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More certainty and more coordination are needed to keep U.S. renewable energy and self-sufficiency goals on track.
Jeff St. John
December 19, 2014
The United States needs to spend $2.1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize the electricity grid and prepare for more renewable energy, according to a report from the International Energy Agency.
While the country’s “energy policy landscape has fundamentally changed” since 2008, it still faces some serious barriers to reaching its carbon reduction and energy independence goals, according to the agency.
The report leans heavily on data collected for IEA’s 2014 World Energy Outlook, released last month, which called for a redistribution of government subsidies from fossil fuels to green energy. In its U.S.-specific analysis, the agency finds the country in a “strong position to deliver a reliable, affordable and environmentally sustainable energy system,” largely due to its boom in “unconventional” natural gas and oil resources.
But the gains of the past six years could be reversed if the key federal supports for renewable energy and efficiency investment are taken away, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven warned in a prepared statement.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/iea-u.s.-power-sector-needs-2.1t-in-investment-by-2035Share This Post
WASHINGTON — A Maryland energy regulator and veteran of fights over offshore wind farms is poised to become the top federal official in charge of oil and gas drilling along the nation’s coastlines.
Abigail Hopper, now head of the Maryland Energy Administration, will become director of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Jan. 5, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is set to announce Thursday.
The move puts a renewable energy expert in charge of big decisions about where to allow oil and gas drilling on the outer continental shelf. The ocean energy bureau, which oversees all energy leases in federal waters, is now drafting a blueprint for auctioning offshore oil and gas rights from 2017 through 2022.
“Abigail Hopper’s knowledge of the energy sector, experience working with a wide variety of stakeholders and her legal expertise will be valuable assets to the bureau and the department as we continue to ensure the safe and responsible development of our domestic energy and mineral resources and stand up an offshore wind program,” Jewell said. “She is an accomplished professional who brings strategic leadership and long-term vision to the job.”
Hopper’s energy credentials come from multiple roles in Maryland, including her two-year stint leading the Maryland Energy Administration, which coordinates state energy policies and helps local governments pare energy consumption. She also headed a state task force focused on deciding how to bolster the resiliency of the Maryland’s electric infrastructure after a major storm in 2012.
To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/12/18/ocean-energy-bureau-gets-new-director/Share This Post
By Joby Warrick December 18 at 1:00 PM
CHESTER, W.Va. — When work began on a strange new reservoir in the hills outside this Ohio River town, local officials promoted the project as offering something for everyone: an aquatic playground for boaters and sunbathers, and for the local power plant, a dump.
“Eventually, you may swim and fish in this waste-disposal site!” a local newspaper enthused in 1976 about the Little Blue Run Impoundment, 1,000 acres of turquoise water that doubled as a receptacle for tons of arsenic-tainted coal ash.
Decades later, the dumping continues, but there is no sign of the idyllic recreational lake promised by electric company executives. Some neighbors are moving out to escape spreading groundwater contamination, foul odors and clouds of chalky dust. Others would love to flee but can’t because their property values have plummeted.
“It’s depressing. It’s sad,” said Annette Rhodes, 44, who has watched whole streets empty out in the hillside neighborhood behind the lake 30 miles west of Pittsburgh. “You get mad one minute, and you cry the next.”
Today, the Little Blue Run Impoundment is one of more than 600 artificial lakes built to hold coal ash, the powdery waste from coal furnaces that generate electricity. Some, like the Little Blue, have leaked contaminants, while others suffered catastrophic breaches that sent polluted water surging into nearby streams.
EPA takes aim at coal ash
After years of delays, the EPA is moving to regulate coal ash, the leftover waste from coal furnaces that produce electricity. Power plants produce millions of tons of the ash, which contains significant amounts of arsenic, mercury and heavy metals that can be harmful to humans and wildlife. Much of it is stored in waste ponds, some of which have ruptured or leaked contaminants. Neighbors near the Little Blue Run impoundment say toxins from the lake are contaminating the groundwater.
(The Washington Post/Patterson Clark)
All have this in common: exemption from federal regulations governing waste disposal. Since the 1970s, utility companies have been allowed to dispose of coal ash under state laws that vary widely across jurisdictions. The exemption, created by Congress, blocked the EPA from classifying coal ash as hazardous waste, or even subjecting it to the same national standards that apply to other kinds of solid waste.
