Clean Energy Initiative

NDN’s Clean Energy Initiative centers on transforming discussions about 20th century energy policy into a new framework where energy policy is deeply integrated with economic policy and America’s 21st century challenges.  
Our Electricity 2.0 Program focuses on the issues surrounding the modernization of the electric grid structure for the 21st Century, including the need to replace, renovate and expand our infrastructure with an equal goal to address the issue of renewable energies, a more open energy network, greater consumer choice and the development of a new business model for the  21st Century.



Department of Defense and Next Generation Energy Technology  On July 25 we hosted a panel discussion on the incredible impact of the Military’s investment in clean energy.  Jon Powers, Federal Executive for White House office of Climate Energy Quality was joined by Dr. Holmes Hummel of Department of Energy, Dr. Jeff Marqusee of Department of Defense and Jeff Weiss, of Distributed Sun, LLC.



Heather Zichal On June 25, we hosted Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal, who spoke on the successes of the Obama administration's All of the Above energy policy and what the President has accomplished with this comprehensive national energy plan.



Ken SalazarKen Salazar, On April 25, we hosted United States Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who outlined the Administration's upcoming energy strategy at a luncheon at NDN. The Obama Administration, and the DOI have made remarkable progress through their 'all-of-the-above' approach to energy over the last three years.


The Role of Consumers in Shaping Energy Use - On April 6 we hosted a panel titled "The Critical Role of Consumers in Shaping The Future of Energy Use." The event, which was co-hosted with Opower, spotlighted the panel examined the role that customers can and should play in driving energy policy and proactively managing their home energy.


Solar Tariff Panel - On March 16 NDN's Clean Energy Initiative hosted a panel titled "Solar Tariffs:  Smart Policy or Protectionism?" Leading experts from the field joined us to discuss the issues involved with China, international trade, the labor market and solar technology. This panel was the seventh in our ongoing "Clean Energy Solution Series".relationship between consumer energy use and new technologies for over

Gina McCarthy

Gina McCarthy, On January 20, Ms. McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation for the Environmental Protection Agency, spoke to our 6th Clean Energy Solution Series on the impact of the newly released EPA national standards for mercury and other air toxins which will ultimately prevent 90% of mercury, 88% of natural gas emissions, and 41% of sulpher dioxins. 


Progress and Promise of the Electric Vehicle - On December 6, 2011 the fifth of our Clean Energy Solution Series feataured a panel of industry thought leaders for a discussion on the future of the Electric Vehicle.  This panel highlighted the recent emergence of the electric vehicle in today’s economy and how innovations in clean energy have opened doors for growth and opportunities of the electric car. 


Paul Tonko (NY-12)

Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-12) -  On October 21, 2011 our New York Clean Energy Forum featured Congressman Tonko who made the case for distributed generation throughout our country.  He pointed out the attributes of off-grid energy both in terms of saving the consumer money but also in terms of long term energy efficiency.  Tonko says Smart Grid/Smart Energy projects should continue to be funded through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, as they will ultimately engage the consumer with their energy use and resulting energy efficiency.  


Jack Hidary - On October 4, 2011, Jack Hidary, the well known energy Jack Hidaryentreprenaur spoke to our New York Clean Energy Forum on 'The Gamechanger:  China’s Unstoppable Clean Energy Exports'. Combining his considerable expertise in finance, science, technology, Jack's speech  focused on China's  master business plan every five years.  That plan, coupled with the enormity of China’s population, landmass, and financial resources, puts a footprint on every country and every major business in this global economy.  


Wind TurbineEconomics of Wind Energy and the Relevance of Tax Credits - On September 27, 2011, we held the fourth event in our Clean Energy Solution Series featuring a panel discussion on the the economic ramifications of wind energy presenting the case for investment of wind energy and outlined the realities of wind energy and other renewable energy in the political climate of the 112th Congress. 

FERC Panel


Transmission Reform:  What Does It Mean for Renewables? - On July 28, 2011, the third in our Clean Energy Solution Series featured a panel discussionon the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Rulemaking, Order 1000 and the potential of a modernized electric grid structure to provide nationwide consumers with renewable energy.


The Speed of Solar: A Review of the Tremendous Impact of Solar - On June 27, 2011, we held the second event in out "Clean Energy Solution Series", which spotlighted the success of rooftop solar energy, particularly for Sungevity Rooftop Energy. The rooftop solar industry, now no longer a cottage industry selling to the wealthy in the state of California, is now mainstream and viable in almost every state.


