News & Events


Energy in the News: Friday, September 22

Q&A: Michigan economist discusses the market forces pushing electric vehicles, clean energy

Midwest Energy News, feat. Ellen Hughes-Cromwick

After serving 18 years as chief global economist at Ford Motor Co. and then as chief economist at the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Barack Obama, Ellen Hughes-Cromwick brings a market-driven perspective to the way energy use and transportation could mitigate the impacts of climate change.

In late July, Hughes-Cromwick started as senior economist at the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute, where she will help lead research on this “intersection of energy, economics, policy, and human behavior.”

Her new role comes as Michigan advocates, utilities, regulators and other stakeholders are debating next-generation transportation and mobility issues, and what policies the state should be enacting in order to build out electric vehicle infrastructure and boost deployment.

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Best driverless tech going nowhere as regs stall under Trump

Bloomberg, feat. Huei Peng

The technology that gives cars superpowers to see around corners and through walls won’t be on the first self-driving rides hitting the road in the next few years.

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems, known as V2V, are regarded as essential for fully automated travel, which could dramatically reduce traffic fatalities from around 40,000 in the U.S. last year. The tech enables cars to send signals back and forth to one another, improving their ability to foresee potential collisions and avert them.

Despite its promise, the tech is going nowhere fast. A push by regulators during the Obama administration to speed V2V to market has stalled under the Trump administration. Without rules requiring it, automakers including Ford Motor Co. are holding off on deploying $350-per-vehicle systems that aren’t effective unless most cars have it.

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Survey: Carbon tax on gas wouldn’t cause much pain at the pump

Michigan Radio, feat. John DeCicco

More than 90% of people say they could handle paying an extra 36-cent tax on each gallon of gasoline without feeling financially stressed.

That’s from the latest survey by the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute.

Researcher John DeCicco says that 36 cents translates to a $40 per ton carbon tax, that could be imposed to offset the environmental damage from carbon emissions.

“In spite of how much everyone will say how much they they hate higher taxes, a $40 carbon tax would leave more than 90% in their comfort zone,” says DeCicco.

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New Urban Collaboratory tackles emerging city challenges

University of Michigan News, feat. Jerome Lynch and Geoffrey Thun

More residents without cars could get to jobs and training programs through a more strategic public transit system—one that supports the newest mobility technologies and the design of citywide mobility hubs.

A polluted creek that runs through town might flood less often and improve in water quality, thanks to a network of sensors that measure pollution and soil moisture—and inform an automated drain system.

Drinking water challenges brought on by aging infrastructure and declining population could be efficiently overcome with advanced risk-assessment tools.

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Trump admin is mending friendships with carmakers

E&E ClimateWire, feat. EAB member Chris Grundler

Posted alongside U.S. EPA’s explanation for reconsidering its vehicle pollution rules is a letter by an automaker asking the Trump administration to review the rules governing greenhouse gas emissions in cars.

The placement is unusual for an industry request and is just one example of how the current EPA has been seeking to go the extra mile to gratify an industry that felt shortchanged by the Obama administration.

Automakers went from standing and clapping with former President Obama in 2011 as he announced new tailpipe standards to lambasting his team in January for trying to lock-in the rules more than a year ahead of a scheduled review (Greenwire, Jan. 13).

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Electric vehicle price is rising, but cost-per-mile is falling

Ars Technica

Around the world, the average price of electric vehicles (EVs) rose in 2016, but that’s not necessarily cause for alarm according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). When the agency divided the list price of EVs with their range, it found a downward trend in how much bang an EV buyer is getting for their buck.

The average price of EVs sold around the world was at its lowest in 2012, according to data from the annually compiled World Energy Investment 2017 report. In the following five years, that number has been growing steadily—a trend you’d expect to worry advocates who think electrifying a significant part of the auto industry is one of the most important ways to make a dent in CO2 emissions. While higher prices reflect “faster growth in more expensive models,” they don’t “take account of increases in driving range through battery improvements,” the IEA wrote.

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How advocates helped lead Michigan’s capital city to a future without coal

Midwest Energy News

Nearly 10 years ago, the municipally owned Lansing Board of Water & Light floated plans for a new $1 billion coal-fired power plant to replace an aging coal plant just south of the capital city’s downtown.

While utility planning for the future looked quite different then, the proposal was met with swift backlash from many in the greater Lansing community who saw coal as a step backward. The BWL also wasn’t alone among Michigan utilities at the time planning a future with more coal.

Based on public pressure and years-long community engagement, the BWL ended up building a 100 megawatt (MW) gas-powered cogeneration plant to effectively replace the 375 MW Eckert Plant.

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2 Upper Midwest neighbors appear headed for divorce

E&E EnergyWire

Citing divergent energy policy priorities among two Upper Midwest neighbors, Xcel Energy Inc. is looking to legally separate its electric utility operations in Minnesota and North Dakota after more than a century operating as a combined system.

The Minneapolis-based utility notified its preference to form a separate North Dakota distribution utility — a process it warned that would take several years and cost millions of dollars.

