Energy in the News: Friday, December 8

Friday, December 08, 2017

Ethanol worsens climate change, yet EPA demands more of it

Morning Consult, feat. John DeCicco

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt took a trip to Iowa last week to meet with ethanol producers. But the day before he headed to the Hawkeye State, the agency doubled down on the biofuel boondoggle, announcing it would mandate yet another increase in the amount of ethanol forced into our nation’s motor fuel.

This announcement is a win for the all-too-powerful Washington corn lobby and their political allies and another loss for American consumers and our environment. It also irked the petroleum industry because of the costs that it imposes, and a group of oil-state senators has now asked for a meeting to tell the president their side of the story.

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Climate change will change how you eat

CBS MoneyWatch, feat. Gregory Keoleian

Experts link climate change to a wide, and alarming, range of changes on Earth, from melting polar ice, to mega-hurricanes, to wild fires ferocious enough to threaten a major American city. But global warming is also making itself felt on a smaller scale, like your dinner plate.

That's because rising global temperatures are already affecting the world's food supply, shifting production of some popular items, like certain kinds of seafood, and raising the price of staples like beef, wheat and coffee. Over the longer term, such trends are likely to alter what Americans eat. And depending on where you live and what you can afford, your food may also be less nutritious, recent studies predict.     

Repeated droughts around the world also are destroying enough farm produce to feed 81 million people for a year and are four times more costly for economies than floods, the World Bank found in a recent study. Beyond hindering food production, erratic rainfall patterns and longer droughts are causing a host of problems for cities, including businesses.   

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Solar happy, other smaller renewable energy operators promise appeal in PSC rate decision

Crain’s Detroit Business

The solar industry appears happy with a recent decision by the Michigan Public Service Commission on a rate-setting case for renewable operators, but other independent operators such as biomass, hydro and landfill gas promise to appeal the commission's decision.

After a nearly two-year hearing process, the MPSC approved last week an updated "avoided cost formula" that Consumers Energy Co. must use to buy power from independent, qualified facilities under the federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act, or PURPA.

The Independent Power Producers Coalition said in a statement that rates for its members will be cut up to 40 percent based on the order. The IPPC said the rates will cause many to shut down because they will not have sufficient revenue to pay employees or invest in maintenance or plant upgrades.

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Solar-powered chapel in Ann Arbor hosting open house and tour


Ever wondered whether solar energy might be possible at your place of worship?

In hopes of encouraging more congregations to go solar, the city is co-organizing a solar open house and tour this coming weekend at the solar-powered Campus Chapel in Ann Arbor.

The event takes place from 1:30-3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, at the chapel at 1236 Washtenaw Court.

The city, which is promoting the event, is partnering with Michigan Interfaith Power and Light as part of a program called Solar Faithful, which aims to assist houses of worship with going solar.

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Q&A: Illinois utility regulator discusses roadmap for NextGrid study

Midwest Energy News

Energy officials, advocates and other stakeholders are a couple of months into an ambitious year-and-a-half-long project to examine the future energy landscape and economy of Illinois. The initiative known as NextGrid is billed as a consumer-focused study of the utility of the future.

Illinois has been reimagining its transmission system from one that relies on a one-way delivery of power to a grid system that functions as a “platform,” where producers and consumers are completing energy transactions everywhere and the utility is a coordinator and center of the activity.

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) is managing NextGrid, which was borne out of a commission resolution passed last March. ICC executive director Cholly Smith oversees staff and policy implementation for the commission.

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Trump casts a long shadow on the solar industry

The Boston Globe

In Costa Nicolaou’s 10 years running a North Andover-based solar company, he never chose to invest his time and money on Washington lobbying.

But now that President Trump is weighing tariffs that could deal a blow to his business, Nicolaou, whose PanelClaw company makes mountings for solar panels, now spends hours each day navigating the politics of his industry.

If the president chooses to slap new tariffs on imported solar panels, as the US International Trade Commission has recommended, many executives predict their businesses will take a hit as the price of solar panels rises and demand for the renewable energy source drops.

“Our message to the president and the president’s advisers is: Don’t walk the president into a trap,” Nicolaou said. “Don’t give him a false victory that comes back to cost him jobs.”

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Cars are exception to U.S. cuts to energy consumption — report

E&E Energywire

The United States has become more energy efficient in all but one area: transportation.

