Monthly Archives: November 2016

Cities and States Lead on Climate Change

By Jeff Biggers, Opinion, The New York Times


By 2020, thanks to MidAmerican Energy’s planned $3.6 billion addition to its enormous wind turbine operations, 85 percent of its Iowa customers will be electrified by clean energy. Meanwhile, Moxie Solar, named the fastest-growing local business by The Corridor Business Journal of Iowa, is installing solar panels on my house, and is part of a solar industry that now employs 200,000 nationwide . . . With or without significant federal support, reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require major private investment, as it has here in Iowa, and ambitious private-public initiatives from mayors and governors. We need to activate a new era of “regenerative” cities and states . . . Over 10,000 climate initiatives are underway in cities worldwide, according to the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which represents 80 major cities. Read more. Photo of a wind turbine in Adair, Iowa by Charlie Neibergal / Associated Press



Jeff Biggers is the author of Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, and the founder of the Climate Narrative Project at the University of Iowa.

The Climate Narrative Project is a special initiative in the Office of Sustainability at the University of Iowa, designed to reach across academic disciplines and chronicle regenerative approaches to energy, food, agriculture, water and waste management, community planning and transportation.



  • Nebraska needs own climate plan, by the Lincoln Journal Star Editorial Board
    Thirty-four states have adopted climate action plans, according to a special legislative committee chaired by Sens. Ken Haar of Malcolm and Tyson Larson of O’Neill. A preliminary report shared at a legislative preview with incoming senators said the committee “heard one universally supported recommendation, which was the need to create a climate action plan for the State of Nebraska.” The preliminary report concluded, “The University of Nebraska Lincoln has the background, staff resources and expertise to create such a plan. The plan should be based on empirical evidence and Nebraska-based data, developed through outreach to the public and coordination with public and private sector interests.” The proposal is sensible and prudent. We hope that senators follow through. Read the entire editorial here.

At Michigan State University, a push for 100% renewable electricity

By RJ Wolcoff, Lansing State Journal


The university ceased burning coal in April . . . The end of coal, coupled with plans to have solar panel parking bays operational by the end of 2017, show that MSU has an eye toward making campus greener, environmentally minded students say. But they’re now pushing the university to go above and beyond its green-energy benchmarks and commit to 100% renewable electricity on campus by 2030. Read more.

Image: A rendering of Inovateus Solar’s plans to install 13 megawatts of solar across Michigan State University’s campus.


Rural and rust belt America: wind power is ready to help

Written by Greg Alvarez, American Wind Energy Association Blog, Into the Wind

Wind farms increase local tax revenue, providing small-town America with resources to fix roads, build hospitals, and buy new emergency equipment. It’s been a huge boon for local schools . . . Wind power is now cost-competitive in many areas of the country with all other sources of electricity, saving consumers money on their electric bills and hedging against rising prices for fuel. All forms of energy have incentives, most of them permanent in the tax code.


The federal incentive for wind power is already being phased out starting on Jan. 1, having succeeded in creating a new low-cost solution for America’s power needs.

Read more here.


Governor Nikki Haley’s office announces $200 million investment in local solar farm projects

Published by The Charleston Post and Courier



[The] Solar Energy Industries Association recently reported that South Carolina, which had been among the states with the smallest solar energy production, is improving. It has jumped from No. 36 for annual state solar photovoltaic installation in 2015 to No. 9 in the second quarter of 2016. South Carolina ranks behind Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, Nevada, New Jersey, Utah, North Carolina and California for installation. The state had 53.02 megawatts of installed solar capacity in the first half of 2016, compared to 4.2 MW installed in all of 2015. Read more.


The top 10 utility regulatory commission issues of 2016

kristi-shallenbergerBy Krysti Shallenberger, Associate Editor, Utility Dive

Because utilities are regulated on the state level, these debates manifest themselves a bit differently in each jurisdiction. Even so, there are a number of broad policy trends occupying regulators and utilities in a number of states nationwide. To help chronicle them, clean energy trade group Advanced Energy Economy compiled what it says are the top ten commission issues of the year.
Read the entire article here.


Why Apple Is Getting into the Energy Business

By Peter Fox-Penner, Harvard Business Review

appleMemo to CEOs who don’t consider themselves in the electricity business: You may not be in the power business today, but you’re more than likely to be in it tomorrow. Consider Apple, hardly a byword in the energy business. This summer, the company applied for federal licenses to sell directly to customers the excess renewable energy it generates on its new campus and in facilities across Oregon, Nevada, and California . . . A new study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that business rooftops contain 3.2 billion square feet of space that is usable for solar, enough to power 14% of U.S. electric demand. Solar energy can also be contracted, much more cheaply, from dedicated off-site facilities, with any surplus resold into the market.
Read more.


Clean Energy Is Powering American Jobs, Health and Security

By Sam Adams, Director, United States, World Resources Institute and Former Mayor of Portland, Oregon, The Huffington Post

Installing PV panels on the roof at the Research Support Facility, RSF

Clean energy means will bring more predictable and lower energy costs for U.S. manufacturers, cleaner air and water for American families, and a more secure country, with more energy choices for every American home. It would also create economies of scale for cost-competitive, American-made clean energy products to be exported abroad.

