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Energy Update: August 13, 2021

In the States

AL: Governor Kay Ivey distributed more than $39.8 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to agencies that manage financial assistance programs for low-income households struggling to pay home energy bills. The funds are being used for special grants administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and awarded to agencies that manage assistance programs at the local level. Grants were awarded in amounts ranging from $400,000 to $4 million to local agencies covering all of Alabama’s sixty-seven counties. “With summer in full swing in Alabama, many residents require assistance to stay comfortable in their homes during sweltering temperatures,” Gov. Ivey said. “These grants will provide additional funding to assist in lowering home energy costs for those who need help the most.” Governor awards funds for energy assistance to low-income personsAlabama Political Reporter

 

CA: Governor Gavin Newsom signed an emergency proclamation aiming to improve the reliability of California’s electrical grid in the event of extreme heat and natural disasters as the state begins its transition to 100% clean energy. The emergency proclamation aims to boost supply by expediting new clean energy projects by suspending certain permitting requirements and regulations, and aims to reduce energy demand during extreme heat, droughts, and fires by providing incentives for large energy users to conserve power during high-demand periods. The proclamation also suspends licensing requirements for new battery energy storage systems and relaxes emissions restrictions on backup generators, natural gas power plants, and berthed industrial ships during high energy usage periods. To offset the environmental effects of these emergency measures, the Governor’s proclamation orders the California Air Resources Board to develop a plan to improve air quality in affected communities, especially in low-income areas. “While we build toward a safe, affordable, and reliable energy future that benefits all our communities, we’re also taking action to meet the challenges caused by climate change that are already at our doorstep,” said Governor Newsom in a press release. Newsom issues emergency proclamation to free up extra sources of powerLos Angeles Times

 

NY: In one of his final bill signings as Governor of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo approved a new bill that aims to increase the usage of rooftop solar arrays by prohibiting homeowners associations from restricting their use. The law also bans restrictions that impede the efficiency of rooftop solar panels or increase the installation or maintenance costs of rooftop solar panels by more than 10 percent. The bill aims to preempt restrictions on solar panels in planned developments or communities and enable frugal and environmentally-conscious residents of those communities to take advantage of clean energy incentives. “This bill will ensure that constituents living in HOAs who want to establish solar power systems to help the environment and to save money can do so. Those who have been denied that opportunity in the past will not face those barriers anymore,” said Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, a sponsor of the bill. Governor signs bill to bolster rooftop solar panelsThe Times Union

 

WV: Governor Jim Justice reactivated the West Virginia Public Energy Authority (WVPEA), an agency originally created in the 1980s under Governor Arch Moore intended to “foster, encourage, and promote the mineral development industry” in West Virginia. The WVPEA has a number of broad powers, including the ability to acquire or finance electric power and natural gas transmission projects and seize lands for development through eminent domain (a full list of the WVPEA’s legal powers can be found here). “One thing we want to try to ensure is that West Virginia will continue to be an energy powerhouse for the entire world,” Gov. Justice said in a press release. “By reactivating the WVPEA, the State will maintain real time, firsthand knowledge of the status of each power plant, their life cycle, and whether there are concerns of household power supplies being disrupted.” Proponents of the Governor’s decision to reboot the WVPEA, including West Virginia House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, argued that the WVPEA will help improve the reliability of electricity production in West Virginia while protecting the state’s role as an energy exporter. By contrast, critics of the Governor’s decision, like Karan Ireland, Central Appalachia senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club, argued that reestablishing the WVPEA could impede clean energy efforts and exacerbate climate change by increasing the usage of fossil fuels while economically “binding” West Virginia taxpayers to coal-fired power plants. Energy Authority, brought back by Justice, can acquire or finance power projects - MetroNews

 

National

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report warning of an impending climate catastrophe and recommending heavy cuts to the usage of fossil fuels worldwide. U.N. scientists estimated that in order to keep global warming below 1.5-2 degrees Celsius (a threshold they say would cause “catastrophic” and “irreversible” damage to the planet if exceeded), global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut to “net-zero” by 2050. According to a U.N. analysis conducted earlier this year, many countries’ current pledges to cut emissions fall short of that goal. Generally, responses from representatives for the U.S. fossil fuel sector reemphasized pledges to reducing emissions, but mostly did not discuss large or systemic changes.  “Meeting the world’s growing energy needs while addressing the risks of climate change is the global challenge of our time,” read a statement from the American Petroleum institute. The IPCC climate report will likely impact ongoing discussions about climate change in the American energy industry in the months to come. Five key excerpts from the United Nations’ climate change reportThe Washington Post; Climate report exposes fault lines within fossil fuel industryThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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