(Photo by Paul Weimer via Creative Commons)
Several energy-related proposals in Minnesota face tough odds as they navigate a politically split legislature.
The bills that have risen to the top include an aggressive move to push for high renewable energy standard and a bill intended to clip state agency oversight of Environmental Protection Agency carbon rules.
It’s anyone’s guess at this point what the fate of proposed laws because of the political alignment of the legislature — a Republican House, a Democratic Senate, a Democratic governor. There are no slam dunks for bills from the right or left.
Legislative insiders say that not all the energy-related proposals have been submitted, but several significant proposals are already generating attention.
A Minnesota faith group will announce today an effort to make community solar more accessible to people with lower incomes.
Julia Nerbonne, executive director of Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, said that early discussions with solar garden developers in the Twin Cities revealed that they will be targeting potential customers with credit scores of 700 or above.
That would leave a substantial portion of the population without access to solar garden subscriptions due to modest to low incomes or past credit problems.
“That’s alarming and people are not talking about it,” she said. “It’s probably less than half the people in country who have a score that high.”
Engineers say an emergency cutoff switch is a redundant feature on inverter-equipped solar arrays. (Photo by mjmonty)
An Iowa bill requiring a safety feature that some engineers say is unnecessary has critics questioning whether the legislation is an attempt to stifle distributed generation.
The legislation, SF 406, would require customer-generators to install an external disconnection device. The device itself would add a few hundred dollars or more to the cost of a solar array or other system, but the bill also would impose daily fines of between $1,000 and $5,000 for any energy generator without one.
The requirement would apply to existing systems as well as new ones, according to state Sen. Tony Bisignano, who introduced the legislation.
Clean-energy advocates in the state have been focused on defeating the bill, which they see as an effort to discourage rooftop solar installations, in particular, by piling on an additional – and needless – cost.
“This is something that’s coming from the utility behemoths through the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers),” said Barry Shear, the president and owner of Eagle Point Solar in Dubuque. “They’re the ones pushing this.”
A proposal from FirstEnergy would guarantee income for the Davis-Besse nuclear plant and other facilities. (Photo by AlienCG via Creative Commons)
As FirstEnergy awaits a decision on its proposed electric security plan after a similar proposal from American Electric Power (AEP) was rejected by regulators last month, broader themes about Ohio’s energy future are emerging in the debate.
The plan recommended by FirstEnergy would have Ohio electricity consumers pay for operating costs of what critics deem two inefficient power plants; the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo and the W.H. Sammis coal-fired plant FirstEnergy operates on the Ohio River. An evidentiary hearing on the FirstEnergy proposal is scheduled to be held at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) offices on April 13.
The PUCO ruled last month that AEP’s similar proposal failed to promote rate stability or overwhelmingly prove that it was in the public interest. Opponents of FirstEnergy’s plan, who have characterized the proposals as “bailouts,” believe it should meet a similar fate.
(Photo by John’s Photography via Creative Commons)
Legislation in Minnesota that would help propel greater development of advanced biofuels has met with opposition from clean-water advocates who fear it may result in more pollution of state watersheds.
The bills, HB 536 and SB 517 were crafted by the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota and call for a two-year, $5 million allocation for a production incentive awarded to producers, as well as a capital loan equipment program.
“The beauty of a production incentive as opposed to providing money upfront is it really protects the taxpayer,” said Brendan Jordan, a vice president at the Great Plains Institute who oversees the Bioeconomy Coalition. “If you give money upfront there’s a risk you lose your money and don’t get a project. With a production incentive you already have the economic benefits before the state starts spending any money.”
But the Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP) and Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) say the legislation offers a rare opportunity to build a new industry while significantly improving water quality through the planting of more perennial crops, which are less dependent on fertilizer than corn. Nitrogen from fertilizer is a major source of pollution in the Mississippi River and other watersheds.
This former GM plant site in Lansing, shown here in 2006, is among the locations being considered for a 20 MW solar array by the city’s utility. (Photo by Keith Kris via Creative Commons)
Developers and Michigan’s largest municipally owned utility could nearly double the state’s solar energy portfolio by partnering in what would decidedly be the largest single solar project here.
An official with the Lansing Board of Water and Light confirmed with Midwest Energy News Wednesday that the utility has selected a developer for a 20 MW solar project.
The original request for proposals, which was sent out last summer and attracted more than a dozen responses, was for a 5 MW project. The state’s largest solar projects operating or under development are less than 1.5 MW, while roughly 23 MW of commercial-scale solar statewide is tracked by the Michigan Public Service Commission.
Solar currently makes up roughly 1 percent of Michigan’s 2,300 MW renewable energy portfolio, according to the PSC.
(Photo by Michael Kappel via Creative Commons)
Two months after his inauguration, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has made national headlines for his aggressive efforts to get the state’s budget crisis under control.
Energy and related environment issues have so far taken a back seat, but experts and advocates are watching closely for signs of what the new Republican gubernatorial administration will mean on that front.
Rauner’s draft budget released in February raised serious concerns that money for state energy efficiency and renewable energy projects will be cut and swept into the state’s general fund, as Midwest Energy News reported.
Rauner’s transition report released in January expressed support for a diverse energy mix including renewables, natural gas from hydraulic fracturing (fracking), nuclear and also “clean” coal. It specifically pledged support for energy efficiency, though the draft budget has cast doubts on that commitment.
Workers pose at a Wyoming wind farm in 2009; the turbine blades were manufactured by Siemens in Fort Madison, Iowa. (Photo by Duke Energy via Creative Commons)
Wind and solar energy support about 30,000 jobs at about a thousand companies in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, according to a series of reports released by the Environmental Law & Policy Center over the past two weeks.
The reports show the jobs created not only by the manufacture of wind turbine components, the building of wind farms and the installation of solar panels, but also in related businesses from banking to making cables and glass.
“We continue to be impressed by the robustness and the diversity of these jobs,” said ELPC executive director Howard Learner. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all. There are headquarters and manufacturing and construction jobs, retrofitting jobs, legal and insurance jobs, design and engineering, it’s really a diverse mix of skills for all types of companies.”
Critics are raising conflict-of-interest questions about a report warning about reliability risks from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan.
The November 2014 report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) claims that putting the EPA’s plan into action could cause instability in the nation’s electric grid, increasing the risks for blackouts.
Officials in Ohio and Indiana, along with coal industry groups, have cited the NERC report in voicing opposition to the Clean Power Plan.
Now the Energy and Policy Institute has alleged there were potential conflicts of interest for Energy Ventures Analysis (EVA), a consultant with ties to a coal technology company that worked on the NERC report.
©2015 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Ellen M. Gilmer and Mike Lee
Almost three weeks after Ohio’s top court struck down a town’s restrictive drilling ordinances, lawyers and local officials are predicting another round of court cases to settle how much control local governments have over oil and gas development.
The state Supreme Court ruled that the Akron-area town of Munroe Falls could not require Beck Energy Corp. to get separate drilling permits, finding that only the state can issue drilling permits. But it left open whether cities can use zoning to control where drilling happens, and whether the outright drilling bans in some towns can continue to stand.
In the weeks following the highly anticipated decision, attorneys have rushed to interpret how and when that issue will be decided. Will Ohio follow in the footsteps of New York and Pennsylvania, which have preserved some local powers over drilling; follow Colorado and Texas, which have taken a harder line; or chart a new path?