President Obama showed last night that he was eager to spend his renewed political capital on priorities that he sometimes downplayed during his first four years in office — notably climate change. Obama devoted more than two paragraphs of his State of the Union address to the issue, portraying climate change as a dangerous threat to be avoided through regulation if legislation proves to be impossible. “For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change,” said the president, lowering his voice and slowing his pace for emphasis.
“Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America,” he said. “So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year. Let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.”
Ernest Moniz, a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a top candidate to replace outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu, according to industry sources. President Obama is considering tapping Moniz, a nuclear physicist, to replace Chu, who announced his resignation earlier this month. Moniz, 69, served as the Energy Department’s undersecretary during the Clinton administration and has advised Obama on central components of the administration’s energy plan, including a retooling of the country’s stalled nuclear waste program, energy research and development, and unconventional gas.
A bipartisan group of Western lawmakers has reintroduced a bill that would establish a new leasing program for wind and solar energy on federal lands and use a portion of revenues to support states, counties and wildlife habitats. The bills by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) also would dedicate revenues to help agencies streamline the permitting of renewable energy on federal lands.
When many countries are choosing their next generation of power stations, they will be tempted to pick wind turbines. Thanks to better design, building wind farms can now be cheaper than building new coal or gas power stations.
A new poll tracking the conservation attitudes of residents of the six Rocky Mountain States shows that support is strong for greater protection of public lands and investment in renewable energy. It also offers some clues to why public policy does not dovetail with public opinion in those areas. In early January, two polling companies questioned 2,400 registered voters across Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Brendan Boepple, program coordinator for Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project, said the results highlighted “the disparity between the reality and the rhetoric among Western voters.”
The wind industry set a record last year with a capacity of more than 60,000 megawatts of power, and Texas is by far the top producer. The big challenge: getting all the wind energy produced in far west Texas to the big cities that need the power. To make that happen, the state is putting down thousands of miles of transmission lines to get the job done. Construction is supposed to be completed by the end of the year. It can’t happen soon enough for Doug May, the economic development director for Pecos County.
Exelon Corp. Chief Executive Christopher Crane said Thursday that the rapid pace of subsidized wind-generated electric power could ultimately force it to shutter nuclear plants. “What worries me is if we continue to build an excessive amount of wind and subsidize wind, the unintended consequence could be that it leads to shutting down plants,” Crane said in an interview. Crane said states that have helped to subsidize wind development in order to create jobs might find themselves losing jobs if nuclear plants shut down.
Electric utilities and independent power producers completed 430 new power plants accounting for 29,335 megawatts of new generation projects in 2012, a whopping 43 percent increase over the previous year, according to figures released yesterday by SNL Financial. Six of the 10 largest projects were natural gas- and coal-fired generators in the Southeast and Midwest, while wind power accounted for the lion’s share of new generation nationally, with 12,953 MW of added capacity, or 44 percent of the total.
A number of renewable energy executives, financiers and advocates are calling for Congress and the Obama administration to open new avenues for investment in renewable energy projects amid continued uncertainty around long-term federal support for the sector. Master limited partnerships (MLPs) and real estate investment trusts (REITs) were among the hottest topics yesterday at a daylong conference hosted by the American Council on Renewable Energy focused on policies that could aid wind, solar, alternative fuels and other renewable industries.