Would you vote for a politician who works to raise your electric bills, kill jobs, discourage economic growth and investment, waste energy, and degrade the air you breathe? Ohioans may get the chance to cast such votes, or do the opposite, this year. That will depend on whether the Republican-controlled General Assembly passes a bill gutting the state law that sets sensible, effective standards for clean energy and energy efficiency. A Senate vote could come this week. How lawmakers vote on Senate Bill 310 may offer a useful reminder before the November election of whom they really work for: the constituents who put them in office, or the special-interest groups — in this instance electric utilities, fossil-fuel producers, and big industrial power users — that bankroll their campaigns.
The White House and federal agencies are planning a public outreach blitz today to coincide with the release of a high-profile scientific review of the effects climate change is already having on the United States. The president will give interviews to broadcast meteorologists at the White House to discuss the National Climate Assessment, and members of his Cabinet will make appearances inside and outside the Beltway to drive home the report’s point that climate change is already occurring and warrants aggressive action.
In the final days of the recently concluded Maryland General Assembly session, lawmakers voted to delay all wind projects of a certain height within 46 miles of the base until June 2015 — effectively killing plans for the Great Bay Wind Center. Now Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) must decide whether to veto the legislation, as environmental groups are demanding, or allow it to become law. Activists warn that the measure could scare away wind developers and taint O’Malley’s reputation as a dedicated environmentalist as he contemplates a run for the White House. “You’ve shown national-caliber leadership in getting policies in place,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune wrote in an April 11 letter, “but without construction of actual projects, Maryland residents won’t get the benefits they deserve.”
The Nebraska Public Power District is moving ahead with plans to build the first 345-kilovolt line in the Sand Hills, a vast expanse of grass-covered dunes in central and northern Nebraska that’s home to more cattle than people. The roughly 220-mile line, with an estimated cost of $328 million, would represent the largest transmission project built by NPPD since the late 1970s or early 1980s. Called the R-Project, the line has been in the works for two years, but NPPD has now proposed preferred and alternate routes. Releasing the route proposals has prompted concern among some landowners and wildlife groups, but also support from those who say the line will unlock the region for wind development.
NextEra Energy Inc.’s decision to form a separate company for its renewable portfolio is a signal that wind and solar projects have risen to the level of being a strong, steady, long-term investment, analysts say. The utility has long been the nation’s No. 1 developer of wind and solar generation, and its move to form a yield company or “yieldco” would allow it to quickly raise capital to support additional growth in the renewable energy industry, according to analysts interviewed by EnergyWire. Investors would have a new way to get better returns off energy and renewable projects. “Investors want yield, and because they [NextEra] continue to up the ante on additional renewables generation, they need to raise more capital to build more wind and solar,” said David Parker, a Tampa, Fla.-based utilities analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co. “It shows the renewable industry continues to be positively viewed,” he said.
U.S. EPA scored a major victory this week when the Supreme Court upheld its program for harmful coal plant emissions that cross state lines, but the agency still faces important policy questions — as well as litigation — as it moves to implement the regime. In a 6-2 ruling, the Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with the agency in a broad challenge from states and electric utilities to its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, or CSAPR (Greenwire, April 29). The program encompasses 28 Eastern states, requiring upwind states to reduce emissions of harmful pollutants in order to help downwind states come into attainment with EPA’s air standards.
North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS) is under attack and it’s no surprise that the fight is led by fossil fuel power funded lobbyists. It’s the usual suspects: American Legislative Council Exchange (ALEC), John Locke Foundation and Americans for Prosperity (AFP)–all activist groups funded by fossil fuel and nuclear interests. These groups are leading a misinformation campaign to repeal the REPS, a state policy that drives clean energy development for North Carolina.
This year, AFP also launched a media blitz in Kansas, running TV and radio ads that attempted to tie the renewable energy standard to former governor Kathleen Sebelius, despite the fact that it was signed into law by her successor. The ads also attribute electricity rate hikes to the standards, which prompted former Senate President Dave Kerr, (R) to call them “provably false.” The Lawrence Journal-World notes that “a report by the Kansas Corporation Commission shows that the impact of the renewable energy standards is about one-fifth of one cent of the average 9.9 cents per kilowatt hour electricity cost.” It’s not a surprise Koch-funded groups continue to attack the successful and popular Kansas RPS law. Both Charles and David Koch are Kansas natives, and the state is home to Koch Industries, the brothers’ Wichita-based energy conglomerate.
House members voted 63-60 against advancing a bill that would gradually end the state’s renewable portfolio standard, which requires the state’s utility companies to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. Its two main proponents, Rep. Dennis Hedke, R-Wichita, and Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, said the issue was effectively dead for the session. An outright repeal of the energy standards failed to pass the House earlier in the session.
House Democrats are attempting to revive an approach to mobilizing private financing for clean energy projects by establishing a national green bank. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, led seven colleagues in introducing the bill, H.R. 4522. A similar idea was included in the greenhouse gas cap-and-trade bill that passed the House in 2009, but efforts to revive it have been largely dormant since then.