Massachusetts energy officials on Tuesday announced an overhaul of the way the state subsidizes solar projects. The switch is expected to cut the annual cost of solar installations to electricity ratepayers in half, from $400 million to $500 million under previous versions of the program to $200 million to $250 million under the new program. State energy officials say the new structure will also provide more certainty to the market by ensuring that developers know how much of an incentive they will get for their projects over a 10- or 20-year time frame, depending on the type of project.
In the past two months, two rural Michigan counties have adopted one-year moratoriums on wind development, though they appear to be in vastly different positions when it comes to regulatory experience. On December 29, Huron County in Michigan’s Thumb region — also known as the state’s wind capital due to the comparatively high density of turbines there — enacted a one-year moratorium for areas that fall under county zoning laws.
The future of how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency implements the Renewable Fuel Standard is at the epicenter of a federal court case set for oral arguments April 24 in Washington, D.C. This week a number of groups filed briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit challenging EPA's management of the RFS on a number of fronts. Though Congress may at some point consider changing the RFS, the lawsuit originally filed by Americans for Clean Energy attempts to force the agency to apply the law as the groups believe was intended. The group argues in a brief this week the EPA has no statutory basis to control or limit the growth of biofuels. Joining the group is the American Coalition for Ethanol, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Growth Energy, National Corn Growers Association, National Sorghum Producers, Renewable Fuels Association and the National Farmers Union. The EPA has faced a wide array of criticism for missing statutory deadlines and about the methods used in setting biofuel volumes.
In November, the EPA made a sound decision to fully enforce the Renewable Fuel Standard and improve options for American-made biofuels at the pump. That commitment must remain strong as a new Congress takes effect this year. We must grow consumers’ access to E15 — a 15 percent ethanol blend — by removing arbitrary restrictions during the summer driving season. E15 could provide a market for up to 2 billion bushels of corn to stabilize commodity prices. Every time a new E15 pump is installed, I hear reports that it is a top seller, providing great performance at an affordable price. American agriculture has helped us improve our national security, lower fuel prices and heal our environment by providing the feedstock for homegrown biofuels. We can do more, and we must do more, for the sake of not only rural areas, but all of America.
In Wyoming, Republican Gov. Matt Mead is counting on a state-funded research center set to open this year to find a way to produce energy from coal without releasing carbon dioxide into the environment. In Kansas, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is eyeing new wind farms to bring jobs and economic growth. And in Ohio, Republican Gov. John Kasich says the state needs to support renewable energy to stay competitive and reduce electricity costs.
As policymakers in Ohio and elsewhere look to modernize their aging electric grid, concepts in Germany’s changing energy system suggest how today’s decisions can set the stage for a greater share of renewables and more energy security. Germany has committed to reducing its reliance on fossil fuels with a shift known as the Energiewende. The country sees the shift not only as “an important energy project, but also an important economic project,” said spokesperson Beate Baron at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy in Berlin. “This of course can serve as a model for other countries as well.” Germany and other countries, including the United States, have traditionally operated their electric grids with the view that some amount of power would always be needed as “baseload” to meet constant demands placed upon the electric system, and additional power plants would ramp up or down as necessary to meet peak power needs.
BNSF Railway Co will start offering discounts to ethanol shippers this April if they agree to use new, safer train cars, as it pushes to scrub puncture-prone ones from its rail lines at a faster pace than required by U.S. regulations. The move by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway rail company comes even as ethanol shippers have been slow to embrace the new train cars mandated by sweeping new regulations enacted in 2015 after a series of fiery crude oil derailments.
Exxon Mobil Corp., the U.S. oil giant that’s facing investigations over what it knew and when about climate change, sees the Paris agreement to mitigate global warming as a “monumental” achievement, according to a top executive. The company supports the December 2015 Paris accord as a “very meaningful and constructive process,” William M. Colton, Exxon’s vice president for corporate strategic planning, said in an interview in Berlin. Adhering to the accord’s commitments are achievable and compatible with Exxon’s business strategy, he said. Exxon “fully appreciates and acknowledges the risk posed by climate change,” Colton said, following a panel discussion at an energy conference. “We really admire the Paris process, where you have all the major nations of the world coming together on a global basis -- for it is a global challenge.”
With the advent of $1.00-per-watt (DC) pricing for utility fixed-tilt PV systems, the solar industry has crushed the SunShot Program's $1.00-per-watt goal for 2020 three years early.
As dozens of states consider adopting fees and less-favorable rates to tilt the scales against net metering, advocates say a proposal in Indiana would offer rooftop solar customers the worst deal in the country. Senate Bill 309, would end net metering by 2027 at the latest, and earlier than that for new panel installations by customers of utilities that hit caps on net metering capacity. The new rules would require customers to buy all the electricity they consume from the utility at a retail rate while selling everything they generate to the utility at a lower wholesale rate. If the bill passes, Indiana would be the only state in the country with a “buy all, sell all” model that doesn’t credit customers at the full retail rate for the energy they consume from their own solar panels, said Autumn Proudlove, senior policy analyst at the NC Clean Energy Tech Center, which tracks net metering rules around the country. “I don’t think that I’ve seen any other models proposed that would be less financially favorable to solar customers since most of them allow the customers to at least self-consume energy from the system,” she said.