When EPA Is Under Threat, So Is Business: Two Key Examples

By EDF Blogs

(This post first appeared on EDF+Business. It was written by EDF’s Liz Delaney)

American businesses benefit tremendously from the robust voluntary and regulatory programs of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These programs are now under threat of massive budget cuts and regulatory rollbacks.  In the coming weeks and months, the experts at EDF+Business will examine what a weakened EPA means for business. 

While some politicians may question the reality of climate change, most CEOs do not. So it’s no surprise that while Congress has been stuck, business has been busy addressing the problem. Luckily, they’ve had a helpful partner by their side: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Contrary to now head of the EPA Scott Pruitt’s claim that business has been subjected to “regulatory uncertainty”—stated during this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference—the Agency has administered a number of voluntary and regulatory programs that help corporations respond to the challenge of climate change. For companies, future planning is simply good business. This is why many in  Corporate America—having long accepted that climate change is real— are continuing to transition towards low-carbon energy options and work with the EPA to move forward in a sensible, cost-effective manner.

But with the recent announcement on Pruitt’s plans to cut the EPA’s budget by a reported 24 percent—roughly $6 billion, its lowest since the mid-1980’s–it may be up to the business community to defend the instrumental role of the Agency in helping business thrive while protecting the environment.

Here’s a look at just two of the many EPA programs that have helped business transition to a clean energy future.

Forging a smart economic future with the Clean Power Plan

Many in the business community strongly supported the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP)—the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The argument? Dirty sources of energy generation are becoming a growing concern for corporate America. These energy sources are increasingly uneconomic. Fortune 500 companies routinely set renewable energy and emissions reduction goals, but find roadblocks in many energy markets around the country.

Fortunately, the CPP can open new opportunities for businesses interested in operating in a clean energy economy. The rule’s flexible framework puts states in the driver’s seat to set plans that call for the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions for meeting pollution reduction targets while spurring innovation. If you ask me, this satisfies Pruitt’s call to “restore federalism” by giving states more of a say in regulations. The plans provide clarity on the energy options available to businesses in different regions, helping to inform their long-term carbon reduction strategies and eventually increase access to cost-effective low-carbon energy.

This explains why last year major innovators including Mars, IKEA, Apple, Google, and Microsoft filed legal briefs in federal court supporting the EPA’s Plan. And more recently, leading executives from over 760 companies and investors—many of them Fortune 500 firms—called upon the new Administration to move ahead with policies to address climate change, like the Clean Power Plan.

The CPP is positioned to:

  • Generate $155 billion in consumer savings between 2020-2030
  • Create 3x as many jobs per $1 invested in clean energy as compared to $1 invested in fossil fuels
  • Lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $54 billion, including avoiding 3,600 premature deaths in 2030

The Green Power Partnership

The Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program launched by the EPA to increase the use of renewable electricity in the U.S. Under the program, businesses are armed with resources and provided technical support to identify the types of green power products that best meet their goals. Since its inception, the Partnership has made notable progress in addressing market barriers to green power procurement.

Through the Partnership, companies can reduce their carbon footprints, increase cost savings, and demonstrate civic leadership, which further drives customer, investor and stakeholder loyalty. Take Colgate-Palmolive for example: as one of the Green Power Partnership’s national top 100, the consumer products giant has generated close to 2 billion kWh of annual green power through wind power alone. This represents 80% of the company’s total electricity use.

Today, hundreds of Partner organizations rely on billions of kWh of green power annually. At the end of 2015, over 1,300 Partners were collectively using more than 30 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, equivalent to the electricity use of more than three million average American homes.

Pruitt has ratified the belief that we can “grow jobs, grow the economy while being good stewards of the environment”–and he’s right. The renewable energy industry is now outpacing the rest of the U.S. in job creation; which is good news for business and the economy at large. American wind power now supports more than 100,000 jobs—an increase of 32% in just one year—and solar employs more people in U.S. electricity generation than oil, coal and gas combined.

Long-term economics versus short-term politics

We don’t know what will happen in Washington over the next few years. But many businesses are moving forward. Rather than shift course, corporations are increasing investments in clean, reliable power, a move that is consistent with sound business practices.

