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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
President Obama acknowledged Wednesday that his efforts to combat climate change — in particular, Environmental Protection Agency regulations to slash carbon pollution from cars and coal-fired power plants — could raise fuel and electricity prices. And he told environmental advocates that in order to make a credible case for such climate policies, officials would need to acknowledge Americans’ worries about the economic effects. “People don’t like gas prices going up; they are concerned about electricity prices going up,” Mr. Obama said in a speech at an annual dinner for the League of Conservation Voters. “If we’re blithe about saying, ‘This is the crisis of our time,’ but we don’t acknowledge these legitimate concerns — we’ve got to shape our strategies to address the very real and legitimate concerns of working families.”
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.
Climate change-induced disasters including sea-level rise, extreme heat and crop losses will cost the country several billion dollars annually in the decades ahead, a report sponsored by wealthy environmental activist Tom Steyer, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) and past Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said today. “Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change to the United States” — an analysis more than a year in the making — projects losses across sectors and by region of the country. It aims to provide what it calls the first-ever “comprehensive assessment of the economic risks our nation faces from the changing climate.”
Coal is no longer “king” of America’s energy production either. That title passed to natural gas, which now accounts for 42% of the total. Coal has sunk to the status of America’s #2 energy source, followed by nuclear energy. If the renewable sector is calculated as a group, their combined output is 16.28% and easily passes that of nuclear energy. More than half of that is hydropower. The next large segment is wind energy (5.26%).