Procyclical Momentum to an Industry’s Misery

first_imgProcyclical Momentum to an Industry’s Misery FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Daniel Gross for Slate:Electricity plants that burn coal are being shut down at a rapid clip. The industry’s main domestic customers are simply disappearing. And this is not a cyclical phenomenon: Once coal is out of the power system, there will be immense pressure to keep it out. The U.S. continues to build electricity generation capacity to deal with plant retirements and rising demand in certain areas. But it just isn’t building any that burn coal.There’s a procyclicality to coal’s misery. What is popular and has momentum gets more popular and gains more momentum as a result. The use of natural gas has encouraged more production of gas, which has led to a glut and low prices—which encourages more usage. State requirements and federal subsidies that promote the construction of wind and solar power at scale have helped make the industry more efficient, which helps bring down the cost of wind and solar and makes these alternatives more appealing. And in America, when industries gain size, they gain lobbying clout that helps them advocate for politics that further improve their lot. For example, the federal tax credit for wind and solar investment, which was supposed to expire at the end of last year, was instead extended for several more years. And as more states achieve the goals of having 20 or 25 percent of their power come from renewable sources, they set more ambitious goals: 50 percent in California, 100 percent in Hawaii.On Thursday, Iowa-based MidAmerican Energy, which last year generated 47 percent of the electricity sold to its customers from wind power, announced it will invest another $3.6 billion in wind in the state. “When the 2,000-megawatt Wind XI project is completed, our annual renewable energy generation is expected to reach a level that’s equivalent to approximately 85% of our Iowa retail customers’ annual use,” the company said. Five years from now, there may literally be no need for coal-fired electricity in the state.The procyclicality works the other way. What is unpopular and loses momentum becomes more unpopular and loses momentum as a result. There’s still a lot of coal produced in the U.S.—even a 30 percent decline this year would result in more than 600 million tons of production. But the last time production was so low was in the 1970s. Employment in the coal industry has shrunk. And so, too, has the industry’s political influence. Yes, politicians at the state level in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Wyoming will lobby for the industry in Washington. But you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a worse set of pleaders for your cause with the Obama administration than senators like Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell and Wyoming’s John Barrasso.Things will likely get worse for the coal industry in Washington because its problems are about to become the public’s problems. Coal is dirty, dangerous, and Dickensian. (Last week, the CEO of a mining company was convicted for violating safety laws over an episode in which 29 miners died; he was sentenced to only one year in prison.) When companies file for bankruptcy, the fact that they can’t meet their obligations to creditors like banks or bondholders isn’t that much of an issue. They can absorb the loss and wind up with ownership of the company. But bankrupt coal firms will have a hard time meeting their obligations to the environment, to employees, and to retirees. Which means they will either need a bailout or they will suffer further obloquy when they walk away from commitments. Both of those outcomes will make the industry less popular than it already is. And they will only further blacken coal’s dim future.Coal Is Officially a Zombie Industrylast_img read more

After Keystone, a Reluctance to Finance Pipelines

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Zahra Hirji for InsideClimate News:Six months after the Obama administration rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, at least 20 other proposed energy projects—mines, pipelines, plants, related rail projects and export terminals—have been canceled, rejected or delayed, according to research compiled and mapped by InsideClimate News.Sustained grassroots resistance and public opposition have played a major role in at least some of these decisions; other influential factors include unfavorable economic conditions such as low oil prices, as well as governments’ environmental concerns and project siting issues.Proposed in 2008, the Keystone XL was slated to transport Canadian oil sands crude to Gulf Coast refineries. Federal regulators rejected the upper leg of the project, which ended in Nebraska, for its potential climate impact and minimal economic benefits—and activists hailed the decision as a victory for their years of action against the project.Since then, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected two project applications—for the Oregon-based Jordan Cove LNG project and Pacific Connector Pipeline—and delayed the decisions on two other facilities. For five of the projects, the bids or key permits were rejected by either a federal panel or state or local officials. Companies chose to cancel five other projects, including Arch Coal’s abandoning its planned Otter Creek coal mine in Montana and Kinder Morgan’s pulling the plug on its Northeast Energy Direct pipeline. The remaining facilities are delayed.According to Tom Sanzillo, director of finance for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), what’s driving the coal decisions is straightforward: No one is willing to financially support these projects anymore.So far this year, the nation’s two top coal companies, Peabody Coal and Arch Coal, announced bankruptcy. “The bankruptcies have just rocked the industry,” said Sanzillo, who cited a roster of investors who are “walking away” from coal: bankers, equity markets, venture capitalists and hedge funds.For the oil and gas industries, it’s more complicated. According to Sanzillo, “there should be a concern that the utilities are building too many pipelines and the [regulators] should be concerned about how consumers pay for it.” Sanzillo co-authored a recent report detailing the risks of overbuilding pipelines in Appalachia.Full article: Wave of Fossil Fuel Project Cancellations Follow Keystone XL Rejection After Keystone, a Reluctance to Finance Pipelineslast_img read more

