Monthly Archives: November 2014

Potential 2015 Environmental/Energy Policy Issues

The public went to the polls on Nov. 4, and gave the Republicans control of both houses of Congress. There are now 31 states headed by Republican governors, of which a number have both houses of their state legislatures also controlled by Republicans. What may be the near-term future of environmental and energy rules and programs?

This political change may have a particularly strong impact on environmental policies as the partisan division on these policies has grown, with more of those identifying as Republicans in polls wishing to roll back many current environmental rules. With Republicans controlling the Environment and Public Works Committees, they have the power to bring up what they want for investigation and for voting. One area sure to be brought up is USEPA regulations on coal-fired power plants. President Obama issued an executive order earlier in 2014 designed to reduce CO2 emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by 30% of 2005 levels by 2030. The USEPA is working out the details following guidance from the Clean Air Act. Plants will be given flexibility on how this is to be achieved. However, these rules regulating heavily-polluting coal have been called a “war on coal”, and their repeal even has support from some Democratic legislators from coal-mining states, arguing it unfair to target one industry and that it will cause jobs to be lost and electricity rates to rise. Republicans will likely attempt to pass a bill negating these rules. However, it is unclear if they have the 67 votes in the Senate to override an expected presidential veto. Even if they cannot overturn the rule, they could hold hearings or withhold the funding needed to enforce the provisions.

Another important area is the Keystone XL Pipeline, a proposed pipeline to transport mainly Alberta tar sands oil to Nebraska where it will then be transported by existing pipelines to oil refineries in Texas and Louisiana. Proponents (mainly Republicans) are in favor of it to diversify our energy sources. Opponents point to the risk of leaks and contamination and the encouragement of using a source that is very inefficient (takes a lot of energy to extract oil from the tar sands) and causes high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. President Obama has waited for studies to be complete to make the decision on whether or not to build the pipeline. In 2015, the Republicans may try to pass a bill “forcing” the President to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Another issue of importance is climate change, and whether the US will or will not be a leader in the global battle to reduce GHG emissions to limit the effects of climate change. Next year a major climate change conference will be held to make “binding decisions” on worldwide future steps. The new Chair of the Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee is expected to be James Inhofe, a known climate change denier. He has openly stated that he will do all that he can to stop any steps by the US to be leaders in climate change or to push any federal legislation through. President Obama will continue to issue executive actions to address climate change, such as ordering federal agencies to reduce GHG emissions, raise fuel standards, and reduce GHG emissions from coal combustion. However, these will not be as encompassing or effective as nationwide regulation. Any global climate change agreement that comes out of next year’s conference may have trouble being approved by the US Senate as is required; however, President Obama may try to frame it as an agreement that does not require US Senate approval.

Finally, there are calls on the extreme right of the Republican Party to de-fund or even shut down all together the USEPA and/or the Dept of Energy. To these people, they are seen as purveyors of wasteful programs and may cost the economy jobs. Mainstream Republicans understand the polls that a majority of Americans are concerned about the environment and admire renewable energy research. While Congress, which controls appropriations, may cut back on the budgets of the agency and department, impacting enforcement and research operations, it is unlikely that a bill shutting them down altogether and rescinding rules like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act can have enough votes to override a presidential veto.

As for energy, the new Republican majorities, supported by the oil industry, are likely to pass bills that favor existing fossil fuel combustion. They purport to an “all of the above” strategy to give maximum flexibility and opportunity in terms of energy sources. There is some discussion about ending programs that favor or provide incentives for renewable sources. However, leaving all energy sources out there on the playing field for the market to decide would hurt cleaner renewable sources (solar, wind, etc.) which are newer and less established financially. It is unclear whether the new Republican-led Congress will repeal or reduce the scope of current renewable energy incentives. Of course, there is a chance that ending all or most renewable energy incentives may backfire on the Republicans, as more Americans are getting used to renewable power and believe it is a powerful solution to many ills (climate change, pollution, etc.).

As for states, it is impossible to predict what more Republican-led states may do in the energy and environmental realms. Many state environmental rules are mandated by federal rules, so they cannot be repealed or not enforced. Many states that have participated in cap and trade for GHG emission reductions (Northeast in RGGI) and have Renewable Portfolio Standards have seen an increase in revenues (without having to raise taxes) and/or reduction in infrastructure spending (electric lines). Therefore, it is hard to believe that these states would take major action to repeal or rescind the standards.

CCES has the experts to perform a technical assessment of the status of current and proposed changes to federal and state environmental and energy regulations and how they may affect your facilities. We can help you design technical solutions to demonstrate compliance at the lowest cost, and provide energy and operational flexibility. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or

US Gov’t Clean Energy Policy and Small Business

In June 2014, the USEPA proposed the first national standards to limit emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from existing power plants, the Clean Power Plan, addressing climate change while bolstering new economic opportunities by:

• spurring innovation and investment in low and no-carbon technologies;

• helping create new energy infrastructure / energy efficiency technologies and services;

• providing the market signals businesses, entrepreneurs and investors need to move forward in energy and environmental policies; and

• helping with the global effort to mitigate the effects of climate change and extreme weather events by reducing GHG emissions.

