Snowden disclosures complicate new FERC security order

Source: Blake Sobczak, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s latest plan to boost utilities’ physical security has one strange hitch: the trove of top-secret documents released last year by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. FERC’s order Friday for grid overseers to tackle physical threats to the U.S. bulk electric power system seems to share little in common with Snowden’s sweeping revelations about government eavesdropping. But utility executives and current and former White House officials claim Snowden’s leaks have poisoned efforts to streamline information sharing about threats and weaknesses in the North American electric grid — one goal of FERC’s order.

Excerpts from Senate Climate Caucus Floor Debate

Source: By Sandy Dechert, Sustainable Enterprises • Posted: Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Al Franken (Minnesota) observed pointedly that the currently flourishing natural gas mines enabled by hydraulic fracturing were started with government investment and government research and government grants. He said we’re in an analogous position now, and we need to support renewable energy development now just as we originally developed fracking for the petroleum industry. “Big Oil is no longer the main enemy of action on climate change—not even Exxon, which until 2008 was a leading funder of the climate denial movement.”

Wind power has more than tripled in 6 years — report

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

The top 10 wind-energy-producing states are generating enough clean energy to power roughly 11.5 million U.S. homes, according to data released last week by the American Wind Energy Association. The findings, based on an analysis of Energy Department data, provide another snapshot of how and where wind power is growing in the United States. Nationally, wind power now accounts for 4.1 percent of all electricity generated nationwide. It is the fifth-largest electricity source in the country behind natural gas, coal, nuclear and hydropower, according to the Washington, D.C.-based trade group.

Kerry directs State Dept. to make climate change a top priority

Source: Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry doubled down Friday on comments that climate change is “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction” and instructed the agency’s nearly 50,000 employees globally to make the issue a “top tier” diplomatic priority. In a policy directive — Kerry’s first since taking the helm of the State Department last year — he told all bureaus to put climate change at the center of their daily work and set establishing a new global climate deal in 2015 as a top priority.

Drought Hastens End of a Region’s Hydropower Era

Source: By JIM MALEWITZ, New York Times • Posted: Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

The years long drought in Central Texas could eventually snuff out a renewable power source that fueled the region’s early growth: hydropower. Faced with dwindling water supplies, the Lower Colorado River Authority, which supplies water and energy to much of Central Texas, is limiting downstream water releases for activities like rice farming. Aside from stirring controversy among water users, the changes have shrunk the amount of electricity the agency generates from its six Colorado River dams.

How Texas Made Wind Energy a Real Player

Source: Mike Jacobs, senior energy analyst, Climate & Energy Program, Union of Concerned Scientists • Posted: Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Press reports of Texas completing new transmission lines for wind describe an energy boom with a difference — this is carbon-free wind energy. The grid operator in Texas, ERCOT, says agreements are already done for 7,500 MW of new wind power, most of which will be using the new transmission lines by 2016. That will put installed Texas wind around 20,000 MW. There are 15 U.S. states with 1,000 MW or more, but Texas wind is already twice as big as the next largest wind states, California and Iowa.

FERC orders new standards to enhance grid security

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered grid overseers Friday to develop new rules to guard against physical threats, responding to growing calls on Capitol Hill for stepped-up action following an attack by gunmen on a California power substation last year. FERC’s acting chairwoman and three commissioners unanimously ordered the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), an industry group that oversees the grid, to craft one or more new security standards that electric utilities must implement to protect major substations and other critical infrastructure from physical threats.

Senate Dems stay up all night to talk warming — but moderates are notably absent

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Thirty members of the Senate Democratic caucus sacrificed sleep last night to make the case to supporters outside the Beltway that momentum is building again for climate change legislation — if only they will help stoke it. Senators took turns throughout the evening and into this morning addressing an often-empty Senate chamber on the cost of man-made warming to their home states, the state of the science, and the ability of the American economy to decarbonize without fulfilling opponents’ predictions that it will shed jobs. The debate, which began at about 6:30 p.m., is set to conclude after 8 a.m. today.

Power sector speakers stress consumer choice as Ill. communities go 100% green

Source: Nathanael Massey, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 10th, 2014

Utilities need to prepare for a more engaged, responsive consumer base, one that in some places is pushing for more distributed energy in the form of renewables, according to power sector leaders who spoke yesterday at an event hosted by the Edison Foundation’s Institute for Electric Innovation (IEI). “As a country, we’re in a period of profound changes to our energy landscape,” said Heather Zichal, former deputy assistant to President Obama for energy and climate change. The rapid deployment of renewable resources is adding new power to the grid even as electricity demand is peeling away from economic development for the first time, she said.

Even while adapting, most Wisconsin farmers are climate skeptics

Source: Kate Golden/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism • Posted: Monday, March 10th, 2014

Most Wisconsin farmers remain skeptical about climate change, although data show they have already begun adapting to shifts in weather patterns, scientists said at a recent UW-Madison conference. Farmers, the scientists said, are key actors in adapting to climate change or mitigating its effects. They manage 61 percent of the nation’s land. They are vulnerable to droughts, cold, heat and hail — crop insurance paid out $17.4 billion dollars in indemnities nationwide after the 2012 drought.