But business can’t do it alone. The EPA supports responsible companies who have committed to reducing their carbon footprints while safeguarding our planet. It’s time for business to not just leverage their scale and buying power to help accelerate the transition to a clean energy future, but to speak up in favor of maintaining a well-funded agency that continues to make decisions based on sound science and the law.

In his first address to the EPA, Scott Pruitt said, “you can’t lead unless you listen.” Let’s make sure he hears from the businesses that are focused on a future where both the economy and the environment can thrive.

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Keeping America Great: Smart Rules Can Help The Economy And Nature Prosper

By Diane Regas

Barely a month after his inauguration, President Trump is proceeding with plans to dismantle protections under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.  The targets include limiting pollution into streams and wetlands that flow into drinking water for a hundred million Americans, automobile fuel economy standards that cut tailpipe pollution, and performance standards under the Clean Power Plan that would boost renewable power and fight climate change.  Trump and his EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, have drawn up reckless plans to slash EPA’s budget—greeted with derision even by some Republicans in Congress.  With the tragic story of Flint still fresh in people’s minds, the President is betraying the demands of his own supporters — fully 64% of Trump voters want to maintain or increase spending on environmental protection.

These actions are a tragic wrong turn for the country — and not just because they threaten to roll back decades of progress on air and water pollution, and the recent steps forward on climate change.

What I especially worry about are the lost opportunities for economic growth, new jobs, and the competitiveness of American companies — at a time when China and others are stepping up.

I think we can all agree that America is great in part because of our huge capacity for innovation — from Henry Ford to Elon Musk. But sadly, the new administration fails to understand that affirmative government policy has a crucial role to play in keeping the engine of innovation healthy and humming. In fact, during my decades of working under six different EPA administrators, almost all of them Republicans, I’ve seen first-hand the ability of smart regulations to unleash the enormous power of American ingenuity and entrepreneurship.

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Smart rules — focused on results, not process — stimulate new ideas, create new markets and jobs, and raise living standards for all Americans. The limits imposed on pollution spewing from auto exhaust pipes not only cleaned the air and improved health, for example, they also spurred new technologies that increase fuel efficiency. As a result, Americans save money every time they pull up to the gas pump (though these benefits are threatened by the plans to roll back fuel economy standards). Similarly, protecting the ozone layer drove the development of new refrigerants, bringing higher profits for the innovative companies that paved the way to the new products.

But don’t take my word for it.

Clean states

“I refused to gamble on the energy diversity options.” — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner

Listen instead to Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of Illinois. Rauner recently signed a bipartisan bill that requires utilities in the state to generate 25% of their electricity from clean renewable sources like wind and solar by 2025 and to significantly boost the efficiency of energy use in homes and businesses. The mandates are good for the planet, of course, because they will cut the state’s emissions of climate change-causing greenhouse gases even more than would be required under Obama’s Clean Power Plan. And far from killing the economy, they will entice more than $10 billion in new investment dollars into the state and save people money on their electric bills. “I refused to gamble on thousands of good-paying jobs, and I refused to gamble on the energy diversity options for the people of Illinois,” Rauner told the Chicago Sun-Times. “That’s why I fought to make this bill happen.”

Clean grid

These regulations are stimulating the economy by creating high-paying jobs in construction and in manufacturing.

Or consider a seemingly arcane change in rules by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) about how transmission grid operators are paid to manage power fluctuations on the grid. The rule change has already spurred competition and made it cheaper (and more effective) to rely on batteries instead of ramping up gas generators — and helped fuel a whole new business in large-scale battery storage. Now, that industry is being truly kick-started by regulatory mandates, first in California, then in Oregon and Massachusetts, requiring that hundreds of megawatts of storage be added to the grid. This support in the early phase will help make battery storage competitive everywhere. These regulations are crucial weapons in the fight against climate change. But just as important, they are stimulating the economy by creating high-paying jobs in construction and in manufacturing facilities like Tesla’s battery gigafactory. As California Governor Jerry Brown says: “Regulation inspires innovation.

Clean cars

I’ve been fortunate to personally benefit from such innovations. Pacific Gas and Electric is paying me to use my electric car as flexible power storage on their grid. PG&E and BMW have teamed up in a pilot project to test how to use plugged-in electric vehicles to meet short spikes in the supply of clean power. The utility saves money on power plants, can build-in more renewables, and will pay owners like me up to $900 over the two-year program. I’m also thrilled by the many advantages of the car itself: peppy acceleration, whisper-quiet operation, and low maintenance costs.

