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Researchers see stronger electric grid in regions with large amounts of renewables

Think Progress | Posted on June 22, 2017

But a new report prepared by consulting firm Analysis Group concludes that the evidence does not support these claims. The addition of new natural gas-fired units and renewable energy capacity are increasing the nation’s electric reliability, not jeopardizing it, the report says. The report, titled “Electricity Markets, Reliability and the Evolving U.S. Power System,” was released only days before Department of Energy staff members are scheduled to deliver a report on the impact of renewables on the nation’s power grid. In April, Energy Secretary Rick Perry directed his staff to put together the report, which environmentalists and renewable energy advocates have worried will be tilted in favor of the coal industry. Perry ordered the grid study to be completed in 60 days.The Analysis Group report concludes many advanced energy technologies such as efficient natural gas-fired generation and renewables provide reliability benefits by increasing the diversity of the electric system. As wind and solar energy become more prominent in certain regions, the trend in reliability performance in these areas is increasing rather than decreasing, the report says.

Report challenges economics of 1950s coal plants as Ohio lawmakers seek subsidies

Midwest Energy News | Posted on June 20, 2017

As Ohio lawmakers move to advance a bill to subsidize two 62-year-old coal plants, a report released confirms older coal power plants’ ongoing difficulty competing against those fueled by natural gas. The Ohio House Public Utilities Committee’s agenda shows a version of House Bill 239 could get voted out of committee today, setting the stage for possible passage by the House of Representatives. The bill would require all utility customers to subsidize costs of two coal-fired power plants owned by the Ohio Valley Electric Cooperative (OVEC). Those plants are the Kyger Creek plant near Cheshire, Ohio, and the Clifty Creek plant in Madison, Indiana.Meanwhile, a June 20 report from the Analysis Group concludes that market forces — especially lower prices from shale gas development — are behind the general decline of coal-fired power plants’ competitiveness. The American Wind Energy Association and the Advanced Energy Economy Institute funded the report.

Texas regulators to put information of oil company penalties, complaints online

Houston Chronicle | Posted on June 20, 2017

The Railroad Commission of Texas oversees one of the most prolific oil and gas regions in the world, the agency's hordes of data and documents remain snared in a filing system that has yet to make it to the 21st century. The commission has been unable to make available online all of the information it collects, as it is hobbled by some troubled oil and gas companies whose fees account for most of the commission's budget, and limited funding from the state. The Legislature has ordered that some of it, at least, be put online, with the help of more than $4 million over the next two years, according to state budget documents. With the funds, the commission will put online records of fines and other penalties given to companies for violating state rules. The commission also will make available complaints, and information about inspections.  The commission also will be using some of its state-allocated funds to fill nearly 150 empty positions at the agency, including much-needed oil and gas well and pipeline inspectors.

Nevada’s New Solar Law Is About Much More Than Net Metering

Green Tech Media | Posted on June 20, 2017

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed Assembly Bill 405into law to the cheers of solar companies and advocates. AB 405 reinstates net metering for rooftop solar customers in Nevada, after utility regulators eliminated the policy in December 2015, throwing the Silver State’s solar market into disarray. Because the policy change was applied retroactively, it triggered enormous public outcry, and the steep new fees effectively put a freeze on new rooftop solar installations. Nevada saw a 32 percent decline in solar jobs last year after large residential installers chose to pull out of the state. But with the new law now in place, Tesla, Sunrun and Vivint Solar said they plan to resume sales immediately. Under the new law, new solar customers will immediately begin to be reimbursed for the excess energy they generate at 95 percent of the retail electricity rate. The credit is scheduled to decline in 7 percent increments for every 80 megawatts of rooftop solar deployed, to a floor of 75 percent of the retail rate. The discounted compensation rates are designed to ensure that solar customers pay their fair share to use the power grid as solar penetration increases, but still leave a lot of room for growth. The 80-megawatt threshold for each credit tier is significant. In Nevada's biggest year, before the net metering policy changed, the state deployed around 100 megawatts of residential solar. Assuming the market booms again, it will likely still take around four years to get to 75 percent of the retail rate. And even at 75 percent, net metering compensation still looks economically appealing. The passage of AB 405 marks the first time in U.S. history that consumers have been statutorily guaranteed the right to self-generate electricity, said Wellinghoff, who helped craft portions of the bill in his new role as an independent policy consultant. Under Section 24 of the bill, consumers are granted the right to generate their own electricity and offset their own internal usage one-for-one at the full retail rate, in the same way they can install energy efficient light bulbs or appliances and save energy at the retail rate. Whatever energy you no longer take from the grid, you don’t have to pay for.

