BCSE Technology Brief: States Take the Lead on Renewable Natural Gas

The policy landscape is changing for renewable natural gas, and market opportunities for the domestic, renewable, clean fuel and energy source are expanding as well. Under the leadership of one of BCSE’s partner organizations, the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas, states are advancing policies that promote the use of renewable natural gas (RNG). These policies are needed to create market certainty, which is necessary to drive greater development, deployment and utilization of RNG.

Thirty-seven states and DC have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) programs, which can be met in part by producing renewable electricity from RNG. Many states and regions are also adopting policies that facilitate the use of RNG for transportation fuel. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) is the California regulation that requires a 10% reduction in transportation fuel carbon intensity by 2020. Governors of CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PN, RI, and VT signed a 2009 memorandum of understanding committing to develop a regional low carbon fuel standard. Many states are considering new policies to create new markets for RNG, such as California’s Senate Bill 1440, which would establish a biomethane procurement goal for gas corporations.

As the policy landscape continues to evolve, states and the federal government should continue to support policies that promote the use of renewable natural gas, and result in longer term market certainty for this renewable energy and ultra low-carbon fuel.

RNG has many applications that make it a valuable and flexible resource. It can be blended with or substitute for conventional natural gas in vehicles as well as in commercial, industrial and residential end-use applications. RNG can be used to power your home or business’ natural gas appliances. It can also be converted to Compressed Natural Gas (R-CNG) or Liquefied Natural Gas (R-LNG) to fuel natural gas vehicles; many cities have transitioned their diesel bus fleets to natural gas engines fueled by renewable natural gas.

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is a federal program administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency requiring transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel. Renewable Natural Gas meets the highest standards of RFS2 for lifecycle GHG emissions reduction, and currently comprises greater than 95% of all the cellulosic biofuel under the RFS program.

Many are familiar with natural gas, and with renewable resources, but what exactly is renewable natural gas?

Renewable Natural Gas (RNG, Biomethane) is an ultra-low carbon alternative to traditional natural gas. When organic waste breaks down naturally, it emits methane gas, also called biogas, a mixture of carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons. Renewable natural gas is biogas that has been upgraded to transportation fuel grade specifications or natural gas pipeline quality standards such that it may blend with, or substitute for, geologic natural gas. Large amounts of biogas (the raw, freshly emitted and untreated gas) can be collected at local landfills, wastewater treatment plants, commercial food waste facilities and agricultural digesters (dairies, etc.).

For more information on RNG, please see the RNG Coalition website at www.rngcoalition.com

 

Businesses, States, Cities Lead the Way on Climate Action in the United States (June 1, 2018)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2018

Contact: Laura Tierney
Email: ltierney@bcse.org
Office: 202.785.0507

Businesses, States, Cities Lead the Way on Climate Action in the United States

Washington, DC – BCSE President Lisa Jacobson issued the following statement on the progress of clean energy and climate action in the United States today:

“A surge of climate action is taking place in the United States, lead by American leaders in cities, states, the private sector, universities and other parts of society.  This action is taking place across these diverse cross-sections of America because there are economic, environmental and public health benefits.

“We are decoupling economic growth from emissions reductions.  Costs are falling in a broad range of clean energy technologies that have made significant emissions reductions possible – and we are not seeing corresponding increases in costs for American businesses and households.

“We believe these trends will continue because of the wide-spread benefits of climate action and preparedness to the U.S. economy.  Investments and deployment of clean energy are already well underway in the United States – with an increasingly diverse set of solutions from the energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy sectors emerging as the growth sectors of the U.S. energy landscape. “

The latest edition of Sustainable Energy in America Factbook chronicles the latest in this clean energy transformation as of 2017, including:

  • 93% of new power capacity built in the U.S. over the past 25 years has come from natural gas and renewable energy, including hydropower.
  • Natural gas and renewable energy accounted for 50% of all electricity generation in 2017, up from 31% in 2008.
  • The energy productivity of the U.S. economy grew 2.5% in 2017 as economic growth continued its long-term trend of decoupling from energy use. Energy productivity has increased 17.3% since 2008.
  • The U.S. power sector is driving the economy’s de-carbonization as its emissions fell 4.2% in 2017. Power sector emissions now sit 28% below their 2005 peak.
  • American consumers devoted less than 4% of their total annual household spending on energy in 2017.

Download the press release.

