Climate and Energy Program News

China's Foreign Energy Investments Can Swing Coal and Climate Future

The International Energy Agency recently reported strong greenhouse gas growth from energy production in 2018, with an emerging fleet of Asian coal-fired power plants leading the way. Coal plants are being planned or constructed in 14 countries with no current coal power to speak of, and in 19 countries where new coal plants would more than double coal-fired capacity. The Nicholas Institute's Jackson Ewing writes for The Hill that, while there are multiple drivers of coal investment, China is the pivotal player.

In Executive Order, Gov. Cooper Wants 40 Percent Reduction In Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Gov. Roy Cooper has signed an executive order that directs the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025. It's a move that some other state and local governments have taken since President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. Jennifer Weiss, a senior policy associate with the Climate and Energy Program at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions told NPR that it "is a realistic goal, but I think it's going to take a lot of work by multiple parties." The order lays out several different ways to reduce greenhouse gases, and it creates a climate change council that is supposed to get input from a wide range of sources like utilities, local governments and business owners.

Cooper Calls for NC to Slash Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order Monday calling on North Carolina to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent in the next seven years. The executive order calls for getting at least 80,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road, improving the efficiency of state buildings so they cut their energy use by 40 percent and working to expand North Carolina's clean energy industries. The 40 percent target is based on the state's 2005 emission levels, and Tim Profeta, director of Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions tells WRAL that it is an ambitious goal, noting that it's more than any other state in the Southeast.

Gov. Cooper at News Conference

News Tip: Experts Available for Comment on NC Climate Executive Order

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday announced an executive order aimed at addressing climate change and advancing the clean energy economy in the state.

Beyond Fuel Security: Reliability, Resilience and a More Sustainable Future through Grid Flexibility

The White House, federal agencies and some regional grid operators are seeking to boost electric grid reliability and resilience. In Utility Dive, Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions' Kate Konschnik and Jennie Chen write that improving grid flexibility could achieve the aims of fuel security more cost effectively while modernizing and decarbonizing the grid.

Murray Portrait

Carving the Energy Pathway of the Future

In a Nature Conservancy story profiling his career, Brian Murray, Duke University Energy Initiative director and faculty affiliate at Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, discusses what motivates him and what the future holds for the energy sector: “I don’t think we should choose an energy technology and say that is the only technology to pursue. You must look at a portfolio approach. We have to move toward more decarbonized sources, but it is a transition path, not a brick wall,” Murray says. “It is way too simple to say that we know exactly what the energy solution is. As attractive as solar is becoming in certain places, we cannot conclude now that we should move toward a grid that is 100 percent solar in all places. A resilient grid is one that has diversity. A clean grid is one that has a minimal amount of pollution. We should be getting the most resilient and cleanest grid possible.”

Washington Failed Twice to Tax Carbon. Is 2018 Different? ($)

A proposal by Washington state to tax carbon have it join California as the only states with a firm plan to tackle emissions reductions beyond the power sector. But the proposal, Billy Pizer, a faculty fellow at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, is a risky move. Spending money on pollution reductions tends to be inefficient when compared with a strong carbon price, which incentivizes consumers and businesses to change behavior. Revenues generated by the fee also tend to increase over time, even as opportunities for pollution reduction become scarcer. The Washington proposal nevertheless has one chief advantage, Pizer tells ClimateWire. It has the potential of passing. "If the money is not being spent effectively, people can change that more easily than getting something on the books," he said, noting that the federal Clean Air Act was amended several times to address loopholes and inefficiencies. "You do whatever you can to get the architecture in place and then amend it later on."

Carbon Trading Workshop Panelists

Workshop: RGGI Just One Example of Carbon Trading Program States Could Follow

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cooperative effort of nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants through a market-based emissions trading program, recently marked ten years of carbon auctions. A September workshop in Washington, D.C.—hosted by Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy SolutionsGeorgetown Climate CenterResources for the Future, and the RGGI Project Series—explored how this successful carbon trading program and plans by New Jersey and Virginia to participate, might inform other states that might want to link to RGGI or implement a separate carbon trading program.

Energy Infrastructure Map of the World student team with their poster

Duke Students Create Energy Datasets and Tools with Wide-Ranging Impact Through Data+ Summer Research

Nearly a third of humanity lacks reliable electricity. Over the summer as part of Duke University’s Data+ program, Duke student teams deployed cutting-edge data analysis techniques to aid the search for solutions to this global challenge. Guided by Duke faculty, students learn how to marshal, analyze, and visualize data, while gaining broad exposure to the modern world of data science. Both teams’ research efforts contribute to the goals of Duke’s Energy Access Project, a new research and policy effort that aims to address the challenges around increasing access to modern energy solutions to underserved populations around the world. Key Duke collaborators in this effort include the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the Duke University Energy Initiative, the Sanford School of Public Policy, Bass Connections, and the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Environmentalists Worry that Florence will Leave Behind a Toxic Mess in North Carolina

Hurricane Florence has caused havoc with North Carolina's infrastructure since it began hammering the coastline last week. Hog farms are one of the most problematic environmental challenges after Florence dumped a historic amount of rain on the region, but they’re far from the only one. There are threats from coal ash basins, where the residue from power plants is stored, and toxic sites across the state. And floodwaters can rise high enough to mix with contaminants and then deposit them back into rivers and wetlands that provide drinking water and natural habitats. Martin Doyle, director of the Water Policy Program at Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, tells The Los Angeles Times that “These are changes that are consistent with what we would see from the effects of climate change. It’s a totally different calculus.”

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