The U.S. biodiesel production industry has a distinct "feast or famine" pattern in terms of profitability. The industry made very large profits in 2011 and 2013, but losses in most years previous to 2011 and losses again in 2014 and 2015. The feast or famine pattern has been closely tied to expiration of the $1 per gallon biodiesel tax credit in the face of binding RFS biodiesel mandates. The biodiesel tax credit is once again scheduled to expire at the end of 2016. The key is that blenders face a binding RFS biodiesel mandate and it is rational to effectively purchase the biodiesel at a discount in the current year, due to the tax credit, in order to meet mandates in later years. Once the tax credit expires, the incentive to push up prices, profits, and production disappears and the biodiesel industry returns to a norm of losses. This cycle, of course, depends on blenders perceiving there substantial uncertainty whether the tax credit will be reinstated or not for the following year.
El Paso Electric has become coal-free and no longer is using the fossil fuel to power its generators, making it the only electric utility in Texas and New Mexico to have no coal-fired power generation.
Despite announcing the closure of four units at an Ohio coal plant it initially sought to protect, the amount of money FirstEnergy could recover from customers in new charges has now ballooned to more than $8 billion. FirstEnergy still wants a non-bypassable charge that critics have said could cost consumers almost $4 billion. In the same filing, it says that a new rider suggested by staff at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio would be a good idea, but that the proposed rate of $131 million per year for three years would be inadequate. Instead, FirstEnergy wants $558 million per year for at least eight years.
Iowa’s overall energy situation is moving in a positive direction, although the state still consumes more than it produces at a per-capital rate higher than its six bordering states. Iowa consumes more raw energy than it produces and imports more raw energy than it produces. Electrical power generation has increased significantly, by nearly 40 percent, primarily because of expansion in wind production. The net effect of Iowa’s renewable energy expansion has been a significant decrease in the overall percentage of Iowa’s electricity generated by fossil fuels, which declined from 87 percent in 2001 to 62 percent in 2014.
A state Supreme Court judge struck down New York's attempt to clamp down on independent energy service companies with strict new rules, calling the effort "arbitrary'' and "irrational.'' State Supreme Court Justice Henry Zwack, of Albany, vacated new regulations that were announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February following approval by the state Public Service Commission. The PSC's decision to restrict the activities of energy marketers, also known as ESCOs, "appears to be irrational, arbitrary and capricious,'' Zwack wrote. Moreover, he said the order that ESCOs comply with the new regulations within 10 days was more than merely burdensome. "It is impossible,'' Zwack wrote. PSC officials today said they would to continue efforts to rein in the ESCOs.
Gov. Paul LePage is proposing a three-year “grandfather” period to allow Maine residents who have installed solar panels to recover some of their upfront investment through a practice called net metering. After that, he wants to end the program. The governor’s new proposal is drawing swift criticism from the solar industry. Under net metering, residential solar generators can get a credit on their electric bill for excess electricity that they put back into the power grid. Over time, those credits can help cover the cost of the original investment, for, say, solar panels.
Something’s wrong with this picture. While solar energy generally is backed by groups that want to cut greenhouse gases, a proposed solar project at a defunct Long Island, New York, nuclear power plant has stirred tensions because it requires clear-cutting 350 acres of woods. “Choosing solar over forests anywhere in the world is just plain stupid,” Dick Amper, of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, told The Associated Press. “Solar is very important to fight global warming and beyond, but I’m afraid we’re making false choices when you destroy portions of nature and the environment to accomplish that end.” Similar differences are happening elsewhere. A court fight is brewing over a plan by New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park to cut down nearly 15,000 trees to make way for a solar farm.
In Connecticut, state officials recently approved a plan to chop 134 acres of trees in the town of Sprague for a solar energy project.
In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook released today, the U.S. Energy Information Administration maintained its outlook for ethanol production and demand for this year. EIA reiterated ethanol production averaged almost 970,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2015 and once again projected production for 2016 and 2017 at about 980,000 bpd. The agency repeated that ethanol consumption in 2015 averaged about 910,000 bpd, while holding firm its forecast for 2016 and 2017 to about 930,000 bpd. "This level of consumption results in the ethanol share of the total gasoline pool averaging 10% in both 2016 and 2017."
EIA continues to expect the largest effect of the proposed RFS targets will be on biomass-based diesel consumption, which includes both biodiesel and renewable diesel and helps to meet the RFS targets for use of biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel. Biodiesel production averaged 82,000 bpd in 2015 and is forecast to average 99,000 bpd this year, 1,000 bpd lower than last month's estimate. In 2017, the estimate is 106,000 bpd, steady on the month. Net imports of biomass-based diesel are also expected to increase from 29,000 bpd in 2015 to 41,000 bpd in 2016 and 47,000 bpd in 2017, each unchanged from the prior month estimate. EIA assumes 10,000 bpd of domestic renewable diesel consumption will be used to help meet the biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels RFS targets in both 2016 and 2017.
A new report counts 66,000 clean-energy related jobs in Pennsylvania, up 15 percent from the last study published two years ago. Clean Jobs Pennsylvania, published by the nonpartisan Environmental Entrepreneurs advocacy group and the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance, said the employment at 5,900 businesses statewide was about 1 percent of the state's total nonfarm jobs. Most of the jobs, about 80 percent, were in what the report called the energy efficiency sector. Most of the rest, 8,800 jobs, were in renewable energy, which includes solar, wind and hydroelectric power manufacturing.
Nebraska wants to find out whether its glut of agricultural waste could be processed into a coal-like substance to be used as a renewable fuel for power plants. The state Department of Environmental Quality last month awarded a Mexico, Missouri, company a grant of more than $250,000 as part of that effort. The company, Enginuity Worldwide, says it can compress cow manure, spent cornstalks and other plant material into what it calls BioCoal. The product burns like regular coal, and the company says it could help power plants cut carbon emissions.