That could change as early as Friday as the EPA prepares to issue new rules that will include coal ash in federal guidelines for waste disposal. The long-awaited decision could significantly increase disposal costs for utility companies, depending on whether the EPA decides to classify coal ash as “hazardous” waste, requiring more stringent standards for disposal and cleanup.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/dam-breaks-tainted-wells-prompt-new-look-at-coal-ash-dumps-that-escaped-epa-review/2014/12/18/801739d6-8619-11e4-b9b7-b8632ae73d25_story.htmlShare This Post
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is waiting to make a decision on whether — and how — to boost regulation of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector until the new year.
The agency had been working under a Dec. 21 deadline under the Obama administration’s methane strategy, which tasked the agency with deciding how best to reduce methane pollution from the sector this fall.
But an EPA official speaking on background said the agency was delaying the announcement until after the holidays.
Methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas, is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas believed to be 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere over a 20-year timespan. It can flow out of oil wells alongside crude, escape from pneumatic controllers and valves at the sites and leak from other infrastructure.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has suggested that new regulations aren’t guaranteed, and voluntary initiatives could be used to spur the oil and gas industry to further stitch up methane leaks.
To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/12/18/feds-delay-decision-on-methane-mandates/Share This Post
By Reid Wilson December 18 at 3:48 PM
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) proposed a cap-and-trade plan that would raise nearly $1 billion for a state struggling with a big budget shortfall (Photo: Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)
Washington could become the second state to place a firm cap on carbon emissions under an aggressive proposal offered this week by Gov. Jay Inslee (D), one of the leading proponents of assertive action to prevent and reverse climate change.
Major industries would have to purchase the right to emit carbon under the Carbon Pollution Accountability Act, which Inslee introduced at an event in Seattle. The plan would apply to firms that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon emissions per year, which Inslee’s office estimated would cover about 85 percent of the state’s total greenhouse gases.
Those emitters range from oil refineries north of Seattle to paper plants and fuel distributors, which would have to purchase credits for gas and diesel they sell to consumers. Inslee’s office estimated the auction system would net the state $947 million in 2017, the first year in which companies would have to compete for credit.Share This Post
By John Light on 18 Dec 2014
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) really wants his state to do something about climate change, but his legislature hasn’t been cooperative. So now he’s got an ambitious new climate proposal, and he hopes lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will give it a chance.
On Wednesday, Inslee proposed the Carbon Pollution Accountability Act, a cap-and-trade program for the state’s biggest polluters, which he estimates would raise about $1 billion a year. The proceeds would go into the state budget, helping to fund a major transportation initiative and education programs. “We can clean our air and our water at the same time we’re fixing our roads and bridges,” Inslee said at a press conference. “It’s a charge on pollution rather than people.” The governor’s proposal would also help the state meet the requirements of a 2008 law that mandates a 25 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, and further cuts after that.
A policy brief from the governor’s office explains the bill’s basics:Share This Post
The Jordan Cove Energy Project, a $7 billion liquefied natural gas export proposal, plans to dredge 2.3 million cubic yards of material out of the North Spit of Coos Bay to accommodate its shipping berth. It plans to use resulting spoils to build massive berms that would elevate its gas liquefaction and power plants out of the tsunami inundation zone. The site is a former log sorting and waste disposal site for a closed paper mill, and a former environmental coordinator on the site says soil contamination issues are being ignored and swept under the rug. (Courtesy of Jordan Cove)
on December 19, 2014 at 5:01 AM,
A biologist and environmental inspector who worked at the site of the massive liquefied natural gas terminal proposed for Coos Bay told federal regulators this week that project engineers were ignoring and possibly hiding contaminated soil issues at the site.
Barbara Gimlin was employed by SHN Engineers & Geologists as a biologist and environmental compliance specialist on the Jordan Cove Energy Project from March 2013 to April 2014. She says she supports the project, but resigned as a matter of professional integrity after being ignored and reprimanded by supervisors when trying to take required compliance steps after contaminated soil was excavated, moved and reburied in a berm during testing.
