03 Sep 2013: Report

With Rooftop Solar on Rise,
U.S. Utilities Are Striking Back

Faced with the prospect of a dwindling customer base, some U.S. power companies are seeking to end public subsidies and other incentives for rooftop solar. In Arizona, the issue has sparked a heated public relations battle that could help determine the future of solar in the United States.

by marc gunther

Issues of electricity regulation typically play out in drab government hearing rooms. That has not been the case this summer in Arizona, where a noisy argument – featuring TV attack ads and dueling websites – has broken out between regulated utilities and the rooftop solar industry.

An Internet web video attacks the California startup companies that sell rooftop solar systems as the “new Solyndras,” which are spending “hard-earned tax dollars to subsidize their wealthy customers.” Meantime, solar companies accuse Arizona Public Service, the state’s biggest utility, of wanting to “extinguish the independent rooftop solar market in Arizona to protect its monopoly.”

Similar battles about how rooftop solar should be regulated have flared in California, Colorado, Idaho, and Louisana. And the outcome of these power struggles could have a major impact on the future of solar in the U.S.

Opposition from regulated utilities could stop a solar boom before it gets started.
Today’s solar industry is puny – it supplies less than 1 percent of the electricity in the U.S. – but its advocates say that solar is, at long last, ready to move from the fringe of the energy economy to the mainstream. Photovoltaic panel prices are falling. Low-cost financing for installing rooftop solar is available. Federal and state government incentives remain generous.

Yet opposition from regulated utilities, which burn fossil fuels to produce most of their electricity, could stop a solar boom before it gets started.

Several utilities, including Arizona Public Service and Denver-based Xcel Energy, have asked their state regulators to reduce incentives or impose charges on customers who install rooftop solar; so far, at least, they aren’t making much headway. A bill in the California legislature, backed by the utility interests would add $120 a year in fees to rooftop solar customers.

But other utility companies are adopting a different strategy – they are joining forces with solar interests. NRG Energy, based in Princeton, N.J., has created a rooftop solar unit to sell systems to businesses and,
New Solyndras video image
YouTube
A video posted by advocacy group Arizona Solar Facts attacks rooftop solar startups.
eventually, homeowners. New Jersey’s PSE&G is making loans to solar customers, and Duke Energy and Edison International have invested in Clean Power Finance, a San Francisco-based firm that has raised half a billion dollars to finance solar projects.

“The industry is divided on how to deal with the opportunity – or threat,” says Nat Kreamer, Clean Power Finance’s CEO. “Some utilities are saying, how do I make money off distributed solar, as opposed to, how do I fight distributed solar.”

Distributed solar – which produces electricity outside the grid – “has become one of the more polarizing topics in the power industry, with some utilities joining the party, some doing just what is legislatively mandated, and others remaining reluctant and not being true believers,” according to a new report from Citi Research, called Rising Sun: Implications for U.S. Utilities. The report warns the utilities that “solar is here to stay, and very early in the growth cycle in the U.S.”

Until recently, utilities could ignore solar. Although the sun’s rays have been touted as a clean energy solution since Jimmy Carter first installed photovoltaic panels on the White House roof in 1979, solar remains barely a blip in the U.S. power market. In 2012, solar power provided a mere 0.11 percent of U.S. electricity generation, according to the Energy Information Administration, a government agency. By comparison, coal delivered 37 percent, natural gas 30 percent, nuclear 19 percent, and wind 3.5 percent. And that solar percentage includes utility-scale projects, like the big solar farms in California and Nevada that feed into the electricity grid, as well as distributed solar.

Distributed solar could disrupt the de facto monopoly long held by regulated utilities.
But the solar industry is growing fast, and much of the growth is distributed solar built “behind the meter” – that is, on commercial and residential rooftops, where electricity from solar panels eliminates the need for power that would otherwise be generated and sold by the utilities. Last year, nearly 90,000 businesses and homeowners installed rooftop solar projects totaling about 1.15 gigawatts, roughly the amount generated by a large coal plant. That represented a 46 percent growth over 2011, according to the Solar Electric Power Association. By the end of last year, the number of customer-sited photovoltaic systems in the U.S. topped 300,000, the association says.

