The US Energy Information Administration dropped some troubling new data this week: US energy consumption hit a record high in 2018 in large part due to the growing use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels provided 80 percent of total energy used in 2018. Consumption of natural gas and petroleum grew by 4 percent, while coal consumption declined by 4 percent compared to the year before. Renewable energy production also reached a record high last year, climbing 3 percent relative to 2017.
The chemical industry is heading for a slowdown as society turns against disposable plastics and the rise of recycling weakens demand, IHS Markit predicted at its annual World Petrochemical Conference.After climbing to multi-year highs, chemical earnings will drop this year and won’t recover until 2023 as environmental issues add to the drag from a downturn in the global economy, according to the global research firm.“Plastic waste I believe is going to be the sustainability issue of our time,” Jim Fitterling, chief executive officer of Dow Inc. and chief operating officer at DowDuPont, said Wednesday at the conference. “It represents not only the biggest risk to our industry,” he said, but also “one of the biggest opportunities.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will unveil a proposal to speed state-level permitting decisions for energy infrastructure projects soon, the agency’s chief told Reuters, blasting states that have blocked coal terminals and gas pipelines on environmental grounds.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Thursday signed into law a 100% renewable energy mandate that the hurricane-battered island must meet by 2050. The Public Energy Policy Law of Puerto Rico, passed last month by territory legislators, directs the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to source 40% of its power from renewables by 2025 and cease burning coal in 2028 on its way to 100% renewables. The signing comes days after a Department of Energy official recommended the installation of a large gas generator in San Juan, but admitted it "may be at odds" with the 100% goal. PREPA's CEO told reporters it is evaluating the proposal in its revised integrated resource plan
Washington's House of Representatives on Thursday approved a 100% clean energy bill, following Senate approval on March 1, making it the fourth state in the country to commit to such a goal. Senate Bill 5116 passed the House 56-42, and will require the state to power 100% of its electricity from carbon-free resources by 2045. The legislation phases out coal entirely by 2025 and requires all electricity sales to be carbon-neutral by 2030.The bill was amended in the House so will still need to be reconciled in the Senate. Then, the bill will move on to Gov. Jay Inslee, D, who released a clean energy legislative package in December, which included five policy goals to reduce the state's carbon emissions, including the 2045 and 2025 goals in the bill.
Once upon a time, stormy politics in the Mideast routinely inflicted pain on Americans at the pump. Recently it was storms in the Midwest as infrastructure issues in a region known for corn, not petroleum, made it difficult for some refiners to get the ethanol needed for gasoline. America’s energy renaissance didn’t help one bit. Almost all U.S. gasoline is blended with 10% ethanol thanks to the Renewable Fuel Standard. The mandate at the time was meant to make gasoline cleaner and encourage a shift from dependence on foreign energy sources.The mandate not only has been a boon for farmers, absorbing a big chunk of the world’s largest corn crop, but also a political third rail. When flooding hit the Midwest last month, above-ground shipping was disrupted. The agribusiness company Archer Daniels Midland warned in late March that this could affect earnings.
As states consider the compatibility of utility-scale solar projects on farmland, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration is revisiting a state policy that the industry says has acted as a barrier. Michigan’s Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program provides tax incentives to landowners who keep land under contract for agricultural practices for decades. In 2017, under former Gov. Rick Snyder, the state issued a policy saying commercial solar development is not compatible with the program, and landowners would have to end their farmland preservation contracts if they entered into commercial solar leases.Farmers can exit the preservation program under a variety of conditions. However, doing so in most cases means paying back the previous seven years of tax credits plus 6% interest. This has been a barrier for farmers interested in commercial solar leases.Under Whitmer, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is reviewing the policy, looking at both short- and long-term solutions for farmers interested in solar leases. The process could result in legislation requiring solar projects on preservation land to include agriculturally compatible features, such as raised panels allowing for grazing or shade-tolerant crops.
Hundreds of proposals for solar electricity projects in Illinois competed to win renewable energy credits in a special lottery. The credits will be used to mark the sale of renewable energy to utility companies that are required by the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act to buy a certain amount. “Renewable energy credits are designed to recognize the environmental attributes of renewal energy, and put a monetary value on something that traditional markets don’t properly value,” said Anthony Star, who manages the Illinois Power Agency, which conducted the lottery, using a random number generator. Results of the lottery can be found at this link to the IPA website.Solar energy projects in Illinois do not need renewable energy credits to sell electricity to utilities. But Star says their chances for profitability would be less without them.
A Montana district court judge last week issued an order in favor of solar developers, ruling that the state's Public Service Commission intentionally disadvantaged small solar projects in violation of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). The ruling comes after a June 2017 audio recording captured Commissioner Bob Lake acknowledging that cuts to compensation rates the commission had approved that morning were likely deep enough to kill small solar projects. After the recording was released, a number of solar developers in the state filed suit against NorthWestern and the PSC.The PSC cut the rates utilities have to pay solar producers under PURPA by 40%, from $66/MWh to $31/MWh, and cut contracts from 25 to 15 years. District Judge James Manley's order gives the PSC 20 days to come up with new compensation rates and restore contracts to 25 years
Ohio Republicans are reportedly circulating legislation that would provide financial support to FirstEnergy’s two nuclear plants slated for closure in the state. A draft version of the bill would create an "Ohio clean air program" that would provide a total of $300 million annually to the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants through customer bill surcharges. Energy News Network released a version of the bill last Thursday. A bill sponsor told Cleveland.com the bill could be formally introduced late this week but its provisions are "still in a state of flux." Lawmakers must pass support legislation by June, when FirstEnergy must decide whether to purchase more fuel for the plants or shut them down.