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Blog posts September 2008

Energy Update, September 23, 2008

In The States

CA – Tesla Motors will soon build a $250 million plant in California where it will manufacture its new electric car, the Model S. The company is planning the car to compete with GM’s recently-unveiled Chevy Volt, which will be ready for consumers in 2010. The company is receiving loan guarantees of up to $150 million from the Department of Energy and tax breaks from the State of California. Tesla plans Silicon Valley electric car factory - Reuters

CA - In order to comply with a state law requiring greenhouse gas emissions to decline by 29% by 2020, the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission have recommended that the state’s utilities should get 33% of their energy from renewable sources by that same year. The state is already behind schedule in obtaining 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010. In another effort to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, the California legislature is nearing completion on a bill that would encourage city planners to develop more high-density areas as an alternative to urban sprawl, helping to reduce automobile usage and greenhouse gas emissions. California’s tighter green-energy plan advancesWall Street Journal and Calif. aims to concentrate growth to cut use of carsWashington Post

IA – A new manufacturing plant has opened in Newton, Iowa that will produce blades for wind turbines used in the US and provide as many as 500 jobs. The town lost 1,800 jobs when Maytag was acquired by Whirlpool. TPI Composites opens wind turbine blade production facility in IowaClean Edge

IN – Governor Mitch Daniels told attendees of a two-day summit on reducing carbon emissions that Indiana should become a leader in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. The goal of CCS is to remove carbon emissions before it mixes with the atmosphere and store it underground, usually in natural pockets deep under rock formations. Indiana gets 95% of its electricity from coal power plants that produce greenhouse gases, and both presidential candidates are in favor of reducing those emissions. Ind. summit explores carbon capture, storage ideas - CNNMoney

KY – A new factory that will build small electric cars for electric vehicle manufacturer ZAP is being built in Franklin, Kentucky. The City of Franklin and the State of Kentucky are providing economic incentives. The plant should be operational within a year and will provide over 1,000 new jobs. Construction begins on Kentucky electric car factory that would employ more than 1,000Clean Edge

MI – The Michigan legislature has passed three energy-related bills, all of which are expected to be signed by Governor Granholm. The legislation will increase electricity rates for residential customers but lower them for commercial and industrial ratepayers, establish tax cuts for energy efficient appliances and building materials, and require 10% of electric power to come from renewable sources by 2015. Interest groups disagree over whether the legislation represents progress or something closer to the status quo Debate continues over new renewable energy mandatesAnn Arbor Business Review

MO – Universities and utilities have partnered up for a project that could help make energy greener in two ways: lowering carbon emissions and producing domestic energy. The plan is to extract some of the carbon emissions from a power plant and send it to pools of water where algae feed on it. That algae is then harvested and turned into both biofuel and animal feed. Mo. power plants to cut emissions by growing

TX – The small town of Lometa, Texas has been awarded a grant of nearly $500,000 from the Texas Office of Rural Community Affairs to install an array of solar panels to provide about half the power necessary for its water treatment plant. The town, with an annual budget is $150,000, could not have afforded the panels without financial help. The panels will save the town approximately $6,000 per year. With renewable energy, rural towns find reliefAustin American-Statesman

WA – A new state tax break will provide an incentive for Washington residents to buy new low- or zero-emission vehicles next year. Those purchasing new vehicles that get 40 or more highway miles per gallon will not have to pay a state sales tax on their purchases. The incentive also applies to “neighborhood electric vehicles,” which travel at 35 miles per hour or less, and alternative fuels vehicles such as natural gas and propane-powered cars. Buyers of low-fuel cars get a sales tax exemptionSeattle Post-Intelligencer

Regional News

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will put pollution credits up for auction in ten Northeastern states starting September 25, 2008. 233 plants region-wide will be monitored for pollutants starting January 1, 2009 and must purchase credits against the pollution they emit. Starting in 2014 the amount of credits available annually will decrease, driving up the cost of the credits and creating an incentive to reduce pollution. Problems with the volume of credits available to polluters have arisen with RGGI, which is being closely watched by both proponents and opponents in the US and Europe. States aim to cut gases by making polluters payNew York Times

