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Energy Update, September 23, 2011

September 23, 2011

In the States

AK – In a speech to oil and gas industry representatives, the Alaska Oil and Gas Congress, Governor Sean Parnell strongly argued for less federal oversight of drilling activities and the continuation of federal subsidies to oil and gas companies.  Governor Parnell also called for an end to “political games” and said the Obama administration needs to do more to help streamline oil and gas drilling permits and other regulations, saying “we need the agency staff to timely make decisions and to work cooperatively to make these decisions.”  The article notes that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar came to Alaska in August and during his visit said that President Obama is an advocate for increased drilling in Alaska, but that he believes it must be done safely, and also highlighted the working group established by the President to better coordinate regulatory oversight through collaboration among different agencies in the environmental review and permitting processes.  During his remarks, Governor Parnell also said he is working with the legislature to pass a bill that would lower taxes on oil and gas companies.  Parnell tells oil and gas companies he wants cuts in State taxes – Anchorage Daily News

CT – A newly reconstituted and strengthened State Authority that will invest in clean energy innovation and use within Connecticut is nearly ready to get to work, according to Governor Dannel Malloy.  The Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) will leverage state and private sector funds to finance projects that help increase clean energy use by making it more affordable and also help improve energy efficiency.  The Authority is made up of Executive and Legislative appointees as well as related State agency and department heads.  The Governor said that “this group will work to more aggressively expand the state’s opportunities to improve energy efficiency and renewable energy usage through more flexible methods, helping Connecticut maintain its position as a leader in clean energy.”  Malloy appoints members to CEFIA – StamfordPlus

IN – Global Blade Technology, a maker of wind turbine parts, is moving into a 45,000 square foot facility in Evansville formerly used for assembling refrigerators.  The $17.6 million project will benefit from up to $2.8 million in performance-based tax credits awarded through the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, and up to $200,000 in training grants if the company creates 400 jobs by 2014.  The City of Evansville offered the company additional tax credits and access to its revolving loan fund.  Governor Mitch Daniels has said that Indiana is one of the fastest growing states in terms of wind power added, with estimates from the wind power industry saying that the State’s wind power production grew tenfold in 2009 and 2010.  Turbine blades manufacturer to build factory in Indiana – EcoSeed

RI – Governor Lincoln Chafee signed four new renewable energy bills into law at a press conference held at an eco-friendly housing complex in Tiverton where he toured a construction site where a wind turbine will soon be built to provide power for the local community as a direct result of the legislation.  One law generally limits net metering to renewable energy that is connected to a meter and is located in the same place that the energy is used; this restriction is designed to protect the local utility company from having to pay a higher net metering rate to developers who deliberately oversized their renewable energy projects.  Another new law allows smaller renewable energy generators to connect to the grid and enter into contracts with the utility at set prices based on the volume and type of production method.  The remaining two laws speed up the process for connecting renewable energy projects to the grid and set up the Renewable Energy Coordinating Board to develop a statewide strategy on related plans.  Gov. Chafee signs renewable energy laws – North Kingstown Patch and Chafee signs bills on clean power – Providence Journal

Federal News

Solyndra, a solar energy company that received a $535 million federal loan guarantee in 2009 as part of the stimulus package as well as a smaller loan guarantee in 2005, has laid off nearly all of its employees and filed for bankruptcy.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Inspector General at the Department of Energy have each launched investigations into the company, the Treasury Department is investigating the Federal Financing Bank, through which the money was lent to Solyndra, and House Oversight Committee Chairman Daniel Issa has vowed to start an investigation as well.  Some Congressional Republicans have alleged that the administration did not exercise due diligence over the loan guarantee, with some asserting that the company received the loan due to the company’s largest investor’s ties to a donor to President Obama’s campaign.  Darrell Issa to probe government loan programs after Solyndra collapse – Los Angeles Times

