he U.S. wind energy sector notched its second-largest quarterly growth in history during the last three months of 2015, according to figures released yesterday by the American Wind Energy Association. The industry saw 5,001 megawatts of new capacity come online during the fourth quarter. For the full year, new wind power capacity jumped 77 percent from 2014. At just under 8,600 MW, it drove the nation’s total installed capacity to 74,472 MW (or 74.4 gigawatts).
Policy creates politics. It’s not a new observation, but it is a somewhat counterintuitive one. Normally, we think of the causation as running the other way: Politics is often conceived of as the process of competing for the authority to determine policy. Politics, as we normally think about it, causes policy.
Sparring over net-metering payments for rooftop solar systems is continuing in the West, with solar companies forming a political action committee this week aimed at overturning a recent Nevada decision. The No Solar Tax PAC filed papers Monday with the Nevada Secretary of State, along with a ballot initiative that would overturn a December decision by the state Public Utilities Commission that dramatically reduced the benefits that solar producers receive for sending power back to the grid.
Regulators in California, home to more residential solar customers than any other state, agreed on Thursday to retain a system that compensates users of rooftop solar panels for their excess electricity. The decision was closely watched by energy officials and executives across the country, who are grappling with huge shifts in the power industry stemming from the spread of renewable energy.
Congress’ decision to extend tax credits for renewable energy could fundamentally shift America’s energy mix away from natural gas and toward wind and solar at the advent of the Clean Power Plan, a new report predicts. Congress in December agreed to extend the production tax credit (PTC) for wind and the investment tax credit (ITC) for solar through the end of the decade, a move hailed as hugely significant for the industries because it provides greater certainty to investors
Two key Republicans are expressing support for doubling federal energy research as the Obama administration weighs how to enact a landmark clean energy plan announced during last year’s climate talks in Paris. When asked about a plan called Mission Innovation, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said, “I have long favored doubling energy research. … I think it fits a Republican pro-growth agenda.”
Seeking to assuage anger among ratepayers and clean energy advocates, Nevada’s largest electric utility said it would allow existing customers with solar panels to continue being compensated at retail rates for their distributed energy for up to 20 years. The proposal by NV Energy, if approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN), would restore tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue to ratepayers who have installed solar systems in recent years for both environmental and economic reasons.
A negotiated proposal to spur private development of wind energy in Nebraska was presented to the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday with the Nebraska Public Power District on board. The measure will be amended by Sen. John McCollister of Omaha to meet concerns expressed by NPPD that protect its power transmission authority and interests. “We were initially opposed, but we found common ground,” NPPD vice president Tom Kent told the committee. NPPD’s transmission interests “will be maintained,” he said. “It’s an idea whose time has come.”
Renewable energy advocates say Nebraska is squandering its potential as the state with the nation’s third-highest wind energy capacity by holding onto strict requirements that hinder private developers’ projects. Lawmakers on the Natural Resources Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a bill by Sen. John McCollister of Omaha that would speed up the approval process for installing wind turbines. The bill would eliminate a requirement that the developer have a purchasing power agreement in place before a project could be approved by the Nebraska Power Review Board. Private developers say Nebraska is the only state with such a rule and the delay in the approval process puts them at a disadvantage with outside investors.
Even more transmission is still called for in the Southwest Power Pool, as elsewhere around the country, if states are to meet their carbon pollution reduction targets most affordably. According to an EIA analysis of the draft Clean Power Plan, under the lowest-cost compliance option, wind would supply 57 percent of the new electricity needed.