Most industry experts expect that growth will accelerate as prices for solar continue to fall, to the point where rooftop solar will eventually cost less than the retail price of grid-delivered electricity. According to the Citi Research report, solar is already cheaper than electricity at the plug in several states, including Arizona, and in many countries, including Germany and Spain, where solar subsidies are generous. Last month, Jon Wellinghoff, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told GreenTechMedia that “solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything...It could double every two years.”

No wonder the utilities are nervous. Just as personal computers threatened the manufacturers of industrial-sized mainframes, and the rapid adoption of cell phones shook up once-formidable landline operators, distributed solar could disrupt the de facto monopoly long held by regulated utilities.

“From the utility’s perspective, it’s a mortal threat,” says NRG Energy’s chief executive, David Crane. As an independent power producer, NRG competes with regulated utilities; it has been selling rooftop solar directly to commercial customers, including hotels, Arizona State University, and
Arizona Public Service says current rules allow solar customers to use the grid for free.
NFL stadiums in Washington, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. “Big corporations are realizing that they can openly display their commitment to sustainability with solar panels without having to pay any more for electricity,” Crane says.

The regulated utilities say they welcome the growth of rooftop solar, as long as businesses and homeowners who install rooftop panels pay their fair share of the costs of maintaining the electricity grid, which they rely on when the sun isn’t shining. The utilities say solar customers currently benefit from subsidies and regulations, particularly the policy of “net metering,” which requires utilities to buy back excess electricity from rooftop solar systems, at retail prices in some locales.

Arizona Public Service, which has asked regulators to impose higher costs on solar customers, says current rules essentially allow those customers to use the grid for free. As a result, customers who can’t afford solar panels or don’t have a place to put them end up paying higher rates. That, in turn, will help drive more customers to solar, increase the burden on those who don’t have it, and, not incidentally, eat into the utility’s earnings. That’s not a sustainable model for the future, the utility argues.

A solar industry group is trying to help utilities and solar companies find common ground.
The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), whose members include utilities and solar firms, is trying to help the industries find common ground so both can thrive. “People need to be equitably compensated for the services they are delivering – in both directions,” says Eran Mahrer, executive vice president of strategy and research at SEPA. “At the end of the day, that’s a negotiation.” But because utilities are regulated, and because regulators in some states, including Arizona, are elected, the argument has turned political. It has also led to some unorthodox alliances.

In Arizona, solar firms formed an advocacy group called TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed) and hired as chairman Barry Goldwater Jr., a former Republican congressman and son of the 1964 presidential nominee. True to his heritage, Goldwater casts the issue as one of giving consumers “the freedom to make the best choice.” The utilities, he says, “don’t like competition. Competition tends to drive the price down and the quality up.” In Georgia, too, Tea Party conservatives have allied with environmentalists to form a Green Tea Coalition to oppose the local utility, again under the banner of free choice.

MORE FROM YALE e360

A Power Company President
Ties His Future to Green Energy

David Crane
David Crane, CEO of one of the nation’s largest electric companies, explains how the private sector can help lead the shift away from fossil fuels. READ MORE
But other conservatives, including a group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, are loudly opposing government support for solar. A Virginia-based advocacy group for senior citizens called the 60 Plus Association has built an Arizona website, and an accompanying web video attack on solar subsidies. The video seeks to link California-based rooftop firms SunRun and Solar City, which are operating in Arizona, to bankrupt manufacturer Solyndra, calling them “connected companies getting corporate welfare.” An APS spokesman told Yale Environment 360 that it was not responsible for the video or any campaign against rooftop solar. But APS has confirmed that its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., hired Sean Noble, an Arizona political consultant who also has worked for the 60 Plus Association. 60 Plus has received funding from Charles and David Koch, whose conglomerate, Koch Industries, includes fossil fuel holdings.

The fact that organizations funded by the Koch brothers are going after solar subsidies may be the best evidence of all that the industry’s future is bright.

Corrections, September 4, 2013: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Nat Kreamer, the CEO of Clean Power Finance. It also incorrectly stated the amount of electricity generated by new U.S. rooftop solar projects last year; it was 1.15 gigawatts; not 1.1 megawatts.

POSTED ON 03 Sep 2013 IN Biodiversity Energy Policy & Politics Pollution & Health Science & Technology Europe North America 

COMMENTS


This article is ridiculous. Utilities have nothing against solar, it is just that solar is still far too expensive to be a viable energy source for on-grid applications. The utilities are fighting to protect the 99 percent of ratepayers who are being forced to subsidize the energy use of the solar customers.