Clean tech

Breathtaking innovation in sensors, artificial intelligence, and advanced materials can thrive because the US creates the right environment. But an ideologically blinded attack on all government funding and regulation will create uncertainty and smother innovation that we desperately need. More than ever, we urgently need to protect the environment and slow climate change with smart investments and standards that also increase prosperity for all Americans. “The key is designing policies that point the way forward while creating a wide playing field for innovators to develop the best solutions,” says Anthony (Tony) F. Earley, Jr., Executive Chair of the Board of PG&E Corporation.

Global momentum

China is creating the world’s largest carbon emissions trading system.

Other countries understand this urgency. China is creating the world’s largest carbon emissions trading system, harnessing the power of the free market to fuel innovation and find the cheapest and best approaches to cutting carbon pollution.  In a powerful symbolic move, China just announced a competition to develop key market infrastructure — on the Friday before the National People’s Congress.

Countries like Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway are already far ahead of us in shares of renewable power or electric cars and are reaping the resulting economic benefits from their homegrown innovations and world-leading companies. Eliminating the rules that have been successful in stimulating clean energy advances here in America will only put us further behind.

With the right smart regulations and policies, we can protect our cherished clean air and clean water and stabilize the climate. And at the same time, we will also keep America great.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.

Photo source: Grid Alternatives

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Fishing gear innovations creating great results for fish, fishermen and habitat

By Shems Jud

Trawl gear modifications produce reductions in bycatch, fuel use and seafloor contact – all with increased catching efficiency.

Over the past couple of years EDF’s Pacific team has been privileged to work with fishermen, scientists, fishing net manufacturers and many others on a three-stage project to demonstrate the feasibility of improved trawl net designs on the West Coast. The video shown here describes the amazing progress we’ve made together and indicates a path-forward for disseminating our results to fishermen everywhere.

Our video tells the story of:

  • Trawl gear innovations developed by fisherman Giuseppe Pennisi, of Monterey, California
  • The work of Dr. James Lindholm, of Cal State University, Monterey, along with his team of remote operated vehicle (ROV) consultants and a hardy band of grad students.
  • The Trawl Gear Modifications Workshop we convened last summer, which brought together researchers, fishermen, regulators and gear manufacturers from the West Coast and Alaska to view underwater fishing footage and share their expertise.

That workshop was so well received that a second one is already being planned.

Please feel free to share this video with your family, friends or colleagues. There are lots of good stories in U.S. commercial fisheries these days, and the more people who learn about them the better!

P.S. Many people contributed to this project, but our special thanks go out to NOAA Fisheries and the Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program.

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Dad’s lead-laden hair dye could impact the whole family: FDA to consider barring lead compound in widely-used men’s hair dyes

By Jack Pratt

Jack Pratt is Chemicals Campaign Director

Today, EDF joined a group of advocates in filing a petition that could force a ban on lead in hair dyes. Over the last several decades, we have gone to great lengths to reduce lead exposure—from eliminating the use of lead in gasoline, to tackling legacy uses in paint and water pipes. Yet, somewhat incredibly, lead is still permitted in hair dyes in the United States. Unfortunately, the evidence indicates that use can have an impact not only on the men who use it (it is seemingly exclusive to men’s dyes) but can have an impact on kids in the house too. That’s why FDA should take action and reverse their decades-old approval of lead in hair dyes.

No one contests that lead is a potent neurotoxin, with an especially devilish impact on

Think twice about how you cover up that gray.

kids. Children with elevated blood lead levels can see life-long impacts, including lost IQ points, ADHD and other significant cognitive and health impacts. While there are still critical areas that require attention—such as the lead pipes providing drinking water to millions of Americans and the hazard of old lead paint—decades of work on lead policies has made a real impact, resulting in significant declines in children’s exposure. Some of these policy initiatives were quite dramatic, like removing lead from gasoline, but the societal impact has been well worth the trouble.