A Door Opener to the Governor’s Office: Resiliency

May 30, 2018 | By: Laura Tierney, Business Council for Sustainable Energy | 

The Business Council for Sustainable Energy is hosting a series of meetings with energy thought leaders on resilience and reliability, to help the coalition understand the diversity of definitions, approaches and opportunities around these two concepts that are critical to the power sector and policy-makers alike. The BCSE Clean Energy Blog will share our coalition’s reflections on some of the ideas that emerge from these discussions, and the first of these conversations was held with Sue Gander, Director and Dan Lauf, Energy Program Director at the National Governors Association (NGA)'s Center for Best Practices Environment, Energy and Transportation Division.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards opens NGA's 2017 Summer Meeting plenary session, Preparing for the Extreme: Building Resilient Communities, with remarks on how governors can collectively advocate for increased support to states for their flood response and preparation plans.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead speaks to the session’s guests, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long and 100 Resilient Cities President Michael Berkowitz, during the 2017 NGA Summer Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island.

Resilience – The ability to withstand disasters better, respond and recover more quickly

and excel under new conditions

 

The take-away advice for clean energy companies that can improve a state government’s response time to a natural disaster or electricity black-out?  Approach a Governor’s office with both concrete policy actions and ideas around technology solutions that can enhance resilience, for the best impact.

Governors increasingly care about resiliency. Why? There are a broad array of risks and threats that each state’s Governor’s office plan for – that include but are not limited to a range of natural disasters such as flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, tsunamis and wildfires, and risks specific to the power sector – electricity outages, broad blackouts and cybersecurity threats to the grid.

For a state to provide “energy assurance” to its residents, an important planning step is broad intra-government coordination among various state agencies and external coordination with utilities and other private sector players.  A goal of this planning is to create a reliable energy system that can “keep the lights on” in an emergency.

Some interesting facts that emerged from the discussion:

  • Each state has different vulnerabilities and capacity needs, and NGA is beta-testing a State Resilience Assessment & Planning Tool (SRAP) to help states conduct a self-assessment, and it includes an energy and infrastructure focus.
  • State planning includes personnel preparedness, facility hardening, mitigation options and the role of advanced metering infrastructure (AMIs) and distributed energy resources (DERs) such as storage, solar and microgrids.
  • Improving the resilience of emergency operation centers is an important step – and clean energy technologies such as combined heat and power (CHP) or solar can play a role to help “harden” these centers.
  • Some states, such as Colorado and Oregon, have a “Resilience Officer” that sits in the Governor’s office.
  • A resilient state strategy includes looking at how states get “smarter.” This includes the integration of information communication technologies (ICT) and the internet of things (IoT) to planning and how this can improve the quality of life, mobility, safety, resiliency, economic viability and sustainability of residents and businesses. The emphasis is on outcomes.


This post is the first in a series on resilience and reliability. 

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BCSE Statement on Administration’s Executive Order on Efficient Federal Operations Encouraging Use of Performance Contracts to Achieve Energy Goals (May 21, 2018)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                

May 21, 2018                                                                                                                       

Contact: Laura Tierney
Email: ltierney@bcse.org
Office: 202.785.0507

BCSE Statement on Trump Administration’s Executive Order on Efficient Federal Operations Encouraging Use of Performance Contracts to Achieve Energy Goals

Washington, DC – The Business Council for Sustainable Energy’s President, Lisa Jacobson released the following statement in response to President Trump’s Executive Order titled “Efficient Government Operations.”

“The release of the Executive Order focused on Efficient Government Operations is important to continue to achieve annual building energy and water reductions at federal facilities.  Importantly, the Council strongly supports the Executive Order’s recognition of performance contracting, through Energy Savings Performance Contracts and Utility Energy Savings Contracts, in achieving the goals.

“The BCSE also commends the continued existence and duties of a Federal Environmental Executive, a steering committee, and Chief Sustainability officers at agencies as well as continued tracking of efforts related to this Executive Order.”

Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) and Utility Energy Service Contracts (USECs), collectively known as performance contracts, enable government agencies to procure energy savings and facility infrastructure improvements with no up-front capital costs or appropriations. Through performance contracts, private sector companies finance and install new energy efficient equipment in federal buildings, reducing energy and operating costs and addressing maintenance backlogs. In exchange for a pre-determined price, the chosen ESCO guarantees future energy savings, which are used to pay for the energy efficiency upgrades with excess savings accruing to the federal government. In fact, payment to the ESCO is contingent upon realizing that guaranteed annual savings stream.

Download the press release.

