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Blog posts October 2019

Energy Update: October 11, 2019

In the States

MA  At a State Senate oversight hearing, Judith Judson, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy, said Governor Charlie Baker’s administration wants to expand the Commonwealth’s new solar incentive program, SMART, by an additional 800 megawatts (MW). The SMART program, launched last November, was originally intended to incentivize a 1,600 MW expansion in renewable energy. Since its launch, demand for incentives quickly outpaced supply, precipitating a need for a greater expansion. Still, some critics, including solar energy advocates, think the administration’s planned 800 MW expansion is too small and would prefer a much larger 3,200 MW expansion. State Senator Marc Pacheco from Taunton also argued in favor of a larger expansion, saying that the administration needs to stop fixating so heavily on the reliability of the grid and the price of power and take the threat of climate change more seriously. Administration officials, however, are still focused on carefully managing the challenges of expansion, including a power grid not constructed to absorb power from small solar generators, the high cost of connecting those generators to the grid, and the need to move cautiously with rapidly changing technology. Baker’s latest solar goal called too smallCommonWealth Magazine

 

NM  At a climate talk with other Governors in New York, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that New Mexico will set its own fuel economy and pollution standards for cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs, just as the Trump administration is seeking to revoke states’ authority to set these standards. New state restrictions on vehicle emissions will start with model-year 2022 vehicles, and statewide fuel economy standards will increase to an average of 52 miles per gallon by 2025. “To combat climate change, to keep New Mexico’s citizens safe, to protect the air we all breathe, it’s essential we adopt more stringent clean car standards that increase fuel economy and reduce emissions,” Governor Lujan Grisham said. “It is environmentally and economically counterproductive to stall fuel economy standards as contemplated by the proposed federal rollbacks.” New Mexico enters fray over vehicle emission standardsAssociated Press

 

NJ  The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) recently took an initial step toward developing an electric vehicle (EV) incentive program by approving a Request for Quotation (RFQ) to hire a consultant to create and administer the program. The program will help fulfill Governor Phil Murphy’s pledge to achieve 330,000 EVs on the road by 2025 and help meet the goals of New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act, passed in July. The transportation sector accounts for 46 percent of New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest emissions source in the state. “Launching the search for an industry expert consultant marks a major step in enacting a truly informed, impactful statewide incentive program that will put New Jersey at the forefront of EV adoption,” BPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso said. “As we work toward achieving the Governor’s goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050, electric vehicles will be an integral part of our efforts to combat climate change.” New Jersey Board of Public Utilities takes first step toward establishing electric vehicle incentive programDaily Energy Insider

 

VA  Governor Ralph Northam announced that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued permits for the construction and operation of four new solar projects across the Commonwealth. The new projects are expected to generate 192 megawatts (MW) of electricity, which will offset carbon dioxide emissions by 459 million pounds. “Virginia is adopting solar technology at record rates, and we are building an economy that is cleaner and greener as a result,” said Governor Northam. “These four projects will strengthen our solar energy infrastructure and help to sustainably power thousands of homes and businesses across Virginia.” These new solar projects are part of the Northam administration’s ongoing effort to ensure at least 3,000 MW of solar and onshore wind are under development by 2020, as outlined in the Governor’s Executive Order Forty-Three. Governor Northam Announces Four New Solar ProjectsWebsite for Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam

 

National

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced the selection of 35 projects totaling $73 million for bioenergy research and development. These projects aim to reduce the price of drop-in biofuels, lower the cost of biopower, and enable high-value products from biomass or waste resources. “The main goal of DOE’s bioenergy R&D is to produce affordable biofuels that are compatible with existing fueling infrastructure and vehicles across a range of transportation modes, including renewable-gasoline, -diesel, and -jet fuels,” said Secretary Rick Perry. “These projects will… enable high-value products from biomass or waste resources, while creating American jobs and strengthening our economy and energy security.” Department of Energy Announces $73 million for 35 Projects for Bioenergy Research and DevelopmentEnergy.gov

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Energy Update: September 23, 2019

