Monthly Archives: February 2020

Pingree introduces Ag Resilience Act

Hagstrom Report, The Fence Post

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, last week introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act, which she said would “promote farmer-driven climate solutions.” The bill contains provisions to increase agricultural research, improve soil health and protect farmland by increasing funding for the Local Agriculture Market Program and the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program and amend the tax code to exclude from gross income the gain from the sale of 1) permanent conservation easements and 2) farm property to beginning, socially disadvantaged, veteran and young farmers. The bill would also create a new alternative manure management program to support an array of livestock methane management strategies [and more]. Read more here.

Additional Recommended Reading

Senate energy bill includes investment in solar and energy storage, Solar Power World
After a full year of hearings, business meetings and bipartisan negotiations, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), released the text of their energy innovation package. The American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA) will modernize domestic energy laws to ensure the United States remains a global energy leader while also strengthening national security, increasing our international competitiveness and investing in clean energy technologies.

For the full bill text, click here. For a high-level summary, click here. For a section-by-section, click here.

Image: “Capitol Building” by Lubos Houska / Public Domain Pictures

Methane, manure and a net-zero pledge

GreenBiz article contributed by Christian Roselund,
Editorial Director, Rocky Mountain Institute

Dominion is planning to tackle its methane emissions on two fronts. First, it will focus on reducing methane from three sources within its control: gas venting that occurs during maintenance and inspection activities, replacing aging equipment prone to leakage, and expanding leak detection programs. Second, recognizing that it may be unable to eliminate methane leaks entirely, it plans to offset remaining methane emissions by procuring biogas, sometimes called renewable natural gas (RNG).

The utility’s plan to reach net zero is not the same as the zero-carbon pledges of electric utilities; under Dominion’s plan, it will still sell gas to end-customers, and even if Dominion plugs all the leaks in its transmission and distribution networks, its operations still will result in emissions at the point of combustion. In addition, Dominion’s commitment does not take into account the methane emissions associated with gas production, which account for over 50 percent of the methane problem in the oil and gas value chain. The utility also remains a member of the American Gas Association, which has led the fight against building electrification. So while the hogs are now playing their part, there are bigger fish to fry. Read more here. This story first appeared on: RMI.

Christian Roselund is responsible for creating and executing Rocky Mountain Institute’s global editorial and publications strategy, managing publication production, writing content and managing both an in-house and freelance team of writers.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/AVA Bitter

DOMINION’S SOLAR SCHOOLS INITIATIVE

16 Schools Selected for Dominion Energy ‘Solar for Students’ program, WWBT – NBC12 News
Each of the schools selected will receive a 1.2-kilowatt photovoltaic system, technical support, educational materials, and training for educators. Dominion Energy says each array generates enough electricity to power up to 18 desktop computers, 40 10-gallon aquariums or 15 42-inch LED televisions.

NEWS FROM OTHER UTILITY COMPANIES

ØRSTED / ACORE NEWS

CEO of Ørsted’s Onshore Business Declan Flanagan Elected Chairperson of American Council on Renewable Energy, PR Newswire. The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) today announced that Declan Flanagan, Executive Vice President and CEO Onshore of Ørsted, will become Chair of the organization’s Board of Directors this coming June. “ACORE is fortunate to be able to turn to such a widely-respected leader in our industry to Chair our Board,” said Gregory Wetstone, ACORE President and CEO. “Declan Flanagan’s leadership will help take the organization to the next level as we work to accelerate America’s transition to renewable energy.”

Previously Posted

NEW REPORT

State of the Electric Utility: 2020 Survey Report, Utility Dive
The results are in, and the 7th Annual State of the Electric Utility Survey Report is here. In our 70+ page report, we’ll look more closely than ever at industry attitudes and action on climate resilience, electric vehicles, battery storage and other industry issues. We’ll also look back on how perennial topics like load trends and energy markets have evolved. The report covers: Key findings from 7th Annual Electric Utility Survey; How utilities view cybersecurity; Climate resilience, EVs, battery storage and more.

