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May 25th, 2012 Archives
Published: Thursday, May 24, 2012, 3:00 AM
By Plain Dealer guest columnist
Catherine Wolfram is associate professor of business administration at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is co-director of the Energy Institute. She is a contributor to Bloomberg View's Business Class.
In the late 1990s, regulators in some states began to make electric utilities sell their nuclear reactors to private operators. They weren't trying to help head off climate change, yet they managed to do just that.
Deregulation was supposed to bring down power prices. The sale of nuclear plants to nonutility owners, such as Exelon Corp., was part of the process and was intended to serve that goal. But it also helped offset more greenhouse gas emissions in the 2000s than all of the wind and solar generation in the country combined.
Increased nuclear output is an example of what I call "low-tech cleantech," or the intelligent management of our energy infrastructure to make it more efficient. A small improvement in nuclear operations can have a much bigger impact than double- digit growth in renewable power sources for a simple reason: Nuclear reactors today generate far more of the United States' electricity than wind turbines and solar panels.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2012/05/fighting_climate_change_with_s.htmlShare This Post
| Posted Thursday, May 24, 2012, at 5:41 PM ET
Goldman Sachs is making a dash to invest in renewable energy projects. It says it will invest $40 billion of its own and clients’ money over a decade. The Wall Street firm isn’t above self-serving spin, but it’s also never far from the money. With solar and wind power nearing cost levels that are competitive with fossil fuels, clean energy could burnish Goldman’s bottom line as well as its green credentials.
A degree of cynicism over Thursday’s announcement is warranted. The firm helped funnel $4.8 billion to clean energy firms in 2011, so its latest pledge, averaged over 10 years, would actually represent a drop in investment in the sector. But in fact Goldman has a record of being better than its word on environmental investments. A $1 billion commitment in 2005 turned into the deployment of $24 billion of financing by the end of 2011.
And, of course, money talks. Goldman’s timing looks spot on. Solar and wind power seem close to a tipping point in many parts of the world, including the firm’s home market.
In sunny U.S. states like California, for instance, the price of solar electricity under long-term contracts has plunged from about 17 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2010 to around 8 cents now, according to Green Tech Media. It would cost a couple of cents more without government incentives, but it’s now within striking distance of electricity generated from natural gas. At today’s low gas prices, that runs around 6 cents per kilowatt-hour.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.slate.com/blogs/breakingviews/2012/05/24/goldman_renewable_energy_dash_is_more_than_a_greenwash_.html?wpisrc=sl_iphoneShare This Post
Help is still needed: where does the federal government fit in?
Kate Rowland | May 24, 2012
It's not often in recent months that I have had cause to discuss hearings of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources here in this column.Share This Post
May 24 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Anna Dolianitis Aiken Standard, S.C.
With the recent startup of the Biomass Cogeneration Facility to provide clean energy to the Savannah River Site, a coal-burning facility that powered the site for 60 years is now preparing for deactivation.Share This Post
POWERnews May 24, 2012
Compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS) by April 2015 will require coal generators in the Midwest to install retrofits at a pace and scale that exceeds “historical demonstrated capability,” and it will impose taxing bottlenecks on the nation’s power sector labor, equipment, and supply chain, a new study suggests.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.powermag.com/POWERnews/4680.html?hq_e=el&hq_m=2450308&hq_l=6&hq_v=b60407b3b2Share This Post
POWERnews May 24, 2012
To counter generator-announced plans to retire nearly 14,000 MW of generation between May 2012 and the end of 2015 and boost reliability, the PJM Interconnection Board last week approved nearly $2 billion in transmission upgrades.
The grid operator that serves 13 Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia will embark on 130 transmission upgrades related to the generation retirements, it said. These projects range from simple equipment replacements to new substations to rebuilding existing transmission lines and building new lines. “The upgrades will allow electricity to flow safely from other sources to replace the retiring generation,” PJM said.
More than half of the improvements are in Ohio, particularly around Cleveland, stemming from a flurry of proposed retirement announcements of generators along Lake Erie.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.powermag.com/POWERnews/4685.html?hq_e=el&hq_m=2450308&hq_l=14&hq_v=b60407b3b2Share This Post
May 23 - Jon Chavez The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
With electric rates currently at competitively lower prices, several municipal utilities in northwest Ohio are locked into agreements to buy power for the next three decades from a new plant in Illinois whose cost overruns could drive its power delivery rates up by as much as 30 percent.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.energycentral.com/functional/news/news_detail.cfm?did=24676685Share This Post
May 24 - McClatchy Washington Bureau
Alaska has massive hydro, wind, geothermal and other renewable resources, but the state's rural villages are chained to diesel and suffer oppressive energy costs they say threaten their existence. Lawmakers, energy experts and Native leaders said Thursday it's a dire problem with elusive solutions.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.energycentral.com/functional/news/news_detail.cfm?did=24700353Share This Post
The great pipeline battle
The energy industry and Stephen Harper’s government try to ensure tar-sands oil gets to market
May 26th 2012 | OTTAWA | from the print edition
AT FIRST glance, the public hearing of Canada’s National Energy Board that began on May 23rd involves only a minor matter. Enbridge, an energy distributor, wants permission to reverse the flow of Line 9, a duct of 195km (121 miles) which moves imported oil westward to petrochemical plants in Sarnia, Ontario. Instead, Enbridge wants the pipeline to carry light crude oil eastward, from Alberta and North Dakota to a refinery in Nanticoke, Ontario, and then to others in Quebec. But environmentalists in both Canada and the United States have filed petitions against the switch. They worry that, if it is approved, Line 9 will soon start moving oil from the Alberta tar sands to Montreal and then, if the flow of another pipeline is reversed, to Portland, Maine for export.
