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By CORAL DAVENPORTAPRIL 25, 2017
The oil drill rig Kulluk in 2013 off Kodiak Island in Alaska. President Trump is expected to sign an order this week opening up protected waters to offshore drilling.
James Brooks/Kodiak Daily Mirror, via Associated Press
WASHINGTON — After moving last month against Barack Obama’s efforts to limit fossil fuel exploration and combat climate change, President Trump will complete his effort to overturn environmental policy this week, signing two executive orders to expand offshore drilling and roll back conservation on public lands.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump signed an executive order directing his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, to review national monuments designated by previous presidents under the Antiquities Act of 1906, aiming to roll back the borders of protected lands and open them to drilling, mining and logging.
The president is then expected to follow up on Friday with another executive order aimed at opening up protected waters in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans to offshore drilling. The order would direct Mr. Zinke to revisit an Obama administration plan that would have put those waters off limits to drilling through 2022. Friday’s order is also expected to call for the lifting of a permanent ban on drilling in an area including many of those same waters — a measure Mr. Obama issued in December 2016 in a last-ditch effort to protect his environmental legacy from his drilling-enthusiast successor.
The moves — just before Mr. Trump’s 100th day in office — would begin to fulfill a central campaign promise to unleash a wave of new oil and gas drilling and create thousands of jobs in energy.
The reality is more complicated, experts in the law, policy and economics of energy said. The orders are not likely to lead either to significant new energy development or to job creation in the near future. With oil prices around $50 a barrel and production already glutting world markets, few oil companies are making plans to expand into costlier, riskier offshore drilling.Share This Post
A panel with leaders from Shell, GE and BHP Billiton just recommended steep declines in fossil fuel use.
April 26, 2017
We've entered a topsy-turvy moment in energy where coal supporters want solar power and oil execs have endorsed cutting fossil fuel use.
The latter appeared in a new decarbonization roadmap from the Energy Transitions Commission, an all-star working group charting the energy future that includes the chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, the head of sustainability at massive mining company BHP Billiton, the CEO of General Electric Oil and Gas, as well as leaders from prominent global banks, development organizations and climate-oriented NGOs.
The terminology in "Better Energy, Greater Prosperity" will be familiar to anyone following the Paris climate agreement and subsequent mobilization, but the cast of characters here differs in a crucial way. Each commission member might not agree with every detail, the report notes, but they collectively "endorse the general thrust of the arguments."
That means some of the world's most powerful fossil fuel providers and financial lenders have publicly affirmed the need to sharply cut oil, gas and coal usage and switch to clean sources. And they believe this can be done without macroeconomic disruption, but rather with a net welfare gain for society.
The commissioners set out to balance two highly complex goals: to drastically slash carbon emissions, as dictated by the Paris Agreement, while increasing energy access to hundreds of millions of people who lack the electricity needed for a modern standard of living. Framed differently, the world must increase the economic benefit per unit of energy consumed, while increasing the share of zero-carbon energy.Share This Post
Aging well was located 170 feet from where home exploded
Dennis Herrera, Special to The Denver Post
1 of 15
A home explosion in Firestone Monday, April 17, 2017 killed two and sent two people to the hospital.
PUBLISHED: April 26, 2017 at 4:18 pm | UPDATED: April 27, 2017 at 7:23 am
Anadarko Petroleum Corp., the state’s largest oil and gas producer, plans to shut down 3,000 vertical wells in northeastern Colorado after a fatal home explosion in Firestone near one of its wells.
State regulators announced they are investigating the cause of the April 17 explosion that killed two men in a recently built home located within 170 feet of a well that was drilled in 1993 and later acquired by Anadarko.
Frederick-Firestone Fire Protection District Chief Theodore Poszywak said his department also will continue to gather and analyze evidence to determine the cause of the explosion.
“While the well in the vicinity is one aspect of the investigation, this is a complex investigation and the origin and cause of the fire have not been determined,” Poszywak said.
He added that “there is no threat to surrounding homes” and said fire investigators have been in contact with surrounding residents.
Anadarko said while a lot of unknowns remain about the explosion, it would shut in all vertical wells of that same vintage out of an “abundance of caution.”Share This Post
Posted by ryanhandy
Date: April 25, 2017
A West Texas solar farm financed in part by the city of Houston started generating power last week and has secured Houston’s position as the largest municipal purchaser of renewable energy in the country.
French energy company Engie developed and runs the SolaireHolman solar farm in Alpine. The farm has more than 200,000 solar panels that stretch across 360 acres, according to a news release from Engie.