U.S. Clean-Energy Industry Prepares Business-Case Blitz Around Job Creation and Reliability

first_imgU.S. Clean-Energy Industry Prepares Business-Case Blitz Around Job Creation and Reliability FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Axios:America’s clean-energy crowd is looking to shed its climate reputation and appeal more to a Republican-controlled Washington.An unusually broad and diverse coalition of 10 clean-energy associations are organizing a lobbying and advertising push next month to highlight how the industry is creating jobs and providing reliable electricity, with less focus on the sector’s role combating climate change.Clean energy technologies, particularly renewables like wind and solar, have long been known most for their role cutting carbon emissions. With a president who doesn’t think climate change is a problem and both chambers controlled by Republicans, the industry is looking to highlight what else it has to offer on the economic and national security fronts.The groups involved so far: Advanced Energy Economy, Nuclear Energy Institute, Biomass Power Association, American Wind Energy Association, Business Council for Sustainable Energy, Clean Energy Business Network, Solar Energy Industries Association, National Hydropower Association, the American Council on Renewable Energy and the Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum. At least two more are expected to sign on next week.The groups are organizing the usual suite of Capitol Hill activities, like lobbying, events with lawmakers and receptions, but also a mini demo fair. At about $500,000, the budget for the week is relatively small. But money goes further with social media advertising and hosting free or lower cost events on and around Capitol Hill. The goal is to make it a yearly thing, say the organizers, which was led by the Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum, the non-profit arm of a conservative group pushing clean energy policies.The coalition wants to ensure its reputation does not remain inextricably linked to former President Obama (even though he jumpstarted the industry’s existence). It’s become common knowledge Trump wants to get rid of almost everything Obama has done on energy and environmental issues.Hot topics to watch:Tax policy. Wind and solar executives will work to ensure Congress doesn’t repeal early a deal it struck in 2015 to extend for five years tax credits for both those industries. Early repeal of those has been floated as a possible way to pay for a tax overhaul if Congress actually pursues it (a big if). Other industries will also be talking about the need to preserve and/or renew tax policies relevant to them.The power grid. By late September, the Energy Department will have likely released its long-awaited study on the reliability of the U.S. electric grid, so expect clean-energy industry officials to focus on defending and boasting their relevance to America’s electricity mix.More: Groups to launch clean-energy lobbying blitzlast_img read more

Midwestern Company Plans Underground Wind-Power Transmission Corridor to Eastern U.S.