Wireless Technology:  New Technologies and the Electric Grid - On June 16, we held our first Clean Energy Solution Series on how wireless communications can create innovation opportunities for clean energy technologies and the smart grid.  We also released new national polling which shows public support for new approaches on energy outside the scope of the current debate.

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

Senator Jeff Bingaman - On January 31, 2011 Senator Bingaman, Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee outlined his priorities for an energy agenda for the 112th Congress at a packed luncheon of over 250 people at the National Press Club. The Senator outlined four elements which he said should be at the heart of a comprehensive energy legislation to make the United States competitive in global energy markets.  To read more follow the links below:

Understanding the Transformative Potential of Microgrids and Distributed Power - On December 10, 2010, four industry pioneers; in localized generation and power management discussed the overwhelming success of cogeneration.  Cogeneration has revolutionized industrial power in the US, but also the huge, untapped potential of microgrids harnessing cogen and distributed power to modernize American electricity.  

Michael Moynihan to Present at the CITI Conference on Broadband Networks & Smart Grid

Michael Moynihan presents E 2.0 at Georgetown Energy and Cleantech Conference

Accelerating the Clean Energy Economy: Key Pathways, Policies, and Pitfalls 6/29/10: with Michael Moynihan, Dan Carol, Robert Shapiro, and Aimee Christensen NDN hosted a panel on the imperative of moving towards a clean energy economy and how this transition will take shape. The lively discussion explored the financial and regulatory incentives for clean energy development, as well as the necessary legislative actions to put these incentives into place.

NDN in New York - Electricity 2.0: Unlocking the Power of the Open Energy Network 5/21/10: with Michael Moynihan Clean Energy Initiativei Director Michael Moynihan hosted a presentation in New York, examining the electricity industry and why the uptake of renewables has been so slow. He argued that the answer lies in the outdated and complex structure of Electricity 1.0, a closed, highly regulated network created a century ago, fundamentally incompatible with clean technology and renewable power. It's now time for America to upgrade to Electricity 2.0, an open, distributed network capable of fostering innovation and a clean technology revolution.

Congressman Edward Markey, Nick Sinai, Clem Palevich, Jigar Shah and Michael Moynihan to speak on Electricity 2.0: Envisioning the Future of Electricity 5/11/10: This important event focused on charting a course to the electricity future. In addition to protecting our climate and enhancing energy security, clean electricity has the potential to power a new wave of prosperity. It can serve as a platform for entrepreneurs and innovators to create new jobs and build new industries.


Electricity 2.0: Unlocking the Power of the Open Energy Network (OEN) 2/4/10: By Michael Moynihan In a major new policy paper, Clean Energy Initiative Director Michael Moynihan argues that America must upgrade to Electricity 2.0, an open, distributed network, to unlock the potential of clean technology and unleash a renewable revolution.

Solar Energy: The Case for Action 8/1/08: By Michael Moynihan While a variety of renewable fuels have different strengths, the subject of this paper, solar power -- ubiquitous, not tied to any nation or territory, clean and free once capital equipment to capture it has been installed -- holds special promise.

Investing in Our Common Future: U.S. Infrastructure 10/13/07: By Michael Moynihan Michael Moynihan looks at the current state of public investment in infrastructure and proposes a set of measures to restore our national political will and improve funding mechanisms to rebuild and advance U.S. infrastructure.

Japanese Nuclear Situation, Follow up to Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Facility Debate

As a follow up to last week’s nuclear disaster in Japan, on some level things have quieted down somewhat, but then some have revved up.  At Japan’s Fukushima nuclear complex, Unit’s 5&6 are operating normally, and Unit 1 and 2 could be operating within a matter of days.  This leaves Unit 3 the only real problem reactor.  However there are still concerns. Dangerous radiation levels found some 25 miles from the Fukushima complex raise questions about U.S. emergency-response plans that call for evacuating only residents within 10 miles of a disaster. In the United States, only one commercial reactor is within 10 miles of a densely populated city, but 29 are within 25 miles and nearly half are within 50 miles of a metro area with more than 500,000 people.

Those of us who have been following the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal facility are not surprised that the Japanese nuclear disaster brought the Yucca Mountain debate to the forefront – again.  Matthew Wald of the New York Times has a front page story this morning on how Japan's crisis is reviving the fight over Yucca Mountain and nuclear storage.  

