Four years ago, energy consultant Peter Fox-Penner assessed disruptive forces converging on the U.S. electric power sector, finding that the industry’s century-old business models would have to radically change because of the climate threat, technology innovation and slowing growth for electricity. In an updated version of his 2010 book “Smart Power,” Fox-Penner, chairman emeritus of the Brattle Group consultancy, documents how these trends have accelerated since then. He presents the case for change as a survival issue for an industry with an indispensable product.
Once-bold calls for national high-capacity transmission to harvest abundant but remote U.S. wind, solar, and geothermal resources are now a distant whisper. But some developers are still pioneering upgrades for a fragile, somewhat balkanized electricity delivery system. “You can’t get enough clean energy from distributed resources,” said former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) chairman and staunch distributed energy resources (DERs) advocate Jon Wellinghoff. “If you run the numbers, you find out we need these clean remote resources and transmission lines to get them to the load.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today said he would bring tax extenders for renewable energy to the Senate floor this year, lambasting Republicans for their opposition earlier in the year. Tax credits for wind energy, biomass, energy efficiency and other energy sources are among a package of about 50 credits and other incentives that expired in January or are set to lapse at year’s end.
Those dazzling white wind turbine blades that are often seen being trucked across Nebraska highways may be up for a color change. “Less birds fly into black blades,” said Tim Frentz, the founder of the Helping Hands Network and co-owner of the Nebraska Green Fuels Co-op, both renewable energy organizations. The comment came as representatives from the Center for Rural Affairs and Bold Nebraska met Tuesday night at the Chocolate Bar in downtown Grand Island with a handful of renewable energy enthusiasts.
Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate political action committee has opened more than 20 offices and hired more than 700 people across the seven states where his largely self-funded operation plans to spend millions of dollars more to help elect Senate and gubernatorial candidates who support broad action on climate change, his aides said today.
“This is a record,” said Energinet.dk. “The high share is partly due to more wind than usual, and partly due to a 650-megawatt growth in wind power capacity in 2013.” Wind energy accounted for 33.2% of the country’s energy consumption in 2013, out of an annual electricity consumption of 33.5 terawatt hours. Boosted by stable subsidies for renewable energy, Denmark has so far installed more than 5,000 wind turbines with a total capacity of 4.8 gigawatts, according to the Danish Energy Agency.
Republicans in the House and Senate today began a formal probe of U.S. EPA’s communications with the Natural Resources Defense Council on the Obama administration’s proposed emissions regulations for power plants as well as restrictions on a prospective copper and gold mine in southwestern Alaska.
The last 15 years have seen U.S. power transmission investment jump from $2.7 billion in 1997 to $14.1 billion in 2012, reversing a three-decade-long decline. Major investors and privately held companies have thrown cash into power infrastructure largely to improve reliability, improve connectivity to renewable sources and adjust to population shifts, according to a snapshotof the sector by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“Order 1000 is really probably the largest policy action that the commission’s taken in the four years since I’ve been on it, and it really contemplated that the nation’s going to need a lot of new transmission investment and set up a structure that required that that transmission be planned and cost-allocated on a regional basis. We’ve been operating as if Order 1000 was going to be approved, so we’ve been continuing to take up compliance filings of the different regions, but now that we have the clarity of the court order, I think that will help the implementation step.”
A coalition of states and cities today announced plans to fight a lawsuit aimed at killing U.S. EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas rule for existing power plants. The city of New York, the District of Columbia and 11 states filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed last month by “coal producing regions” that seek to invalidate a 2010 settlement agreement between EPA and state and environmental plaintiffs that set a path for the agency to propose emissions rules for new and existing power plants, according to the New York state attorney general’s office. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed the motion to intervene today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on behalf of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia and New York City.