first_imgMidwestern Company Plans Underground Wind-Power Transmission Corridor to Eastern U.S. FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Energy Mix:A company in the Midwestern United States is planning a new underground transmission line along existing railroad tracks to carry wind-generated electricity from Iowa, the Dakotas, and Minnesota to a transfer point to Chicago, then eastward to regions with high electricity demand.“We will pull some of the cheapest, most robust wind from the upper Midwest and bring it to the East Coast,” said Trey Ward, CEO of Direct Connect Development Company.“Because the line with a capacity of 2,100 megawatts (MW) would be mostly invisible, it might elude some of the problems that have dogged transmission lines that would tower overhead while crossing Midwestern farm fields,” Midwest Energy News reports. Ward said the Canadian Pacific Railway covers about 85% of the 349-mile (562-kilometre) route, and the CPR has agreed to allow buried cable beneath its right of way.“We have the land,” Ward said. “That’s the most significant issue for new transmission lines. Having the land in hand is very important.” And running the project underground “limits the impact to the environment, streamlines the permitting process, and limits impacts to neighbours.”He said the plan builds on the experience of the U.S. fiber optic network, which also relies on railway rights of way.Direct Connect hopes to start construction on its line by 2020, and begin carrying electricity in 2024. Ward said he’s spoken with utility regulators in Iowa and Illinois, and “we got a very warm reception. They like to see a project like this on a brownfield site. They also like to see it in the ground.”“Compared to five years ago, we can transmit much more power at a much lower price.”More: Underground Line Could Carry Midwestern U.S. Wind Power, Avoid Local Oppositionlast_img read more

Akuo Energy, Iberdrola win big share of 1.1GW Portuguese solar auction

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PV Tech:Portugal has unveiled the final results of the solar auction held over the summer, identifying a handful of major foreign winners of a tender hailed as a worldwide milestone.French firm Akuo Energy and Spanish giant Iberdrola reaped together nearly half of the 1.15GW total awarded through the July auction, which made global headlines as reports emerged of bid prices of €14.76/MWh (around US$16/MWh).Released this week, the final list shows the tender assigned 370MW to Paris-headquartered Akuo under a first modality, which offered winners 15-year fixed-price power purchase agreements (PPA). At 150MW, it was the largest of Akuo’s three awarded projects that scored the €14.76/MWh tariff. Its two other winning schemes of 120MW and 100MW were contracted at prices of €20.73/MWh (around US$23/MWh) and €19.78/MWh (US$22.16/MWh), respectively.Joining Akuo under the first, fixed-tariff modality was Power & Sol – with a 100MW project scoring tariffs of €17.19/MWh (US$19.26/MWh) – Everstream Energy Capital’s 50MW scheme and others. The priciest project was Aura Power’s 18MW venture, at €31.16/MWh (US$34.92/MWh).The tender – which had to process 10GW in solar bids – awarded a significant chunk of the final 1.15GW total to Spain’s Iberdrola under a second modality, where developers were made to pay in return for the right to produce at market prices, also for 15 years.Iberdrola pledged contributions ranging €5.1-26.75/MWh (around US$5.68-30MWh) in return for 149MW worth of contracts for its first-ever Portuguese PV projects, which will be split between the Algarve and the Tajo Valley. Iberdrola – already present in Portugal through its energy distribution business and the 1.158GW Támega hydro project – was the main but not the only winner of the second auction category, with a separate 110MW project committing grid payments of €25.46/MWh (around US$28/MWh).More: Portugal reveals winners of record-breaking solar auction Akuo Energy, Iberdrola win big share of 1.1GW Portuguese solar auctionlast_img read more

EIA: Coal’s share of U.S. electricity generation to drop to 21% in 2020

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):The decline in coal production and exports will slow considerably or even reverse course from 2020 to 2021 compared with this year’s expected trajectory, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).The EIA projected that domestic coal production will fall 13.5% this year to 596.6 million tons. But that decline may level off in 2021 with estimated output totaling 580.6 million tons, slipping 2.7% year over year “as export demand stabilizes and declines in U.S. power sector demand slow,” according to the administration’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook report, which was released Jan. 14.In terms of consumption, the EIA expects 2020 coal use to drop by 11% from 596 million tons last year and by another 3% in 2021. The power sector accounted for 91% of the nation’s coal consumption last year, and decreases largely mirror declines in utility coal demand.“The decrease in power sector coal consumption in 2020 reflects expected coal plant retirements and increasing shares of electricity generation from low-priced natural gas and new renewables generating capacity. However, because EIA expects slight rises in natural gas prices in 2021, coal will become slightly more price competitive,” the report stated.Coal’s share of the country’s energy makeup will fall from 24% last year to 21% in 2020 and 2021, the EIA estimated. Natural gas will account for 38% of the total this year and 37% next year, while renewable energy sources’ share increases from 17% in 2019 to 19% in 2020 and 22% in 2021 amid increases in wind and solar generation capacity, according to the EIA report.[Ellie Potter]More ($): U.S. EIA expects YOY decline in coal exports, production to slow in 2021 EIA: Coal’s share of U.S. electricity generation to drop to 21% in 2020last_img read more