Yucca Mountain was first voted on for a nuclear waste site in 1987and has been hotly debated ever since.  In 1987, three states were under consideration for nuclear waste disposal:  Washington, Texas and Nevada.  At that time, Vice President George H W Bush and House Speaker Jim Wright were from Texas, Majority Leader Tom Foley was from Washington, and Harry Reid was a freshman Senator from Nevada.  Not surprisingly, the state of Nevada drew the short card.

Political tides have shifted over the years.  Senator Reid is now the Majority Leader of the Senate.  President, Obama, following up on a 2008 campaign pledge, ordered the Department of Energy to withdraw application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for Nevada to become a waste disposal site.  The President then appointed a Presidential Panel to review and explore nuclear waste disposal, headed by Lee Hamilton, former Member of Congress, and Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor.  Coincidentally, the report is due in a few weeks. 

As my colleague Jake Berliner pointed out from a trip to his alumni Tufts University:

"The abiding lesson that Three Mile Island taught Wall Street was that a group of N.R.C.-licensed reactor operators, as good as any others, could turn a $2 billion asset into a $1 billion cleanup job in about 90 minutes."  Peter Bradford, former Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner

Mr. Bradford makes a good point about this independent Commission.  But these issues aren’t always so cut and dry.  When the Energy Department said in June that it wanted to withdraw its application for Yucca Mountain, a panel of three administrative law judges rejected the idea, which was then appealed to the five member NRC. 

One of the commission members had to recues himself because of earlier work on the Yucca Mountain debate.  The remaining four members seem to be deadlocked on whether the application can be withdrawn. A 2-to-2 vote would fail to override the three-judge panel.  Mr. Jaczko, the commission chairman and a former member of Senator Reid’s staff, has refused to bring the matter to a final vote, leaving it unsettled.

At the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last week, Representative John Shimkus, Republican of Illinois, asked Mr. Jaczko why he had suspended the commission’s work.  Mr. Jaczko replied that he had acted within his authority.  Congressman Shimkus countered that this debate was far from being over.

No doubt, there will be further hearings on Yucca Mountain nuclear storage issue.  They will be especially interesting in light of the expected report from the Presidential Panel headed by Lee Hamilton and Brent Scowcroft shortly. 

Future of Nuclear in Disarray

The fluidity of the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima Daiichi in Japan has congealed.  Complex and confusing information have become grim reality with deadly serious consequences.

In a statement Wednesday of this week, Greg Jackzo, Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), said it was "prudent" for U.S. citizens in Japan to evacuate beyond a 50-mile radius of the reactors, in stark contrast to the 12-mile radius recommended by the Japanese government. In a briefing today, Jackzo stated that the U.S is and will continue to work closely with Japan to monitor these nuclear reactors and currently the US has 11 technical experts on the ground collecting information and analyzing the situation.

This dire situation is a huge setback for nuclear power.  For the past few years, the industry has been undergoing what many call a renaissance for the nuclear industry.  But this disaster has renewed calls from environmental groups and some lawmakers for a more cautious approach to nuclear power projects.  On their website, The Sierra Club states they are "unequivocally opposed to nuclear power" citing the dangers of reactor safety, nuclear proliferation and long term storage of spent fuel.  Leading lawmakers have made statements urging caution on further nuclear plants.

 The nuclear industry is fighting hard to limit the negative impact on their industry.  Alex Flint, chief lobbyist for the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has had meetings with over 50 legislators and briefings for staff in packed rooms during this week.  Exelon, a major utility who is the largest owner of nuclear plants with 17 reactors in 3 states is doing the same.  For good reason, the nuclear industry is the recipient of generous U.S. taxpayer subsidies.

For starters, the US Government guarantees huge loans for nuclear power plants. Wall Street has been skeptical and hesitant to invest in nuclear energy over the years, but not our federal government.  In addition, the government insures nuclear power plants against the risk of catastrophic disaster.  Private insurance companies are extremely leery of insuring a nuclear power plant, but not the U.S. government.  Nuclear power is central to the President’s vision for a clean energy future because of its 0 emissions and the Obama Administration budget asked to triple the funding for these loan guarantees.

‘The president believes that meeting our energy needs means relying on a diverse set of energy sources that includes renewables like wind and solar, natural gas, clean coal and nuclear power,” said Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman. “Information is still coming in about the events unfolding in Japan, but the administration is committed to learning from them and ensuring that nuclear energy is produced safely and responsibly here in the U.S.”

It remains to be seen what the ultimate reaction of the American public will be on the subsidizing and building of new nuclear power plants.  In 1979 after the Three Mile Island reactor meltdown, the public spurned nuclear power plants.  But things are different today and I suspect that the public will not be so quick to eschew nuclear.

