Monthly Archives: May 2020

Energy Efficiency Still Abundant and Cheaper Than Gas

By Sheryl Carter, Director, Power Sector,
Climate & Clean Energy Program, NRDC

A new study shows that programs to increase the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses remain even cheaper than natural gas, demonstrating once again that this abundant energy “resourceis the most cost-effective path to a cleaner future.

Energy efficiency programs work by offering incentives to customers who invest in money-saving fixtures, like attic insulation and energy-smart appliances. Time and time again, these programs have proven to be the cheapest way to cut our energy waste and forestall climate change. In addition to saving money and easing the effects of climate change, energy efficiency programs also generate high-quality jobs. Read more here.

MIDWEST NEWS

  • Missouri utilities moving ahead with on-bill energy efficiency financing, by Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network. The on-bill repayment concept is known as Pay As You Save, or PAYS, and Ameren and Missouri’s two other investor-owned utilities are in various phases of developing or considering programs at the urging of state regulators. 
  • Michigan program — the largest of its kind — offers smart thermostat rebates, by Audrey Henderson, Energy News Network. Advocates say a Michigan utility’s plan to help thousands of customers buy smart thermostats is a significant step forward in developing a more efficient and responsive grid. Consumers Energy will provide $125 rebates for up to 100,000 smart thermostats to Michigan residents in a partnership with Google and Uplight. Customers who participate will be enrolled in a program that helps curtail demand during peak times in the summer.

NATIONAL ENERGY TRANSITION NEWS

ENERGY STORAGE

What’s It Like to Work in Business Development at an Energy Storage Company?
GTM talks to Laura Meilander, vice president of business development at Convergent Energy + Power, about expanding the energy storage market.

OF POTENTIAL INTEREST TO SOLAR BUSINESSES

GREEN HYDROGEN

Orsted Backs First Major Green Hydrogen Project Focused on Transport Sector, Greentech Media. The Copenhagen project would use offshore wind to produce green hydrogen and other decarbonized fuels for land, air and sea transport.

Can Planting a Trillion Trees Stop Climate Change? Scientists Say it’s a Lot More Complicated

By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News

Compared with cutting fossil fuels, tree planting would play only a small role in combating the climate crisis. And while trees might help the planet survive in the long run, scientists say, first we have to save them. Global warming is a threat-multiplier for drought, fires and pests that have killed trees across millions of acres in the last 20 years. And forests all over the world are already in the full grip of the climate crisis, said University of Arizona ecohydrologist David Breshears. Read more here.

Photo Credit: Alex Torrenegra/Flickr

MORE CLIMATE ACTION NEWS

Previously Posted 

  • BlackRock joins Climate Action 100+ to ensure largest corporate emitters act on climate crisis, Climate Action 100+ News Release. With the addition of the world’s largest asset manager, with more than $6.8 trillion USD in assets under management, Climate Action 100+ continues to grow in size and influence. BlackRock joins more than 370 global investors already participating in the initiative. The addition of funds it manages, brings total assets under management represented by investors participating in Climate Action 100+ to more than $41 trillion.
  • BlackRock Sends Huge Warning Shot at Companies Ignoring Climate Risk, Greentech Media. In a move that will resound across the world of energy investing, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, this week warned of a “fundamental reshaping of finance” as the impacts of climate change become better understood. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said in an open letter that his company will end support for thermal coal, screen fossil fuel investments more closely, and redesign its own investment approach to put sustainability at its core. 

FEATURED NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION

Ceres is a sustainability nonprofit organization working with the most influential investors and companies to build leadership and drive solutions throughout the economy. Through powerful networks and advocacy, Ceres tackles the world’s biggest sustainability challenges, including climate change, water scarcity and pollution, and inequitable workplaces. Mission: Ceres is transforming the economy to build a sustainable future for people and the planet.
Resources include: Proxy Voting Guidebook 2020

Brief Ceres YouTube Video

Ceres Initiatives

RENEWABLE ENERGY INVESTMENT ATTRACTIVENESS INDEX

USA Is #1 In The World For Renewable Energy Investment Attractiveness, CleanTechnica
Since 2003, the biannual Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI) has ranked the top 40 countries based on investment in renewable energy, a key part of the energy transition. 

Previously Posted

In a March article, After the age of contagion, what’s the ‘new normal’?Joel Makower, Chairman & Executive Editor of the GreenBiz Group, spells out the massive benefits of America’s transition to a green economy, with clean and renewable energy, regenerative farming, climate action, carbon reduction and other opportunities at its core:

We at GreenBiz have reported on a spate of studies and plans that similarly align sustainability with large-scale economic development: the circular economy (a $2 trillion opportunity), carbon tech (a trillion-dollar opportunity), sustainable food and land systems ($4.5 trillion) low-carbon cities ($24 trillion), climate action ($26 trillion) and more. As I noted last fall, trillion is the new billion. And then there’s the Green New Deal, a concept that seems to have been rekindled in the age of contagion. 