San Antonio’s city-owned utility looking for 900MW of solar, 50MW of battery storage

first_imgSan Antonio’s city-owned utility looking for 900MW of solar, 50MW of battery storage FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享San Antonio Express-News:CPS Energy is embarking on two major green energy initiatives — one to increase the amount of energy generated by solar power and other sources and the second to allow large companies to buy power from clean energy sources.On Monday, the city-owned utility’s board of trustees set an Aug. 31 deadline for companies’ first step toward submitting plans to bolster CPS Energy’s solar power and battery storage capabilities.Overall, the initiative is expected to add up to 900 megawatts of solar power, potentially doubling the utility’s solar power generating capacity. Battery storage — to store solar power for use when the sun is not shining — would add another 50 megawatts of power. A third component adds 500 megawatts of energy from new energy technology and would be used when solar or wind power wasn’t available. CPS Energy currently has more than 5,000 megawatts of generating capacity.The utility’s “request for information,” asks energy companies to submit formal bids on how much they would charge the utility to provide the alternative power. CPS Energy expects to solicit formal bids by early 2021.Chief Operating Officer Cris Eugster said more alternative power will help the utility meet the goals of San Antonio’s climate action and adaption plan, which calls for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases to “net zero” by 2050. He said there was another key reason for adding generation capacity — to keep the lights on in San Antonio. “The real need is to replace aging power plants,” he said.The second initiative that trustees approved, known as a “green tariff,” would allow large commercial power users, such as an H-E-B or a USAA, to purchase all their power from an alternative power provider, such as energy companies that provide solar or wind power.CPS Energy would act as the middleman in securing long-term contracts on behalf of commercial customers.[Randy Diamond]More: CPS Energy moves forward with sweeping clean energy planlast_img read more

IMBA, Bell Giving $100k in Trail Grants

first_imgBell Helmets and the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) are teaming up to award $100,000 in trail building grants to the common man. Three grants of up to $33,000 each will go toward technical assistance for the projects which will be planned, designed, and build by IMBA’s Trail Solutions team with help from local volunteers. The money will go to three separate entities: a pump track or bike park, a flow trail, and a downhill trail. The application is open to anyone, nationwide, and twelve finalist will be selected and voted on by the general public. There are fairly stringent guidelines for the projects – which can be read here – most of which deal with land management, local support, and accessibility. All applications are due by Feb. 8th.Needless to say, $100K is a lot of dough to be tossing around, especially in the context of building mountain biking trails. This is a very cool project and having the mountain biking public vote on the winners adds an extra layer of excitement to the proceedings. Mountain biking, and outdoor sports in general, seem to be gravitating toward the more extreme end of the spectrum, and this grant process is another example of the way things are going. Once limited to the North Shore of British Columbia, gravity oriented riding is taking off in the Blue Ridge in recent years with ski resorts fostering a four season revenue stream by utilizing their lifts to cater to downhillers. Pump tracks and bike parks are popping up everywhere and North Carolina’s Beech Mountain Resort will even host the National Downhill Championships this year. Advances in technology allow riders to push the limits – see this trailer for Red Bull’s upcoming film “Where the Trail Ends” to see exactly how far (spoiler alert: it’s really far) – and this makes downhill riding more and more accessible to the average rider. Which is great, if you are into that sort of thing. Personally, it looks like the scariest thing a person could ever do short of riding a great white shark over Victoria Falls while trying to wrestle a Rambo knife away from Man BearPig. But that’s just me, I guess.If you want to get your hands on the grants, check out the application and guidelines here.Do you have spot you think is primed for the project? Let us know in the comments if you are sending in an application.last_img read more

