The Natural Resources Defense Council is a New York City-based, non-profit international environmental advocacy group, with offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Beijing. Founded in 1970, NRDC today has 1.4 million members and online activities nationwide and a staff of more than 400 lawyers, scientists and other policy experts.The charity monitoring group Charity Navigator gave the Natural Resources Defense Council four out of four stars overall and three out of four stars for its financial practices. Wikipedia.
Jenkins L.D.,University of Washington |
Garrison K.,Natural Resources Defense Council
Marine Policy | Year: 2013
This study examined the feasibility of gear substitution as a means to reduce bycatch and habitat impacts of fisheries, using a social-ecological systems approach. The U.S. west coast sablefish fishery is an excellent subject for this study, because it permits three different gear types and has a problem with bycatch of overfished species. Bycatch rates were highest in trawls and lowest in pots. Combining interview data with findings from a previous study, affirmed that habitat impacts were highest with trawls and lowest with longlines. Interviews with 44 individuals analyzed using grounded theory yielded several common themes in the opinions of gear substitution. Positive opinion themes included that it would allow better management of the fish populations by reducing bycatch and would allow more business options, flexibility, and increased profit for some trawlers. The main negative opinion theme was that gear substitution could decrease landings needed to support shoreside infrastructure. Most stakeholder groups saw some benefit in gear substitution. Notably, the trawlers voiced a unanimous preference for converting to pots rather than longlines. A scenario analysis revealed that the preferable management option would be long-term gear conversion, but incentives are likely to be an important means of encouraging gear conversion. This ecological impacts rapid assessment provided a regional evaluation of bycatch and habitat impacts that had never been conducted before for these gear types. It also provided scientific support for a regulatory change that legally allows trawlers to practice gear substitution. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. Source
Succar S.,Natural Resources Defense Council |
Succar S.,Princeton Environmental Institute |
Denkenberger D.C.,Denkenberger Inventing and Consulting |
Williams R.H.,Princeton Environmental Institute
Applied Energy | Year: 2012
A methodology is presented for jointly optimizing the wind turbine specific rating and the storage configuration for a large-scale wind farm coupled to compressed air energy storage (CAES). By allowing the wind-storage system to be optimized in an integrated, variable rating framework the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) can be reduced substantially. These changes also enhance the capacity factor of the wind farm, reduce the storage capacity requirements of the baseload plant and reduce the greenhouse gas emission rate of the combined system relative to a separately optimized wind farm coupled to CAES. The results of this analysis could have important implications for the competitiveness of large-scale remote wind and the applicability of energy storage as a baseload wind strategy in a carbon constrained world. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. Source
The agreement comes after environmental groups successfully sued to stop the $59 million dam along the Yellowstone near the Montana-North Dakota border. It was signed by attorneys for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris issued an order putting the lawsuit on hold pending a new environmental study of the project to be completed by the end of 2016. The low-profile, concrete dam was intended to replace a weir northeast of Glendive, Montana, that for more than a century has blocked about 125 endangered sturgeon from reaching their upstream spawning grounds. That weir, called the Intake Diversion Dam, is a porous, rock dam that diverts water for an irrigation system serving more than 50,000 acres of cropland in eastern Montana and western North Dakota. Morris blocked construction of the new dam in September, just as work was set to begin. Attorneys for Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council had argued there was no proof a fish bypass channel included as part of the project would work. Removing the dam would open up 165 river miles for sturgeon to spawn upstream of the existing weir. "We're hoping the agencies take a real hard, realistic look at just taking that dam out of the river altogether," said McCrystie Adams, an attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. "There's no reason for that dam. You take out the dam, and you fix the problem." Pallid sturgeon are known for a distinctive, long snout and can live 50 years, reaching 6 feet in length. Believed to date to the days when Tyrannosaurus Rex walked the Earth, the population declined sharply during the past century as dams were built along the Missouri River system. They were listed as an endangered species in 1990. The sturgeon inhabiting the lower Yellowstone have been essentially trapped downstream of the rock weir since it was built in 1905. At least one female fish managed to swim around the structure during high water in 2014, but that was considered a rare occurrence. The Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps will take public comments for the next 45 days to determine the scope of their upcoming environmental study, including what alternatives will be considered. Whatever option is selected must balance mandatory protections for sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act with an irrigation project serving almost 400 farms that was authorized by Congress. "You're trying to retrofit something that's 100 years-old for both the fish and the farmers," Reclamation spokesman Tyler Johnson said. Three irrigation districts that would benefit from the project joined the case on the side of the government in June. They argued the dam and bypass would help sturgeon while protecting farms. Those irrigators—the Savage Irrigation District, Intake Irrigation District and Lower Yellowstone Project—remain hesitant about removing the weir. It would require the installation of costly pumps and other equipment to keep water flowing to farmers, their attorney, Mark Stermitz, said Tuesday. Nevertheless, Stermitz signed onto the agreement between the government and environmentalists. He said he did not want to undermine future discussions about the project by pre-judging the outcome of the new environmental study that's been ordered. "We're not afraid of where the science takes us," he said. "We felt the government was correct in not considering (removing the weir), but we support the agreement and feel that it should get a fair hearing."
