Many Americans feel we’re operating in an overly polarized political atmosphere, where it’s nearly impossible to get anything done that is perceived to benefit one side over another. It’s unfortunate that job creation, economic stimulation and clean energy growth sometimes get caught in this gridlock. However, there are critical steps we can take to ensure a better energy future for all Americans, regardless of political leanings. Modernizing America’s poorly functioning electric grid is one of them.
Two of the nation’s grid organizations are continuing to analyze U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, despite a Supreme Court stay of the rule that has many of the states they operate in suspending official planning work. Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) — which spread across the middle section of the United States — said during a joint meeting yesterday that they would keep up their individual number-crunching. They also will work together to send the same message to states looking to ensure against power outages and price hikes as they shift away from coal and toward lower-carbon electricity sources under the rule.
Federal climate regulations may be a hot political issue in conservative, coal-heavy states across the nation, but so far the issue has not yet emerged as a voting wedge in many of the 12 gubernatorial races taking place this cycle. Rather, said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor for The Cook Political Report, it’s an issue that “will come up on the laundry list of things the candidates talk about or are asked about.” Montana is the exception. Here in a state that sits on about a quarter of the nation’s coal reserves and receives tens of millions of dollars in revenue from the industry each year, the Clean Power Plan is a major political flashpoint
The director of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality confirmed Wesnesday that her state is pausing preparations for U.S. EPA’s rule limiting carbon emissions from power plants. “We want to continue to follow what’s being done, but we will not be taking steps to be doing any implementation of a rule that the courts have found to be put in a position of a stay,” Director Becky Keogh said after a Senate hearing yesterday in Washington, D.C.
A top Democratic appropriator Wednesday said President Obama’s plan to double clean energy research spending as part of his broader climate plan “is going to be a most difficult task,” considering current budget constraints. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz that what we “are responsible for right now … we cannot do based on this president’s budget” because there is little likelihood of having sufficient money to fund it.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency will get the United States past its climate targets, even without the Obama administration’s signature carbon policy, an energy agency official said yesterday. “Renewable power, energy efficiency — they are moving forward, with the Clean Power Plan and without the Clean Power Plan,” said David Friedman, principal deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
The Senate’s No. 2 Republican signaled yesterday that the chamber’s leaders were considering filing cloture on energy reform legislation to circumvent objections by some lawmakers that continue to bog down the measure. Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) this afternoon said cloture on the energy bill was an option, with leaders looking to wrap up work on the package and a separate aid bill for Flint, Mich., next week before their recess.
U.S. solar installations are expected to more than double this year, driven by falling equipment prices and federal tax credits. Solar companies will add 16 gigawatts of panels in the U.S. in 2016, up from 7.3 gigawatts in 2015, according to a study released Wednesday by the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington-based trade group.
In recent months, three of Nevada’s largest casino companies – MGM Resorts, Wynn, and Las Vegas Sands – have announced plans to buy and produce more renewable energy for their hotels, a move driven both by increasing demand for responsible energy use from the companies that rent their conference halls, and a surplus of cheap power from solar farms in Nevada and California. “It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” said Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”
A program that pays California residents for the extra electricity made by their rooftop solar panels came under renewed attack yesterday. Utilities and others appealed the California Public Utility Commission’s January decision that largely preserved net energy metering, or NEM. The rule in the Golden State requires utilities to pay solar customers retail rates for the electricity they send back to the grid.