Alliant coal plant could cost Wisconsin customers $257M by 2030, report says

By Catherine Morehouse, Utilty Dive

Two Wisconsin coal plants cost Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin customers $16 million in 2019 alone, according to a report released Tuesday from the Sierra Club. Alliant on Friday announced it plans to retire one of those facilities — the 380 MW last remaining unit of its Edgewater plant — by 2022. However, the 1,023 MW Columbia coal plant has no set retirement date, and if it continues to operate the utility’s share of the plant could cost customers $257 million through 2030, according to Sierra Club. Read more here.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Related: Alliant Energy looks to add 675 MW of PV and quadruple Wisconsin’s solar capacity, PV Magazine

NEWS FROM OTHER STATES

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

The (energy) efficient road to small business recovery, Utility Dive
The following is a contributed article by Ralph Cavanagh, Energy Co-Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and John Di Stasio, President of the Large Public Power Council.

MORE ON SECRET GROUP’S FERC PETITION

24 Congressional Democrats urge FERC to reject net metering overhaul, Utility Dive
A group of Democratic senators and representatives on Tuesday wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, urging the regulatory body to shut down a net metering proposal that experts say would effectively overturn the policy nationally. In the letter, Congress Members questioned FERC’s authority to make such a rule and also asked the commission to ask the petitioner, New England Ratepayers Association (NERA), to disclose its members. 

Upcoming Advanced Energy Economy Webinar


Net Energy Metering and State Authority: What’s at Stake for Advanced Energy in FERC Petition, June 3 at 2 p.m.


This webinar will explain how FERC ruling the wrong way could impact existing and emerging state and municipal and cooperative utility approaches to supporting distributed energy resources in retail markets. 

Panelists

  • Ted Thomas, Chairman, Arkansas Public Service Commission
  • Hannah Muller, Director of Public Policy, Clearway Energy
  • John McCaffrey, Senior Regulatory Counsel, American Public Power Association
  • Jeff Dennis, Managing Director and General Counsel, Advanced Energy Economy

PEAK COALITION REPORT

Dirty Energy, Big Money, by the PEAK Coalition
Subtitle: 
How Private Companies Make Billions from Polluting Fossil Fuel Peaker Power Plants in New York City’s Environmental Justice Communities – and How to Create a Cleaner, More Just Alternative

The high costs of these peaker plants—both in public health impacts and on New Yorkers’ electric utility bills—are largely hidden to the public. It is not well known, but the owners of these plants receive exorbitant payments from utilities and other energy service providers just for the plants to exist. 

UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS STUDY

The Coal Bailout Everybody Is Talking About, by Joseph Daniel, senior energy analyst with the Climate & Energy program at UCS

 As we found in our new UCS report, Used but How Useful, How Electric Utilities Exploit Loopholes, Forcing Customers to Bail Out Uneconomic Coal-Fired Power Plants, utilities across 15 states right in the heart of the U.S. exploited power market loopholes, costing customers $350 million in 2018.

Previously Posted

Big Companies Drive Clean Energy Development. Can Small Businesses Do The Same?

Contributed by Andy Stone, Forbes

In its Renewable Energy Policy Pathways Report, the REBA Institute identifies three pathways to grow the universe of companies that have the ability to procure clean energy. Each of these pathways already exist, but need to be accelerated to allow businesses to reach truly ambitious clean energy targets, including the 100% clean energy goals being pursued by over 200 companies. REBA notes that commercial and industrial customers consume half of the country’s electricity.

Consumer choice may be the best way to grow clean energy capacity and democratize consumption, but where retail choice isn’t available, or isn’t likely to be enacted anytime soon, the next best option is to expand existing utility green tariff programs. The result would be a doubling of commercial and industrial-backed clean energy development through 2030, with little net impact on energy prices, says REBA. Read more here.

Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance Initiatives

Previously Posted – Facebook was the first OPPD customer to take advantage of Rate 261M.

Supply Chains 

The following REBA resource helps large member companies like Facebook and others to educate their suppliers about procuring renewable energy for their own operations: Supporting your suppliers

Environment America releases 2020’s top solar cities

By Kelsey Misbrener, Solar Power World

Fifty top American cities have each more than doubled their total installed solar PV capacity since 2013, a new study released by Environment America Research & Policy Center found. The report, “Shining Cities 2020: The Top U.S. Cities for Solar Energy,” is the seventh annual edition of the most comprehensive survey of installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in major U.S. cities.