On the Hill

The Congressional ban on offshore drilling will expire on October 1 and the President has already lifted the executive branch’s ban. Members of Congress have already said that a ban would not be included in this year’s appropriations legislation, which must be passed before October 1. In an effort to restrict offshore drilling while allowing the outright ban to lapse, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed the “Comprehensive American Energy Security & Consumer Protection Act”, which passed in the US House. The bill would allow offshore drilling 100 miles off the coast, although governors and state legislatures could agree to allow drilling up to 50 miles offshore (though the states would not receive a share of the royalties). States would also be allowed to decide whether to develop oil shale deposits on federal land. The bill includes support for renewable energy as well, including tax credits for producing and buying renewable energy and equipment and a requirement that American utility companies generate 15% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Republicans opposed the measure, in large part because the bill did not allow drilling closer to the coast and did not include provisions for nuclear and coal power. Summary of the Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection ActHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House adopts plan to ease offshore drillingNew York Times and House votes to end offshore oil drilling banLos Angeles Times and Where there’s a drill, there’s a wayGrist

This week, the US Senate will consider legislation introduced by Senators Baucus and Grassley that would extend tax credits for renewable energy. The bipartisan bill, which will be tied to a patch on the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and tax relief for hurricane victims, would extend production tax credits for wind power through December 31, 2009 and other renewable sources through December 31, 2010. The bill would also extend investment tax credits for solar energy, fuel cells and microturbines through 2016, and add a tax credit for investments in combined heat and power systems and geothermal heat pumps. In addition, the bipartisan package extends residential property tax credits for solar energy through 2016 and adds property credits for residential small wind investment and geothermal heat pumps. Other provisions include tax credits for clean coal projects, plug-in electric vehicles, and energy efficient building materials. Summary of the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 [pdf]Senate Finance Committee and House looks to move AMT, fights Senate on other tax cutsWall Street Journal and Senate leaders strike accord for “green” energy tax creditsRedOrbit and Bipartisan deal in Senate would extend renewable tax creditsGrist

The Senate convened an energy summit this month, which invited individuals from several industries and viewpoints to submit testimony and answer questions. Although there were some differences of opinion, there was a great consensus that the best way to more forward on reducing carbon emissions and increasing energy independence was to increase efficiency; put a price on carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade system or regulation regime; and take an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy production, meaning developing oil, gas, nuclear, wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal, and other alternative energy. Summit to consider how to achieve a more secure, reliable, sustainable, and affordable energy future for the American people (SDG-50)Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Senate leader says consensus building on energyAssociated Press and Senate leaders discuss options on energyCQ Politics

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Energy Update, September 5, 2008

In The States

CO – The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has approved plans from Xcel Energy to shut down two coal-burning power plants and replace them with utility-scale solar and wind plants. This effort will help bring the utility into compliance with a Colorado law that requires utilities get 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Xcel initially fought the law, but has since worked Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration to strengthen the initial requirement. Xcel ditching 2 coal plants, going to solarRocky Mountain News and Renewable energy fuels Colorado

MI – Residents of Michigan may soon end up paying more than businesses for power. A bill passed by the state House and Senate would lower business rates and raise residential rates for electricity to help equalize them for the first time since the 1970s. However, residents would pay 50% - 100% more than businesses for alternative energy programs under the proposed plan. Mich. Residents may pay extra for green powerLansing State Journal

NM – The first commercial-scale geothermal power plant in the US will be built in New Mexico. Governor Bill Richardson praised the project, saying that the geothermal energy project “will help unlock our geothermal resources for power production without damaging our environment." The plant will begin producing 10 megawatts of electricity, enough for several thousand homes, by early next year and up to 25 megawatts, or nearly enough for 15,000 homes after the second phase is complete. Raser to start construction on geothermal project in New MexicoRenewable Energy World