However, a paper recently released from the Brattle Group made the point that  building more nuclear reactors "cannot be expected to contribute significantly to U.S. carbon emission reduction goals prior to 2030 but that investments in more-efficient buildings and factories can reduce demand now, at a tenth the cost of new nuclear supply.

What has yet to play out is whether the Washington policy makers message collides with the United States public.

Solar Power Enters Maturity

The year 2010 was a significant shift in the US Solar market.  A new report by the US. Solar Market Insight™ was a collaboration between the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA®) and GTM Research.  This report looks at the trends of the United States industry including photovoltaic (PV), concentrating solar power (CSP) solar hot water and space heating (SWH) and solar pool heating (SPH) markets using surveys of installers, manufacturers, utilities and state agencies.


Three themes dominated the solar market for 2010. 

  1. The U.S. solar market doubled to 878 megawatts of PV in 2010 and 78 megawatts of CSP. The industry’s total market value grew a whopping 67 percent from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6.0 billion in 2010.
  2. The year 2010 saw 242 megawatts of utility-scale projects come on-line and that trend is projected to grow.
  3. The American solar story used to be dominated by California, but now California is just 30 percent of the U.S. market, with 16 states installing at least 10 megawatts each in 2010. Just as Germany is no longer the "savior state" for global PV, California is now just one of many U.S. PV markets.

The market's expansion was driven by the federal section 1603 Treasury program, completion of large utility scale projects, expansion of new state markets and declining technology costs. The section 1603 Treasury program helped fourth-quarter installations surge to a record 359 megawatts and was critical in allowing the solar industry to employ more than 93,000 Americans in 2010.  

The executive summary is available for download here. The full report is available here and here

The Other CES: Why Community Energy Storage is Such a Good Idea

As the clean energy standard idea proposed by President Obama in his State of the Union address works its way through Congress, another CES is also generating buzz in the clean energy world.  Its full name: community electricity storage.

CES--the storage variety--is about placing storage at the edge of the grid where it is needed and, by so doing, increasing network flexibility and resilience.  It is gaining attention because in a world of variable renewable resources, more electric vehicles and constrained transmission, storage is emerging as a vital element of a clean, stable electricity future. 

It is sometimes said of electricity that it is the only commodity that cannot be stored.  Indeed, storage is so basic to most commodities that the oldest cities in the world, such as Ur in Mesopotamia, had a warehouse and temple in their center to store grain.  Storage--the ability to time shift a commodity--is a good thing because it encourages economies of scale in production, pools supply and demand over time--and lowers the cost of transportation.  If electricity could not be stored that would make it, indeed, unique.

However, a closer look reveals that not only can electricity can be stored, it is: it is just that storage is undersized  relative to volume and, perhaps, more to the point, poorly matched to the network's needs. Other networks, for example, road, rail, water, pipelines and data networks have ubiquitous storage, embedded at every level to facilitate commodity exchange.  With road there is storage for trucks at central depots, for cars in parking lots and along streets and of course localized storage in the driveway.  Computer networks have storage in huge central data centers,on servers sprinkled around the world and on personal computers, phones and even onboard computer chips.

Electricity is stored, too, only not as widely.  Since the 1960s, utilities have stored large quantities of power--usually from baseload nuclear facilities--through pumped hydro, pumping water uphill at night so it can power generators on the way backdown during the day.  Pumped hydro storage capacity currently equals about 2% of US load.  That's on the order of size of windpower capacity.

Meanwhile, electricity is also stored at the micro level, in laptop computers batteries, watches, iphones and even on board chips in capacitors through increasingly innovative chemistries.  What's missing is what I have called the middle class of storage, home-sized storage, enterpise-level storage and neighborhood scale storage--enough power to keep a home, building or neighborhood going during a brown or blackout.

The traditional reason given for this gap in electricity storage is that electricity is simply hard to store.  However, the consumer electronics sector operating outside market regulation has accomplished wonders with storage--in battery form--building it into virtually every device we currently rely on.  Utilities have mastered pumped storage as well where topography permits.  And here and there one finds other storage forms---flywheels in hospitals, for example.  The real reason we have yet to see power midway between macro and micro at scale is that our electricity system has been able to work without it.  But for a high performance, 21st Century network storage is a necessity.  Enter CES.

