A Republican operative-turned federal judge has emerged as one of the most powerful critics of President Obama’s environmental rules. Judge Brett Kavanaugh — a 50-year-old George W. Bush administration appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — has pounded the administration in a series of legal opinions rebuffing some of its most high-profile air pollution rules. And because he’s widely seen as an influential voice with Supreme Court justices and a leading contender for a GOP nomination to the high court, Kavanaugh’s legal moves are being closely watched by those on both sides of the environmental debate.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz pledged today that his department will spend the next 15 months doing everything it can to improve U.S. energy efficiency, both by promulgating rules and by modernizing the power grid. “We are scheduled to roll out more than 20 additional efficiency rules in the remainder of this administration, kind of driving the system to the breaking point,” Moniz told a Washington, D.C., hotel ballroom full of smart grid experts. “But we think it’s really important to go there.”
The head of the American Petroleum Institute today repeatedly declined to offer an opinion as to whether the group would support a legislative compromise to lift the crude oil export ban in exchange for extending key renewable energy tax incentives. API President and CEO Jack Gerard told reporters he was “heartened” by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s August comments that the Nevada Democrat was open to talks of lifting the ban if more tax credits for renewables are on the table. Reid’s comments echoed a sentiment expressed by other Senate Democrats, who have argued that a boost for the oil sector should include help for renewables.
Supreme Court justices yesterday probed whether federal regulators overstepped legal limits with a rule incentivizing energy conservation. At issue is the scope of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s power in a case on a demand-response rule that required that power users be paid for committing to scale back electricity use at times of peak demand. A lower court threw out the rule last year, agreeing with power generators and other challengers that FERC — charged with regulating wholesale electricity sales — had overstepped its authority by wading into the retail electricity market. Retail power sales to businesses and residential customers legally fall under states’ jurisdiction.
The Democratic hopefuls for president vowed to embrace forceful measures to combat climate change in their curtain-raising debate last night without explaining how they would enlist the help of Republican lawmakers needed to enact their ambitious plans. Four of the five candidates raised the climate issue in their opening statements, marking a clear contrast to the 2012 presidential election, when President Obama largely avoided the topic. One analyst described the debate as a symbol of growing Democratic confidence that climate change can win primary votes while also exposing Republicans to vulnerabilities in the general election.
QUESTION: As a young person, I’m very concerned about climate change and how it will affect my future. As a presidential candidate, what will you do to address climate change?
Only a few months ago, it seemed that the renewable energy sector could do little wrong: Stock prices were soaring and money was pouring in as investors flocked to get in on the action. That is no longer the case. Low oil and gas prices have roiled the energy markets, and the specter of rising interest rates has rattled investors’ confidence in the industry’s returns. Although energy and financial experts say that the basics of the business remain sound, the lofty stock prices have tumbled, leading renewable energy companies to scramble for new approaches to their businesses.
Cumulative wind-energy installations worldwide may double within five years as falling costs help producers compete with conventional power, according to the industry’s biggest manufacturer. Last year’s “impressive” growth in new installations — 46 percent more than in 2013 according to the Global Wind Energy Council — points to a “bright future,” Vestas Wind Systems A/S Chief Executive Officer Anders Runevad said Monday.
“It is abundantly clear that distributed energy resources can provide benefits to Hawai‘i. It is also clear, for both technical and economic reasons, that the policies established more than a decade ago must be adapted to address the reality of distributed energy resources as they exist today – and as they are likely to develop in the near future,” the PUC said. “The challenge facing the State now is ensuring that DER continues to scale in a way that it benefits all customers as each utility advances towards 100% renewable energy.”
The West Coast is in a particularly interesting position for trading, as California and Washington state expect to exceed their EPA-assigned goals and are weighing whether to make large amounts of allowances available so that other states can keep fossil fuel generation online. Utilities in California are pushing the state to consider trading allowances, but regulators have been circumspect