Technological advances that have reduced prices and improved efficiency of renewable energy have helped transform the politics around climate change since 2009 when an attempt to forge a global deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions crashed in Copenhagen, the United Nations climate chief said Thursday. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, said countries were ahead of schedule in negotiating a landmark global agreement on curbing greenhouse gases that can be adopted at a Paris summit in December.
Iowa could have a critical role in shaping the national conversation about climate change ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Al Gore said Tuesday in Cedar Rapids. “It’s hard to miss the importance of a state that is simultaneously the first contest in the presidential contest and the number one producer of wind electricity in the country with a fast-growing solar economy also,” Gore told The Des Moines Register. “You put those two things together and I think Iowa has a tremendous potential for pushing this onto the agenda of (presidential) candidates in both parties.”
A bill passed by the Legislature this week makes Hawaiʻi the first state in the nation to adopt a 100% Renewable Portfolio Standard. House Bill 623 mandates that Hawaiʻi utilities generate 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2045. The bill was introduced by Representative Chris Lee of Kailua in an effort to boost the state’s local energy industry and save ratepayers money.
Researchers have spent the last three years mapping the path migrating birds take from their winter homes to their summer breeding grounds as wind turbines spring up along the Atlantic Coast, posing a potential threat to avian travelers. Teams from Long Island to the Carolinas finished tagging surf scoters, a type of sea duck, and two other sea bird species last month and now are gathering data from tracking devices to chart their movement patterns.
Lawmakers on a New Jersey Senate committee have advanced legislation to create one of the nation’s most ambitious clean energy plans. On a 4-1 vote yesterday, lawmakers approved a bill to require New Jersey to receive at least 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. “This is probably the most important bill we have to help us deal with the impacts of climate change and moving our state forward when it comes to renewable energy,” Sierra Club New Jersey Director Jeff Tittel said.
The “The Free Market Energy Act of 2015” would ensure that distributed energy resources would be able to connect to the grid in a reasonable time frame and for just and reasonable fees. It would also lay the groundwork for states to appoint smart grid “coordinators” or operators to manage the distributed units and calls on states to consider alternatives to building transmission — including distributed energy. King is advancing his proposal as the Republican chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee crafts a comprehensive, bipartisan energy bill for consideration this summer. King said his bill has already drawn support from the “green” tea party as a “individual sovereignty issue” but that he has yet to reach out to other senators or House members.
Somewhere between the power plant and light switch, as much as 6 percent of U.S.-generated electric power disappears, lost in transmission as current pushes its way through power lines. If a sizable part of those line losses could be recovered, the preserved energy would matter to consumers and to utilities that will have to find new ways to produce or conserve electricity under U.S. EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
Then there is the challenge of getting the power from the wind farms to homes and businesses. Utilities move wind-generated electricity through the existing power grid. Existing transmission networks have to be upgraded, however, which is neither inexpensive nor free of controversy. Meanwhile, Clean Line Energy Partners plans to build a high-voltage direct-current transmission line from northwest Iowa to Illinois. Iowa has the opportunity to continue be a national leader in clean and renewable energy, but there will be hurdles to clear. State and national leaders should be prepared to help the state get over them.
State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, who introduced LB 423, expressed disappointment about the outcome of the vote. “This was a decision today that’s going to have negative consequences long-term for the state,” he said. “It’s a decision that my daughter’s generation is going to be paying the cost for.”
The tax credits would have allowed Nebraska to take advantage of rapid changes in the energy industry, Nordquist said. Utilities are in the process of closing dozens of coal-fired power plants and will be looking to invest in clean-energy projects.
After several years of fending off attacks by Americans for Prosperity and other conservative groups, Kansas’ wind industry brokered a deal with political opponents that would end the state’s renewable energy requirement in the hope of creating a more stable business climate. Compromise legislation, announced by Gov. Sam Brownback (R) during a news conference yesterday afternoon with legislative and business leaders, would replace Kansas’ 20 percent renewable standard with a voluntary goal. It would also cap the current property tax abatement for new wind farms at 10 years. Kansas in 2009 became the last of 30 states across the country to enact a renewable energy standard, a broader energy measure that also authorized the controversial Sunflower Electric Power Corp. coal-fired power station in Holcomb, Kan.