Energy companies and 15 predominantly Republican-led states will press federal judges this week to halt President Obama’s greenhouse gas standards for power plants. In two consolidated cases, West Virginia and Murray Energy Corp. are leading a bid for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to take the unusual step of preventing U.S. EPA from finalizing the standards — a key component of Obama’s effort to address climate change. A three-judge D.C. Circuit panel composed entirely of Republican appointees will hear arguments Thursday morning.
The transformation of the U.S. electricity sector will quicken in 2015, as the country is expected to rely on more natural gas, solar and wind energy than ever before, according to new projections published yesterday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Coal plant closures are also expected to peak this year, with 23 gigawatts of capacity coming offline in anticipation of tough new federal regulations targeting power plant emissions of mercury and other pollutants, Bloomberg analysts said in the firm’s “Midterm Outlook U.S. Power” for 2015.
Most of the electricity produced in Colorado still comes from burning coal, but even the state’s two largest coal burners are adding more renewable energy. The Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and Platte River Power Authority each recently announced plans for new renewable energy sources. “We’ve seen the prices dropping, and we’ve been able to add these renewable energy projects,” said Lee Boughey, a spokesman for Westminster-based Tri-State. Tri-State announced this month that it would add a 150-megawatt wind farm in Kit Carson County. Platte River Power, based in Fort Collins, is set to add a 22-megawatt solar installation near Wellington.
When the King Mountain Wind Ranch was built in 2001 south of Odessa, Texas, it was the largest wind project in the world, with 214 turbines capable of generating 278 megawatts of electricity. Fourteen years later, the company that constructed King Mountain, RES Americas, has developed a total of 15 wind farms in Texas capable of generating about 2,200 megawatts of electricity — enough to power about 600,000 homes under average wind conditions. The developer has yet another wind farm currently under construction, all because the windswept Texas prairie “provided a great natural resource and Texans were supportive of wind energy,” says Chad Horton, vice president of development for RES Americas.
n pitching his proposal for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, President Obama has repeatedly made solving problems like asthma attacks a central pillar. “Often, these illnesses are aggravated by air pollution, pollution from the same sources that release carbon and contribute to climate change, and for the sake of all of our kids, we’ve got to do more to reduce it,” Obama said last year just before U.S. EPA announced its emissions-cutting proposal. The president again reiterated his case for cutting carbon emissions this week, bringing up his daughter’s troubles with asthma.
Brian Deese’s first job at the White House included churning out economic doomsday scenarios, like how many communities might see unemployment rates hit 25 percent in the event of cascading bankruptcies across the Midwest. It was so harrowing,” Mr. Deese recalled of the grim months of recession in the earliest days of President Obama’s first term, when as a 31-year-old Yale Law School student he played a central role on the White House team that executed an $85 billion government bailout of Chrysler and General Motors.
Public utilities will face additional future hurdles to their traditional business model that could cost them as much as $34 billion in revenue, according to a new study from the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based research nonprofit. Titled “Economics for Load Defection,” the report asserts spikes in electrical rates coinciding with decreased costs for solar and battery storage will spur customers to purchase less power from grid operators, with smaller-scale solar-plus-battery systems powering the majority of their electrical generation. This could squeeze out public utilities and other electrical providers unless they take action now, said spokesman and author James Mandel.
There are essentially only three long-run solutions to the climate challenge. The first is to price carbon emissions to reflect the damages from climate change. In practice, this means pricing carbon in as many parts of the world as possible — and ideally, globally — so that there is a level playing field for all energy sources. There has been important progress in this area, including in the European Union, individual American states and regions (for example, California and the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative), and parts of China.
The city of Georgetown recently announced that our municipal electric utility will move to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2017. That probably caught some folks by surprise. No, environmental zealots have not taken over our City Council, and we’re not trying to make a statement about fracking or climate change. Our move to wind and solar is chiefly a business decision based on cost and price stability
Austin Energy, the municipally owned utility providing power to roughly 1 million people in the Texas capital, will add 600 megawatts of solar to its generation portfolio by as soon as 2017. Under a request for proposal announced yesterday, Austin Energy said it would consider acquiring the solar power under power purchase agreements with independent solar firms, or it could own the solar capacity outright.