FOSSIL FUEL MAJORS IN THE NEWS

YIELDCOS 

An Avangrid Yieldco? CEO Says ‘Maybe’, Greentech Media
Investor interest in renewable energy yieldco stocks returned with a roar last year. Avangrid is paying attention. The basic idea behind yieldcos is to separate the low-risk business of operating wind and solar farms from the higher-risk business of project development. Yieldcos buy finished projects from their sponsor companies, and in doing so developers are able to recycle capital back into new projects — while investors gain access to different types of renewables assets.

INTERACTIVE POLITICAL CLIMATE PODCAST

Decarb Madness: How Would You Build a Policy Bracket to Decarbonize the Power Sector?, Greentech Media. Political Climate challenges four energy experts to build their ideal policy bracket for decarbonizing the electricity sector. The Political Climate Podcast is produced in partnership with the USC Schwarzenegger Institute.

MORE PODCASTS OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

13 sustainability podcasts that will keep your earbuds plugged in, “rounded up” by Elsa Wenzel, Senior Writer, GreenBiz Group. These 13 solutions-focused podcasts, in random order, offer provocative conversations with sustainability stars, as well as music and thoughtful editing that make you happy to let the next episode autoplay.

Sharing Email from Allied Organization Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light: “Positive Steps on Climate Action”

Dear Nebraska IPL Friends,

Last week there were positive steps on several issues Nebraska IPL has been supporting.

First, LB 283 was advanced from the Executive Committee for consideration by the entire Legislature. LB 283 would create a State Climate Action Plan. The University of Nebraska would be given the task of putting together a climate action plan for the state.

On Friday, Senator McCollister named LB 283 as his priority bill, which means the bill will at least be debated by the Legislature. We encourage you to contact your senator and ask him or her to support LB 283 as a positive step in addressing the causes and impacts of the climate crisis.

Here is a link to the Legislature’s web site if you want to find your senator’s contact information: https://nebraskalegislature.gov

Here is the link to LB 283: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/bills/view_bill.php?DocumentID=37279

On Thursday, the Natural Resources Committee heard LR 294, the resolution developed through research and advocacy by students from Prairie Hill Learning Center. LR 294 reviews various climate-related findings and acknowledges the existence of an anthropogenic climate and ecological crisis. The students who put together the resolution provided stellar testimony. They were supported by a wide variety of individuals and organizations; 39 people testified in support of the resolution and the committee received more than 100 letters and emails in support.

Even though a resolution is mostly symbolic, it would be great if LR 294 were adopted this session. Please contact the members of the Natural Resources Committee and ask them to advance LR 294 for consideration by the entire Legislature.

Natural Resources Committee Members:
Sen. Dan Hughes, Chairperson: (402) 471-2805, dhughes@leg.ne.gov
Sen. Joni Albrecht: (402) 471-2716, jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov 
Sen. Bruce Bostelman: (402) 471-2719, bbostelman@leg.ne.gov
Sen. Suzanne Geist: (402) 471-2731, sgeist@leg.ne.gov
Sen. Tim Gragert: (402) 471-2801, tgragert@leg.ne.gov
Sen. Steve Halloran: (402) 471-2712, shalloran@leg.ne.gov
Sen. Mike Moser: (402) 471-2715, mmoser@leg.ne.gov
Sen. Dan Quick: (402) 471-2617, dquick@leg.ne.gov

On Friday, the Lincoln Electric System (LES) board heard presentations on climate change and potential scenarios for a zero-carbon future. Although this is in the preliminary stages, it is a significant step.

All three of these issues are areas where Nebraska IPL has devoted time, effort and resources, so it is heartening to see positive steps being taken. However, we understand these are beginning steps and it will require considerable effort to achieve the kinds of changes that are needed.

Thank you for your support in helping us address the climate crisis.