Oil production from the tar sands is set to rise from 2m barrels a day (b/d) to 3.3m by 2020, or from 58% to 72% of Canada’s total oil output. Getting this oil to market is a mounting worry for Canada’s energy industry and for Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. That is because the necessary infrastructure is opposed both by local communities and by greens, who want to halt development of the tar sands. Per barrel, the extraction of oil from bitumen emits between three and four times as much carbon and other greenhouse gases as conventional oil does, according to the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank in Calgary. But other estimates are much lower.
The Line 9 hearing comes as two other potential routes for tar-sands oil face problems. The Obama administration has withheld approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would take oil to Gulf coast refiners. (TransCanada, Keystone’s promoter, still hopes for approval.) Mr Harper has courted China as an alternative market for the oil, but that depends on approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project, a C$5.5 billion ($5.4 billion) 1,177km twin pipeline from Edmonton to Kitimat in British Columbia. The route crosses the land of 50 or so First Nations bands (indigenous tribes). More than 4,000 people have registered to speak at the environmental hearings, which began in January.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.economist.com/node/21555928Share This Post
Posted: 05/24/2012 12:57 pm
Jeffrey Ball is scholar-in-residence at Stanford University's Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance. Before coming to Stanford last fall, he spent 14 years as a reporter, columnist and editor at The Wall Street Journal, writing for much of that time about energy and the environment and serving most recently as The Journal's environment editor. Ball also wrote the essay "Tough Love for Renewable Energy" in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs.
It's Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the U.S. summer driving season, when, in an annual rite, Americans get mad as hell about energy.
The seasonal one-two punch of a surge in road trips and, typically, a rise in gasoline prices invariably gets Americans griping about an energy system they see as stacked against them. But as the righteous indignation rises along with the pain at the pump, it's worth taking a deep breath and remembering that today's energy dilemma isn't beyond Americans' control. Plenty of places around the globe have made big changes in their energy systems -- when they have decided they have no other choice.
The U.S. itself has embarked on an energy shift, and now the question is how far the shift will go. President Obama today is scheduled to visit a wind-turbine-blade factory in Iowa, a stop where he no doubt will tout the goal of a more sweeping American energy revolution. But America's energy challenge is in important ways unique, and so an American energy revolution would require a particular kind of strategy -- one that's ruthlessly economically efficient.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-ball/energy-revolution_b_1542969.html?ref=green&ir=GreenShare This Post
By Thomas Gnau, Staff Writer Updated 6:44 AM Wednesday, May 23, 2012
DAYTON — Environmental standards don’t impede commercial innovation, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator told a local audience Tuesday. Instead, standards spur industry growth and boost employment, he said.
One of the few U.S. industries to enjoy a positive balance of trade — meaning U.S. exports exceed foreign imports — is the environmental technology industry, which employs about 2 million Americans, said Bob Perciasepe, deputy administrator of the U.S. EPA.
He spoke on the first day of the Making Water Connections conference, Dayton’s annual convention on the importance of water to regional businesses. The event continues at 8:30 a.m. today at the University of Dayton’s River Campus, 1700 S. Patterson Blvd.
Technology to help businesses meet environmental standards brought in $312 billion in revenue in 2010, Perciasepe said, and that global market is expected to grow 7 percent annually. “A 7 percent growth rate sounds pretty good these days,” he said. “Investors are taking note.”
The move to unleaded gasoline in the 1970s helped make America the leader in catalytic converters, Perciasepe said. Acid-rain concerns led to the U.S. becoming the leader in smokestack scrubbers, he said. Gas mileage standards spurred Alcoa to expand a Davenport, Iowa, aluminum rolling plant with $300 millionlast year, adding 150 jobs, he also said.
“You start to see a pattern,” Perciasepe said.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.daytondailynews.com/business/environmental-standards-drive-growth-official-says-1379847.htmlShare This Post
City says charter changes exempt Boulder from state law
Posted: 05/23/2012 06:51:46 PM MDT
Updated: 05/24/2012 09:25:04 AM MDT
Boulder and Xcel Energy before the PUC
To read all the filings in response to Xcel Energy's request to end or limit certain renewable-energy and energy-efficiency programs in Boulder, go to dora.state.co.us/puc and click on "E-Filings" on the left-hand side. The docket number is 12A-155E.
