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Energy News

Cost Benefits of Switching to Solar: A State-by-State Guide

The Simple Dollar | Posted on November 9, 2017

The advantages of solar power and other renewable energy sources are colossal, and arguably necessary for our survival. On solar, the electric grid becomes more efficient and resilient to natural disasters (including hail) and disruptions — not to mention scalable to the 1.3 billion people on our planet living without electricity. On solar, power becomes cleaner, moving us that much closer toward the net zero goal advocated by climate researchers. But the benefits don’t stop there. Solar costs are falling. In fact, the installed price for residential solar systems is less than half of what it was in 2009 (due in large part to technological and manufacturing advances from cleantech leaders like Tesla, SolarCity, and SunEdison). After installing an 8kW (8,000-watt) solar system, the average American stands to save over $23,000 on electricity in 25 years, which is the average, ever-increasing lifespan of a residential solar system.

Peak oil? Majors aren't buying into the threat from renewables

Reuters | Posted on November 9, 2017

Two decades ago, BP set out to transcend oil, adopting a sunburst logo to convey its plans to pour $8 billion over a decade into renewable technologies, even promising to power its gas stations with the sun. That transformation - marketed as “Beyond Petroleum” - led to manufacturing solar panels in Australia, Spain and the United States and erecting wind farms in the United States and the Netherlands. Today, BP might be more aptly branded “Back to Petroleum” after exiting or scaling back its renewable energy investments. Lower-cost Chinese components upended its solar panel business, which the firm shed in 2011. A year later, BP tried to sell its U.S. wind power business but couldn’t get a buyer.Even as governments and environmentalists forecast a peak in oil demand within a generation - and China and India say they may eventually ban gasoline and diesel vehicles - leaders of the world’s biggest oil firms are not buying the argument that their traditional business faces any imminent threat.

Can Puerto Rico Be The Model For A Renewables-Powered Energy System?

Fast Company | Posted on November 9, 2017

As the island rebuilds from Hurricane Maria, renewable energy storage companies like Sonnen and Tesla are constructing microgrids on the island to create a more resilient system before the next storm strikes. In the small Puerto Rican town of Loíza, after Hurricane Maria took out the power grid, residents started washing clothes in a local river–filled with bacteria that then made many people sick. But at a local church, a new solar microgrid now powers donated laundry machines, along with a refrigerator for food and medicine and outlets for charging phones.The microgrid–a combination of solar panels, battery storage, and other equipment, completed last week–is one of 15 that the battery-storage company Sonnen is rapidly deploying with partners over the next several weeks to respond to the disaster on the island, which is still mostly without power more than a month after the hurricane. Like another microgrid that Tesla is building next to a children’s hospital in San Juan, it’s a renewable alternative to the diesel generators that are also in use. But it’s also one piece of what could become a much more renewably powered grid for the entire island.The case for a shift to more renewables seems clear. Sunshine is more abundant in the Caribbean than in California or Spain. The amount of wind is competitive with states like Texas, which leads the U.S. in wind energy production. New renewable energy is affordable to build, and could help cut electric bills in a place where residents have been paying twice as much as Americans who live on the mainland.


Ohio ruling expected to shrink credits paid for sending excess electricity to power grid

The Columbus Dispatch | Posted on November 9, 2017

Central Ohioans who have rooftop solar panels receive a credit on their electric bills for selling excess power back into the grid. After a ruling Wednesday by state utility regulators, that credit is likely to shrink.For an American Electric Power customer, the credit would be reduced by about 30 percent.The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio issued the 3-0 ruling in a case dealing with the rules for so-called “net metering,” a term that refers to the two-way flow of electricity for consumers who generate power through small-scale solar panels, wind turbines and the like.Right now, an AEP customer producing excess electricity receives a credit that is the equivalent of 5.86 cents per kilowatt hour sent back into the grid. For example, if a customer produces an excess of 100 kilowatt hours in a month, the current credit is $5.86. The amount rolls over and is applied to the next monthly bill.The PUCO ruling says that some parts of this credit no longer need to be applied. In the AEP example, this would reduce the amount of the credit by $1.81, or 31 percent percent, based on a review of AEP rates and confirmed by the company.

Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg Ethanol and Big Oil Are Advertising on Fox News to Try to Get Trump’s Attention

Bloomberg | Posted on November 8, 2017

Big Corn and Big Oil are taking their long-running fight over renewable fuels to Fox News in a bid for the attention of one of the network’s biggest fans -- President Donald Trump.  Advocates of ethanol -- the corn-based fuel that is mixed with gasoline in the U.S. -- started running a television commercial Monday on Fox News using campaign footage of Trump pledging to support the government’s existing Renewable Fuel Standard and thanking the president for upholding his promise. Last week, the oil industry ran an advertisement on the Fox & Friends show saying that Trump is “caving to ethanol lobbyists” and putting thousands of manufacturing jobs at risk with his support for the program.Other industries are also banking on Fox News being the way to Trump’s heart. Fox News host and Trump friend Sean Hannity cut an ad last month advocating for the U.S. solar industry in a campaign against import tariffs.

Syria joins Paris Climate Agreement, US only Nation Left Out

CNN | Posted on November 8, 2017

The United States is now a party of one in its stance on climate change.Syria will join the Paris climate agreement, leaving the US as the only country in the world not signed on to the landmark climate deal.Syrian officials announced their intention to ratify the accord at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany."I confirm that the Syrian Arab Republic supports the implementation of Paris climate change accord, in order to achieve the desired global goals and to reflect the principles of justice and shared responsibility, but in accordance with the capabilities of each of the signatories," Syria's Deputy Minister of Local Administration and Environment M. Wadah Katmawi said.Nicaragua was the only other hold-out, based on criticisms that it was "insufficient" in addressing climate change.However, the Central American country recently announced its intent to join the agreement. 

New Indiana solar law could cripple small businesses and customer savings

Indianapolis Star | Posted on November 7, 2017

The source of Rohaly's concern — and that of many other small business owners — is Senate Bill 309. The law, championed by the state's powerful utility industry, phases out net metering, which requires utilities to pay solar users for any excess energy that is created by their solar panels. The program was intended to provide an important incentive for Hoosiers to install expensive solar panels and produce their own energy that is better for the environment. Rohaly, who is the co-founder of Green Alternatives, Inc., is among thousands of solar providers and their employees, as well as ratepayers, consumer and environmental advocates, schools and municipalities, who are anxiously watching what will happen when the law, passed in May, begins phasing out net metering on Jan. 1, 2018. The law was pitched as a way to level the playing field between solar customers and the state's investor-owned utilities, who maintain net metering is an unnecessary subsidy paid for by other ratepayers. But an IndyStar investigation that looked at how such laws have played out in other states and how the law already is having an impact here suggests SB 309 could put an entire industry at risk of stagnation at best — and, at worst, collapse. Net metering, in its simplest form, credits customers for excess energy they produce that flows back to the grid — thus helping to offset electricity they consume from the utility at other times. More than 40 states have some variation of the rule.

Illinois’ first fracking permit withdrawn

The State Journal Register | Posted on November 7, 2017

Woolsey Companies Inc., the Kansas firm awarded the first permit under the state’s 2013 “fracking” law, released a statement Friday citing regulatory compliance costs in the decision to drop drilling plans near the southeast Illinois community of Enfield. The practice relies on high pressure chemical and water injections to release oil and gas from deep-rock formation. “The process we have gone through to receive a permit was burdensome, time consuming and costly due to the current rules and regulations of Illinois,” the company stated, “and it appears that this process would continue for future permit applications.”The company said the area of southeast Illinois known as New Albany Shale had significant energy production potential, but that stringent Illinois rules combined with low oil and gas prices made the project too costly compared with other states.

Sixty-Four House Members Tell Pruitt RFS has Failed

DTN | Posted on November 7, 2017

A bipartisan group of 64 lawmakers in the United States House of Representatives on Wednesday asked U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to consider what they say are the negative effects of the Renewable Fuel Standard, in a letter sent to Pruitt. Pressure applied to EPA on potential changes to the RFS in recent weeks by Midwest members of Congress, led the agency to back down. This week, the EPA sent the final 2018 renewable volume obligations in the RFS to the Office of Management and Budget.As a result of the agency's actions, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is holding up the confirmation of Bill Northey to a key USDA post, in attempt to convince President Donald Trump's administration to meet with federal lawmakers from oil-producing states about their RFS concerns.

DowDuPont to exit cellulosic biofuels business

Biofuels Digest | Posted on November 2, 2017

DowDuPont announced that it intends to sell its cellulosic biofuels business and its first commercial project, a 30 million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa. The Nevada project is still going through start-up. The Nevada plant will be ‘kept warm’ but not operated going forward until a buyer is found. 90 workers are currently employed at the plant, and it can be assumed that this will be reduced to a skeleton staff until a buyer is found. Ever since the Dow and DuPont merger was announced, there have been concerns about exactly where the cellulosic ethanol technology would fit in a company which avowedly planned, post-merger, to divide itself into three companies — one based on traditional chemicals, one on agriculture, one on speciality products and including the industrial biosciences.