This year’s survey, which analyzed data through December 2019, found that cities are increasingly turning to solar to meet their energy needs. In 2013, the first year of the study, eight of the cities surveyed had enough solar PV per capita to qualify as “Solar Stars” — (cities with 50 or more watts of solar PV capacity installed per capita). In 2019, that number jumped to 26 cities. Read more here.

Environment America News Release: Environment America Research & Policy Center releases new comprehensive study on solar capacity in major U.S. cities

See Appendix A of the report for each of the 70 cities’ total solar PV rankings. Omaha, ranked 66th, is the only Nebraska city included in the survey.

Appendix B includes data sources:
Omaha Public Power District provided Environment America with the total capacity of solar PV systems tied to their grid within Omaha city limits as of December 31, 2019.

Additional Recommended Reading

OPPD Offers New And Improved Process And Resources For Customer-Owned Generation, OPPD News Release

More and more people are showing interest in generating their own electricity through solar panels, wind turbines, or other sources. Omaha Public Power District now has a new and improved process to help them get started. We’ve implemented a streamlined online application system, as well as resources for those considering Customer-Owned Generation, at www.oppd.com/COG. OPPD currently has 192 customers who generate their own solar energy and 22 customers who generate their own wind energy.

Facing coal plant closure, Minnesota provider seeks cleaner path

By Frank Jossi, Energy News Network

Facing the closure of a coal-burning plant that had been its main source of power for decades, a southern Minnesota utility recently unveiled an aggressive plan to develop renewable energy over the next decade. A mixture of necessity and market forces led Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA) to set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 90% through generating more than three-quarters of its power from carbon-free sources by 2030. The agency’s largest source of electricity, the Sherco 3 coal plant, will close the same year. Read more here.

Subscribe to Energy News Network daily email digests here.

Photo: The Stoneray wind farm in southwest Minnesota is part of Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency’s renewable energy portfolio.

NEWS FROM OTHER STATES

NATIONAL NEWS

BUILDING A GLOBAL NET-ZERO ECONOMY

In a time of global uncertainty, now is the time to invest in a 1.5C futurecontributed by Lise Kingo, CEO & Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact, GreenBiz

There never has been a time like today for coming together to jumpstart a worldwide transformation towards a more inclusive and sustainable net-zero economy. This is the background for the largest United Nations-backed CEO-led advocacy effort, launched just a few days ago, urging world leaders to build net-zero climate targets into COVID-19 recovery plans and stimulus packages. Behind the statement are more than 160 CEOs of the world’s leading businesses, representing more than $2.4 trillion in market capitalization, led by the U.N. Global Compact and its partners in the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi).

ROCKY MOUNTAIN INSTITUTE PAPER & WEBINAR

Global Stimulus Principles: The Economy We Build Should Not Be the Same Economy We Decarbonize, by Ben Holland, Jake Glassman, Christian Roselund, Carla Frisch, Michael Banker

This paper outlines four core principles of stimulus and recovery efforts that should guide any global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also provides guidance for effectively integrating these principles into our efforts to rebuild, while setting us on a path toward a cleaner, healthier, more just, and more sustainable future. Learn more and download the paper here.

Upcoming Webinar: Green Stimulus and Recovery: A Path to Global Resilience, May 28th
at 12 pm CDT.
Hear from Rocky Mountain Institute CEO Jules Kortenhorst, alongside RMI Principals Carla Frisch and Uday Varadarajan, who will share four core principles of strategic stimulus and recovery for global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn that can simultaneously benefit the economy, the environment, and our communities. These principles derive from the first report in a series on stimulus and recovery investment that RMI will be releasing over the coming weeks. Learn more about these new principles and how they can be used to optimize decision-making in stimulus and recovery investments to move us forward on a path to global resilience.

WOOD MACKENZIE

The Right Coronavirus Recovery Could Make 2019 The Year of Peak Carbon, Greentech Media. There’s no better way to honor the lives lost than by making 2020 a turning point in the energy transition, writes Martyn Link, chief strategy officer at Wood.

What The Post-Pandemic World Needs Is A Solar Energy Revolution

By Enrique Dans, Senior Contributor, Forbes

One technology above all has exceeded all expectations over recent years: solar energy. Near-exponential growth has lowered manufacturing costs and efficiency of the solar cells to the point that building a solar energy generation plant is now significantly cheaper than its fossil fuel equivalent, or even maintaining an existing unit — and most importantly, leave a negligible carbon footprint

Today, virtually everything that most people think they know about solar energy, about the days when only subsidies made solar installations profitable and some generated power with diesel engines at night, is completely obsolete and outdated. The solar energy landscape has changed so much in terms of costs and performance that it requires completely new analyses. Read more here.

