A Wisconsin state agency enacted a ban on staff communication on climate change yesterday, calling the issue of rising global temperatures a distraction from its mission. The state Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, a three-member panel, approved the ban at a meeting yesterday. The board oversees an agency that manages certain state properties.
A rebounding economy will lead to greater demand, rising electricity rates and falling costs tied to technology — especially energy storage devices that could facilitate the use of rooftop solar panels. For utilities, that means fewer grid connected customers and possible declines in revenue of $35 billion a year. That’s according to a study by Snowmass, Colo.-based Rocky Mountain Institute, which concludes solar-plus-battery systems will escalate, albeit the pace of that rise is contingent on the regulatory framework that states establish. It’s a follow up to an examination released a year ago in which the institute concluded that the trend toward more rooftop solar electricity, or distributed generation, is conditioned on more affordable and reliable battery technologies.
Employment gains in the natural gas, wind and solar sectors are more than offsetting job losses in coal — but not necessarily at the local level, researchers from Duke University have found. In the four years following the 2008 recession, the coal industry lost 49,534 laborers, or about 12 percent of its workforce, driven by higher costs associated with subsurface mining and regulatory compliance, according to a paper published yesterday in the journal Energy Policy. Over the same time period, the natural gas, solar and wind businesses added nearly 220,000 jobs, a 21 percent increase.
Texas’ economic vibrancy is beginning to lose some of its luster in the wake of the collapse in global crude oil prices. The Lone Star State has been the top job generator in the United States for a string of years, coming in second last year behind another booming oil producer, North Dakota. Texas also survived and bounced back from the 2008 economic crisis far stronger than many of its neighbors. But evidence is mounting that the state’s economy will have a much rougher year ahead as layoffs mount, company spending pulls back and the broader economy feels the impact of the 50 percent plunge in oil prices.
“States continue to play a leading role developing the nation’s renewable energy resources, and capturing the jobs and economic benefits that these growing clean energy industries provide,” Inslee says. “Washington state’s wind energy industry has attracted more than $5.7 billion in investment since 2001 – creating thousands of jobs, supporting our rural communities and reducing emissions from our electricity sector. I look forward to working with Gov. Branstad and our coalition colleagues to promote federal and state policies that will help the wind energy industry continue to diversify our nation’s energy portfolio.”
A major legislative push to raise California’s share of renewable energy to 50 percent by 2030 had its first hearing before a panel of largely receptive lawmakers yesterday. The Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee took up Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León’s (D) S.B. 350, which would implement Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) inaugural January pledge to boost renewables, lower petroleum use by half and double energy efficiency in buildings.
The boom in West Texas wind-powered electricity generation has delivered a major economic boost to the region, including creation of over 40 new businesses and 30,000 construction jobs in 57 West Texas counties since 2001, according to data collected by Public Citizen’s Texas office. The 40 new manufacturers and businesses make everything from wind turbine blades and steel towers to electronics, according to the data. Wind farms also generate over $85 million in taxes annually in rural Texas counties and more than $9 billion in new taxable assets in the last 14 years.
Large-scale wind and solar projects being planned across the state will have a chance to get a financial boost from a $160 million program announced this week by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Developers will be able to apply for contracts of up to 20 years under the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s renewable portfolio standard program, according to a news release from the governor’s office. Funding will be used to support private investment in a variety of renewable energy sources, such as wind farms, solar and biomass facilities, fuel cells, and small to medium-sized hydropower projects. A May 8 deadline has been set for developers to apply for the competitive program, which is part of the state’s “Reforming the Energy Vision” strategy.
A 25-turbine wind project planned for Maryland’s Somerset County has been scrapped, with developers blaming unforeseen political obstacles. Officials in the Eastern Shore community had welcomed the project, saying it would bring jobs to the state’s poorest county, but state lawmakers had concerns that the wind farm would interfere with a nearby naval air station.
Lawmakers frequently discuss ways to conserve the environment, but in Missouri, little action is taken. But one group is hoping Missouri regulators approve a project that allows them to them expand the state’s transmission grid in order to provide a cleaner, and hopefully cheaper energy to Missouri consumers. The Grain Belt Express Clean Line is a proposed 750-mile, four state, high-capacity direct current overhead transmission line designed specifically to transmit low-cost energy from wind turbines in western states like Kansas to consumers in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.