The Minnesota Legislature is pushing energy policy in two different directions this year. Some legislators are trying to make energy cheaper, while others want to make it cleaner. There’s no consensus about what Minnesota’s energy problems are, let alone how to solve them.
One city in Texas aims to be the first to power itself entirely on renewables. Georgetown, Texas, 30 miles north of Austin in central Texas, has announced its intention to be all-renewable by 2017. The city of 50,000 has signed a deal with SunEdison to supply it with solar power for the next 25 years. It comes on the heels of a a deal the city made last year to source electricity from a wind farm currently under construction 50 miles west of Amarillo that will start to provide power next year. The two deals—for 150 megawatts of solar and 144 megawatts of wind—will make Georgetown Utility Services one of the largest municipally owned utilities in the U.S. to get all its electricity from renewables.
“The calculus is, not only does it bring power prices down, but it sharply decreases our water usage and is not subject to environmental regulation on greenhouse gases,” said Jim Briggs, general manager for the city’s utility. SunEdison vice president Paul Gaynor told The Associated Press that the company is planning to concurrently build another major solar installation in Texas, but it declined to provide details. Gaynor added that more cities will shift to renewable resources as they seek to shield themselves from the fluctuating prices of fossil fuels.
Thousands of wind turbines have sprung up across West Texas and up and down the Gulf Coast. Companies as diverse as Google and Dow Chemical are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Texas in a race to lower their carbon emissions. With almost 20 percent of the country’s total capacity, Texas has become the undisputed king of wind energy. With so much success, state politicians are asking whether it’s time for Texas to end its support for the renewable power industry.
Snowpack at 12 percent of average in the Sierra Nevada means there is less runoff to feed rivers and streams that run through dams to generate cleanly produced hydroelectric power. Despite the state’s ambitious clean-air goals, officials are turning to dirtier, more costly fossil-fuel plants to fill some of the power gap. They also will seek more hydroelectricity imports in a region expected to have markedly less to offer this summer.
Dow Chemical Co., the largest U.S. chemical maker by sales, has agreed to buy 200 megawatts of capacity from a wind farm under development in Texas. A subsidiary of Bordas Wind Energy LLC is building the wind farm, which is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year, Midland, Michigan-based Dow said Friday in a statement. The project, which will span almost 35,000 acres, will supply Dow’s Freeport, Texas, manufacturing facility. Terms weren’t disclosed.
The Senate’s top Republican advised states again yesterday not to submit implementation plans for U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, predicting that the rule would not survive judicial review. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued in a letter to governors that EPA’s existing power plant carbon dioxide draft is highly and legally vulnerable and likely to be overturned in court. States have little to fear and everything to lose by complying with it, he said.
“These are ambitious goals, but we know that they’re achievable goals,” he continued. Obama will also push federal agencies to get 30 percent of their power from renewable sources like wind and solar energy. Several major federal contractors and suppliers are announcing emissions reduction goals of their own. “Since the federal government is the single largest consumer of energy in the nation, federal emissions reductions and progress across the supply chain will have broad impacts,” the White House said in a fact sheet.
That document will flesh out the promise Obama made last November in Beijing to slash economywide U.S. emissions between 26 and 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. That pledge — which was made alongside China’s promise to contain emissions by 2030 — supports efforts to reach an international agreement on climate change in Paris at the end of this year.
President Obama signed an executive order on Thursday to set new goals for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of federal agencies, his latest use of his executive authority to address the root causes of climate change and press private companies and foreign governments to follow suit. Mr. Obama’s directive orders federal agencies over the next decade to cut their emissions by an average of 40 percent compared with their levels when he won office in 2008, and to increase their use of electricity from renewable sources by 30 percent.