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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, August 4

August 9, 2017

In the States

CA – Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program, which provides the private sector with incentives to pollute less and requires “oil refineries, power plants, food processors and other facilities to buy permits to release greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.” The new law also requires certain industrial facilities to upgrade their old equipment with more modern technology by 2023. The Governor extended the program, which was slated to expire in 2020 and is viewed as the central feature of California’s environmental and climate change advocacy, to 2030. “California is leading the world in dealing with the principal existential threat that humanity faces,” said Governor Brown during the signing ceremony, which his predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the first cap-and-trade bill into law in 2016, also attended. Governor Brown signs law to extend cap and trade, securing the future of California’s key climate programThe Los Angeles Times

CT – Governor Dan Malloy ordered state agencies to review “the economic viability of Dominion Energy’s Millstone nuclear power plant,” one of several nuclear plants at risk of closing thanks to a surplus of cheap natural gas. Virginia-based Dominion Energy noted it had tried for months to find a solution to keep the plant operating while opponents, including other energy generating companies, argue that Millstone’s associated costs exceed its benefits and production. "We must objectively and thoroughly review and evaluate the relevant information and market conditions of the Millstone facility...in the context of reducing costs for consumers and moving our clean energy strategy forward," Governor Malloy said in a statement. "The time for a study without action has passed," Paul Koonce, chief executive of Dominion Energy Power Generation Group, said in a rebuttal. "Without action this year, prospects for continued operation of Millstone diminish.” CT Governor orders review of Millstone nuclear plant viabilityReuters

NY – As part of the statewide “Solarize” campaign, Governor Andrew Cuomo said 850 solar projects have been installed or are in development in New York. The Solarize program, according to the Governor, is “an important component in supporting the state’s Clean Energy Standard,” which was recently updated to require renewable sources to generate 50% of the state’s electricity by 2030. The hyper-local Solarize campaigns are public-private partnerships managed by community and elected officials and the private sector in order to educate and simplify the process by which consumers install clean energy generating systems. “New York continues to see unprecedented growth in the solar energy industry across the state, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing jobs, and driving economic growth," Governor Cuomo said. "By helping residents and businesses install solar energy panels, we are reducing costs for consumers and fueling the clean energy economy in New York for years to come." 850 solar projects announced across New York StateSolar Novus Today

Federal and Regional

Energy Secretary and former Governor of Texas Rick Perry announced $40 million in awards for the “the establishment of four DOE Bioenergy Research Centers, which will provide the scientific breakthroughs for a new generation of sustainable, cost-effective bioproducts and bioenergy.” The Centers, each of which will be led by a Department of Energy laboratory or a university, awarded the grants include the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center; the Center for Bioenergy Innovation; the Joint BioEnergy Institute, and; the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation. “The revolution of modern biology has opened up vast new opportunities for the energy industry to develop and utilize products derived from biomass as a sustainable resource,” said Secretary Perry.  “These centers will accelerate the development of the basic science and technological foundation needed to ensure that American industry and the American public reap the benefits of the new bio-based economy.” DOE provides $40 million in grants to bioenergy research centers

Governors Kim Reynolds of Iowa and Pete Ricketts of Nebraska testified during the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) hearing on the proposed volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), urging the EPA to increase the amount of advanced biofuels and cellulosic ethanol to be blended into the country’s gasoline supply. The EPA recently set ethanol levels for 2018 at about 40 million gallons below the 2017 levels and cut cellulosic biofuel requirements to 238 million gallons. “When you’re talking about the advanced biofuels, I think it’s a mistake to go backwards with regards to those targets,” said Governor Ricketts. While highlighting the impact of the cuts on jobs and the greater economy in Iowa, Governor Reynolds said “the near term future for cellulosic is much brighter than the proposed obligations.” Ricketts, Reynolds testify at EPA hearing, urge greater federal support for advanced biofuelsThe Omaha World-Herald