For all that work, it is surprising—astonishing really—that an intentional, purely cosmetic use of lead remains permitted. Today you can walk into almost any drug store or supermarket in the United States and purchase a so-called “progressive” men’s hair dye that could contain as much as one gram of lead. While use of lead acetate in hair dyes is prohibited in Canada and the European Union, the U.S. FDA approved of such use in 1980. That approval included only minimal restrictions—a vague warning label and that the dye only be used on the scalp, not on facial hair. The levels of lead in the product are allowed to be as high as 6000 ppm. To put that in perspective, three years before FDA’s decision, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the sale of household paint containing more than 600 ppm of lead.

The petition filed by EDF and our colleagues cites cases where users of such hair dyes have noticed real health impacts, including one user who didn’t realize it should not be used on facial hair and lost feeling in his hands and feet. He did not return to normal for a year.

Perhaps more notably, however, the petition cites major advances in science since the 1980 FDA decision that show the risks go beyond the users themselves and put other members of their family at risk. One such study showed lead contamination from the hair dyes—especially on surfaces touched after using the hair dye like blow-dryers, combs and faucets—and found these surfaces had up to 2,804 micrograms of lead per square foot. In 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that more than 40 micrograms of lead per square foot on the floor posed a hazard to children.

I certainly understand the desire for a youthful appearance—I’ve got more than a few grey hairs myself. But as the parent of two small children, there is simply no contest for where my priorities lie, especially since there are many hair dyes that do not contain lead. I’m sure that many, if not most, users of these products have no idea they could be putting their health and that of their families at risk. FDA now has 6 months to review the petition and make a final decision. This should be a no-brainer—FDA should take action to protect Americans from this unnecessary source of lead exposure.

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Why Food Safety Plans must consider chemical hazards

By Tom Neltner

By: Tom Neltner, J.D.Chemicals Policy Director and Maricel Maffini, Ph.D., Consultant, Environmental Defense Fund

Since September 17, 2016, most facilities storing, processing, or manufacturing food are required to identify and, if necessary, control potential hazards in food under a Preventive Controls Rule promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pursuant to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA). Some foods have had similar requirements in place for years. For example, fruit and vegetable juice processors have been required to have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan since the early 2000s.

The driving force behind the law and the rules has been reducing the hazard of pathogenic contamination in food. However, the Preventive Controls Rule defines a hazard broadly to include any chemical, whether a contaminant or an additive, that “has the potential to cause illness or injury.”

In this blog, we will explore how the requirements of the Preventive Controls Rule apply to chemical hazards using lead as an example. We chose lead because it is known to cause injury and clearly meets the definition of a hazard. It is well-established that there is no safe level of lead in the blood of children leading to lower IQ and academic achievement, and increases in attention related behaviors. We also know it is all too common in food that toddlers eat. And scientific evidence indicates that much of the lead in food gets into children’s blood.

Four potential sources of lead in the food supply chain

Lead can get into food in different ways including:

  • Absorption from contaminated soil into the roots, leaves, and, possibly, fruit. Soil may be contaminated from past use of lead arsenate pesticides or air deposition from burning leaded gasoline.
  • Contact with contaminated soil during production or harvesting. For example, soil may get into a head of lettuce or on an apple that falls to the ground.
  • Leaching from food handling equipment such as that made from brass or plastic that had lead intentionally added. Until 2014, brass used in drinking water applications could contain up to 8% lead and still be called lead-free. If such brass were used in pumps and valves in food production, leaching of lead into food may occur. Similarly, lead has also been used in PVC plastic as a stabilizer, although it has been phased out in U.S. and Europe. It is important to note that lead is not approved by FDA to be intentionally added to anything that contacts food. If any leaches into food from these sources, the lead would be considered an unapproved food additive. That would render the food adulterated and, therefore, illegal to sell. Note that a supplier’s claim that a material is “food grade” is no guarantee that its use is legal.
  • Contamination of food or food contact materials during processing such as lead from deteriorated paint in the building.

Elements of a Food Safety Plan

Under the Preventive Controls Rule, most facilities storing, processing or manufacturing food must have a written Food Safety Plan that consists of seven items:

  1. A hazard analysis to identify and evaluate known or reasonably foreseeable hazards;
  2. Preventive controls to ensure hazards are significantly minimized or prevented and food will not be adulterated;
  3. Risk-based supply chain program to protect raw materials and ingredients from hazards;
  4. Plan for recalls should they be necessary;
  5. Procedures to monitor preventive controls to assure they are consistently performed;
  6. Corrective action procedures if preventive controls are not properly implemented; and
  7. Verification procedures to validate that preventive controls are adequate and effective, other procedures are being followed, and plan is reevaluated at least once every three years.

