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Missing science, disagreement surrounds fracking report

High Country News | Posted on December 9, 2016

The report that the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality issued in November intends to begin closing the door on questions over what happened with Pavillion’s water, but did not take into account outside science saying that door should not be closed so quickly.  An earlier article, published by Stanford University scientists in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, stated hydraulic fracturing had impacted drinking water in the Pavillion area, and called for further investigation. The article was not taken into account in the final DEQ Pavillion report, because it was published and sent to DEQ after the comment period on the agency’s report had ended, officials said. But the state report and the journal article come to dramatically different conclusions, and differ on key technical issues. It is the DEQ’s ultimate stance on those technical issues that underpin the agency’s conclusion on Pavillion. DEQ’s Nov. 10 report concluded that hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – for natural gas production is unlikely to have contaminated private wells in Pavillion, as some residents have charged. That conclusion absolves Encana, the energy giant who took over the Pavillion area gas fields in 2004, of major cleanup responsibilities going forward. Fundamental problems of technical standards and regulatory jurisdiction underlie the conflicting scientific assessments. The state report and the independent scientists disagree for instance, over what water, deep underground, should appropriately be called a drinking water resource.

States Taking the Lead in Renewable Energy Growth

25 X 25 Blog | Posted on December 9, 2016

While there may be some uncertainty as to how renewable energy policy may play out in Washington over the next few years, ongoing developments at the state level demonstrate the persistent strength of policy leadership being demonstrated across the country. Just last week, Illinois legislators locked in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – by 2025, at least 25 percent of the state’s electricity needs will be met with renewable energy sources like wind and solar.Furthermore, the measure, which Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law, also amends some language that, until now, had hindered the use of money from a multi-million-dollar fund that was set up to help pay for renewable energy projects. The legislation also establishes certain percentages for various renewables – utility scale wind and solar, community solar and rooftop solar – to meet the RPS goal. And, the bill expands a number of energy efficiency programs. Legislators chose to reject language that would have eliminated utility compensation at retail rates for residents who send excess energy from their rooftop solar systems back to the grid. One of the more significant provisions in the bill will require that renewable energy that contributes to the RPS target must be generated from within the state. Until now, utilities relied on renewable energy credits from wind farms in Texas, Iowa and other states. The in-state requirement will boost local economies and jobs that come from accelerated clean-energy technology development.

Is Solar Power A Good Investment? Renewable Energy Has Paid For Itself As Far As Carbon Dioxide Is Concerned

International Business Times | Posted on December 9, 2016

Critics of solar power have long contended that the technology is a hoax. The panels may appear to create clean energy but, when taking into account the fossil fuels burned to create electricity to manufacture the panels, they become quite dirty, opponents say. But a new study has found that solar panels make up for those emissions and then some over a 30-year lifetime. With advances made in the technology over the past four decades, solar panels now repay their energy consumption “multiple times,” according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.  The study looked at data from solar panels going back to 1976 and determined that the total carbon costs of manufacturing solar panels, while high when the technology was still in nascent stages, was likely repaid in about 2011 when accounting for clean energy consumption displacing carbon dioxide. At the same time, renewable energy sources have become increasingly competitive compared to their fossil fuel counterparts. The strength of renewables remained visible even as crashing prices for oil, natural gas and coal were observed in the past couple of years.

Energy Giant Shell Inks Oil Deal With Iran

NPR | Posted on December 8, 2016

Royal Dutch Shell has signed a provisional agreement to develop oil and gas fields in Iran, a move that could signal energy companies will not be deterred from doing business with the Islamic Republic despite uncertainty whether a Trump administration will scrap a nuclear deal agreed to by world powers. A spokesman for Shell said a memorandum of agreement was signed Wednesday with the National Iranian Oil Co. "to further explore areas of potential cooperation." The agreement is nonbinding and involves the development of Iran's oil fields in South Azadegan and Yadavaran and the Kish gas field.

Power line to link Canada, New England gets key US permit

Lincoln Journal Star | Posted on December 7, 2016

A power line planned to run under Lake Champlain and link suppliers in Canada with consumers in southern New England has won a key federal permit, clearing its last big regulatory hurdle.Transmission Developers Inc. announced Monday its TDI-New England subsidiary had received a presidential permit from the U.S. Department of Energy for the 154-mile, $1.2 billion power line, dubbed the New England Clean Power Link. CEO Donald Jessom said construction could start in late 2017 or early 2018."This interconnection is a vital link that will unleash low-carbon, cost-effective electricity from Canada for the benefit of New England, replacing fossil-fuel generators and lowering energy prices," Jessom, who's also CEO of the parent company, said in a statement.The company, which is owned by the New York-based Blackstone Group, said it hopes a key market for the power will be utilities in Massachusetts, where Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in August signed legislation calling for a request for power supply proposals that will close April 1.