Utilities are not trying to maintain a monopoly, they just don't like being forced to buy goods and services above market rates. It is the normal instinct of any company.

Solar cost about 10-12 cents/kWh in sunny locations, and is competing on the wholesale market against 3-4 cent rates. Why should we be forced to buy solar for 10-12 cents when there is plenty of 3-4 cent power available on the spot market?

Also, solar offsets CO2 at a rate of about $120/ton when CO2 credits traded recently in the EU for about $10/ton. Solar is not a cost-effective means of reducing this greenhouse gas.

This article is naive and is bent on finding straw-men arguments against solar, including blaming the "evil" Koch brothers, when the issue is simply cost.

Solar costs too much and is not an economical means of addressing climate concerns.

CEO, AZ Solar Company
Posted by David Bergeron on 04 Sep 2013


If solar companies believe so strongly in their product, why not voluntarily give up any subsidies from the government or mandated utility give-backs? It would be interesting to see what would happen if the subsidies went away — most of these solar companies would disappear overnight.
Posted by ljordan on 04 Sep 2013


The open questions about rooftop solar electrical generation are, how will we pay for the electricity distribution system, and who will pay to improve the grid so it can efficiently handle many suppliers whose contributions aren't under central control? If these issues were sorted out, the incumbent electricity providers should be able to coexist with new kinds of generators.

Some of the people who see attack ads funded by the Koch brothers realize that their complaints about corporate welfare are coming from recipients of huge government subsidies, in the forms of very inexpensive access to natural resources and a free pass on remediating the pollution their activities cause.
Posted by densely on 04 Sep 2013


While this seems to be a controversial article, solar and other renewable energy sources will eventually replace fossil fuel energy — it's inevitable. Three- to 4-cent power may be readily available today, but how long can that last?

Competition in manufacturing and finance of solar power systems will continue to drive costs down. And so it goes.
Posted by james blackstone on 04 Sep 2013


David Bergeron,
Solar costs too much — so what? Why are utility companies fighting solar instead of letting the market decide? What are utilities being forced to buy anyway? Also, why are electric customers subsidizing non-customers? Your arguments are not effective and your cynicism is belied by the source of your income.

Posted by Steven Bennett on 05 Sep 2013


What most people are not talking about is the grid itself. With our growing population comes more pressure on our aging grid. We need to either lower that pressure on the grid or spend billions, maybe trillions, of dollars to update the grid nationally. Who is going to pay for the new grid? We are — either with our tax dollars, or with higher electric bills, or both. Distributed generation is a great way to lower the stress on the grid. It could postpone, maybe even eliminate, the need for the smart grid.

My wallet would love to install solar. To be able to lower my electric bill would definitely help my monthly cash flow. It can't eliminate my electric bill because I would still need to be grid tied. There is a line item on my bill that is not calculated using KWH used. It is a flat $16 service fee. The electric company still needs to maintain and repair the grid and $16 would not be enough to ensure the grid is up and running reliably. If I had to pay an extra $10/month when I go solar, I think it would be worth it. Look at it — save $150/month based on KWH used, but pay an extra $10/month service fee because of grid tied solar. That is still $140 more in my wallet than before. I think that is a win/win to me.

As to the argument about government subsidies, does it really matter to my wallet? The government would tax me to pay for the subsidies or tax me to pay for smart grid. I don't know the dollars needed for the government to implement either strategy. As an end user on the grid or a tax payer, does it really make a difference?

This whole argument is more about who would profit from the transition. The power companies would profit from upgrading the grid and the solar/wind companies would profit from distributed generation. As the end user of electricity, this argument doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is my wallet. How much is the transition going to cost me and can I save money in the long-run.
Posted by Michael on 05 Sep 2013


Bergeron's comments are exactly what one would expect.

We are installing solar PV in Wisconsin. Our utility charges us 12 cents/KWH. If we produce more than we consume with our panels we will get less than 3 cents/KWH.

Go figure.

Posted by JIm Perry on 05 Sep 2013


I put rooftop solar on my Virginia house 4 years ago. Obama's stimulus money provided about $2,400 of the $14,000 dollar cost.

