The Obama administration will announce a moratorium Friday on any major new coal leases on federal lands until it completes a comprehensive review of whether the fees charged to mining companies provide a fair return to American taxpayers and reflect coal’s impact on the environment. An administration official says companies will continue to be able to mine the coal reserves already under lease. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan hasn’t yet been formally announced. Roughly 40 percent of the coal produced in the United States comes from federal lands. The vast majority of that mining takes place in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. It’s unclear what impact the moratorium will have on many coal companies given the declining domestic demand for coal and the closure of numerous coal-fired power plants around the country.
$329.3 billion of investment last year. The 4 percent increase in clean energy technology spending from 2014 reflected tumbling prices for photovoltaics and wind turbines as well as a few big financings for offshore wind farms on the drawing board for years, according to research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance released on Thursday.
President Obama, in his final State of the Union address on Tuesday night, boldly proclaimed the successes of what he called “the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history,” the 2009 economic stimulus that pumped $80 billion into clean and renewable energy projects. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power,” he said. “On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills and employs more Americans than coal — in jobs that pay better than average.” He added that “we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly 60 percent and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.”
A new study analyzing different compliance scenarios for U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan calls the new rule “very achievable.” The analysis by M.J. Bradley & Associates, an environmental consulting firm, also found the United States could sustain a diverse energy mix under the program, which compels states to lower carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The analysis also found that having states or companies trade emissions credits or allowances can “significantly” help them reduce the costs associated with the Clean Power Plan.
Africa’s off-grid solar industry has been turned into an asset class for the first time, bundling contracts for thousands of the sun-powered rooftop electricity systems to sell as bonds. “I worked in commercial banking in the U.S. for several years and was involved in the securitization of residential solar, specifically SolarCity,” said David ten Kroode, renewable energy manager at Oikocredit, which is based in Amersfoort, Netherlands. “We thought it was an interesting model that could be replicated in Africa.”
The future of Florida’s rooftop solar market remains murky despite continued optimism from clean energy advocates who have been fighting for years to strengthen it. There was clear evidence of the tug of war yesterday as backers of a proposed constitutional amendment to create a market for rooftop solar announced they are targeting the 2018 ballot instead of 2016. For now, Floridians for Solar Choice will put all of its money and political muscle behind killing a utility-backed solar proposal — also slated for voters — that needs to clear the Florida Supreme Court.
The number of solar jobs in the U.S. has more than doubled in five years. In fact, there are more people working in solar now than at oil rigs and in gas fields. The solar industry added 35,000 jobs in 2015, up 20% from the previous year, according to the Solar Foundation, a nonprofit in Washington D.C.. The group is not funded by solar companies. In contrast, oil and gas firms slashed nearly 17,000 extraction jobs in 2015 as energy prices continue to plummet. Oil prices are down a stunning 70% in the last 18 months and hovering just over $30 a barrel, a 12-year low.
California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols yesterday said her state is in “very preliminary” talks with New York to explore the possibility of linking carbon markets. The idea of linking California’s cap-and-trade system with New York’s was first proposed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) late last year. He envisioned a “broader North American market to collectively reduce harmful emissions”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will soon begin an informal effort to engage stakeholders nationwide about a range of concerns with U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, said FERC Commissioner Colette Honorable in an interview. The effort, coming more than five months after the final rule was published, will be led by FERC staff, Honorable said. “We need to be proactive, and we need to be acting now and not just talking about it,” she said, describing “what I would characterize as a significant outreach effort with stakeholders.”
The Iowa Utilities Board has dealt another setback to a proposed $2 billion transmission line to ship Iowa wind energy to customers in Illinois. The board voted 3-0 on Monday rejected the third request by Clean Line Energy Partners to split the case into two separate hearings. The board stood by its plan to decide whether to approve the line and whether to grant the use of eminent domain in one hearing. The company has said that approach means it has to invest “tens of millions of dollars” acquiring land while running the risk that regulators could reject the line as not in the public interest.