A dispute over the amount of funds that should be available for disaster relief and whether those funds should be offset by a loan subsidy program offered to auto and auto parts manufacturers to build more fuel efficient cars could delay the passage of a continuing resolution that would keep the government running until mid-November.  Both the Republican House leadership and the Democratic Senate leadership say they want to provide more funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is scheduled to run out of disaster relief funds in a few days.  Last week, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would provide $6.9 billion to FEMA.  A bill offered by House Republicans that would provide the agency only $3.65 billion and offsets $1.5 billion of this amount with a cut to the loan subsidy program, and $100 million from the loan guarantee program that funded Solyndra, passed the House but was tabled in the Senate.  FEMA’s funding is due to run out on Monday and the government would shut down on October 1 unless Congress passes and the President signs an appropriations extension.  Shutdown a step closer as senate blocks House bill – New York Times and Senate likely to reject House-passed spending bill – Washington Post and Senate delays spending bill, leaving FEMA at risk – Wall Street Journal

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Energy Update, September 10, 2010

September 10, 2010

In the States

CA – A new website called Clean Energy Jobs has been launched as a part of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Clean Energy Workforce Training Program, which is designed to help promote green collar jobs in the State.  Governor Schwarzenegger praised the website in a written statement, saying that it will highlight “how the state's community colleges and workforce investment boards, labor unions, and employers are working to meet the demand for trained workers."  The Governor also wrote that the training program itself “represents the kind of innovative thinking needed to steer our economy toward a greener future, while doing everything possible to help Californians return to work." Governor introduces green jobs websiteSan Francisco Chronicle

PA – Pennsylvania currently requires that 0.5% of the electricity in the State must come from solar power by 2021.  Governor Ed Rendell has called for an increase in that percentage during his announcement of $20.5 million to finance new solar programs within the State.  “Unless we act now to increase our solar share – even to a modest 1.5%– the types of projects we’re announcing today won’t even consider Pennsylvania,” the Governor said at the announcement, adding that solar companies already in the State may move to other States with larger mandates on solar energy.  Pennsylvania Governor calls for increase in solar targetBrighterEnergy.org

TN – Governor Phil Bredesen has announced a $2.5 million rebate program that will provide a $2,500 rebate for the first 1,000 electric vehicles sold in Tennessee.  A federal rebate program to provide $7,500 per electric car is also available to Tennessee residents, making the total amount available to electric car purchasers up to $10,000.  These rebates will be available as soon as sales begin later this year for the new all-electric Nissan Leaf, for which batteries will be manufactured in Tennessee.  The funds for the rebates will be taken from the petroleum violation escrow account, which consists of money collected from oil companies by the federal government and provided to States for use on federally approved projects.  During a speech at the Tennessee Valley Authority, Governor Bredesen said that the rebates will allow “Tennesseans to be pioneers in trying out electric cars and making them accessible and affordable in the State.”  Rebates available for first electric cars in Tenn.Bloomberg Businessweek

Regional News

At a meeting of the Southern Governors’ Association in Alabama, Governors from both Gulf and Atlantic coastal States told Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Barack Obama, and Wilma Lewis, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management, that since States that allow offshore oil drilling are more susceptible to the risks of drilling – risks made clear to the Governors as a result of the BP oil spill in the Gulf – they should receive a higher share of royalties from offshore oil leases than they are scheduled to receive, and they should receive them as soon as possible.  In making the case for States that allow offshore drilling to receive a higher share of royalties, Governor Bob Riley of Alabama told the officials that he was “not too sure any coastal States had any idea of the risk we were taking,” and Governor Bev Perdue of North Carolina expressed her concern that States might not be willing to take the risk of an offshore oil spill if they aren’t also rewarded for assuming such risk.  Governor Riley said that the royalties would allow States to stock up on boom and other supplies necessary to handle an emergency oil cleanup, for which they had to rely on BP and the federal government during the recent Gulf spill.  Some of the Governors and other State officials also criticized the Obama Administration for imposing a temporary moratorium on deep water offshore oil drilling.  While Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi said he was glad to hear that the Administration is committed to offshore oil drilling, he also made clear that he hoped offshore drilling would continue as soon as possible.  Assistant Secretary Lewis emphasized the importance of the moratorium providing time to review regulations and ensure safety on offshore oil rigs following an incident that resulted in 11 people losing their lives and devastation to Gulf Coast communities.  Southern Governors want more oil money due to drilling risksMontgomery Advertiser

