Nonprofit advocacy groups linked to DTE Energy are waging a public campaign to significantly reduce the amount customers are paid for their solar power, in line with the utility’s request before Michigan regulators.While these groups — classified as 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations — have been prominent in statewide elections and lobbying lawmakers on behalf of utility interests, the latest involves policy decisions at the Michigan Public Service Commission. Energy laws passed in 2016 with bipartisan support directed the MPSC to study the costs and benefits of net metering customers and require utilities to file new distributed generation programs. DTE is the first major utility to do so. DTE and its allies say net metering customers are being subsidized by all other ratepayers for their cost of using the grid. DTE proposescompensating customers for excess power at wholesale rates along with a monthly fee, similar to utility efforts in other states to curtail net metering.Critics of the utility campaign contend that the benefits net metering customers provide more broadly to the grid have not been fully studied in Michigan, such as helping reduce demand during peak periods in the summer and lower costs for all customers. Advocates also note that in the same rate case DTE is proposing to increase average residential rates by 9.1 percent, with low-income customers being hit the hardest. Net metering customers made up 0.12 percent of DTE’s 11,000 MW load in 2017.
More than 90 percent of U.S. coal-fired power plants that are required to monitor groundwater near their coal ash dumps show unsafe levels of toxic metals, according to a study released on Monday by environmental groups, which cited the potential harm to drinking water. Data made public by power companies showed that of the 265 plants subject to the monitoring requirement, 241 - or 91 percent - showed unsafe levels of one or more coal ash components in nearby groundwater compared to EPA standards, according to the analysis by the groups.The report also found that 52 percent of those plants had unsafe levels of cancer-causing arsenic in nearby groundwater while 60 percent showed unsafe levels of lithium, which can cause neurological damage.
The William Crawford Gorgas Electric Generating Plant near Parrish is set to be retired in April, but Alabama Power customers will be repaying about $740 million in costs related to the Walker County coal power plant long after it closes, according to documents the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Alabama Power’s parent group, Southern Company, disclosed in its latest public 10-K filing that “approximately $740 million of net investment costs [from Plant Gorgas] will be transferred to a regulatory asset at the retirement date and recovered over the affected units’ remaining useful lives.” That will allow Alabama Power to recover the costs of investments it made in the coal-fired power plant, plus a profit margin set by the Alabama Public Service Commission, from customers through their electric bills.
Critics of the Green New Deal have attempted to smear its ideals, goals, and policies as dangerous “socialism,” displaying a deep skepticism of the government’s capacity to do good. But if ever a time called for dramatic democratic action, for thoughtful deliberation and policy development by our elected officials and our expert agencies, now is that time. Climate change is not just another environmental problem. Emerging impacts — floods, droughts, heat — provide only a taste of the anticipated devastation and its human and environmental costs. The time for slow and incremental responses is long gone. Transitioning away from unsustainable fossil fuels to a clean green economy is an urgent imperative. What is required is not just piecemeal environmental regulation, nicely tucked into its silo, but widespread shifts in energy sources, infrastructure, transportation, resource development, municipal design and more.That shift is not going to happen on its own. Although renewables are increasing and carbon-intensive coal plants are closing, the free market is not, and cannot, do enough. Shifting away from fossil fuels will require substantial deliberation about the most sustainable paths forward, significant shifts in utility and energy regulation as we move away from centralized fossil-fueled power plants, major investments in new infrastructure such as new transmission grids and charging infrastructure, and more sustainable urban development.
In early February, Martin County, Kentucky Sheriff John Kirk took to Facebook to announce that his office was unable to continue providing law enforcement, warning residents to protect themselves instead. “I have had to operate the last little bit with just myself and one other paid deputy. There are volunteers that help when they can,” he wrote. “I am going to have to cut even more tomorrow. I have no choice. I can’t expect people to work if I can’t pay them.” The lack of funding Kirk faces is an acute example of a growing crisis confronting the Central Appalachian states of Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. A decline in global demand for coal, plus competition from natural gas and renewables, has decimated the market and drastically reduced coal severance taxes, the fees coal companies pay to counties for extracting coal out of the ground. With counties stripped bare of their once bounteous cash flows from the coal industry, the revenue squeeze is exposing financial mismanagement, worsening a dire economic situation, and resulting in partial government shutdowns and cutbacks in core government services like infrastructure, education, and healthcare. “It’s a tough time to be in a small community that has relied for so many years on coal for its main economic driver,” said Rep. Angie Hatton, who represents Letcher County and part of Pike County in the Kentucky House of Representatives. “They’re cutting everything. We have laid off employees. Road maintenance, garbage service, water. Everything.”
