President’s View: Obama Plan Marks New Climate Change Approach
The June 25th release of President Obama's Climate Action Plan marks an important new phase in the US approach to climate change. The wide-ranging plan directs action across the federal government and has the opportunity to re-focus public and private sector energy and risk management planning in the US. At its center, the plan seeks to expand the use of the portfolio of readily-available resources and technologies that Business Council for Sustainable Energy members provide -- energy efficiency, renewable energy and natural gas -- to both reduce greenhouse emissions and to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
The most significant parts of the President's plan include a federal government goal to use 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 and its Memorandum to the Environmental Protection Agency to develop rules that regulate carbon emissions from new and existing power plants. Key to its impact, the actions within the plan can be achieved through administrative authority and do not require action by Congress. However, realizing the full potential of the specific actions will require a robust partnership with the business community to ensure workable and cost-effective implementation. The President’s Action Plan also re-affirms the U.S. commitment to be a leader in the United Nations negotiations for a new climate agreement in 2015 as well as in important bi-lateral relationships with India and China. In early July the US-China working group on climate change reached an agreement on five new action initiatives with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution – these include key areas of BCSE member focus: carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), industrial & building efficiency, and creating smarter grids that deploy more clean energy.
In response to the announcement, the Council will prepare to engage in the rulemaking process with EPA on carbon regulation. The Clean Air Subcommittee is the focal point for this work and has been exploring ways that EPA can structure its rules to ensure that clean energy technologies are eligible compliance options and that maximum flexibility is provided to states in their compliance planning. Further, early action should be recognized so that companies and states that have made investments to lower their carbon emissions do not pay twice.
Despite the challenging environment, BCSE members are extremely well positioned for continued growth. As Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said at the release of the BCSE and Bloomberg New Energy Finance Factbook, "You are on the right side of history." Energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy are the growth sectors of the energy economy. The release of the President's Climate Action Plan offers a new opportunity to direct attention to policies that will accelerate deployment and offer affordable, reliable clean energy to US businesses and consumers.
BCSE Weighs in on California Cap & Trade Program
Officials Are Encouraged to Ensure Broad Use of Offsets
In recent weeks BCSE has weighed in as California State officials implement the landmark AB32 law and refine the greenhouse gas Cap-and-Trade Program.
BCSE sent a letter June 18 to State legislators expressing concerns with California SB605 which was introduced during the State’s legislative session. As passed out of the State Senate, SB605 would limit - to the maximum extent feasible - greenhouse gas emission reduction offsets to those in the state of California. BCSE is concerned that while this limitation may provide some benefits within California in some circumstances, the proposal would also likely increase the overall cost of compliance of the Cap-and-Trade Program for all Californians. Since current offset supply is not expected to meet demand, the ability of offsets to contain compliance costs is already weakened. Further constraining offset supply by focusing on in-state projects would only exacerbate this issue.
To help alleviate the concerns over the short offset supply, BCSE has also submitted comments to the California Air Resources Board expressing the need for regulators to approve additional offsets. The BCSE comments were submitted for a June Public Workshop on Market Related Reporting and Cost Containment. BCSE encouraged CARB to closely monitor the offset market to ensure there is an adequate supply of offsets; continue its efforts to adopt additional offset protocols, while ensuring that the process for selection of project types and development of offset protocols is streamlined and transparent; consider expanding the use of offsets as a cost containment mechanism; build on existing high-quality offset protocols developed by voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction programs; and allow compliance entities to carry over any unused portion of their Quantitative Usage Limit to the next compliance period.
Business & States Collaborate to Support Clean Energy
BCSE is collaborating with the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) in order to develop a State-based, grassroots approach to the Council's Federal advocacy. With businesses and the states working together our mutual impact in Washington, DC will be strengthened.
Some areas for state and clean energy business collaboration include:
Outreach to the Department of Energy (DOE) to support state/industry/federal interaction. This would include a briefing for DOE staff regarding the Industrial and Advanced Manufacturing program at DOE.
