Tag Archives: Rocky Mountain Institute

Tri-State, under pressure from its member co-ops to change or fall behind, is shifting to renewable energy

Giant power provider on the verge of deal with departing utility says it will shutter coal-fired plant in Nucla two years early as it retools carbon-emissions goals.

By Mark Jaffe, The Colorado Sun

Faced with renewable energy generation that undercuts the cost of power from coal-fired plants and new laws in Colorado and New Mexico setting high clean energy goals, Tri-State is being pushed by political and market forces to change or fall behind. “Our industry is facing significant challenges and we are positioning ourselves not only meet those challenges, but to leverage those opportunities for our membership,” Tri-State spokesman Lee Boughey said.

Mark Dyson, a principal at Rocky Mountain Institute and author of the study on Tri-State’s coal-fired plants, said in an email that the association’s announcement “suggests Tri-State is beginning to acknowledge the broad utility industry consensus that taking major steps toward a low-carbon energy future can be, in fact, more affordable than continuing with business-as-usual. The implementation details, when they are available, will tell how much of this opportunity they intend to pursue,” Dyson said. Read more here.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Renewable Energy Data

Solar Energy 

Wind Energy

563 cooperatives in 36 states utilize wind as a source of power.
Nebraska ranks 5th among these states, with 30 cooperatives utilizing wind energy, behind Minnesota (44), Missouri (41, Indiana (38), and Iowa (31).

Hydro Power

727 cooperatives in 43 states utilize hydro power.
Nebraska is 6th among these states, with 30 cooperatives utilizing hydro power, behind
Minnesota (44), Texas (43), Georgia (42), Missouri (41), and Iowa (35).

Heat Recovery

Thermal capture technologies, including geothermal technologies, use heat to generate power. Geothermal power capturing the earth’s heat is cost-effective, reliable and available 24/7. Similar technology can also be used to recover heat that otherwise would have gone to waste from industrial processes, such as exhaust from natural gas pipeline compressors.

139 cooperatives in 10 states utilize heat recovery. Nebraska is 9th, with 6 cooperatives utilizing heat recovery.

Additional Resources

Tri-State announces transformative Responsible Energy Plan

Tri-State News Release

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is pursuing an aggressive Responsible Energy Plan to transition to a cleaner energy portfolio, while ensuring reliability, increasing member flexibility and with a goal to lower wholesale rates.

“Our membership and board are unified in our pursuit of a cleaner, reliable and lower-cost resource portfolio,” said Rick Gordon, chairman of the cooperative’s board of directors. “We are making a strong and unequivocal commitment to transform Tri-State’s resource portfolio in a prudent and responsible manner.” Continue reading here.

From Tri-State’s Website

Our cooperative approach to a clean grid starts now.
We are pursuing an aggressive transition to a cleaner energy portfolio.

How we are transforming

  1. Developing a Responsible Energy Plan [to] comply with aggressive carbon reduction, renewable energy and resource planning requirements, ensure reliability and affordability and strive to lower wholesale rates while maintaining our strong financial position.
  2. Engaging with former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and the Center for the New Energy Economy to facilitate a stakeholder process that will contribute to our Responsible Energy Plan.
  3. Creating more opportunities for our members to develop local renewable energy by considering the types of memberships and contracts we offer.
  4. Increasing our renewable resources, with new wind and solar projects and a request for proposals for even more projects.
  5. Exploring opportunities with solar and energy services providers to make more community-scale solar, energy storage and electric vehicle infrastructure more available to our members at a lower cost.

Learn more about Tri-State’s Responsible Energy Plan.

Additional Recommended Reading

Commentary: Rural Power Co-Ops ‘Stranded In Coal’

By Erik Hatlestad and Liz Veazey, Daily Yonder

Rural electric cooperatives’ loyalty to coal is holding rural America back. That’s according to a new report authored by CURE (Clean Up the River Environment), We Own It, and the Center for Rural Affairs.

During the 1970s, most rural electric cooperatives made significant investments to build coal-burning power plants. At the time, the coal investment strategy made in the interest of providing low-cost electricity to their member-owners. Co-ops took on massive amounts of debt, mostly from the federal government. One year a loan to Basin Electric (a consortium of cooperatives that serves much of the Northern Great Plains) for a coal plant took up almost the entire annual budget for loans from the USDA’s Rural Utility Service. Continue reading here.

Report’s Authors
Erik Hatlestad is director of the Energy Democracy Program at CURE (Clean Up the River Environment), Liz Veazey is network director of We Own It, and Katie Rock is a policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs.

Upcoming Webinar
Erik Hatlestad and Liz Veazey will host a webinar about their report on Monday, June 24, at noon Central. Register here.