Ken Winston / Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light

Report: Utilities could help connect low-income customers with solar

Written by Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network

Recently the Environmental Law & Policy Center and national groups Grid Alternatives and Vote Solar called on utilities to do more to facilitate solar access for their low-income customers nationwide. Last month they released a low-income solar policy guide, which makes recommendations and highlights best practices including programs by Xcel Energy in Minnesota and Colorado and others in California and Washington, D.C.

But in the heart of the industrial Midwest — Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan towns and cities hugging the Great Lakes — low-income people have little access to solar. And some utilities have even tried to turn low-income people against solar, framing rooftop solar as the purview of elites that leaves others paying more to keep up the grid. Read more here.

 

Principles and Recommendations for Utility Participation In Solar Programs for Low-Inome Customers. Prepared by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, GRID Alternatives, and Vote Solar

 

Top Image Credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Commentary: With battery technology ready, regulatory framework must catch up

By Rafael Esteban, CEO of Acciona’s energy division in the
United States and Canada, Energy News Network

The energy sector sits on the cusp of a truly transformative change: Utility-scale ready battery storage technology has arrived. As is with the case with many disruptive technologies, before reaping the benefits of energy storage — which are many — we need modernization of the regulatory framework. This work is well underway. In 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued Order 841, requiring regional energy agencies to adopt rules for energy storage.

According to the order, rules must allow energy storage to participate in the wholesale, retail and capacity markets. Then came FERC order 845, which asked for interconnection standards and clarity on how storage would participate in capacity markets. Across the nation, regional transmission organizations and independent system operators are developing plans to come into compliance with this order. Interestingly, the pitched battles at FERC around policies for fossil fuels and renewable energy have been absent from discussions about storage. Read more here.

Previously Posted 

  • ACCIONA acquires 3,000 MW in photovoltaic projects being developed in the USA, Acciona News Release, October 21, 2019. ACCIONA today announced the signature of an agreement with the [Nebraska-based] company Tenaska to acquire a portfolio of photovoltaic projects in seven states across the country.
  • ACCIONA buys solar + storage on a national scale, PV Magazine
    The Spanish company has purchased 3 GW of solar projects and 1 GW of solar + storage from developer Tenaska, with all of the projects concentrated in non-traditional solar markets.
  • The Midwest’s solar future will be unlike anything seen before, PV Magazine
    Fitch Solutions Marco Research has boldly predicted the region will be a main driver towards the 100 GW of solar power capacity expected to hit the U.S. over the next 10 years. The procurement will be led by city and utility commitments to renewable energy, the falling costs of solar and the continued expansion of popular community solar programs.

Acciona & Tenaska Job Opportunities

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

GREEN CAMPUSES

These Pa. colleges are going all in on renewable energy — with a little help from a Texas solar farm, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Four Pennsylvania schools have teamed up to support a Texas solar farm that will supply them with “virtual” renewable energy, joining a trend among institutions of higher education to address climate change. Lehigh University, Lafayette College, Muhlenberg College and Dickinson College announced the partnership Monday to collectively purchase solar power. They signed a virtual power-purchase agreement to support production from a 45.9-megawatt share of a new 200-acre solar farm that will be built at an undisclosed location [in] Texas. The schools announced the agreement at Second Nature’s 2020 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit in Atlanta.

NEW INITIATIVE ADDRESSES CLIMATE CHANGE

Inside Bill Weihl’s quest to give employees and job seekers a ‘ClimateVoice’, by Joel Makower, Chairman & Executive Editor, GreenBiz Group

ClimateVoice, launched this weekend at the ClimateCAP conference in Charlottesville, Virginia, is the brainchild of Bill Weihl, who led Facebook’s sustainability team until leaving the company in 2018. Prior to that, he served as Google’s “energy czar” during the early days of that company’s ambitious clean-energy push. Weihl’s new initiative is aimed at activating college students and rank-and-file employees to persuade their current or would-be employers to take a public stand on federal, state and local initiatives that address the climate crisis.