In the States


SD – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approved eight wind energy projects that could bring 700 more turbines and an investment of $2.6 billion to the state by the end of 2020. Two additional wind energy projects currently under review could bring an additional 188 wind turbines and another $640 million in investments to South Dakota, bringing the potential total number of new turbines to 888 and the investment by energy companies to $3.26 billion. “For rural South Dakota, this is an awesome boom,” said Steven Wegman of the South Dakota Renewable Energy Association. “No one ever spent $300 million in Codington County in a construction season.” Although the new investment is expected to bring economic and environmental benefits, the construction projects face some opposition from local residents complaining about unsightly wind turbines in their backyards and conservationists concerned about their effects on local birds and wildlife. $3.3 billion wind investment will add 2,500 MW of clean energy in South DakotaSouth Dakota News Watch

 

PA – Governor Tom Wolf’s administration will promote clean transportation options by offering grants and rebates funded by the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and the $8.5 million awarded to the state from Volkswagen’s emissions violations lawsuit. The grants and rebates will fund dozens of new electric vehicle charging stations. In addition to this funding, state utility regulators are working to smooth the transition to electric and other zero-emissions vehicles. Governor Wolf aims to reach the target of replacing 25% of the state’s passenger car fleet with battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars by 2025, as set by his January executive order. Pennsylvania taps federal program to help expand, promote alternative fuelsEnergy News Network

 

OH – A new lawsuit brought by FirstEnergy will challenge a voter referendum to strike down House Bill 6, a bill that props up FirstEnergy’s struggling power plants in Ohio. The original piece of legislation, signed by Governor Mike DeWine in July, would bail out the cash-strapped nuclear and coal plants with money raised from slight increases in customers’ utility bills. The controversial bill was met with opposition from some voters who organized a petition drive calling for a referendum on the bill that could potentially strike it down. After the referendum’s ballot language was approved in late August by the Ohio Attorney General, Dave Yost, First Energy filed a lawsuit seeking to block the voter referendum. The lawsuit is based on the legal argument that HB 6 is essentially a new tax, and therefore cannot be blocked by referendum under state law. The lawsuit is expected to hinge on whether the court determines the money raised by HB 6 will be used to benefit the general public, but critics argue that regardless of how the money will be spent, the “tax” argument relies on stretched legal reasoning. Unless the court blocks the referendum, voters opposing HB 6 will still have to collect the approximately 266,000 voter signatures needed by October 21 in order to get the referendum on the ballot. FirstEnergy referendum lawsuit may hinge on who benefits from subsidiesEnergy News Network

 

National

Con Edison and eight other U.S. utilities recently filed a legal challenge against The Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. ACE, finalized by the Trump Administration in June of this year, is aimed at helping coal companies facing tough competition from renewable energy suppliers. It replaced a much stricter Obama-era rule that pushed utilities to drop coal and instead encourages coal plants to cut emissions by improving efficiency. The group of utilities companies, called the Power Companies Climate Coalition, argue that ACE undermines efforts already underway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since the utility companies in the Coalition have already invested heavily in adopting new cutting technologies to meet state governments’ renewable energy requirements. A similar lawsuit was filed by mostly Democratic-led states and cities in August. U.S. utilities file legal challenge to Trump power plant ruleReuters

 

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (OFE) announced approximately $110 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects related to carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) through three funding opportunity announcements (FOAs). Out of the total amount, $75 million is for awards selected under two FOAs announced earlier this fiscal year, while approximately $35 million is set aside for a new FOA for FY2020. These announcements are part of an effort by the Trump administration to strengthen the coal industry by attempting to make the industry more environmentally-friendly. The program has so far deployed various large-scale CCUS pilot and demonstration projects. Under the new FOA, projects selected must complete a detailed site characterization of a commercial-scale CO2 storage site (50 million metric tons of captured CO2 within a 30 year period), apply and obtain an underground injection control class VI permit to construct an injection well, complete a CO2 capture assessment, and perform all work required to obtain a National Environmental Policy Act determination for the site. U.S. Department of Energy Announces $110M for Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage — Energy.gov

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