The path forward

The FSMA food safety planning requirements put in place a systematic approach for food manufacturers to prevent food safety problems rather than react when they arise. This includes problems that can result from chemical hazards as well as pathogens. The goal is to ensure that consumers are not exposed to adulterated food, whether because it contains “any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health” or it contains an unapproved food or color additive.

A robust food safety plan for lead and other chemicals such as perchlorate would go a long way to protect children and pregnant women from unnecessary exposures to chemicals known to impair brain development, and the businesses from unnecessary risk.

What a Food Safety Plan would say for lead

To comply with the regulations and mitigate risk, the food manufacturer/processor’s written food safety plan is required to identify lead as a hazard if it is reasonably foreseeable that lead could get into food either as a contaminant or from its intentional addition to materials such as brass or plastic used in food handling equipment.

If the plan identifies lead as a hazard, the company must evaluate the risk by assessing (1) the severity of the illness or injury if the hazard were to occur, and (2) the probability that the hazard will occur in the absence of preventive controls. The plan must also develop and implement preventive controls to assure lead levels are significantly minimized or prevented and the food is not adulterated. The controls would likely include:

Next, the company must identify how the preventive controls would be monitored to spot implementation problems, explain how a recall would be conducted if lead were found to exceed the maximum amount identified in the plan or is present as an unapproved food additive, and describe what corrective action would be taken to prevent future recalls.

Finally, the food manufacturer/processor must reanalyze its Food Safety Plan at least every three years or when:

  1. There is a significant change in the activities conducted at the facility that creates a reasonable potential for a new hazard or creates a significant increase in a previously identified hazard;
  2. The food manufacturer becomes aware of new information about potential hazards associated with the food;
  3. An unanticipated food safety problem occurs; or
  4. The food manufacturer finds the preventive control, combination of preventive controls, or the food safety plan as a whole is ineffective.

The Food Safety Plans are not made publicly available, but they must be made available to FDA on request or during an inspection. Potential downstream buyers and retailers most likely can obtain a copy through their own supply chain management programs.

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How Electricity Data Can Clean Up the Economy

By Dick Munson

The U.S. electric grid is old and frayed, yet innovative technologies – modern sensors, smart meters, and advanced telecommunications – offer hope to update it to become more modern, efficient, and clean. What all these smart-grid tools have in common is data. How we utilize the enormous quantities of information about how we move and use electricity will have major impacts on markets, customers, the environment, and our future electricity system.

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) recognized this when, in mid-February, they approved an energy data-sharing program for Illinois’ largest electric utility, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd). The program, developed and advanced by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Citizens Utility Board (CUB), allows companies and researchers access to anonymous energy-use data from ComEd’s nearly 4 million smart meters.

This will encourage the development of energy-saving products and services designed to help Illinoisans save money. The data also will allow rooftop solar companies, energy efficiency providers, non-profits, researchers, cities, and other clean energy innovators to see which neighborhoods and blocks have the greatest potential for money-saving clean energy projects ─ ensuring no community is left behind. Moreover, this information will spur new offerings from smart home and appliance manufacturers, energy management specialists, HVAC and lighting companies, as well as market researchers.

Deeply-rooted benefits

Much like the economic and customer benefits from digital phone data, electricity data benefits multiple bottom lines:

  • Customers –On one level, data can empower electricity consumers, allowing them to save money and reduce pollution. That’s why EDF and CUB created an Open Access Data Framework that sets the standards by which consumers can gain access to their data and work with third-party providers to act on it. The framework incorporates the Green Button Initiative that enables customers to download their energy usage data and use it to take advantage of online energy management services. Some studies have found the availability of real-time energy-use data leads to energy-efficiency gains of 15 percent.

