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America’s first ‘clean coal’ plant is now operational — and another is on the way

The Washington Post | Posted on January 10, 2017

The first large scale U.S. “clean coal” facility was declared operational — by the large energy firm NRG Energy and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp.  Their Petra Nova project, not far outside of Houston, captured carbon dioxide from the process of coal combustion for the first time in September, and has now piped 100,000 tons of it from the plant to the West Ranch oil field 80 miles away, where the carbon dioxide is used to force additional oil from the ground. The companies say that the plant can capture over 90 percent of the carbon dioxide released from the equivalent of a 240 megawatt, or million watt, coal unit, which translates into 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide per day or over 1 million tons per year. They’re calling it “the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture system.”


Wisconsin tribe votes against renewing Enbridge pipeline agreements

Reuters | Posted on January 10, 2017

A Native American tribe in Wisconsin has voted against renewing agreements allowing Enbridge Inc to use their land for a major crude oil pipeline, the latest sign of increasing opposition to North American energy infrastructure. The Bad River Band decided not to renew easements on Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline last week because of concerns about the risk of oil spills, and called for the 64-year-old pipeline to be decommissioned and removed. The move against Line 5 underlines how environmental and aboriginal resistance to energy infrastructure is evolving. Opponents are trying to block existing pipelines and expansions on brownfield sites like Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain project, as well as protesting new facilities.


Most laid-off energy workers remain out of work

Fuel Fix | Posted on January 10, 2017

Nearly 90 percent of surveyed workers who lost their jobs during the oil bust either remain unemployed or opted to leave the oil and gas sector entirely, according to an ongoing study being conducted by University of Houston researchers. Roughly a quarter of laid-off energy who participated in the study — out of 720 respondents thus far — found work outside of the oil and gas industry, while more than 60 percent of them remain out of work. Only 13 percent of them have found new jobs within the industry. The two-year oil bust resulted in more than 215,000 U.S. jobs lost — including about 100,000 in Texas — and many of those workers may never return to the industry. More than 70 percent of the study participants said they’re nervous about the industry’s future and about 55 percent said they’re considering giving up on the sector entirely. About two-thirds of them complained about the way their companies’ layoffs were handled.


Vermont's new governor sticking with renewable energy goal

Associated Press | Posted on January 10, 2017

Vermont's new Republican governor says he is sticking with his Democratic predecessor's goal of getting 90 percent of the energy needed in the state from renewable sources by 2050. Scott said renewable energy technology also generates jobs, which he said fits in with his administration's economic development goals.


Energy, farm policy collide in the new Congress

The Washington Examiner | Posted on January 9, 2017

The energy debate on Capitol Hill this year could turn quickly into talk of farm policy as a large section of the utility sector and other groups prepare to make sure energy policy doesn't get overlooked in next year's farm bill.

The next five-year reauthorization of the farm bill comes up in 2018, which has groups set to make sure the bill's increased energy focus over the last decade doesn't face the cuts it experienced in the last Congress.


Nevada Regulators Restore Retail-Rate Net Metering in Sierra Pacific Territory

Green Tech Media | Posted on January 4, 2017

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) has voted to restore favorable rates for residential solar customers in NV Energy’s Sierra Pacific Power Company’s service territory -- exactly one year after the commission passed a controversial fee increase that brought the state’s residential solar market to a halt. In the draft order approved Thursday, Chairman Joseph Reynolds wrote: “Abraham Lincoln once said that ‘Bad promises are better broken than kept.’ The PUCN’s prior decisions on [net energy metering], in several respects, maybe best viewed as a promise better left unkept. The PUCN is free to apply a new approach.” Advocates for distributed solar cheered the rate change, which they say will revive the solar industry and bring back energy options for customers in northern Nevada. The December 2015 decision phased out retail-rate net metering for the excess generation solar customers send back to the grid, and tripled fixed charges for solar customers over a four-year period. The timeline was later stretched to 12-years. The ruling was applied to both new and current solar customers, sparking outrage among ratepayers who saw their expected savings from investing in solar all but disappear. While the PUCN later decided to grandfather in current solar customers on their existing rates, the rate change for new solar customers put Nevada’s residential solar market at a standstill.


Electric car sales pass half a million in US

Newsweek | Posted on January 3, 2017

More than 500,000 electric cars have been sold in the United States, according to a report from an electric vehicle charger operator.  The sale of more than 130,000 plug-in hybrid or battery-powered electric vehicles between November 2015 and November 2016 pushed the total number of electric cars sold in the U.S. to 542,000. The milestone was highlighted in a report by Chargepoint, first seen by the technology news website Recode, which also ranked the U.S. with the highest electric vehicle adoption. California, home of Silicon Valley and Tesla, has the highest number of electric vehicles in operation, ahead of Georgia, Washington, Florida and Texas.


Ohio Governor Vetoes Bill to Extend Freeze on Renewable Energy

Bloomberg | Posted on January 3, 2017

Ohio Governor John Kasich rejected a bill to extend a freeze on a law that requires utilities in the state to buy more electricity from renewable sources including wind and solar power.  The bill would have extended for two years a delay on the state’s requirement that utilities get 12.5 percent of their power from renewables by 2027, slowing development of the clean energy technologies and threatening investment and jobs, Kasich said Tuesday in a statement. House bill 554 would also have made the goal voluntary.  Environmental groups applauded Kasich’s move, which restores the state’s path to getting additional sources of renewable energy starting Jan. 1. Ted Ford, president of Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, said their analysis showed resuming energy efficiency and renewable energy investment could save the state $3.3 billion by 2027.


Gov. Rick Snyder on Michigan’s energy future

Midwest Energy News | Posted on January 3, 2017

In the waning hours of the Michigan legislature’s 2016 lame-duck session, Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration played a key role in ensuring that major energy reforms that were two years in the making crossed the finish line. In fact, Snyder helped broker a deal which initially might have narrowly passed in his view, but ended up gaining widespread support in the Republican-controlled legislature. “This was one of the finest illustrations of good, bipartisan and broad-based work I’ve seen in my time as governor,” Snyder, also a Republican, said


ESPA study suggests water credit trading program

Capital Press | Posted on January 3, 2017

A research study has found junior groundwater users on Idaho’s Eastern Snake Plain could reduce the financial sting of a settlement agreement by strategically idling marginal land and selling credits to other groundwater users. WestWater Research assigned an intern, Ryan Shepler, to evaluate the most effective ways for Idaho Ground Water Appropriators, Inc., groundwater districts to meet a 240,000 acre-foot annual reduction in aquifer withdrawals mandated under the terms of a 2015 settlement with the Surface Water Coalition.The reduction averages 12 percent per user, with the amount varying based on priority dates of groundwater rights.Shepler explained a credit program would pay willing growers scheduled to plant low-value crops, such as wheat, on marginal ground to fallow those acres. Resulting irrigation credits could then be sold to others within the groundwater district in need of water to finish off high-value crops on more productive land.


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