National News

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has resulted in the installation of more than two million smart meters and the weatherization of more than 200,000 homes.  Smart meters cut costs and energy usage by allowing consumers to track and alter energy use in real time and weatherization improvements reduce the amount of energy needed to control the temperature inside homes.  DOE cited a utility industry analysis that asserts that smart grid improvements, such as smart meters, can cut electricity demand by more than 4% annually by 2030, saving businesses and consumers $20.4 billion per year.  Another study by DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory also indicates that weatherization can save homeowners an average of $400 in the first year after a project is complete.  The Department of Energy is currently weatherizing 25,000 homes per month with a goal of weatherizing a total of 600,000 homes under the ARRA.  Energy Dept. says ‘smart meter’ army hits 2 millionThe Hill and DOE announces two million smart meters installed in the USEERE News and 200,000 homes weatherized in Recovery Act milestone: Vice PresidentEERE News

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Energy Update, October 30, 2009

October 30, 2009

In the States

AK – Governor Sean Parnell is attempting to boost the state’s economy through increased traditional energy production.  He has met with Interior Secretary Salazar and other officials about drilling for fossil fuels offshore, which the Governor says could create 35,000 jobs.  He is also working on a $30 billion natural gas pipeline that would send fuel to the lower 48 states and create thousands of more jobs.  Palin successor focuses on energy agendaWall Street Journal

CA – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed two solar renewable bills into law.  One new law will require utilities to pay consumers for any excess electricity produced by a home alternative energy installation such as a solar panel.  Utilities must begin paying such consumers a rate to be determined by the Public Utilities Commission in early 2011.  The other law requires utilities to pay higher rates for electricity generated from small alternative energy producers, also known as a feed-in tariff.  Both of these measures are expected to help the state achieve its goal of obtaining 33% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.  California passes feed-in tariff for solar energyCooler Planet and California expands its rules for feed-in tariffs and net metering – EERE News 

CO – As the debate over national energy legislation continues, the role of nuclear energy has emerged as a major concern.  Electricity produced with nuclear energy is virtually carbon-free which makes it attractive as an alternative to the more expensive renewable options such as solar or wind.  Governor Bill Ritter and other state officials have said that they support nuclear power and increased mining for uranium, of which Colorado is a major producer, as long as it is done in a manner that is safe for both mine workers and the environment.  Colorado in crosshairs of nuke boom if climate bill sparks uranium revivalColorado Independent

WY – Governor Dave Freudenthal talked with lawmakers from other western States this week to discuss energy issues particular to the region.  In response to a suggestion from some representatives that there be more cooperation between States regarding permitting and siting of interstate power lines, the Governor pointed out that such cooperation runs counter to the foundation of interstate relations, namely competition for economic development and human and natural resources.  He also expressed frustration that Wyoming creates power for other States from coal and natural gas while at the same time some of these States are touting new restrictions on carbon emissions.  Wyo. governor talks energy with Western lawmakersIdaho Statesman

Regional and National News

President Barack Obama has announced the largest-ever investment in the American energy grid, $3.4 billion in grants to 100 electric companies, which will be used to upgrade the grid to be more dependable and efficient.  Specifically the funds will, when combined with $4.7 billion in private investment, purchase 2.5 million smart meters, one million in-home energy displays, hundreds of thousands of smart devices for homes, 200,000 smart transformers, as well as hundreds of grid sensors and substations.  Combined, these improvements to the grid will allow rate-payers to save energy and money, operators to better monitor and administer electricity, and utilities to respond to outages more quickly, while creating tens of thousands of jobs needed for manufacturing and installing the new products.  US electrical grid gets $3.4 billion jolt of stimulus fundingWashington Post and President Obama announces $3.4 billion to spur smart electric gridsEERE News

The Senate Environment and Public Works committee conducted hearings this week on the cap-and-trade bill sponsored by Senators Kerry and Boxer (S.1733) that would lower emissions from power plants and other polluters more than 80% below 2005 levels by 2050.  Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer has pledged to hold a markup on the bill next Tuesday while Republican committee members, who have said the process is moving too hastily, have pledged to boycott such a meeting, effectively preventing it from beginning.  Republican committee members have said they would like more information from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Congressional Budget Office before holding a markup.  According to one already completed EPA analysis, the Senate cap-and-trade bill is “quite similar” to the House version, varying only slightly in the amount of allowed pollution and costs.  Senate climate markup set for Tuesday but will any Republicans show?New York Times and Economic impacts of S.1733: The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act of 2009Environmental Protection Agency

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