The city will pay 4.486 cents per kilowatt hour for solar energy through a power purchase agreement, which requires monthly payments over 20 years for the value of the solar power and does not require the city to own the solar equipment.
The city is paying for 50 megawatts of solar power, which translates to about 10 percent of the power the city-owned buildings use.Share This Post
BY CHRIS MEGERIAN
April 27, 2017, 12:05 a.m.
California’s ambitious efforts to fight climate change have been almost exclusively supported by Democrats, but that could be changing.
A top Republican and some of his colleagues are taking the unusual step of embracing the state’s complex system of regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, pledging to work with Democrats at the same time President Trump rolls back national policies on global warming.
“Californians, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, are different from the rest of the country,” said Assembly Minority Leader Chad Mayes, who represents parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “What they’re doing back in Washington, D.C., is not what we’re going to be doing in California.”
Mayes and almost all of his colleagues voted against last year’s measure to set a new, tougher target for slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. But now that the goal has become law, he wants to work with Democrats on extending the cap-and-trade program, which requires companies to buy permits to release emissions into the atmosphere.
“It would be foolish not to engage,” said Mayes, who has huddled with a cadre of Assembly Republicans to start developing their own ideas about limiting the price of emission permits and using the program’s revenue for tax credits or rebates. Their stance aligns with that of industry groups such as oil companies and food processors that have already backed cap and trade as a more cost-effective alternative to stricter rules for cutting emissions.
Lawmakers are debating the program’s future because there are legal questions over whether cap and trade can continue operating after 2020, and the Republicans’ effort to get involved could reshape this year’s conversations over policies that are usually crafted by Democrats debating among themselves. The law that launched cap and trade was signed in 2006 by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an outspoken champion of fighting global warming, but he’s been a high-profile exception to the deep partisan divide on the issue.
Gaining bipartisan support for cap and trade, California’s most high-profile climate initiative, could be a political coup for Gov. Jerry Brown at a time when Trump is threatening an international agreement on global warming. It could also offer new paths toward a two-thirds vote to extend the program, a higher level needed to protect it from legal challenges. Democrats hold enough seats to reach that threshold on their own, but just barely, a challenge that became clear during a nail-biter of a vote to raise taxes to fund road repairs.
http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-93082856/Share This Post
On this week’s Interchange podcast, we have a progress report on New York’s ambitious plan to reform electricity markets.
April 27, 2017
In April of 2014, three of New York's most influential figures in energy -- Governor Andrew Cuomo, state "energy czar" Richard Kauffman and then-chief regulator Audrey Zibelman -- launched one of the most ambitious reform efforts in the history of electricity. It was called Reforming the Energy Vision.
It was simple, but extraordinarily bold. Here's how Zibelman explained it: “By fundamentally restructuring the way utilities and energy companies sell electricity, New York can maximize the utilization of resources, and reduce the need for new infrastructure through expanded demand management, energy efficiency, renewable energy, distributed generation, and energy storage programs.”
We’re a few years on since that vision was first articulated. And so it’s a good time to ask: What has REV accomplished so far? Is the state any closer to redesigning the electricity market than it was three years ago?
This week, we're bringing Lisa Frantzis onto The Interchange podcast. Frantzis, who's senior vice president at Advanced Energy Economy, has been knee-deep in the acronyms, buzzwords and orders. And she’s going to guide us through REV.Share This Post
A conceptual drawing of a vertical-takeoff airplane. Joby Aviation
Where technology and economics collide
We’ve gotten used to transportation technology improving at a glacial pace. Today’s cars and airplanes look and work about the same as they did 25 and even 50 years ago. But two announcements this week made it clear that the pace of innovation in transportation is about to accelerate dramatically.
On Monday, Google’s Waymo unit announced it was opening its self-driving car program to members of the general public in Phoenix. Waymo has ordered 500 Chrysler Pacifica minivans and will provide free rides to hundreds of customers who are accepted into the company’s pilot program.
Then on Tuesday, Uber announced that it was aiming to launch a network of small, vertical-takeoff electric aircraft — essentially, flying cars — in the Dallas area by 2020. The system could cut a 45-minute commute down to a few minutes, and in the long run Uber expects flights to be cheaper than conventional Uber rides.
Uber’s Jeff Holden said that these kinds of flying taxis represent “the pinnacle of urban mobility — the reduction of congestion and pollution from transportation, giving people their time back, freeing up real estate dedicated to parking and providing access to mobility in all corners of a city.”
Those are just the two most recent examples of a dramatic transformation in how we move ourselves and our stuff around. We’re also seeing rapid progress on delivery drones, self-driving trucks, supersonic airplanes, and even rockets. In all, there are major transportation breakthroughs being developed today. Almost all of these technologies already have working prototypes. And all of them have well-funded companies aiming to bring them to market by the early 2020s.
