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Articles by Ned Ford

Ned Ford is the Energy Chair of the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club and a member of the Club's national Global Warming and Energy Committee. Ford has been actively promoting electric utility efficiency strategies since 1983.

Featured Article

If what you want to do is solve global warming, the core strategy is energy efficiency. Efficiency may have displaced more than half of all the new growth in electric consumption last year alone. It is already adding more capacity to the U.S. electric resource than all fossil and renewable fuels combined. It has done so for almost forty years, at least. So raising it enough to eliminate the new growth and some of the existing growth is not only fairly practical, it is cheaper than keeping the old coal plants operating.

Electric efficiency programs require some modifications of conventional electric ratemaking, or a legislative decision to take the programs out of the hands of the utilities, which only two states have attempted (Oregon and Vermont), with great success to date. A speedy transition to a climate solution requires some fairly complex regulatory issues be addressed carefully and thoroughly. It’s enough for now to say that we know how to do this, but we don’t have a broad-based understanding of the principles in most of the states where they are needed.

In addition to end-use efficiency programs, we have a new round of app... Read more

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  • There’s only one way to get big near-term carbon reductions

    If we want to stabilize atmospheric CO2 at 450 ppm around 2050 -- the minimum necessary, which still might carry major impacts -- we need to achieve at least 2 percent average annual net reductions in emissions, globally, starting in two years. Not only do the near term emissions reductions matter the most, but it will get easier, not harder, as we go along. Solar PV and solar thermal are likely to become cheaper than new coal plants in a decade or so. They will also probably become cheaper than wind around the same time, and together these resources will make it possible to eliminate about three quarters of fossil generation.

    It may be possible to exceed the 2 percent rate. But the only way to know that is to achieve 2 percent first. Nothing weaker than 2 percent is particularly worth talking about, and anything stronger is very hard to achieve. Also, any strategy to reduce CO2 emissions must address ongoing growth. While there are many reasons to believe the rate of new growth will change, as it has done historically, it is at present about 1.5 percent per year. Thus a 2 percent annual net reduction in today's world means a 3.5 percent gross reduction.

    This series discusses the implications of this goal for the U.S. electric industry.