators are required to pay demand response participants the same rates for reducing energy use as those paid to power suppliers for producing energy from resources like coal, natural gas, and wind and solar power. FERC said the rule reflected the common sense view that “markets function most effectively when both supply and demand resources have appropriate opportunities to participate.”
With its ruling on Monday, the Supreme Court essentially affirmed FERC’s position—and in turn, gave clean energy “a huge boost,” Clements said in a press statement. That’s because, she explained, “[i]f grid operators can count on fast-acting customer responses rather than plants that need more advanced notice to come online, they will have greater flexibility to meet electricity demand in situations when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.”
What’s more, said Sierra Club staff attorney Casey Roberts, “demand response programs make energy cheaper, ensure the reliability of the grid, and protect our air and water from fossil fuel pollution.”
As Politico points out:
The agency’s win is seen as a big loss for large “baseload” power sources like coal, natural gas and nuclear in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest, which have seen their profits decline over the last several years as electricity consumption has eased and renewables grew. Now they have to compete with industrial customers and others who will at times be paid at market rates to reduce their electricity use without having the costs of operating and maintaining a power plant themselves.
“This is a great day for clean energy and the health of a more affordable, stronger power grid,” added Earthjustice managing attorney of clean energy Jill Tauber on Monday. “Demand response provides tremendous benefits to our environment, helps consumers save money and makes our electricity grid more reliable.”
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As Nevada short-circuits its solar boom, the White House gets more committed to renewable energy.
Until now, President Barack Obama has embraced gas and oil fracking, encouraged the construction of new nuclear reactors, and hailed government investment in wind and solar power. In keeping with this “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, he’d call for climate action one minute and sign off on measures destined to boost carbon pollution the next.
Suddenly, it looks like Obama may have ditched his inherently contradictory approach.
“We’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy,” he asserted during his final State of the Union address. “I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.”
Just three days later, the Obama administration moved in that direction by declaring a three-year moratorium on new leases to mine coal from federal land.
Obama’s speech also cast switching to renewable energy and phasing out fossil fuels in a business-friendly light.
“We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy — something environmentalists and tea partiers have teamed up to support,” he said. There’s plenty going on at a larger scale too. Wind and solar energy are generating more than half of the new power that came online last year.
The Republican Party’s obsession with “job creators” should make it a fan of green energy. Nearly 210,000 Americans now work for the solar industry, and some 73,000 are employed in the wind business. Renewable power forged at least 79,000 new jobs between 2008 and 2012 as 50,000 coal jobs vanished.
But the fossil fuel industries and their political allies won’t surrender without a fight. As Obama put it: “There are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo.”
To see what he meant, check out what’s up in Nevada.
Right before Christmas, the state’s electric-sector regulators short-circuited policies that rewarded homeowners for investing in their own solar panels. Nevadans may end up paying for the privilege of generating their own electricity while simultaneously padding the profit margins of NV Energy, rather than getting compensated for it.
The Nevada Public Utility Commission, whose three members were all appointed by Republican governor Brian Sandoval, effectively killed demand for rooftop solar power and the jobs that diversifying industry would have created in Nevada—overnight. The new policies also punish consumers who previously bought or leased panels.
This about face prompted companies like SolarCity, Vivint, and Sunrun to shutter their operations in the state. SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive is calling this move an act of “sabotage,” and two Las Vegas residents have already filed a class action lawsuit.
Along with rigging the rules, fossil fuel lobbyists are trying to extract new political favors. The coal industry, for example, wants new government handouts from West Virginia’s cash-strapped government. And, there are rumblings about a federal bailout for Big Oil.
This money ought to support and ramp up the green transition, not delay it. That’s what Obama meant when he asserted: “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future.”
And although polls have shown that government efforts to expand solar and wind power enjoy bipartisan support, GOP presidential contenders and many Republican leaders dismiss these increasingly competitive industries.
“Why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?” asked Obama, raising an excellent question. “The jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve — that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.”
Indeed. Supposedly pro-business politicians who are out to kill the green energy boom make no sense. Neither does an all-of-the-above energy strategy.
— by May Boeve
This is a big win. President Obama’s decision to reject Keystone XL because of its impact on the climate is nothing short of historic — and sets an important precedent that should send shockwaves through the fossil fuel industry.