Energy Update, July 21

August 9, 2017

In the States

AK – The state legislature voted to end its cash payment subsidies to oil companies with less than 50,000 barrels of daily oil production. Instead, these oil companies will now be allowed to claim state tax deductions instead of cash and those deductions will be reduced over time by 10 percent annually after seven years if a project is producing oil or after 10 years if the project hasn’t produced oil. The cash-subsidy program was created a decade ago to encourage new companies to develop oil fields in Alaska. According to its projections, the state owes more than $1 billion in cash subsidies to the oil companies by the end of 2018. Alaska Legislature passes last-minute oil tax deal, but capital budget is still pendingThe Alaska Dispatch News

MN – The University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab released a report finding that “adding energy storage is becoming a cost effective way to meet electricity demand in the state.” The report found that Minnesota’s natural gas, solar, and wind energy projects could all benefit from the development of energy storage facilities. For example, on turbine farms, “if energy supply exceeds demand, wind turbine blades are adjusted so that the turbines don't generate as much electricity” whereas batteries could keep the turbines running at normal operation. The report also found that the state has very little energy storage, though some companies, such as Connexus, are building megawatt storage systems and facilities. The report was submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, as well as a group of energy stakeholders, who recommended the state pursue energy storage projects. Report: solar plus storage can beat natural gas in MinnesotaMPR News

NC – Governor Roy Cooper announced he opposes efforts by President Donald Trump’s administration to allow drilling for natural gas and oil off the state’s coast, calling it a “threat to the state’s beaches and tourism economy.” The Governor’s statement comes as the Trump administration requested comments from elected officials on its plan to allow companies to perform seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean in search of natural gas and oil deposits. “There is a threat looming over this coastline that we love and the prosperity it brings, and that's the threat of offshore drilling," Governor Cooper said. Additionally, he noted: “There is little evidence that offshore drilling would be a financial boon for our state.” The Governor doesn’t believe that drilling will produce a lot of jobs or revenue sharing and that changes to federal regulations could increase  environmental risks. NC Governor on Trump drilling plan: ‘Not off our coast’AP

NH – Governor Chris Sununu allowed Senate Bill 129, which requires utilities to increase the percentage of renewable sources in their energy portfolio to 25 percent by 2025, to become law without his signature. The new law, known as the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2017, also requires utilities to pay into a Renewable Energy Fund (REF) if they do not meet the new Renewable Portfolio Standard’s threshold. Of the funds collected by the REF, 15 percent are to be disbursed to low-income solar projects. Additionally, the new law raises the amount of money utilities pay for biofuel-generated energy, which supporters note will support the state’s timber industry and lead to more individuals employing wood-burning electric generators. In a statement, Governor Sununu called it “important to balance a smart renewable energy portfolio and economic growth in New Hampshire’s North Country with potential costs to ratepayers,” adding: “As we strive for an energy portfolio that is efficient, effective, and affordable, it is critical that we study the long-term viability of generation resources, particularly those that rely on mandated ratepayer support.” Clean energy bill becomes law without Governor’s signatureNew Hampshire Business Review

NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his administration will support the construction of 78 miles of power transmission infrastructure to “[strengthen] the reliability of the New York State electric power grid and [enable] more upstate renewable energy to connect to the power system throughout the state.” Called the Moses-Adirondack Smart Path Reliability project, the new $441 million transmission line will also help the state meet the Governor’s clean energy mandate of deriving 50% of New York’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 by transporting additional upstate energy to high demand areas downstate. The project, slated to begin construction in 2019, is expected to create approximately 2,000 full-time jobs during its development. "This critical upgrade will help strengthen our clean energy economy in every corner of the state, and help New York reach its nation-leading clean energy standard," Governor Cuomo said. "By investing in the long-term sustainability of our state's energy infrastructure today, we are helping to ensure New Yorkers will have access to a cleaner, greener future for years to come.” Cuomo announces plan to build 78 miles of power transmission infrastructureNorth County Public Radio

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