Energy in the News: Friday, June 15
A look inside University of Michigan's off-grid, straw-bale building
MLive, feat. Joe Trumpey
A building constructed out of posts and beams milled from local trees damaged during storms now holds up the University of Michigan's first student-built, off-the-grid building.
The building, raised by students of UM professor Joe Trumpey on UM's Campus Farm throughout the month of May, will provide an informal meeting space for students and faculty. In spring 2017, Trumpey and his class built a similar straw bale building at the UM Biological Station in northern Michigan.
Michigan gas plant leaves uncertain role for renewable developers
Midwest Energy News
Renewable energy developers for months disputed DTE Energy’s claim that it did not expect to need any new generation capacity over the coming decade.
Now that Michigan regulators have approved the utility’s plan to build a 1,100 megawatt natural gas plant, DTE’s position will be tougher to challenge.
The question of whether a utility needs more generating capacity matters to renewable energy developers because under federal law they earn a better rate for projects when a utility has a need for capacity.
Michigan utility plans major shift from coal to solar in coming decades
Midwest Energy News
The CEO of one of Michigan’s largest utilities says solar is a better long-term investment than new natural gas plants.
Consumers Energy, which previously announced plans to close its coal-fired power plants by 2040, said Wednesday that — unlike other Michigan utilities — it won’t seek to replace coal with new natural gas capacity.
Building a natural gas plant would risk stranding the company’s capital in a single asset, after which there would be “no turning back,” said Consumers President and CEO Patti Poppe. Instead, the company plans to bet on solar, which can be built incrementally as needed.
Trump's solar tariff may cost up to 23,000 U.S. jobs, but boost domestic manufacturing
Over $2.5 billion in large installation projects have been stalled or cancelled due to President Trump’s newly imposed tariffs on imported solar panels, according to Reuters.
Since 2010, the U.S. solar power sector had been growing rapidly, but then slowed 2017. Over those seven years, the solar workforce increased 168%, but now, with the tariffs, the industry may be at a standstill.
The 30% tariff on imported panels, which President Trump announced in January, will last four years and decrease 5% each year. While the tariff may encourage investment in solar manufacturing stateside, it will cost up to 23,000 workers their jobs, Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, told the New York Times.
The alluring dream of carbon capture
Our addiction to fossil fuels is unrelenting, which means that the skies will continue to fill with carbon dioxide for the foreseeable future. Efforts to scale back coal and oil consumption are underway, but once the trigger has been pulled, it’s hard to put the bullet back into the chamber: conventional wisdom states that the CO2 up there isn’t going anywhere.
Some scientists, however, beg to differ. They imagine a future wherein colossal network of machines scrub the sky of CO2. It sounds science fictional, but prototypes of these machines exist, and recently, the idea received a flurry of media attention when a team of researchers announced they might be scaled up more cheaply than we thought.
The promise and peril of carbon pricing
A wide-ranging new report on a decade's worth of public opinion surveys shows that backing for taxing carbon emissions in the U.S. has grown, but remains limited and deeply split along partisan lines.
Why it matters: The findings are another sign of why carbon pricing proposals in the U.S. face massive hurdles, despite the view among many advocates and economists that its an essential tool for fighting climate change.
U.S. wants to sell more LNG to China. It's not that simple
Trade negotiations between the United States and China will likely benefit U.S. exporters of liquefied natural gas, but that's not guaranteed, experts are cautioning.
Up to now, China, which remains the world's fastest-growing market for LNG, has purchased only a small portion of its LNG from U.S. ports. U.S. energy exporters want to gain market share there, but there is a lot of competition, said Neil Wang, greater China president at Frost & Sullivan.
"China imported LNG mainly from Australia, Qatar, Indonesia and Malaysia, the four countries together accounting for over 80 percent of total import in 2017," Wang said. "Chinese LNG import from the U.S. started in 2016 and only accounted for a tiny portion of its total imports."
Solar has overtaken gas and wind as biggest source of new U.S. power
Despite tariffs that President Trump imposed on imported panels, the U.S. installed more solar energy than any other source of electricity in the first quarter.
Developers installed 2.5 gigawatts of solar in the first quarter, up 13 percent from a year earlier, according to a report Tuesday from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. That accounted for 55 percent of all new generation, with solar panels beating new wind and natural gas turbines for a second straight quarter.
U.S. electricity commission sees no emergency in power market
All five members of the panel that regulates the U.S. power grid indicated at a Senate hearing on Tuesday there was no emergency in the country’s electricity markets, potentially undermining efforts by President Donald Trump’s administration to save ailing coal and nuclear plants through subsidies.
Trump this month directed U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take emergency measures to keep coal and nuclear plants running in order to protect national security.
Many of the plants have shut in the face of plentiful natural gas, growth in wind and solar power, and stagnant power demand. More closures are expected in coming years.
Senate Dems take FERC to task for climate policy shift
Democratic senators grilled the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission yesterday on how it analyzes the climate impacts of natural gas pipelines.
"The commission may be creating more uncertainty for the public and industry by not performing the hard look at projects [under] the National Environmental Policy Act," said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The panel held an oversight hearing yesterday with all five FERC commissioners (see related story). While debate over the Trump administration's latest bid to boost struggling coal and nuclear plants dominated the conversation, a few lawmakers also zeroed in on FERC's approach to climate analysis for gas projects. The agency's position has evolved over the years — most recently moving in a direction opposed by environmentalists and many Democrats on Capitol Hill.