China is considering a plan to buy more American coal as part of an effort to narrow its trade deficit with the U.S., according to people with knowledge of the matter. Chinese officials are currently looking at boosting purchases from West Virginia in particular, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak publicly. They didn’t say whether Beijing is looking at buying more supplies from other states. A final decision hasn’t been made, they said.
The US power system is one of the largest, most complicated, and most expensive machines in the world, but the grid’s core infrastructure is old and is not aging gracefully. Nearly 500 gigawatts (GW), or about half of the existing thermal generator fleet (i.e., coal-, nuclear-, and gas-fired power plants) is likely to retire by 2030, leading to a gap in capacity that will need to be addressed with new investment. US electricity generators may be committing their customers and investors to as much as $1 trillion in future investment and fuel costs through 2030 as they rush to build new gas-fired power plants. Yet advances in renewable energy and distributed energy resources (DERs) offer lower rates and emissions-free energy while delivering all the grid reliability services that new power plants can, according to RMI’s The Economics of Clean Energy Portfolios report. RMI’s analysis finds that, because of recent innovation and rapid cost declines in renewable energy and DER technologies, clean energy portfolios can often be procured at significant net cost savings, with lower risk and zero carbon and air emissions, compared to building a new gas plant. More dramatically, the new-build costs of clean energy portfolios are falling quickly, and likely to beat just the operating costs of efficient gas-fired power plants within the next two decades—a sobering risk for investors and customers in a market with over $100 billion of already announced investment in new gas-fired power plants.
California’s recently approved solar roof mandate for all new homes came as a surprise to many people — even though stakeholders have been working on the rule change for roughly two years. That’s likely because the California Energy Commission (CEC) passed the requirement earlier this month as an update to the state’s 2019 Title 24, Part 6, Building Energy Efficiency Standards. Not quite everyday reading. The latest round of standards, which take effect in 2020, do enable some pretty groundbreaking developments in the advancement of clean energy. Besides the requirement that all new homes under three stories install solar panels — a first for the nation — the codes help to incentivize energy storage and include a host of energy efficiency upgrades that will collectively slash energy use in new homes by more than 50 percent.While the core elements of the new standards are now effectively locked in, the work that’s required to roll them out is only just beginning. Homebuilders, solar companies, efficiency experts, local governments, analysts and consumers are digging further into how the rules are structured to come up with compliance plans and to understand how California’s Title 24 codes will affect the clean energy industry overall. There’s a lot for stakeholders to grapple with.So to help in that effort, here are answers to some of the big questions that have cropped up in response to the historic new building codes, including an in-depth look at the cost-benefit analysis of mandating rooftop solar. There’s a lot here, but it’s a faster read than skimming through h
The number of contracts signed for wind power projects hit a record of 3,500 MW in Q1 2018, according to the American Wind Energy Association, signaling that 2018 should be a strong year for the renewable resource. There are now 33,449 MW of wind projects under construction or in advanced development in the U.S., a 40% increase from last year and the highest level since AWEA began compiling the metric at the beginning of 2016. Despite fears that changes in the tax code would slow wind power development, the tax equity market, the key financing vehicle for wind projects, appears to have adapted and survived intact.
For all the talk about coal-industry employment, solar energy accounted for more than twice as many jobs last year, about 350,000 workers. Solar produces about 1.9 percent of U.S. electricity, and is deepening its reach in the Southeast. And while natural gas employs about 7.7 percent more people than solar, more than 80 percent of those jobs are related to producing the fuel rather than using it to generate electricity.
Ag technology promoters are pedaling hard for biofuels-friendly policies in Washington, D.C., to make life livable for cash-strapped farmers supplying markets that didn't exist 30 years ago.Erick Lutt, director of industrial and environmental policy for Biotechnology Innovation Organization, speaking at the 2018 Bio Industry Summit on the North Dakota State University campus in Fargo on May 15, said biofuels promoters are working to monitor and address mixed messages from the administration. He stressed the need for "stable policy to help continue to drive investment and advance in cellulosic biofuel
As expected, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed legislation that would have allowed Enbridge to build a controversial new oil pipeline without getting regulatory approval. The legislation would have terminated a three-year process before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that is nearly complete.The PUC is slated next month to decide if Enbridge's new Line 3 across northern Minnesota is needed, and if so, what route it should take."This bill pre-empts the long-standing PUC process, which has been established in law, and which has been used for years to make those complex and controversial decisions," Dayton said in a letter Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, speaker of the house.The legislation would also disregard the input of "thousands of Minnesotans who have participated in the [regulatory] process," including by attending public meetings and hearings, Dayton wrote.
Consumers are growing more concerned about climate change and their carbon footprint, according to an annual survey from Deloitte. The gap between environmental concern and consumer action is poised to shrink as tech-minded millennials make green choices in their daily lives. Interest is growing in home battery systems paired with solar panels and time-of-use rates, but privacy concerns could hold back adoption of smart home devices.
Currently, almost every gallon of gasoline contains 10% ethanol made from corn and 90% petroleum gasoline refined from crude oil as a result of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. (RFS). However, declining gasoline use is intensifying the existing fight between big oil companies and the corn ethanol industry (or Big Corn) over how much of the shrinking transportation fuel pie each gets. The most immediate impact of the RFS wars is to focus attention on corn ethanol and petroleum gasoline at the detriment of second-generation biofuels. These fuels — produced from the inedible parts of plants with much lower greenhouse gas emissions than corn ethanol — can also be blended with gasoline. Adding them to the fuel mix would lessen transportation-caused emissions considerably because they emit vastly less carbon than corn ethanol or petroleum gasoline.While commercialization of second-generation biofuel has been very slow up to now, with only negligible volumes produced in 2017, recent innovations by American companies provide some hope. Today, several firms are producing cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber, which would otherwise not be used productively. o Big Oil, EPA has secretly given compliance exemptions from using ethanol to several large and profitable firms that own small refineries. While EPA has the authority to exempt small refineries that suffer "disproportionate economic hardship" from complying with the statute, it has not demonstrated such hardship in these cases. Continuing these covert exemptions would be a back-door way to reduce the RFS mandate, and a reading of the law suggests it would be illegal. To placate the corn ethanol industry, the White House has proposed to allow year-round sales of gasoline containing 15% ethanol, up from the current 10%. However, because ethanol increases ozone levels, this violates current air quality standards specified in the Clean Air Act. Furthermore, EPA had previously determined that it could not legally make the change.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline project has been cited for failing to control erosion at two work sites just two months after construction started on the more than 300-mile (483-kilometer) pipeline through Virginia and West Virginia. The Roanoke Times reported Wednesday that an inspection found flaws in erosion and sediment control measures last month at two sites in Wetzel County. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation April 25, saying work crews failed to prevent sediment-laden water from leaving a site where a compressor station is under construction before first passing through a control device.At another site, erosion wasn't properly channeled down a hillside, causing a portion of the slope to give way.