Weekend Pick: Ocoee Fest Beer, Music and River Festival

first_imgIt is one of the great outdoor ironies that the end of summer usually marks the beginning or the best of the kayaking season. This is a sport dedicated to water after all, and once Labor Day weekend comes and goes, the days get shorter and the temperatures drop. Getting on the water during the down slope of summer probably doesn’t appeal to everyone, but hardcore paddlers love the changing season because it marks the beginning of the major dam releases on some of the best rivers in the South and mid-Atlantic. These releases are a big deal, and draw paddlers from across the region, the nation, and the world to the banks of the river to test their skills against the rivers. Since the people will always come, river festivals have popped up around the release dates to organize the paddlers and add a bit of revelry and spectacle to the scene – as if paddlers need an excuse to revel. This weekend, one such festival is taking place on the shores of the Ocoee River in Tennesee, but the Ocoee Fest is not just about paddling, it’s also about music, good times, and beer – lots of it.The long Labor Day Weekend is usually reserved for kicking back with a friends and family, celebrating the last gasps of summer, and possibly, maybe getting off your lazy butt at least once to ride a bike or get on the river. Well, at Ocoee Fest, you can do all of this and more. This year’s Ocoee Fest is highlighted by the first ever Ocoee Fest Home Brew Competition. Home brewers will come from across the Southeast to compete for the honor of being the tastiest brew on the river. Along with the home brew, Red Brick Brewing, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada and more will be on hand at the festival with their suds in tow. The festival will be capped on Sunday by the Beer Olympics with events like Beer Pong, Corn Hole, and Beersbie (whatever that is).As for recreation, the festival is being held on the grounds of Adventures Unlimited in Ocoee, Tennesseee, ground zero for rafting, kayaking, hiking and biking in the area. Plus, paddlers have a reputation for partying hard, especially when they all get together, so that may be all the recreation you need. Plus, there will be music from local and regional bands throughout the weekend from Shark Week, The Whistle Pigs, Matt Woods, and more.Rock Creek will also be on hand selling gear at discounts, and I’m sure giving away some swag as well. Tickets are a scant $20 for two days, including camping, which is the Labor Day deal of the century. So pack up the boat, tent, and bike, and head for Ocoee this weekend.View Larger Maplast_img read more