While large operations are the focus of many environmental rules and many large businesses can afford to take the lead in investing in GHG emission and energy usage reductions, small businesses still represent a significant part of the US economy. But, lacking the resources of a large firm, small businesses have taken the brunt of impacts of recent extreme storms. Small Business Majority ( has polled small business owners to understand their attitudes on clean energy and environmental policies, indicating that a majority of small business owners are worried about extreme weather events and understand the risk to their bottom lines; an estimated 25% of small to mid-sized businesses do not re-open after a major disaster.

A recent white paper from this group highlights these concerns of small businesses and that policies like CPP may be beneficial, as follows:

• Meaningful incentives to reduce GHG emissions to lessen climate risk. This includes maximizing the opportunity to invest in clean energy projects to reduce emissions and energy costs. This will also raise project opportunities for small business in construction, manufacturing, strategizing, and energy efficiency.

• Smart policies to incentivize the upfront costs of improving energy efficiency for long-term energy cost savings. Small Business Majority recommends that states implement targeted energy efficiency education programs for small businesses, subsidize the purchase and installation of energy efficient technologies by small businesses, and partner with utilities and regulators to develop targeted energy assistance programs for vulnerable or at-risk small businesses.

• Smart policies to drive energy innovation opportunities. Small Business Majority supports federal and state policies that will help bolster investment in renewable energy resources and energy efficiency, such as state Renewable Portfolio Standards. Small Business Majority further recommends that states consider allocating more resources towards disaster recovery and risk mitigation plans for small businesses to reduce impacts and improve resiliency and recovery.

CCES is a small business itself, and understands the constraints of your resources. We have the experts to help a small or mid-size business strategize to be more energy efficient using maximum outside incentive money and/or low interest loans to save you significant long-term costs with no or minimum upfront payments and provide a good payback and return on investment. We can also advise you on real extreme storm risks and how to cost-effectively plan to lessen them. Contact us at 914-584-6720 or at

Short Primer on Effective Energy Upgrades For You Part 2: Controls

This is the second in a series of articles on smart, effective energy upgrades that will not only save you significant energy costs (if done right), but will also result in many other benefits. In the first article last month, I discussed the revolution in lighting technology in the past few years, highlighted by LEDs, which can reduce electricity usage by two-thirds or more compared to conventional lights and have other benefits. Let me add one more thought. If you are worried that LED lighting is a risk or “experimental”, don’t think so anymore. Major financial firms, such as JP Morgan Chase and Deutsch Bank, have recommended in writing to their clients that they switch to LEDs. The technology works, they stated, is reliable, and the firms who supply them are, for the most part, financially secure. And in addition: those who invented LEDs just won a Nobel Prize. And now a final word: several LEDs have just gone on the market in the last month or so that exceed the magical 100 lumens per watt mark. For more, see:  In contrast, CFLs produce 55 – 70 lumens per watt, and incandescents produce 13-18 lumens per watt.  LEDs work and they are a cost saver!

Reducing electricity costs by two-thirds is great. But how about an opportunity to reduce lighting electricity costs to zero?! That’s lighting controls. Reliable technology has been developed that can control your lighting to levels appropriate for the use of a room or area, turning off or dimming lights when not in use. These are occupancy sensors.

Some claim they don’t need occupancy sensors because the janitors will turn off lights in rooms at night as they clean up. There are many examples of crews who routinely forget to turn off the lights. Occupancy sensors can react to situations and turn off, dim, or light an area quickly. Of course, you first need to do a total assessment of lighting needs. In fact, a simple switch of lights to LEDs is good, but is more beneficial if you also have done a lighting assessment to see if some areas are under- or over-lit. Also, determine which rooms or areas have the longest periods of non-use; these would be the best candidates for sensors. These would include conference rooms, lockers, bathrooms, individual offices, warehouses, and hotel rooms.

Once you determine which rooms or areas should have lighting controls, look for the best controls. Don’t go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and pick up a bunch of cheap ones; they will not be worth it. There are three types of sensors. First, there is Passive Infrared (PIR), which detects heat from humans. These are relatively inexpensive, but may not work well if people are behind partitions. Ultrasonic is becoming most common. It emits and receives sound waves and reacts to changes in reflections to adjust lights. It is programmable, reliable, and can cover an entire room. Finally, a relatively new type is microwave. These appear to work well, but their long-term reliability is unclear.

Occupancy sensors can work effectively if designed well. For example, I was at a multifamily residence recently with hallway lights controlled by sensors. As soon as I stepped out of the elevator – in less than a second – the hallway lights went from off to on. Traditionally, for security purposes, multifamilies have many lights on at full wattage all night even though almost no one uses the area. What a savings to provide security, but also have hallway lights off for over 90% of the long period of night!

And there is more. Controls can also regulate light (and, of course, electricity usage) based on the natural light in the room, known as daylighting. If sunlight comes into a work area, having all of your lights on at full blast is a waste. Let lights only be on when sunlight does not enter the area. Daylighting control sensors regulate lumens of light from fixtures based on light coming in; a consistent amount of light hits the target.

And one more thing. The same controls that regulate light usage can also control your temperatures, too. A smart building manager can save significant energy costs with controls that reduce the need for heating or cooling an area not being used. The sensor can adjust a thermostat so that an empty area is only heated or cooled when people are using it or if the temperature reaches an extreme. Another major area of cost savings.

CCES has the experts to help you plan out a lighting upgrade to determine where best to put lights, what types of lights, and how they can be controlled to maximize your energy cost savings, but still have a productive work staff. We can plan and buy smart for you, resulting in the greatest benefits to make you look good. Contact us at or at 914-584-6720.