However, since I generate surplus energy every month, and send this back to the grid, I only receive a credit from Dominion Power of about 3.4 cents for every kilowatt hour I send back. Dominion charges about 11.5 cents per kwh, so I am losing money.

Also, Virginia is the only mid-Atlantic state to never have SRECs [solar renewable energy certificates]. So I have never been eligible for SREC payments since other states in my area have gone to instate SREC only.

In the UK and Germany, solar producers are paid 60 cents per kwh.

When will our country get real about clean energy and global warming? And why does Dominion penalize me?

Posted by john martin roberts on 05 Sep 2013


I have a pertinent question: Subsidies for renewables benefit whom — consumer, manufacturer, or implementing agency? It is our experience in India whenever subsidies are there, the quality suffers as everybody has a stake in it. If the efficient systems are there the subsidy component has little meaning as they will result in higher production.

Dr. A. Jagadeesh Nellore (AP),India

Posted by Dr.A.Jagadeesh on 07 Sep 2013


The following descriptions seem to be technically inaccurate:

1) "'net metering,' which requires utilities to buy back excess electricity..." Actually, net metering requires utilities to allow a credit at retail rates for produced power. This is typically restricted to zeroing out your bill, except for the service fee. They do not purchase excess monthly power at retail rates.

2) "...since Jimmy Carter first installed photovoltaic panels on the White House roof in 1979..." These were solar collectors for water heating, to the best of my knowledge.

Thanks for the article.
Posted by James Newberry on 07 Sep 2013


In a really market-based world, solar power excess might get MORE money per kW-hr than what the utilities are charging at times. Those times would be near the summertime peak, when utilities themselves often have to pay $.30/kW-hr or more for the last bit of peak power.
Posted by Roger W Faulkner on 09 Sep 2013


Jimmy Carter installed solar thermal (for hot water).
Posted by Craig Morris on 11 Sep 2013


And in a really, really market-based world, those who burn carbon would pay for the externalities involved in climate change.
Posted by Wayne Haythorn on 22 Oct 2013


If you want to install solar and not pay the utility, don't hook to the grid. If you hook to the grid and use utility resources, distribution system, consumption when it's dark, etc. you need to pay for those services. A "net-meter" type situation where your consumption was offset with your production may result in a 0 kwh reading at the end of the month, but you still consumed utility resources. You are using the grid as a battery, and they have to have generation capacity to provide for you if your solar breaks. It's fair that you pay for those services.
Posted by aj on 22 Oct 2013


The incumbent electricity providers should be able to coexist with new kinds of generators. The only thing that matters is my wallet. How much is the transition going to cost me, and can I save money in the long-run?
Posted by Barry on 25 Oct 2013


You are seriously misguided if you think the Kochs or the energy conglomerates are fighting for anyone but their bottom lines, just like any soulless corporate doctrine. That's the essence of a corporation (be it Koch, Apple, MS, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, or McDonald's) — it has nothing to do with helping the 99 percent, the little guy, or otherwise. That's the essence of corporation. Read Buckminster Fuller, one of the great environmentalists of the 20th century.

If you want a level playing field, please consider the multi-trillion dollar wars fought in the Middle East (and please keep in mind the human toll) to keep the petrol running to U.S. shores (keeping in mind the $9-$13 gallon paid by our European friends). Yes, petroleum is heavily subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer, to claim otherwise is to be willfully ignorant or intentionally dishonest.

The biggest difference is that no one gets blown up over solar and the environment doesn't get trashed.

Installing solar is phase 1 of lessening the demand of peaking plants which wreck the environment. Even using less natural gas / #2 diesel is a win for our environment.

Phase 2 will be higher efficiency plants, solar thermal, and capacitors to keep the grid more level in times of spotty production.

Hopefully within 20 years we'll see activity from Andrea Rossi's e-Cat coming online and we won't need 12 hour battery backup.

Burning coal, diesel, and natural gas has to taper off. Yes, there is a huge subsidy paid in health from those — just consider the asthma and lung cases killing men, women, and children worldwide each year.

Want nuclear? Good luck getting rid of the waste unless you can figure out how to get generation III+ plants widespread, and then waste is still an issue.


