The utilities that own the Navajo Generating Station coal-fired power plant near Page are tired of overpaying for power and decided Monday to close the plant when their lease expires at the end of 2019. To run that long, the utility owners need to work out an arrangement with the Navajo Nation, which owns the land, to decommission the plant after the lease expires. Otherwise, the owners will have to close at the end of this year to have time to tear down the plant's three generators and be gone by 2020. Environmentalists cheered the decision to shutter one of the biggest polluters in the nation, while other stakeholders such as the U.S. Department of the Interior and coal supplier Peabody Energy hope to find a way for the Navajo Nation or another entity to step in and keep the plant going beyond 2019.
Wind turbines across the Great Plains states produced, for the first time, more than half the region’s electricity. The power grid that supplies a corridor stretching from Montana to the Texas Panhandle was getting 52.1 percent of its power from wind at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday. As more and more turbines are installed across the country, Southwest Power has become the first North American grid operator to get a majority of its supply from wind. That beats the grid’s prior record of 49.2 percent and the 48 percent that a Texas grid operator reached in March, Derek Wingfield, a spokesman, said in an e-mail.
Wind power expanded so much in 2016 that it is now the largest source of renewable electricity capacity in the United States, an industry group reported Thursday. In a study, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said wind energy grew at its second-fastest pace ever during the last three months of 2016. Wind passed conventional hydropower dams to become the largest source of renewable electricity capacity in the U.S., and the fourth-largest energy source overall. “American wind power is now the number one source of renewable capacity, thanks to more than 100,000 wind workers across all 50 states,” AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said in a statement.
onstruction crews have resumed work on the final segment of the Dakota Access pipeline, and the developer of the long-delayed project said Thursday that the full system could be operational within three months. Meanwhile, an American Indian tribe filed a legal challenge to block the work and protect its water supply. The Army granted Energy Transfer Partners formal permission Wednesday to lay pipe under a North Dakota reservoir, clearing the way for completion of the 1,200-mile pipeline. Company spokeswoman Vicki Granado confirmed early Thursday that construction began "immediately after receiving the easement." Workers had already drilled entry and exit holes for the segment, and oil had been put in the pipeline leading up to Lake Oahe in anticipation of finishing the project. The Cheyenne River Sioux on Thursday asked a federal judge to stop the work while a lawsuit filed earlier by the tribes proceeds. Attorney Nicole Ducheneaux said in court documents that the pipeline "will desecrate the waters" that the Cheyenne River Sioux rely on.
Indiana’s energy utilities want state lawmakers to pass a law that critics say would muscle out smaller companies from the emerging solar energy market. Solar power provides only about 1 percent of the country’s energy, but the industry is growing rapidly, with figures showing it employed 208,859 workers in 2015. That amounts to a 125 percent increase since 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But much of the growth has come from homeowners or businesses taking advantage of its bill-lowering potential. That could eventually eat away at the business of the big utilities — in Indiana they are Duke Energy, Vectren and Indiana Michigan Power — which have a powerful voice and donate handsomely to the political campaigns of lawmakers. On Thursday, Indiana legislators started debate on a proposed law that in five years would eliminate much of the financial benefit Indiana homeowners, businesses, schools and even some churches reap harvesting the sun’s rays. It would tilt the market in favor of the utilities, critics said.
As interest grows in developing Michigan agricultural land for solar energy, some farmers may have to choose between keeping tax incentives for preserving farmland or leasing their property to solar developers. Under a state program that provides an annual state income tax break for maintaining farmland, property owners can not do both, state officials say.
Despite vigorous opposition from the popular Republican governor, the Maryland Senate voted 32 to 13 on Thursday to override Hogan’s veto of a bill to boost the state’s use of renewable energy. The House of Delegates voted to reverse the veto earlier this week. That means the measure — which requires Maryland to obtain 25 percent of its energy from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2020, instead of 20 percent by 2022 — will become law. Legislative analysts estimate that the annual compliance costs for energy companies would average $28 million to $111 million from 2017 through 2025, an expense that will probably be passed on to consumers.
In 2014, Colorado became the first state to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas drilling, with the goal of shrinking its carbon footprint and improving local air quality. While a couple industry trade groups fought the rules, some producers, including Encana, Devon Energy and Anadarko, supported the measures. They even helped write the rules with the state and the Environmental Defense Fund. A couple years in, even the trade groups agree that the rules are reasonable and effective. This is about as close as the environmental regulatory world ever gets to kumbaya. But when the Bureau of Land Management, a federal land agency, finalized its own rules to cut methane emissions from oil and gas operations this fall, collaborative agreements proved far more elusive. Instead, the BLM faced stiff blowback from industry, despite the fact that the rules, developed over a nearly two-year public process, are similar to Colorado’s, and to a successful North Dakota program. Environmentalists call them common sense, but industry groups and a handful of Western states responded by immediately slapping the BLM with a lawsuit, claiming the BLM can’t regulate air quality, and that the rules are too expensive and unnecessary.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan may have the approval ratings. But the Democrats who control both houses of the state legislature have the votes. Despite vigorous opposition from the popular Republican governor, the Maryland Senate voted 32 to 13 on Thursday to override Hogan’s veto of a bill to boost the state’s use of renewable energy. The House of Delegates voted to reverse the veto earlier this week. That means the measure — which requires Maryland to obtain 25 percent of its energy from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2020, instead of 20 percent by 2022 — will become law. Legislative analysts estimate that the annual compliance costs for energy companies would average $28 million to $111 million from 2017 through 2025, an expense that will probably be passed on to consumers.
Massachusetts energy officials on Tuesday announced an overhaul of the way the state subsidizes solar projects. The switch is expected to cut the annual cost of solar installations to electricity ratepayers in half, from $400 million to $500 million under previous versions of the program to $200 million to $250 million under the new program. State energy officials say the new structure will also provide more certainty to the market by ensuring that developers know how much of an incentive they will get for their projects over a 10- or 20-year time frame, depending on the type of project.