Climate and Energy Program Focal Areas

Clean Air Act/Clean Power Plan

Through detailed legal and economic analysis coupled with high-level stakeholder engagement, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions identifies cost effective options for using the Clean Air Act to protect public health and encourage deployment of innovative technologies. Since the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, Nicholas Institute researchers have focused on identifying efficient, environmentally-effective options for regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the act.  With the release of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan in June 2014, the Nicholas Institute has paid particular attention to the challenge of limiting emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants while hedging risks in a power market undergoing a sea of change due to rapidly shifting fuel economies.

Economic Modeling of Energy Policy, Technology

To address a wide range of energy problems the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and its colleagues has developed several models that operate at different geographic, sectoral, and temporal scales. We have developed, or have access to via strategic alliances with other research institutions, a complementary suite of integrated models that include: a model of the U.S. national energy system, a dispatch model of the U.S. electric power system, a plant-level decision model for resource planning of electric power plants, a southern U.S. forest resource model for bioenergy resource analysis, spatial models for siting pipelines for carbon capture and storage, and a national model of the U.S. forest and agricultural sectors. 

Regional Bioenergy Systems

A sustainable bioenergy market in the southeastern United States is critical for meeting national renewable energy and climate mitigation objectives. The Southeast’s unique environmental and land ownership characteristics make the region a ripe and important test bed for novel policy initiatives that address the complexities of this task.

Climate Policy

Since its founding in 2005, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions has focused on developing creative policy options to limit greenhouse gas emissions at the federal and state levels. Through a combination of economic analysis, legal research, energy modeling, and stakeholder engagement, Nicholas Institute researchers have developed an extensive body of work focusing on controlling costs to consumers and affected industries, offset creditseffective market oversight and technology innovation

State Utility Regulation

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions ensures that state utility commissioners and environmental regulators have the capacity to address consumer protection, protect the environment, and maintain a reliable electricity grid. In conjunction with Duke University faculty, the Nicholas Institute conducts original analysis on the role of long-term cost impacts. It has developed a unique decision-making modeling tool to help state utility regulators analyze infrastructure investment options. The Nicholas Institute also works directly with policy makers to identify options for aligning the state energy regulatory process.

Southeast Climate and Energy

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Soultion's regional work explores the potential for expanding the use of renewable energy (including biomass) and energy efficiency measures in the southeast.

Economic and Environmental Consequences of Bioenergy

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions is a respected voice—advising industry, government and NGOs on the likely implications of expanded by energy markets—in the often-contentious area of biomass energy production (particularly in the Southeast). Work by the Nicholas Institute has greatly increased awareness of the greenhouse gas implications of bioenergy use and has been cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and members of the Scientific Advisory Board on Biogenic Accounting as a key example of the type of research necessary to develop workable approaches to track bioenergy carbon emissions.