“We will honor our commitments to our communities to do what’s right to keep our residents safe, secure, healthy and prosperous as we accelerate our clean energy economy and put the interest of our people before those of big polluters. We will continue to invest in clean energy that creates local jobs and keeps utility bills low, and we will electrify transportation to provide convenient, safe, and affordable ways to get around our cities, and make our neighborhoods healthy and vibrant.”
Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Statoil ASA and Eni SpA are moving into multi-billion-dollar offshore wind farms in the North Sea and beyond. They’re starting to score victories against leading power suppliers including Dong Energy A/S and Vattenfall AB in competitive auctions for power purchase contracts, which have developed a specialty in anchoring massive turbines on the seabed. The oil companies have many reasons to move into the industry. They’ve spent decades building oil projects offshore, and that business is winding down in some areas where older fields have drained. Returns from wind farms are predictable and underpinned by government-regulated electricity prices. And fossil fuel executives want to get a piece of the clean-energy business as forecasts emerge that renewables will eat into their market.
Xcel Energy Inc. will undertake the nation’s largest multistate expansion of wind energy over the next five years, with 3,380 megawatts of new capacity expected to come online in seven states. The multibillion-dollar build-out will see wind energy account for nearly 35 percent of Xcel’s total generation capacity and solidify its status as the nation’s No. 1 utility provider of wind power. “We’re investing big in wind because of the tremendous economic value it brings to our customers,” Ben Fowke, Xcel’s chairman, president and CEO, said of the plan. “With wind energy at historic low prices, we can secure savings that will benefit customers now and for decades to come.”
Clean energy groups won a victory last week after Minnesota regulators approved a long-range plan by Otter Tail Power Company that will double its investment in wind power and close a coal plant within the next five years. Otter Tail’s updated 15-year “integrated resource plan” included suggestions from the groups Fresh Energy, Wind on the Wires, Minnesota Center For Environmental Advocacy and Sierra Club.
All of those folks who were cautiously optimistic about former Texas Governor Rick Perry as head of the US Department of Energy might be feeling a little more cautiously optimistic now. In the past several days, the agency has pushed out some news and social media messages hinting that the agency will continue to follow through with support for renewables. That’s subject to where the new Republican budget axe falls, but in the meantime, let’s celebrate with a look at the latest from DOE.
Gov. Mark Dayton (D) vetoed the first in what are expected to be a series of legislative reforms of the state’s energy policies, giving a win to renewables advocates who said the Republican-backed measure would discourage solar adoption by rural Minnesotans. The bill, which passed the Minnesota Legislature last week on a 39-26 Senate vote, would have stripped the state Public Utilities Commission from its role as an arbitrator of disputes brought by customers of electric cooperatives and municipal utilities over grid-connection fees imposed on solar users. Instead, such disputes would have gone to a third-party mediator for resolution.
The wind industry is an economic engine. In 2016, wind power installations represented more than $14 billion in new investment. That’s greater than the annual revenue of the National Football League. Wind power currently generates 5.5 percent of the nation’s electricity with 82,183 megawatts of installed capacity generating clean, low-cost energy. It is now the largest source of renewable electric capacity in the U.S., eclipsing hydropower, and its growth spurt is expected to continue. The new report by Navigant finds that wind could grow by 8-10 gigawatts per year through 2020, resulting in 35 GW of new U.S. wind installations by 2020. This means more jobs and economic development will follow.
“With the auto industry’s push to roll back regulations, the U.S. is entering crisis-mode for people’s lungs and pocketbooks,” Conor Bambrick, air and energy director at Environmental Advocates of New York, said in a statement. “This rebate program is the first of many steps the State must take, and it demonstrates that New York has the ability and willingness to break from the status quo despite President Trump’s fossil-fuel agenda.”
German carmaker BMW plans to increase output of profitable sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) to boost earnings this year and help fund the rollout of a mass production system for electric cars, it said on Tuesday. BMW Group and rival Mercedes have both forecast that demand for electric and hybrid cars will rise to 15-25 percent of sales by 2025, forcing them to overhaul their production lines and vehicle platforms to accommodate mass production techniques.
Last week was the auto industry’s turn. In a speech in Ypsilanti, Mich., Mr. Trump said he would alter rules imposed by the Obama administration to raise vehicles’ fuel standards, which are aimed at curbing greenhouse gases. The rules, Mr. Trump said, are killing jobs. Getting rid of them would prompt a resurgence in the auto industry that would make America “the car capital of the world again,” he said. That’s one possibility. We also have to consider another scenario: Loosening the fuel-economy rules could remove a primary incentive for big carmakers to catch up with innovative upstarts like Tesla and leave the American car industry out of step with a future ruled by electric motors rather than the internal combustion engine.