CES, in its strict sense, consists of battery storage units of about 25 kw distributed at street corners.  Physically, it consists of green boxes that look like the transformers already visible in many neighborhoods.  The  company that has pioneered the boxes, American Electric Power(AEP) notes that their benefits include peak shaving, delaying the need for new substations and compensation for air conditioner compressors cycling on and off and fluctuations in solar power connected to the grid. Techically, CES is doable today.  It just requires batteries, rights of way that utilities already have along sidewalks as well as enough smart grid technology to control the units which sit beyond the substation, beyond which, utilities traditionally have not managed power.  Besides AEP, a number of other companies are experimenting with CES.

More generally, CES is a form of storage at the edge.  AEP has also introduced a larger version of distributed storage in substations of about 2 megawatts to serve groups of a hundred or more homes.  As many have noted, car batteries could become important mechanisms for storing power as electric cars come into service.  Ultimately, the ideal solution for a 21st Century network is to see storage become ubiquitous--as it is in the distribution of other commodities.

The fact is, it is not technically difficult to build home scale electriciy storage that might take up no more room than a washing machine, cost less than a large flat screen tv and use power management software no more complicated than that found in a typical laptop.  What's missing are the market forces needed to drive adoption.  Would companies and many people pay for 100% power resilience?  Probably.  Through peak shaving, storage might even pay for itself. (Peak shaving is just the electricity term for the cost saving benefits that result from the ability to store any commodity.) The economics work today.  The trick is aligning business models with returns to make storage ubiquitous across the network. 

Battery technology is only one of many storage technologies that are beginning to pay off.  Other promising storage technologies include ice storage--increasingly used at warehouses, flywheel technology that is well suited for short time periods--for example, during the time it takes a backup generator to kick on, and found today in hospitals as well as in regulation services to keep the frequence of alternating current within a specified range, and air storage.  Air storage is the technology being used by Brightsource a large utility scale solar company to store solar power collected in the desert.  In short, edge storage is coming.  We just need it to come faster.

What could accelerate storage?

First, public utility commissions should take heed of the new technology and look favorably on utility deployment.  However, there is a risk CES may meet the same resistance as smart meters--with PUCs questioning the additional expense and utilities holding out for rate recovery before investing.

There is another way.  Storage will proliferate in areas exposed to market forces because it makes as much sense for electricity as it does for every other commodity.  Why not allow free competition by utilities and start-ups to provide in home and in office storage with users capturing some of the savings?  Why not allow people who store power--by collecting solar or wind energy--to sell it back to the grid or, even better, to others?  (Demand response is an important step in this direction.)  Why not allow a warehouse in an industrial area that stores power to sell it to power hungry industrial users across the street?

The key to accelerating electricity storage is to remove barriers preventing people today from capturing its economic benefits.  Once those barriers are removed, community electricity storage will be a key and money saving part of a high performance, 21st Century electricity architecture. 

Invite: Tue Mar 8th, NYC - Launch of NDN's Clean Energy Forum with Michael Moynihan

The Electricity 2.0 Program is excited to announce our new Clean Energy Forum to be held regularly in New York. This Forum will focus on issues surrounding the modernization of the electricity architecture and the promotion of clean energy in the United States. The host of this forum is Michael Moynihan, Director of our Clean Energy Initiative and a New York native.

Our first event will be with Jason Scott on Tuesday, March 8 at 8:30am, at the Harvard Club, 35 W 44th St, in the Mahogany Room.  

JSJason is the founding board member of the Clean Economy Network and the co-founder and Managing Partner of EKO Asset Management Partners.  With more than a decade of experience developing and managing firms seeking to sustainably manage and invest capital, Jason was the Director and Investment Analyst at Generation Investment Management, co-founded by David Blood and former Vice President Al Gore.  Mr. Scott was an active member of President Obama's transition team, serving on both the Transition team for Energy and the Environment and the Transition team for Technology and Innovation.  Please RSVP.

Our second event will be with Michael Granoff on Tuesday, April 12 at 8:30am at the Harvard Club, 35 W 44th St, in the Mahogany Room.

MGMichael Granoff has been head of oil independence policies for Better Place since its founding in 2007. In that capacity, he helps stakeholders of all types calibrate policies consistent with the Better Place approach to ending the corrosive effect of oil dependence on economy, environment and security. Stakeholders with which Granoff works include governments on every level, industry, non-governmental organizations, and current and future Better Place partners. Granoff is founder of Maniv Energy Capital, a New York-based investment group and the first investor in Better Place. In 2004, Granoff became a founding board member of Securing America’s Future Energy, a Washington, D.C. based group that works with corporate and retired military leaders to advocate for policies that contribute to the security of the U S.  Please RSVP.