Work with the state energy offices to provide business perspectives as they develop their upcoming report on energy emergency preparedness, pre-planning, and energy emergency response.
Work with the states in support of a mutual vision on the energy "Race to the Top" proposal that was included in the Administration’s FY2014 Budget Request. That proposal has now been introduced by Senators Warner (D-V) and Manchin (D-WVA) as S. 1218 and has been undergoing further refinement by stakeholders.
Coordination on our outreach regarding Federal appropriations and consider sponsoring a joint briefing for congressional staff regarding the importance of the Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) programs. BCSE will also continue with general outreach to Members of Congress on appropriations and on the BCSE-BNEF Factbook, which demonstrates the value of the EERE programs.
Coordinate our advocacy on the Shaheen-Portman legislation, which is being considered for Senate Floor action before the August recess.
Need for “Just the Facts” on Sustainable Energy Resonates at UN Climate Conference in Bonn
The international community recently gathered in Bonn, Germany in early June for its mid-year meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change where the BCSE continued its efforts to create channels for clean energy industries to directly dialogue with governments. On June 11, the Council hosted a private luncheon discussion with senior government officials to present the findings of the Sustainable Energy in America 2013 Factbook, sharing with a new audience the remarkable energy transformation underway in renewable energy, energy efficiency and natural gas sectors in the US. The discussion further explored how this type of industry input can best serve the newly formed technology institutions and the negotiations for a 2015 agreement.
In discussion, several negotiators noted that there is particular opportunity for the private sector to contribute to the Climate Technology Center & Network (CTC&N) and that they have a strong interest in hearing where and how it can and is willing to engage. It was acknowledged that both sides – public and private sectors – need to continue to learn the other’s language, so as to better communicate as these technology institutions are launched. A hope was expressed that the Climate Technology Center & Network (CTC&N) is able to provide experts and resources to meet the technology needs in developing countries, so that ultimately the same type of "innovation" and energy transformation as detailed in the Factbook can eventually occur within these countries.
BCSE members used the forum to highlight the need for a diversified technology approach, for example, the importance of including carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) in the portfolio of technology options for greenhouse gas reductions; as well as how the protection of intellectual property rights is essential for innovation, and how innovation ultimately drives down the costs of technologies and increases their affordability in countries around the world.
A BCSE Guide to Knowing Your Emissions & Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
The Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) has developed a greenhouse gas (GHG) management strategy that includes tracking and offsetting its emissions and an annual review of opportunities to reduce its carbon footprint. As a business coalition dedicated to ensuring a diverse, secure mix of energy resources and market-based approaches to reducing pollution, the BCSE strives to lead by example.
The Council completed its third GHG inventory estimate with the release of its calendar year 2012 emissions report. Often small businesses and organizations think they do not have the resources to conduct a GHG emissions assessment and maintain it over time. The Council’s recent experience in completing its third annual inventory shows that it is possible to develop and maintain a greenhouse gas management strategy in a cost-effective and efficient manner. A key to the BCSE's success has been utilizing credible and user friendly publically available tools and publications, and consulting with industry experts. In this “insider’s” guide, the Council shares the basic steps it has taken to get to know its emissions profile and actions that have been taken to offset those emissions.
In 2011, the Council began by familiarizing itself with leading standards for greenhouse gas management – the ISO 14064-1:2006 normative standard and the guidelines provided in the WRI/WBCSD – GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard. The Council conferred with First Environment, Inc., a BCSE Board member, to develop an inventory plan. The plan included identification of emissions sources, emission factors, and calculation methodologies appropriate for a small organization such as the BCSE.
Step 1: Define the sources of emissions
In order to calculate its emissions, an organization must first define where the emissions are coming from, or in other words what the ‘organization’s boundaries’ are. An organization has responsibility for its share of emissions from electricity and energy use associated with the operation of the building and where it is located. This can include lighting, heating, cooling, etc. The BCSE calculated this according to its percentage of space (square footage) it occupies in its office suite. The BCSE also defined its organizational boundaries to include not only its physical space, but also its full-time employees.
