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Blog posts December 2015

Energy Update, Dec. 18

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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Energy Update, Dec. 4

In the States

CT – Governor Dan Malloy announced his intention to have Connecticut sign onto the Under 2 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) global agreement, a compact among cities and states “to limit the increase in global average temperatures to below two degrees Celsius.” Governments signing onto the MOU agree to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels or to limit their greenhouse gases to two metric tons of carbon dioxide per capita by 2050. Connecticut joins 7 other states as signatories to the pact – New Hampshire, California, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. “Connecticut has set an aggressive goal for reducing carbon emissions to combat climate change – and is determined to do so in a manner that improves our environment and air quality while increasing our energy security, building our economy, and creating jobs,” said Governor Malloy. Connecticut signs onto climate agreement, committing to carbon emission reductionThe Stratford Star

NY – In an executive order to the Department of Public Service, Governor Andrew Cuomo has requested an update to the state’s clean energy standard to mandate that 50% of all electricity by 2030 be derived from clean and renewable energy sources. The Governor requested the Department to provide a policy outlining this position by July 2016 to the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC), which in coordination with the Department will ultimately decide if the proposals aligns with the State Energy Plan and Governor Cuomo’s larger Reforming Energy Vision blueprint. The Governor’s mandate, according to his administration, will also draw from the ongoing $5.3 billion state Clean Energy Fund to encourage the deployment of renewable energy technology and sources as solar and wind power farms. “Talking about goals and achieving them are two different things,” Cuomo stated in the executive order to Audrey Zibelman, chair of the state PSC. “By mandating a Clean Energy Standard, we ensure that this goal is converted from aspirational to actionable.” Cuomo sets renewable energy mandateThe Democrat & Chronicle

SD – The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recently approved the construction of the 1,134-mile Dakota Access pipeline, which will carry crude oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois. The pipeline, which is projected to transport 450,000 barrels day, was approved on a 2 to 1 vote following more than a year of public deliberation on the project’s “value to the state and its potential to damage the environment and the productivity of the agricultural land it will cross beneath.” The 30-inch pipeline, which is projected to cross almost 300 miles of South Dakota, will need easement approvals, may require eminent domain proceedings, and will also require notification to inform landowners about the land-reclamation for process for replacing topsoil and for repairing drain tile along the pipeline’s route. The project is expected to create temporary construction jobs in addition to bringing $12 million in property taxes per year to South Dakota. "We applaud the decision of the PUC and look forward to the benefits this pipeline project will bring our state for years to come," said David Owen, president of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry. State approves Dakota Access pipelineThe Argus Leader

Federal and Regional

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its final volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for 2016. The new mandate calls for adding 18.11 billion gallons of biofuels, including corn ethanol, biodiesel, and cellulosic ethanol, in the national fuel market. The recently-set EPA fuel requirement is 4 billion gallons or almost 20% less than what is required under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. “I am extremely disappointed that the EPA’s final decision failed to follow the renewable volume levels set by Congress,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. “Unfortunately, today’s decision shows the lack of interest in providing consumers choice at the pump, creating jobs and increasing incomes in Rural America, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.  This rule falls far too short of a robust RFS and short of the standards set by Congress.” Obama curbs ethanol in blow to corn growersPolitico and EPA lowers RFS levels for 2014, 2015, 2016The Iowa Republican

As part of its Advanced Research Projects Energy Office, the federal Department of Energy awarded almost $3 million to two New Mexico-based companies to develop “cost-effective hydrogen production for fuel cells” and “a low-cost transformer that uses no capacitors or semiconductor switches.” This type of technology utilizes an electrolyzer to turn wind or solar power into hydrogen, which can be stored for later use. The recipients are Albuquerque-based Pajarito Powder, which received $2.8 million, and Los Alamos-based Tibbar Technologies, which received $3.5 million. The grants were announced earlier this week by New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. ABQ clean energy company selected for $2.8 million from DOEAlbuquerque Business First

According to the federal Department of the Interior, its Office of Natural Resource Revenue will disburse nearly $10 billion to states, Native American tribes, the U.S. Treasury, and several conversation funds as part of the royalties collected from energy operations on federal lands. The total is approximately $3.5 billion less than las year. The Treasury’s portion dropped nearly $3 billion from $7.3 billion to $4.7 billion. The highest payments to states this year are $886 million to Wyoming and $496 million to New Mexico, where the federal government owns 55 percent and 40 percent of the states’ land areas, respectively. Energy revenue from federal lands dips $3.5 billionFuelFix