Energy Budget Dominates Week

The main story of interest this week is the President’s Budget request  released on Monday, February 13.  The White House Federal Budget Overview can be found here.       


The FY 2012 budget request for Department of Energy increased DOE spending by 11.8% over the FY 2010 budget to a total of 29.5 billion.  Allocation of this 29.5 billion is as follows:

  • 11.9 billion for nuclear weapons and nonproliferation missions
  • 6.3 billion for environmental cleanup and radioactive waste management
  • 5.9 billion  for basic science and advanced research projects agency – energy
  • 291 million for innovative and advanced energy technology credit programs
  • 4.8 billion for  energy supply and energy efficiency programs

Of critical interest to Electricity 2.0 in this Budget Request are the following:

  • $450 million increase in funding for basic energy science research which will create three Energy Innovation Hubs to focus on batteries, critical materials and Smart Grid technologies. 
  • 88% increase in technology funding for solar energy including a  61% increase in technology funding for wind energy; a 135% increase in technology for geothermal energy and a 58% increase in biomass energy. 
  • $69 million in new and increased funding for Smart Grid electricity transmission technologies and energy storage
  • Expansion of the DOE Loan Guarantee Program with $200 million proposed to subsidize new loans, which could translate to as much as $2 billion in additional loan volume for renewable energy and energy efficiency renovations

Electricity 2.0 programs and areas that will benefit as a result of the FY 2012 Budget:

  • Electric Vehicles – to back up the President’s goal of putting one million electric vehicles on the U.S. roads by 2015, the budget includes $200 million in competitive programs to encourage communities that invest in electric vehicle infrastructure
  • Clean Energy Strategy - the budget proposes to double the share of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.  By clean energy sources, the Administration includes  renewable technologies, clean coal, nuclear power, and natural gas
  • Research and Development –$8.7 billion federal investments in R & D that focus on accelerating the diffusion of clean energy technology in the marketplace
  • Renewable energy – a 70% increase in renewable energy R&D support for 1 dollar a watt initiative to make solar energy cost competitive and funding for a 24 hour geothermal storage and increased funding for wind energy R&D

Other Agencies with Energy related funding:

  • Department of Agriculture:   $6.5 billion for financial assistance to USDA electric cooperatives to promote expansion of renewable energy technologies
  • Department of Defense: a focus on projects to reduce carbon based energy use, the deployment of more efficient turbine engines, alternative energy sources and storage technologies that reduce need for local generators
  • Department of Interior:  $73 million for renewable energy development activities including the review and permitting of new solar wind and geothermal activity generation capacity on federal lands.

 Chair of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Jeff Bingaman  (D-NM) in a press release stated his strong support of the increases pro9posed for Department of Energy programs.  DOE Secretary  Steve Chu testified before the Senate Energy Committee on Wenesday, February 16, on the proposed DOE Budget. 

Meanwhile, on the House side, Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fred Upton (R-MI) was far more concerned with the Continuing Resolution’s EPA blocking language.  Meanwhile, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Bobby Rush, and John Yarmuth circulated a “dear colleague” letter attempting to rally support for their efforts to strip EPS-blocking language.  To read the letter click here. 


Senator Bingaman: Energy Priorities for the New Congress

As Simon notes below, this coming Monday, January 31 at 12:00pm, NDN and the New Policy Institute's Electricity 2.0 Initiative will host Senator Jeff Bingaman who will deliver his thoughts on Energy Priorities for the New Congress.  To accomodate the tremendous interest in this event, we have moved it to the National Press Club.  As Simon notes, come early to get a good seat.

As chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a long term leader on energy issues, there is no person whose views on energy are more important to the national debate on the future of energy policy than Senator Bingaman.  And there arguably is no more pressing time than now to think about our energy priorities, particularly in light of the President's call in the State of the Union earlier this week for America to accelerate clean energy deployment in order to win the future.

Senator Bingaman has played a leadership role in all of the major legislation shaping energy in recent years. Many believe there is an opportunity this year to make historic progress on clean energy and renewable electricity.

The stakes could not be higher.  The United States leads the world in the development of many cutting edge clean technologies like thin film solar.  But we have fallen well behind in measures including integration of wind and solar, percentage of renewable energy, the smart grid and the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines.  China, Japan and Europe have made clean energy a key priority.  The question is, can the United States combine our R&D, capitalist system, spirit of entrepreneurship and productivity to lead again?  In electricity, can we create a second golden age similar to that of Edison and Tesla? Can we mobilize and empower Americans who want to be involved but who have remained on the sidelines so far to lead this revolution?   