Next, the organization must determine which type of emissions – direct and indirect – it produces and is able to track and report.
Direct emissions are classified as Scope 1 emissions under standard protocols and these come from sources that a company owns or controls. The BCSE does not own or have control over any aspect of this type of emissions thus it has no Scope 1 emissions to report.
Indirect emissions are classified into Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions under standard protocols. Scope 2 emissions are emissions from the generation of electricity, heat, or steam that a company purchases from an external source, and that the company does not own and control. The BCSE has Scope 2 emissions for its electricity use (including from its computer server).
Scope 3 emissions include all other indirect emissions. The WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol considers Scope 3 emissions as optional for reporting. The BCSE has opted to report Scope 3 emissions for its employee commuting and non-local business travel. Emissions from these sources include the three major GHG categories: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O).
Step 2: Select the appropriate emissions factors
Next, the organization must identify the appropriate emissions factors associated with the emissions source and location. Emissions factors describe the rate of emissions released into the atmosphere from a specified source (e.g., combusting gasoline in a car) relative to the intensity of a specific activity (e.g., number of miles driven at a given miles-per-gallon rate). The source for the electricity emissions factors that BCSE chose is the Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID), and the source for mobile combustion is the WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol Mobile Guide. The BCSE referenced the eGRID database to select the appropriate, location-specific electricity emissions factor to calculate emissions from its office electricity use, in this case the emissions factor relevant to Washington, DC in the RFC East eGrid subregion. Please see the BCSE’s full report for more details.
Step 3: Reduce & Offset your organization’s emissions
With a complete emissions inventory in hand, the next step is to determine what to do with this information. An organization can look to reduce its emissions in many ways - through its purchasing power, change in behavior, by making different choices in its operations. Emissions can also be “neutralized” through the purchase of either carbon offset credits or renewable energy certificates (RECs)
For the past three years, the Council has chosen to offset its emissions through a combination of carbon offset credits and renewable energy certificates. Through the acquisition of these credits, the Council is supporting investment in high-quality domestic offset and renewable energy projects, and promotes the technological and industry expertise of its members. Following general protocols, the BCSE has acquired RECs to account for its Scope 2 emissions and offsets to cover its Scope 3 emissions.
In 2012, the Council worked with members Winrock International’s American Carbon Registry and Native Energy to take a close look at a variety of offset and REC projects, seeking to identify projects that would also help local economic development. In the end, the BCSE decided to purchase 17 emission reduction tons (ERTs) or carbon offsets from the GreenTrees Carbon Forest Project for its 16.03CO2-e metric tons of Scope 3 emissions. BCSE also acquired 56 MWh worth of RECs from the Indiana School Wind Project to account for its 55.26 MWh of electricity usage or Scope 2 emissions.
Step 4: Integrate the inventory into the organization’s operations
With the structure for maintaining an inventory in place, the next step is to think about how to use this knowledge, improve its accuracy and reduce your organization’s emissions. For the Council, this means keeping abreast of industry standards and continuing to refine its GHG accounting process in order to increase accuracy and account for all emissions associated with its daily operations. Some areas of review and potential improvement include: reviewing the organizational boundary; improving the data collection and management process; include local travel (e.g., taxis); major events or meeting-related GHG emissions. For the latter, there is the potential to purchase RECs and offsets for these meetings in order to make them carbon-neutral.
Through its daily policy work, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy advocates for the accelerated and broad deployment of a diverse portfolio of clean energy technology solutions from the energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy sectors. The transformation in the U.S. energy mix is already shifting our national GHG emissions, which have dropped 12% since 2007 and are currently at their lowest levels since 1994. As a small organization, it is also possible to be a part of the transition to a low-carbon economy, and it starts with knowing your organization’s carbon footprint. The Council is learning by doing and hopefully leading by sharing our experience. Good luck in your own efforts, and keep us posted.