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Energy Update, Nov. 20

In the States

CT – Governor Dan Malloy joined officials from Fuel Cell Energy, a company providing baseload distributed generation to utilities via stationary fuel cell power plants, to announce the expansion of the company’s operations in Torrington. Fuel Cell Energy’s Torrington plant will more than double its size by adding at least 165 new jobs and “an overall increase in long-term employment of more than 300 people.” The state is helping to finance the expansion by providing $20 million in low-interest loans and $10 million in tax credits. The company, over the next five years, is also planning to increase its workforce to around 860 workers statewide. Chip Bottone, Fuel Cell Energy's president and CEO, commended Governor Malloy and his administration for their support. "We like it here in Connecticut," said Mr. Bottone, noting that Connecticut is committed to providing his company an educated and skilled workforce. Malloy marks Fuel Cell Energy expansion in TorringtonThe Hartford Courant

NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo officially rejected a proposal to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the waters off the coast of New York and New Jersey. Both Governor Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had 45 days to jointly review the project and to decide whether to support or reject it. The LNG terminal project, which was first proposed by energy company Liberty Natural Gas several years ago, needed approval as required by federal regulations by both Governors and the federal Maritime Administration. ‘‘My administration carefully reviewed this project from all angles, and we have determined that the security and economic risks far outweigh any potential benefits,’’ Governor Cuomo said in a statement, citing security, natural disaster events like Superstorm Sandy, and potential negative effects on local economies. Liberty Natural Gas contended that its project would have helped to lower heating bills in the area, which it notes are the most expensive in the United States. Offshore natural gas pipeline project vetoed by NY Governor CuomoNJ News

PA – A bipartisan group of Pennsylvania state senators recently introduced legislation to create safety standards for pipelines crisscrossing rural areas of the state that are not already regulated by the federal government. The legislation, Senate Bill 1044, requires the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to regulate rural natural gas gathering pipelines similarly to how non-rural pipelines are currently regulated, notably requiring the PUC to fashion rules and requirements for incident reporting, pipeline markings, mapping and leak surveys, and operating controls. According to state officials, Pennsylvania has about 20,000 miles of unregulated natural gas gathering pipelines, almost 30% of which was constructed in response to the Marcellus Shale boom. State Senators Lisa Bakers, the bill’s lead sponsor, said given the absence of federal oversight said the state should act because her constituents “want assurances that [pipelines] are being constructed in the most safe manner.” Calls for greater pipeline safety in rural areasThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

WA – Governor Jay Inslee’s administration recently fielded questions from numerous stakeholders regarding the Governor’s plan to create a “cap and reduce program” to limit greenhouse gas pollution and emissions. The state Department of Ecology (DOE), which is helping to craft the cap and reduce program, projects it will release draft rule language and an economic analysis statement in the coming weeks. DOE is planning to finalize the new program’s rules in the summer of 2016 with implementation beginning in early 2017. “We heard loud and clear,” said Stu Clark, air program manager at DOE, “that we need to be sensitive to and understand the unique aspects of energy intense and trade exposed industries.” Industries affected by Governor Inslee’s proposal include oil refineries, large power plants, landfills, and natural gas utilities. Washington State plowing ahead with greenhouse gas limitsKPU News

Federal and Regional

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of the Kinder Morgan company, filed its application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for its Northeast Energy Direct pipeline. The $5 billion project, if completed, would transport natural gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region to markets in New England, notably Massachusetts. The pipeline would include two paths, each spanning more than 130 miles, pipeline spur lines, several compressor stations, and other large facilities. "As natural gas has become the baseload fuel for electricity generation in New England, the interstate pipeline system in New England has not significantly expanded to supply this load," said Kimberly Watson, east region natural gas pipelines president for Kinder Morgan. In anticipation of the company’s filing, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey this week released a study finding that the state, through which the proposed project would intersect, “does not need extra natural gas capacity to maintain grid reliability.” A FERC decision on the pipeline is not expected until late 2016. Kinder Morgan files federal application for Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipelineThe Republican

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