Decarbonizing the Electric Power Sector

Decarbonizing the Electric Power Sector. Center for Strategic & International Studies. CSIS Briefs. Stephen Naimoli and Sarah Ladislaw. May 12, 2020.

In 2018, the power sector emitted 13.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, 41 percent of total global emissions. To have a chance of holding global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to its preindustrial level, global emissions from all economic sectors, including the power sector, must be reduced to net-zero around 2050.
One of the challenges of decarbonizing the power sector is sufficiently reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while guaranteeing reliability, security, and affordability. Solar and wind power are zero-carbon technologies, but their variability could challenge grid stability if they are not properly balanced by sufficient storage and firm power. Jesse Jenkins, a Princeton professor and one of the speakers at CSIS’s March 30 event on power sector decarbonization, likens the power system to a balanced diet: directly comparing the costs of variable renewable energy to those of firm power sources is like comparing the cost of a banana to the cost of a hamburger. Both can be evaluated on cost alone, but doing so misses the different roles they play in a balanced electric power system. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 7 pages].

Mapping Public Water Management: Proof of Concept

Mapping Public Water Management: Proof of Concept. World Resources Institute. Cristina Logg et al. April 2020

What cannot be measured cannot be managed. Poor water management poses major risks to agriculture, industry and local communities. However, there is a critical lack of information available about local water conditions — making better management difficult. WRI’s Water Program studies local water data and governance and shares best practices in order to advance context-driven, meaningful water management.
WRI and the Pacific Institute are currently working to map public water risk by harmonizing and sharing water risk information among industrial water users on the following criteria:
• Access to information on water quantity and quality
• State of infrastructure
• Existence and enforcement of allocations and caps
• Local pricing systems
This Technical Note documents the results of a pilot with 6 companies and 41 facilities, and creates an updated question set to better understand conditions of public water management. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 28 pages].

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): An Overview

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): An Overview. Congressional Research Service. Kelsi Bracmort. Updated April 14, 2020

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires U.S. transportation fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel. The RFS—established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58; EPAct05) and expanded in 2007 by the Energy Independence and Security Act (P.L. 110-140; EISA)—began with 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2006 and is scheduled to ascend to 36 billion gallons in 2022. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has statutory authority to determine the volume amounts fter 2022.
The total renewable fuel statutory target consists of both conventional biofuel and advanced biofuel. Since 2014, the total renewable fuel statutory target has not been met, with the advanced biofuel portion falling below the statutory target by a relatively large margin since 2015. Going forward, it appears unlikely that the United States will meet the total renewable fuel target as outlined in statute.

[PDF format, 17 pages].

Guidance for Calculating Water Use Embedded in Purchased Electricity

Guidance for Calculating Water Use Embedded in Purchased Electricity. World Resources Institute. Paul Reig et al. February 2020

This working paper provides the first comprehensive approach published that guides organizations on how to calculate upstream water withdrawals and consumption associated with purchased electricity. In addition to a structured methodology, the guidance document provides international country-level and U.S. subnational-level water use factors detailing grid average water withdrawal and consumption resulting from electricity consumption. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 116 pages].

Energy Policy Lighthouses: The Little Green Book

Energy Policy Lighthouses: The Little Green Book. World Economic Forum. February 5, 2020.

By many measures, the world is still in the early stages of a deep and profound transformation in energy, and industrial and agricultural processes. The aim of that transition is to achieve new policy goals for modern societies – among them, deep cuts in carbon dioxide and other warming gases. Success will require a reduction in emissions from current levels – more than 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalents today, rising at nearly 2% per year in recent years – to essentially zero over the next few decades, while delivering the energy the world needs at affordable costs. This transformation will not be easy, for mobilizing meaningful economic change is rarely a simple process that proceeds without opposition. It is hard to pin down how quickly it may be occurring already. However, with smart policy strategies and profound technological change, the process can run faster, at lower cost and with more benefits to society.
This community paper focuses on the role of policy in these processes of transformation. The experience, so far, is that the societies making the most progress on deep decarbonization have all relied heavily on policy initiatives – to set ambitious goals, to create incentives for innovation and development and deployment of new technologies, to encourage scaling of superior solutions, to encourage new kinds of firms and markets, and to send clear signals about the need for change. With growing attention on the need for energy transformation, there has been increasing interest in the lessons from many diverse policy experiences. The key insight from this effort is that there are many good practices that can be replicated while new more innovative policies can be developed to drive deep decarbonization. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 18 pages].

