“There isn’t any link between renewables and lower oil prices in the short-term,” says Richard Chatterton, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “It’s a common misconception from some observers that oil still plays a direct role in power generation in the majority of countries whereas that’s no longer the case.”
Three Democrats with key roles in energy policymaking yesterday called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to prop up the only existing federal law that encourages the use of renewable energy in electricity production. On June 29, FERC will hold a conference on implementation issues under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, or PURPA, of 1978. The law created a market for power from non-utility power producers, including natural-gas-fired “cogeneration” plants and other renewable energy sources.
With the Supreme Court having eight sitting justices divided evenly among ideological lines in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, it won’t be easy to secure majority opinions. If the court splits 4-4, it upholds a lower court decision without setting a precedent.
Just last week, the court issued a 5-4 order halting the rule while the legal battle plays out, with Scalia on the side of the majority voting to freeze the regulation. The high court’s rebuke of the Clean Power Plan was widely viewed as a sign that the nine justices could ultimately decide to torpedo the rule after digging into the merits of the lawsuits. But with the pending arrival of a new justice — and the possibility that the court could soon shift to the left — the fate of the Clean Power Plan is far from certain.
The state of California has dealt a major blow to a long-proposed utility-scale solar power project, deciding the owners of the planned Palen Solar Electric Generating System missed a deadline to file a revamped plan of development, meaning the new owners must start the permitting process over from scratch. The five-member California Energy Commission voted unanimously in a hearing today to deny a request from a subsidiary of San Diego-based EDF Renewable Energy Inc. to extend to June 2017 a deadline to begin construction of the planned photovoltaic solar project
The long-stalled offshore wind project planned for the coastal waters off Massachusetts could face even more legal roadblocks. Federal appeals court judges signaled skepticism about whether the government had properly determined how to minimize the project’s impact on migratory birds. The Cape Wind project, intended to be the country’s first offshore wind farm, has been beset by legal and financial problems in recent years.
U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy expressed disappointment yesterday about the Supreme Court’s decision to freeze the Clean Power Plan but vowed before a gathering of state regulators that her agency would forge ahead with actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “It is not going to slow us down,” McCarthy said at a Washington, D.C., workshop on the plan. “Are we going to respect the decision of the Supreme Court? You bet. Of course we are. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the only thing that we’re working on.”
There are driving forces that will allow the United States to meet its commitment outside of the Clean Power Plan rule. Other policies, like the renewable energy tax credits that were extended late last year as part of a budget agreement with Capitol Hill, could help the United States achieve Obama’s promise of cutting greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2025, he said. And “ongoing, intense” discussions with U.S. negotiating partners confirmed they understood that.
“One of reasons I want to talk about this is because in the last couple of days I’ve heard people say, ‘The Supreme Court struck down the Clean Power Plant rule,’” Obama said in California. “That’s not true, so don’t despair, people. This a legal decision that says, ‘Hold on until we review the legality.’ We are very firm in terms of the legal footing here. …We need to be investing in the future, not the past. Instead of subsidizing … the oil industry, we should be investing in solar and wind and battery technology — all the things that promise us we can generate enormous power without destroying the planet for our kids and grandkids.”
President Obama yesterday expressed confidence in the legal underpinning of his signature climate rule. In his first public remarks since the Supreme Court froze the rule Tuesday, the president acknowledged the action by the high court was “unusual” but said that the rule would ultimately survive. “In the last couple of days, I’ve heard people say, ‘The Supreme Court struck down the Clean Power rule.’ That’s not true, so don’t despair people,” he said, according to a White House press pool report from a Democratic fundraiser. “This is a legal decision that says, ‘Hold on until we review the legality.'”