Public utility and property laws historically aimed at protecting in-state interests should be tweaked to help facilitate electric transmission construction, according to a policy paper released yesterday by the Harvard Law School’s Environmental Policy Initiative. The authors recommend three fixes: Siting laws should allow out-of-state transmission companies to apply for siting certificates and eminent domain authority; siting proceedings should allow regulators to account for the regional benefits of a project; and laws providing eminent domain should permit projects that prove regional benefits.
What was on track to become the nation’s most ambitious community solar program is clouded with uncertainty after Minnesota’s largest utility said that within a month, it will disqualify most of the 560 megawatts of solar projects that have been proposed. In a filing with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission last week, Xcel Energy Inc. said it will cap community solar projects proposed for any site at 1 MW — a change aimed at proposals to co-locate numerous “solar gardens” to take advantage of shared infrastructure and economies of scale.
Even moderate wind energy development would enable Iowa to meet federal clean power goals over the next 15 years, the Iowa Wind Energy Association said in a new report Monday. Iowa needs about 2,300 megawatts of wind energy generation to meet the federal Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions 16 percent by 2030. “Iowa could meet its goals by building a modest amount of wind and taking no other action,” Mike Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, said at a news conference at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) vetoed a bill Friday that envisioned a review by the state’s attorney general of any state implementation response to U.S. EPA’s plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. In a news release, the governor said the vetoed legislation — S.B. 676 — had been described as an attempt to fight EPA. In fact, Fallin said, it inadvertently had the opposite effect by requiring that Oklahoma develop a state plan. The attorney general could have rejected the plan after reviewing its legality. Fallin said her executive order was the “clearest path” to fighting EPA carbon mandates, saying the legislative approach backed by some others in state government could come with great expense for the state.
BHE Renewables, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., is going to open a 400 megawatt wind farm in Nebraska in 2016 that will increase the state’s wind-generated electricity by 50% and take the state closer to its goal of getting a third of its power from renewables. Nebraska currently has 800 MW of wind-provided electrical power. The state utility will buy all of the new production.
The Legislature appeared poised Monday to place a $75 million limit on enhanced state tax credits designed to promote development of new wind energy projects in Nebraska, but the ultimate fate of the bill remained in doubt. Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha sponsored and accepted proposed amendments to his bill (LB423), scaling down individual investment and production tax credits while limiting total credits in an apparent effort to build support for his proposal.
Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative leaders unveiled a plan Monday to end a state mandate that requires utility companies to get one-fifth of their power from renewable sources by 2020. The wind industry, which had fought that idea in the past, now supports it as part of a compromise that will keep lawmakers from imposing an excise tax on wind energy production. The plan was announced about a half-hour before a scheduled meeting of the House Energy and Environment Committee, which placed the new language into HB 2373 and approved it within an hour. The bill will now head to the House floor.
Under the deal announced by Brownback, the requirement Kansas utilities draw 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020 would become voluntary rather than a mandate. The state’s utility companies are expected to reach that benchmark in about a year. The bill would allow renewable energy facilities, primarily wind farms, to retain a lifetime exemption from payment of property taxes. New alternative energy units built after 2016 would be eligible for a 10-year property tax exemption. At the conclusion of that period, producers would be taxed at the 25 percent commercial rate instead of the 33 percent utility rate.
The Supreme Court today granted the Obama administration’s request to review a regulatory effort that would reshape energy markets by incentivizing reduced electricity use. In a customary short order, the court agreed to review a federal appeals court decision last May that threw out the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s demand-response regulations.
FERC’s Order 745 requires grid operators to compensate customers and demand-response providers for unused electricity at approximately the same rate as it purchases electricity from power companies.
The $3,000 residential battery system unveiled by Tesla Motors Inc. won’t let a home sever its grid connection and isn’t likely to disrupt the national power market anytime soon, the associate director of a national laboratory told lawmakers today. Jud Virden, an associate director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Energy and Environment Directorate, said Tesla’s 7-kilowatt-hour system can’t meet a household’s daily power needs — typically, eight hours of baseload plus peak load consumption of air conditioners, dryers or other appliances kicking on simultaneously.