Clean Energy in Action: First Solar To Expand U.S. Manufacturing

May 21, 2018 | Author: Laura Tierney, Business Council for Sustainable Energy |

A rendering of planned facility in Lake township, Ohio.

First Solar’s recent announcement of its plans to add 500 additional high-quality manufacturing jobs in northwest Ohio at a new greenfield facility and to spend over $400 million in its construction is a powerful example of the jobs and economic benefit that clean energy is bringing to American communities.

| Over 250,000 Americans are employed in the solar industry[i]

The new jobs will include a combination of professional engineers and manufacturing technicians.  Panels produced by First Solar are used in commercial, industrial and utility-scale applications.

First Solar will construct a new Series 6 thin film photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturing facility with an annualized manufacturing capacity of 1.2 GW in Lake Township, Ohio, next to its existing facility in Perrysburg Township. The expansion will triple First Solar’s domestic production capacity. Construction will begin in mid-2018, and is expected to be fully operational by late 2019.

| First Solar is the largest photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer  in the United States

About First Solar, Inc.

First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) is a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar systems which use its advanced module and system technology. The company’s integrated power plant solutions deliver an economically attractive alternative to fossil-fuel electricity generation today. From raw material sourcing through end-of-life module recycling, First Solar’s renewable energy systems protect and enhance the environment. For more information about First Solar, please visit www.firstsolar.com

Photo Captions
Top: A rendering of planned facility in Lake Township, Ohio.
Bottom: First Solar' Series 6 Production Floor

[i] National Solar Jobs Census 2017, The Solar Foundation

BCSE Statement on U.S. Energy and Employment Report (May 15, 2018)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 16, 2018                                                                                                                       

Contact: Laura Tierney
Email: ltierney@bcse.org
Office: 202.785.0507

BCSE Statement on U.S. Energy and Employment Report
Clean Energy Industries Show Strong Employment Figures, Support over 3 Million U.S. Jobs

Washington, DC – Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) President Lisa Jacobson made the following statement about the U.S. Energy and Employment Report released earlier today:

“The Business Council for Sustainable Energy commends the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and the Energy Futures Initiative for carrying forward this important assessment of employment in the energy sector.  The report is valuable because it is a resource that tracks employment in the energy sector, which is a critical component of the U.S. economy.

“This year’s U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) affirms the fact that these clean energy sectors – energy efficiency, natural gas, and renewable energy – are the growth sectors of the American economy, supporting over 3 million jobs across the country.

“By taking a close look at the USEER and overlaying the lenses of current policy discussions on tax, grid modernization, resilience, infrastructure and energy innovation, we can see even greater untapped potential.  Strengthening policy certainty and encouraging investments in clean energy will increase the number of jobs these sectors provide and broaden the reach of economic benefits to households across the country.”

Highlights of the report include:

  • The energy efficiency sector now employs 2.25 million Americans and added 67,000 new jobs – or 50 percent of total new jobs in the energy sector – in 2017.
  • Natural gas sector employment numbers are also rising, adding 19,000 new jobs in 2017.
  • Combined heat and power, which represents 8.5 percent of U.S. generation, doubled its jobs numbers in 2017.
  • In renewable energy, the wind industry increased its workforce by 6 percent, adding 107,000 jobs; the solar industry employed 350,000 Americans; and the bio-energy sector experienced the fastest growth, increasing its employment by 55 percent to over 4,000 workers in 2017.

###

Download this press release here.

Energy Business Groups Call for Protection of American Energy Transition and Opportunities to Improve Trade Relations with China (May 15, 2018)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2018                  

Energy Business Groups Call for Protection of American Energy Transition and Opportunities to Improve Trade Relations with China

Washington, DC –  A coalition of energy groups submitted written comments on May 11 to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to express the concerns of a broad range of U.S. energy interests regarding the potential impact of proposed trade tariffs with China on the growing American clean energy industry.

The groups, which include the Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), the Alliance to Save Energy, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE), spoke to the strength of the clean and advanced energy and energy efficiency resources in the United States, representing $200 billion of economic activity and employing more than 3 million workers across the country.

“Energy-efficient products help consumers and businesses save energy and money, and we should be thinking of ways to increase those opportunities, not hinder them. Unfortunately, these proposed tariffs would make it more difficult and more expensive for Americans to access the long-term savings of these energy-saving technologies,” said Alliance to Save Energy President Jason Hartke. “Moreover, the U.S. energy efficiency industry, and the more than two million jobs it supports, uses many of these products to deliver energy savings and we don’t want to see that success disrupted or that industry weakened. It is important that the administration understand the potential negative effects of tariffs on energy efficiency.”