NY – As part of a deal to allow a Spanish energy company Iberdrola S. A. to purchase Energy East, which supplies energy to New York State, the Public Service Commission bound Iberdrola to invest $200 million in wind power. The company says it wants to invest as much as 10 times that amount and to double the amount of wind power in the state in a matter of years. Also, the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, is seeking proposals for building windmills throughout the city with the goal of harvesting 10% of the city’s power from the wind within 10 years. The turbines could potentially be placed on top of skyscrapers and bridges as well as windy coastal areas. Deal to double wind power in the stateNew York Times and Bloomberg offers windmill power planNew York Times

OR – Governor Ted Kulongoski is pushing the state to better plan for its energy needs by creating a state advisory group called the Oregon Energy Policy Council. The overarching question before the Council is how to best need future energy needs through a combination of conventional and renewable energy sources and energy efficiency initiatives. Estimates show that population increases will force the state to increase its energy usage by 40 percent in 15 years, which will require greater energy production. The governor said that the state cannot afford to wait for federal intervention and that “Delay will only make the hole we’re in deeper.” Oregon governor looks to energy future - Oregonian

UT – A seemingly unrelated set of circumstances and laws has created a booming market for natural gas and cars that use it for fuel in Utah. A public utility company has built pumps around the state for distribution of natural gas, the price of which is controlled by the state at the equivalent of 87 cents per gallon as compared to $3.85 for a gallon of conventional gasoline. Since it is so inexpensive and available, residents are paying inflated prices and waiting for months for vehicles that use natural gas for fuel. Other perks for drivers include thousands of dollars in alternative energy tax credits for natural gas cars and free parking at metered spaces in Salt Lake City. Last year, Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. spent $12,000 out of his own pocket to convert his state sport utility vehicle so it could run on natural gas. Surge in natural gas has Utah driving cheaplyNew York Times

VT – The Vermont Public Service Board has committed to increase funding in 2010 and 2011 for the “Efficiency Vermont” program that provides assistance and financial incentives to install energy-efficient appliances and materials in homes and businesses statewide. The decision is essentially a middle ground between environmental groups who wanted a much higher increase, and pressure from residents, some of whom are having difficulty paying bills. The increase from $31 million in 2008 to $41 million in 2011 will be paid for by a 0.6% rate increase. State’s energy efficiency funds will get a boostBarre-Montpelier Times Argus

Presidential Platforms

The Republican and Democratic presidential platforms are now finalized. Both include policy positions on energy independence and climate change. Both call for increased investment in renewable forms of energy such as solar, wind, and geothermal. Both also express support for the increased use of biofuels. The Democratic platform includes numerical targets for increasing energy efficiency, reducing oil consumption, andproducing electricity from renewable sources. The Republican platform endorses increased domestic drilling of oil anduse of nuclear power. 2008 Republican Platform [pdf] and 2008 Democratic Platform [pdf]

National News

The United States now produces more than 20 gigawatts or 1.5% of the nation’s electricity from wind power, double the amount of just two years ago. The US Department of Energy claims that the country is on track to produce more than 20% of its electricity from wind by 2030. Wind power provided 35% of the new electricity capacity in 2007. U.S. wind energy installations top 20 gigawattsRenewable Energy World

A trend has been quietly growing in which smaller, usually coal-fired power plants are being converted to produce electricity from local waste biomass. Most recently, a sugar mill in Hawaii’s 24-megawatt (or about 10% of the big island’s energy usage) coal power plant is being retrofitted to produce energy from local timber waste that would normally end up in landfills. In recent years, power plants in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, and Virginia have been converted or are approved to convert to biomass-powered energy. Hawaii’s conversion of coal plant to biomass marks a new trendEERE Network News and Hawaiian plant is latest to convert from coal to biomassEnergy Efficiency News

The Department of Energy is making up to $7 million available to its national laboratories to be used in making its clean-energy research projects commercially viable. Seven laboratories will receive $500,000 to $1,500,000 each to produce prototypes, demonstration projects, and market research for already completed projects in order to expedite the transition to commercial use. DOE announces up to $7 million for technology commercialization acceleration Department of Energy Press Release

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