As of next year, companies will no longer be allowed to sell hand and body soaps in the U.S. that contain certain antibacterial ingredients, including triclosan and triclocarban. In a final rule issued on Sept. 2, the Food & Drug Administration says that manufacturers have not shown that the chemicals are safe for long-term daily use. Companies also haven’t shown that the chemicals are more effective than washing with regular soap and water to prevent the spread of germs, FDA says. “Some data suggest that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long term,” says Janet Woodcock, director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation & Research. FDA proposed the rule in late 2013, citing concerns about potential hormonal effects and antibiotic resistance associated with the chemicals. The rule goes into effect on Sept. 6, 2017, but many manufacturers have already stopped using the ingredients. As alternatives, most have switched to one of three other antibacterial chemicals: benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol. At the request of manufacturers, FDA deferred from including these three compounds in the new rule. The American Cleaning Institute and its member companies plan to submit to FDA safety and effectiveness data for these three ingredients in the coming year, says Brian Sansoni, a vice president of the trade group. In the meantime, manufacturers can continue to market products that contain the three substances. FDA’s action is part of a settlement made with the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council. The group sued FDA in 2010 for not finalizing a 1978 rule that would have banned triclosan in consumer soaps. NRDC is now raising concerns about benzalkonium chloride and benzethonium chloride, which belong to a group of chemicals called quaternary ammoniums. “There is some burgeoning science showing there might be health concerns associated with these chemicals,” says Mae Wu, a senior attorney at NRDC.
In 2014, Energy and Environmental Economics (E3) published a study on the economic impacts of net metering in Nevada and found there to be an estimated $36 million benefit to non-solar ratepayers over the lifetime of all rooftop solar systems installed between 2004 and 2016. But in Nevada, E3’s calculus has changed. Last week, the research group published an update to its 2014 report that found that Nevada’s roughly 30,000 existing rooftop solar systems shift $36 million in costs onto non-solar customers each year. When E3 entered new inputs, the $36 million in benefits (coincidentally the same number as the annual costs) disappeared. The findings add to a contentious debate over rooftop solar in Nevada, stemming from a new tariff that increased fixed charges, lowered the variable energy rate and reduced the credit for excess energy for both new and existing rooftop solar customers. The policy changes were approved in December 2015 and came into effect on January 1. Sunrun and SolarCity pulled out of the state shortly after and several other solar companies have had to lay off staff as the Nevada rooftop solar market has come to a standstill. There has been strong pushback against the new rate and various attempts to undo the changes. Assemblyman Stephen Silberkraus and Senator James Settelmeyer commissioned the new E3 study to “provide a foundation as we continue the discussion of ensuring that all customers benefiting from the electric grid are paying appropriately,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN). Regulators opened a new information docket for the report last week (16-08031). The cost shift described in the study could undermine efforts to reinstate favored rooftop solar rates. Thomas Kimbis, interim president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), wrote in The Huffington Post this week that the numbers in E3’s latest analysis “just don’t add up.” “While E3’s first study was consistent with other studies in showing solar’s value to the community, the latest version insults the intelligence of Nevadan readers,” he wrote. So what changed in E3’s analysis? Accounting for lower costs of utility-scale solar resources was the primary reason why E3’s results were different from two years ago. In 2014, utility-scale renewable resources cost $100 per megawatt-hour. In 2016, they cost $36 per megawatt-hour. The new data decreased the “RPS value” benefit in E3’s model by 95 percent, which made self-generated electricity relatively less economic, according to the report. Falling natural-gas prices were another factor. Lower costs decreased the value for avoided cost of energy by approximately 50 percent, further hurting the case for self-generated electricity. “Markets change all the time, whether it’s the cost of natural gas or whether it’s the cost of solar,” said Zachary Ming, senior consultant at E3 and author of the new report. “If the results of a study are based on market data that existed at the time the study was published…and if that data changes, conclusions also need