Google Will Achieve 100 Percent Renewable Energy in 2017

Green Tech Media | Posted on December 7, 2016

The search engine and web services provider has long been a leader in corporate renewables, using its clout and purchasing power to open up new avenues for procuring clean energy. The future of federal renewables policy remains hazy since the election of Donald Trump, meaning corporate leadership could play an even greater role in the adoption of wind and solar power in the next few years. The announcement means that all of Google's data centers, offices and operations will be powered by clean energy. Not all of that clean electricity is available in the vicinity of the facilities; so in those cases, the company buys the equivalent power and retires the associated renewable energy credits.

Some rural Minnesota businesses embrace solar to control energy costs

Prairie Business Magazine | Posted on December 7, 2016

Jane Anderson could’ve bought a new pickup, but she had another bright idea for what to buy with that money — 72 solar panels that could make enough electricity to offset her home and business power needs.Anderson, owner of The Groom Room dog boarding and grooming business east of Hawley, said she’s always been curious about solar but assumed it was unaffordable.Glenz said customers can expect to pay about $75,000 to get a solar array like the one Anderson now has. But that number quickly starts to drop — in her case, to around $30,000 — when tax and energy savings enter the picture.She said she’ll get an energy tax credit of 30 percent of her cost for five years, bringing her out-of-pocket costs down, and she can depreciate the solar panels as business equipment.

Illinois Ameren customers should see savings from new energy bill

News Gazette | Posted on December 7, 2016

The typical Ameren Illinois residential customer will pay about $1.93 less per month for power after a far-reaching energy bill goes into effect June 1, 2017, according to an analysis of the Future Energy Jobs bill by the Illinois Commerce Commission. Eventually, however, rates will start to increase beyond today's levels around 2023, according to the ICC model.The energy bill, promoted for almost two years by Exelon Corp. to preserve its nuclear plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities, was approved by the Illinois Legislature on Thursday. The main feature of the measure is a subsidy of up to $235 million a year to keep the two nuclear plants open for at least 10 more years. Among the legislation's other provisions is one that imposes a cap limiting increases in Ameren rates for the average customer in the residential-rate category to no more than 35 cents a month during the life of the legislation, which extends to 2030.

Wind developer drops plan for 119-turbine wind farm in Maine

Portland Press Herald | Posted on December 7, 2016

EDP Renewables says the need to build new transmission lines and the loss of a power-purchase agreement with utilities in Connecticut contributed to the company's decision to withdraw its application. The project was proposed three years ago for ridges west of Bridgewater, but needed new transmission lines to connect it with the New England grid. That has taken longer than expected, and last summer, the project lost a power-purchase agreement with utilities in Connecticut. Since then, a proposal to build new transmission lines from northern Maine was rejected during a bidding process in which the three southern New England states were choosing clean-energy projects. Number Nine Wind Farm would have had an installed capacity of 250 megawatts, which the company said could power 51,400 homes for a year.

Only Democrat on Ohio Public Utilities Commission resigns rather than face senate rejection | Posted on December 5, 2016

PUCO commissioner Howard Petricoff, a lawyer who has practiced energy law for 40 years, resigned today rather than face an Ohio Senate rejection in the final weeks of the year. Gov. John Kasich appointed Petricoff, the commission's only Democrat, to a five-year term on the commission in June. He was one of 19 candidates. The Senate had until the end of the year to vote on the appointment or allow it to become permanent without a vote.In a hearing soon after the appointment, the Senate's Public Utilities Committee questioned his ability to rule on pending commission cases because he had appeared before the commission a number of times over the years representing clients. But the committee did not vote on the matter.Petricoff had over the years represented independent power and gas companies, to the annoyance of the state's regulated utilities.In the months since his appointment, Petricoff had recused himself in a small number of cases, including the FirstEnergy, American Electric Power and Dayton Power & Light rate cases, because he had represented opponents.At the same time in recent months a conflict developed between the legislature and the Kasich administration over the state's renewable energy and energy efficiency rules that all power companies have had to follow until the lawmakers "froze" the rules in 2014, but only for two years.The rules are set to spring back into life on Jan. 1, unless the legislature suspends them again, an act that Kasich has vowed to veto.