Posted by Tim Jackson on 29 Oct 2013


I respect the Kochs — one does not acquire that magnitude of wealth by being stupid. Still, they will grasp that they are not in the pipeline business, they are in the energy distribution business. Of course they wish to protect their current investments, but they are smart enough to make a shift to a new technology if it becomes obvious their old technology is terminal. I worry about the people and their families in West Virginia — the coal mines will rapidly become obsolete. What happens to those poor souls? AT&T thought they owned the world with their network of land lines. Kodak was another. Solar is the future. The cost of technology will come down when the subsidies go away. It's Econ 101. My two-cents.
Posted by Tom Caruthers on 02 Nov 2013


Readers are invited to calculate the efficiency of corn-based ethanol compared to solar PV. And the answer this question: Why are we still subsidizing ethanol with unbelievable zeal while questioning the viability of a technology more efficient by orders of magnitude?

http://www.slideshare.net/amenning/quantitative-problems-food-security

It should be noted, though, that PV is not remotely the best option for harnessing solar energy. Solar hot water — as used almost universally around the Mediterranean but totally neglected in the US — is far more efficient and costs little to implement. It is so cost effective that it is a mystery why utilities in places like Florida and California don't just pay their customers for installing it. Alas, economic rationality has little to do with US energy policy.

http://www.slideshare.net/amenning/solar-energy-9778330

http://www.slideshare.net/amenning/energy-sustainability-9683394
Posted by Toni Menninger on 05 Nov 2013


@ David Burgeron: Sir, you appear to misunderstand the difference between net metering and feed-in tariffs. The later pays the power producer and involves a second metering apparatus; the former typically involves running the customer's meter backwards at the retail rate (not "buy[ing] solar for 10-12 cents when there is plenty of 3-4 cent power available on the spot market"). It is perfectly reasonable to allow transmission grid use fees to prevent solar producers from using the grid for free, and there is a long history of utilities calculating such rates for independent power producers or industrial producers who wheel power (sell it to consumers over a grid that they do not own).

Yes, grid users who do not have solar but pay for transmission will subsidize the new infrastructure, but every time new transmission is built by a utility, or a new generation plant is built, existing users subsidize the construction because utilities can't raise the rates until after power delivery begins. Net-metering won't last forever, but for the next few years, it's a superb incentive to distribute general generation.
Posted by Adrian LeCesne on 18 Nov 2013


Figure it out, the utilities are scared to death of solar.

It has been calculated that a solar array the size of 1/8 of New Mexico could power the entire US at current usage levels. No one is going to put an array over 1/8 of New Mexico, but all the rooftops in the US would constitute an array even bigger than that.

So, they are scared stiff. Also, with the advent of new storage tech (high capacity slow discharge capacitors, high tech batteries, etc), the grid itself could become irrelevant (as the Borg says).
Yeah, I'd be scared too. The utilities should be forced to buy back power at the same rate that they charge, period. Anything else is unfair and will not help the consumer. And, since the utilities are a 'service' they had better be concerned with their customers, i.e., consumers.
Posted by MAC on 27 Nov 2013


I had to fight my local utility company to be able to install my 5Kw solar array. They erected multiple construction and bureaucratic roadblocks in an effort to keep my array as small as possible.

Now, they pay me on a yearly settlement basis for the excess I produce. They pay what they represent as their wholesale rate for obtaining power on the open market: $0.055 per Kw Hr. They charge between $0.125 to $0.145 for the power they distribute. So I figure I pay 7 to 9 cents per Kw Hr. for the maintenance of their system. On top of this they charge me a mandatory $13.25 per month "service fee" for the privilege of sending me a monthly account status report.

For the poster above who maintains that "why should they pay me 11.5 cents when they can purchase for 3-4 cents on the open market," I have eye-opening experience.

And finally, the excess power I produce flows to my neighbors first, reducing the utility company's cost of distribution. This idea/concept never enters the discussion when settlement costs are discussed.

I have decided that, when the utility company's tactics become too extremely onerous, I will invest in a battery backup array and bid them adieu.

Great article, and thanks to all who have participated, whatever your perspective. Let's keep talking.

Bob
Posted by Bob Amberger on 02 Dec 2013


If rooftop solar is too expensive to be practical, then why do the power companies fight it tooth, nail and claw? Because they are not being honest, that's why. Mass use of rooftop solar would eliminate the power companies' monopoly and push America into a new era.

