Energy in the News: Friday, June 23

Friday, June 23, 2017

Survey: Most Americans believe strongly in climate change

Wisconsin Public Radio, feat. Barry Rabe

A new University of Michigan survey suggests most Americans don’t just believe in climate change; they’re sure of it.

"People are becoming somewhat more concerned over time," said Barry Rabe, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. "And are also locking into their positions much more."

The university has conducted the survey twice a year for nearly 10 years, Rabe said. This year, 70 percent of Americans said they believe there is "solid evidence" global temperatures are warming.

But the results were still split sharply on a partisan divide.

Read more

University of Michigan will get first autonomous shuttles in Fall 2017

Forbes, feat. Mcity

Beginning in fall 2017, students and staff at the University of Michigan will have a new way of getting around at least part of the sprawling campus, a pair of driverless shuttle vans. Two Navya Arma shuttles will be operated by the Mcity autonomous and connected vehicle research center. The shuttles will give researchers an opportunity to evaluate how autonomous vehicles work in a real world environment and how people interact with this new type of vehicle.

The Navya shuttles are similar in concept to another automated vehicle, the Local Motors Ollie. It is a 15 passenger, low-speed electric pod that looks much like a tram car from a ski resort removed from the cable and placed on wheels.  The Arma has a top speed of about 28 mph and is equipped with lidar sensors, GPS, cameras and wifi for data collection and transmission.  Small fleets of these vehicles are already being tested in several locations in Europe including in Nice, France. Navya will also be setting up an assembly facility in southeast Michigan to support additional deployments in North America.

Read more

Toxic Town: Michigan's most polluted zip code

Michigan Radio, feat Paul Mohai

Usually, with a new playground, library or community center comes a dedication ceremony with speeches by local leaders. It might even make front page news.

But an air monitoring station? Yes, an air monitoring station installed in a part of Southwest Detroit is cause for celebration.

In Boynton, a predominately African American neighborhood, now better known for its zip code, 48217, has been deemed the most toxic place in Michigan.

Professor Paul Mohai of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment looked at data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory and charted the most polluted areas on a map.

Read more

Regulatory overhaul could give boost to independent generation in Michigan

Midwest Energy News

Advocates say recent regulatory changes in Michigan could spur more solar energy development from independent producers and ensure existing renewable energy generators are paid fair prices from utilities for their power.

On May 31, the Michigan Public Service Commission approved changes to the way avoided costs are determined under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) of 1978. Avoided costs are those that utilities pay independent power producers for their electricity that the utility would have otherwise had to pay itself. In Michigan, there are 45 facilities under contract with utilities, mostly landfill gas and hydro.

Read more

Most drivers could go electric within 10 years

University of Michigan News, feat. Michael Sivak

Electric and hybrid electric vehicles are in the fast lane to wider adoption, according to a new study by University of Michigan researchers.

The researchers analyzed the present status of electric vehicles in the U.S., their life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions, and progress toward lifting barriers to broader acceptance. The study is a literature and technical review that synthesizes and analyzes recent findings from many sources.

"We feel that within the next decade, electric vehicles are positioned to be more suitable for most drivers to use on a daily basis," said Brandon Schoettle, project manager at the U-M Transportation Research Institute. "That's due to recent improvements such as longer driving ranges, faster recharging times and lower vehicle prices."

Read more

Self-driving vehicle maker to build shuttles in Mich.

The Detroit News

French self-driving shuttle manufacturer Navya will set up its first U.S. plant in southeast Michigan, with plans to begin producing vehicles before the end of 2017.

The three-year-old company with offices in Lyon and Paris has already developed partnerships in-state, including the Ann Arbor SPARK economic development group and the University of Michigan. Its driverless shuttle began operating at the university’s autonomous testing site — Mcity — in December.

Navya’s plans for Michigan include an assembly plant that will crank out 20 of those shuttles, known as the Arma, by the end of the year. That plant would employ at least 15 people. The exact location of the plant was not released, but a company spokesman said “Southeast Michigan/Ann Arbor” was the target area

Read more

Line 5 contractor fired by state was doing federal work for Enbridge


Documents show a consultant at the pipeline accreditation firm which the state of Michigan canceled a contract with for a risk analysis of Enbridge Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac a week before the report was due had been leading similar work for Enbridge required by the U.S. Justice Department.

The state of Michigan abruptly fired contractor Det Norske Veritas Inc (DNV GL) this week, saying the work the company had been doing since last summer was tainted by a conflict of interest and the appearance of improper influence on the outcome by Enbridge, which the state had tried to avoid.

Read more

Clean cars are key to climate goals. Utilities are helping

E&E ClimateWire

Electric companies in the Northeast are trying to electrify the transportation sector in an effort to address daunting climate policies while creating business opportunities.

Transportation represents the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the region, and Northeast states will likely fall far short of their ambitious climate goals without a much larger presence of clean cars.

They will have to multiply the number of electric vehicles sold thirty- or fortyfold in eight years if they are to meet a sales requirement of 15 percent by 2025. They have offered incentives to consumers, such as large rebates, and launched campaigns to get people used to the vehicles. But the goals are still distant.

Read more

Exxon makes a biofuel breakthrough


It’s the holy grail for biofuel developers hoping to coax energy out of algae: Keep the organism fat enough to produce oil but spry enough to grow quickly.

J. Craig Venter, the scientist who mapped the human genome, just helped Exxon Mobil Corp. strike that balance, with a breakthrough that could enable widespread commercialization of algae-based biofuels. Exxon and Venter’s Synthetic Genomics Inc. are announcing the development at a conference in San Diego on Monday.

They used advanced cell engineering to more than double the fatty lipids inside a strain of algae. The technique may be replicated to boost numbers on other species too.

Read more

No, cities are not actually leading on climate. Enough with the mindless cheerleading

Greentech Media

The idea that cities are leading on climate change is applauded over and over and over. There’s just one problem.

It's not actually happening.

Retrofit programs for buildings and homes aren't delivering results. Power distribution remains rooted in century-old thinking and technology. And those cities that claim to be on track to go "100 percent renewable"? Not even close.

With the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris accord, city contributions are needed more than ever. But it’s time to stop with the empty platitudes and face reality.

We’ve a lot of got work to do.

Read more

America’s hungriest wind and solar power users: big companies


Major U.S. corporations such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and General Motors Co have become some of America’s biggest buyers of renewable energy, driving growth in an industry seen as key to helping the United States cut carbon emissions.

Last year nearly 40 percent of U.S. wind contracts were signed by corporate power users, along with university and military customers. That's up from just 5 percent in 2013, according to the American Wind Energy Association trade group.

These users also accounted for an unprecedented 10% of the market for large-scale solar projects in 2016, figures from research firm GTM Research show. Just two years earlier there were none.

Read more

Southern Co.'s clean coal plant hits a dead end

E&E EnergyWire

Southern Co.'s $7.5 billion clean coal plant in Mississippi should run as a natural gas plant, state regulators said yesterday, throwing a gut punch to the utility's hopes of recovering billions of dollars in cost overruns and paving the way for next-generation coal plants.

The Kemper County Energy Facility would be the first large coal-burning power plant in the United States to capture and store the majority of its carbon dioxide emissions. The power plant is supposed to gasify lignite coal into synthetic gas, capturing the CO2 for use in enhanced oil recovery.

The plant has been running on natural gas for years, and each of Kemper's two gasifiers has successfully produced electricity from synthetic gas. But Mississippi Power, the Southern Co. unit building the plant, has struggled to keep the plant's complex systems running nonstop. That has delayed its full startup.

Read more