Interactive plots provide annual sea-level projections to 2050 for 32 localities along the US coastline from Maine to Alaska. These web-based charts -- available online at https://www.vims.edu/research/products/slrc/index.php -- project sea level out to the year 2050 based on an ongoing analysis of tide-gauge records for 32 localities along the U.S. coastline from Maine to Alaska. Release of this year's cards was delayed by the 35-day government shutdown, which precluded compilation of and access to NOAA's latest tide-gauge records.
A Rhode Island fishing board Saturday voted in favor of a revised compensation offer from offshore wind developer Vineyard Wind in a decision that boosts the New Bedford company’s chances of securing a key approval from state coastal regulators later this week. In a unanimous vote at the special meeting, the Fishermen’s Advisory Board accepted the new offer that includes $4.2 million in payments over 30 years for direct impacts to commercial fishermen from Vineyard Wind’s 84-turbine wind farm proposed south of Martha’s Vineyard — as well as the creation of a $12.5-million trust set up over five years that could be used to cover additional costs to fishermen resulting from the project.The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council is now set to vote tonight on whether it believes the $2 billion project is consistent with state coastal activities, including fishing. With the vote by the fishermen’s board, the prospects of Vineyard Wind winning approval appear much improved from just weeks ago when the two sides were mired in negotiations.But the board’s decision does not amount to an endorsement of the 800-megawatt proposal, which is aiming to be the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the nation, following the completion two years ago of a test project off Block Island.Even though every member of the fishermen’s board voted for the agreement, each spoke out against a process regulated by the federal government that they argued is weighted in favor of offshore wind development, to the detriment of the fishing industry. And each expressed reservations about their decision.
Iowa clean energy advocates are bracing for another legislative setback this year as the state’s largest utility takes aim at solar net metering. A bill (HSB 185) introduced by a House committee chairperson last week would slash the payments customers receive for unused solar power they generate.A spokeswoman for MidAmerican Energy said the current policy forces customers who don’t own solar panels to unfairly subsidize those who do.“We support customers having private generation, but not the cost shift that’s created when they don’t pay for their use of the grid,” a spokeswoman said.The question of cost-shifting, however, has never been studied in Iowa and has been disproven in states that have examined the value of distributed solar on the grid.
While an ambitious “Green New Deal” to convert the country to 100-percent renewable energy by 2030 is discussed in Washington, the rural Midwest is already heading that way, according to a new report verified by area experts. Renewable energy is growing, says “Green Energy Sweeps across Rural America,” an 18-page study from the Natural Resources Defense Council, with support from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The report shows how wind, solar and other energy-efficiency efforts are dominating the rural economy, growing jobs and investment.Such green-energy sources outnumber coal, gas and oil, combined, says the study, using 2017 data from the Dept. of Energy. In Illinois, for example, the percentage of fossil-fuel jobs fell to 0.8 percent of all jobs; clean-energy jobs grew to 2.6 percent.
“Clean energy plays an outsize role in rural areas relative to the size of rural economies,” say the report’s chief authors, Arjun Krishnaswami and Elisheva Mittelman. “In 2017, more people in the rural Midwest were employed by clean energy than by fossil fuel power plants, extraction, refinement and transportation combined in 10 of 12 midwestern states.
During his first run for governor, Charlie Baker sat for a meeting with a group of leading environmentalists in Massachusetts. It quickly turned combative. Baker, a Republican who was challenging Gov. Deval Patrick (D), voiced doubts about the veracity of climate science and the high cost of renewable energy. He singled out Cape Wind as an overpriced offshore wind project proposed for Nantucket Sound. The project died years later, in 2017.Recounting the meeting to The Boston Globe, the environmental leaders recalled Baker using a whiteboard to lecture them about the shortcomings of their position. The greens were shocked. Baker, a former state budget official, municipal leader and health care executive, had a reputation as a technocrat. They assumed he accepted the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate.He did not."I'm not saying I believe in it. I'm not saying I don't," Baker told the Globe in 2010. "You're asking me to take a position on something I don't know enough about. I absolutely am not smart enough to believe that I know the answer to that question."He lost the race.