Energy corporations are trying to have it both ways when they say solar isn't practical, but fight HARD against its natural growth as an alternative. They blatantly expose their own duplicitousness.
Posted by nikto on 11 Dec 2013


As a solar user in Arizona, I can say fully that we do pay for our share of the grid. I still have to pay the basic hookup fees, which include infrastructure. I just generate more power than I use. The utility companies want more.
Posted by Lee on 17 Jan 2014


I am a PG&E customer in California. I pay a monthly service charge of 15.9¢ per day. If my net electricity use over the year is zero my bill for the year is $58. If my solar produces more electricity than I use, then I get 4.3¢ per kwh for the excess. If my solar produces less than I use, I pay the difference, which could be zero, but is not less, between my credit (retail rate times electricity delivered to utility) and my cost (retail rate times my use). Retail rates are not necessarily the same for delivered and used electricity due to changes in rates with time. Last month my annual bill was $29, and I delivered a net 799 kwh to PG&E. I am paying for my use of the grid as a battery, and I believe it is appropriate to do so.
Posted by Robert Clear on 25 Jul 2014


The utilities should be forced to buy back power at
the same rate that they charge, period.
Posted by omgamazingpics on 05 Oct 2014


In France, electricity power already costs a huge price, we prefer to use solar electricity.


Posted by Jean Luc Boeuf on 08 Oct 2014


In France, electricity power already costs a huge price, we prefer to use solar electricity.

http://shelleysideas.yolasite.com/shelleys-blog.php
Posted by Jacqueline Molay on 17 Oct 2014


Yes. Indeed absolutely right, electricity power tariff is too high in France. The only source of alternative to electricity in contemporary world is solar......soon this would be great source around the globe.
Posted by rawie cumaar on 18 Oct 2014


The incumbent electricity providers should be able to coexist with new kinds of generators. The only thing that matters is my wallet.

Posted by James on 29 Oct 2014


POST A COMMENT

Comments are moderated and will be reviewed before they are posted to ensure they are on topic, relevant, and not abusive. They may be edited for length and clarity. By filling out this form, you give Yale Environment 360 permission to publish this comment.

Name 
Email address 
Comment 
 
Please type the text shown in the graphic.


marc guntherABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marc Gunther is a contributing editor at Fortune, a senior writer at Greenbiz.com and a blogger at www.marcgunther.com. His book, Suck It Up: How Capturing Carbon From the Air Can Help Solve the Climate Crisis, is available as an Amazon Kindle Single. In previous articles for Yale Environment 360, he has explored why a promising electric car start-up is failing and whether Americans will warm up to electric bikes.
MORE BY THIS AUTHOR

 
 

RELATED ARTICLES


Innovations in Energy Storage Provide Boost for Renewables
Because utilities can't control when the sun shines or the wind blows, it has been difficult to fully incorporate solar and wind power into the electricity grid. But new technologies designed to store the energy produced by these clean power sources could soon be changing that.
READ MORE

The Case for a Climate Goal
Other Than Two Degrees Celsius

Scientists and climate negotiators have largely agreed that limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius is an important goal. But political scientist David Victor disagrees, arguing that the benchmark is too simplistic and should be abandoned in favor of other indicators.
READ MORE

With the Boom in Oil and Gas,
Pipelines Proliferate in the U.S.

The rise of U.S. oil and gas production has spurred a dramatic expansion of the nation's pipeline infrastructure. As the lines reach into new communities and affect more property owners, concerns over the environmental impacts are growing.
READ MORE

He's Still Bullish on Hybrids,
But Skeptical of Electric Cars

Former Toyota executive Bill Reinert has long been dubious about the potential of electric cars. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about the promise of other technologies and about why he still sees hybrids as the best alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles.
READ MORE

Beyond Treaties: A New Way of
Framing Global Climate Action

As negotiators look to next year’s UN climate conference in Paris, there is increasing discussion of a new way forward that does not depend on sweeping international agreements. Some analysts are pointing to Plan B — recasting the climate issue as one of national self-interest rather than global treaties.
READ MORE

 

MORE IN Reports


Innovations in Energy Storage Provide Boost for Renewables
by dave levitan
Because utilities can't control when the sun shines or the wind blows, it has been difficult to fully incorporate solar and wind power into the electricity grid. But new technologies designed to store the energy produced by these clean power sources could soon be changing that.
READ MORE

