The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

Fight Climate Change Fast

The U.S. House of Representatives has finally passed climate change legislation, but the national debate on this issue continues to be based on a false assumption: that any major reforms will inevitably take decades to make a serious dent in greenhouse gas pollution.

To wit, the new legislation advanced by Edward Markey (D-MA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) envisions a time frame of more than a decade to achieve just a 17% reduction in our country’s greenhouse gas emissions — far below what climate scientists say is necessary. And many critics say even this modest target is too ambitious.

Sure, scattered voices say we can achieve change at a faster clip. Al Gore, for instance, seeks a lightning-quick ramp-up of renewable energy. But most decision makers on Capitol Hill have dismissed such goals as fantasy, at least for the time being.

But who’s really living in fantasyland? Historically speaking, our nation has undertaken numerous reforms of our energy system that have spurred dramatic and rapid change.

Consider the 1992 Energy Policy Act. Before this bill passed, only a limited number of players — mostly regulated electric utilities that enjoyed guaranteed profits — had the right to sell power. Entrepreneurs with innovative, efficient ways of generating electricity were legally shut out. Not surprisingly, then, hardly any such entrepreneurs emerged.

The Energy Policy Act reformed this closed system, allowing more companies to sell power. And the results were staggering. The bill took a few years to go into full effect because of a spate of lawsuits from those who feared competition, but by 1998, the federal government and courts had ruled in favor of competition. The market exploded.

Within 10 years, unregulated entrepreneurs built nearly 200 gigawatts of power capacity, twice that of all the nation’s nuclear reactors. Having taken utilities a century to build our electric grid, independent generators took just one decade to increase it by a quarter — and that after a modest regulatory change. Simply remarkable.

New England regulators recently fostered even faster change in the energy market. ISO New England — which helps ensure the availability of electricity in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont — decided about two years ago to allow entrepreneurs to get paid for decreasing production during peak hours, like on a hot summer day when the energy system is under great strain. Such a program had been in effect previously for big utilities, but now, smaller players were allowed to get in the game.

Already, small power producers in New England have brought forth nearly three gigawatts of energy savings, the equivalent output of three nuclear reactors. With a small change in incentives that opened the market to competition, the energy system quickly began operating a lot more efficiently. And we’ll doubtless see even more of an impact in the years to come.

In both of these examples — neither of which, incidentally, burdened taxpayers — energy companies showed how adaptable they are. If the rules change, they’ll change, too. They might not be looking forward to it. But they’ll do it. That’s how the system works.

So it’s strange that our climate debate remains mired in a swamp of diminished expectations. Policymakers seem to think they have to treat energy companies with kid gloves — as if demanding big changes will somehow be too much for them to bear and result in a devastating blow to our economy. But this view simply doesn’t square with history. With even minor reforms, enormous changes can occur.

Just imagine what could happen if we had the guts to face up to the challenge at hand and passed some bold legislation to fight climate change. We just might change the way our nation makes power.

Sean Casten is the president and CEO of Recycled Energy Development.

RELATED ARTICLES

UK Parliament Clean Energy Leaders

UK Government Names Clean Energy Cabinet Members

David Appleyard, Contributing Editor With the UK general election now over and a majority Conservative Party government in place, the re-elected Prime Minister David Cameron has now named key members of the government charged with steering the UK’s clean energ...
Microgrids

Coast to Coast and Across the Electric System, Microgrids Provide Benefits to All

Dick Munson, Environmental Defense Fund At the most obvious level, microgrids could disrupt today’s utilities and their regulated-monopoly business model, because they challenge the centralized paradigm. In a nutshell, microgrids are localized power grids that ha...
Alaska Airlines Biofuel

Alaska Airlines, Gevo To Demonstrate Renewable Alcohol-to-Jet Fuel

Jim Lane, Biofuels Digest

In Colorado, Gevo and Alaska Airlines announced a strategic alliance to purchase Gevo’s renewable jet fuel and fly the first-ever commercial flight on alcohol-to-jet fuel (ATJ).

Germany wind turbines. Credit: Shutterstock.

Germany's Powerhouse Feels Pinch of Merkel’s Shift to Renewables

Tino Andresen, Bloomberg North Rhine-Westphalia, the German state that’s home to utilities RWE AG and EON SE, is losing its standing as the country’s powerhouse as wind and solar energy begin to displace conventional sources. Electricity consumers ...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

03/01/2015
Volume 18, Issue 3
file

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Doing Business in Brazil – in partnership with GWEC, the Global Win...

Brazil is one of the most promising markets for wind energy.  Ranke...

EU PVSEC 2015 (European PV Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition)

The EU PVSEC is the largest international Conference for Photovoltaic re...

Using Grid data analytics to protect revenue, reduce network losses...

Schneider Electric and Awesense have combined expertise to develop integ...

COMPANY BLOGS

EU PVSEC 2014 extends its Scope

Added focus on application and policy topicsAbstracts for conference con...

EU PVSEC 2014: Call for Papers Receives Great Response

More than 1,500 contributions apply for presentation in AmsterdamScienti...

The Question Trilogy

    It’s crucial to learn what your prospect needs from...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS