Federal judges wrestled today with a series of complex challenges to a major Federal Energy Regulatory Commission order aimed at increasing regional coordination in transmission grid planning. More than 20 state regulators, utilities and industry groups are seeking to undermine aspects of FERC’s 2011 Order 1000, one of the commission’s largest and most controversial rules. The order seeks to change the way transmission line projects are planned across the country. FERC says the current lack of coordination will lead to unnecessary costs that will translate into electricity rates that are unjust and unreasonable.
The wind industry has gone to great lengths over the years to snap up the best properties for its farms, often looking to remote swaths of prairie or distant mountain ridges to maximize energy production and minimize community opposition. Now, it is reaching for the sky.
Absent government subsidies or a carbon tax, it may take more than a decade for renewable energy from wind and solar to become cost competitive with cheap natural gas. Despite years of steady, sometimes precipitous cost declines, the price of renewable power still hovers well above market prices. Nevertheless, some companies are making long-term bets on green power. Looking for a hedge against the volatile price swings of fossil fuels, they are turning to a new kind of contract, called a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA), to lock in power prices for decades to come.
It is Germany’s national goal: to have the bulk of its energy supplied by renewable power sources by 2050, without endangering the country’s powerful industrial sector or an export-based economy that is the envy of other Europeans. This energy push, known as the Energiewende, or energy transformation, took on new urgency with the decision to speed up the phasing out of nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. But the question of whether Germany can meet its 2050 goal has been hotly debated. And the issue has taken on added importance with the Russia-Ukraine crisis threatening Germany’s largest single source of natural gas.
The White House launched an effort today aimed at helping communities and individuals understand their vulnerability to climate change, starting with rising sea levels that will swamp the coasts. The Climate Data Initiative springs from President Obama’s commitment last year to improve how the government provides information about warming. It’s also part of a broader push spearheaded by White House counselor John Podesta to make climate change more tangible to an American public that polls suggest sees the issue as distant and theoretical.
President Obama wants Americans to see how climate change could deluge or destroy their own backyards — and to make it as easy as opening a web-based app As part of an effort to make the public see global warming as a tangible and immediate problem, the White House on Wednesday inaugurated a website, climate.data.gov, aimed at turning scientific data about projected droughts and wildfires and the rise in sea levels into eye-catching digital presentations that can be mapped using simple software apps. The project is the brainchild of Mr. Obama’s counselor, John D. Podesta, and the White House science adviser, John P. Holdren.
Higher natural gas prices and a lack of adequate pipeline capacity pushed wholesale prices for electricity up 55 percent in 2013, according to data released yesterday by ISO New England, the region’s grid manager and operator of its wholesale electricity markets. The news comes as no surprise as New England’s six states are literally at the end of the nation’s energy pipeline. What to do about it is another matter.
New Jersey’s energy regulation agency on Wednesday rejected the funding mechanism for a $188 million offshore wind farm, essentially blocking a proposal that supporters said could have made the state a leader in offshore wind. At a meeting Wednesday in Trenton, the four commissioners of the state Board of Public Utilities voted unanimously, in support of board staff’s recommendation, to reject the proposal. The funding was the final necessary piece of the proposed Atlantic City Offshore Windfarm project, developer Fishermen’s Energy said. Without it, the project remains dead in the water. The plan involved five turbines almost three miles off the coast of Atlantic City in a pilot program generating about 25 megawatts of electricity.
It’s been almost two weeks since Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) made the controversial decision to block a new set of science standards that include climate change in the curriculum. Now, education and climate change activists are speaking up to voice their concerns over the state’s bold decision. Wyoming’s rejection of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) — a set of K-12 guidelines developed by national science education groups and delegates from 26 states — was initiated through a footnote to the state’s budget, which states, “neither the state board of education nor the department shall expend any amount appropriated under this section for any review or adoption of the next generation science standards.”
Mentioning FERC, or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, at social gatherings inside the Beltway hasn’t always been cool. Dropping the f-bomb, some energy wonks say, could clear your corner of the room. “If you mentioned FERC at a cocktail party, people would just try and walk away from you,” said Allison Clements, an environmental lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “You have these conversations about cool renewable energy policies, big-picture federal issues and then you say FERC. It’s like someone dragged a needle across the record and everyone stops talking.”