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Energy Update, June 3, 2011

In the States

ME – Governor Paul LePage and members of his administration are questioning whether the State policy should dictate increase renewable energy use.  The Governor has proposed replacing the State’s renewable energy standard, which currently requires a one-percent increase in renewable energy use each year, with an option for individual customers to choose whether to purchase up to 100% clean energy for their own homes.  While critics of the proposal have noted that $1 billion has been invested in alternative energy since the renewable energy standard was enacted four years ago, Governor LePage believes most of the new “green jobs” are temporary and the that the state mandate will result in a net loss of jobs and increase electricity costs.  The Governor’s administration is also skeptical of some of the claims made by proponents of a massive offshore wind energy proposal, specifically that the project would reduce dependence on foreign oil.  Since the vast majority of homes in the State use heating oil – and cars use gasoline – rather than electricity, consumers would need to transition to heating systems and vehicles powered by wind-generated electricity in order to  decrease oil use, an expensive and logistically difficult prospect.  LePage urges rollback of renewable energy requirementBangor Daily News and LePage administration questions feasibility of offshore wind powerBangor Daily News

MN – Governor Mark Dayton has vetoed a bill that would have allowed more electricity produced by coal-fired power plants to be sold in Minnesota.  In his veto message, Governor Dayton said “Minnesota must continue on a path of progress to a sustainable, clean, and safe energy future, rather than increasing our already heavy reliance upon coal-fired electricity, which threatens our health and climate."  As an alternative to new coal plants, the Governor said the State’s utilities should focus on natural gas, hydroelectric, and renewable sources.  Governor Dayton, however, signed a bill that will allow electricity to be sold in Minnesota created by a new coal plant on the North Dakota border, which will avoid a lawsuit with the neighboring state.  He also signed a bill that will allow an existing coal plant to convert to natural gas.  Gov Dayton signs, vetoes variety of billsDL-Online and Looser restrictions on coal power vetoed by DaytonStamford Advocate and Minnesota Governor vetoes bill supporting more coal-fired generationPlatts

NJ – Governor Chris Christie has vowed to take New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a 10-state cap-and-trade organization designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions, by the end of the year.  Governor Christie said that the program is not effective because it “does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens, tax our businesses, with no discernible or measurable impact upon our environment.”  RGGI Inc., the nonprofit in charge of the program, has said that while emissions have been reduced 30% since 2005, half of which is due to the program, New Jersey’s ratepayers will save about $3.38 per year on average due to the State’s withdrawal from the program.  Although Governor Christie’s administration used $65 million in RGGI revenues to help balance the State’s budget, other revenues allowed the State to provide loans to companies to help install enough renewable energy technology to power 19,600 homes.  The Governor also acknowledges that human activity contributes to climate change, has said he will not allow another coal plant to be built in the State, and is supportive of increased natural gas and nuclear energy production.  Gov. Christie declares regional cap-and-trade initiative ineffective, ‘gimmicky’ partnershipNJ.com and Christie to pull N.J. out of cap-and-trade energy programNorthJersey.com

VT – Governor Peter Shumlin has signed a bill into law that is designed to greatly reduce the administrative burdens usually encountered with the installation of small scale solar systems on residential or small business buildings.  Prior to when the bill  goes into effect in January, local ordinances, building and electric codes, zoning laws, the processes for permitting and inspections, and other requirements have varied widely, even between neighborhoods in the same town, so that one installation may cost twice as much as another.  Governor Shumlin said in a statement regarding the new law that “there is a fiscal and environmental urgency for Vermont to move off fossil fuels and toward sustainable sources of power.”  The Governor also signed an omnibus energy bill that will make it easier for homeowners to finance residential renewable energy and energy efficiency projects and another bill that will increase the amount of excess renewable energy that homeowners can put back on the grid and charge utilities.  Vermont streamlines small-scale solar powerHuffington Post and Governor to sign Vermont energy billBloomberg BusinessWeek

National News

The federal government has agreed to a $45.6 million loan guarantee for a solar power project near Las Vegas, Nevada. The plant will consist of 90,000 solar modules mounted on panels that will track the sun and produce enough power for 4,700 homes in the area.  The project will employ 250 construction workers.  While a senior official for the company behind the project cited high infrastructure, labor, and material costs as reasons for the need for a loan guarantee, one solar analyst questioned the need for the loan guarantee.  Solar power firm wins federal loan guaranteeSan Francisco Chronicle and Federal loan guarantee for Nevada solar project raises questionsForbes

 

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