State Policy Program News

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

Hog Waste In NC Has Been A Relatively Untapped Fuel Source. Until Now.

NPR reports that the North Carolina biogas industry began with a promise by Duke University, citing a 2013 study by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions that found the directed biogas approach could lower the cost of swine biogas to as little as 5 cents a kilowatt hour, which is roughly the same price as solar power. Duke University is interested in lowering the price of renewable natural gas because it has a goal of bringing all its emissions to zero by 2024. 

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.

We Can Reduce Methane Emissions. Here’s How.

In 2016 U.S., Canadian and Mexican leaders pledged to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025. Canada is just beginning to propose regulatory limits on methane. But Mexico has made only nonbinding pledges, and the Trump administration is rolling back federal methane standards. Nevertheless, write the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Kate Konschnik and her co-author Sarah Jordaan in the News & Observer, states, industry, academics, and nongovernmental organizations are advancing methane measurement and mitigation efforts. They are acting despite deep uncertainty—the magnitude of leaks from oil and gas infrastructure remains disputed and insufficiently measured—and against a backdrop of rapidly evolving research. But to be effective, these actors need to work in concert, fully informed by the latest science. In a newly published article in Climate Policy, Konschnick and Jordaan suggest a North American Methane Reduction Framework to coordinate regulation, voluntary actions, and scientific developments. This approach could bridge the divide between science and policy, and drive new research that in turn can support better federal policies when governments are ready to act.

To Frack or Not to Frack

On the Duke Research Blog, Maya Iskandarani writes about alumnus Daniel Raimi's new book The Fracking Debate: The Risks, Benefits, and Uncertainties of the Shale Revolution. At a talk co-sponsored by the Duke Energy Initiative and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Raimi shared some of the insights he gained in traveling the country to investigate the community-level impact of the shale revolution in the U.S.