Environmental Economics 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.

Foundations Support Internet of Water Launch

The Internet of Water, a new project to improve our nation’s water data infrastructure, has been awarded start-up support by six foundations.

The S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Kingfisher Foundation, The Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation, the Pisces Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Water Funder Initiative collectively awarded Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions $1 million in grant funding.

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

Powelson Sees ‘Erosion of Confidence’ in Stakeholder Process ($)

Robert Powelson of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Wednesday reiterated his defense of organized markets but said he sees an “erosion of confidence” in RTO stakeholder processes, reports RTO Insider. Powelson, who made the observation in a speech at a PJM issues workshop sponsored by the Great Plains Institute and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. He cited concerns over escalating transmission rates and PJM’s February “jump ball” filing of two competing proposals for insulating its capacity market from state-subsidized generation. 

FERC's Powelson Cautions on use of 1950 Law to Help Coal ($)

A top federal energy regulator is warning against the use of a 1950 wartime law as a way to subsidize the continued operation of coal and nuclear plants that are unable to make money in today's electricity markets. Robert Powelson, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said Wednesday at an event on PJM Interconnection energy and environment issues sponsored by the Great Plains Institute and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions that invoking the Defense Production Act "would lead to the unwinding of competitive markets in this country." Using the law, reports EnergyWire, to save uneconomical coal and nuclear plants "would be the greatest federal moral hazard we've seen in years and something that would be the wrong direction for us to venture down," Powelson added.

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