Columbia Journal of Environmental Law
A Triple Bottom Line for Electric Utility Regulation: Aligning State-Level Energy, Environmental, and Consumer Protection Goals
Energy infrastructure across the United States is aging, and plant retirements are increasing due to a combination of newly implemented and impending environmental requirements and inexpensive natural gas. Utilities and regulators will have to decide how to update or replace aging facilities—estimated at a cost of $1.5 to $2 trillion over the next twenty years. These decisions will affect consumer prices and the environmental impacts of the electricity sector for decades. Future environmental requirements have the potential to significantly impact power plant operating costs as well as energy investment decisions, creating price risk for consumers if utilities make investments today on power plants that are more expensive to operate in the future. For these reasons, considering the direct link between consumer prices and environmental protection is an important element of maintaining affordable and reliable electricity.
Aircraft emit two to three percent of total global greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions per year. This amount is small compared with emissions from other sectors, such as ground transportation and electric power, but it is by no means trivial. Moreover, the amount is growing quickly, with aviation emissions projected to increase between 290 percent and 667 percent by 2050. There is also evidence that high-altitude aircraft emissions contribute disproportionately to climate change. Until recently, however, the global aviation sector has faced no limits on its emissions.
Harnessing the Power of the Ground Beneath Our Feet: Encouraging Greater Installation of Geothermal Heat Pumps in the Northeast United States
Could part of the solution to the problem of the United States’ reliance on fossil fuels exist just beneath our feet? The earth provides a major source of a renewable energy, known as geothermal energy, that is widely available in the United States and overlooked by current state financial incentive programs. Geothermal energy, or “energy from the heat of the earth,” can be utilized in one of two ways: direct use, i.e., directly heating or cooling buildings, or for the production of electrical energy.
At the turn of the millennium, California led the nation in installed wind energy capacity. California had over 1600 megawatts (“MW”) of capacity, representing a majority of the nation’s 2472 MW. The second most developed state had only had seventeen percent of California’s capacity. However, since 2000, wind capacity in the United States has increased twentyfold to almost 50,000 MW, while capacity in California has less than tripled.