Regulators in California, home to more residential solar customers than any other state, agreed on Thursday to retain a system that compensates users of rooftop solar panels for their excess electricity. The decision was closely watched by energy officials and executives across the country, who are grappling with huge shifts in the power industry stemming from the spread of renewable energy.
Congress’ decision to extend tax credits for renewable energy could fundamentally shift America’s energy mix away from natural gas and toward wind and solar at the advent of the Clean Power Plan, a new report predicts. Congress in December agreed to extend the production tax credit (PTC) for wind and the investment tax credit (ITC) for solar through the end of the decade, a move hailed as hugely significant for the industries because it provides greater certainty to investors
Two key Republicans are expressing support for doubling federal energy research as the Obama administration weighs how to enact a landmark clean energy plan announced during last year’s climate talks in Paris. When asked about a plan called Mission Innovation, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said, “I have long favored doubling energy research. … I think it fits a Republican pro-growth agenda.”
Seeking to assuage anger among ratepayers and clean energy advocates, Nevada’s largest electric utility said it would allow existing customers with solar panels to continue being compensated at retail rates for their distributed energy for up to 20 years. The proposal by NV Energy, if approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN), would restore tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue to ratepayers who have installed solar systems in recent years for both environmental and economic reasons.
A negotiated proposal to spur private development of wind energy in Nebraska was presented to the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday with the Nebraska Public Power District on board. The measure will be amended by Sen. John McCollister of Omaha to meet concerns expressed by NPPD that protect its power transmission authority and interests. “We were initially opposed, but we found common ground,” NPPD vice president Tom Kent told the committee. NPPD’s transmission interests “will be maintained,” he said. “It’s an idea whose time has come.”
Renewable energy advocates say Nebraska is squandering its potential as the state with the nation’s third-highest wind energy capacity by holding onto strict requirements that hinder private developers’ projects. Lawmakers on the Natural Resources Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a bill by Sen. John McCollister of Omaha that would speed up the approval process for installing wind turbines. The bill would eliminate a requirement that the developer have a purchasing power agreement in place before a project could be approved by the Nebraska Power Review Board. Private developers say Nebraska is the only state with such a rule and the delay in the approval process puts them at a disadvantage with outside investors.
Even more transmission is still called for in the Southwest Power Pool, as elsewhere around the country, if states are to meet their carbon pollution reduction targets most affordably. According to an EIA analysis of the draft Clean Power Plan, under the lowest-cost compliance option, wind would supply 57 percent of the new electricity needed.
Senators from both parties are planning a slew of amendments to the chamber’s bipartisan energy bill reflecting both recurring fights over administration policies as well as new battles over recent developments in the energy arena. At noon, lawmakers are set to cast the first of two votes on amendments scheduled last night.
The Senate on Wednesday started debating its first comprehensive energy legislation since the George W. Bush administration, a bipartisan measure meant to update the nation’s power grid and oil and gas transportation systems to address major changes in the ways that power is now produced in the United States. Since passage of the last major energy law, in 2007, the United States has gone from fears of oil and gas shortages to becoming the world’s leading producer of both fuels. The use of wind and solar power is rapidly accelerating as those sources become cheaper than fossil fuels in some parts of the country. And President Obama’s clean air regulations are reshaping the nation’s power systems, as electric utilities shutter coal-fired power plants and replace them with alternative sources. But the nation’s energy infrastructure has not kept pace with those changes.
The small Mississippi River city of Hannibal, Mo., best known as the site of Mark Twain’s boyhood home, could play a big role in a developer’s effort to win regulatory approval for a $2.2 billion wind energy superhighway across the Midwest. Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners has worked for years to develop the 770-mile direct-current transmission line that would connect yet-to-be-built wind farms in western Kansas to power markets in the eastern United States.