Lawmakers on a New Jersey Senate committee have advanced legislation to create one of the nation’s most ambitious clean energy plans. On a 4-1 vote yesterday, lawmakers approved a bill to require New Jersey to receive at least 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. “This is probably the most important bill we have to help us deal with the impacts of climate change and moving our state forward when it comes to renewable energy,” Sierra Club New Jersey Director Jeff Tittel said.
The “The Free Market Energy Act of 2015” would ensure that distributed energy resources would be able to connect to the grid in a reasonable time frame and for just and reasonable fees. It would also lay the groundwork for states to appoint smart grid “coordinators” or operators to manage the distributed units and calls on states to consider alternatives to building transmission — including distributed energy. King is advancing his proposal as the Republican chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee crafts a comprehensive, bipartisan energy bill for consideration this summer. King said his bill has already drawn support from the “green” tea party as a “individual sovereignty issue” but that he has yet to reach out to other senators or House members.
Somewhere between the power plant and light switch, as much as 6 percent of U.S.-generated electric power disappears, lost in transmission as current pushes its way through power lines. If a sizable part of those line losses could be recovered, the preserved energy would matter to consumers and to utilities that will have to find new ways to produce or conserve electricity under U.S. EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
Then there is the challenge of getting the power from the wind farms to homes and businesses. Utilities move wind-generated electricity through the existing power grid. Existing transmission networks have to be upgraded, however, which is neither inexpensive nor free of controversy. Meanwhile, Clean Line Energy Partners plans to build a high-voltage direct-current transmission line from northwest Iowa to Illinois. Iowa has the opportunity to continue be a national leader in clean and renewable energy, but there will be hurdles to clear. State and national leaders should be prepared to help the state get over them.
State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, who introduced LB 423, expressed disappointment about the outcome of the vote. “This was a decision today that’s going to have negative consequences long-term for the state,” he said. “It’s a decision that my daughter’s generation is going to be paying the cost for.”
The tax credits would have allowed Nebraska to take advantage of rapid changes in the energy industry, Nordquist said. Utilities are in the process of closing dozens of coal-fired power plants and will be looking to invest in clean-energy projects.
After several years of fending off attacks by Americans for Prosperity and other conservative groups, Kansas’ wind industry brokered a deal with political opponents that would end the state’s renewable energy requirement in the hope of creating a more stable business climate. Compromise legislation, announced by Gov. Sam Brownback (R) during a news conference yesterday afternoon with legislative and business leaders, would replace Kansas’ 20 percent renewable standard with a voluntary goal. It would also cap the current property tax abatement for new wind farms at 10 years. Kansas in 2009 became the last of 30 states across the country to enact a renewable energy standard, a broader energy measure that also authorized the controversial Sunflower Electric Power Corp. coal-fired power station in Holcomb, Kan.
Public utility and property laws historically aimed at protecting in-state interests should be tweaked to help facilitate electric transmission construction, according to a policy paper released yesterday by the Harvard Law School’s Environmental Policy Initiative. The authors recommend three fixes: Siting laws should allow out-of-state transmission companies to apply for siting certificates and eminent domain authority; siting proceedings should allow regulators to account for the regional benefits of a project; and laws providing eminent domain should permit projects that prove regional benefits.
What was on track to become the nation’s most ambitious community solar program is clouded with uncertainty after Minnesota’s largest utility said that within a month, it will disqualify most of the 560 megawatts of solar projects that have been proposed. In a filing with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission last week, Xcel Energy Inc. said it will cap community solar projects proposed for any site at 1 MW — a change aimed at proposals to co-locate numerous “solar gardens” to take advantage of shared infrastructure and economies of scale.
Even moderate wind energy development would enable Iowa to meet federal clean power goals over the next 15 years, the Iowa Wind Energy Association said in a new report Monday. Iowa needs about 2,300 megawatts of wind energy generation to meet the federal Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions 16 percent by 2030. “Iowa could meet its goals by building a modest amount of wind and taking no other action,” Mike Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, said at a news conference at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) vetoed a bill Friday that envisioned a review by the state’s attorney general of any state implementation response to U.S. EPA’s plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. In a news release, the governor said the vetoed legislation — S.B. 676 — had been described as an attempt to fight EPA. In fact, Fallin said, it inadvertently had the opposite effect by requiring that Oklahoma develop a state plan. The attorney general could have rejected the plan after reviewing its legality. Fallin said her executive order was the “clearest path” to fighting EPA carbon mandates, saying the legislative approach backed by some others in state government could come with great expense for the state.