Polar vortex caused extreme swings in energy prices, strained U.S. power grids

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 16th, 2014

The polar vortex that enveloped much of the eastern United States in subzero temperatures last week was a huge boon to electricity and natural gas companies, a new report from the consulting group ICF International has found. Daily wholesale electricity prices between Jan. 3 and 6 saw extreme swings, from as low as $40 per megawatt-hour to nearly $800 per MWh, with the greatest spikes experienced in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) territory Jan. 6, followed a day later by most other Eastern power markets.

Senators form new group to support climate action as administration stresses better preparedness

Source: Evan Lehmann, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Eighteen senators opened a campaign yesterday to highlight the science of climate change and defend the president’s actions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. They also tried to help Republicans understand the movement of lobsters. The unveiling of the Senate Climate Action Task Force adds to the growing number of voices within Congress expressing concern about the absence of legislation to stem greenhouse gases. It’s the latest in a series of high-profile efforts to resuscitate the issue after cap and trade’s disastrous showing sent it tumbling into political exile four years ago. Both chambers now feature organized efforts to speak on climate regularly.

Governors group urges feds to ‘not get in the way’ on energy, transportation

Source: Jessica Estepa, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Speaking at the National Press Club, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) noted that when she gave the group’s State of the States address last year, she outlined the challenges faced around the country as well as governors’ visions for 2013. But one year later, nothing has changed, she said. “Our message for 2014 is clear: States are leading, and we encourage our federal partners to work more closely with us and to take note of and use the policy ideas coming from their state partners,” she said. “Above all, please do not get in the way.” She and Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) noted that energy policy is one arena in particular where states are taking charge. The creation of state energy plans and policies is leading to more production and energy efficiency initiatives, they said.

UMaine’s offshore wind energy pilot project wins initial OK

Source: By Whit Richardson, Bangor Daily News Staff • Posted: Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

The pilot project, called Maine Aqua Ventus I, is the next step in the development of UMaine’s offshore wind technology. The university in June 2013 deployed a one-eighth scale model of VolturnUS, its prototype floating turbine, in waters off Castine. The turbine began generating power that month and became the first offshore wind turbine in the Americas to send electricity into the power grid.

Google invests $75 million in Texas wind farm

Source: BY KOLTEN PARKER, San Antonio Express • Posted: Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Internet superpower Google announced Tuesday a $75 million investment in a wind farm in the Panhandle. “It sure is windy in Texas. So windy, in fact, that we’ve made another wind energy investment there,” a Google rep posted to the company’s blog Tuesday.

Podesta pledges ‘leadership role’ on climate, energy

Source: Robin Bravender, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Just a week into his new job at the White House, John Podesta made a public vow today to play a leading role in shaping the Obama administration’s climate and energy policies.
“The president asked me to return to the White House,” the former Clinton administration chief of staff said, to work with top officials “to both ensure the implementation of the Climate Action Plan that you’ve heard about and to push forward with great vigor to transform our economy — one that’s inefficient, high-carbon-based — to one that’s low-carbon-based and is building sustainability, and to do it with the resolve that we have to build more resilience into the economy overall.

Maine State regulators plan Tuesday vote on terms of UMaine’s offshore wind energy pilot project

Source: By Whit Richardson, Bangor Daily News Staff • Posted: Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

The consortium backing a high-stakes offshore wind project using floating turbine technology developed at the University of Maine faces a key test Tuesday morning. At stake is whether state regulators will grant the project a long-term power contract that would allow it to move forward, but under terms that could cost the state’s electric ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 20 years.

White House Staff shuffle follows high-profile departures

Source: Robin Bravender, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Top White House energy aides exited last year, creating high-level vacancies and uncertainty about who’s leading the Obama administration’s energy and environmental agenda in 2014. The void will be filled in part by President Obama’s new counselor John Podesta, a top Democratic strategist who came on board this month to help guide the administration through its second term. He’s expected to join Obama’s top aide Denis McDonough in steering the ship when it comes to key energy and climate policies and filling out key White House staff positions.

Commentary: Wind energy credit is successful

Source: By Elizabeth Salerno, vice president of Industry Data and Analysis,American Wind Energy Association, The • Posted: Monday, January 13th, 2014

The federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind power must be extended for 2014 and Congress has yet to act. This has injected uncertainty into the market and threatening the livelihoods of thousands of hardworking Americans. While some detractors in Congress attempt to frame the PTC in a negative light, the facts show the incentive for wind power is wildly popular on both sides of the aisle, not only for its effective, market-based design, but also for the economic development it helps create.


Source: BY PETE DANKO, Earth Techling • Posted: Monday, January 13th, 2014

Renewable energy critics harp on the variability of wind and solar production, suggesting (or pretending) that this increasingly manageable challenge is some kind of fatal flaw. Meanwhile, these critics ignore that conventional power sources are no sure things themselves, particularly when the going gets rough, as it has this week in much of the U.S. with an extraordinary cold snap.