Solar and wind power may be leading the growth of renewables in the United States today, but it has long been an older source of energy — hydropower — that has dominated the renewable energy sector. Built for the most part decades before climate change entered the popular lexicon, hydroelectric has continued to supply the majority of the country’s clean, renewable energy, even as other power sources raced forward. Until now, that is. In the first quarter of 2014, hydroelectric fell below 50 percent of total renewable electricity, outpaced by the collective output of solar, wind, biofuels, waste energy and geothermal, according to data from the International Energy Agency.
In the middle of an almond grove near here, in California’s Central Valley, a first-of-its-kind battery is sharing space with nut trees, solar panels and irrigation equipment. The 1-megawatt system, which holds four hours of power, is the first large-scale example of an iron-chromium flow battery. According to Silicon Valley startup EnerVault, it’s a major milestone for renewables, grid stability and energy efficiency, as well as the energy storage market itself.
A federal appeals court today threw out a high-profile Federal Energy Regulatory Commission order that provided incentives for electricity users to consume less power, a practice dubbed demand response. In a divided ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck a blow to the Obama administration’s energy efficiency efforts, vacating a 2011 FERC order requiring grid operators to pay customers and demand-response providers the market value of unused electricity. The court held that FERC significantly overstepped the commission’s authority under the Federal Power Act.
Idaho, Texas and California lead the pack when it comes to creating the most clean energy and clean transportation jobs for the first part of 2014 — but the numbers are less than half of last year’s, according to a first quarter report by an environmental nonprofit business group. Environmental Entrepreneurs’ (E2) report said that 5,600 new jobs were announced nationwide in the first three months of this year, compared to 12,000 jobs in the same time period last year. Bob Keefe, executive director for E2, used the statistics to criticize Congress for failing to act on key pieces of legislation.
“By committing to clean up power plants with a stakeholder process similar to that which was used for other Clean Air Act standards, you are once again demonstrating your commitment to commonsense solutions that takes the challenge of climate change seriously,” the officials wrote. “This move, combined with the strong efficiency and clean energy goals also outlined in your Climate Action Plan, is key to putting America on a path to a future powered by homegrown clean energy.”
Renewable energy use can look like a no-brainer for sunny, windy island nations that face high conventional power prices, but the reality of renewable installations can be fraught with challenges linked to the small size of such power systems and barriers involved with linking them to the power grid. The government of the Virgin Islands this week took steps to tackle some of those issues with the passage of a new Feed-In Tariff Act designed to encourage the construction of small to midsize renewable energy installations that would integrate with its diesel-based electric infrastructure.
When the Obama administration seeded smart grid and advanced meter deployments in 2009 with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, proponents hoped the meters would be linked with new “time of use” electricity rates and household displays that would dramatically demonstrate the high wholesale cost of peak, midday power, prompting customers to conserve electricity at those times.
One House Democrat yesterday floated draft legislation that would allow states to implement a carbon tax to comply with U.S. EPA’s forthcoming rule for existing power plant CO2. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) proposed giving states the option of implementing a state-level excise tax on the greenhouse gas emissions from regulated existing generation as a means of satisfying the rule EPA will propose next month under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. He is soliciting feedback on his draft.
Ohio could become the first state to soften standards for utilities’ energy efficiency and renewable energy use if a fast-tracked bill passes the House this week as expected. The state’s Senate Bill 310 would repeal requirements for power providers to source half their renewable energy in-state and would freeze annual increases in alternative energy integration for two years.
On the heels of an executive order that jump-starts efforts to address climate change, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has signaled he is willing to take further executive action to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. Appearing on a recent Seattle-based television show, Inslee said he is willing to use executive authority to implement a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS). The program would mandate that fuel producers reduce the carbon intensity of their fuel mix over time to clean up the transportation sector, which accounts for roughly 44 percent of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions. “It is clear that it is both my role and my responsibility to act where legislators fail, and there’s been so far an abject failure to do any action to really deal with carbon pollution,” he said.