Every two weeks Viohl & Associates publishes an Energy Update, which provides summaries of significant federal and state energy news.
In the States
VA – The Virginia House of Delegates and Senate voted to preserve a tax credit for electric utilities that burn coal mined in the Commonwealth. Governor Terry McAuliffe previously proposed a reduction in the tax credit to help offset a budget shortfall, but neither chamber agreed to the Governor’s proposal. The policy reversal creates a $5.2 million shortfall in each chamber’s proposed budget, and allows utility companies to claim no more than $7.5 million combined in any year. House, Senate preserve coal tax credit for utilities – The Richmond Times-Dispatch
WV – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a bill, H.B. 2201, that would have required the state’s Public Service Commission to set new guidelines for net metering, a proposal which advocates decried as jeopardizing the future of solar power in the state. Net metering, which differs by state, is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they generate and add to the electric power grid. In his veto message, Governor Tomblin said he disapproved of the bill for technical reasons, but did not further clarify his position on the legislation’s intent. “Due to a number of technical issues in the bill, I am unable to sign House Bill 2201 into law,” Governor Tomblin said. “I encourage the Legislature to re-examine this piece of legislation and correct the technical issues outlined in my veto message.” W.Va. governor vetoes net metering bill – FierceEnergy and Tomblin vetoes two technically flawed bills – MetroNews West Virginia
The Governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are forming a regional partnership to expand the use of renewable energy sources and natural gas. Under the Governors’ plan, electric utility companies in each state will work together with state agencies “to begin a competitive bidding process to seek proposals from supplies of clean energy resources.” The Governors, which discussed the regional partnership during the recent National Governors Association’s winter meeting, also released a draft request for proposals with a 30-day comment period. Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said "this regional partnership will allow Massachusetts to acquire cost effective renewable resources for the commonwealth's energy supply.” Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy stated the joint venture may lead to larger collaborative energy projects. "By working together with neighboring states,” Governor Malloy said, “we can make the most efficient use of our resources to attract new clean energy projects at the lowest possible cost for ratepayers while advancing our interests in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.” Governors looking to expand renewable energy, natural gas – The Boston Herald
The Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition (OCSGC) met during the recent National Governors Association’s winter meeting, agreed to lobby Congress for legislation “to set a multi-state strategy for revenue sharing from federal offshore energy development.” The OCSGC, which first organized in 2011, has seven members, including Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Maine Governor Paul LePage, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, North Carolina Governor and OCSGC Chair Pat McCrory, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. The Governors, however, have not yet reached a decision on a model for revenue sharing. “Right now we've got all these different bills on revenue sharing, and we would like to consolidate those into one bill,” Governor McCrory said, referring to separate bills in Congress for Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. State governments usually control offshore waters as far as three miles, while the federal government controls the outer continental shelf. Seven Governors set legislative strategy for revenue sharing from offshore energy -- Bloomberg
National and Federal
The American Energy Innovation Council, which is made up of six corporate executives, is urging Congress and the federal government “to make expanded energy research a strategic national priority.” Members of the Council include Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt. The Council contends the United States has fallen behind other governments in energy research, which may hamper efforts to reduce carbon emissions and develop new energy sources. The group recently released a report highlighting their advocacy work and research and recommendations for policymakers. “Growing and consistent appropriations for energy innovation should be a top U.S. priority over the next decade,” the business leaders recommended in their report. “The budget numbers over the last five years are a major failure in U.S. energy policy.” Bill Gates and other business leaders urge U.S. to increase energy research – The New York Times
In the States
ME – Governor Paul LePage unveiled his 2015 State Energy Plan to the state legislature. The Governor’s plan, which seeks to diversify the state’s energy sources, focuses on decreasing monthly electric and other utility bills for state residents. Patrick Woodcock, who leads the Governor’s Energy Office, also said the Plan will seek to “do a better job of weatherizing homes of low-income Mainers to reduce their energy consumption.” The new Plan also calls for increased use of natural gas for heating and power, though, as the state acknowledged, that goal cannot be achieved without the support of neighboring states. The Governor’s office will submit legislative incorporating planks from his State Energy Plan in the coming weeks. LePage administration focuses energy plan on lowering costs and weatherizing homes – MPBN News
VA – Dominion Virginia Power recently announced its intention to construct at least 400 megawatts (MW) of new solar energy generating capacity in the state. The project is expected to be completed by 2020 and is predicted to meet the energy needs of 100,000 homes at peak capacity. Governor Terry McAuliffe said “Dominion has shown a strong commitment to solar energy development, and I am proud to work with them to expand renewable generation in Virginia and diversify the Commonwealth’s fuel mix.” Dominion, which has around 744 MW of solar energy generating capacity under development or in operation in seven states, will invest at least $700 million in its Virginia project. Dominion Virginia Power developing 400MW of new solar projects in Virginia – Clean Technica
WI – In his proposed budget, Governor Scott Walker has included $250,000 to study the possible health effects of living near wind turbines. The Governor’s proposal stems from complaints filed by residents of Brown County, Wisconsin, which, in 2104, became the first area where concerns were raised about health problems associated with wind turbines. Brown County residents complained of nausea, headaches, and ear pressure. Laurel Patrick, Governor Walker’s press secretary said “the request for a Wind Energy Health Issues Study was included with the intent to provide the Public Service Commission with comprehensive information to consider as they receive requests for future wind energy projects.” Renewable energy groups, including RENEW Wisconsin, said they were comfortable with the proposed study, so long as it is thorough and peer-reviewed. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget includes $250,000 to study health impacts of wind turbines – UPI
National and Federal
The Department of Energy (DOE) announced its plans to collaborate with Shell on a carbon capture project in Canada. Shell and DOE, in their joint project, will seek “to improve the capture and storage of carbon dioxide in the oil sands.” Greg Rickford, the Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, said “Canada is a world leader in carbon capture and storage, and our government welcomes this collaboration as the latest important step in the development of this technology.” DOE will invest approximately $500,000 in the project with Shell. Additional information on the partnership will be announced soon. DOE lends Shell a hand on carbon capture in Canada – The Hill
Twenty-four Republican Governors sent a letter to President Barack Obama, asking that he reconsider his position on the Keystone XL pipeline legislation, which recently received congressional approval. The President has threatened to veto the bill, which received some bipartisan support in both chambers. In their letter, the Governors state the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would help to create jobs in several states while also strengthening the United States’ relationship with Canada. Neither the House nor the Senate have enough votes at this time to override a presidential veto. “As governors, our foremost priority is to grow and strengthen our state economies,” said Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts. “We can achieve that in the states and throughout the country by building the Keystone XL pipeline.” A copy of the letter can be found here.