Drought Hastens End of a Region’s Hydropower Era

Source: By JIM MALEWITZ, New York Times • Posted: Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

The years long drought in Central Texas could eventually snuff out a renewable power source that fueled the region’s early growth: hydropower. Faced with dwindling water supplies, the Lower Colorado River Authority, which supplies water and energy to much of Central Texas, is limiting downstream water releases for activities like rice farming. Aside from stirring controversy among water users, the changes have shrunk the amount of electricity the agency generates from its six Colorado River dams.

How Texas Made Wind Energy a Real Player

Source: Mike Jacobs, senior energy analyst, Climate & Energy Program, Union of Concerned Scientists • Posted: Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Press reports of Texas completing new transmission lines for wind describe an energy boom with a difference — this is carbon-free wind energy. The grid operator in Texas, ERCOT, says agreements are already done for 7,500 MW of new wind power, most of which will be using the new transmission lines by 2016. That will put installed Texas wind around 20,000 MW. There are 15 U.S. states with 1,000 MW or more, but Texas wind is already twice as big as the next largest wind states, California and Iowa.

FERC orders new standards to enhance grid security

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered grid overseers Friday to develop new rules to guard against physical threats, responding to growing calls on Capitol Hill for stepped-up action following an attack by gunmen on a California power substation last year. FERC’s acting chairwoman and three commissioners unanimously ordered the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), an industry group that oversees the grid, to craft one or more new security standards that electric utilities must implement to protect major substations and other critical infrastructure from physical threats.

Senate Dems stay up all night to talk warming — but moderates are notably absent

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Thirty members of the Senate Democratic caucus sacrificed sleep last night to make the case to supporters outside the Beltway that momentum is building again for climate change legislation — if only they will help stoke it. Senators took turns throughout the evening and into this morning addressing an often-empty Senate chamber on the cost of man-made warming to their home states, the state of the science, and the ability of the American economy to decarbonize without fulfilling opponents’ predictions that it will shed jobs. The debate, which began at about 6:30 p.m., is set to conclude after 8 a.m. today.

Power sector speakers stress consumer choice as Ill. communities go 100% green

Source: Nathanael Massey, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 10th, 2014

Utilities need to prepare for a more engaged, responsive consumer base, one that in some places is pushing for more distributed energy in the form of renewables, according to power sector leaders who spoke yesterday at an event hosted by the Edison Foundation’s Institute for Electric Innovation (IEI). “As a country, we’re in a period of profound changes to our energy landscape,” said Heather Zichal, former deputy assistant to President Obama for energy and climate change. The rapid deployment of renewable resources is adding new power to the grid even as electricity demand is peeling away from economic development for the first time, she said.

Even while adapting, most Wisconsin farmers are climate skeptics

Source: Kate Golden/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism • Posted: Monday, March 10th, 2014

Most Wisconsin farmers remain skeptical about climate change, although data show they have already begun adapting to shifts in weather patterns, scientists said at a recent UW-Madison conference. Farmers, the scientists said, are key actors in adapting to climate change or mitigating its effects. They manage 61 percent of the nation’s land. They are vulnerable to droughts, cold, heat and hail — crop insurance paid out $17.4 billion dollars in indemnities nationwide after the 2012 drought.

LePage bill to change Maine’s wind-energy policy moves tentatively forward

Source: SCOTT THISTLE, State Politics Editor, Maine Sun Journal • Posted: Monday, March 10th, 2014

Gov. Paul LePage’s initiative to overhaul Maine’s wind-energy production goals to require ratepayer benefits and manufacturing jobs gained tentative approval in the Legislature’s Energy Committee on Friday. But the bill, LD 1791, sponsored by state Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, saw significant revisions, including allowing a section of current law to stand, prior to the 6-2 vote to approve the measure.

Boulder’s fight to ‘decarbonize’ shows a ‘perfect community’ can find it exhausting

Source: Stephanie Paige Ogburn, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 10th, 2014

There are probably more energy and climate experts here than in any community of its size (population 97,385) in the United States. So when the city was preparing to renew its 20-year contract with Xcel Energy, a large, investor-owned utility that provides its power, Boulder decided to do something different. Boulder was used to pioneering. In 2006, it became the first city in the nation to implement a carbon tax. Now, it wanted to make itself into a laboratory to display the uses of cleaner energy.

All-night Senate talkfest shines light on warming

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 10th, 2014

There are going to be a lot of red eyes in the Senate chamber tomorrow. When votes are done for the evening tonight, more than half of the Senate’s Democrats will begin taking their turns occupying the chamber floor to talk about climate change. The all-night talkathon will stretch from last votes until 9 a.m. tomorrow and will feature at least 28 of the Senate’s 53 Democratic members

Probing for clues in a mysterious proposal

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 10th, 2014

At issue is the production tax credit (PTC), which was established in 1992 as a temporary subsidy for wind farms and select other renewable energy projects, valued at $15 per megawatt-hour for the first 10 years a facility operates. The credit has been extended numerous times since, although it is now expired for projects that were not underway by Dec. 31, 2013. Its value has risen with inflation, to $23 per MWh last year. Camp, a Michigan Republican, proposed eliminating that inflation adjustment for companies already receiving the PTC. So if his draft became law — a near impossibility in the near term, to be sure — any companies that began taking the PTC in the last 10 years would see the value of the credit fall by about 35 percent.