North Dakota regulators have contracted with a consulting firm to help analyze the proposal as well as a number of other Xcel Energy projects, and they’ve referred the case to an administrative law judge.

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Fact #995, September 18, 2017: Electric vehicle charging at home typically draws less than half the power of an electric furnace

Electric vehicles can be charged at power draws comparable to various household appliances. Most electric vehicles charging at home on a 240-volt level 2 charger will draw about 7,200 watts or less. For comparison, a typical electric furnace draws about 10,000 watts and a water heater uses 4,500 watts. The power draw for an electric vehicle is limited by either the electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) or the vehicle’s onboard charger which limits the rate of electricity the vehicle can accept.

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Citigroup joins corporate climate fight with swift energy pledge


Citigroup Inc. plans to purchase or produce all of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, the company said during Climate Week New York, an annual affair of energy- and climate-related events timed to correspond with the United Nations General Assembly.

Many companies have pledged to soon use only clean energy, but Citigroup’s promise to make the transition within three years is speedier than most. Along with Estee Lauder Cos., Kellogg Co., DBS Bank Ltd. and Clif Bar & Co., the huge bank said this week it will be joining RE100, an initiative that records such pledges to become renewable-reliant. At least 110 companies have already signed on, including Apple Inc., BMW Group, Diageo Plc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, is also a member.) Citigroup said that, as part of its renewable push, it will follow the lead of others by cutting energy waste while using on-site generation, long-term power-purchasing contracts and clean energy credits.

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Another industry group asks agency to regulate carbon

E&E ClimateWire

More power companies are calling on U.S. EPA to regulate greenhouse gases rather than nix the Clean Power Plan.

The Coalition for Innovative Climate Solutions, a group that represents electric generating companies and service providers in 19 states, is asking EPA to provide industry with “regulatory certainty” by developing a replacement for the Obama-era regulation on carbon emissions from power plants.

Representatives for CICS, whose members include Xcel Energy Inc., Ameren Corp. and Entergy Corp., met with staff from EPA and the White House Office of Management and Budget last week to discuss how the agency might replace the rule. The meeting comes as EPA prepares to propose a rollback of the Clean Power Plan this fall.

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What ‘energy security’ looks like in the 21st century


For nearly a decade, lobbyists, academics and politicians alike have hailed the shale revolution as the guarantor of U.S. energy security. U.S. President Donald Trump has even taken their expectations a step further, envisioning a world of American “energy dominance,” where the country’s oil exports would fortify the supplies of its closest allies. But as the severe fuel shortages that swept across Texas and Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Harvey have shown, America still heavily relies on those states’ Gulf coasts to refine crude oil into gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products. True energy security, then, still seems to be just out of the United States’ reach.

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Lithium-ion battery production is surging, but at what cost?

Greentech Media

In his first Tesla Motors master plan, Elon Musk wrote, “The overarching purpose of Tesla Motors (and the reason I am funding the company) is to help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy, which I believe to be the primary, but not exclusive, sustainable solution.”

Just over a decade later, it looks like that sustainable solution is within reach — solar deployments are booming and Tesla is leading the charge toward the greater proliferation of electric vehicles that can run on renewably generated electrons.

But as clean energy flourishes, the solutions from electric-vehicle companies and battery-makers have had a lot more to do with mining than Musk’s manifesto would suggest.

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Canada has too much clean electricity. Anybody want it?

E&E EnergyWire

Canada, a country that runs on almost 60 percent hydropower, has a problem: It has more clean electricity than it can use, and a whole lot more of it is on the way.

So, with a boldness that seems hardly Canadian, the country’s utilities are hustling to sell it into U.S. markets. They are proposing to build new transmission lines and send many terawatt-hours (TWh) of low-carbon electricity a year into the United States — especially in the Northeast, where it may be key to helping states meet ambitious goals for clean energy.

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French wind power capacity seen overtaking UK, Spain by 2030 – WindEurope


France is set to become Europe’s second biggest generator of electricity from wind power behind Germany by 2030, overtaking the UK and Spain thanks to policies being put in place by the current government, according to an industry association.

WindEurope’s chief executive Giles Dickson told a conference in Paris on Wednesday that France’s outlook for offshore and onshore wind power projects was the best in Europe.

“France is number four in terms of installed capacity.We estimate that by 2030, thanks to the policies of the current government, France will overtake the United Kingdom and Spain in terms of installed capacity,” Dickson said.

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Will American forests fuel U.K. coal phaseout?

E&E GreenWire

The United Kingdom’s break with coal may intensify the debate over a ready replacement: wood pellets from southeastern U.S. forests.

An environmental group opposed to the burning of wood pellets for fuel warned that fueling power plants with wood isn’t a clean alternative to coal, which Prime Minister Theresa May said the United Kingdom will phase out by 2025.

“A reduction in global coal burning would benefit the environment, but not if coal is swapped for wood pellets,” said David Carr, general counsel for the Southern Environmental Law Center, in a news release yesterday. “Burning wood pellets still produces vast amounts of carbon pollution and threatens our Southern forests.”

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