The Balance of Power

first_imgIt’s the year 2050. Solar panels and wind farms abound and all 50 states plus D.C. rely entirely on renewable energy sources. Is this wishful thinking imagined by well-meaning environmentalists or a realistic vision of the country weaning itself from centuries-long dependence on fossil fuels? For Stanford University professor and researcher Mark Jacobson, the answer is clear.“It’s not only feasible—it’s necessary,” Jacobson said. “It’s the only solution to the problems of catastrophic global warming and our pollution mortality on a worldwide scale.”Jacobson, who’s been studying sustainable energy and its problem-solving potential since the 1990s, has published several studies outlining energy plans for states and countries all over the world. In 2015 he and a team released The Solutions Project, a culmination of his research that lays out how the U.S. (plus 139 other countries) can eliminate use of natural gas, oil, coal, and nuclear power and operate on 100% clean, renewable energy.The project maps out all 50 states’ energy mix, or precisely how each state would be powered. In Virginia, for example, the plan says that 50% of the commonwealth’s energy could be provided by offshore wind, with the remaining half made up by 25.5% solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, 10% onshore wind, 5% concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, 4.2% residential rooftop PV, 3.5% commercial/government rooftop PV, 0.5% wave devices, 1.3% hydroelectric and 0.1% tidal turbines.The state-by-state plan also includes figures projecting construction and operation jobs created (89,632 and 57,779, respectively, in Virginia), plus the percentage of state land needed for new generators, avoided health costs per year, and future energy costs.As a researcher, Jacobson said he has no financial interest in the discussion, and no real dog in the fight (aside from a longtime vested interest in the health of future generations). He’s not interested in arguing with anyone about the merits of his research or convincing climate change skeptics that global warming is not only happening but a direct result of human activity. What he’s interested in is sharing indisputable facts about renewable energy.“You don’t have to believe in global warming to believe that clean energy will improve health and the economy and create jobs,” he said. “This is really an information problem—most people are not aware of the benefits and what it entails to transition. If people were actually aware of the facts about it, they’d ask why we haven’t already done this. It’s just so obvious.”Recent policy changes reveal that some states are on board with Jacobson’s vision. In 2015, Hawaii enacted the country’s first 100% renewable energy standard (30% by 2020, 70% by 2040 and 100% by 2045), and states like New York, California, Oregon, and Vermont have all since followed suit with similar legislation. Other parts of the country, like the South, have been slower to hop on that bandwagon.“Southern states have a history and culture of not being on the forefront of environmental legislation,” said Virginia Tech History of Technology Professor Richard Hirsh, who described Jacobson’s proposal as admirable but “highly aspirational.”Hirsh said the plan may be technically feasible, but everything from policy to technology development to public acceptance would have to go smoothly and align with one another. And if you ask him, the chances of that happening are slim to none.“In Virginia we have a political system in the energy realm that is dominated by a few companies, and they don’t want to see this happening,” Hirsh said. “You’d have to get all the politicians in Richmond on board…and that’s not gonna happen.”Jacobson’s proposal calls for 4.2% residential rooftop panels in Virginia, which Hirsh said may be possible given the amount of sun and sheer number of rooftops in the commonwealth. But it’s not that simple.“Virginia generally doesn’t provide any tax incentives for renewable energy,” he said. “There are federal incentives, but who knows how long those are going to last.”Shortly after President Trump’s inauguration, the White House website was updated to reflect the new administration’s “America First Energy Plan.” The plan promises to roll back President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which includes climate science and land and water preservation, and the Waters of the U.S. rule, which protects thousands of waterways and wetlands under the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.It also states that the administration is “committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.” The term “renewable energy” does not appear in the text of the plan.“It would be really hard for me to say what the new administration is going to mean for renewable energy,” said Angela Navarro, Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources in the Office of Virginia Governor McAuliffe. “The governor’s office recognizes the potential for renewable energy to really grow our economy, and I think there’s definitely a lot more interest in these types of resources to become a great share of our energy portfolio in Virginia.”Hirsh said he’s seen efforts around renewable energy on the local level, like Solarize Blacksburg, a collaboration of Community Housing Partners, the Town of Blacksburg and solar company VA SUN that allowed 30 to 40 Blacksburg residents to purchase PV cells at a discounted price. He also sees “well-advertised efforts” by Appalachian Power and Dominion to incorporate more solar, though not on nearly the same scale as in other states.“One could argue that these efforts are sort of greenwashing, good for public relations,” he said. “There are efforts they’re pursuing slowly and that’s fine, but they’re nowhere near where California was 30 years ago, and we’re not going to get to Jacobson’s goal by 2050 with these baby steps.”According to spokesperson Daisy Pridgen, Dominion Energy’s $2.6 billion investment in renewable energy since 2013 (with $800 million in solar power in Virginia) has helped establish more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) of large-scale solar in eight states. She listed several projects that Dominion has taken on, like converting three coal-powered stations in Virginia to operate off renewable biomass and working on design plans for an offshore wind demonstration project in Virginia. As for realizing Jacobson’s goal of 100% renewable energy, though, Dominion isn’t ready to let go of fossil fuels.Mark Jacobson has a grand plan for the entire country to rely entirely on renewable energy by the year 2050. Here’s the resource breakdown for the renewable plan across the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states by the numbers.Residential rooftop photovoltaics: 6%Solar PV plants: 31%Concentrated solar plants: 8%Commercial/government rooftop PV: 4%Onshore wind: 5%Offshore wind: 43%Wave devices: 1%Hydroelectric: 2%Construction jobs created in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic: 900,000+Operation jobs created in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic: 650,000+last_img read more