Just a few years ago, insiders and experts wrote us off and assured the world Keystone XL would be built by the end of 2011. Together, ranchers, tribal nations, and everyday people beat this project back, reminding the world that Big Oil isn’t invincible–and that organized people can win over organized money.
But the win against Keystone XL is just the beginning, because this fight has helped inspire resistance to a thousand other projects. Everywhere you look, people are shutting down fracking wells, stopping coal export facilities, and challenging new pipelines. If Big Oil thinks that after Keystone XL the protesters are going home, they’re going to be sorely surprised. Today in Canada, dozens of people are risking arrest at Prime Minister Trudeau’s residence as part of the ‘Climate Welcome’ action to urge him to put an immediate freeze to tar sand expansion.
More than anything, though, today’s decision affirms the power of social movements to enact political change, and a clear sign that our movement is stronger than ever. We’re looking to build on this victory, and show that if it’s wrong to build Keystone XL because of its impact on our climate, it’s wrong to build any new fossil fuel infrastructure, period. With the same broad coalition that stood up against this pipeline and took to the streets during the People’s Climate March, we’re better positioned than ever before to make real climate policy a top priority for the U.S. government and achieve meaningful progress in this year’s climate talks. Our movement simply will not rest until our economy shifts away from the dirty fossil fuels of yesterday to the clean renewables of tomorrow.
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New analysis by UNFCCC finds wealthiest countries must step up efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions to stave off extreme warming
Developing nations are first in line to experience extreme weather events like drought, floods, and rising sea levels. (Photo: World Bank Photo Collection/flickr/cc)
The latest United Nations (UN) analysis of the climate pledges of world governments reveals the commitments are not enough to avert “climate catastrophe,” green groups warned on Friday.
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and German State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth presented in Berlin on Friday their report (pdf) on the effects of 146 participating countries’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)—representing 86 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—submitted ahead of the UN’s upcoming COP21 climate talks in Paris.
“While this round of pledges is a step in the right direction, they only take us from a 4°C catastrophe to a 3°C disaster.”
—Tim Gore, Oxfam
Their conclusion: the pledges will not be sufficient “to reverse by 2025 and 2030 the upward trend of global emissions. Furthermore, estimated annual aggregate emission levels resulting from their implementation do not fall within least-cost 2°C scenarios levels.”
“The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7°C by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs,” Figueres said.
In fact, if emissions continue to go unchecked, current trends indicate that the global temperature rise could be by as much as 4.5°C by 2100, the UN reported—well above the threshold climate experts say would bring catastrophic floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events.
A 2°C goal is still within reach, the report said. But climate activists warned that meeting such a goal will require much more aggressive action by wealthy nations, many of which have recently come under fire for their lackluster pledges and attempts to evade financial obligations to developing countries.
“We’re going to need to see more ambition in Paris,” 350.org strategy and communications director Jamie Henn said on Friday. “The targets currently on the table still aren’t enough to prevent climate catastrophe. To close the gap, politicians must settle on a clear mechanism to increase ambition, make real financial commitments, and agree to a unifying goal of completely decarbonizing the global economy.”
However, the current inadequate pledges are “still enough to send a clear signal to investors that the age of fossil fuels is over—there’s no way to meet these targets, let alone the stronger ones necessary, without a full scale transition to renewable energy,” Henn said.
Tim Gore, head of food and climate policy at humanitarian aid group Oxfam, added, “The UN’s verdict reveals that, while the world is making progress, much more needs to be done. While this round of pledges is a step in the right direction, they only take us from a 4°C catastrophe to a 3°C disaster.”
“The targets currently on the table still aren’t enough to prevent climate catastrophe.”
—Jamie Henn, 350
The Least Developed Countries (LDC), a coalition of frontline nations taking part in the climate talks, were even more critical of the findings, which come just days after preliminary negotiations in Bonn ended without a concrete plan for rich countries to step up their part.
“Today’s analysis shows the urgent need to address the lack of ambition within the INDCs,” said LDC chair and Angolan diplomat Giza Gaspar-Martins. “Governments must do more in Paris, but the work does not end there. For the INDCs to succeed they must be adjusted before 2020 and reviewed in five year cycles from 2020 to ensure national actions quickly and rapidly progresses, or we all face a grim and uncertain future.”
Small island nations are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, Gaspar-Martins continued. “For 48 of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries, economic development, regional food security and ecosystems are at risk in this 2°C ‘safe zone’. So we once again call on the world to grow its ambition for a 1.5°C target,” he said.