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Profits and Productivity: Stimulating Electricity Demand in Low-Income Settings

Authors: Victoria Plutshack and Jonathan Phillips

As electricity companies in low- and middle-income countries move deeper into rural regions, the cost of new connections generally increases while the electricity demanded by these new customers remains lower than urban and peri-urban customers. This is a challenging dynamic for utilities looking to sustain their financial health as well as for governments tasked with engineering viable strategies for achieving universal electrification. Off-grid platforms like solar home systems and minigrids have entered this market, developing innovative approaches to serving these populations that promise to scale up to help meet the needs of the one billion people around the world still lacking electricity access. The creative partnerships and complementary services these off-grid providers are pursuing provide important lessons for larger utilities. Yet the primary driver for new electricity connections—the grid—will continue to play an important role in closing the access gap, especially in places where serving commercial, industrial, and other productive loads is a priority. Countries with national utility companies facing massive debt, stagnant revenue, and overcapacity must develop strategies for maintaining fiscal health, ideally in a manner that facilitates rural income growth and development. 

Publications

Trends in Measuring Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function in Mitigation Quantification Methodologies

Authors: Erika Zambello, Lydia Olander, Emma Glidden-Lyon, Emily Meza, and Jessica Wilkinson

Over the last decade, efforts to use compensatory mitigation to manage and ameliorate the impacts of development on biodiversity and ecosystems around the world have accelerated. Mitigation mechanisms provide a structured way to advance economic development and infrastructure while also achieving environmental goals. In order to operationalize mitigation programs, practitioners need a methodology for calculating or quantifying impacts and offsets (debits and credits). The methods currently employed in the U.S. and abroad are extremely varied. Surprisingly, the literature on best practices or standards for developing science-based approaches to the quantification of impacts and offsets is sparse and there is also no single broadly accepted best practice guidance.

Publications

Harnessing Competition in a Transitioning Electricity System: Opportunities for Traditional Cost-of-Service States

Authors: Jonas J. Monast, Franz T. Litz, and Kate Konschnik

Cost-of-service states with vertically integrated utilities can manage a rapidly changing electricity sector by expanding opportunities for competition, even while maintaining the traditional vertically integrated utility. In fact, competition has been deployed successfully by cost of service states to meet customer needs, bring down costs, and encourage innovation. Building on these models, states can strategically create new opportunities for competition between utilities and third-party providers to manage the risks of a changing sector while seizing new benefits for electricity customers, utilities and third-party providers. This policy brief identifies ways that cost-of-service states can increase third-party participation or utilize competition to spur new utility strategies, products, and services.

Publications

Southeast Electric Vehicle Regional Strategy

Authors: Jess Siegel

Throughout the Southeast, state and local leaders are recognizing the benefits of electric vehicles (EVs) and beginning to develop goals and strategies to increase EV penetration. Regional collaboration will be an important aspect of the EV build-out to truly offer expanded transportation options for families and corporate fleets, especially when travel crosses state lines. The development of a consistent regional standard for EV charging stations—including administration and interoperability—will simplify the process of building infrastructure throughout the Southeast as well as make it less costly to develop. A concerted effort to develop policies that standardize infrastructure in support of EVs as an accessible option for travel across state borders will increase EV adoption in the Southeast.

Publications

Measuring and Managing the Unknown: Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Value Chain

Authors: Sarah Marie Jordaan and Kate Konschnik

Tracking and reducing methane emissions from oil and gas operations needs an innovative approach, according to new report from the C.D. Howe Institute. In “Measuring and Managing the Unknown: Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Value Chain” authors Sarah Marie Jordaan and Kate Konschnik highlight the growing pressure on industry and policymakers to address the “unknown” factor in greenhouse gas emissions and propose a regulatory approach that remains open to new technologies.