How Electricity Data Can Clean Up the Economy
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  • Utility companies – Data can also help traditional power plants improve operations. More information about both utility transmission and distribution systems can enable small and intermittent generators, like rooftop solar panels and wind turbines, to integrate smoothly onto and bolster the electric grid.
  • Entrepreneurs – The sharing of distribution-level data can fundamentally change the way utilities and third-parties operate, creating a more level playing field and opening the door for entrepreneurs to offer innovative new services to customers. As Val Jensen, ComEd Senior Vice President of Customer Operations, put it, “One of the great benefits of smart meter technology is the availability of data that will enable a growing sector of energy tech companies to design new products and pricing programs that will help customers save money and meet the growing interest for more choice and personalized services.”
  • Researchers – Anonymous usage data – the type in the newly approved ComEd program – compiles energy usage statistics without including any personal information about customers. By ensuring confidentiality, the new program will open access to unidentified interval energy usage data for all zip codes where smart meters have been deployed. This type of information will be invaluable when assessing which areas and neighborhoods could benefit themselves and the grid the most from clean energy projects.

Illinois leading the way

Illinois is not the only state embracing the financial and environmental benefits of electricity data. A similar effort is being considered in New York as part of the Reforming the Energy Vision proceeding currently before state regulators. With states like Illinois and New York determined to prove what access to power data can do, we have even more hope in modernizing our electric grid and building the foundation for a clean economy.

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Bigger, Varied Resource Portfolios to Clean up California’s Grid

By Larissa Koehler

If music has taught us nothing else, it is that more is better. Three Dog Night taught us that “one is the loneliest number,” the Beatles taught us that we need help from our friends to get by, and Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock reminded us that “it takes two to make a thing go right.”

Those lyrics apply just as easily to our electric grid. That’s because on the grid, it is best to have a bigger, varied group of resources.

Through the Integrated Resource Plan proceeding, the California Public Utilities Commission is requiring California’s big three utilities – Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric – to create energy portfolios that are balanced, cost-effective, and position the utilities to meet state climate and energy targets. This was codified in SB 350 (De León), which required the Commission and utilities to develop these integrated resource plans (IRPs). Accordingly, the Commission has set forth the following specifications:

  • By 2030, meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets set forth in SB 32 (Pavley) – a 40 percent reduction relative to 1990.
  • Enable an energy portfolio of 50 percent renewable energy.
  • Maintain reliability, strengthen diversity and resilience, and prevent severe bill impacts. In practice, this means the plans must continue to ensure utilities provide enough power at all times to serve their customers while making clean resources – including energy storage and tools like demand response – more of a focus in their energy portfolios. These changes should be cost-effective for customers.
  • Prioritize reduction of harmful air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in disadvantaged communities.
  • Widely electrify transportation.

In short, IRPs are required to show a lot of ambition, and their efficacy – or lack thereof – can have a tremendous impact on whether or not California successfully meets its ambitious climate and clean energy goals.

Bigger, Varied Resource Portfolios to Clean up California’s Grid
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How can California’s utility plans succeed?

Given all these utility plans are set to accomplish, it’s important to get them right. Here are some ideas for how to make them as successful as possible:

  • Consider revision of the utility business model: As expressed in the Integrated Distributed Energy Resource (IDER) proceeding, the current planning process is an opportunity for the Commission to re-evaluate (and re-envision) the utility business model. Currently, shareholders make profits based on their investment in infrastructure – this de-incentivizes investment in distributed resources (like home solar and demand response), because they require less utility infrastructure than their “poles and wires” brethren. Encouraging utilities to invest in distributed energy resources will take more than the pilot established by the IDER proceeding. Getting utilities to invest in clean energy will require a “fees for services” or performance-based ratemaking model. In a fees-for-services model, the utility would be eligible for a share of profits when connecting customers to third-party distributed energy resource providers. Under a performance-based ratemaking model, the utility would be able to collect profits by reaching of a set of pre-determined metrics.

The procurement process can level the playing field for flexible, clean energy resources.

  • Coordinate with other relevant proceedings: The IRP process will be more successful if it draws on learnings from other key proceedings. Acknowledging and integrating important findings from, for example utility electric car pilots, the utility storage mandate, and the IDER proceeding, will only serve to strengthen the final version of the IRPs. Additionally, the IRP proceeding will now include a significant portion of PG&E’s plan to replace Diablo Canyon ─ California’s last nuclear power plant which the utility is proposing to retire and replace with clean energy solutions. This will make it vital for the IRPs to consider the needs that arise from the plant’s closure and how to ensure the power that replaces it is clean and low-cost.
  • Focus on disadvantaged communities: Low-income communities are disproportionately burdened by harmful pollution, so utility analyses must correctly pinpoint the areas in their service territories that are most in need of clean energy solutions and then prioritize serving those communities. From there, they can figure out how to cost-effectively deploy clean, distributed resources in those locations.
  • Transition away from natural gas reliance: The procurement process can level the playing field for flexible, clean energy resources. This can, in turn, incentivize utilities to move away from using natural gas resources for the traditional, yet increasingly outdated, role they play in our energy system (one of balancing out intermittent resources and meeting high demand). The IRPs should encourage resource mixes capable of cutting harmful carbon pollution while maintaining reliability. This impacts whether and how utilities balance variable electric generating units (i.e. solar panels and wind turbines) with existing and new fast-response gas units.

