FERC moves to reform a gas-hungry grid

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 21st, 2014

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today unveiled a series of proposals to better align the country’s increasingly gas-dependent electric grid with an expanding pipeline complex, a move aimed at preventing gas outages and rolling blackouts that have hit the Southwest in past years. FERC’s proposed rulemaking detailed changes to the natural gas industry’s trading day and nomination schedule, which the agency said would make the system more flexible and ensure gas is available for all parties at critical times.

Urban wind turbines don’t hurt home values, researchers claim

Source: Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 21st, 2014

If a wind turbine pops up in your backyard — even if you live in a booming urban area — it won’t affect the value of your home that much, a new report has found. The study, supported by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, did indicate a small impact on home prices during the period between when a turbine project is announced and when it is constructed. But during a webinar yesterday hosted by the Department of Energy, the authors say this value was statistically insignificant. “Our results do not support the claim that wind turbines affect nearby home prices, and what we were quite confident about is that the study did find effects from a variety of negative features as well as positive features,” said Carol Atkinson-Palombo, assistant professor at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Geography.

Former White House CEQ official Guzy discusses future of air regulations

Source: Monica Trauzzi, E&E • Posted: Friday, March 21st, 2014

After leaving his post as deputy director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality earlier this year, how is Gary Guzy now advising industry clients to prepare for the Obama administration’s air regulations? During today’s OnPoint, Guzy, senior of counsel at Covington & Burling, gives his take on the current state of play on regulation and the possibility for litigation resulting from U.S. EPA’s New Source Performance Standards. Guzy also discusses the impact White House counselor John Podesta is having on the administration’s climate narrative.

NRDC presses EPA for ‘very ambitious’ standards for existing power plants

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 21st, 2014

If U.S. EPA proposes a tough carbon standard for existing power plants, it won’t risk sacrificing energy affordability or reliability, a prominent environmental group said today. The Natural Resources Defense Council released a new analysis of its 2012 report on how EPA could use the Clean Air Act’s Section 111(d) to rein in emissions from today’s power plant fleet. It argued that there are ample opportunities for efficiency and low-carbon energy to allow states to satisfy even very stringent reduction targets.

EPA budget proposal signals major changes ahead for state regulators

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 21st, 2014

President Obama has packed cash for state air regulators in his U.S. EPA budget proposal, pointing to a leading role for states in shaping rules for curbing greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. The fiscal 2015 proposal would provide $24.3 million to help states prepare for the climate rule — offering $19.8 million in Clean Air Act grants for writing implementation plans and $4.5 million for greenhouse gas permitting, including the collection of emissions data.

Foes of FERC’s Order 1000 have their day in court

Source: Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 21st, 2014

Federal judges wrestled today with a series of complex challenges to a major Federal Energy Regulatory Commission order aimed at increasing regional coordination in transmission grid planning. More than 20 state regulators, utilities and industry groups are seeking to undermine aspects of FERC’s 2011 Order 1000, one of the commission’s largest and most controversial rules. The order seeks to change the way transmission line projects are planned across the country. FERC says the current lack of coordination will lead to unnecessary costs that will translate into electricity rates that are unjust and unreasonable.

Wind Industry’s New Technologies Are Helping It Compete on Price

Source: By DIANE CARDWELL, New York Times • Posted: Friday, March 21st, 2014

The wind industry has gone to great lengths over the years to snap up the best properties for its farms, often looking to remote swaths of prairie or distant mountain ridges to maximize energy production and minimize community opposition. Now, it is reaching for the sky.

With virtual power purchase agreements, companies go long on renewable energy

Source: Nathanael Massey, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Absent government subsidies or a carbon tax, it may take more than a decade for renewable energy from wind and solar to become cost competitive with cheap natural gas. Despite years of steady, sometimes precipitous cost declines, the price of renewable power still hovers well above market prices. Nevertheless, some companies are making long-term bets on green power. Looking for a hedge against the volatile price swings of fossil fuels, they are turning to a new kind of contract, called a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA), to lock in power prices for decades to come.

German Energy Push Runs Into Problems

Source: By MELISSA EDDYMARCH, New York Times • Posted: Thursday, March 20th, 2014

It is Germany’s national goal: to have the bulk of its energy supplied by renewable power sources by 2050, without endangering the country’s powerful industrial sector or an export-based economy that is the envy of other Europeans. This energy push, known as the Energiewende, or energy transformation, took on new urgency with the decision to speed up the phasing out of nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. But the question of whether Germany can meet its 2050 goal has been hotly debated. And the issue has taken on added importance with the Russia-Ukraine crisis threatening Germany’s largest single source of natural gas.

New White House initiative tries to sway public on climate threats

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, March 20th, 2014

The White House launched an effort today aimed at helping communities and individuals understand their vulnerability to climate change, starting with rising sea levels that will swamp the coasts. The Climate Data Initiative springs from President Obama’s commitment last year to improve how the government provides information about warming. It’s also part of a broader push spearheaded by White House counselor John Podesta to make climate change more tangible to an American public that polls suggest sees the issue as distant and theoretical.