She aired her concerns in a public comment this week on the project's draft environmental impact statement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. She claims the contamination issues were not disclosed in the federal environmental analysis, not reported to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality until she blew the whistle, and could pose a hazard to the estuary and workers at the site.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2014/12/whistleblower_at_jordan_cove_l.html#Share This Post
By Ben Adler on 17 Dec 2014
Original source: http://grist.org/climate-energy/cuomo-bans-fracking-in-ny-and-questions-climate-science-all-in-one-day/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Daily%2520Dec%252018&utm_campaign=daily
It was a long time coming, but, finally, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Wednesday afternoon that he will ban hydraulic fracturing in the state. It’s a major win for fracking opponents.
Approximately 40 percent of New York state sits over the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation, which, thanks to the development of high-volume hydrofracking (HVHF) or fracking technology, would now be easily accessible to drillers — if they could get the OK from the state. The Upstate region where the natural gas is found, known as the Southern Tier, is New York’s most economically depressed area. Fracking is already widespread in neighboring Pennsylvania, as are the ensuing environmental, health, and safety problems.
New York has had a fracking moratorium in place since Cuomo’s predecessor David Paterson (D) issued one in 2008. Cuomo has repeatedly delayed a permanent decision pending study by the state environmental and health departments, and those studies have dragged on and on. The widespread belief in New York political circles was that Cuomo was trying to avoid angering either Upstate Republicans or anti-fracking activists by making the decision before his reelection in November. Cuomo is interested in running for president, and has been positioning himself as a moderate. He faced a surprisingly strong challenge from law professor Zephyr Teachout in the Democratic primary. Teachout attacked Cuomo from the left on a number of issues such as economic inequality, corporate influence over government, and fracking, but her campaign credited the “fracktivists” with being their best organized and most vocal constituency.Share This Post
By JESSE McKINLEYDEC. 18, 2014
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — To get a sense of the deep disappointment felt by many here at the twin killings of two potentially lucrative dreams, hydraulic fracturing and a new luxury casino, one needed to look no further than the front-page headline of Thursday’s edition of The Press & Sun-Bulletin.
It was two letters, in red type: “NO!”
That cry could seemingly be heard all along New York State’s Southern Tier, which borders Pennsylvania and has long been one of the state’s most stubborn economic laggards. In recent years, both hydraulic fracturing — known as fracking — and casinos had been posited as potential economic saviors here, where residents and leaders have watched with envy as neighboring Pennsylvanians dived into both industries.
Both those hopes were dashed on Wednesday, and nearly simultaneously. Just after noon, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a statewide ban on fracking, because of health and environmental concerns. Two hours later, a state board charged with recommending casino locations rejected two Southern Tier applicants in favor of a more grandiose proposal in the Finger Lakes.Share This Post
$100 oil might be a thing of the past
Goldman Sachs told the industry in October to be ready for $75 oil. Obviously, both Brent and West Texas Intermediate crude benchmarks blew past that mark in November and December, with WTI hovering around $61 per barrel. But the thrust of Goldman's argument remains -- the oil industry should be ready to weather a lenghty price downturn. Like Citigroup said, the era of $100 may be over.
Tumbling oil prices have exposed a weakness in the insurance that some U.S. shale drillers bought to protect themselves against a crash.
At least six companies, including Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and Noble Energy Inc., used a strategy known as a three-way collar that doesn’t guarantee a minimum price if crude falls below a certain level, according to company filings. While three-ways can be cheaper than other hedges, they can leave drillers exposed to steep declines.
“Producers are inherently bullish,” said Mike Corley, the founder of Mercatus Energy Advisors, a Houston-based firm that advises companies on hedging strategies. “It’s just the nature of the business. You’re not going to go drill holes in the ground if you think prices are going down.”
To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/12/19/oil-crash-exposes-new-risks-for-u-s-shale-drillers/Share This Post
BY ALEXEI KOSEFFAKOSEFF@SACBEE.COM
12/18/2014 4:07 PM 12/18/2014 4:07 PM
Michael Peevey ended his tumultuous final term as president of the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday with a lengthy, laudatory and at times feisty farewell session.
