Fresh on the heels of the Obama administration’s call for a stronger, more flexible electric grid that is resistant to the effects of climate change, a Senate quintet is going full speed ahead on greening the country’s energy system and adding technology to usher in more wind and solar. Four Democrats and one independent on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, including the panel’s top Democrat, are expected to unveil legislation in the coming days to modernize the United States’ aging electric grid and bolster storage, a technology that many experts say holds the keys to stabilizing the generation of intermittent renewable energy. Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is slated to join Democratic Sens. Al Franken of Minnesota, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) in introducing the bill.
Oil producers are in survival mode, with all more or less following the same playbook for weathering the crude price slump while crossing fingers for better times next year. Executives across the industry have gathered here for the annual IHS CERAWeek conference, the largest annual meeting of insiders from all facets of the energy sector. Topic No. 1 is the sharp drop in oil prices that began in the fourth quarter of 2014 and what to do about it.
The Dutch green energy project, which will cost roughly $3 billion to build, is expected to generate enough power for 1.5 million people when it starts producing electricity in 2017.
When completed, the venture will become the latest in a series of renewables projects that have sprouted off the coasts of Britain, Germany and Denmark, helping make Europe the global leader in producing green energy from wind farms far at sea. “Offshore wind in Europe is quickly maturing,” said John Brace, chief executive of Northland Power, a Canadian energy company that owns a majority stake in the Dutch offshore wind project, called Gemini. “Europe is serious about greening its power supplies. There’s both political and public support for these types of projects.”
Now, flow batteries are being viewed as a possible way to help the electrical grid handle greater amounts of renewable energy, and they are being developed further by companies like UniEnergy Technologies, the maker of the Pullman battery, and academic and government researchers. Because solar panels and wind turbines produce varying amounts of electricity during the day, utilities and system operators must work harder to integrate the renewable sources into the grid. Batteries are one way to do this, by storing excess electricity from solar panels during the middle of the day, for example, and releasing it in the evening.
What Yale is doing, Nordhaus said, is adopting a mantra requiring departments and administrators to consider the complete sticker price that comes with constructing a new dormitory, for example, or expanding energy-intensive facilities. “You can build it, but you have to pay the whole cost,” said Nordhaus, describing the school’s carbon-taxing plan and calling carbon taxes “instinctive to economists.” Based on energy consumption, the program would levy a charge against university departments of $40 per metric ton of emissions. That $40 number is the current figure the federal government uses to estimate the social cost of carbon, a term describing the complete economic and societal costs underpinning greenhouse gas emissions.
A bipartisan duo agreed today that eventual enactment of a carbon tax is all but inevitable but that it will require the support of both Democrats and Republicans. Speaking at a forum hosted by the center-right American Enterprise Institute, Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) and former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) touted a levy on carbon as one way to break through the congressional impasse on climate change, especially if it comes attached to a reduction in the corporate tax rate. Both said they expected Congress to embrace it someday.
American renewable energy company Iberdrola Renewables has entered into long-term power supply agreements with Equinix data centers. The company will supply data centers with clean energy produced by a fleet of wind farms that Iberdrola operates. Wind farms in Washington, Oregon and Texas will be supplying bulk of the power.
State senators amended and then advanced a bill Wednesday that would provide a first-ever production tax credit for wind farms and other renewable energy facilities. The 25-3 vote to advance the proposal from the first round came after a long debate over whether such a tax break could succeed in creating an incentive or whether Nebraska is too late to become a big player in wind energy. Nebraska’s wind energy potential has always ranked among the highest in the nation. But its production of energy via wind farms has lagged behind, ranking 18th nationally in 2013. By contrast, neighboring Iowa was No. 1 in wind energy production that year, with about eight times more wind turbines than Nebraska.
“The administration has made it a priority to work with industry to identify challenges and create solutions for increasing the security and resilience of the electric grid, including the development of an integrated national plan to mitigate challenges pertaining to aging power transformers, the cyber and physical security of transformers, and the vulnerabilities of large power transformers,” the QER says.
Climate change will be a major factor in the future of power lines, natural gas pipelines, fuel depots and rail tanker cars, according to the Department of Energy’s first installment of its Quadrennial Energy Review(QER), released yesterday. The 348-page document, stemming from the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan, focused on how hydrocarbons and electrons get from point A to point B, mapping out the current state of affairs and recommending pathways to ensure that energy reliably gets from producers to end-users in the coming decade. Proposals included more than $15 billion in spending and tax credits to improve energy infrastructure (Greenwire, April 21).