Additional Recommended Reading

  • NM co-op started something big in electricity markets, Albuquerque Journal, guest column by Greg Brophy, Colorado Director, The Western Way
    According to Standard & Poor’s, Tri-State’s debt load has risen sharply over the past decade from $1.7 billion to more than $3 billion. SEC filings show the largest of those loans is a $2.8 billion “master indenture,” which imposes conditions on how much Tri-State charges for wholesale electricity. In short, Tri-State must keep rates high enough to cover payments on billions of dollars of debt. This is critically important. Tri-State was created in the 1950s by rural cooperatives to provide cheaper sources of wholesale electricity, not more expensive sources. But even Tri-State concedes that “cheaper prices are now available elsewhere.”
  • Co-op elections show strengthening interest in electrical transition, by Allen Best, Mountain Town News
  • Previously Posted: ‘Stranded costs’ mount as coal vanishes from the grid

SUNDA RESOURCES FOR RURAL ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s innovative SUNDA Project helps rural electric cooperatives nationwide to accelerate utility solar. SUNDA stands for “Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration.”

Hormel Foods to Be Powered by Nearly 50% Renewable Energy

By Emily Holbrook, Energy Manager Today

Hormel Foods recently announced a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) for wind energy. Through this and other initiatives, the company will be supplied by almost 50% renewable wind power. In addition, the project will result in a reduction of approximately 197,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

The new wind farm will be located near Milligan, Nebraska. Construction is expected to be completed in 2020. The farm will be capable of generating 74 MW of power and an estimated 349,000 MWh of electricity each year. Read more here.

Recommended Reading
Virtual Power Purchase Agreement: Introduction to the Virtual Power Purchase Agreement, Rocky Mountain Institute

Nebraska Also In The News Here:

  • NPPD/city relationship remains a strong one, by Melanie Wilkinson, York News-Times
    Looking to the future, NPPD is considering a solar power generation facility for York, as the organization continues to look at renewable energy options.
  • Supersized solar in the Midwest, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine
    Long seen as a slow region for solar deployment, the U.S. Midwest has seen an explosion of project development in recent years. And while there is still a lot of speculation and uncertainty, one way or another this region is going to see major development.

Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance Expanding Membership Opportunities

Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance News Release, PR Newswire

Google, Facebook, General Motors and Walmart, along with over 300 other companies, launched the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) today—the largest group of corporate renewable energy buyers in the United States. By working to unlock the marketplace for organizations to buy renewable energy, REBA hopes to bring more than 60 gigawatts of new renewables online in the United States by 2025. Read more here.

Recommended Viewing
What is REBA?, Two-minute video by REBA on Vimeo.

MORE ABOUT REBA’S MISSION & NEW MEMBERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES 

Since 2014, the REBA community has grown to over 200 large energy buyers, and over 150 clean energy developers and service providers. Participants in the REBA community have been a part of 95% of all large-scale US corporate renewable energy deals to date.

With dedicated expertise from four successful nonprofit programs that have helped organizations break through barriers in renewable energy procurement in recent years, REBA’s goal is to catalyze 60 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy by 2025, and expand the number of organizations buying clean power from dozens today to tens of thousands.

In 2018, four leading NGOS — Rocky Mountain InstituteWorld Wildlife FundWorld Resources Institute, and Business for Social Responsibility — merged their renewable energy programs, the Business Renewables Center, the Future of Internet Power, the Buyers Principles, and Green Tariff programs. This programmatic consolidation builds upon their collective success and offers a single streamlined solution.

Today’s REBA seeks to grow the market for end-user backed renewables from dozens to thousands of organizations nationwide, while advocating for an energy system that meets the needs of all.

REBA is a national membership association open to all non-residential energy buyers, supporting the entire clean energy transaction involving buyers, developers, and service providers of renewable energy.

REBA also collaborates with nonprofits, governments, and universities. Discounted membership pricing is available, as well as partnership opportunities.

Visit the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance website to learn more: www.rebuyers.org 

Will Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska remain reliant on coal?

By Joe Smyth, Clean Cooperative

A wholesale power provider for 13 Colorado cities and towns generates most of its power from coal – but will that still be true in 2030? That’s one of the key questions raised in a report published last month by Sustainable Development Strategies Group, ​”A Renewable Energy Future for Colorado Communities Served by the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska.”

The report examines the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN), which sells wholesale power to dozens of towns and cities in Nebraska, Wyoming, Iowa, and Colorado. Sustainable Development Strategies Group (SDSG), a non-profit research group based in Gunnison, Colorado, focused on the 13 municipalities in Colorado that buy power from MEAN. The report examines MEAN’s power supply mix, policies, and contracts in the context of a transition to renewable energy. Read more here.

