Environmental and climate regulations that cut pollution from coal-fired power plants have played only a minor role in the decline of the coal industry, which has been hurt mainly by expanding use of natural gas and less demand for electricity, according to a Columbia University report published this week. U.S. coal use fell by about 30 percent between 2011 and 2016. The paper attributes about half of that decline to low natural gas prices, 26 percent to falling demand for electricity and 18 percent to growth in renewable energy such as wind and solar. Only 3.5 percent of the coal industry’s decline is due to environmental and climate regulations that took effect prior to 2016.
We've entered a topsy-turvy moment in energy where coal supporters want solar power and oil execs have endorsed cutting fossil fuel use.The latter appeared in a new decarbonization roadmap from the Energy Transitions Commission, an all-star working group charting the energy future that includes the chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, the head of sustainability at massive mining company BHP Billiton, the CEO of General Electric Oil and Gas, as well as leaders from prominent global banks, development organizations and climate-oriented NGOs.The terminology in "Better Energy, Greater Prosperity" will be familiar to anyone following the Paris climate agreement and subsequent mobilization, but the cast of characters here differs in a crucial way. Each commission member might not agree with every detail, the report notes, but they collectively "endorse the general thrust of the arguments." That means some of the world's most powerful fossil fuel providers and financial lenders have publicly affirmed the need to sharply cut oil, gas and coal usage and switch to clean sources. And they believe this can be done without macroeconomic disruption, but rather with a net welfare gain for society.
High gas and power prices in the Northeast are only going to get worse unless the region adds pipeline capacity, according to a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy. The business federation estimated insufficient pipeline capacity will cost the region more than 78,000 jobs and $7.6 billion in GDP by 2020, in a new report that models the question "What if pipelines aren’t built into the Northeast?" While some groups have challenged the need for new pipeline capacity, arguing the region can meet its energy needs with a cleaner mix of resources, regional grid operators have indicated opposition to pipelines could create reliability risks, though they are confident in their ability to serve demand.
A bill authorizing rebates for the installation of energy storage systems passed out of the California Senate's energy and utilities committee this week by a vote of 7-2 with two abstentions. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration. The bill, SB 700, would require utilities to collect funds from ratepayers to establish an Energy Storage Initiative (ESI) that would work in tandem with the state’s existing Self Generation Incentive Program and the California Solar Initiative. The ESI would be funded through 2027. The bill also calls for 25% of the funds collected for the Energy Storage Initiative to be allotted for low income neighborhoods and job training programs
More than 1,000 businesses and organizations have signed a letter urging Congress to defend and strengthen the Energy Star labeling initiative for efficient appliances that is maintained through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.The group, organized by the Alliance to Save Energy, says the program saves consumers more than $34 billion per year in reduced energy costs. President Trump's proposed budget eliminates funding for Energy Star, a voluntary program with an annual budget of about $50 million.The EPA budget overall would be cut 31% under the proposal. Energy Star is a curious victim of the Trump administration's slash-and-burn approach to the EPA: It's a voluntary program with bipartisan support and a small budget, and pretty much everyone agrees it works.Why kill it? CNN has a possible answer: Trump properties score poorly in Energy Star ratings. The news organization said scores from 2015 show 11 of 15 Trump properties in major cities are less efficient than comparable buildings.The Trump condominiums at 610 Park Avenue in Manhattan rate a 1, the lowest possible Energy Star rating, CNN said.Now, more than 1,000 businesses and organizations, including national and regional chains, universities, and Habitat for Humanity, are urging lawmakers to fight for the program, calling it "a model for successful collaboration between the public and private sectors."
The U.S. Commerce Department has launched an antidumping and countervailing duty investigation aimed at biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia. The investigation is in response to a complaint filed by the biodiesel industry in the United States.
Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry ordered a review of electricity markets and reliability late last week, saying that "certain policies" have hindered the development and use of baseload energy sources like coal. Although Perry never mentions renewable energy explicitly in his letter, he references "significant changes within the electrical system." That seems to be a direct allusion to the record amount of renewable capacity that has been added to the grid in recent years. The Trump administration has been openly critical of climate change science, with the president even falsely claiming that climate change is a hoax made up by China. In March, the president killed the Clean Power Plan and ordered agencies to ignore climate change. Perry, too, spent most of his early career rejecting climate change science, but during his January Senate confirmation hearing the former Texas governor said he now accepts science showing that the Earth is warming. Still, Perry has remained coy about whether he believes that climate change is caused by humans. The erosion that Perry suggests doesn't seem quite so dire yet. Regional transmission organizations like the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas have been able to accept up to 50 percent wind energy penetration during low-demand times. A 2015 study from SPP said it could "'reliably handle’ wind representing up to 60 percent of internal SPP load.” PJM, a regional transmission organization that serves the East Coast, said in March that recent coal retirements don't threaten grid reliability, according to Utility Dive. PJM was also the subject of extensive research from Princeton and the University of Delaware on how much offshore wind the wholesaler could accept. A conservative estimate suggested that 11 to 20 percent of PJM's power demand could be met by offshore wind additions. In California, where a natural gas leak shut down one of the biggest storage facilities on the West Coast in 2015, the state ordered battery storage installations to help smooth out potential baseload disruptions.
The CEO of the nation's biggest public utility said Tuesday that the agency isn't going to reopen coal-fired power plants under President Trump, who has promised a comeback for the downtrodden coal industry. Tennessee Valley Authority CEO Bill Johnson said he thinks very little will actually change for the federal utility under Trump.TVA has said it's on track to cut its carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels. By the end of 2018, the utility will have retired five of its original 11 coal-fired power plants.Trump, meanwhile, has begun repealing President Obama-era environmental regulations aimed at reducing pollution from mining and burning coal. He has promised to repeal and already ordered a review of the Clean Power Plan, Obama's centerpiece push to curb climate change by limiting carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants.Johnson said the retirement of many of TVA's coal plants was the cheapest way to serve customers, which include more than 9 million people in seven southeastern states. Natural gas prices, not regulation, caused the recent downturn for coal, Johnson said.“Our statutory duty is to produce electricity at the lowest feasible rate,” Johnson said. “And when we decided to close the coal plants, that was the math we were doing. We weren't trying to comply with the Clean Power Plan or anything else. What's the cheapest way to serve the customer? It turned out to be retiring those coal plants.”
An Eastern Kentucky coal mining company plans to build what could become the state's largest solar farm on a reclaimed mountaintop strip mine, promising jobs for displaced coal miners. The Berkeley Energy Group and EDF Renewable Energy are exploring what they're billing as the first large-scale solar project in Appalachia. They're focused on two mountaintop-removal mining sites outside Pikeville, where engineering and feasibility studies are underway for a 50- to 100-megawatt project.By comparison, that could be five to 10 times are big as LG&E and KU Energy's 10-megawatt solar farm at its Brown station in Mercer County. That Central Kentucky array has 45,000 solar panels on 50 acres that company officials have said can provide energy for about 1,500 homes. The Kentucky Public Service Commission last year also approved an 8.5-megawatt solar farm for East Kentucky Power in Winchester.
A California utility has launched unique systems combining a hybrid battery and gas turbine to produce and store electricity for use during hot summer months and other times when power demand soars.The new Hybrid Electric Gas Turbines are the first of their kind in the world, officials with Southern California Edison and manufacturer General Electric said during an event Monday near Los Angeles.The new systems will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution by 60 percent and save millions of gallons of cooling water annually, Edison said.There were no numbers on how much consumers might save. But officials said increased reliability and the reduced environmental impact will lead to significant cost reductions for the utility, which will be passed on to customers in the form of lower bills.