Environmentalists and the nuclear industry are beginning a push to preserve old nuclear reactors whose economic viability is threatened by cheap natural gas and rising production of wind energy. They argue that while natural gas and wind are helpful as sources of electricity with little or no production of greenhouse gases, national climate goals will be unreachable if zero-carbon nuclear reactors are phased out. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, an independent nonprofit group based in Washington that was formerly known as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, plans to release on Monday a research paper that charts the decline of the industry.
The chief executive of Michigan’s second-largest utility believes it’s likely that the state will raise its renewable energy requirement next year when the existing green power law expires. “I would expect that to happen,” John Russell of Jackson, Mich.-based CMS Energy Corp. told analysts and investors yesterday morning on a conference call. “There’s a lot of interest in renewable energy, and we like to build renewable energy. “We’ve built one wind park, we’re building another,” he said. “It’s going very well, and the costs are coming down.”
Last Friday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota ruled that Minnesota does not have the right to demand clean electricity. In her ruling on the lawsuit the state of North Dakota brought against the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission toward striking down the Next Generation Energy Act, District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson found that due to the interconnectivity of the power grid and Minnesota’s role as a primary consumer of North Dakota’s energy, Minnesota’s legislation unduly limits North Dakota’s rights to produce. Such limiting on the part of Minnesota, the judge ruled, is in violation of the Constitution’s interstate commerce clause.
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) is expressing strong opposition to the coal industry’s efforts to increase exports from the Pacific Northwest. Both Kitzhaber and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) have expressed skepticism about several proposals currently in the permitting process. But Kitzhaber’s comments over the weekend, now gaining traction, are among the most direct and decisive so far. “First, it is time to once and for all to say no to coal exports from the Pacific Northwest,” Kitzhaber said during a League of Conservation Voters event, according to prepared remarks. “It is time to say yes to national and state energy policies that will transform our economy and our communities into a future that can sustain the next generation,” he said.
In state capitals across the country, legislators are debating proposals to roll back environmental rules, prodded by industry and advocacy groups eager to curtail regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gases. The measures, which have been introduced in about 18 states, lie at the heart of an effort to expand to the state level the battle over fossil fuel and renewable energy. The new rules would trim or abolish climate mandates — including those that require utilities to use solar and wind energy, as well as proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules that would reduce carbon emissions from power plants. But the campaign — despite its backing from powerful groups such as Americans for Prosperity — has run into a surprising roadblock: the growing political clout of renewable-energy interests, even in rock-ribbed Republican states such as Kansas.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has also said he wants to use this work period to pass a “tax extenders” bill to renew dozens of expired tax breaks, including the renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) and several other energy-related incentives. Enacting such a bill is a top priority for Reid and new Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has said the breaks should be extended one last time before turning to comprehensive tax reform.
As the nuclear power industry struggles to remain competitive in electric power markets in the United States, how could a shift in energy policy framework affect the industry’s future? During today’s OnPoint, William Von Hoene Jr., senior executive vice president and chief strategy officer at Exelon Corp., the largest nuclear provider in the U.S., discusses the market and policy factors having the greatest impact on nuclear’s role in the electricity sector. He also discusses the future of Exelon’s business model.
An executive for the coalition of investors trying to build the country’s first offshore wind farm today said it will appeal a decision by New Jersey regulators to reject the $188 million project. “We plan to play out the process and file an appeal,” said Paul Gallagher, chief operating officer of Fishermen’s Energy, which first proposed the 25-megawatt wind farm off the Atlantic City coast in 2011. On Wednesday, the state Board of Public Utilities refused to reconsider its March 19 decision rejecting the plan. At that hearing, board members said they supported offshore wind energy but maintained the plan relies too heavily on unsecured federal grants, leaving ratepayers on the hook for millions of dollars.
Conservation groups have formally asked Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to develop a national plan for siting commercial-scale wind-power plants in locations that cause the least amount of impacts to birds, bats and other sensitive wildlife. The coalition of more than 70 groups — including the American Bird Conservancy, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, the Trust for Public Land and WildEarth Guardians — sent a four-page letter to Jewell arguing that a detailed plan is needed to highlight areas best suited for large-scale wind development and, perhaps more importantly, to identify areas where such development would cause too many natural resource conflicts.
Technology giants Apple Inc. and Google Inc., marked this year’s Earth Day by applying new polish to their clean energy credentials and, in the case of Apple, sending a clear signal to its customers and the public that the company is working hard to become one of the world’s most eco-friendly brands. In what may be her highest-profile acts since joining Apple as vice president of environmental initiatives almost a year ago, former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson gave a series of media interviews this week and posted a five-paragraph letter on Apple’s revamped environmental website detailing the company’s continued path toward environmental sustainability. Yet, she acknowledged more work needs to be done.