Philip Moeller, an outspoken Republican member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, announced yesterday that he plans to leave the agency in the coming months, creating an opening expected to be filled by a senior Senate GOP aide. Moeller’s likely replacement is Patrick McCormick, senior counsel for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who has deep ties in the energy world. A source familiar with the situation said McCormick would be the nominee.
Coastal lawmakers from both parties have long pushed to give states a greater share of revenues from energy development along the outer continental shelf amid opposition from some inland lawmakers and environmentalists wary of providing more incentive for offshore drilling. Murkowski said the bills would be considered next week when the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which she chairs, holds a hearing on various energy supply proposals. But she has acknowledged the challenge such proposals face.
So there will be no legislative fight over wind energy this year, and renewable energy producers will know where they stand in Kansas. That’s about the best that can be said of a compromise on a fast track to the governor’s desk. Six years ago, the Legislature and then-Gov. Mark Parkinson threw open the state’s borders to wind investment with the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) mandating that green-energy resources account for 20 percent of utilities’ capacity to generate electricity by 2020. It was part of a deal struck to allow an expansion of a coal-fired power plant near Holcomb. Though the power plant is pending, most of the state’s utilities have reached the 20 percent level for renewables. Proponents credit the RPS with helping the state add 12,000 good jobs and attract $8 billion in investment.
Time is running short for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to weigh in on how to address reliability concerns arising from state compliance with U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, although the industry seems to be coalescing around tools that might be needed. One FERC watcher thinks EPA will send the plan to the White House Office of Management and Budget by the end of this month, leaving little time for the agency to develop a consensus. Still, others predict that EPA’s expectation of publishing the rule in “midsummer” could mean late July or August.
Georgia Power and clean energy advocates agree on this: The Peach State could do more when it comes to wind energy. What they disagree on is how much and when. With the combination of cheap wind and U.S. EPA’s proposed rule that targets greenhouse gas emissions, there’s an opportunity for wind in Georgia to be built or bought, renewable energy boosters said. The state has to reduce its carbon emissions rate by 44 percent under the current proposed target by EPA.
Even as some of them fight Washington’s new clean air regulations in court, coal-reliant Midwestern states are asking the Obama administration to provide rules for an emissions trading platform that would help them meet the federal greenhouse gas standards. Late last month, a coalition of power companies, regulators and green groups known as the Midwestern Power Sector Collaborative (MPSC) asked the Environmental Protection Agency to create ground rules for states that want to trade carbon emissions permits with other states, an option it feels would offer one of the cheapest options to meet the agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan.
PacifiCorp, the parent company of Pacific Power, provides power across six states, its 16,300-plus miles of transmission lines spread like a fishing net over Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, Washington and Northern California. Bringing the two together means potentially lower costs for consumers for electrical power, whether generated from fossil fuels or renewable sources such as wind, water and solar. A merger could put more renewable power on the grid and drive down the cost to generate that power, according to PacifiCorp and advocates for renewable energy.
The agenda for Thursday’s infrastructure hearing includes 22 bills introduced by members on both sides of the aisle. ENR Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) last week stressed her desire to put aside “messaging” bills that have monopolized much of the congressional agenda in recent years. She and ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) are looking for areas of bipartisan agreement on needed updates to federal energy policies that have not been significantly changed since passage of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.
The North Carolina House just passed a bill that would freeze the state’s renewable energy standard in favor of a study committee to look at new policies, however. Broadly, South Carolina utilities are planning to add solar to the grid to follow a new state law that allows for long-term financing arrangements of solar panels and net metering. Florida, however, has made strides in utility-scale solar but has restrictive policies when it comes to homeowners and businesses having rooftop solar arrays. Despite the inconsistent policies, developers say the region is maturing, and the market continues to approach grid parity.
Last Thursday, Tesla Motors Inc. announced a new line of batteries to power buildings and the electric grid. Two days ago, CEO Elon Musk said that the response was so strong that Tesla is considering raising production by 50 percent or more at its new battery factory, already slated to be the largest in the world. “So, I mean, there’s, like, no way that we could possibly satisfy this demand this year, and we’re basically like sold out through the middle of next year in the first week. It was just crazy,” Musk said on a phone call with industry analysts.