Southern Co. Chief Executive Officer Tom Fanning made it clear at the company’s annual meeting yesterday that Georgia Power customers will soon be able to go directly to the utility and get solar panels to put on their roof. “Starting July 1, we will now offer distributed generation rooftop solar in Georgia,” Fanning said. Fanning is making good on his word that Atlanta-based Southern is trying to find strategies for customers and tap the rising demand for distributed forms of generation, like solar. His remarks also coincide with the date for a new state law that lets Georgians enter into long-term financing arrangements with independent solar power providers.
California is giving money to residents who get rid of polluting cars and buy ones that use less gasoline or no gasoline at all. The Golden State yesterday launched a pilot program advancing the effort. It’s funded by $4.8 million in proceeds from California’s cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions. By state law, that money must be used on endeavors that further the goals of climate law A.B. 32. Under the new program, a low-income family could receive as much as $12,000 toward the purchase of an electric car. Residents in areas considered disadvantaged also qualify.
“These tax credits have made possible the robust growth of the American wind industry and thousands of renewable energy jobs in recent years, with substantial economic returns to our states and the nation,” the governors’ letter reads. “But these gains are at risk today because ongoing federal policy uncertainty continues to hamper the further development of the nation’s wind industry.” After adding 23,000 jobs in 2014, American wind power continues to ramp up in 2015, gaining momentum over the first quarter of the year with $23 billion worth of new wind projects under development.
Cape Wind has asked state regulators for more time to revive its stalled project after the state’s two major utilities backed out of buying power from the proposed offshore wind farm.
The wind farm’s developer was supposed to begin construction by May 1, but just before the deadline, it asked the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board for a two-year extension. Cape Wind Associates LLC said it needs additional time to work through the mountains of litigation facing the project, while trying to persuade the two utilities to reactivate contracts critical to financing the $2.6 billion construction.
Electric utilities, once happy to provide nonstop power to all of their customers all of the time, are beginning to warm to the idea of socking power away for another day.Thanks to rapid technological advances and market shifts, large utilities like Duke Energy of North Carolina, Consolidated Edison of New York and Southern California Edison are investing tens of millions of dollars in the development and deployment of commercial-scale energy storage facilities. New data released this morning by GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association show that U.S. utilities and other firms installed 5.8 megawatts of energy storage in the first quarter of 2015, an 18 percent increase from the same quarter in 2014.
Move over, shale. The sun is now the fastest-growing source of U.S. electricity. Solar power capacity in the U.S. has jumped 20-fold since 2008 as companies including Apple Inc. use it to reduce their carbon footprints. Rooftop panels are sprouting on homes from suburban New York to Phoenix, driven by suppliers such as SolarCity Corp. and NRG Energy Inc.
Two prominent wind energy supporters are reviving the industry’s campaign to renew the federal production tax credit that expired last year. In a letter to top lawmakers in the House and Senate, Govs. Jay Inslee (D) of Washington and Terry Branstad (R) of Iowa, who lead the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, called for a “multi-year” extension of the PTC, which provides wind energy developers with a rebate of 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years of a wind farm’s existence. The tax credit was briefly renewed and then allowed to expire at the end of 2014.
The chairman and vice chairman of the bipartisan Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition sent a letter to House and Senate leadership today urging Congress to approve a multiyear extension of the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) as soon as possible. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told congressional leaders that the recent Wind Vision report emphasized the importance of near-term policy support to prevent an industry slowdown and the loss of manufacturing to foreign markets. Without policy support, wind deployment will be minimal and the domestic wind manufacturing sector will likely wither.
“This bipartisan letter is a reminder that the nation’s governors are on the front line of the nation’s energy future and have a vital role in planning states’ future,” said American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Tom Kiernan. “They see first-hand how investing in the wind resources in their states benefit local economies and create opportunities for job growth. To them the decision to extend these incentives is more of an economic one than a political one. We look forward to working with all the governors to maximize the benefits of wind power to their states.”
While Republicans in Congress strategize about how to gut carbon regulations for power plants, at least one among them has had some direct exposure to the critical choices states will have to make if U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan moves forward. Rep. Kevin Cramer, 54, was one of North Dakota’s electricity regulators for nine years before being elected to the state’s only House seat. His successors back home will have to help craft plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s power sector while keeping electricity affordable and reliable.