Clean energy is already putting more and more Americans to work, unleashing the nation’s spirit of innovation and ingenuity. Although renewable energy production accounts for about 7 percent of national capacity (not including hydro and nuclear), states and large companies are expanding their clean energy portfolios and looking for more. Read more.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons



Rural working voters cannot be taken for granted

Des Moines Register Opinion, written by Chuck Hassebrook



These voters stand ready to embrace practical policies to create genuine opportunity in their communities. Nearly 90 percent support investment in job training and small business development. Over three quarters support federal investments in renewable energy development, roads and water and sewer infrastructure. Click to read more.

Chuck Hassebrook is the former Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs, based in Lyons, Nebraska.


SEE ALSO: Link to Rural Development And A Renewable FutureReport written by Lucas Nelsen, Policy Program Associate, Center for Rural Affairs


Conservative Minnesota counties stand to benefit from clean energy development, written by Frank Jossi

minnesota-wind-turbinesnew report says proposed renewable energy investments in Minnesota could create more than 5,000 construction jobs and $7 billion in economic activity, largely in conservative, rural parts of the state. “We are clearly seeing a bigger (political) divide in Minnesota and clean energy is a way to bridge that divide,” said Chris Kunkle, Wind on the Wires regional policy manager for Minnesota. “You’re talking about advancing policies and investments from the Twin Cities that benefit rural Minnesota and create new jobs and tax revenue.” Link to the article.

Photo by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency / Creative Commons

Report: Michigan, Minnesota among clean energy ‘success stories,’ written by Andy Balaskovitz

turbine-bladesMichigan and Minnesota are exemplar Midwest states when it comes to state-level policy pushing for clean energy development, according to a recent report from the Georgetown Climate Center.

Michigan is credited largely for its commitment to energy efficiency, which has been emphasized by Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration as state lawmakers craft sweeping energy policy reform. The administration has also been proactive in modeling the state’s electric-generation future in the context of the Clean Power Plan as well as the state’s largest utilities’ closing several coal plants. Meanwhile, the report credits Minnesota for reducing in-state carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 28 percent between 2005 and 2013 due to strong renewable energy and efficiency standards. Read more.

Organization referenced in Andy Balaskovitz’s article: Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future

Photo by Michael Hicks / Creative Commons

Canada accelerates phasing out of coal, breaking from Trump

 By Bloomberg’s Josh Wingrove, The Star

mckenna-catherine“Phasing out coal-fired electricity and expanding clean power sources will create new jobs and opportunities,” [Canada’s Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna] said Monday, speaking to reporters in Ottawa. Eliminating smog caused by coal power generation will also reduce health impacts, she said. Trudeau has unveiled a series of environmental measures in recent months, including a minimum price on carbon and expanded funding for marine protection. His centrist Liberal Party is trying to balance demands of environmental advocates with spurring Canada’s sluggish economic growth. Trudeau faces deadlines to decide on three pipeline projects over the next month. Read more. Photo: Catherine McKenna. Credit: Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press


Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Gina McCarthy Speaks at the National Press Club. Associated Press story written by Matthew Daly. Published by The Lexington Herald Leader

mccarthy-epa“The train to a global clean-energy future has already left the station,” she said. “We can choose to get on board — to lead — or we can choose to be left behind, to stand stubbornly still. If we stubbornly deny the science and change around us, we will fall victim to our own paralysis.”

While she is proud of the Clean Power Plan imposed by Obama to cut carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, McCarthy said those who claim the plan is the driving force behind a U.S. transition to clean-energy jobs “give us too much credit.” The plan was “designed to follow the clean-energy transition already under way,” she said, citing huge increases in wind and solar power in recent years. According to the Department of Energy, there are now more than three solar power jobs in the U.S. for every job mining coal. Read more here.

Photo of EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy by Jose Luis Magana, Associated Press

Analysis Shows That Community Solar Is Competitive in the Vast Majority of the US

Solar is cheap no matter where you live, writes SunShot’s Caroline McGregor. Published by Greentech Media


Because community solar projects are often larger and can take advantage of bulk pricing, their installed costs are more in-line with commercial solar systems, which cost approximately $2.00 per watt to $2.50 per watt. Holding everything else constant, the number of states in the analysis with positive SIRs [savings to investment ratios] increases to 35-48 states with these lower installed costs, which means solar energy is potentially affordable in the vast majority of the country through the community solar business model. Though this is a very basic analysis, it illustrates that solar is quickly becoming one of the most cost-effective sources of energy for all Americans, regardless of where they live. Read more.

Carolyn McGregor is the acting soft costs program manager for the DOE’s SunShot Initiative.

Want to Improve Wind and Solar Power? Bring Them Together, by Ben Jervey, Ensia
Ben Jervey is a writer and editor covering climate, energy, and environment. He writes regularly for National Geographic News, OnEarth, and DeSmogBlog. He recently worked with Focus the Nation to publish an Energy 101 primer.

New bioenergy approach could mean cleaner water, plus a big payday for farmers

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

[Shashi Menon, a managing partner at EcoEngineers] and his economic-analyst partners at Goss & Associates attempted to calculate the financial and other benefits that could result from a synergistic approach to both producing high-quality biogas from municipal, industrial and agricultural waste and using marginal land to grow an energy crop such as miscanthus. It could be processed along with other organic waste in anaerobic digesters . . . They roughly concluded that a $17.6 million investment in a digester to process municipal and industrial waste would, over 20 years, yield about $158 million in benefits. Read more.

Photo by Andrea Kirby / Creative Commons