The Energy Department plans to zero in on transmission and distribution infrastructure when it releases its much-anticipated Quadrennial Energy Review. Melanie Kenderdine, head of DOE’s Office of Policy and a senior adviser to Secretary Ernest Moniz, said today that the agency is kicking off the policy report with a look at the connection between energy supplies with consumers. “Our year one is going to focus on transmission and distribution,” Kenderdine said at a Washington, D.C., energy event. “We’re talking wires, pipes, increasingly rail — a new issue that we never dealt with when I was here before — and the ethanol biofuels distribution infrastructure, and import-export terminals,” among other things.
Renewable energy companies and advocates are urging Congress to extend a bevy of expired tax breaks while expanding eligibility for the main solar energy tax credit with a modification similar to one applied last year to the credit for wind and other renewable sources. One of the most lucrative renewable energy incentives, the production tax credit (PTC), expired at the end of last year, but activity in the wind sector is expected to remain high for at least the next several months because Congress earlier conditioned eligibility for the credit on when project construction begins, rather than when it ends.
In Kansas, home of sprawling wind farms and the Koch brothers, conservative groups and renewable energy advocates are girding for a battle over the state’s green power law — a fight with broad political implications that’s drawing interest from far outside the state’s borders. Kansas was the last among 30 states to put a renewable standard into law — one that requires utilities to step up their use of renewable resources for electric generation to 20 percent by 2020. Now opponents seek to be the first to win a repeal of a clean energy mandate.
The focus on infrastructure is meant to identify ways to make pipelines, storage facilities, the electric grid and other facilities “much more resilient” to threats from extreme weather becoming more prevalent due to climate change, Moniz said. It also would aim to integrate cybersecurity protections as well as more traditional physical threats, he said.
A controversial wind farm in the works in Nantucket Sound near Massachusetts faces a new legal hurdle. Opponents of the Cape Wind project are arguing in a federal lawsuit that state regulators did not have the right to broker an agreement to have utility NStar buy the power generated from the farm. They said only the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has that power.
Federal appellate judges today rejected a challenge to the controversial Cape Wind offshore wind farm project from Massachusetts residents. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the Federal Aviation Administration finding that the proposed 130-turbine farm would not pose a risk to aeronautical navigation over Nantucket Sound.
On Wednesday, the European Union proposed an end to binding national targets for renewable energy production after 2020. Instead, it substituted an overall European goal that is likely to be much harder to enforce. It also decided against proposing laws on environmental damage and safety during the extraction of shale gas by a controversial drilling process known as fracking. It opted instead for a series of minimum principles it said it would monitor.
For the better part of the last decade, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has gone out of his way—and dipped into federal funds—to help get a massive, cross-state transmission line built in his home state of Nevada. On Thursday Reid will attend the opening of the 235-mile line, which at the beginning of this year started carrying large amounts of electricity produced from renewable sources rather than coal, just as Reid envisioned seven years ago.
“Wind comprised the majority of the net generation increase supplied by renewables, adding 74%, or 66,717 GWh, of the increase, while solar saw tremendous percentage growth over the period,” according to an analysis by SNL Energy. The total increase equaled 90,329 Gigawatts.
The U.S. Department of Energy now says wind is the second-cheapest American power resource, behind natural gas. Wind energy is becoming economically feasible again. The Iowa Wind Energy Association calculates that nearly $10 billion has been invested in Iowa’s wind farms and manufacturing facilities. That figure might well double in the next three to five years.