Taking stock of ESG risks for U.S. utilities

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks are becoming increasingly important to judging the credit worthiness of electric utilities, especially as climate change makes their work more challenging. On this episode of the Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless talks to Jim Hempstead, a managing director in Moody’s Global Project and Infrastructure Finance Group. In his role at Moody’s, one of the largest credit ratings firms in the world, Jim helps oversee the North American Regulated Utility and Power Team. He also heads Moody’s working group in charge of ESG issues in the Americas. In the conversation with Bill, Jim makes clear that defining ESG standards is still very much a work in progress for the credit rating firms and the companies they assess for credit worthiness. Nevertheless, ESG metrics are an important means of evaluating the utility sector where shifts…

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A Boston formula for clean tech success

Innovation has resulted in remarkable advances in clean energy technology, like solar and wind energy systems that are becoming increasingly competitive in the U.S. And more breakthroughs are coming, as ambitious scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs make headway on products and services that will change the way we produce, use and save energy. But getting a good head start on innovation is challenging for pioneers, who often lack the wherewithal to design, build and test their inventions. That’s where institutions like Greentown Labs can play a big role. In this edition of the Columbia Energy Exchange, I visit Greentown Labs in Somerville, Mass., and meet with its CEO, Emily Reichert to talk about the outlook for clean technology in the U.S. and what programs like hers can do to help entrepreneurs get a good head start. Greentown Labs bills itself as…

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Blog, Climate

A National Voice for Republicans on Climate Change

In what may seem like a politically senseless move, a young Republican congressman is trying to rally support in the U.S. House of Representatives for comprehensive actions addressing climate change, including possibly a tax on carbon emissions. “I’m not ready to come out yet and endorse any specific ideas, because ideally this would happen organically, and members would together think it through and build something by consensus,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo said in an interview with me on the “Columbia Energy Exchange” podcast. “But we are approaching the time when Republicans, in conjunction with our Democratic colleagues, have to do more than simply oppose bad policy. We have to proffer good policy, and that’s what we’re trying to build to.” At a time when many members of his party still deny the occurrence of climate change and humans’ contributions to the…

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Article, Climate, coal

A long-shot opportunity for coal and carbon capture?

By Bill Loveless New efforts to promote technology to capture carbon-dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and bury them underground or use them to enhance oil production are getting more attention in Washington these days thanks to the Trump administration and its commitment to save the U.S. coal industry. Now, the credit-rating agency Moody’s is cautiously predicting that the technology may be the answer for the declining industry in the long run, though daunting obstacles remain. One thing that could jump start interest in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) would be a spike in the cost of natural gas, whose abundance in the U.S. and low price in recent years have persuaded electric utilities to rely more on gas to fuel their power plants and less on coal, according to a new report from Moody’s. On that score, the agency…

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Blog, Podcast

Columbia Energy Exchange: Jay Faison

With the devastation from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the repercussions of climate change are getting more attention, especially the extent to which global warming may intensify the impact of storms. From a policy standpoint, the question is whether climate change will receive broader consideration in Washington as hurricanes, wild fires and other natural calamities wreak havoc in the U.S. and neighboring nations. In the latest Columbia Energy Exchange podcast, I talk with Jay Faison, the founder and CEO of the ClearPath Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting conservative support for clean energy. Granted, our conversation took place before Harvey and Irma. But even then, Jay claimed growing interest among Republicans in weighing the implications of climate change and eyeing solutions. “We’ve got 20, 30 Republicans out on different caucuses stating the problem,” he told me. “I can tell you behind…

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Article, Economy / Finance, Energy, Government and Politics

Carbon tax chances slim under Trump, though Tillerson supports idea

With the Trump Administration poised to reverse U.S. policies on climate change, the head of a major oil and natural gas company is calling again for governments around the world to put a price on carbon emissions once and for all. BP CEO Bob Dudley reiterated his company’s longstanding position in releasing its annual report on global energy trends. “In BP, we continue to believe that carbon pricing has an important part to play as it provides incentives for everyone — producers and consumers alike — to play their part,” Dudley said at a news conference in London last week. (read more).

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Climate, Energy, Government and Politics, Podcast

Columbia Energy Exchange: Gina McCarthy

Bill Loveless sits down with the current Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, who has overseen major environmental initiatives in the Obama Administration. Gina, who was previously Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection has also worked at both the state and local levels on critical environmental issues. They discuss: the legacy of the Obama Administration on climate change and other environmental issues; the endurance of the Clean Power Plan under the Trump Administration; the future of the Paris Agreement; reaching bipartisan consensus in a world where social media drives and exaggerates opposition; and reconciling demands to “keep it in the ground” with benefits of domestic energy production. (Listen)

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Article, Energy, Policy, Regulations, Utilities and Providers

Why this Ohio utility lauds carbon controls

The year 2016 will be a crucial one for electric utilities as they prepare to meet new Environmental Protection Agency regulations requiring them to cut their carbon emissions more than ever. Among the milestones in EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which the agency issued last year, is a requirement for states to submit plans by September to comply with the policy’s requirement to reduce emissions by 32% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. Utilities will play a big part in the development of those plans. (Read more)

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