Responses to Xcel Energy's request were due Friday. Responses to the responses are due June 15. A pre-trial conference to decide how the case should proceed is scheduled for June 27.
Boulder may need to hold another election to ask voters' permission to buy Xcel Energy assets if the city decides to pursue the creation of a municipal energy utility, attorneys with the state Attorney General's Office suggested in a filing with the Public Utilities Commission.
But Boulder officials said the city's home rule status and charter changes -- made as a result of last year's vote on ballot measures that authorized the creation of a municipal utility -- make the city exempt from the requirement.
The filing came from attorneys assigned to the PUC by the Attorney General's Office, and spokesmen for both the attorney general and the PUC said the filing does not represent a formal opinion by Attorney General John Suthers.
Attorneys with experience in eminent domain said the formation of a municipal utility is so rare that there is very little applicable case law. The statute appears to have been written in 1975, and Tim Flanagan, a Denver-based attorney who bid to represent Boulder against Xcel but was not selected, said he's not aware of any instance in which it's been implemented.
"I've only been practicing for 40 years," Flanagan said. "There hasn't been a fight like this in 40 years."
Xcel Energy has asked the PUC for permission to change or end several energy-efficiency and renewable-energy programs in Boulder as a way to protect the company's investments if the city forms its own utility. Boulder has argued that the move amounts to discrimination against Xcel customers who are Boulder residents and is premature, given that the city has just started researching the feasibility and cost of municipalization.
Responses to Xcel's filing were due Friday. In addition to Boulder, the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, Noble Energy Inc., Western Resource Advocates and the trial staff of the PUC itself filed responses.
The trial staff of the PUC, as well as the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel, backed Boulder's position that it is too early in the process for Xcel Energy to seek to withdraw energy-efficiency and renewable-energy programs and said Xcel should present more data on the programs' costs and utilization to justify its concerns.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_20694670Share This Post
Amid Push for Cash, the Natural-Gas Firm Plans to Sell Its Acreage in Colorado and Wyoming
Chesapeake Energy Corp. plans to sell half a million acres of its oil and gas holdings in the Rocky Mountains, where the natural-gas producer has struggled to earn money, as it pushes to raise cash.
Chesapeake is shopping its acreage in what is known as the DJ Basin, which stretches beneath Colorado and Wyoming, and where it operates 29 wells.
A spokesman for Chesapeake said Thursday that the acreage for sale holds promise, but is no longer central to the company's strategy. Instead, Chesapeake will focus its drilling in another 500,000 acres in east-central Wyoming.
The move comes as Chesapeake seeks to raise as much as $11.5 billion to pay for its ramped up drilling in oil-rich areas and to slash its $13.1 billion of long-term debt to $9.5 billion by the end of the year. The lowest natural-gas prices in a decade have eroded the company's cash flow, prompting it to shed even some of the most lucrative assets in a portfolio that covers more than 15 million acres across the country.
To read the entire article go to: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304840904577424361471639178.html?mod=WSJ_Energy_leftHeadlinesShare This Post
A version of this article originally appeared on Sightline Daily.
Eric de Place is a senior researcher at Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based sustainability think tank, working on promoting smart policy decisions for the Pacific Northwest.
There are at present six proposals to export coal from Northwest ports. If all of these proposals are built, and if all of them operate at full capacity, the Northwest would be shipping 145 million tons of per coal year.
When burned, that coal will produce roughly 262 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. It’s such a staggering figure that it’s a little hard to grasp. So here’s some context:
The coal export proposals are, in other words, a disaster for the climate. In aggregate, they are actually far worse than the Keystone XL pipeline.
If you want to dig into the numbers on a project-by-project basis, here they are:Share This Post
The state Public Utilities Commission raises the maximum total capacity for all rooftop solar systems in an electric bill-slashing program to about 5,200 megawatts from 2,400 megawatts.
By Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times
May 25, 2012
SACRAMENTO — California is poised to more than double its targeted electricity output from rooftop solar panels.
The state Public Utilities Commission on Thursday tweaked its rules to authorize an increase in the number of residential, commercial and government buildings that can participate in a program that allows solar users to lower their electricity bills by getting credit for excess power sent back to the grid.
The move raises the maximum total capacity of all the state's rooftop solar systems to about 5,200 megawatts from a current 2,400 megawatts. That's enough new electricity to power about 2.1 million homes.
Proponents said the PUC's 5-0 decision would ensure that California would remain the nation's leader in solar power. The state's solar industry employs more than 25,000 workers and has raised more than $10 billion in private investment, they said.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-puc-solar-20120525,0,4107903.storyShare This Post