to change.” While the study results are intended to inform net metering discussions in Nevada, the study scope went beyond NEM to account for all Nevada-specific policies that enable distributed solar, including NV Energy’s RenewableGenerations incentive. Generation from these incentivized systems can be counted toward Nevada’s renewable portfolio standard. So for existing systems, $20 million of the $36 million per year cost shift actually represents sunk costs that have already been spent on solar incentives. The remaining roughly $15 million represents the annual cost shift attributable specifically to net metering; thus it would create a cost-shift of $15 million per year to grandfather Nevada’s existing rooftop solar customers onto the old rate structure. These results are similar to the PUCN’s own analysis that found there is a $16 million annual cost shift between solar and non-solar customers. If Nevada’s existing 265 megawatts of rooftop solar were hypothetically to double, E3 found it would cost-shift an additional $15 million per year. Taking the analysis further, E3 calculated that Nevada’s net-metered rooftop solar customers also lose money on the state’s distributed solar policies. According to the report, Nevada’s roughly 30,000 existing rooftop solar customers are actually paying an additional $10 million per year to have solar on their roofs. “In other words, the cost of installing the solar system is more than what they’re getting paid in incentives and NEM bill credits,” said Ming. A key point is that E3's solar cost calculation factors in the availability of incentives other than NEM, like the RenewablesGeneration program. Furthermore, the inputs are very location-specific. The Nevada finding doesn’t mean that rooftop solar doesn’t benefit rooftop solar customers elsewhere, said Ming, it all depends on the rate level. In Nevada, residential rates are about 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. In California, where there are tiered rates, some customers pay up to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour. Because solar customers in California are getting bill credits up to three times larger than those on offer in Nevada, almost every rooftop system is cost-effective, Ming said. But while solar customers in California see a net benefit, E3 recently published a separate model that estimated California’s net metering policy could cost shift $3 billion to $5 billion per year by 2025. A cost shift in the billions may seem extreme, but Ming noted that the costs are all about preferences and perception. In Nevada, whether or not a $36 million cost shift is considered extreme is relative, he said. “It’s about 1.2 percent of revenue requirements that means rates would increase 1.2 percent,” he said. “So if the electricity rate is 10 cents per kilowatt-hour (Nevada’s is 11.40 cents), we’re talking about an increase of about .12 cents per kilowatt-hour. So whether it’s significant or not is all in the eye of the beholder.” The additional cost per kilowatt-hour is even lower given that much of the cost shift has already been spent through incentive payments. E3 estimates the incremental cost of grandfathering existing systems on the old NEM rates would cause a rate increase of just 0.5 percent. Whether or not an increase is tolerable is a political question, not a research one, said Ming. In places where studies show solar is a net cost, decision-makers may well decide to pay more for the technology in the near term because it supports their community’s climate objectives or employment goals, or simply has strong consumer demand. “I think the argument [that distributed solar costs more, but is still worth it] is a much more nuanced and accurate [argument] in favor of keeping net metering, as opposed to stating outright that today net metering provides a net benefit,” Ming said. Rooftop solar advocates have long been lobbying for state regulators to consider benefits as well costs when evaluating policies that affect the economics of solar. This is particularly relevant to debates on net energy metering, where the credit has a tangible cost, but that cost ignores all of the benefits rooftop gives back to the electrical grid and society at large. The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) recently came out with a draft manual on how to compensate distributed energy resources, including rooftop solar, that identified cost-benefit studies as the most neutral way to regulate. Getting regulators to consider benefits in addition to costs is a victory for distributed energy advocates, but there’s a lot more that goes into figuring out what distributed solar is worth. And the process can have a profound effect on the results. E3’s two Nevada reports demonstrate just how significantly changing a couple of inputs can affect the outcome of cost-benefit report. Interestingly, given the outcome, E3 used a more generous set of distributed solar benefits in the 2016 study than in the 2014 case. This time, E3 included distribution