Last week, I was invited to testify at the U.S. House of Representative’s Energy and Commerce Committee, Energy and Power Subcommittee’s hearing on “Laboratories of Democracy: The Economic Impacts of State Energy Policies.” My remarks focused on the tremendous success story of state renewable electricity standards (RES) and the important economic benefits they are delivering to state and local economies, as described in more detail in this 2013 UCS report.
House Testimony: Renewable Electricity Standards are Delivering Significant Economic Benefits Across the United States
Xcel Energy Inc. announced Thursday the creation of two subsidiaries to pursue multistate transmission projects that would serve multiple utilities. Chief Executive Ben Fowke said Xcel Energy Transmission Development Co. will focus on the Midwest and that Xcel Energy Southwest Transmission Co. will pursue Southwest projects.
When it comes to the Houston Import Project, there are a lot of plotlines to keep straight. CenterPoint Energy Inc., a regulated utility, contends that it should oversee all of a new transmission line that would send electricity to the Houston area, not just some of it. Calpine Corp. and NRG Energy Inc., independent power producers, say the state’s main grid operator acted improperly in endorsing the development in the first place. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the grid operator, defends its actions in backing the proposal and designating a division of construction work.
Coal-dependent states have launched another suit against U.S. EPA aimed at killing its proposed greenhouse gas rule for existing power plants, but environmentalists say the challenge is more likely to earn them press coverage than a legal result. West Virginia’s Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) filed the petition in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Friday with the backing of 11 other states. In it, the states took aim at a settlement agreement reached in December 2010 between EPA and state and environmental plaintiffs in which EPA agreed to propose rules for new and existing power plants by July 26, 2011, and finalize them by May 26, 2012.
Tesla Motors Inc. took concrete steps this week toward launching a first-of-its-kind, large-scale battery production facility. CEO Elon Musk told investors yesterday he’s confident electric vehicles will match or beat the price of comparable internal-combustion-engine vehicles within the next 10 years. Auto industry experts believe that battery costs would have to drop to $100 per kilowatt-hour in order for electric vehicles (EVs) to have a distinct cost advantage over gasoline-powered cars. Tesla currently produces batteries for its 300-mile-range Model S all-electric sedan at roughly $250 per kWh.
Exelon Corp. owns one of the nation’s largest electric generating fleets, competing with the likes of NRG Energy Inc. and NextEra Energy Inc. But unlike those rivals, Chicago-based Exelon has no plans to pursue a “yieldco” to house its renewable assets, executives told analysts and investors during a conference call yesterday morning. “We’ve leaned more toward project financing, and we think that fits our needs better than a yieldco in the long term,” Chris Crane, Exelon’s chief executive, said on the call. “So we’re not heading toward a yieldco.” Yieldcos are just one method of equity financing for energy projects, but one gaining more traction in recent months
Analysts say they are a relatively safe way to invest in renewable energy — much safer, for example, than buying shares in notoriously volatile solar panel makers. Warren Buffet agrees. He’s invested $15 billion in the same type of wind and solar projects that yieldcos own, and he plans to double that amount.
President Obama officially named Cheryl LaFleur today to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission until next April. The White House has designated Norman Bay to take over the chairmanship on April 15, 2015. LaFleur had been FERC’s acting chairwoman since the resignation of former Chairman Jon Wellinghoff last November. The unusual measure of having a chairman-in-waiting is the result of a tumultuous confirmation process for Bay, currently the head of FERC’s Office of Enforcement, and for LaFleur for a second term. LaFleur was officially sworn in this week. Bay still hasn’t been sworn in, according to FERC.
Tesla Motors Inc. and Panasonic Corp. are teaming up to build a battery manufacturing plant. The California-based electric vehicle maker and Japanese electronics giant will produce lithium-ion battery cells for EVs at a “gigafactory” in the United States, the companies said today.
Several thousand coal miners, other union workers and supporters flooded the streets here in opposition to U.S. EPA’s proposals to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. Action in the streets, including a smaller presence by climate activists, overshadowed the agency’s daylong listening session on the regulations on the 13th and 15th floors of the federal building downtown. Police arrested more than a dozen union activists, including United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts for sitting in front of the building’s steps in protest.