With these elements, utility IRPs have the potential to create a clean, affordable energy system ─ one that leverages the collective strength of a broad range of clean energy resources from rooftop solar panels to home batteries. With all these tools working together, we can ensure a reliable California grid.

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4 Signs Texas Could Lead the Clean Energy Economy – But Will It?

By John Hall

“If you want to know how wind works for America, just ask a Texan.” That’s according to Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), which just released its newest wind industry market report.

The AWEA report shows Texas is the nation’s indisputable wind powerhouse, including serving as home to nearly a quarter of America’s wind jobs. But wind is just one piece of the puzzle, and recent reports confirm the pieces are in place for Texas to blaze the clean energy trail.

Wind is thriving in Texas and solar is growing, while the electric grid remains reliable and billions in savings await. But the Lone Star State can do more: California has more than 10 times as many solar jobs with less than a quarter of Texas’ solar potential. When it comes to clean energy, will lawmakers during this 85th Texas Legislative Session position the state to lead the nation?

Mounting evidence

In a span of a week, four reports came out with significant findings for Texas’ clean energy economy:

  1. Wind juggernaut: AWEA’s report is full of Lone Star wind tidbits. In addition to accounting for four times as many jobs as the next state (Iowa), Texas is now home to roughly one-fourth of the nation’s wind capacity, with more on the way. Additionally, wind projects are providing private landowners with millions in land lease payments – more than $60 million for Texas farmers and ranchers, to be exact. The state also has acquired nearly $40 billion in wind energy investment. Clearly, wind is checking the jobs, growth, and investment boxes. 

    4 Signs Texas Could Lead the Clean Energy Economy – But Will It?
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  2. Solar surge: The Solar Foundation’s new census shows Texas solar jobs experienced 34 percent growth last year, significantly surpassing the 12 percent projected growth and propelling Texas to the number three spot. Although undeniably impressive, the “solar jobs per capita” tells a less sunny story: Texas is in the 37th place (California is in 4th). As solar grows, so will the job numbers.

    Wind and solar are accounting for more Texas jobs than ever before, while bringing substantial investments into the state.

  3. Grid reliability: Closing coal plants doesn’t mean the lights will go out. Looking at data from Texas’ main grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), a new study from Public Citizen examined what would happen if Dallas-based Luminant shut down two of its largest coal plants. Conclusion: Wind, solar, and natural gas will fill any gap left by coal, and potential issues will be mitigated “without the need for additional transmission upgrades beyond what is currently planned by ERCOT.” In other words, Texas already is well-equipped for coal shutdowns.
  4. Amazing savings: Prioritizing clean energy will lead to hefty Texas savings, as evidenced in the new Environmental Defense Fund report. Lower pollution means billions of dollars avoided in healthcare costs. At the same time, enhanced energy efficiency results in billions of power savings. Increasing the use of wind and solar PV, which need virtually no water to create energy, avoids the need for billions of additional power-sector water. And focusing on homegrown energy sources, rather than coal imported from other states, translates to billions of avoided import costs.

When it comes to Texas’ clean energy economy, what’s not to like? Wind and solar are accounting for more Texas jobs than ever before, while bringing substantial investments into the state. The growth of cleaner power sources means less reliance on imported coal, a transition that won’t harm our electric grid’s reliability.

These four reports show Texas clean energy is primed and ready to go. The state has a thriving competitive electricity market that benefits people and the economy thanks to forward-looking policies put in place years ago. As Texas’ current legislative session continues, we hope policymakers will keep that market in place and allow the growing clean energy economy to flourish.

This post originally appeared on our Energy Exchange blog.

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