As California looks to get half its electricity from renewables by 2030, energy regulators in the state have never been busier.
Among the many pressing issues facing the California Public Utilities Commission this year: how to share data between utilities and distributed energy providers; how to allow utilities to rate-base distributed energy assets like storage, rooftop solar and electric-vehicle chargers; how to design new dynamic rates to shift demand and avoid cost-shifting; and whether to allow third parties to deploy infrastructure as a service model in place of traditional generation, transmission and distribution build-out.
Setting a new lopsided quarterly record, renewable sources outpaced — in fact, swamped — natural gas by a factor of more than 70:1 for new electrical generating capacity placed in-service during the first three months of calendar year 2016. According to the latest just-released monthly "Energy Infrastructure Update" report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, nine new "units" of wind provided 707 MW, followed by 44 units of solar (522 MW), 9 units of biomass (33 MW), and one unit of hydropower (29 MW). By comparison, only two new units of natural gas (18 MW) came on line.
The nation’s largest underground coal mining company claims a proposed update to the federal stream protection rule is the top regulatory threat to its industry. “What this rule does is put an end to underground mining in the United States,” Gary Broadbent of Murray Energy Corporation said at an Ohio State Bar Association program in Columbus on April 14. The closely-held company is headquartered in St. Clairsville, Ohio. Environmental organizations maintain that the new rule is necessary to reflect current knowledge about ecology and to address shortcomings in existing regulations, which are more than 30 years old.
The lumbering coal-fired power stations facing closure because of age and air emissions have been the workhorses of the U.S. high-voltage electric transmission grid. When the grid was stressed and frequency dropped, they ran harder.
Now, as tomorrow's grid is reshaped with more wind farms, solar arrays and gas-fired plants, experts warn that new regulation will be needed to ensure that these new resources provide the frequency support and other essential services that the coal plants delivered.
According to the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), those cleaner, greener sources of power provide a "significantly lower level of essential reliability services than conventional generation."
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) also said there is a "significant risk" that primary frequency support -- the initial source of backup power for the grid -- could be weakened if gas, wind and solar don't offer the services the shuttered coal plants provided.
It’s not your imagination. It’s been windier than usual lately across Minnesota. April is the windiest month of the year on average in Minnesota. And this April our winds have blown harder than average. It turns out our winds have been producing some unprecedented power production across the Upper Midwest lately. On one day last November, more than 50 percent of Xcel’s total energy output was produced by wind. That’s a pretty remarkable fact for renewable energy, and one that might have been unthinkable just five or 10 years ago.
Two companies crucial to the business of U.S. energy exploration have abandoned their planned $34 billion merger, according to the Justice Department.
The department filed suit April 6 to block the merger of Halliburton and Baker Hughes. It claims the transaction would unlawfully eliminate significant competition in almost two dozen markets crucial to the exploration and production of oil and natural gas in the United States.
"The companies' decision to abandon this transaction — which would have left many oilfield service markets in the hands of a duopoly — is a victory for the U.S. economy and for all Americans," Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said.
A Montana wind energy project plans to make use of existing infrastructure built for coal.
In large part, the existing electrical grid was built around hydropower, nuclear and coal and natural gas power plants. Those existing long-distance power lines are either filled to capacity with conventionally-generated electrons, or they just aren’t there, leaving vast swaths of the West — often the best places to build a wind or solar plant — without a way to get that power to the people who need it.
The bulk of the West’s transmission infrastructure is concentrated along the Pacific Coast, where it is predominantly oriented north to south, with few significant lines branching directly to the Interior West. But projects such as TransWest Express, Gateway West and Gateway South are seeking to bridge the gap between the coast and Wyoming, which has “some of the best on-shore wind resources in the United States,” says Kara Choquette, the director of communications for TransWest Express LLC. That project is being built primarily to distribute energy from a sprawling, 1,000-turbine wind farm owned by the same parent corporation, being planned near Rawlins, Wyoming.
Federal transportation board rejected a proposed Montana railroad due to coal bankruptcies.
In the latest ripple effect from the coal industry’s troubles, the federal Surface Transportation Board cancelled a proposed railroad in southeastern Montana on Tuesday. The Tongue River Railroad project was designed to connect the proposed Otter Creek coal mine to an existing BNSF Railway line. Arch Coal, one of several large U.S. coal companies that have filed for bankruptcy, pulled its application for mine permits last month but Arch and its partners still wanted the federal government to keep the proposal for the railroad alive, in hopes that they could revive the mine project in the future. Ranchers, who have fought the rail line for decades, appealed to the Surface Transportation Board to reject the railroad, given the bankruptcies and the weak market for coal.
Kinder Morgan Utopia has filed lawsuits seeking eminent domain against 15 Harrison County landowners.
The lawsuits were filed April 4 against landowners who have declined all Kinder Morgan Utopia offers for pipeline easements across their properties.
The Kinder Morgan Utopia pipeline will stretch 240 miles and carry ethane and ethane-propane mixtures from the Utica shale fields in Harrison County, Ohio, to Fulton County, Ohio. From there, it will proceed through Michigan to Ontario.
A tanker from Louisiana loaded with U.S. natural gas is en route to Portugal, the first shipment in a trade relationship that could shake up the European market. In Europe, American gas will add to a swell in supply in a crowded market long dominated by Russia. Analysts predict that the arrival of U.S. gas could trigger a price war, leading to lower prices for consumers that could act as a shot in the arm for the struggling European economy.