Not only will these transportation revolutions make our lives safer and more convenient, but they could also change how people feel about the economy and technological progress more generally. Seeing cars drive themselves and drones and flying cars zip over their heads could give people a palpable sense of progress — one that’s been missing in recent decades.
- Electric cars
By David R. Baker Published 5:17 pm, Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Every time a California community starts buying electricity on behalf of its residents — as San Francisco does with its new CleanPowerSF program — the state’s traditional utilities get stuck with excess electrons that they’ve already bought but no longer need.
Customers of such “community choice aggregation” projects pay a monthly fee to the utilities designed to cover the costs of that excess power.
Now the utilities want to raise it.
On Tuesday, the state’s three big, investor-owned utilities filed a formal proposal with California energy regulators to change the way the fee is calculated, arguing that the current system no longer works.
Instead of spreading the costs of unneeded power fairly between utility customers who join a community choice program and those who don’t, the current system places too much burden on the latter, according to the utilities.
“At some point the customers who are left behind are going to face a really unreasonable burden, said Steve Malnight, PG&E’s senior vice president of strategy and policy. “We have to think differently about this.”
California’s first such program, Marin Clean Energy, launched in 2010. Now community choice programs account for 13 percent of all the electrical demand on PG&E’s grid, and the company estimates that figure could grow to 38 percent by 2020. Sonoma County offers a program, as do a group of cities on the Peninsula, as well as San Francisco.
This year, PG&E customers who don’t belong to a community choice program will pay $180 million more to cover the costs of excess electricity than those who do, the company estimates. And as the popularity of community choice programs grows, that imbalance could grow to $500 million by 2020.Share This Post
PG&E and the other two major power utilities in California issued a proposal on Tuesday that could reshape the system that enables customers to choose whether they want their service from local power agencies or the energy behemoths that have provided gas and electricity in the state for a century.
PUBLISHED: April 25, 2017 at 5:13 pm | UPDATED: April 26, 2017 at 4:30 am
PG&E and the other two major power utilities in California issued a proposal Tuesday that could reshape a system which enables customers to choose whether they want their service from local power agencies or from the energy giants that have provided natural gas and electricity in the state for a century.
The utilities are alarmed that customers who elect to remain with the legacy power titans might be forced to endure an increasingly larger share of the costs to provide electricity needs, compared with the costs borne by those who opt to flee to a smaller power authority as their electricity provider.
“If the current system isn’t changed, we would have to ask for higher rates down the road, which would increase monthly bills,” said Donald Cutler, a PG&E spokesman. “We need these changes so PG&E can continue to support California’s energy future and to ensure that all customers are treated equally.”
A growing number of California communities have created — or are actively studying the establishment of — local power agencies, which are officially known by the bureaucratic moniker of “community choice aggregation.”
In the Bay Area, local power authorities have sprouted in the South Bay, the East Bay, the San Francisco area and the North Bay.
“California stands at the crossroads of its energy future,” according to the proposal from PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, which was filed with the state Public Utilities Commission. “The state is ambitiously pursuing a fundamental transformation of the electric system to achieve historic greenhouse-gas reduction goals. At the same time, the move toward customer choice through community choice aggregation (CCA), as well as other retail choice options, is accelerating.”
PG&E uses the analogy of who pays for a big dinner for 10 people to underscore what it believes are the threats that face customers who remain with the utility giants, compared with the benefits for those who opt to be served by a local power agency, or CCA.
“You have 10 people who agree to go to dinner, and four of them decide to leave without paying for the dinner tab, leaving six people to cover the cost for 10,” said Cutler said. “That’s what is happening as more people opt into a CCA.”
Big utilities are being obliged to undertake and pay for long-term commitments — the equivalent of the meal for 10 in the utility’s view — over a period of 20 years to procure electricity from clean energy sources. But PG&E believes that customers who remain with big utilities must bear an expanding burden to pay for those investments as more people exit the legacy system. PG&E estimated that this year it must bear $180 million in additional costs that should be borne by the local power agencies, or CCAs, in its area. By 2020, that cost will swell to $500 million, PG&E said.
Not so fast, said Alan Suleiman, director of marketing with Silicon Valley Clean Energy, a Sunnyvale-based CCA that began operations April 4, serving the cities of Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Saratoga, Sunnyvale and unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County.Share This Post
PUBLISHED: April 26, 2017 at 12:01 am | UPDATED: April 26, 2017 at 6:00 am
California’s brutal five-year drought did more than lead to water shortages and dead lawns. It increased electricity bills statewide by $2.45 billion and boosted levels of smog and greenhouse gases, according to a new study released Wednesday.