NEW ENVIRONMENT AMERICA REPORT

New report provides roadmap to achieve carbon-free transportation, Environment America News Release

A new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group describes how we can build a zero-carbon transportation future – all while cleaning our air and creating safer, healthier communities. Entitled Destination: Zero Carbon: Three strategies to transform transportation in America, the report looks at the factors underlying high transportation emissions, and proposes new policy solutions. Americans drive more than 10,000 miles a year on average, often in inefficient gas-burning vehicles. Poor public transit and unsafe conditions for walking or biking leave many Americans with few good low-carbon transportation options.

EV NEWS

Inside Clean Energy: Tesla Gets Ever So Close to 400 Miles of Range, Inside Climate News
The increased range is a step toward bringing EVs—and their contribution to combating climate change—into the mainstream.

NPPD cutting ribbon on new community solar facility

Nebraska Public Power District News Release


Columbus, Neb. – 
The time has come to celebrate the launch of a new community solar farm with the official ribbon cutting for the Scottsbluff II project. The new addition to the Scottsbluff community’s renewable energy portfolio is set to go live on March 1, with the ceremony scheduled for 2 p.m. March 2. “We are very excited to cut the ribbon and celebrate the official launch of Scottsbluff II,” says Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) Vice-President and Retail General Manager Tim Arlt. “The Scottsbluff II project is a great partnership between the city of Scottsbluff – NPPD and N-Solar and these combined efforts are what made this project a reality.” The ceremony is set to take place in the Landers Memorial Soccer Complex parking lot at 4205 5th Avenue just outside the new solar facility. Continue reading here.

OPPD News

Structure rebuild completed in time for potential flooding, The Wire

Additional Recommended Reading   

Illinois legislation promises a renewable energy revolution. But who would pay?

By Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network

The competing bills come from different constituencies. The Clean Energy Jobs Act, or CEJA, is largely backed by environmental and community groups, while Path to 100 is supported by the renewables industry. Both aim to get the state to 100% renewable energy by 2030 by tapping money collected on customers’ utility bills.

Currently, Illinois utility customers pay a monthly charge that is capped at 2% of what customers paid per kilowatt-hour in 2007. CEJA would raise the cap to 2.67% this year and 4.88% by 2023. These changes would allow the collection of up to $700 million a year by 2023, according to CEJA supporters. Currently, about $235 million a year is collected for renewables through customer bills. Read more here.

Photo Credit: Keith Ewing / Flickr / Creative Commons

SEIA NEWS RELEASE

The Solar+ Decade Will Usher in Widespread Clean Energy and Massive Economic Growth, by Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA President & CEO

We already know that public support for solar is higher than any other fuel, with wind as a close second. Storage can help expand both. Poll after poll shows that the public wants more renewable energy, and fast. Some want it because it will directly address climate change; others because the economic benefits are too good to pass up. Now it’s on us to mobilize our grassroots support to make this goal possible.

GRID DATA MANAGEMENT

Utilities vs. grid edge upstarts: Turf battles in an increasingly DER-centric world, Utility Dive article contributed by Dan Goldman, Managing Director & Co-founder, Clean Energy Ventures

As a result of the need for new data access, analytics and management, the grid edge is hosting a turf war between utilities and private sector upstarts racing to capture data and create avenues for acting on it. On one side, utilities believe they will be in the best position to manage the grid if they own and control the data directly, without intermediaries. On the other side, grid edge upstarts — Tesla, Vivant, SunRun and many other technology-enabled start-ups — want to collect and manage the data directly for their own platform benefits, and see an opportunity to provide it to utilities for a fee. New technology solutions to gather and manage the data are emerging rapidly as a result.

REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE

RECYCLING WIND TURBINES

Commentary: For retired wind turbines, we can find alternatives to landfills, contributed opinion by Scott Coenen / Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum, Energy News Network
Many have probably now seen the picture, shared widely on social media, of wind turbine blades being buried in a landfill in Wyoming. The picture highlights a legitimate challenge to wind energy, especially as costs continue to fall and deployment of wind increases across the country. Importantly those challenges, one of them highlighted here, are not a reason to walk away from the table. We can find solutions.