“Businesses in the energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy sectors are committed to growing the U.S. clean energy economy and are participants in the global economy – with component providers and customers throughout China,” commented BCSE President Lisa Jacobson.  “We recognize that the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is a critical component of business operations and development in any country, and fundamental to energy innovation. We seek opportunities to work with the Trump administration and Chinese government leaders to implement improved trade relations.”

Contact:

Ben Somberg, Alliance to Save Energy, bsomberg@ase.org, 202-530-2223
Laura Tierney, Business Council for Sustainable Energy, ltierney@bcse.org, 202-785-0507

###

Download the press release.

Future-proofing Supply Chains in the Face of Climate Change

May 8, 2018 │ By: Ashley Allen, Climate & Land Senior Manager, Mars, Inc. 

As the complexities of climate change loom large across all sectors, one thing is becoming increasingly clear for corporations: taking action on climate change is smart business. But while the business case for investing in clean energy to fuel business operations is well-known, for many companies the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions and climate risk exist in their supply chains. Only by using their influence to address climate change in their supply chains will businesses thrive into the future.

Mars restores coral reefs in the Coral Triangle, which increases resilience of coastal communities.

Corporate climate action is growing.

Over the last few years, the business community has awakened to the reality that actively responding to climate change isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s better for the bottom line.    More than 12,500 companies, cities and other non-government entities – “non-state actors” in United Nations (UN) parlance – have registered climate commitments and actions into the UN NAZCA portal (an on-line data platform named after the ancient Peruvian geoglyphs that represent symbols of nature). More than 380 companies have signed on to develop science-based targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in alignment with the goal outlined in the UN Paris Agreement to keep global warming to under two degrees Celsius. In the United States, the business community has come out especially strong in support of the We Are Still In campaign, which provides a platform for U.S. companies and subnational governments to pick up the mantle of the Paris Agreement as the U.S. Administration vows to pull out.

The business case for climate action is clear.

The enthusiasm of the private sector for taking action on climate change is perhaps unsurprising in light of the ever-clearer business case. According to a 2017 article by the New Climate Economy, 190 of the Fortune 500 companies collectively saved $3.7 billion in 2016 through renewable energy and energy efficiency. And taking action early to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can give companies a competitive advantage over late-movers as an increasing number of countries and regions institute a carbon price. In 2017 around 42 national and 25 subnational jurisdictions had a carbon pricing scheme, generating a cumulative $20 billion in revenue. At Mars, this solid business case motivated us to launch our Sustainable in a Generation Plan, including targets to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 and cut our full value chain carbon emissions by 27 percent by 2025 and 67 percent by 2050. Stated simply, climate action is smart business.

Agricultural supply chains are at significant risk.

While the clean energy business case is broadly accepted at this point, the risk exposure and loss potential of climate change impacts for companies’ full value chains is less well understood, and perhaps even more significant. Consider the Mars supply chain: to make the branded products that consumers love, such as M&M’S®, Uncle Ben’s®, and Whiskas®, we source hundreds of ingredients from more than 80 countries.  In the face of climate change, crops are exposed to stronger and more frequent storms, less predictable precipitation, and increasing potential for drought or other climate extremes. Around the world, agricultural systems depend on predictable cycles of sun, rain, and seasonal temperatures. In fact, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, around 80 percent of global agriculture is rain-fed. When weather patterns that farmers count on are disrupted, food production suffers. The remaining 20 percent of agricultural area that is irrigated produces 40 percent of the world’s food, and is located primarily in China, India and Pakistan. Heat and drought conditions that increase water stress also threaten production in these areas, which are at the same time facing growing populations and growing demand for food.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a Climate One podcast with Jason Clay, senior vice president at the World Wildlife Fund, an expert in climate change and food. Jason described countless examples of shifts in the areas where foods are traditionally grown – oats are now produced in Canada instead of the U.S.; the U.S. Corn Belt is edging toward the Canadian border, as well; and Russia is seeing bumper harvests of wheat as record temperatures boost yields, to name a few examples. As the world continues to see shifting trends in global agriculture, companies that depend on crops to create their products are going to have to adapt to continue to be successful.

The key to future-proofing supply chains is sustainable sourcing.

