Every two weeks Viohl & Associates publishes an Energy Update, which provides summaries of significant federal and state energy news.
In the States
UT – Governor Gary Herbert’s Office of Energy Development hosted the second annual Utah Air and Energy Symposium to discuss the state’s air quality challenges vis-à-vis future energy development, which is set to be a key topic studied by the state legislature during next year’s 45-day legislative session. Much of the discussion at the Symposium focused on alternative fuel vehicles, air quality regulations for the oil and gas industry, and methane leaks, which the state’s Department of Environmental Quality is currently studying. Jon Goldstein of the Environmental Defense Fund spoke in favor of increased regulations, noting that neighboring Colorado was able to achieve a 75 percent reduction in methane leaks by implementing new rules on the state’s energy producers. In another session, state Representative Stephen Handy (R) discussed his work to secure Utah’s part of the settlement under Volkswagen’s violation of diesel emissions and his hope that the state will utilize the funds to replace diesel school buses. Utah air quality, energy event draws diverse crowd – KSL Salt Lake City
VA – At an event showcasing the installation of a new solar system for public schools in Albemarle County, Governor Terry McAuliffe released an update to his 2014 Virginia Energy Plan, titled the “Energy in the New Virginia Economy,” which outlines his administration’s work on the Commonwealth’s strategic energy priorities. The update to the energy plan, which is required by statute, focuses on the Governor’s four priorities: strategic growth in the energy sector, best in class infrastructure, alternative fuels and advanced vehicles technology, and workforce development. Some of the achievements highlighted by the Governor include the construction of a 80 megawatt solar farm in Accomack County, the creation of the Commonwealth’s first Green Community Program, and the use of over 200 alternative fuel vehicles by the state government. “Today's installation is the perfect venue to formally unveil an update on the progress we are making toward making Virginia a leader in the global energy economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “The clean energy sector has been a central part of our efforts to build a new Virginia economy and that effort has paid off as revenue in the sector has grown four-fold to $2 billion.” At Monticello High School, McAuliffe touts solar panels, energy plan – The News & Advance
VT – Iberdrola Renewables, a Spanish energy company, is seeking to build the state’s largest wind energy project, which would consist of 24 turbines almost 500 feet tall generating close to 90 megawatts of power, or enough electricity for 42,000 homes annually. The project, which would be built in a private forest near the towns of Windham and Grafton, is on the ballot this fall for voters to approve or disapprove. Under increasing pressure and scrutiny from local officials and residents who are concerned the proposed project will generate noise and lower property values, and sensing the voters would reject the proposed wind farm, Iberdrola offered to pay “a total of $565,000 a year to the 815 registered voters in both towns, or $14.1 million over 25 years,” for their support. The project, which is supported by outgoing Governor Peter Shumlin, has become a key issue in the race to succeed him with Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott (R) opposing the project and Sue Minter (D), a former transportation secretary under Governor Shumlin, supporting it. “There’s nothing I’m more proud of than my legacy of having helped to get Vermont off of oil and coal and moved us more aggressively than any other state in the nation to renewables,” Governor Shumlin said. Vermont wind project needs support, so company offers to pay voters – The New York Times
Federal and Regional
The National Governors Association (NGA) published two papers focused on enhancing energy assurance planning and response and strategies for states to develop advanced energy storage. Both publications were developed by the NGA’s Center for Best Practices Environment, Energy, and Transportation Division, which “provides information, research, policy analysis, technical assistance, and resource development for governors and their staff.” The first paper summarizes the NGA’s findings from a 2015 project in which NGA and New Jersey state officials worked with six other states – Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island – “to understand and apply lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy” while the second paper explores how states can use incentives, regulations, and policy to boost energy storage.
