Tag: Infrastructure

President Obama has released a $4 trillion budget proposal for FY 2016. It contains a range of programs designed to encourage deployment of the next generation clean energy and energy efficiency technologies. Here are the top five things to know about the budget in terms of clean energy and environmental investments.

1. Clean Power State Incentive Fund
The U.S. President proposes a $4 billion incentive fund to encourage states to make faster and deeper cuts in carbon emissions from electricity, than would be required under the Clean Power Plan. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to administer the Clean Power State Incentive Fund, which would enable states to invest in activities that advance and complement the agency’s Clean Power Plan. The administration outlines several goals, including addressing impacts from environmental pollution in low-income communities to supporting businesses to catalyze investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and combined heat and power. The budget also includes $239 million to support reductions in greenhouse gas emissions programs at the EPA. In particular, $25 million would be used to help states develop their Clean Power Plan strategies. Read more>>

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The New Climate Economy (NCE), a flagship project of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate has released a report documenting how urbanization drives of productivity and growth in the global economy. The report titled, ‘Better Growth, Better Climate,’ observes that as the global economy undergoes a deep structural transformation the next 15 years will be marked by: (i) rapid global economic expansion by more than half, (ii) rapid technological advancement that will have profound impact on both businesses and lives, (iii) migration of a billion more people into cities, and (iv) investment of nearly US$90 trillion in infrastructure in asset intensive sectors mainly in urban, land use and energy systems.

To overcome market, policy and institutional barriers to low-carbon growth, the report recommends harnessing three key “drivers of change,” notably: raising resource efficiency, investing in infrastructure and stimulating innovation in new business models, technologies, business models and social-technical innovations and practices to stimulate both growth and emissions reduction.


Speaking at the launch of the report, Philipp Rode, the Executive Director of LSE Cities and Senior Research Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science said that:

dispersed peripheralized development of many developing world cities in particular leads to a very regressive form of urban development replicating income and wealth inequalities by limiting access to common goods such as healthcare, better schools, and public transport.

The report identifies better urbanization, better development, and better coordination of critical economic systems as vital drivers of change in cities.


The report recommends a 10-point global action plan, including:

  • integrating climate into core economic decision-making processes to accelerate low-carbon transformation;
  • phasing out subsidies for hydrocarbon fuels, and incentives for urban sprawl;
  • introduce strong, predictable carbon prices;
  • pursue a strong, lasting and equitable international climate treaty;
  • strengthen incentives for long-term investment in forestry and forest protection;
  • reduce capital costs for low-carbon infrastructure investments;
  • scale up innovation in key low-carbon and climate-resilient technologies;
  • emphasize on developing a connected and compact cities paradigm;
  • accelerate fuel switching away from polluting coal-fired power generation to low carbon fuels; and
  • restore lost or degraded forests and agricultural lands by 2030.

Leading environmental organizations, foundations, and energy firms have teamed up to form a new center that will set standards for shale gas development and drilling by hydraulic fracturing in the Appalachian Basin.

The center to be known as Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) has leading organizations as founding participants such as Shell, Heinz Endowments, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), EQT Corporation, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Chevron, Clean Air Task Force, CONSOL Energy, Environmental Defense Fund, Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), and William Penn Foundation. Read more

A new report by Climate Policy Initiative finds that institutional investors may not be able to fully cover the needed investment in renewable energy. The investors include insurance companies and pension funds, with a combined portfolio of over $70 trillion in assets.

The report titled, “The Challenge of Institutional Investment in Renewable Energy,” identifies a series of constraints especially policy barriers that hinder regulation of pension plans, investor practices and insurance companies.

The report proposes policy and institutional solutions to address these challenges, including: (i) encouraging utilities and other corporations to invest in renewable energy, (ii) fixing institutional policy drawbacks that discourage investors from the sector, (iii) modifying regulations of pension and insurance to promote renewable energy investment without creating new risks for institutions, (iv) improving institutional investor practices through capacity building in evaluating investments in the renewable energy sector, and (v) developing better pooled investment vehicles that fits institutional investors needs. Read more

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is seeking proposals for large scale solar power installations to benefit from a $107 million investment from the state’s solar initiative. Under the NY-Sun Competitive PV Program, a total of $36.4 million will be available in 2012 and $70.5 million in 2013.