Why? A big drop-off in hydroelectric power. With little rain or snow between 2012 and 2016, cheap, clean power from dozens of large dams around California was scarce, and cities and utilities had to use more electricity from natural-gas-fired power plants, which is more expensive and pollutes more.
“The drought has cost us in ways we didn’t necessarily anticipate or think about. It cost us economically and environmentally,” said Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based nonprofit group that researches water issues, and author of the report.
California has 287 hydroelectric dams — from small reservoirs in the Sierra Nevada to massive hydroelectric operations at its largest reservoirs like Shasta, Oroville and Folsom. Water spins turbines and creates electricity as it is released into rivers and creeks, and although dams are expensive to build and can harm salmon and other species, once constructed, their electricity costs less than power from many other sources.
From 1983 to 2013, an average of 18 percent of California’s in-state electricity generation came from hydroelectric power. But during the drought, from 2012 to 2016, that fell nearly in half, to 10.5 percent. In the driest year, 2015, hydroelectric power made up just 7 percent of the electricity generated in California.
Although solar and wind power increased during the drought years, grid operators and other power managers still needed to boost electricity from natural gas-fired power plants. Natural gas generates less pollution than coal, which is nearly entirely phased out in California following decades of laws to reduce smog. But the extra natural gas burned during the drought increased greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in California by about 10 percent, or 24.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide between 2012 and 2016.
That’s the same amount of heat-trapping pollution as adding 2.2 million more cars to the road over that time — or roughly doubling all the cars currently registered in Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties.Share This Post
APRIL 25, 2017 12:01 AM
BY JIM MILLER
The damage has been done and the repair contract awarded. Yet more than two months after damaged spillways at the Oroville Dam prompted authorities to order the evacuation of 188,000 people, the question of who will ultimately pay the bill remains murky.
How much will be the responsibility of homeowners, businesses, farmers and other customers of the more than two dozen local and regional agencies that contract with the State Water Project? The 700-mile network of canals, pipelines and lakes, including Lake Oroville, brings water mostly from Northern California to parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California.
What will be the cost to state taxpayers, who have approved billions of dollars in borrowing to pay for flood prevention and dam-related work, most of which has already been spoken for? Will the federal government have a role after the Trump administration’s recent approval of $274 million to cover emergency repair costs from mid-February through May?
Government officials and water policy experts say they don’t know who will end up on the hook for a cost some believe ultimately could approach $1 billion. Despite its importance to the lives of millions of Californians, the system exists outside California’s normal state budgeting process.
“That’s a question that even I don’t know the answer to,” said state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, the top Republican on the Senate’s budget subcommittee that oversees the water project and other resources programs, and whose district includes Oroville. “There will be substantial costs.”
|27||The number of local and regional water agencies that contract with the State Water Project|
Water project costs are allocated under a doctrine that calls for the beneficiary to pay. Contractors and their customers are responsible for water supply-related expenses. Federal, state and local governments have historically shared the water project’s flood-control expenses. And state government and user fees have covered the tab for water project recreation, fish and wildlife costs.
Disagreements regularly arise.Share This Post
APRIL 25, 2017 6:22 PM
BY KAYTLYN LESLIE
If PG&E’s application to shutter Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in 2025 is approved in the coming months, ratepayers will likely see a new charge on their bills.
The company has proposed a short-term 1.6 percent average rate increase to pay for some of the costs of closing the nuclear power plant near Avila Beach — including a $350 million employee retention and retraining program, an $85 million settlement to local cities and San Luis Obispo County and $53 million the company spent while it was attempting to relicense its two nuclear reactors prior to reaching the closure agreement.
The change will add between $0.99 and $2.41 to the average residential customer’s monthly bill until the fee sunsets after eight years. Small commercial businesses’ bills would increase by about $4.63 per month.
The rate increase, which would affect all PG&E customers across California, will net the company about $1.8 billion.
The increase is still subject to approval by the California Public Utilities Commission, however, as part of the company’s closure application. A timeline has not yet been set for when the increase could show up on customers’ bills if approved.
The Office of Ratepayer Advocates has criticized PG&E’s proposal, saying the burden of paying for the some of the closure costs — namely the local settlement that will help support the community through the closure — should be on company shareholders, not ratepayers.
