It's possible West Virginia's coal mines might never come back. It's something both presumptive presidential nominees have been reckoning with as they campaign in the state ahead of Tuesday's primary.
But a relatively small number of West Virginians are actually in the coal business — energy is more than 17 percent of gross domestic product, or GDP, but just 4 or 5 percent of employment — so what about the rest of the economy?
In six counties, between a fourth and a third of people have lost jobs in the past few years. Plus, the decline in natural gas has been a double-whammy. And unlike Wyoming and North Dakota, most of those workers stay in West Virginia, driving up the unemployment rate, or they drop out of the workforce entirely. West Virginia already has the lowest workforce participation rate in the nation, and it leads in disability payments. And those aren't the only factors holding back employment: West Virginian workers also trail the nation in education and overall health.
Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati, introduced a bill on Monday that would extend a freeze on the state's renewable energy standards for another three years.
After lifting the freeze in 2019, Senate Bill 320 would phase in renewable energy goals in three-year increments through 2028. Utilities would be required to obtain 5.5 percent of their energy from renewable sources in 2022, 8.5 percent in 2025 and 11.5 percent in 2028. Starting in 2029, the goal would be 12.5 percent.
A PJM Energy Market analysis released concludes that the RTO’s markets are efficiently managing the entry and exit of capacity resources but warns their efforts could be hamstrung by policies to protect social, economic or political interests.“Policymakers must weigh these trade-offs, but understand that pursuing individual actions that ‘defeat’ efficient market outcomes will aggregate to a point they will altogether thwart effective operation of the market to the point it can no longer be relied upon to govern resource exit and entry and attract capital investment when needed,” it said.
The report was commissioned by the Board of Managers last summer, following efforts by money-losing coal-fired generators in Ohio and nuclear generators in Illinois to win state-backed subsidies.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is grappling with how to respond to a recent FERC order requiring federal review of power purchase agreements it granted to American Electric Power and FirstEnergy.
Meanwhile, Exelon CEO Christopher Crane said in an earnings call on Friday that if Illinois legislators don’t step in and provide aid, it will decommission its money-losing Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants beginning next year.
The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project won preliminary approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday, paving the way for the $3 billion expansion of the Transco system to move forward as environmentalists simultaneously filed a federal lawsuit objecting to the pipeline. FERC released its draft environmental impact statement, concluding the environmental impact would not be significant.
The project includes construction of 197.7 miles of new pipeline, most of which would be in Pennsylvania, and designed to move Marcellus Shale gas from Northeast Pennsylvania as far south as Alabama. The new lines would cross through ten Pennsylvania counties.
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.