SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
1. Clean Power Plan Impacts in the Southeast
Health, energy, and economic experts add to the discussion
In May, Vanderbilt University’s Law School and Medical Center hosted a two-day event that brought together leading health, energy and economic experts to discuss impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s forthcoming regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel plants, known as the Clean Power Plan. SACE partnered with Vanderbilt to put on the conference, which focused on the Clean Power Plan’s economic and health benefits, both in Tennessee and across the Southeast, and included presentations from physicians, energy regulators, utility representatives, and clean energy industry representatives.
The conference began with an overview of how the Clean Power Plan regulations will likely be implemented, including incorporation of clean energy compliance options. Physicians and health experts expounded on the myriad of health impacts caused by air pollution from burning fossil fuels, including increased asthma attacks, cardiovascular disease and an increase in cancer risks. By stressing that exposure to air pollution is both unavoidable and long-term, given the fact that we are all “obligate air breathers,” physicians highlighted ozone and particulate matter pollution as health threats as these penetrate deep into our lungs and cause localized inflammation that can eventually spread.
Clean energy industry leaders provided examples of both energy savings and economic benefits already realized in the Southeast due to the use and implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Results of a recent Tennessee clean energy jobs study were presented, which showed that Tennessee is home to over 2,600 clean energy businesses that employ over 44,000 workers in the state.
Overall, the conference succeeded in bringing together varied stakeholders that will continue engaging around the Clean Power Plan as it’s finalized in August as well as when states begin work to comply with this historic public health regulation.
In June, The Georgia Alternative Fuel Roadshow, hosted by Georgia Public Service Commissioner, Tim Echols, kicked off its 5th year, with stops in Gainesville, Cartersville, Albany, Atlanta, Valdosta, St. Simon’s and Savannah. SACE staff had the pleasure of participating in the roadshow on June 23 at Agnes Scott College (ASC) in Decatur, Georgia.
ASC was the perfect spot to kick off the Roadshow’s second week of activities. They have initiated a number of programs to become a more sustainable campus. Over the past year, they have installed five (5) solar arrays totaling 238 KW of installed solar capacity, installed a geothermal HVAC system, and are on track to receive LEED Gold certification of the recent renovation of Campbell Hall. ASC also installed a charging station for electric vehicles (EVs) on campus – Decatur’s first DC fast charger. DC fast chargers provide the fastest EV charging rate currently available.
Speakers at the roadshow stop included local government officials, EV manufacturers, natural gas and propane companies, Georgia Power representatives, and Hannah Solar, who is working to increase solar EV charging stations. Dekalb County’s Interim CEO Lee May highlighted the County’s efforts to add EV charging stations and their use of compressed natural gas (CNG). Senator Elena Parent discussed the recent repeal of the low emissions tax credit, efforts to fight it and the new punitive fee on EV drivers. She is committed to continuing to fight to support EVs. SACE also had the opportunity to present on biodiesel and the local availability of the fuel at our retail biodiesel station, Clean Energy Biofuels.
Cobb County shared their efforts to diversify their transportation fleet using a range of fueling options, including compressed natural gas (CNG), biodiesel, propane, E85 (ethanol), hybrids, and electric vehicles. 23% of the their vehicles now run on alternatives to gasoline and diesel. They have also installed three EV charging stations throughout the county for their fleet. Check out Cobb County’s video for more on their initiatives.
The Georgia Alternative Fuels Roadshow provides a unique opportunity for fleets and the public to view the range of technologies on the market. Diversification of fuels will help reduce our oil consumption, cut air pollution, and drive economic development. We hope to see more companies, municipalities, and universities welcome these sustainable fuels and technologies into their fleets throughout the state and region.
Last month, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Regional Energy Resource Council (RERC) gave a preview of the recommendations in TVA’s forthcoming 2015 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). SACE staffers have played an integral part in both the 2011 and 2015 IRP planning process, serving on each of the various IRP stakeholder working groups. Throughout these processes, we’ve educated our members and TVA’s customers about the development of TVA’s draft 2015 IRP.
Although not surprising, it is unfortunate to see TVA’s recommended plan will continue to emphasize construction of natural gas plants, both in the short- and long-term. Our view, developed during the process, is that while some additional natural gas plants will be needed, TVA’s plan will be unnecessarily costly, risky and polluting. TVA plans to add up to 2,300 MW of natural gas capacity by 2023, potentially arriving at a total of 5,500 MW of natural gas capacity by 2033. Conversely, TVA will increase its energy efficiency savings to 1,300 MW by 2023 and arrive at a maximum of 2,800 MWs of savings in 2033. Similarly, TVA’s final IRP will likely recommend adding a mere 800 MW of large-scale solar capacity and less than 500 MW of wind capacity by 2023. We think the evidence shows that a greater emphasis on energy efficiency, solar and wind would lower customer bills and reduce the risk of overexposure to natural gas price fluctuations.
It is important to compare the planning direction of the 2015 TVA IRP to the previous 2011 IRP in order to understand the implications of the current resource planning recommendations. According to the 2011 IRP, by 2020 energy efficiency was expected to grow to a range of 3,600-5,100 MWs and renewable energy additions were expected to total anywhere from 1,500 – 2,500 MWs. When you compare the 2011 IRP recommendations to those in the 2015 IRP, it becomes clear that TVA is rolling back its commitment to both energy efficiency and renewable energy resources right as these resources are becoming the cheapest they’ve ever been.
Further analysis of the upcoming TVA IRP can be found here on our blog.
After months of anticipation, Pope Francis has released his encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. Encyclicals are letters written by a pope to the other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. In this 184-page letter, Pope Francis touched on many environmental issues facing the planet today: climate change, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity, animal husbandry, genetically modified organisms and other “aspects of the present ecological crisis.” The encyclical’s title (which means “Praised Be”) is inspired after Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures. St. Francis’s life of simplicity and cooperation with nature is the embodiment of Pope Francis’ encyclical (after all, Pope Francis chose his name after St. Francis).
According to Pope Francis, it was necessary to discuss the breadth of environmental issues because “Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” According to the encyclical, society has created a “throwaway culture” heavily entrenched and dependent on overconsumption. The evidence he presents all points to the fact that, “the earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”
One theme throughout Laudato Si is the juxtaposition of the “tyranny over creation” (anthropocentrism) versus a cooperation and cultivation of nature. As stated by Pope Francis, “If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs.”
Even though Pope Francis explicitly states that the “Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics,” he does provide a few glimpses into ways to resolve the ecological crisis. For instance, he states, “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.” Throughout the encyclical are these short asides of non-policy, policy recommendations.
Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si, in part, to prepare for the United Nations Climate Change Conference this winter in Paris (COP21). As the world prepares for COP21, Laudato Si can provide a firm moral grounding for delegates and attendees: “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?… Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. ”
You can read the full text of Laudato Si, here.