Following the Senator's remarks, we have convened a distinguished panel to discuss the coming legislative session and new energy policy ideas.

Our panelists include:

  • Hon. Tony Knowles, Former Governor of Alaska and President of the New Energy Policy Institue
  • Hon. William Massey, Former Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Stephen Harper, Global Director, Environment and Energy Policy, Intel Corporation
  • Steve Corneli, Snr. Vice President of Sustainability, Strategy and Policy, NRG
  • Michael Moynihan, Director NDN and NPI Electricity 2.0 Project (moderator).

I hope you will join us for this timely event.

Senator Bingaman: Energy Priorities for the New Congress
with Panel Discussion to Follow
Monday, January 31, 2011 - 12:00 Lunch, 12:30 Program Begins
The National Press Club
529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor Washington, DC

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to a Climate Agreement: Rounding-Up Copenhagen

In addition to Michael Moynihan’s must read analysis of the UNFCC COP-15 in Copenhagen, here’s a round-up of some analysis of the climate summit:

Climate Conference Ends in Discord by Fiona Harvey, Ed Crooks and Andrew Ward, FT

The Copenhagen climate conference ended on Saturday without unanimous agreement as the world’s biggest economies backed a limited accord that leaders said would form the basis for a future deal to tackle global warming.

Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, acknowledged that the outcome was “not everything we hoped for” but described it as an “essential beginning” as he brought a close to two weeks of fractious negotiations in the Danish capital.

Talks had continued through Friday night into Saturday morning in a bid to reach consensus on a tentative agreement struck between the US, China and other big emerging economies on cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and financing to help developing countries cope with climate change.

But several developing countries, led by Venezuela and Bolivia, refused to endorse the deal, ensuring that the conference would end without an official agreement. Instead, all 193 countries agreed to “take note of the Copenhagen Accord” without committing to accept it.

What Hath Copenhagen Wrought? A Preliminary Assessment of the Copenhagen Accord by Robert Stavins, Harvard University 

It is unquestionably the case that the Accord represents the best agreement that could be achieved in Copenhagen, given the political forces at play.  Indeed, were it not for the spirited – and as I suggested above, quite remarkable – direct intervention by President Obama, together with the other key national leaders, there would have been no real outcome from the Copenhagen negotiations.  

Examining the Copenhagen Accord by Michael A Levi, Council on Foreign Relations

The Copenhagen Accord, agreed to on Saturday, is neither earth-shattering nor a failure. It avoids an international political mess that appeared likely as late as Friday afternoon. It falls short of expectations mainly because expectations had been ratcheted up far beyond what was realistic. It is a meaningful step forward, but its ultimate value remains to be determined.

Attention should now turn to elaborating the transparency measures contained in the text, and to implementing ambitious and intelligent domestic emissions-cutting efforts in the major emitting countries. It would be unwise to place significant hopes on converting the deal into a legally-binding pact soon.

The most interesting point to me, though, is what the process in Copenhagen means for Europe. Europe, unquestionably the leading region of the world in addressing climate change, was rendered virtually diplomatically irrelevant by the United States and a group of emerging economies:

An Air of Frustration for Europe at Climate Talks by James Kanter, The New York Times

Mr. Reinfeldt said President Barack Obama had been “very constructive” at the talks, creating a basis for the accord by smoothing over the dispute with China over an international monitoring system for emissions.

Still, the Swedish leader hinted that the Europeans had been caught badly off guard.

Mr. Reinfeldt said he had gotten his first signals that a deal had been struck while still engrossed in meetings.

“We had very tough negotiations two and a half hours after I read on my mobile telephone that we were already done,” he said.


Two Thoughts for President Obama on his Way to Copenhagen

With the President getting ready to go to Copenhagen, the EPA did what Congress wouldn’t: It put in place a policy that ultimately would sharply reduce carbon emissions.  The EPA finding that greenhouse gases (GHG) pose a health threat and thus trigger a process to reduce the risks through direct regulation has become the president’s “deliverable” in Copenhagen.  More important, the only forces that will ever prod Congress to take action on climate are broad public opinion and pressures from powerful groups – and that’s the real importance of the EPA finding and a series of additional rule-makings scheduled over the next year.  The finding and prospective rule-makings should bolster the public’s existing opinion that serious measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions action are required, and put the fear of God in many business executives (or more precisely, the fear of unaccountable government regulators).  And the threat that the EPA may directly regulate the greenhouse gas emissions of every company in America is a credible one, given the Supreme Court’s recent holding that the law requires that EPA come to some finding about the dangers of those emissions.  The only course left for all the powerful groups that work so hard to stop or profoundly weaken climate legislation –their most recent handiwork is evident in the effective gutting of Waxman-Markey – is to enact a serious program that would preempt EPA.  Are you listening, big coal?  And climate activists should be on the same mission, once they consider what EPA regulation could look like under the next conservative Republican president.