benefits for solar in the calculations, and still arrived at the $36 million cost shift. Without those benefits, the cost shift rises to $43 million. This analysis doesn’t include any benefits that cannot be monetized, however. “The cost shift looks at what other ratepayers are paying for the solar versus what they’re getting,” said Ming. “It just looks at things that impact utility rates. That means it’s only looking at monetized benefits.” Societal benefits don’t impact utility rates; therefore, it doesn’t make sense to include them in a cost-shift study, Ming said. Furthermore, the societal benefits are very dispersed. Nevada’s rooftop solar sector is contributing to reduced emissions, but since emissions are global, very little direct benefit accrues to the people of Nevada. For comparison, E3 did run a scenario that looks at externalities and non-monetized health and environmental benefits and found that net costs to the state of Nevada are even higher than the cost shift. In this scenario, leaving existing solar on Nevada’s previous solar rate would cost $55 million per year. This is primarily because distributed solar counts toward Nevada’s RPS, so the more distributed solar there is, the less utility-scale generation there is, which is the cheaper form of clean energy. Meanwhile, E3 states there is no substantial difference in the societal benefits each solar resource offers. “If you’re looking at how can we get the electricity system to be as green as possible, as fast as possible, and as cheap as possible, rooftop will always be at a structural disadvantage to large-scale renewable energy. Because when you install these systems on a rooftop, they’re installed in small quantities so you don’t have economies of scale for installation. They’re often at suboptimal angles, shaded by trees or buildings and often not in sunniest areas like a desert,” said Ming. “All of that adds up to situation where even if costs go down, it will go down for both rooftop and utility-scale, and rooftop will always be more expensive.” Of course, rooftop solar proponents would challenge that conclusion, pointing to the huge swaths of land and transmission lines needed to support large-scale solar projects. Solar advocates are also challenging E3’s latest conclusions and the process through which it was introduced. According to Jon Wellinghoff, chief policy officer for SolarCity, the E3 study was conducted "behind closed-doors" and presented without peer review, which runs counter to Nevada's typical legislative vetting process. "We don't know who decided the inputs," he said. "It was done in a big black box, and here they are touting a [cost-shift] number.” Two Nevada legislators originally requested the E3 follow-up study, but the study didn't make it onto the agenda for the interim energy committee's final hearing last week. In an "unprecedented move," according to Wellinghoff, the study was published in a stand-alone informational docket that does not allow for stakeholder input. For solar advocates, the biggest flaw with the new E3 study is that it does not address all 11 of the cost and benefit categories that Nevada regulators said should be used to “determine the possible value/detriment of NEM” (p. 151). In their net-metering ruling, regulators only accounted for two rooftop solar benefits -- avoided energy and energy losses -- citing “insufficient time or data in this proceeding to assign a value to the other nine variables.” In May, SolarCity and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a peer-reviewed report that looked at the full suite of costs and benefits and found that Nevada’s existing rooftop solar customers provide net benefits to all Nevadans ranging from 1.6 cents to 3.4 cents per kilowatt-hour of solar production, which translates to $7 million to $14 million per year. A version of the report tailored to Northern Nevada will be submitted to Sierra Pacific Power’s upcoming rate case and Integrated Resource Plan. E3’s study may also be considered. Both reports are also likely to be evaluated by Nevada's New Energy Industry Task Force, which is preparing recommendations for Governor Brian Sandoval to include in proposed legislation for 2017. But rather than simply write dueling reports, what stakeholders really need is a full, fair and transparent accounting of the costs and benefits of solar, said Chandler Sherman, deputy campaign manager for the Bring Back Solar Alliance, a rooftop solar advocacy coalition backed by SolarCity. "We look forward to working with other stakeholders to review this draft study, and provide input on the data and analysis through a transparent peer-review process,” Sherman said of the E3 report. “The public deserves a rigorous and fair accounting of the costs and benefits of solar, and we will work with the PUC and other leadership to ensure the updated study, like the initial study, meets the high standards the public expects.” This story has been updated to include comments from Jon Wellinghoff, chief policy officer for SolarCity.