Solar power can burn a hole in a state’s budget, but a well-designed plan can bring benefits. Demand for residential or rooftop solar power, spurred in part by state incentives, is growing rapidly. But if incentives are not well-designed, they can overwhelm a state’s budget. Regulators and utility officials in several states have been surprised – not always in a positive way – by the effects of their solar power policies. Louisiana is one of the more recent, and more dramatic, examples. In mid-July, Louisiana’s Department of Revenue said it was almost $30 million short of funds to pay already submitted claims for rooftop solar systems and that there were no funds to pay future claims, even though the program is not scheduled to end until Dec. 31, 2017. A 2015 law capped the state’s solar tax credit program at $10 million each for 2015-16 and 2016-17 and at $5 million for 2017-18. The state already has $9.3 million in approved credits and $29.6 million in estimated pending claims for 2015-16.
The industry that burns wood to produce electricity is floundering nationwide because of low power prices, and some lawmakers from heavily forested states are pushing to provide it with an extraordinary market advantage. Six times during the past two years, federal lawmakers have included language in bills in attempts to force EPA regulations to ignore climate pollution from biomass power plants. With the biomass power industry in financial tumult, its leaders are pinning hopes for revival on Congress’s potential willingness to interfere with science at a time when the EPA is rolling out flagship climate rules. The legislative language, introduced by some Republicans in the House and Senate and by a Democrat-aligned independent senator, varies slightly. But it all requires that most wood power be regulated as though it’s as clean as solar or wind energy — when it can actually be more polluting than gas or coal.
A steady drumbeat of new natural-gas plants have replaced coal as the dominant source of electricity generation in the U.S. At the beginning of 2016, America’s coal production fell to its lowest level in 30 years. But the increasingly heavy reliance on natural gas has exacted a toll. The energy-associated carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas are expected to top the CO2 emissions from coal for the first time more than 40 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
With two weeks left in the legislative session, Senate leader Kevin de León is making a new effort to unsnarl a two year budget gridlock over money generated from the state's cap-and-trade program. The $1.2-billion spending plan would include money for cleaner cars, energy efficient upgrades and urban parks. “We have the opportunity to follow through on the promise of cap-and-trade, which is to use polluters’ dollars to clean up the air we breathe,” De León (D-Los Angeles) said. “Working families in our most economically disadvantaged and polluted areas deserve to benefit from investments now so they have access to the cleanest technologies and the tools to make their communities more livable.” California's landmark cap-and-trade program, in which businesses purchase permits to pollute, has raised more than $4 billion -- all of which must be used to fund efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But for the last two years, Gov. Jerry Brown and top lawmakers have been unable to agree on how to spend $1.4 billion generated by the program.
The Mendota Hills wind farm could be the first in the nation to decommission its entire fleet of turbines and replace a portion of them with upgraded models. Dallas-based Leeward Renewable Energy, which owns the wind farm, has requested a special-use permit from the Lee County Board to remove its 63 turbines in the southeast region of the county and build between 33 and 35 new structures.
According to EIA data, ethanol production averaged 1.029 million barrels per day (b/d)—or 43.22 million gallons daily. That is up 11,000 b/d from the week before and tied for the largest total on record. The four-week average for ethanol production remained unchanged at 1.012 million b/d for an annualized rate of 15.51 billion gallons.
Nuclear power was born in the Midwest, and helped fuel the region’s once-vibrant manufacturing sector for decades. But the Midwest’s cheap power prices and, in some states, deregulated markets make it hard for nuclear to compete with cheaper natural gas and renewables. Recent reports have identified numerous plants in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Nebraska as likely to shut down before 2025, while others have licenses expiring at the same time. In recent months the planned closing of a publicly owned plant in Omaha and two Illinois plants owned by Exelon have been announced, and plants in Michigan and Ohio are also facing serious financial and technological challenges. So what does the future of nuclear energy look like in the Midwest? A lot depends on rate cases before public service commissions, proposed state legislation and the effects of the Clean Power Plan. Regulated energy markets are generally more favorable to expensive nuclear plants than deregulated areas where “merchant plants” must gamble on recouping their costs by selling power. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa are regulated states, where companies can charge ratepayers directly for their investments in power plants, if they get approval from the state utilities commission. Michigan is also mostly a regulated state, with utilities guaranteed control of 90 percent of the market and 10 percent open to competition.
In August 2006, a handful of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states signed an amended memorandum of understanding that would lay the groundwork for the first multi-state carbon-trading scheme in the U.S. A decade after that agreement, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, has cut CO2 emissions from generation sources in those states by 50 million short tons, or 36 percent, from 2008 to 2014. Nine states currently participate, including all of New England, Delaware, Maryland and New York (New Jersey pulled out in 2011). In the nearly eight years that the program has been fully operational, electricity prices in RGGI states have dropped an average of 3.4 percent. “RGGI states’ experience reducing emissions faster and at lower cost than anticipated comes at an important time,” the Acadia Center wrote
After analyzing data from Weather Energy, the environmental group WWF Scotland announced that wind turbines generated more than 100 percent of the total amount of electricity used in the country on Aug. 7.
The coal industry has been painted with a bleak brush in recent years. Production has plummeted. Plants have closed. Jobs have been lost. But in Delta County, one organization is targeting unemployed coal miners in the hope of transitioning them into the solar industry — and leaving politics out of the conversation. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment in April gave the Paonia-based solar organization a $401,000 matching grant as part of the WORK Act, legislation passed in May 2015 that aims to fill skills gaps in Colorado industries. SEI used the money to start Solar Ready Colorado, an initiative to attract and train not only unemployed miners but also veterans and workers furloughed from the oil and gas industry and other trades.