Energy in the News: Friday, May 18

Friday, May 18, 2018

This could be the biggest advance in aluminum production in 130 years

The Washington Post, feat. Greg Keoleian

Apple, the largest publicly traded company in the world, joined a major collaboration last week that could change how it gets one of the key components that makes its ubiquitous gadgets look so sleek — aluminum.

And it is looking as though, simply by seeking out a greener component for iPhones and Macs, the tech giant just might push an entire industry in a new direction.

Along with major U.S. aluminum producer Alcoa and multinational mining behemoth Rio Tinto, Apple announced a collaboration in Canada to fund a technology that, the companies say, can remove carbon dioxide emissions from the high-temperature smelting process that goes into making aluminum.

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Coast Guard: 'Good fortune' that Straits spill was minor

The Detroit News, feat. Tony England

An early April fluid spill in the Straits of Mackinac was deemed minor by state and federal response agencies, but raised concerns Monday from state advisers and the public about what could have happened if Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 had ruptured.

Fluid from an electricity transmission line by American Transmission Co. was apparently hit by an anchor, according to the offices of Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette.

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University of Michigan students go off the grid with straw-bale building

MLive, feat. Joe Trumpey

When you're "off the grid," it puts you in tune with the way you use your resources in a different way, according to University of Michigan Stamps Art & Design Associate Professor Joe Trumpey.

That's the lesson Trumpey has been teaching his students over the past couple of years as they've taken part in constructing off-the-grid buildings, primarily consisting of straw bales.

There might not be a better teacher for the project. Trumpey and his family constructed their own 2,200-square-foot, off-the-grid straw bale home near Grass Lake in 2009, producing at least half of their own food by gardening, canning, freezing and raising animals for meat and eggs on the 40-acre Shady Acres farm.

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Rooftop solar debate kindles unlikely political alliance

E&E Energywire

An unusual alliance of interests from both ends of the political spectrum is coming together around a bill package in the Michigan House that aims to make it easier to invest in rooftop solar.

This is the third straight year the five-bill "energy freedom" package (H.B. 5861-5865) has been introduced in Michigan. But yesterday was the first time the legislation got an airing in committee, a debate sparked by a recent order by regulators to end net metering.

The April ruling by the Public Service Commission rankled the rooftop solar industry as well as some legislators, including state Rep. Gary Glenn, the Republican chairman of the House Energy Policy Committee and a sponsor of one of the bills.

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Renewable developers fear Michigan campaign will create political wedge

Midwest Energy News

Some renewable energy developers worry a Michigan ballot campaign could hurt the industry by reigniting a political debate around renewable energy.

Organizers are collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would double Michigan’s renewable portfolio standard to 30 percent by 2020.

At least two out-of-state developers, as well as a Michigan trade group representing advanced energy companies, are neutral on the proposal because of the potential to re-politicize the industry and create siting issues as utilities comply.

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Consumers Energy files rate request, electric vehicle charging station plan with state

Crain’s Detroit Business

Consumers Energy Co. filed a proposal with the Michigan Public Service Commission for a three-year, $7.5 million pilot infrastructure program to support the fast-growing plug-in electric vehicle market in the Jackson-based utility's electric service territory.

The MPSC last year began to look at potential impacts to the state's electric grid as growth of electric vehicles begin to ramp up. There are now about 12,500-15,000 EVs in Michigan, which is ranked 10th in national EV sales as of 2017. By 2030, industry estimates are that EV sales will grow 150,000 to 800,000 EVs in Michigan. EVs includes all electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles.

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Just how much business can batteries take from gas peakers?

Greentech Media

Batteries emerged as a viable peak power resource so quickly that it’s hard to know what happens next.

Regulators in states like California and Arizona have turned to batteries instead of conventional natural-gas plants to provide flexible power for evening peaks. They see this as crucial in containing the major cost driver for utilities, and in developing a cleaner, more efficient grid.

The storage industry believes this trend will accelerate quickly. Still, batteries can’t do everything that a gas combustion turbine can do.

A rapid transition to a storage-based peak power system could create vulnerabilities if it’s not done right. Little data exists to indicate what will happen if the peaker-to-storage swap becomes more widespread.

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Trump wants negotiations with California on auto gas mileage

Associated Press

Addressing a key concern for manufacturers, President Donald Trump has instructed his administration to explore negotiations with California on achieving a single fuel economy standard for the nation during a meeting with auto industry executives.

The president met with top auto executives Friday to discuss the standards and tasked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to handle the talks with California officials, according to two people briefed on the meeting. The people spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private discussions.

The auto industry wants to relax the federal fuel economy standards, but not so much that they provoke a legal fight with California, which has power to impose its own stricter tailpipe pollution limits.

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Energy jobs cut into red and blue state divide

E&E Energywire

The remaking of the U.S. energy sector is happening in ways not entirely tethered to the nation's red state-blue state political divide.

President Trump's rejection of his predecessor's climate and clean energy policies was met with praise from Republican governors and pledges of resistance by Democrats. But a new report says job growth in new energy technology reaches over that divide, and the expansion of those opportunities will be led by states.

The report, from former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz's think tank, the Energy Futures Initiative, and the National Association of State Energy Officials, (NASEO) shows state-by-state employee counts of workers directly engaged in energy fields. Based on a survey of 24,000 employers, the report aims to fill in the gaps where the Department of Labor didn't account for certain corners of energy technology development.

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Bonn climate talks: key outcomes from the May 2018 UN climate conference

Carbon Brief

Each year, the Bonn “intersessional” falls midway between the annual conferences of parties (COPs), held in November or December, where ministers arrive to hammer out political disagreements.

This year’s intersessional is particularly important as December’s COP24, in Katowice, Poland, must finalise the Paris “rulebook” – the operating manual the deal needs when it enters force. However, after slow progress in Bonn, negotiators agreed to another week of talks to be held in September in Bangkok.

Bonn also marked the opening of the Talanoa Dialogue. This allows countries to informally take stock of progress towards the Paris Agreement’s goals, without any sense of judgement.

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