ON-FARM SOLAR 

Indiana farmers see benefits in on-farm solar power for grain storage systems, contributed by Emergent Solar Energy, PV Magazine. “Every morning a potential energy source rises over the horizon to the east of my farm,” said Will Harlow, owner of the farm. “It seemed a waste to not harness this daily free energy source, erasing some of what I take from the grid. The solar components’ being made in the United States was also important to me. I hope if any positive comes from this pandemic, it is that we must do what we can to get production of all kinds returning to America.”

Links to resources for solar-powering farm operations & farmhouses: 

 

 

 


Nebraskans for Solar

Department of Energy: Farmer’s Guide to Going Solar

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

NET METERING

FERC Might Rewrite Solar Net Metering. Here’s What That Could Mean, by Ben Huffman and Marc Palmer, Greentech Media

On April 14, the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA) petitioned FERC to assert jurisdiction over any on-site, behind-the-meter generation that injects energy onto the grid. If FERC asserts such jurisdiction in the manner requested by NERA, individual states could lose control over their solar net-metering policies — with myriad implications for the U.S. distributed solar market. FERC is currently accepting comments and intervenors from individuals and organizations. The period to comment or intervene ends June 15, 2020.

Ben Huffman is a partner with law firm Sheppard Mullin’s energy, infrastructure and project finance team. Marc Palmer is managing director of New Resource Solutions, a clean energy project facilitator.

 UC’S ESG INVESTMENT POLICY 

UC’s investment portfolios fossil free; clean energy investments top $1 billion, University of California Press Room

To date, UC’s new energy investments have developed and accelerated 9.2 gigawatts (GWs) of wind and solar capacity across all the platforms in which it has invested. Directly attributable to UC Investments’ share of the platforms is 1.47 GWs of wind and solar energy capacity in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan and India. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 1 gigawatt of power is comparable to the energy produced by 3.125 million photovoltaic panels or 412 utility-scale wind turbines.

An Open Letter on COVID-19: The Resilience of the Solar Industry

By Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA Blog Post

Alongside our members and allies, we have conducted hundreds of phone calls and video meetings with legislators at the state and federal level to talk about how COVID-19 is affecting solar companies, what policymakers can do to #SaveSolarJobs, and how this industry is poised to help rebuild the U.S. economy. There is much more work to be done — and I strongly encourage you to join us in this campaign.

We also are taking care of the day-to-day business of ensuring development and implementation of smart state policiesfighting for trade policies that do no further harm to solar and advocating fiercely for competitive markets and open access for clean energy at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Trade Representative and other agencies to get the best possible outcomes for our industry. Read more here.

IN NEBRASKA

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

AMERICAN WIND WEEK 2020

#AmericanWindWeek 2020: Wind Builds the Future, Into The Wind, AWEA Blog
August is fast approaching, and that means it’s time to start planning for #AmericanWindWeek 2020, happening August 9-15. And to get your creative juices flowing, we’re happy to announce this year’s theme: Wind Builds the Future.

JOURNALISM NETWORK

$4.7 Million Grant From Eric & Wendy Schmidt to NPR Collaborative Journalism Network, NPR News Release

All 25 public radio stations in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska serving some 63 cities will have access to content produced by the Midwest regional newsroom, which will be led by the largest public media stations in the region–KCUR in Kansas City, St. Louis Public RadioIowa Public Radio and NET in Nebraska–with NPR as the national partner.

The grant will add investigative units in California and the Midwest, enabling the regional newsrooms to provide deeper coverage of topics like government accountability, criminal justice, the environment, healthcare and rural economic development. The regional hubs will also leverage existing reporting resources by coordinating coverage of breaking news and elections across statewide news teams.

OPPD Offers New And Improved Process And Resources For Customer-Owned Generation

OPPD News Release

More and more people are showing interest in generating their own electricity through solar panels, wind turbines, or other sources. Omaha Public Power District now has a new and improved process to help them get started.

We’ve implemented a streamlined online application system, as well as resources for those considering Customer-Owned Generation, at www.oppd.com/COG.

Read more here.

NPPD NEWS RELEASE

Spencer, Wiese named to vice president positions at NPPD
Michael (Mick) Spencer was named Vice President of Energy Production and Art Wiese was named Vice President of Energy Delivery.