Image from Moody’s Investors Service March 2017 report: Utilities increasingly adding low cost wind power to rate base, leaving inefficient coal plants at risk. Nebraska is among the 15 states with the best wind energy resources, which the report found could generate electricity from new wind power projects at prices well below the average costs of operating coal fired power plants.

About MEAN
The Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) is the not-for-profit wholesale electricity supply organization of NMPP Energy. Created in 1981, MEAN provides cost-based power supply, transmission and related services to 69 participating communities in four states: Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming. MEAN members/participants

Additional Recommended Reading

NRECA Resources
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s innovative SUNDA Project helps rural electric cooperatives to develop utility-scale solar projects. SUNDA stands for “Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration.”
Resources are available here: SUNDA Project
NRECA Report: A Solar Revolution in Rural America

From Kaiser To Vail Ski Resorts, Companies Doubled Their Wind And Solar In 2018

By Grace Hood, Colorado Public Radio

Corporate giants like Facebook, Walmart, Microsoft and Apple made big deals in 2018, but now smaller corporate fish have waded into the pond. “We had Etsy do a deal last year, J.M. Smucker Company that makes jellies and jams,” [Kevin Haley, a program manager at the Business Renewables Center at Rocky Mountain Institute] said. “It’s a great way for them to reduce a lot of carbon all at once.”

Colorado-based Vail Resorts has joined the ranks of small companies as well. It inked a 12-year agreement to buy new wind that will be produced from a Nebraska farm starting in 2020. When the wind farm is operational, the purchased power will offset Vail’s fossil fuel use across North America. “This is the way that a company that’s geographically diverse can make a significant impact and bring new renewable resources online,” said Kate Wilson, director of sustainability for Vail Resorts. Read more here.

About Vail Resorts Corporation

Lincoln Clean Energy photo of the partially-completed 230 MW Plum Creek Wind Farm in Wayne County, Nebraska. Once operational, the project will create high-paying local jobs and will result in over $3 million in local community benefits annually in the Wayne County area. This includes much needed property tax revenues, with some of the largest beneficiaries being the Norfolk and Winside school districts.

Previously Posted
Vail Resorts Announces Long-Term Wind Energy Contract, Renewable Energy Magazine
The company’s multimillion-dollar wind energy virtual power purchase agreement enables the development of the Plum Creek Wind Project. It is expected to generate enough renewable energy to power up to 100,000 U.S. homes each year.

Additional Colorado News: More Colorado co-ops announce clean energy goals, Clean Cooperative

HAPPENING IN OTHER STATES

Solar seen as bright career path at Illinois community colleges, Energy News Network

Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act included funding to make solar training more accessible to lower-income residents.
 

SEIA Expands Leadership Team, Adding Vice President of Congressional Affairs and Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) announced today a restructure and expansion of its leadership team. Erin Duncan, a proven legislative strategist and advocate, has been named the organization’s new vice president of congressional affairs and Katherine Gensler has been named vice president of regulatory affairs.

Duncan has extensive experience in Washington D.C. She joins SEIA after more than 11 years as a federal lobbyist for the National Education Association. Prior to that, she spent eight years working on Capitol Hill, including six years as legislative director for Rep. Tom Osborne,
(R-Nebraska). Read more here.

CORPORATE RENEWABLE ENERGY PROCUREMENT NEWS

Corporate Customers Smash Green Procurement Marks, Commercial Property Executives. One of Facebook’s deals in 2018 was part of a new PPA signed in March with Adobe for energy produced by the 320-megawatt Rattlesnake Creek Wind Farm in Nebraska owned by Enel Green Power North America Inc. (EGPNA). 

Clean Energy Deal Tracker: ExxonMobil, Facebook headline a record-breaking fourth quarter,
GreenBiz. Not only was 2018 the biggest year on record for corporate renewable energy deals, with more than 6.5 gigawatts of contracts on the books, the furious pace of deal-making — and the creativity of the arrangements — barely slowed during the waning three months of the year. According to the official figures released in mid-December by the Business Renewables Center (BRC), part of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), the publicly announced capacity contracted over the past 12 months was 6.43 GW.

NEBRASKA CONSERVATION AWARD

Conservation efforts recognized at NRD banquet,
Norfolk Daily News. In the past seven years, the [Wiese family of Oakland] has planted more than 1,200 trees and shrubs and renovated a 2½ acre windbreak
system — all by hand. Besides trees, the family also put in solar panels to provide electricity to their home and outbuildings. Since putting in the solar panels, the family has noticed a decrease in their monthly electric bill and feel good about producing green energy on their acreage. They also have a large garden on which they do their own version of no-till.

