U.S. EPA won’t be alone in holding climate change hearings this week. Three congressional committees will also mull the issue, which has been characterized as both the gravest challenge facing future generations and — in the words of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) — “the greatest hoax ever to be perpetrated on the American people.”
“Safe, reliable and affordable” is the mantra of the regulators and utilities of the nation’s electricity grid that is at the heart of the U.S. economy. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power is turning to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for answers in a hearing tomorrow as to whether U.S. electricity will still be safe, reliable and affordable if the recently proposed U.S. EPA regulations on carbon emissions at existing power plants are enacted.
Among all the states that have mandated renewable energy targets, California leads the pack. Under the Global Warming Solutions Act — signed into law by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in 2006 — the state must receive 33 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020 and lower its emissions by 80 percent, relative to 1990 levels, by 2050.
Xcel Energy Inc. Chief Executive Officer Ben Fowke may have found the sweet spot as the leader of one of the nation’s largest utility holding companies. It’s not that his four regulated utilities with operations in eight states aren’t challenged by the multiple trends shaking up the electricity industry across the U.S. They certainly are.
More than 1,000 clean-air advocates are en route to Atlanta. Those against U.S. EPA’s proposed carbon rules for existing power plants will be there in full force, too.
“This is the continuing battle on the Supreme Court between those who believe in Chevron deference and those who believe Chevron deference has gone too far,” said Thomas Lorenzen, a former Justice Department attorney now at Dorsey & Whitney. “You’ve got [Chief Justice John] Roberts and [Justices Antonin] Scalia — and presumably [Samuel] Alito and [Clarence] Thomas — who would say this has gone too far — Chevron should be limited.”
While political battles rage in Congress over U.S. EPA’s landmark proposal for curbing carbon emissions from existing power plants, most expect that court rulings, not legislation, will decide the rule’s fate. Even if November’s elections swing Senate control to the Republicans, their efforts to clip EPA authority stand little chance of overriding President Obama’s veto, given how few Democrats are likely to link arms with the GOP on the issue.
Texas this year completed work on a $7 billion experiment to address the challenges of transmitting wind power to the masses: 3,600 miles of high-voltage power lines, connecting millions of customers from the state’s major cities to the Panhandle. An inability to transmit power historically has been a major barrier to the wind industry. “We’ve built it, and they’re marching this way,” Warren Lasher, the director of system planning at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said of development plans.
For energy-producing states, shifts in domestic fuel use could be the biggest impact of the Clean Power Plan
States that pay the highest abatement costs under U.S. EPA’s new power plant carbon rule may actually emerge as economic winners once upstream impacts are accounted for, according to a new joint analysis by the Rhodium Group (RHG) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). In the month and a half since EPA first released a draft version of its Clean Power Plan (CPP), most analysts and pundits have focused on the costs of emissions abatement the plan would require — costs that, barring significant gains in energy efficiency, would be passed on to ratepayers in the form of higher electricity prices.
A report from investor activist group Ceres is gauging the nation’s major utilities’ embrace of renewable energy and energy efficiency with an eye toward encouraging compliance with upcoming federal electricity rules. The study ranked 32 of the country’s largest investor-owned utility holding companies on their renewable energy and energy efficiency performance. The companies and their 80 utility subsidiaries accounted for about 70 percent of U.S. retail electricity sales in 2012.