Focusing the recovery on green infrastructure could create millions of jobs

By Adele Peters, Fast Company

[The World Resources Institute] plans to model exactly how many jobs could be created through specific policies. But for now, in a series of fact sheets based on previous research, they give a rough sense of the scale. Until COVID-19 hit, the energy efficiency sector was the largest job creator in energy, employing at least 2.4 million people as of 2019 (the coal industry, by contrast, employed around 70,000 people.) Read more here.

NEBRASKA JOBLESS CLAIMS

Why unemployment claims are so low in South Dakota, Utah and Nebraska, CNN Business
Some of the contributing factors include a diverse mix of industries, low jobless rates before the crisis and stronger state budgets. During the past seven weeks, 110,764 Nebraska residents filed initial claims for unemployment benefits, or about 10.5% of its March labor force, according to Labor Department data. As with South Dakota, the initial claims data doesn’t reflect the impact to farmers and ranchers, which account for about 5% of the state’s jobs. In the coming weeks, [Economist Eric Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln] plans to keep close watch on the continuing claims.

FORT CALHOUN STATION 

Fort Calhoun Station crosses fuel-move milestone, The Wire, OPPD Blog
Late in the day on May 13, 2020, [FCS workers] secured the final canister of spent nuclear fuel inside its massive dry cask storage home, marking another closed chapter in the site’s decommissioning. Members of the OPPD Board of Directors lauded the success during their May 14 public meeting, noting that the project was done safely and event-free, as well as on time and on budget. They also recognized the men and women of FCS, both current employees and the many past employees and retirees who served at the plant during its lifespan. In 2016, the Board made the difficult decision to cease operations at FCS due to economic necessity and significant shifts in the energy industry.

ENERGY TRANSITION DRIVERS

Driving the shift to renewables, by Allen Best, Mountain Town News
“It’s no longer just a green movement, it’s an economic movement,” said Duane Highley, chief executive of Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which delivers electricity to 43 member cooperatives in Colorado and three other states. Tri-State recently signed contracts for 1,000 megawatts of wind and solar energy that will be coming online by 2024 at average price of 1.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. “Nebraska and Wyoming don’t have the same intensity of passion behind the renewable energy movement that New Mexico and Colorado do. But one thing all of our members can agree upon is low rates and low costs.”

Tri-State Also In The News Here
Tri-State’s clean energy battles with two Colorado electric co-ops now threaten the utility’s finances, The Colorado Sun

TENASKA

Wind Farm in Northwest Missouri Begins Commercial Operation, Tenaska News Release
Tenaska Clear Creek is the 18th power project that the company has brought online. The wind farm produces renewable energy under a 25-year power purchase agreement with Associated Electric Cooperative Inc., an electric generation and transmission cooperative based in Springfield, Missouri, that provides wholesale power to six regional cooperatives, including NW Electric Power Cooperative Inc. of Cameron, Missouri, and 51 local cooperative systems in Missouri, southeast Iowa and northeast Oklahoma that serve 910,000 members.

Tenaska Jobs Portal

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

JINKO’S 580-WATT SOLAR PANELS

Forget 400 watts. JinkoSolar launches 580-W solar panel for utility-scale market, Solar Power World

SOLAR-SELF-CHARGING EV 

Ford files patent for an inflatable, solar-powered, EV-charging car shield, Electrek
The dream of a solar-self-charging electric vehicle lives on. A Ford patent application was published this week for a roof-mounted device that, with a flip of a switch, cocoons the entire parked vehicle in a shield of solar panels. The patent application was filed on November 8, 2019, and published on May 14, 2020. Ford is not alone in its pursuit of putting solar panels on EVs. Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, and Tesla have all made forays into using rooftops to solar-charge an EV or hybrid. Ford’s new patent application describes the technical challenge:

GM & TVA PARTNERSHIP

GM, TVA Partner to Transition Manufacturing Plant to Solar Energy, Solar Industry
General Motors has partnered with TVA to power its Spring Hill manufacturing plant with solar energy. For such a large and complex operation, going carbon-neutral presents a lot of challenges; GM has set 2030 as its neutrality goal. But at its Spring Hill, Tenn. manufacturing facility, the solar solution will commence operation much sooner through TVA’s Green Invest program. There, operations will be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2022.

RE100

General Motors is one of 235 companies that are members of RE100, a global corporate leadership initiative bringing together influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity. A growing number of RE100 companies also are helping their supply chains transition to renewable energy. Learn more about GM’s 100% commitment here.

FEATURED CLIMATE ACTION

Opinion: Your bank could help fight climate change — but will it?, The Colorado Sun
Contributor Mario Molina is the executive director of Protect Our Winters, a group that helps passionate outdoor people protect the places and lifestyles they love from climate change.