Climate and Energy Program News

Comprehensive Study: Carbon Taxes won't Hamper the Economy

An article in The Guardian highlights a special issue in the journal Energy Economics featuring carbon tax modeling studies conducted through the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum Project. The issue includes an overview of the results co-authored by Brian Murray of the Duke University Energy Initiative and a faculty affiliate at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and an article on carbon tax implications for market trends and generation costs by my Nicholas Institute colleague Martin Ross. Comparison of the modeling studies’ results revealed similar conclusions: that a carbon tax is effective at reducing carbon pollution, although the structure of the tax and rate at which it rises are important, and that a revenue-neutral carbon tax would have a modest impact on gross domestic product. Even the most ambitious carbon tax was found to be consistent with long-term positive economic growth.

Portrait Jennie Chen

Understanding FERC’s Order Rejecting PJM’s Capacity Market Proposals and the Proposed Replacement Framework

Jennifer Chen, senior counsel at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, writes about how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently ordered changes to PJM's capacity market rules. FERC's 3-2 decision rejected two proposals filed by PJM as well as a proposal filed by a group of generators operating in PJM's footprint about how PJM's capacity market should handle state policies favoring certain types of power generation. PJM, states, and other stakeholders now have the opportunity to comment on and shape FERC's proposed replacement framework. Chen discusses the order, the proposed replacement framework, and dissects what FERC might consider as they move forward. 

Jackson Ewing Portrait

The Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Finance: Catalytic Agent or Empty Vessel?

For Brookings Future Development blog, Jackson Ewing, a senior fellow at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and an adjunct associate professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy, writes that climate change is creating an investment challenge. Although overhauling traditional energy systems, curtailing harmful industry practices, and scaling emerging technology can make economic sense, they often mean steep front-loaded costs. The United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals are crafted to accelerate the flow of climate finance to developing countries, but, on the surface, it is unclear what new value they bring. 

Jennifer Weiss Portrait

North Carolina, It’s Time to Hit Reboot on Grid Modernization

In the News & Observer, Jen Weiss, senior policy associate at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, writes that on June 22 the N.C. Utilities Commission issued a long-anticipated order on Duke Energy Carolinas’ request for a hike in electricity rates. Observers have dissected the opinion and debated hot-button issues, ranging from fixed rates and coal ash expenses to costs tied to a shuttered nuclear project. One issue that rose to the top was the commission’s rejection of Duke Energy Carolinas’ 10-year, $7.8 billion grid modernization (or “grid mod”) bid, as well as a compromise deal brokered with green groups. As the dust settles on this decision, Weiss says, it could be a good time to hit the “reboot” button on Duke Energy’s often discussed, but seldom understood, $13 billion Power/Forward Carolinas Initiative.

nuclear plant

New Nuclear Tech Won’t Help U.S. Avoid ‘Profound’ Climate Problem

Bloomberg BNA reports that nuclear power, one of the largest sources of low-carbon energy, is fading quickly in the U.S. About 20 percent of U.S. electricity comes from nuclear power plants, but electric utilities are closing plants across the country as companies turn to less-costly natural gas and renewable energy. Five nuclear power plants have closed since 2012, with nine more slated for closure through 2025. “Right now, the cost of generating electricity from newly constructed nuclear plants is almost double the cost for power from a new natural gas combined-cycle plant,” Etan Gumerman, senior policy associate at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, told the paper.

Have 101 Utilities Cut their Rates Thanks to the GOP Tax Bill?

PolitiFact unpacks a tweet by President Donald Trump that indicated “101 utilities cut rates, credit GOP tax cuts.” They report that his statement, while mostly true, glosses over the role of energy regulations that mandate that utility savings be passed along to customers. It quotes Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions faculty fellow Billy Pizer: “Rates are set by public utility commissions through rate-making processes that would clearly identify the reasons for the rate change, up or down.”

Catalyst Program Funding will Advance Five Duke Research Projects

Catalyst Program Funding will Advance Five Duke Research Projects

Five projects received funding in the second year of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions’ Catalyst Program.

The program aims to build on the Nicholas Institute’s mission by increasing engagement with Duke University faculty to incubate and advance new partnerships, enhance policy-relevant knowledge, and create innovative policy solutions based on new creative synergies. Funded in the program’s second year:

Duke Infrastructure Course

Authors Discuss Research on the Nutrition and Food Security Contributions of Capture Fisheries

Author Discusses Research on the Nutrition and Food Security Contributions of Capture Fisheries

Capture (wild caught) fisheries are undoubtedly one of the world’s important food systems, providing nearly one-fifth of the average per capita animal protein intake for more than 3.1 billion people as well as essential micronutrients—vitamins and minerals—and omega-3 fatty acids that are needed to end malnutrition and reduce the burden of communicable and non-communicable disease around the world. Yet the contributions of these fisheries to food and nutrition security remain relatively absent from a range of policy dialogues critical to helping the sector do more to end hunger and malnutrition say the authors of the new report Contribution of Fisheries to Food and Nutrition Security: Current Knowledge, Policy, and Research. It suggests that support of capture fisheries’ contributions could require development of policies to ensure the sustainability of resources and to recognize tradeoffs and synergies between conservation and food security objectives. Developing these policies will require a better understanding of the drivers and threats to these fisheries. 

PJM Meeting Speakers

Workshop Participants Say Technology, People Drive Change in PJM

What are the primary drivers of change in the PJM region? Technology and people. That was the message from air and energy regulators from states in the PJM electricity market when they descended on Washington, D.C. May 2-3, to study regional trends alongside utilities, other power providers, investors, and advocates. The expert stakeholder workshop was co-sponsored by the Great Plains Institute (GPI) and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

How Big can New England's Regional Cap-and-Trade Program Get?

The first U.S. cap and trade program designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electric power sector has proven so successful that some supporters are now wondering if it ought to go national, reports Utility Dive. The article cites an analysis by the Nicholas Institute showing that without the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, emissions would have been 24 percent higher. 

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