“If PG&E wants to make a charitable contribution or a goodwill payment to the community, it is certainly entitled to do so, but not with ratepayer money,” the Office of Ratepayer Advocates wrote in its response to PG&E’s application. “Since PG&E is likely to issue public statements taking credit for the additional payments contained in the settlement to realize badly needed public relations value, there should be a shareholder contribution to cover these costs. Otherwise, the public may be misled into believing that shareholders are the source of the payments.Share This Post
April 25, 2017 Updated: April 25, 2017 6:10pm
Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
A Pacific Gas & Electric worker walks past an electric substation where a fire occurred and caused a citywide power outage on April 21, 2017 in San Francisco.
A letter from three top San Francisco officials to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s CEO three days after a fire at a downtown substation left 88,000 residents and 21 schools without power for seven hours requested information but no compensation.
Though City Administrator Naomi Kelly, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and emergency management Executive Director Anne Kronenberg requested a tour of the damaged Larkin Street facility and a review of all substations throughout the city, they did not ask the utility to pay for lost business on Friday.
“The impact on businesses and our transportation system led to turmoil and lost productivity throughout the city,” the three officials wrote, chiding PG&E for the aging infrastructure at the Larkin Street substation, where a $100 million overhaul was already under way.
PG&E has coughed up money for blackouts before, paying $6.5 million for a 2003 outage that darkened downtown during the busy holiday shopping day. That incident also began with a fire, at a major substation on Mission and Eighth streets.Share This Post
by Tom Randall
April 25, 2017 10:47:54 AM PDT April 25, 2017 11:56:02 AM PDT
Electric cars are coming fast -- and that’s not just the opinion of carmakers anymore. Total SA, one of the world’s biggest oil producers, is now saying EVs may constitute almost a third of new-car sales by the end of the next decade.
The surge in battery powered vehicles will cause demand for oil-based fuels to peak in the 2030s, Total Chief Energy Economist Joel Couse said at Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s conference in New York on Tuesday. EVs will make up 15 percent to 30 percent of new vehicles by 2030, after which fuel “demand will flatten out,” Couse said. “Maybe even decline.”
Couse’s projection for electric cars is the highest yet by a major oil company and exceeds BNEF’s own forecast, said Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“That’s big,” McKerracher said. “That’s by far the most aggressive we’ve seen by any of the majors."
Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance
Other oil companies have been trimming their long-term forecasts for oil demand. Royal Dutch Shell Plc Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said in March that oil demand may peak in the late 2020s. It set up a business unit to identify the clean technologies where it could be most profitable.
Electric cars are beginning to compete with gasoline models on both price and performance. The most expensive part of an electric car is the battery, which can make up half the total cost, according to BNEF. The first electric cars to be competitive on price have been in the luxury class, led by Tesla Inc.’s Model S, which is now the best-selling large luxury car in the U.S.
But battery prices are dropping by about 20 percent a year, and automakers have been spending billions to electrify their fleets. Volkswagen AG is targeting 25 percent of its sales to be electric by 2025. Toyota Motor Corp. plans to phase out fossil fuels altogether by 2050.
Electric cars currently make up about 1 percent of global vehicle sales, but traditional carmakers are preparing for transformation. In 2018, Volkswagen plows into electrification with an Audi SUV and the first high-speed U.S. charging network to rival Tesla’s Superchargers. Tata Motors Ltd.’s Jaguar and Volvo Cars both have promising cars on the way too, and by 2020, the avalanche really begins, with Mercedes-Benz, VW, General Motors Co. and others releasing dozens of new models.
Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance
“By 2020 there will be over 120 different models of EV across the spectrum,” said Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “These are great cars. They will make the internal combustion equivalent look old fashioned.”
Posted by James Osborne
Date: April 24, 2017
Cheryl LaFleur, acting Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chair and a commissioner since 2010. (Aaron M. Sprecher/Bloomberg)
WASHINGTON – Did she say that right?
Cheryl LaFleur, the acting chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, last week raised a possibility that would have seemed impossible two decades ago in the midst of the deregulation craze
“Door number three,” LaFleur told lawyers gathered at a luncheon of the conservative Federalist Society, ”is an actual change to the regulatory paradigm, not just an adjustment, reregulation.”
Such a term might sound like heresy in the state capitol in Austin, where public officials regularly extoll the virtues of Texas’s decision to deregulate electricity markets in 2002, part of a grand national experiment to see if by breaking up the old utility monopolies the government could spur innovation and bring down power costs.
As a result, the majority of customers in Texas are now free to choose among dozens of different power retailers, while coal plants, nuclear plants, wind turbines, and the like pile into a daily auction to try and sell their electricity onto the grid.
But two and a half decades after Congress passed the law that allowed deregulation, there is a nagging group wondering whether a free market for electricity is all it cracked up to be. Would it be such a bad idea for the government to step in?
READ MORE at Houstonchronicle.com: Has electricity deregulation hit a wall?Share This Post