The United States Navy announced its purchasing renewable energy from a new 150-megawatt solar farm in Arizona, or what is soon to be the largest procurement of renewable energy by the federal government, according to federal officials. The solar facility, called the Mesquite Solar Complex, is owned by Sempra U.S. Gar & Power and will supply a third of the electricity needs of the Navy’s installations in California, including the San Diego naval base and the Marines’ Twentynine Palms and Camp Pendleton bases The Navy’s purchase will support over 800 temporary construction and permanent jobs. “It’s going to be reliable, it’s going to be cheaper than what we’re paying for brown power, and it just diversifies our energy sources for these bases,” said Dennis McGinn, the assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment. U.S. government makes biggest clean energy purchase ever – The Washington Post and Tonopah solar farms to supply energy to military bases – The Arizona Republic
In the States
AL – The Alabama Power Company, the state’s largest utility, posted a request for proposals (RFP) for renewable energy projects, hoping to bring more solar, wind, and geothermal energy generation to Alabama. The company, which has already announced more than 90 megawatts of solar power projects since last year, received approval from the Alabama Public Service Commission “to develop up to 500 megawatts of renewable energy projects,” including several projects at military installations across the state. In addition to solar, wind, and geothermal energy, the RFP calls for projects focused on tidal or ocean current energy, gas derived from waste or landfills, hydrogen obtained from renewable sources, and biomass energy. "Alabama Power supports renewable energy, where it makes sense for our customers," John Kelley, the utility’s director of forecasting and resource planning, said. "Renewable markets change a lot, and this proposal gives us a chance to see what may be out there in the 2017 and 2018 time frame." Alabama Power eyes future renewable energy projects – The Huntsville Times
CT – Governor Dan Malloy discussed the importance of renewable energy generation with 26 local chambers of commerce, the Connecticut Green Bank, and officials from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. After the meeting, nearly a dozen of the local chambers present pledged to work with the Green Bank to “inform their businesses about affordable, long-term financing options” for clean energy projects and programs. Several other chambers also inquired about the state’s new Comprehensive Energy Strategy, which seeks reduce greenhouse gas emissions and will be released at some point this fall. “Local chambers of commerce play an important role in helping Connecticut continue to prosper from the growing economic development opportunities of cleaner, cheaper, more reliable energy,” said Governor Malloy. Governor, 26 local chambers show strong interest in clean energy – Chamber Innovation
ND – Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem sent a letter to Energy Transfer Partners, a Texas-based company developing the Dakota Access pipeline, to explain why it purchased 7,000 acres of land recently for an undisclosed amount. The company, which must respond within 30 days, must describe how its purchase complies with the state’s Depression-era anti-corporate farming law, which bars certain corporations from owning or leasing farmland and engaging in farming. Energy Transfer Partners continues to face public scrutiny over its proposed $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline that would carry approximately 450,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken oilfields to a hub in Illinois. The project’s construction has been delayed due to several lawsuits by local Native American tribes, which claim the company’s “bulldozers disturbed ancestral burials and other sacred sites.” General Stenehjem said "We'll treat this just like we do every case.” Stenehjem gives Dakota Access 30 days to explain land purchase – The Jamestown Sun
Federal and Regional
The Governors’ Wind & Solar Energy Coalition, which counts Governors from 20 states as members, sent a letter to President Barack Obama seeking his administration’s support to quickly site wind projects, both on land and offshore. The letter notes that offshore wind energy could “create thousands of jobs in businesses ranging from R&D and engineering to manufacturing and marine construction.” Additionally, the Governors would like the administration to streamline the leasing and permitting process as well as to improve permitting collaboration between the states and the federal government. The Governors also noted their hope that the administration and its agencies continue working with the private sector, conservation groups, and states on final rules impacting wind and solar energy development. American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan, who thanked the Governors for their support, said “These Governors are leading. They’re attuned to economic development needs and deployment challenges in their states, and they’re looking to the federal agencies to help rather than hinder.” Tax credits aren’t enough to spur renewables, Governors say – AgriPulse
According the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which is part of the Department of Energy, Hurricane Matthew may cause problems for East Coast energy infrastructure. The storm, which led four Governors to declare states of emergency, may affect product terminals, possibly reducing energy imports. EIA also published map highlighting energy disruptions, links for consumers to determine fuel availability during the storm, and made available its real-time information on electricity demand.