As regulators ponder fundamental changes in electricity market rules to cope with the grid’s clouded future, the industry is dividing along its old battle lines to debate the changes. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission continues to wrestle with the policies governing “capacity” markets operated by regional transmission organizations (RTOs) — markets that are counted on to deliver future generation resources and conservation measures. Many grid experts question whether the prices merchant generators are receiving in capacity markets under current rules are high enough to assure adequate supplies several years from now, as retirements of coal-fired power plants grow.
The energy required to build a new commercial-scale wind turbine amounts to only a small amount of what the turbine will produce over a projected 20-year life span, according to a new life-cycle analysis of wind turbines performed by Oregon State University researchers.
The importance of shale is expected to grow as emerging markets bounce back from the global financial crisis and as accelerating economic growth pushes up demand for energy, including fossil fuels. Growing middle classes in countries like Brazil and India are starting to buy more luxury goods like cars and high-end smartphones. And despite the rise of renewables like wind- and solar-power, oil, gas and coal are still expected to represent the lion’s share of worldwide energy consumption for the foreseeable future. Global demand for gas, for example, is expected to jump more than 50 percent over the next 20 years, according to the International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental policy-coordinating and advisory body based in Paris.
The outlook for new wind projects is uncertain, though. Nebraska Public Power District is within 22 megawatts of its renewable output goal, and Prairie Breeze took OPPD’s total renewable output to about 13.5 percent. When the Grande Prairie Wind Farm comes on line in 2016, OPPD’s renewable output will be at 30 percent. It had a goal of achieving 10 percent by 2020. “I don’t believe either we or anyone else will move forward (with new projects) immediately without those (federal) credits,” said Dean Mueller, division manager of sustainable energy and environmental stewardship at OPPD.
The new Environmental Protection Agency rules, under which North Dakota needs to cut emissions by only around 11 percent, should lead to increased demand for coal alternatives in nearby states, said Tom Vinson, senior director of federal regulatory affairs at the American Wind Energy Association, a national trade association. “Assuming that the transmission is sufficient, then North Dakota has potentially a major opportunity for exporting wind to help other states meet their compliance obligations — as well as using wind to meet your own obligation under the EPA rule,” he said. In 2013, 79 percent of North Dakota’s electricity generation came from coal, 16 percent came from wind and 5 percent came from hydroelectric sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Deep divisions over the proposed Hyperion oil refinery that split Union County several years ago may be on the point of being mirrored in southern Lincoln County, this time as it relates to a massive proposed wind farm. The planned Dakota Power Community Wind project could sprawl over more than 23,000 acres and generate as much as 1,000 megawatts from as many as 500 turbines. It has potential to give a shot in the arm to the state’s wind industry and create economic opportunities for investors and some landowners.
the weeks and months preceding EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), a handful of institutes, environmental groups and industry associations released separate and sometimes dueling reports on the expected costs of regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The most widely cited of these — an estimate by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued in March, and another by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released some weeks later — painted highly divergent pictures of how the CPP’s costs may play out with the NRDC’s estimate predicting widespread societal benefit and the chamber’s foreseeing a steadily accumulating economic burden. So with EPA’s own estimate now before the public, is it time to shelve the prior reports? Not quite, say their authors. While already working to update their projections, both proponents and opponents of the CPP say the rationales that underpinned their past estimates still hold and may provide a basis to challenge the plan in the future.
Four former Republican U.S. EPA administrators praised the agency’s climate change rule for existing power plants today in a Senate hearing room packed with coal miners expressing fear that the proposal would strangle their industry. The administrators told an Environment and Public Works subcommittee that current Administrator Gina McCarthy did what the Clean Air Act required in her proposal aimed at curbing the power sector’s greenhouse gases. The rule was printed in the Federal Register today, beginning a four-month public comment period.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t get exactly what he wanted in the highly anticipated Senate committee vote yesterday on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s next chairman, but that’s not stopping him from cooperating to advance the agency’s nominees. Reid, who has repeatedly expressed his deepening interest in the powerful energy agency, had pushed hard for presidential nominee Norman Bay to be immediately installed as FERC’s next chairman. But the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday voted to approve Bay as a commissioner only after the White House agreed he would remain a commissioner for at least nine months before taking the agency’s helm.
ENR Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) told reporters after the meeting that she has assurances from the White House that Bay will serve as a commissioner for nine months before ascending to chairman. During that time, LaFleur will continue to lead the agency. “The president as I understand is very happy to have both of his [nominees] moving forward,” she said, adding that President Obama has signaled he will elevate Bay to chairman after nine months. “It satisfies some of the concerns that I thought were legitimate.”