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Energy

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

Energy Update, January 8

January 11, 2016

In the States

NJ – The state legislature approved a proposal to support the construction of a windmill farm off the coast of Atlantic City. The bill would permit but not require the state’s Board of Public Utilities to “approve the wind farm off the coast.” The project, which is expected to be built by Fishermen’s Energy, an offshore wind development company, includes six wind turbines that could produce up to 25 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 10,000 homes. Following the state legislature’s passage of the bill, Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center announced New Jersey has the “highest potential to develop offshore wind energy of any mid-Atlantic or New England state.” The environmental group estimates that as much as 1,700 megawatts of wind power – enough to power at least 500,000 homes – could be built in New Jersey over the next five years. The legislation now heads to Governor Chris Christie’s desk for his consideration, though many expect the Governor will let it die as the legislative session closes. NJ lawmakers approve bill for windmill farm off Atlantic City coastCBS New York and Environmental group: NJ’s offshore wind power potential is tops -- PennEnergy

NV – The Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved a plan to cut and eventually sunset the state’s net metering payments for rooftop solar systems. About 40 states have net-metering programs, which allow homeowners with rooftop solar panel installations to be compensated with credits for any excess electricity they generate. Following the PUC’s decision, SunRun and SolarCity, two of the largest solar energy companies in the United States, announced they would cease all operations in Nevada. SunRun projects the move will result in hundreds of job losses and SolarCity already announced it eliminated 550 positions in Nevada and stopped all sales and installations. The PUC’s decision, according to solar advocates, benefits the state’s only utility company, NV Energy, which is owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy company. “Nevada passed incentives to attract residents to go solar,” said Bryan Miller, senior vice president of public policy and power markets at SunRun, “But after baiting homeowners with incentives, the state switched the rules, penalizing solar homeowners to deliver additional profit to NV Energy." Governor Brian Sandoval said that while he supports solar energy and will assist employees who are losing or have lost their jobs, the solar companies should “respect the process.” “I’m not taking sides,” said Governor Sandoval, “You have 17,000 rooftop solar customers. You have [approximately] 700,000 NV Energy customers who are essentially subsidizing that." Governor Sandoval weighs-in on solar flare-upKTNV and Rooftop solar company SunRun says it is also exiting NevadaThe Las Vegas Review-Journal

OR – State Treasurer Ted Wheeler sent a letter to Governor Kate Brown asking the Governor to suspend the Oregon Department of Energy’s small-scale energy loan program (SELP), which Treasurer Wheeler called “no longer self-sustaining” and in need of a taxpayer bailout. The Treasurer noted that the program, which was launched in 1981 and provides low-interest loans to governments and small businesses, has a $20 million deficit. Additionally, Treasurer Wheeler believes a SELP bailout would cost Oregon taxpayers at least $15.3 million or more if more loans go into default. In 2012, Treasurer Wheeler sent a similar notice to then Governor John Kitzhaber though no action was taken. "The program needs to be reined in right now," said Treasurer Wheeler. State Treasurer asks governor to suspend Energy Department’s troubled loan programThe Oregonian and Wheeler: State must end faltering energy loan programThe Portland Tribune

Federal and Regional

The Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, a bipartisan coalition of 20 Governors dedicated to the development of wind energy resources, chose Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo as its new chair and vice chair, respectively, for 2016. “I look forward to working with Governor Raimondo and our Coalition colleagues to help the wind energy industry diversify our nation’s energy portfolio and drive economic development in our states,” said Governor Branstad. “We will continue to share best practices across the states and work with Federal leaders to deliver stability and predictability in supportive Federal policies.” According to Governor Branstad, 28.5% of the energy produced in Iowa came from wind power. Governor Raimondo said “Wind power expansion will create jobs, diversify our energy sources, and ensure long-term energy affordability.” Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition names new leadership teamNA Wind

Energy Update, Dec. 18

December 23, 2015

In the States

NC – According to a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), North Carolina is expected to remain second only to California in terms of utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) electric installations in 2015. The state, which now accounts for 8% of the national total of megawatts of utility-scale PV capacity, currently has more than 1.5 gigawatts of utility-scale solar power and is expected to have close to 2.5 gigawatts by the end of 2016. The EIA and some state officials noted the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard as a contributing factor for the increase in solar power. Federal energy report says NC could add gigawatt’s worth of solar farms in 2016Triad Business Journal

OR – The state’s Department of Energy recently announced it awarded almost $300,000 in state and federal funds to pilot projects focused on energy storage and microgrid technologies. The money will help fund a two-year demonstration project by the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB), the state’s largest consumer-owned utility, which will seek to combine 500 kilowatts of electric energy storage and solar photovoltaic panels. The project, which is known as the Grid Edge Demonstration, seeks to prove how “a consumer-owned utility can help increase community resiliency by providing electricity resources when transmission lines and power facilities are down.” Will Price, an EWEB official, said the project “will [also] test and measure support for three types of community infrastructure, with energy storage for a water and electricity emergency operations hub, a water pump station, and a multi-agency communications site.” Oregon to fund solar, energy storage microgrid demonstration projectRenewable Energy News

SC – Almost 500 small businesses signed a letter to Governor Nikki Haley opposing oil and natural gas drilling off South Carolina’s coast. The letter, which was spearheaded by Don’t Drill SC Lowcountry, a citizen-led nonpartisan advocacy group, states “offshore oil and gas development jeopardizes the advantages that our businesses have” and discusses how drilling may negatively impact the local economy. The letter also notes the state’s increasing influx of tourists and the “distinctive sense of place, [the] fragile ecology, and numerous outdoor recreational opportunities” available in South Carolina, which is one of four states whose coasts are under consideration for energy development. Governor Haley, who is a member of the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, said through her spokeswoman, Chaney Adams, that she still supports offshore drilling, which she views as “critical to the state’s economic development, energy independence from other countries, and [to] security for our state.” Hundreds of small businesses urge Nikki Haley to oppose offshore energy developmentThe Post and Courier

UT – The Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, the state’s first fully-functional, utility-sized solar power plant, was recently completed. The 632-acre Renewable Park, which is based in Parowan, Utah, includes more than 340,000 solar panels that are projected to reduce carbon emissions by at least 145 tons annually and create more than 200 temporary jobs. Blake Thomas, Renewable Energy Development Coordinator for the Governor’s Office of Energy Development, said the Red Hills project is part of Governor Gary Herbert’s all-of-the-above energy policy, further noting that the project will benefit Utahns. Luigi Resta, CEO of Scatec Solar North America, called Red Hills a “pioneering project, [which] should have positive benefits for many of the counties and the communities with both job creation, new tax benefits and ultimately [low energy prices].” Utah’s first utility-scale solar energy plant amps up to deliverSt. George News

Federal and Regional

Congress recently passed a bipartisan $1.1 trillion omnibus spending package for Fiscal Year 2016, sending the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature. The legislation includes a number of energy-focused proposals, including an extension of tax credits for wind and solar power projects and the lifting of the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports. The solar energy tax credit, for example, which was slated to expire at the end of 2016, was extended for five years. The credit will remain at 30% until 2019 and then will gradually decline to 10% by 2022. Additionally, solar energy projects will now only “be required to begin construction, rather than operation, as is the case now, to qualify for the credit.” According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the credits will attract at least $40 billion in solar investments over the next four years while doubling the jobs in the solar industry. The President is expected to sign the legislation soon. Proposed extension of tax credits for renewable energy would have uneven effectThe New York Times and Solar tax credit to spur $40 billion in U.S. investment by 2020Bloomberg

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