That's according to a new assessment by the International Energy Agency (IEA), which attempts to compare and contrast member countries' energy efficiency. The IEA says the new exercise, its Energy Efficiency Indicators database, is the first.

The new report concludes that U.S. transportation has become less energy efficient over the past 15 years. Other countries have done much better. Of 19 countries surveyed, only the United States, Czech Republic and Spain have seen their transportation sectors become less efficient. Transport is the largest consumer of energy of the sectors looked at in the report.

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Tesla isn’t the only company creating cool electric vehicles anymore

The Washington Post

It wasn’t that long ago when Tesla seemed like the only company making cool electric cars that you’d want to drive.

If this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show is any indication, that niche no longer belongs exclusively to Elon Musk. After months of signs suggesting a shift in global momentum toward an electric future, some of the world’s most established automakers are starting to reveal what they’ve been working on for the EV world.

The results are not only promising but surprisingly provocative, offering a glimpse of an automotive future that is beginning to feel substantially real. Scroll down for some of the most intriguing examples on display this week.

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US energy storage deployments up 46 percent annually in Q3 2017

Greentech Media

According to the latest U.S. Energy Storage Monitor from GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association (ESA), 41.8 megawatts of energy storage were deployed across the U.S. in the third quarter of 2017.

This represents 46 percent year-over-year growth and 10 percent growth over the second quarter of the year.

The front-of-meter segment continued to drive the greatest share of the market. More than two-thirds of total deployed capacity for the quarter came from a single 30-megawatt project in Texas. The report notes additional, but smaller, utility projects came on-line in Florida, Tennessee and Massachusetts

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One Trump buzzword to seal fate of $700 billion power trade


Hurricane winds and raging wildfires knocked out power to millions of people from Florida to California this year, underscoring the need to protect America’s electric grid from disaster.

President Donald Trump’s administration has a plan to achieve what it calls “resiliency”: Keep money-losing coal and nuclear plants running. The only problem is that almost every other corner of the energy industry -- including the $700 billion utility sector -- is heading in another direction.

Even as the White House pushes a proposal to prop up coal and nuclear, the nation’s utilities are devoting almost half of their record $123 billion in spending this year to power lines and poles. Government data shows the lights go out because of grid disruptions, not a lack of generation. Puerto Rico, where power was completely wiped out for days after Hurricane Maria slammed ashore in September, is looking to rooftop solar and batteries. Even the U.S. military is turning to on-site renewables.

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Mixed signals on energy incentives

E&E News

Lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol yesterday sent mixed signals on whether there would be a separate tax extenders package to address outstanding questions about energy incentives.

Senate Finance Committee Republicans punted on a number of energy issues last month during their markup on the tax code overhaul, saying they'd look to the familiar year-end ritual of trying to sort them out through a so-called extenders bill (E&E News PM, Nov. 15).

However, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said yesterday he preferred to avoid such legislation.

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Repowering North America’s aging wind turbines is a $25 billion opportunity

Greentech Media

North America’s aging fleet of wind turbines could lead to a surge in operations and maintenance spending through 2030, according to a report released this month by IHS Markit. The report found cumulative O&M spending for the wind energy sector in the United States and Canada will top $40 billion from 2015 to 2025.

“The average age of the North American wind fleet will rise from 5.5 years in 2015 to 7 years in 2020, and to 14 years in 2030,” said Maxwell Cohen, senior research analyst at IHS Markit and co-author of the report, in a statement.

Cohen and co-author Ryan Siavelis, gathered data from nearly one-third of the wind energy market in North America -- 300 wind projects comprising nearly 20,000 turbines -- to prepare the analysis.

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Mars and beyond: Modular nuclear reactors set to power next wave of deep space exploration

New Atlas

NASA is planning to put astronauts on Mars one day and since the Red Planet is about as off the grid as you can get, the space agency is developing a new generation of modular nuclear reactors to power manned outposts. Under funding from the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), the Kilopower project is a multi-year effort to build simple, inexpensive reactors that can be used for a wide variety of planetary and deep space missions.

One of the primary problems with almost any space mission is how to provide it with power. Depending on the goal of the mission and its duration, there are any number of options. The very first satellites used batteries that supplied them with electricity for a few days.

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