The first round proposals are due November 8. The funding cap is set at $3 million and to better leverage the state resources, the projects will require co-funding from private developers. “The NY-Sun program has helped establish New York State as a leader in solar power, and these investments in photovoltaic systems will allow businesses and municipalities to put in place green, cost-effective electric generating installations,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.  “I encourage all businesses and municipalities eligible for these grants to apply.” Full article


With cities facing unprecedented population growth as more people flock into urban centers in search of better opportunities and America managing only a sluggish recovery, how can we improve existing infrastructure to provide clean drinking water, create livable neighborhoods and help safeguard people’s health and the environment?

Faced with the spectre of budget cuts and Europe economy mired in debt crisis, many cities are facing tough investment decisions. Their populations are growing at a time when their revenues are shrinking. These new realities have led people to ask some searching questions. How clean is the water supply? And how can we increase the vitality and competitiveness of urban environments with solutions that optimize the entire city?

Replacing existing “gray” infrastructure with green infrastructure seems like a rare bright spot for equity investors and city managers. This involves supplementing or substituting “gray” infrastructure including pipes, filters, and concrete with cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly natural alternatives.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced $950,000 funding for expanding green infrastructure projects across 16 states. The funding awarded to 17 diverse communities across the nation will be invested in improving water quality, and building livable and healthier neighborhoods.

In a statement, EPA said the “funding is intended to increase incorporation of green infrastructure into stormwater management programs, protect water quality, and provide community benefits including job creation and neighborhood revitalization.”

Green infrastructure employs a number of natural solutions to address permitting requirements, capture and filter pollutants, and minimize seasonal flooding. For example, rain gardens, rain barrels, green spaces, vegetated curb extensions, porous pavement, greenways, and even urban reforestation projects reduce stormwater pollution and ‘urban wet weather’ issues including combined sewer overflows, end-of-the-pipe discharges and stormwater runoff.

According to the statement, both small towns such as Beaufort in South Carolina and large cities, such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will benefit from the funds. It is expected that green infrastructure investment will result in other co-benefits such as increased property values, and attractive neighborhoods that stimulate further economic and environmental benefits. Copper’s Ferry Partnership in Camden, New Jersey is one of the communities that will receive funding to quantify the benefits of green infrastructure and assess local codes and ordinances.

Why invest in alternative natural solutions? Cities have always invested in successful natural alternative solutions. A classic example is the New York City watershed, one of the most regulated and successful water systems in the nation. The city deployed a number of strategies including purchasing properties around the watershed area from willing sellers, implementing watershed rules and regulations, and establishing watershed protection and community partnership programs. These measures have paid off by providing an alternative natural solution for controlling turbidity and managing water quality. As a result, this cost-effective natural alternative has saved ratepayers billions of dollars in avoided filtration costs.

Still, given the rising infrastructure capital needs, targeted public policy strategies such as private sector investment including off-balance sheet financing, performance contracting, land-secured backing and public private partnerships are needed to compliment the funding gap. The EPA’s green infrastructure agenda released in April 2011, the “Strategic Agenda to Protect Waters and Build More Livable Communities through Green Infrastructure,” recognizes community partnerships as a key strategy for accelerating green infrastructure development.

The case for increased targeted investment in green infrastructure especially in stormwater management is compelling. By investing in alternative natural solutions, cities can create green jobs, reduce overheads and still build revitalized neighborhoods, and remain sustainable in the face of unprecedented competing interests. Only then can we truly achieve a step change in the way we increase competitiveness and vitality of our cities as spaces for innovation.

This article first appeared in Examiner

People enjoy the quiet and greenery of Bryant Park in New York City. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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