As Obama heads to Africa, his signature energy program there seeks firmer footing

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, July 13th, 2015

Power Africa, the Obama administration’s effort to infuse billions of energy investment dollars across sub-Saharan Africa, is entering its third year focused on completing up to 30,000 megawatts of new generation projects while adding 60 million new grid connections across the world’s least-electrified continent. Yet for all its ambition, the $7 billion program, rolled out in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2013 and likely to be touted by Obama on his upcoming trip to East Africa this month, has gained relatively little media attention or public notoriety compared with other major energy initiatives happening here. For many Africans and Africa observers, the massive Medupi and Kusile coal plants being built by South Africa’s Eskom at a cost of more than $20 billion, or the 6,000-MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam under construction on the Blue Nile River for an estimated $4 billion, are hallmarks of the continent’s progress toward electrification.

Wind power generates 140% of Denmark’s electricity demand

Source: By Arthur Neslen, The Guardian • Posted: Monday, July 13th, 2015

So much power was produced by Denmark’s windfarms on Thursday that the country was able to meet its domestic electricity demand and export power to Norway, Germany and Sweden. On an unusually windy day, Denmark found itself producing 116% of its national electricity needs from wind turbines yesterday evening. By 3am on Friday, when electricity demand dropped, that figure had risen to 140%. “It shows that a world powered 100% by renewable energy is no fantasy,” said Oliver Joy, a spokesman for trade body the European Wind Energy Association. “Wind energy and renewables can be a solution to decarbonisation – and also security of supply at times of high demand.”

The Clean Energy Case for Transmission Has Never Been Stronger

Source: By Bill White & John Jimison, Green Tech Grid • Posted: Saturday, July 11th, 2015

In the two years since we outlined how smarter transmission policy could accelerate and reduce clean energy costs in America’s Power Plan, evidence continues to mount that robust high-voltage transmission networks are indispensable to a clean energy future. Smart transmission planning has enabled most of the wind and solar now operating in the United States and has done so while generating large net economic benefits; one study estimated that co-optimizing generation and transmission planning could save an incredible $90 billion.

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown, U.S. mayors to travel to Vatican for climate meetings with Pope Francis

Source: Scott Detrow, E&E reporter • Posted: Saturday, July 11th, 2015

Pope Francis and California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) have led very different lives since they both began studying for the priesthood in the 1950s. Brown left the Jesuit seminary after only a few years, realizing his vocation lay in the family business of politics, rather than the church. Francis, of course, went on to become the leader of the world’s 1 billion Catholics. But this month, the two men whose paths took them in dramatically different directions will meet to discuss a common concern: climate change.

Senators roll out bipartisan bill promoting offshore projects

Source: Daniel Bush, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, July 10th, 2015

The “Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act” would establish an investment tax credit for offshore wind projects, letting power producers claim a 30 percent tax credit on the first 3,000 megawatts generated at offshore energy facilities. “Senator Collins and I have introduced this bill to help create the nurturing environment the industry needs to grow and thrive,” Carper said in a statement. Twelve Senate Democrats and Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, have signed onto the current legislation, which comes as lawmakers prepare to debate a new package of tax extenders that could include investment and production tax credits for wind and solar.

Heinrich to introduce communal solar bill

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, July 10th, 2015

Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico is prepared to unveil legislation today that would allow residents tapping into communal solar projects to offset power from traditional power plants and more easily connect to the grid. Heinrich’s bill, S. 1723, the “Promoting Renewable Energy with Shared Solar Act of 2015,” would amend the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 by adding a standard to the law that requires utilities to allow community solar projects of up to 2 megawatts in size to connect to the grid.

Illinois RPS Update: Energy Bill Awaits National Signals

Source: By Kevin Borgia, North American Wind Power • Posted: Friday, July 10th, 2015

The long-fought effort to fix Illinois’ broken renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is in a holding pattern for the summer as lawmakers and other stakeholders await two key national energy developments that are expected to shape the state’s energy debate. A battle raged in the Illinois General Assembly this spring about the state’s energy future, and stakeholders expected to see an omnibus energy bill emerge toward the end of the session. But despite several hearings, lawmakers didn’t act on any of the energy bills pending in both chambers.

N.Y. awards 83 grants to create community microgrids

Source: Colin Sullivan, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, July 10th, 2015

New York yesterday awarded $8.3 million in $100,000 increments to 83 entities looking to explore and possibly build a community-supported micro grid. The awards came under a prize competition concocted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) energy team that will move forward in three stages. The first stage, announced yesterday, will allow those selected — including local governments, public utilities, community organizations and others — to study the feasibility of a microgrid. Those that move forward into stage 2 would get engineering support and more funding, with stage 3 victors winning state money for project construction.

A microgrid is a stand-alone energy system that operates independently of the traditional electric grid. The idea is to avoid widespread outages and give local entities more flexibility to connect to renewable power, storage and other technologies.

GOP senators vow to block U.S. from complying with global climate deal

Source: Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, July 10th, 2015

The Senate’s leading climate change skeptic said yesterday he does not believe Congress can prevent an international global warming accord but insisted that the United States will never live up to it. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), speaking after a hearing in which he and other GOP lawmakers questioned Obama’s authority to enter into even a voluntary U.N. climate deal, said he expects to follow up with legislation. But, he acknowledged, there is probably not much congressional opponents of reducing carbon emissions can do to stop the Obama administration from signing onto the agreement expected in Paris this December.

Senate Democrats score rare win on appropriations rider

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, July 10th, 2015

Senate Democrats today successfully amended the fiscal 2016 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs spending bill to soften the impact of a policy rider that sought to bar the United States from contributing to the U.N. Green Climate Fund. The Appropriations Committee voted 16-14 for an amendment by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to strike language from the bill that made funding for the climate fund contingent on later authorization by Congress.