As the crowd gave him a standing ovation to the strains of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” Peevey closed his final remarks with a laugh: “I surrender. Don’t shoot, I surrender!”
Peevey announced in October that he would not seek reappointment after two terms as head of the board that regulates California’s massive energy and telecommunications industries. He was caught in scandal this fall following the release of e-mails showing back-channel communications between Peevey and a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. executive over political contributions.Share This Post
Thursday, December 18, 2014 | Sacramento, CA | Permalink
Original source: http://www.capradio.org/38749
The leader of one of California’s most powerful regulatory agencies is resigning at the end of the year. Michael Peevey led his final meeting Thursday as president of the California Public Utilities Commission.
The commission’s public comment stretched well over two hours, with lots of praise for Michael Peevey. Energy consultant Mason Willrich called Peevey visionary and energetic, pragmatic yet firm, and impossible to intimidate.
“Mike Peevey played the catalytic role in California’s recovery from the electricity crisis. In the process, he restored the commission’s stature as one of the nation’s leading economic regulatory bodies,” Willrich said.
But San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson said Peevey bears responsibility for the 2010 natural gas explosion that killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes.
“His leadership perpetrated a culture of arrogance, lack of appropriate regulatory relationship, too cozy interaction with the utilities that are supposed to be regulated, inappropriate illegal communication, and the list goes on,” Jackson said.Share This Post
GTM Research analyst says “the economics look promising even today.”
December 18, 2014
The market for behind-the-meter solar photovoltaics (PV) paired with energy storage will surpass $1 billion by 2018 in the United States, according to the latest report from GTM Research. The report, The Future of Solar-Plus-Storage in the U.S., forecasts the nation to install 318 cumulative megawatts of behind-the-meter solar-plus-storage capacity through 2018.
FIGURE: U.S. Solar-Plus-Storage Annual Market Size Forecast
Between California’s recent mandate for the state to procure 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage for its grid and the announcement of Tesla’s Giga factory, the energy storage market is nearing a tipping point. Paired with solar, energy storage becomes even more attractive given its ability to take advantage of the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in certain situations. It also allows the owner to scale down the size of the system, as opposed to installing a standalone system, resulting in lower effective upfront costs.
The report identifies several trends helping solar-plus-storage grow to a billion-dollar business in the U.S., including strong solar PV growth, falling battery costs, state incentives, net energy metering changes and resiliency needs.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/US-Solar-Plus-Storage-Market-to-Surpass-1-Billion-by-2018Share This Post
by Jeff St. John
by Jeff St. John
The legal challenge of the decade for demand response now awaits a Supreme Court decision. We look at how the industry is reacting to the uncertainty—as well as driving innovation.
Over the past six months, the U.S. demand response industry has been enveloped in a legal challenge, one that’s threatening to disrupt a decade-old, multi-billion-dollar way of doing business in grid markets around the country.
Or, it could end up being reversed by the Supreme Court -- but not for at least a year.
This is the saga of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order 745, the federal court decision that overturned it in May, the subsequent challenges from power plant operators that could radically expand that decision’s scope, and the resulting grim uncertainty facing the industry this holiday season.
From its genesis as a relatively simple challenge to a federal order, the case has evolved into a pending Supreme Court showdown over the extent to which federal and state regulators can or can’t allow demand -- that is, anything on the customer side of the power meter -- to participate in grid affairs.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/featured/ferc-order-745-the-supreme-court-and-the-future-of-demand-responseShare This Post
Demand response court challenges can’t stop residential programs.
December 19, 2014
TXU Energy was one of the first energy retailers to offer a smart thermostat program, way back in 2009.
The Texas retailer has now chosen EnergyHub to manage those thermostats, which number in the tens of thousands, according to EnergyHub.
The iThermostat program will now come with location-based controls, via which customers can set their thermostats to adjust as a mobile device leaves or returns to the house. The system works so that multiple devices are all connected.
For the past five years, Comverge was the platform provider for TXU’s iThermostat program. Recently, however, TXU has been looking to increase its offerings in the competitive landscape of Texas electricity companies.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Smart-Thermostat-Programs-Roll-onShare This Post