CopenhagenThe finding also could accelerate the search for new approaches to climate change, broadening the debate beyond the cap-and-trade model which Congress has already rejected three times and, if Kerry-Boxer ever comes to a vote, will almost certainly defeat again.  The leading alternative, of course, is a carbon-based tax with the revenues going to cut payroll or other taxes.  It’s an approach that’s worked well in Sweden and now is being considered in France, Ireland and Denmark.  Economists like it, because it doesn’t introduce additional volatility to energy prices as cap-and-trade does; and environmentalists like it, because a stable price for carbon is a prerequisite for businesses to invest large sums in developing and adopting alternative fuels and technologies.  Now, if businesses can come to dislike the prospect of direct EPA regulation with enough fervor, a new consensus could emerge around a new way to address climate change.

Speaking of Copenhagen, let’s also cut through the nonsense about the whole project foundering unless rich countries agree to pay for the climate efforts of poor countries.  Climate change is almost entirely the business of the world’s developed and large, fast-developing countries, because poor countries simply don’t have enough electricity generation, factories, capital-intensive farming, and automobiles to produce significant amounts of GHGs.  In fact, the world’s three economically-dominant places -- America, the European Union, and China -- account for 55.5 percent of all emissions.  Include twelve more nations -- Russia, India, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Iran, Mexico, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, -- and you cover 85 percent of global emissions.  Among those twelve, the only, barely plausible cases for assistance are India and Indonesia, although both are on sharply-rising growth and development paths that could soon generate the incentives and resources required to become more climate-friendly on their own.  Ensuring that the world’s 120 or so other countries, most of them small and many of them poor, share some responsibility for addressing climate change is truly a secondary issue.

It’s also clear that at this time, virtually no country seems prepared to shoulder the cost of making even its own economy truly climate friendly, much less pick up the bills to make other countries less carbon-dependent.  The best course is probably a business form of technology sharing, in which governments support the formation of joint ventures between developers in the United States, the EU and the other dozen or so large GHG emitting nations –especially China and India – to develop, produce and sell climate-friendly fuels and technologies.  Then saving the planet could end up being good business for everybody.

Nissan Leaf Gets Electric Vehicle Cost Structure Right

The New York Times "Wheels" blog delivers some interesting news on the Nissan “Leaf” (not sure about that name), the company’s new electric vehicle that is being introduced in Los Angeles today. 

The Leaf, an all-electric five-door hatchback, will have a 100-mile range, Nissan said.

Mr. Ghosn said last month, in introducing the Leaf at the Tokyo Motor Show, that the vehicle would be priced “competitively” compared with other cars its size. This has been estimated at $25,000 to $33,000. But the price won’t include the lithium-ion battery packs; those will be available for lease separately. The spent battery packs will be recycled by Nissan and reused.

The Times writes those last two sentences (emphasis added) as if leasing the battery packs is some kind of "catch" in the pricing. It's not. Rather, the battery pack and the electricity to charge it are analogs to gasoline in conventional vehicles, which is never sold with the car.

For this reason, Nissan is on to something with the battery leasing. Like Better Place, which is building infrastructure for electric vehicles (and is teamed up with Renault-Nissan), Nissan knows that the key is not to build a car with a battery for the same price as a conventional gasoline car. Rather, the key is building a battery-less car for the same price as a conventional car. And once that happens, because electricity is far cheaper than gasoline, all one has to do to beat conventional cars is make the lease cost of a battery plus the electricity costs competitive with the cost of gasoline over the same period (which is already a reality in many countries). Incorporating the battery and its cost into the vehicle is likely not the right way to go for so many reasons, but on the financing side the cost of actually making a car go is always an addition to the purchase cost. 

Fully electric cars have some way to go – charging infrastructure needs to be built out and standardized, battery costs still have to come down, and capacity should go up – but getting the cost structure right is crucial in creating this piece of the low-carbon economy. Electric vehicles will ultimately offer tremendous benefits to consumers, from price stability to never having to go to the gas station, and to the electricity system, as the aggregate storage capacity in batteries will provide a demand response capability. And while I might prefer a name that connotes a bit more strength, the Leaf is a nice step forward.

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