COAL-ASH CLEANUPS

Cap coal ash in place? Duke and others have learned better, contributed Utility Dive article by Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. In South Carolina, all three utilities — Duke Energy, SCE&G (now owned by Dominion) and Santee Cooper — are cleaning up every one of their unlined riverfront lagoons. 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Solar Power Just Miles from the Arctic Circle? In Icy Nordic Climes, It’s Become the Norm, Inside Climate News. As solar prices fall and efficiency increases, countries like Finland are discovering the benefits of summertime solar. 

All Hell Breaking Loose Examines Climate Change From the Perspective of the U.S. Military

All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective
On Climate Change, by Michael T. Klare

The Pentagon, unsentimental and politically conservative, might not seem likely to be worried about climate change―still linked, for many people, with polar bears and coral reefs. Yet of all the major institutions in American society, none take climate change as seriously as the U.S. military. Both as participants in climate-triggered conflicts abroad, and as first responders to hurricanes and other disasters on American soil, the armed services are already confronting the impacts of global warming.

The military now regards climate change as one of the top threats to American national security―and is busy developing strategies to cope with it. Drawing on previously obscure reports and government documents, renowned security expert Michael Klare shows that the U.S. military sees the climate threat as imperiling the country on several fronts at once. Read more about the book here.

Related Reading 

Additional Recommended Reading

Warren Buffett’s Annual Letter – Iowa’s Outstanding Wind Energy Development

Here’s what Buffett is telling shareholders in his annual letter, Omaha World-Herald

Buffett talked up the success of Berkshire’s energy subsidiary, which was launched in 2000 when Berkshire purchased MidAmerican Energy in neighboring Iowa. He said MidAmerican will hit a significant milestone in 2021 when it’s projected to be producing 25.2 million megawatt-hours of electricity from wind. That’s more than the annual needs of all of its Iowa customers. “In other words, our utility will have attained wind-energy self-sufficiency in the state of Iowa,” he said.

He noted the company has done that with rate increases of less than 1% a year, and the company has pledged no rate increases through at least 2028. He contrasted that to the other major utility in Iowa, which gets less than 10% of its power from wind and which has rates 61% higher than MidAmerican. Buffett also put out an offer to the rest of the industry. Berkshire has the operating talent and experience to manage “truly huge utility projects” of $100 billion or more, he said. “We stand ready, willing and able to take on such opportunities,” he said. 

Call for Nebraska climate change plan advances to full legislative debate

By Chris Dunker, Lincoln Journal Star

The Legislature’s Executive Board on Tuesday advanced a bill calling on the University of Nebraska to develop a plan to mitigate the effects of climate change in the state. Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks’ proposal (LB283) lay dormant for more than a year — it was the focus of a Feb. 11, 2019, hearing — before the Executive Board advanced an amended version for debate by the full body. Under the amended version, the university would be given $250,000 in cash funds paid by petroleum companies to “develop an evidence-based, data-driven, strategic action plan” establishing a baseline measurement of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Continue reading here.

LB283: Provide for a climate change study

More Nebraska News

Previously Posted

10th Annual National Solar Jobs Census: Solar Jobs Up Nationwide and in 31 States After Two Years of Losses

News Release, The Solar Foundation

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. solar industry employed nearly 250,000 workers in 2019, an increase of more than 5,600 jobs (or 2.3%) since 2018, according to the 10th annual National Solar Jobs Census released today by The Solar Foundation. This marks a resurgence in solar industry employment following two years of job losses in 2017 and 2018.

The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit educational and research organization, issues the National Solar Jobs Census each year to provide comprehensive and reliable data on the U.S. solar workforce. Since the first Solar Jobs Census was published, American solar jobs have increased 167%, from just over 93,000 jobs in 2010 to 249,983 jobs in 2019.

Read the entire news release here.

Links to More Information

Photo Credit: The Solar Foundation

Additional Recommended Reading