The Canadian government has pledged with its North American neighbours to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure 40–45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025. Methane packs a powerful punch with up to 36 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 100-year time frame. However, scientists have not reached consensus on how much methane escapes from leaky oil and gas infrastructure in Canada and across North America.

Publications

The True Cost of Solar Tariffs in East Africa

Authors: Rob Fetter and Jonathan Phillips

Over a billion people around the world continue to lack access to basic electricity, many of them unlikely to be connected to the grid for years or decades. Pay-as-you-go solar home systems (SHS)—kits that consumers can frequently purchase on credit that include a small solar panel, battery, light bulbs and wires, phone charging equipment, and sometimes televisions and other appliances—have quickly become a viable, private sector-driven solution that empowers consumers to take control of their energy future.

Publications

Modeling Energy Efficiency as a Supply Resource

Authors: Etan Gumerman and Tibor Vegh

Energy efficiency may be an inexpensive way to meet future demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet little work has been attempted to estimate annual energy efficiency supply functions for electricity planning. The main advantage of using a supply function is that energy efficiency adoption can change as demand changes. Models such as Duke University’s Dynamic Integrated Economy/Energy/Emissions Model (DIEM) have had to rely on simplistic or fixed estimates of future energy efficiency from the literature rather than on estimates from energy efficiency supply curves. This paper attempts to develop a realistic energy efficiency supply curve and to improve on the current energy efficiency modeling. It suggests an alternative approach based on saved-energy cost data from program administrators and explains the methodologies employed to create the supply curve. It illustrates this approach with results from DIEM for various electricity demand scenarios. The analysis suggests that an additional 5–9% of energy efficiency is deployed for every 10% increase in the cost of electricity. Therefore, DIEM “invested” in energy efficiency up to an inelastic point on the energy efficiency supply curve. By contrast, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s energy efficiency approach assumes that realized energy efficiency is fixed, and has no elasticity, regardless of changes to marginal costs or constraints that affect emissions or economics.

Publications

Issues on the Horizon at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Authors: Gabrielle Murnan, Zoe Ripecky, Jennifer Chen

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is an independent agency regulating the interstate transport of energy. As innovations and changing consumer preferences reshape the energy industry, FERC must grapple with key issues. This policy brief summarizes pending issues before FERC, including grid resilience, market reforms that would affect newer technologies and non-emitting resources, and transmission and gas pipeline infrastructure build. How FERC decides on these issues would impact consumer costs, determine which resources would receive revenues from FERC-regulated markets, help shape infrastructure investments, and affect the costs of decarbonization policies.

Publications

Cross-Discipline Evidence Principles for Sustainability Policy

Authors : Edward T. Game, Heather Tallis, Lydia Olander, Steven M. Alexander, Jonah Busch, Nancy Cartwright, Elizabeth L. Kalies, Yuta J. Masuda, Anne-Christine Mupepele, Jiangxiao Qiu, Andrew Rooney, Erin Sills, and William J. Sutherland

Social and environmental systems are linked and, as this relationship becomes ever more apparent, governments, communities and organizations are increasingly faced with, and focused on, problems that are complex, wicked and transgress traditional disciplinary boundaries. This article in the journal Nature Sustainability suggests that evidence-based approaches to solve these complex multi-disciplinary challenges must draw on knowledge from the environment, development, and health domains. To address barriers to the consideration of evidence across domains, this paper develops an approach to evidence assessment that is broader and less hierarchical than the standards often applied within disciplines.

Publications

Beyond Financing: A Guide to Green Bank Design in the Southeast

Authors: Jennifer Weiss and Kate Konschnik

Green banks use funds to reduce the risk for private investment to support energy efficiency and clean energy. As local governments and corporations across the Southeast make progress on ambitious clean energy goals—including some with 100 percent renewable energy targets by as early as 2025—demand is growing for financing to make those goals attainable. This primer outlines the design elements of a green bank and explores how a green bank might leverage public funds in the Southeast to create a robust market for clean energy investment.

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