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Every two weeks Viohl & Associates publishes an Energy Update, which provides summaries of significant federal and state energy news.  

Energy Update, January 16

January 20, 2015

In the States

CA – Governor Jerry Brown, in his recent inaugural address for his fourth term, announced his plan to generate 50% of the state’s electricity from renewable energy sources over the next 15 years while simultaneously decreasing petroleum consumption by motorists. Governor Brown also plans to make future and existing buildings in the state more energy efficient. The state’s utility companies are already on track to reach the state’s previous Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), which was 33% by 2020. Governor Brown has the authority to unilaterally increase the RPS to 50% by executive order, ask the state legislature to pass legislation, or could allow the California Public Utilities Commission to compel the state’s private utilities to reach the new target. "This is exciting, it is bold, and it is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of stopping potentially catastrophic changes to our climate system," Governor Brown said. Gov. Brown’s renewable energy plan could boost solar, wind industriesThe Los Angeles Times

IN – Governor Mike Pence proposed a new policy to allow electric utilities to set their own energy efficiency goals instead of  meeting  a statewide mandate. Earlier last year Indiana became one of the first states to roll back its energy savings program, known as Energizing Indiana, which was created by former Governor Mitch Daniels. Governor Pence’s plan, according to draft legislation, would require the state’s investor-owned utilities to submit their own three-year efficiency proposals starting in 2017 to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. The Governor’s energy policy advisor, Dan Schmidt, believes utility companies have  built-in incentives to encourage energy savings, such as the cost of generating more power. The state’s investor-owned utilities include Duke Energy and Indianapolis Power & Light Company. Pence proposes utilities set own energy-efficiency goalsIBJ

MI – Governor Rick Snyder announced his office working on a deal to lower energy prices for consumers and businesses in the Upper Peninsula (UP), the state’s northern land mass. If completed, the deal would result in a single UP-based company being responsible for the region’s energy needs. Under the deal, We Energies, the current UP utility, would sell its coal-fired power plant and utility business to Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO), which would gain about 30,000 new customers in the transaction. "With the leadership of the governor's office and the good-faith efforts of all the parties in the work group, we've developed a framework that I believe will benefit customers in the UP for decades to come," said Gale Klappa, chairman and chief executive of Wisconsin Energy, which owns We Energies. We Energies agrees to sell Upper Peninsula power plantThe Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Agreements reached to move towards UP energy solutionTV6 Upper Michigan

WI – In his State of the State address, Governor Scott Walker announced his intention to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its new regulations on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. The Governor contends the new EPA rules will increase energy prices and cause job losses in Wisconsin, which will join a growing list of states in challenging the EPA’s regulations. According to federal energy data, the state generates more than 60% of its electricity from coal power. "Instead of fighting with states like Wisconsin,” Governor Walker said, “the federal government should work with us to find reasonable alternatives. We can be both environmentally and economically sustainable.” Walker calls for smaller government, unity against terrorism in State of the State addressWKOW

Federal

Representative Bill Johnson (R-TX) introduced a new bill to expedite the approval of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects. The bill, H.R. 351, is titled the LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act. The bill’s supporters contend the act, if enacted, will help to “eliminate unnecessary bureaucratic delays” by placing a 30-day deadline on the Department of Energy to issue a final decision on LNG project applications following the completion of an environmental review. “For too long the approval process for LNG export permits has been bogged down by bureaucratic red tape,” said Rep. Johnson. “I’m honored to have introduced this bipartisan legislation to expedite the approval process for LNG export permits.”

Energy Update, January 2

January 7, 2015

In the States

MA – Ambri Inc., a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, is planning this year to connect its liquid-metal batteries to the state’s electric grid for the first time. Grid-scale batteries are similar to batteries currently used in laptops and cellphones, but eventually erode and break down over time. Ambri’s batteries, however, take a different approach by utilizing liquid metals, thereby leading to almost no degradation and the potential ability to last a decade or more. Ambri’s goal is to “allow electric utilities or big industrial plants to store power so it can be released at times of high usage.” For example, one of Ambri’s commercial grade batteries, when operational, will be rated at approximately 200 kilowatts hours, or enough power for 10 to 15 homes per day. The company, which currently operates five pilot projects at its 10,000-square foot manufacturing plant, is being courted by several New England governors as it seeks to build a full-size plant in a new location. Cambridge company’s batteries may give grid a boostThe Boston Globe

ME – Governor Paul LePage sent a letter to the state’s chief energy regulatory body, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC), requesting a review of the potential sale of a paper mill, which helps to provide renewable electricity to Central Maine Power, a utility company that serves more than 500,000 residents. The Governor hopes the PUC will determine whether the sale could possibly violate the mill’s agreement to provide renewable power and create papermaking jobs. The Bucksport-located paper mill is owned by Verso Paper Corporation, a Memphis-based company which also owns and operates a gas and biomass power plant at the same site. Patrick Woodcock, director of the Governor’s Energy Office, said the contract to supply renewable electricity is worth at last $4 million in both 2015 and 2016. Governor seeks to intervene in Verso mill saleThe Ellsworth American and LePage lobs criticism at Verso’s plan to transfer renewable energy deal to new buyerThe Bangor Daily News

MS – Mississippi utilities and state regulators, in comments filed in December to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule on carbon dioxide emissions for power plants, overwhelmingly claimed that “EPA was overstepping its legal authority.” In Mississippi, the Obama administration’s proposal in essence asks the state’s power plants to emit 38 percent less carbon dioxide in 2030 than in 2005. Appointed by Governor Phil Bryant, Gary Rikard, the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said the “EPA is attempting to federalize this nation’s energy policy, resulting in forcing the states to abandon their constitutionally derived sovereign rights.” Governor Bryant, who recently sent a letter along with 14 other Republican governors to EPA protesting their proposed rule, believes states should set their own energy policies. Mississippi groups attack carbon dioxide limits, say unreasonableThe Mississippi Business Journal

NM – The state’s Public Regulation Commission (PRC) is preparing to consider a proposal that calls for closing part of the San Juan Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant that serves more than two million customers in the southwest. The proposal, which requires the PRC’s approval, was already agreed to by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, and the New Mexico Renewable Industries Association in 2013. PNM Resources, an electric utility subsidiary of the Public Service Company of New Mexico, estimates the closing, which the company says will align with new federal environmental and emissions mandates, will cost ratepayers? at least $6 billion over twenty years . New Mexico regulators consider coal-fired plantAssociated Press

Federal

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently approved a proposal to build a natural gas export plant and related pipeline in Corpus Christi, Texas. The new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal will be built, owned, and operated by Cheniere Energy. FERC ruled that Cheniere's Corpus Christi plans are "environmentally acceptable" in granting the authorization. The company “is now on track to be the only company with two LNG export projects underway,” thanks to its previous Sabine Pass LNG terminal approval. “The terminal would have the capability to liquefy and ship as much as 15 million metric tons of LNG a year, according to Cheniere’s filing,” though the company still requires the final approval of the U.S. Department of Energy.. Texas natural gas export plant gets federal permitThe Hill and Feds approve Cheniere’s Corpus Christie projectHouston Business Journal

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