Environmental Economics Program News

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.

Achieving Universal Energy Access by Closing the Gap between What We Know and What We Do

In a Brookings blog post, Duke University Energy Access Project staff write about a three-year study of more than 77,500 papers on energy access and the internationally agreed on Sustainable Development Goals. Marc Jeuland of Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy and Energy Access Project Director Jonathan Phillips will present findings from this work in Lisbon, Portugal, at the fourth Sustainable Energy for All Forum May 2-3. 

Energy as the Golden Thread: What do we Know?

Energy as the Golden Thread: What Do We Know?

Energy has been called the “golden thread” connecting economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability—but what do we know about the drivers and impacts of energy transitions in low- and middle-income countries? To answer this question, the Sustainable Energy Transitions Initiative, the Duke University Energy Access Project and Environment for Development, characterized nearly 80,000 academic articles related to the social dimensions of energy and development to produce a systematic, broad in coverage, and replicable “energy services” framework. This new research highlights how changes in energy access and technology most clearly affect outcomes in 9 of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and it defines the critical research knowledge gaps to help policy makers better understand how energy relates to end users’ well-being.

Portrait of Doug Scott

State and Federal Leaders to Discuss Energy and Environmental Developments in the PJM Region

In a blog post, the Great Plains Institute's Doug Scott discusses Energy and Environmental Developments in the PJM Region, an event taking place in Washington, D.C., on May 2. Organized by the Great Plains Institute and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, the event will focus on the increasingly complex task utilities and regulators face  when responding to the changing power generation mix. 

Ways Forward for Duke on Climate Neutrality

“The university can lead by not just focusing on reducing emissions but by emphasizing things that catalyze change outside the university,” said Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions during a climate forum on Duke's progress toward its commitment to becoming climate neutral by 2024. The forum explored the major steps still to be taken toward the goal. The most promising of steps include fueling on-campus steam plants with directed biogas from North Carolina swine farms.

Kate Konschnick Portrait with Quote

Expert Available for Comment on Virginia Carbon Emission Regulations

The public comment period for Virginia’s draft regulations to cut carbon emissions from power plants ends April 9. The draft plan aims to cap emissions from the state’s electricity sector beginning in 2020 and to reduce them 30 percent by 2030.

New Grants Will Advance Collaborative Research by 11 Groups of Duke Faculty

Nicholas Institute staff members are among six groups of Duke faculty that have been awarded multiyear Research Collaboratory grants. Part of the Together Duke academic strategic plan, these new grant opportunities provide flexible, immediate resources to strengthen Duke’s intellectual communities and help research groups move forward on both fundamental inquiry and solutions for real-world problems. Recipients include the Nicholas Institute’s Billy Pizer for the project Decisions, Risks, and Governance Geoengineering; and Martin Doyle and Amy Pickle for Innovations in Infrastructure.