Albania’s Coastal Wetlands:
Killing Field for Migrating Birds

by phil mckenna
Millions of birds migrating between Africa and Europe are being illegally hunted on the Balkan Peninsula, with the most egregious poaching occurring in Albania. Conservationists and the European Commission are calling for an end to the carnage.
READ MORE

Drive to Mine the Deep Sea
Raises Concerns Over Impacts

by mike ives
Armed with new high-tech equipment, mining companies are targeting vast areas of the deep ocean for mineral extraction. But with few regulations in place, critics fear such development could threaten seabed ecosystems that scientists say are only now being fully understood.
READ MORE

Electric Power Rights of Way:
A New Frontier for Conservation

by richard conniff
Often mowed and doused with herbicides, power transmission lines have long been a bane for environmentalists. But that’s changing, as some utilities are starting to manage these areas as potentially valuable corridors for threatened wildlife.
READ MORE

With the Boom in Oil and Gas,
Pipelines Proliferate in the U.S.

by peter moskowitz
The rise of U.S. oil and gas production has spurred a dramatic expansion of the nation's pipeline infrastructure. As the lines reach into new communities and affect more property owners, concerns over the environmental impacts are growing.
READ MORE

How Norway and Russia Made
A Cod Fishery Live and Thrive

by john waldman
The prime cod fishing grounds of North America have been depleted or wiped out by overfishing and poor management. But in Arctic waters, Norway and Russia are working cooperatively to sustain a highly productive — and profitable — cod fishery.
READ MORE

A New Frontier for Fracking:
Drilling Near the Arctic Circle

by ed struzik
Hydraulic fracturing is about to move into the Canadian Arctic, with companies exploring the region's rich shale oil deposits. But many indigenous people and conservationists have serious concerns about the impact of fracking in more fragile northern environments.
READ MORE

Africa’s Vultures Threatened
By An Assault on All Fronts

by madeline bodin
Vultures are being killed on an unprecedented scale across Africa, with the latest slaughter perpetrated by elephant poachers who poison the scavenging birds so they won’t give away the location of their activities.
READ MORE

As Small Hydropower Expands,
So Does Caution on Its Impacts

by dave levitan
Small hydropower projects have the potential to bring electricity to millions of people now living off the grid. But experts warn that planners must carefully consider the cumulative effects of constructing too many small dams in a single watershed.
READ MORE

Why Restoring Wetlands
Is More Critical Than Ever

by bruce stutz
Along the Delaware River estuary, efforts are underway to restore wetlands lost due to centuries of human activity. With sea levels rising, coastal communities there and and elsewhere in the U.S. and Europe are realizing the value of wetlands as important buffers against flooding and tidal surges.
READ MORE


e360 digest
Yale
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
.

SEARCH e360



Donate to Yale Environment 360
Yale Environment 360 Newsletter

CONNECT

Twitter: YaleE360
e360 on Facebook
Donate to e360
View mobile site
Bookmark
Share e360
Subscribe to our newsletter
Subscribe to our feed:
rss


ABOUT

About e360
Contact
Submission Guidelines
Reprints

E360 en Español

Universia partnership
Yale Environment 360 articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia, the online educational network.
Visit the site.


DEPARTMENTS

Opinion
Reports
Analysis
Interviews
Forums
e360 Digest
Podcasts
Video Reports

TOPICS

Biodiversity
Business & Innovation
Climate
Energy
Forests
Oceans
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Sustainability
Urbanization
Water

REGIONS

Antarctica and the Arctic
Africa
Asia
Australia
Central & South America
Europe
Middle East
North America

e360 PHOTO GALLERY

“Peter
Photographer Peter Essick documents the swift changes wrought by global warming in Antarctica, Greenland, and other far-flung places.
View the gallery.

e360 MOBILE

Mobile
The latest
from Yale
Environment 360
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile.

e360 VIDEO

Warriors of Qiugang
The Warriors of Qiugang, a Yale Environment 360 video that chronicles the story of a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant, was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject). Watch the video.


header image
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland. © Google & TerraMetrics.

e360 VIDEO

Colorado River Video
In a Yale Environment 360 video, photographer Pete McBride documents how increasing water demands have transformed the Colorado River, the lifeblood of the arid Southwest. Watch the video.

OF INTEREST



Yale