What does ‘clean coal’ mean and can it save the planet

PBS | Posted on June 19, 2017

In the developed world, we have been working on ever cleaner ways to burn coal since the first coal-fired generator began running in England back in the late 1800s. First, we moved away from burning coal inside our homes, concentrating the production of soot into a few large power plants and moving the soot plumes outside of cities. Then we began to make our smokestacks taller, so that pollution plumes would be lofted higher and distributed more broadly downwind of power plants. This reduced the immediate problem of inhaling soot, but generated the new problem of acid rain over large areas of the industrialized world.To deal with this new problem, we began outfitting our power plants with filters to retain particulates and scrubbers to trap the sulfur gases that were generating acid rain. The newest technological innovations go further, with one U.S. coal plant now able to capture CO2 and prevent its release into the atmosphere.Achieving cleaner emissions from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants requires trapping ever larger quantities of coal combustion residues. These byproducts of coal combustion are one of the dirty truths about clean coal. The trace metals, sulfur, and carbon dioxide that are not being emitted to the atmosphere have to be disposed of. We have reduced regional acid rain problems through the concentration of coal waste into metal and trace element enriched fly ash and gypsum.

Renewable Energy Record Set in U.S.

National Geographic | Posted on June 19, 2017

The U.S. set a new renewable energy milestone in March, in data released Wednesday. For the first time, wind and solar accounted for 10 percent of all electricity generation, with wind comprising 8 percent and solar coming in at 2 percent.Wind and solar generation typically peaks in the spring and fall when there is less energy demand, and the EIA expects April to continue the record-setting 10 percent trend. That 10 percent mark is expected to slip in summer months, but 2016 saw an overall growth in renewables.The report noted that Texas generated more wind and solar energy than any other state, nearly all of which came from wind. Iowa, however, had the largest share of renewables in total energy production. Over a third, 37 percent, of the state's energy now comes from wind and solar power.

11 states sue Trump's DOE over stalled energy-use limits

ABC News | Posted on June 19, 2017

New York, California and nine other states sued the Trump administration over its failure to finalize energy-use limits for portable air conditioners and other products.  The new standards would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save businesses and consumers billions of dollars, and conserve enough energy to power more than 19 million households for a year, but the U.S. Department of Energy has not met a requirement to publish them by now, according to attorneys general who filed the lawsuit against the DOE in federal court in San Francisco. That means the standards are not legally enforceable. "The Department of Energy is blocking common-sense energy efficiency standards. This is absurd," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement announcing the suit. "The Trump Administration should stop stalling and start following the law."The other states in the lawsuit are: Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Maryland. The City of New York is also a plaintiff.The Energy Department said in an email that it does not comment on pending litigation.The lawsuit comes as the Trump administration has moved to weaken or dismantle federal efforts to reduce carbon emissions.It reversed President Barack Obama's moratorium on leasing federal lands for coal mining and withdrew a requirement for more emissions data from oil and gas facilities. It has also stopped tracking the federal government's carbon emissions.

Large Canadian Arctic climate change study cancelled due to climate change

Science Daily | Posted on June 15, 2017

The Science Team of the Canadian Research Icebreaker CCGS Amundsen has cancelled the first leg of the 2017 Expedition due to complications associated with the southward motion of hazardous Arctic sea ice, caused by climate change.

China surpassed the U.S. to become world’s largest renewable power producer last year, BP reports.

Think Progress | Posted on June 15, 2017

World coal production had its biggest drop ever last year, 230 million tons of oil equivalent (mtoe), BP reported Tuesday in its 2017 Statistical Review of World Energy. China led the way with a 7.9 percent decline in coal production (140 mtoe), followed by the U.S. with a 19 percent drop (85 mtoe). For the first time, China surpassed the U.S. as the world’s biggest producer of non-hydro renewables. “The fortunes of coal appear to have taken a decisive break from the past,” BP’s chief economist Spencer Dale said Tuesday. The report explains “this shift largely reflects structural factors” — the remarkable growth of cheap natural gas and renewables — “combined with government and societal pressure to shift towards cleaner, lower carbon fuels.” Clean energy is the world’s biggest sustainable source of new high-wage jobs. No wonder China is making a $360 billion bet on renewables by 2020 — they calculate the resulting “employment will be more than 13 million people.”

Wisconsin power line pits green interests against each other

Des Moines Register | Posted on June 15, 2017

A fight that involves dueling environmental constituencies is brewing over plans for a massive transmission line that would run through the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin and into northeastern Iowa. Developers say the estimated $500 million, 125-mile line would help buttress the regional power grid and provide access to lower-priced electricity in Iowa and other states.But like the clamor that has erupted over construction of oil pipelines, transmission lines also engender strong emotions, with opponents often raising environmental objections.In this case, Wisconsin’s newest power-line proposal pits a pair of green interests: those who see the project as a blight on the picturesque ridges and valleys of the region and those who say it opens up a new route for renewable wind energy from other states.The Cardinal-Hickory Creek power line would run from west of Madison, Wis., to Dubuque County in Iowa, where it would be linked to a growing fleet of wind farms that produce no greenhouse gases.The Wisconsin Public Service Commission, whose members have all been appointed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, must decide whether the line is needed, and, if so, the best corridor to build it.The developers have not yet selected precise route options, but recently sent letters to potentially affected property owners.Two electric transmission companies — Pewaukee-based American Transmission Co. and ITC Midwest of Cedar Rapids, Iowa — lead the project. A third partner is Dairyland Power Cooperative of La Crosse, Wis.