Methane and Other Air Pollution Issues in Natural Gas Systems

Methane and Other Air Pollution Issues in Natural Gas Systems. Congressional Research Service. Richard K. Lattanzio. Updated January 24, 2020

Congressional interest in U.S. energy policy has often focused on ways through which the United States could secure more economical, reliable, and cleaner fossil fuel resources both domestically and internationally. Recent expansion in natural gas production, primarily as a result of new or improved technologies (e.g., hydraulic fracturing, directional drilling) used on unconventional resources (e.g., shale, tight sands, and coalbed methane) has made natural gas an increasingly significant component in the U.S. energy supply. This expansion, however, has prompted questions about the potential impacts of natural gas systems on human health and the environment, including impacts on air quality.

[PDF format, 30 pages].

European Energy Diversification: How Alternative Sources and Routes Can Bolster Energy Security and Decarbonization

European Energy Diversification: How Alternative Sources and Routes Can Bolster Energy Security and Decarbonization.  Atlantic Council. Richard L. Morningstar et al. January 9, 2020.

The European Union’s efforts to achieve a carbon-neutral economy present a unique and timely opportunity to strengthen European energy security. What is the EU currently doing to meet its decarbonization goals, address the role of natural gas in Europe’s low-carbon future, and explain the potential for new gas sources, alternative gas routes, and clean energy technologies to reduce carbon emissions? And how can this be done while simultaneously increasing European energy security and opportunities for transatlantic cooperation?  [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 16 pages].

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Incentives: A Summary of Federal Programs

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Incentives: A Summary of Federal Programs.  Congressional Research Service. Lynn J. Cunningham. Updated November 15, 2019

Energy is crucial to operating a modern industrial and services economy. Concerns about the availability and cost of energy and about environmental impacts of fossil energy use have led to a wide variety of federal incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency. These incentives aim to implement renewable energy and energy efficiency measures and to develop and commercialize renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Many of the existing energy efficiency and renewable energy programs have authorizations tracing back to the 1970s. Many programs have been reauthorized and redesigned repeatedly to meet changing economic factors. The programs apply broadly to sectors ranging from industry to academia and from state and local governments to rural communities.

[PDF format, 66 pages].

The POWER Initiative: Energy Transition as Economic Development

The POWER Initiative: Energy Transition as Economic Development. Congressional Research Service. Michael H. Cecire. November 20, 2019

With the decline of the U.S. coal industry, managing the economic effects of energy transition has become a priority for the federal government. The Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, and the broader POWER Plus Plan of which it was a part, represent the U.S. government’s efforts to ease the economic effects of energy transition in coal industry-dependent communities in the United States, and especially in Appalachia. Launched in 2015 by the Obama Administration as a multi-agency effort utilizing various existing programs, the POWER Plus plan received partial backing through appropriations for Fiscal Year 2016 (FY2016) to the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Economic Development Administration, and for abandoned mine land reclamation. 

Accelerating the Low Carbon Transition: The Case For Stronger, More Targeted And Coordinated International Action

Accelerating the Low Carbon Transition: The Case For Stronger, More Targeted And Coordinated International Action. Brookings Institution. David G. Victor, Frank W. Geels, and Simon Sharpe.  December 9, 2019

The world is committed to acting on climate change. At least since the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, the international community has been united in its commitment to preventing ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’. In the Paris agreement of 2015, almost all countries set out individual targets or actions they would take towards meeting this collective goal. Earlier this year, the UN Climate Action Summit highlighted many examples of governments, businesses and civil society groups leading the way to a low carbon economy. There is general consensus on the need for deep cuts in emissions as rapidly as is practical. However, it is equally clear that emissions are still rising, not falling, and economic change is not happening anywhere near quickly enough. Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 71 pages].