The power sector is the ClimateWorks Network’s largest target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Power generation, which accounts for 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, will see some $20 trillion in capital investments over the next two decades. If these investments focus on energy-efficiency measures and emissions-free power sources, we can dramatically increase our chances of avoiding dangerous climate change.
Experience has shown that the best way to steer investments to low-carbon options is to reform the regulations that govern utilities. The ClimateWorks Network employs several interlocking strategies to:
- End the use of unabated coal-fired power plants
- Reduce methane emissions from natural gas use
- Promote energy efficiency
- Expand market share for clean energy technologies that reduce or eliminate carbon emissions
- Promote carbon capture and storage technologies
Unabated coal power is our main adversary. Current business-as-usual models forecast a doubling of coal-based generation by 2030. But to avert dangerous climate change, we must prevent this escalation. One of our core strategies is to engage policymakers with deep analysis that points to alternatives to coal power, such as the cleaner, and typically cheaper, option of energy efficiency.
Effective utility policies can:
- Enable utility-scale investments in energy efficiency
- Encourage stable incentives that allow renewables to compete with fossil fuels
- Promote large-scale investments in clean energy technology
- Improve the power grid to enable broader deployment of renewable energy
The Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) is ClimateWorks’ Best Practice Network for the power sector. RAP is a global, nonprofit team of experts that focuses on the long-term economic and environmental sustainability of the power and natural gas sectors, providing technical and policy assistance to government officials on a broad range of energy and environmental issues.
Formed by a group of veteran utility regulators, RAP has deep expertise in regulatory and market policies that promote economic efficiency, protect the environment, ensure system reliability, and fairly allocate system benefits among all consumers. RAP has worked extensively in the U.S. since 1992 and in China since 1999, and has assisted governments in nearly every U.S. state and many nations throughout the world. In the European Union, RAP works works directly with European institutions and Member States to advance energy efficiency, renewable power and other low-carbon resources.
RAP has contributed to innovative market mechanisms and regulatory reforms that have led to increased investment in renewable energy and end-use efficiency resources. Among these ideas are the efficiency power plant; cap-and-invest (directing revenues from the auction of emissions allowance to clean energy investments); “clean first” grid access policies; revenue-based rate making that breaks the link between utility sales and profits; and reforms that enable the participation of demand-side and distributed resources in wholesale markets.
Integrated resource planning can make energy use more sustainable by requiring a complete assessment of a power provider’s options, including efficiency measures and renewable sources.
Renewable portfolio standards can increase the market penetration of clean energy by requiring utilities to obtain a certain percentage of their supply from the sun, wind, and other renewable resources.
Energy efficiency resource standards can encourage more efficient generation, movement, and use of electricity by causing utilities to retrofit transmission systems and offer rebates for efficient products.
News & Reports
In Renewable Electricity Futures the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab suggests that renewable energy could potentially provide 80 percent of total U.S. electricity generation by the year 2050. The study, which focused only on currently-available generation and grid management technologies, found that the 80 percent potential holds true in every region of the country.
The Roadmap 2050 study shows that the transition to a fully reliable, fully decarbonised power sector by 2050 is a pre-condition for achieving Europe's 80 percent economy-wide emissions reduction target, and that this is both technically feasible and economically affordable.
In the past three years, China has emerged as a world leader in the development of renewable energy as a part of its growing efforts to combat climate change and create new jobs in clean technologies. ClimateWorks traveled to China to get a sense of the scale of wind power development and talk to some local experts about China's goals for reducing pollution and growing its renewable energy industry.
China's solar manufacturers have helped drive down the cost of solar power worldwide. In this video, ClimateWorks travels to China to talk to local experts about the country's efforts to dramatically ramp up its domestic deployment of solar energy technologies.