News

Outspoken 29-year-old Mont. utility commissioner calls it like he sees it

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

An audience gathered here earlier this month to hear the first bits of intelligence on new proposed federal limits on power plant emissions. Travis Kavulla was ready. He and Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Ralph Cavanagh stole the show on the second day of the Western Conference of Public Service Commissioners. Kavulla grabbing the spotlight with a spirited attack on U.S. EPA’s 1-day-old rule, which he called “infantilizing” to states in its emphasis on “building blocks” like improving efficiency at fossil-fueled power plants and switching to other less-emitting power sources.

“They get to be the children in this great game of federalism and put the building blocks together however they want,” he said.

City power department could be forced to make nation’s sharpest carbon emissions cut

Source: Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

The power department in Los Angeles could be required to implement the country’s most aggressive carbon emissions reduction program. A Los Angeles city councilman on Friday introduced a measure calling on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) by 2030 to cut its carbon emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels, a move that the Sierra Club said would be the first of its kind in the nation for any utility. The language on the LADWP plan was part of a larger motion that would have the city — including Los Angeles International Airport and the Port of Los Angeles — shrink greenhouse gas pollution 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Michigan’s wind energy industry soaring

Source: By Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press Business Writer • Posted: Monday, June 30th, 2014

In the past few years, wind power in Michigan has created jobs, given rise to new companies that supply components — such as Ventower Industries in Monroe — and even inspired a few school projects and tourism. The nonprofit group, Natural Resources Defense Council, says Michigan is home to about 120 companies that supply wind components and employ 4,000. A state law that requires 10% of electricity produced come from renewable sources by the end of next year has increased demand and helped propel the construction of wind farms. Michigan still gets more than half, 54%, of its power from coal, a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions.

Reid eyes confirmation vote in July as opposition looms

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, June 30th, 2014

The Senate will vote on President Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when the chamber returns following the Fourth of July recess, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office. The Senate will also vote on Obama’s nomination of acting Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur to another five-year term, but a week for that vote has not been set, according to Reid’s office.

Some state agencies prepare to challenge new EPA carbon rule

Source: Nathanael Massey, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, June 30th, 2014

States have had several weeks to mull over U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which, once finalized, would set standards for greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. While most are keeping mute as they analyze the rule and prepare to submit comments, a few early movers have already taken action, either to challenge the rule or comply with it — and, in some cases, both. Creating plans to meet EPA’s guidelines — plans that, due to flexibility mechanisms built into the CPP, will span each state’s energy sector and could even cross state lines — will inevitably be a long and costly process. For that reason, many states “are looking at and preparing for the proposed rule as if it were final today,” said Eric Massey, director of the Air Quality Division for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ)

Obama admin approves first eagle-kill permit for wind farm

Source: Phil Taylor, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, June 27th, 2014

The Obama administration announced approval of the first-ever permit for a wind farm to legally kill or harm protected eagles under a plan that officials say will have no overall harm on eagle populations. The Fish and Wildlife Service today said it will issue Shiloh IV Wind Project LLC a five-year permit to “take” up to five eagles at its 50-turbine wind farm north of San Francisco.

Group aims to promote solar power in wind’s biggest market

Source: Edward Klump, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, June 27th, 2014

The sun is shining on the solar industry in Texas. Or at least that’s the message from the newly formed Texas Solar Power Association, which made its formal debut this week. Charlie Hemmeline, the association’s executive director, said solar energy is poised to build on recent momentum in the state. An objective of the new group, he said, is to talk about positive aspects of solar energy and the growth opportunities it presents.

Research raises new concerns about climate impact of natural gas

Source: Gayathri Vaidyanathan, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, June 27th, 2014

The Obama administration has supported the natural gas industry, in part for the fuel’s climate benefits. Gas emits about half as much carbon dioxide as coal in the power plant, so the government has promoted gas as a transition fuel to a post-carbon future. The fine print, however, is that natural gas may be as detrimental to the climate as coal in many ways. Its climate challenge lies not during electricity generation, but further upstream — during extraction, processing and distribution of gas from the oil and gas wells to gas burners.

Court rejects FERC’s handling of transmission costs in PJM

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, June 27th, 2014

But Cudahy questioned his colleagues’ request for exact numbers to quantify the benefit of grid-strengthening projects. Cost allocation, Cudahy said, is a “judgmental matter” with no “right” answers, and the court should be deferential to FERC’s analyses. “I think the majority is under the impression that somehow there is a mathematical solution to this problem, and I think that this is a complete illusion,” Cudahy wrote. “Cost allocation, particularly at these extraordinarily high voltages, is far from a precise science, and there are no mathematical solutions to determining benefits region by region or subregion by subregion.” Cudahy went on to say that high-voltage transmission projects are rare and bolster the entire system, serving as the “backbone of an electrical grid,” and socializing such costs across the system makes sense.

NextEra’s renewable assets enable formation of high-yield spinoff

Source: Rod Kuckro, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, June 26th, 2014

The latest wrinkle in the transformation of the electric utility business model is playing out on Wall Street this week as investors weigh the initial public offering of NextEra Energy Partners LP, a “yieldco” that is designed like master limited partnerships in the oil and natural gas industry to deliver predictable, long-term income to investors. The new company will be majority owned by Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy Inc. and would be the first one — and maybe the only one — to be created by a utility holding company. NextEra launched the IPO on June 19, and the stock is expected to be priced tomorrow.