ONE YEAR AGO TODAY

Nebraska clean energy plan focuses on wind, solar, efficiency, by Don Walton, Lincoln Journal Star

Clean energy plan renamed: Due to a business having a similar name, the Husker Power Plan was renamed the Husker Energy Plan. The plan was revised August 28, 2018. To read the updated Husker Energy Plan and see the 16 partners that have endorsed it, visit: www.huskerenergyplan.org.

POLLINATOR-FRIENDLY SOLAR SITES

Solar Farms Shine a Ray of Hope on Bees and Butterflies, by Jodi Helmer, Scientific American
A trend of planting wildflowers on solar sites could maintain habitat for disappearing bees and butterflies.

Photo: Kearney’s solar farm consisting of approximately 23,000 panels on 53 acres located in the city’s technology park, Tech oNE Crossing, is Nebraska’s largest ground-mounted solar project, to date. Credit: Developer, SoCore Energy
Installer: Interconnection Systems based in Central City, Nebraska

Another distinguishing feature of Kearney’s Solar Farm is that it is a nationally-recognized pollinator-friendly site, benefiting local food producers. 

Previously posted links to information of potential interest to other Nebraska communities that have developed or plan to develop a solar farm:

Rocky Mountain Institute officials agree Carbon County, Wyoming is breeding grounds for transition into renewable energy sources

By Ray K. Erku, Wyoming Business Report

RAWLINS – In many respects, Carbon County is at the forefront of a modern-day gold rush. Instead of mining for precious metal, however, fortune seekers look to harvest one of the Cowboy State’s most natural of resources: Wind . . . For the Anschutz Corporation, parent company of Power Company of Wyoming, the slated 1,000-turbine Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farms will eclipse $5 billion in projected costs. Once completed, it’ll be considered the largest onshore wind generation facility in North America . . . PacifiCorp and Rocky Mountain Power, subsidiaries of multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, which is headed by Buffett, are beginning to stomp their footprints in the county by partnering with Invenergy Co. to spearhead production of not just the Ekola and TB Flats projects, but the Gateway West Transmission Line. Read more here.

Photo by Power Company of Wyoming: According to Business Insider, a 2017 analysis revealed that it took $102 to generate one megawatt-hour from coal, compared to wind, which took $45. 


Managing the Coal Capital Transition, Rocky Mountain Institute

 

 

MORE ENERGY TRANSITION NEWS

COSTS OF SOLAR PANELS CONTINUING TO DROP

Module prices have fallen by up to 25% so far this year, by Emiliano Bellini, PV Magazine
According to a Q3 report by EnergyTrend, monocrystalline module prices have fallen almost 20% this year, while those for polycrystalline modules have dropped by more than 25%. Increased consolidation among manufacturers and developers is expected to occur in China, and the global solar market, with more merger deals, plans for capacity reductions, and even factory closures.

PV MAGAZINE: SEIA GUIDE UPDATE 

Best practices for building residential solar power and market confidence

Steps to success for utilities moving into community solar projects – Featuring Fremont’s solar farms

By Kim Riley, Daily Energy Insider

U.S. electric utility companies plan new or additional renewable energy investments, particularly in solar, thanks to the enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which retained renewable energy development incentives, according to industry analysts . . . Among the many shared renewable energy models is the utility-sponsored model in which utilities provide customers with the option to purchase renewable energy from a shared facility at a fixed rate (which might be a bit higher than the current retail rate) for a set term (usually a number of years, say 10 or 20 years) that’s designed to provide protection and stability against rising rates for grid electricity, SEIA says. Brian Newton, city administrator and general utility manager for the City of Fremont, Neb., convinced local officials and residents with tweaks to the utility-sponsored model that the adoption of renewable energy was a smart choice for their rural town, which is located about 35 miles northwest of Omaha, population roughly 27,000. Read more here.

Photo Courtesy of Troy Schaben, Assistant City Administrator, Fremont Department of Utilities: Fremont’s First Solar Farm. The city’s second solar farm is being built by GenPro Energy Solutions.

RELATED READING
Fremont moves forward on second solar farm due to high demand, by James Farrell, Fremont Tribune

FREE RESOURCES

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

OF POTENTIAL INTEREST TO FAITH COMMUNITIES

Interfaith Power & Light’s 2018 Faith Climate Action Week starts tomorrow, April 14th. A kit accompanies this event, which includes everything faith communities need to implement Climate Action Week activities. The kit can be used any time during 2018. Everyone who participates in Faith Climate Action Week will receive an invitation to a special webinar with Happening filmmaker Jamie Redford and Climate Champion NV State Senator Pat Spearman on April 20th.

To learn more and download the free kit, click here.