So what can companies do now to help climate-proof their supply chains for the future?  The Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure recommends that companies begin to screen their business now for climate risks, plan for multiple climate change scenarios, and set up the governing structures to reduce their exposure to these risks. F

or food companies, the bulk of these risks appear at the highest tier of their supply chains, where farmers grow or produce the ingredients with which their products are made. Food companies rarely have direct control on how these ingredients are grown, or direct relationships with the farmers who grow them. Instead, food companies can influence the production of these ingredients through sustainable sourcing strategies – essentially setting standards and making strategic decisions on how and what they buy.

Planning for the future and advancing climate-responsive agricultural production through sustainable sourcing can both help tackle the causes of climate change and build resilience to climate shocks. At Mars, we’re developing strategies to sustainably source the key ingredients we depend on. Sustainable sourcing strategies can improve the social and environmental impacts of ingredients, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and take into account the changing political, environmental, and other contexts in which those ingredients are produced. For example, in our rice supply chain we’ve set up water efficiency programs with farmers in water-stressed regions in Pakistan, India and Spain. In Pakistan, initial results have seen water use reduced by 30 percent and farmers’ income increased by 75 percent. In the U.S., we’re advancing alternate wetting and drying techniques to reduce water use. These efforts also reduce methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas.

Mars is helping farmers in Pakistan adopt water-saving measures for basmati rice production

Mars is also working to build resilience in critical ecosystems that support our supply chains. For example, we’re supporting the world’s largest coral reef restoration program in the Coral Triangle area near Indonesia, which is threatened by ocean acidification, ocean warming, overfishing, and other stresses. Using steel ‘spider’ structures to fill in damaged reef areas, the project has increased coral growth cover and diversity. Restored reefs provide food, shelter and spawning areas for a variety of marine mammals and fish, such as tuna which is an important supply chain for Mars pet food brands.

Companies need to step up on supply chain sustainability.

Of course nothing is ever fully future-proofed or climate-proofed. Climate change is by nature unpredictable, and because of the bank of CO2 that has already built up in the atmosphere, some level of climate change is inevitable. What’s missing is a clear process for embedding mid- and long-term climate scenarios into existing corporate risk management systems, to lower the risk of supply volatility and disruption. If climate science can be effectively translated for business, companies can make sourcing decisions that lower climate risks and raise the resilience of food systems. Reams of climate data and climate change scenarios are publicly available. Already this data is being translated into tools and metrics for national governments, states and cities to build climate resilience. We need climate, agricultural and business experts to come together to translate these data and tools for businesses, so that companies can integrate this data within their existing strategies and business systems. And we need food companies to step up and commit to sustainability not only in their operations, but in their supply chains, so that we can transform the agricultural sector into the clean and resilient food system of the future.

This article was originally posted by the author to her LinkedIn profile on April 20, 2018 and is re-published here with the author's permission.

Let’s Talanoa: How Clean Energy Can Power Ambition

May 4, 2018 | Author: Laura Tierney, Director, International Programs, Business Council for Sustainable Energy

This weekend in Germany, at the Bonn Climate Change Conference, countries and stakeholders are putting the Talanoa Dialogue into action, sitting together to share stories of climate action, inspiration and ideas for pathways forward.  Here is how I would tell the story of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and its members, and bring the “power” of clean energy to the dialogue:

I encourage you all to think of the clean energy sector, as a partner to “power the ambition” of countries. This “powering” is built upon public-private partnership, and on the practical experience of governments working with companies that have the low-carbon technology and technical expertise, who know what works for successful deployment of clean energy solutions.

How do we turn partnering with the private sector into action for ambition?  We build upon the demonstrated successes – and we look to the momentum that has been surging over the past ten years.  We create a positive feedback loop – when we deploy more clean energy, more low-carbon solutions, when we see what success delivers and what can be achieved, we can then strive to do more together.

Based on our experience in the United States, we can provide insight into key dimensions of what we know to be true – that by growing the market for clean energy, we are also growing our economy, creating jobs, providing affordable and reliable energy, reducing emissions and strengthening our resilience to a changing climate.

There is a vibrant and hopeful story of energy sector transformation underway in the United States, which is documented by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Sustainable Energy in America Factbook.   I encourage you to download this resource and continue to read more about this story.

The Council’s written submission to the Talanoa Dialogue highlights the progress of the U.S. energy transformation and the policy, financing and partnership tools that have enabled this shift to cleaner and more efficient energy resources.  It showcases how U.S. companies have made significant progress on their climate commitments and are leading the way with innovative new projects. It emphasizes the need to embrace a broad portfolio of clean energy solutions and include partnership and consultation with the private sector.