Cities and District Energy

by Judy Li

As part of a special National Geographic series on energy issues, Christina Nunez published an interesting piece about district energy, the distribution of thermal energy through a network of underground pipes to heat and cool a group of buildings, and how it is being harnessed for sustainable energy development. District energy is widely used and has a long history; many cities around the world have extensive subterranean systems built decades ago. Continue reading

First Emission Standards for Aviation Sector

by Judy Li

An interesting article by Jad Mouawad and Coral Davenport in the New York Times discusses the first binding limits on carbon dioxide emissions from the aviation sector. After more than six years of negotiations among the global aviation industry, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations’ aviation agency, announced the new rules on February 8. Continue reading

General Electric Dumps CFLs for LEDs

by Judy Li

With a heart-filled Valentine’s Day themed campaign, General Electric announced on February 1st that it will stop production of CFLs for the U.S. market and focus its consumer lighting efforts solely on LED lamps. A GE Reports article explains that it is strategic for the company to transition away from CFLs as LEDs become less cost prohibitive. Over the past few years, CFLs have become popular as an efficient alternative to the incandescent light bulb because they are cheaper than LEDs. However, LEDs are the most efficient and gives the best light. Since 2012, LED prices have fallen dramatically and sales have increased. GE notes that this move aligns with that of the U.S. government. In January, ENERGY STAR introduced new lighting specifications, which disqualify many CFL bulbs. Continue reading

Department of Energy Invests in Advanced Nuclear Power Reactors

by Judy Li

On January 15, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy granted awards to two projects, X-energy and Southern Company, to further nuclear energy technology. Each company can get up to $40 million over many years, with initial investments of $6 million each to support their research and development of next generation nuclear reactors. Secretary Moniz emphasized that investments are important for developing nuclear power as a source of carbon free energy in the future. The Obama Administration wants to expand nuclear power as part of its plan to reduce emissions and fight climate change.

X-energy is working on a pebble bed reactor where the uranium fuel is encased in ceramic and graphite balls. According to their website, the pebbles help to prevent the release of radioactivity, maintain the individual integrity of particles and moderate reactions. The fuel cannot melt down in an accident and the reactor is smaller than traditional reactors, making the system safer and practical for more communities. Continue reading

Department of Interior Proposal to Reduce Methane Emissions

by Judy Li

On January 22, Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell announced proposals for a new rule to reduce natural gas emissions and waste from oil and gas drilling on public and Native American lands. Companies have to adopt currently available methods to limit the venting, flaring and leaking of natural gas during production. According to the Interior Department, the natural gas lost from public lands between 2009 and 2014 could power more than 500 million homes for a year. In calling for changes, Secretary Jewell emphasized the need to reduce waste of natural gas supplies, reduce harmful methane emissions and provide taxpayers a fair return from public resources (via royalties). Current regulations are 30 years old; meanwhile, the oil and gas industries have grown, and technology advances have allowed for more efficient production. Furthermore, the Obama Administration is set on fighting climate change and has a goal of reducing methane emissions from oil and gas by 40 – 45% from 2012 levels by 2025. Continue reading