A wind turbine and solar panels show advanced energy in action at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, where Ohio’s Energy Future Tour kicked off. FirstEnergy Stadium is in the background. Photo by Kathiann M. Kowalski.
According to a variety of industry and community leaders, Ohio still has a bright future ahead of it for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
That is the message of Ohio’s Energy Future Tour, which kicked off its first public forum earlier this week with a bright outlook for 2015 and beyond.
Companies have already invested millions of dollars and provided thousands of new jobs for the state, and Ohio has the potential to be a leader in multiple technologies, reported speakers at the December 15 program at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland.
Nonetheless, political setbacks in 2014 have placed Ohio at a competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis other states, speakers said, and uncertainty about energy policies could further limit the state’s prospects.
A wind farm near Worthington, Minnesota. (Photo by Seward Inc. via Creative Commons)
A new report suggests Minnesota could supply more than 50 percent of its power needs through renewable energy by 2030 while creating more jobs and meeting federal carbon targets.
The Wind Energy Foundation’s “Powering Up Minnesota: A Report on The Benefits of Renewable Electricity Development” offers a scenario in which Minnesota could produce 6,884 megawatts (MW) of renewable electricity under a more aggressive high growth scenario.
The report noted Minnesota has long been a player in sustainability, with $11 billion having been invested from 2004 to 2013, according to a Department of Employment and Economic Development study.
On Tuesday, the Koch Industries subsidiary KCBX announced its plans to enclose the controversial piles of petcoke it has been storing on Chicago’s Southeast Side, releasing colorful drawings and an animated video — and saying it needs an extra 14 months beyond a city deadline to build the enclosure.
On Wednesday, the city’s public health commissioner sent KCBX president Dave Severson a scathing letter, denouncing the company for releasing the plans “via press release” without filing formal building plans or a variance request for an extension, under the city rules that require the enclosure be done by June 2016.
KCBX says there is no way the enclosure can be finished before late summer or fall 2017.
“Prior to your announcement, KCBX had applied for no permits and shared no formal plans or architectural drawings for this facility, despite the fact that the clock on your two-year timeline for building the facility started running more than six months ago,” said the December 17 letter from Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner Bechara Choucair.
A group of Midwestern regulators, environmentalists and utility representatives headed to Washington, D.C. this week to ask that states and utilities who have reduced their carbon emissions receive credit for their efforts under in the Clean Power Plan of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Convened over the past two years by the Great Plains Institute, the Midwestern Power Sector Collaborative calls for the EPA to consider crediting states and utilities for reducing carbon emissions and adding renewable energy prior to the Clean Power Plan’s implementation, said Franz Litz, program consultant.
“Essentially they’re looking for credits for things that are done not only between now and when the rule kicks in in 2020 but also prior to 2012,” he said, referring to the year the EPA will use as a baseline. “The idea is that you won’t get penalized for doing things early, and ideally you’d get some credit.”
KCBX paved roads to reduce pollution at its Chicago petcoke facility. (Photo by Kari Lydersen / Midwest Energy News)
The piles of petroleum coke, or petcoke, on Chicago’s Southeast Side that have created a furor over the past year and a half would become invisible under a plan that the Koch Industries subsidiary KCBX Terminals unveiled on Tuesday.
The piles would be enclosed in a roughly 10-story-high, 1,000-foot-long building. The rest of the company’s 82-acre footprint alongside the Calumet River would be planted with grass and trees, as shown in the company’s newly released renderings and 30-second animated video.
KCBX says the plan shows their commitment to remaining in Chicago, investing in a “state-of-the-art facility” and working to mollify local residents upset about pollution. Local opponents say the release of the enclosure plan is just a public relations move, given that the company doesn’t plan to complete it until more than a year after a city deadline.
Solar panels on a Colorado barn. (Photo by Les Stockton via Creative Commons)
On a farm in the middle of Iowa are two hog- confinement barns, identical in most every respect, and both belonging to the same farmer.
But when the owner decided to install solar panels, he put a 75 kilowatt system on one barn, and only 20 kilowatts on the other.
The reason for the difference in sizes? Solar installer Ben Ganje explains that the barn with the 75 kW system gets its power from Alliant Energy, a state-regulated utility that allows distributed generators on its system to carry over excess production indefinitely to use as a credit against future bills.
The barn with the 20 kW system, located nearby, is served by the Butler County Rural Electric Co-op, which is not subject to any state requirements or regulations when it comes to the treatment of customers with solar panels. So Butler County’s policy is this: customers may use solar panels to offset their electricity use, provided the production and consumption occur at the same time.
That doesn’t amount to very much electricity.
This chart from the redacted version of testimony submitted on behalf of the Sierra Club projects that customers would incur a cumulative loss (green line) for at least 10 years under Duke Energy’s proposed power purchase agreement plan.
As Ohio utilities seek to require the public to help pay for aging power plants, they are also fighting to keep data that could be used to evaluate those plans under wraps.
FirstEnergy, Duke Energy and American Electric Power have asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to guarantee sales for particular affiliated plants with plans critics characterize as “bailouts.”
At the same time, the utilities are citing confidentiality claims to prevent public disclosure of large amounts of cost data and projections related to the plans.
Nonetheless, redacted materials filed by the Sierra Club in the Duke Energy case show the utility’s plan would have a net cost to consumers, even after 10 years.
The testimony directly contradicts Duke Energy’s own claim that customers would benefit from its proposed plan in the long run.
An infrared image from an energy audit. (Photo by prc1333 via Creative Commons)
There’s at least one bipartisan piece of legislation moving through Michigan’s lame-duck session: A streamlined loan program for residential customers looking to install renewable energy or efficiency systems on their property.
The Municipal Utility Residential Clean Energy Program Act is modeled after the state’s Property Assessed Clean Energy financing law of 2010, bringing to homeowners a similar loan program that until now has only been available to commercial and industrial property owners.
However, the law would apply only to residential customers of municipal utilities — about 260,000 households, according to the Michigan Municipal Utility Association. The law would apply to residents in cities such as Lansing and Traverse City after local governing board approval.
“It gets down to the fact that energy efficiency is common sense: It reduces energy waste and saves money,” said Jack Schmitt, deputy director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “This legislation allows for and promotes greater opportunities for energy efficiency throughout Michigan.”
Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner visits the statehouse on Dec. 2. (AP Photo / Seth Perlman)
Following recent GOP election gains, efficiency advocates are taking a glass-half-full approach, emphasizing bipartisan support for efficiency mandates and missions, including among Republicans like Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner.
That was the message of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance in a teleconference on Wednesday analyzing the effect of the November elections for governor and state legislature in 13 states where Republicans were generally victorious.
But there is also uncertainty ahead in the energy efficiency landscape, namely in three states – all with Republican governors and legislative majorities – where rollbacks of energy efficiency mandates have occurred.
Gov. John Kasich was re-elected in Ohio, and Gov. Mike Pence is still in office in Indiana, up for re-election in 2016. In those states, majority Republican legislatures this year passed bills freezing and ending, respectively, the states’ mandates for increased energy efficiency.
Expectations are high today as Minnesota’s largest utility begins accepting applications for community solar projects at 9 a.m. today.
It’s anyone guess show many solar garden developers will submit on the first day of business for Xcel Energy‘s Solar Rewards Community program. Some developers have already marketed and sold out projects that have been not formally approved.
“We see high interest in this and we expect we’ll see a lot of applications but we don’t know what the pace will be,” said Laura McCarten, regional vice president. “One estimated guess is we could get 100 megawatts of applications, but we’ll see how it unfolds. Time will tell.”