(Photo by Rob Rudloff via Creative Commons)
On its surface, Minnesota’s new value of solar law appears to contain a major loophole.
The law creates a methodology for utilities to calculate a rate for customer-generated solar power, based on avoided infrastructure, pollution and other costs.
However, the value of solar rate is voluntary. Utilities have the option of paying the new rate or continuing with the existing net metering policy, which compensates customers with small arrays at the retail rate.
The issue — whether customers or utilities should make that choice — was a bone of contention during the extensive stakeholder process to develop the policy, and remains so today.
In testimony to the Public Utilities Commission, Xcel Energy, Minnesota’s largest utility, estimated a value of solar rate of 14.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Meanwhile, Xcel’s residential retail rate is 11.5 cents per kilowatt hour.
So if the value of solar rate is higher than the retail rate, would utilities actually adopt it?
The answer, most likely, is yes, according to a new analysis released today by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Map via Enbridge (click for larger version)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. moved a step closer to being able to move ahead with an $800 million oil pipeline in Illinois — a project initially proposed almost eight years ago.
An administrative law judge on Thursday recommended that Enbridge be granted authority to use eminent domain to acquire easements across 127 tracts of land. The final decision will ultimately be made by the Illinois Commerce Commission.
The Southern Access Extension pipeline would cross eight counties and 165 miles directly south from the company’s Flanagan oil terminal at Pontiac, Illinois, to an oil terminal and pipeline hub at Patoka.
The 24-inch-diameter line is just one piece of a much broader strategy by Enbridge to expand its network of North American oil pipelines, and the Southern Access Extension, itself, has evolved since it was proposed.
Connie Bonniwell of Robbinsdale, Minnesota holds a protest sign during a 2013 Public Utilities Commission meeting on an Enbridge pipeline expansion. (AP Photo / Star Tribune / David Joles)
Marty Cobenais has been to every state along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route, organizing resistance to the project from Montana to Texas.
He’s been arrested twice for civil disobedience during Keystone XL protests in front of the White House.
Now, the Bemidji man believes it’s time for pipeline activists around the country to turn their attention to his own backyard in northern Minnesota.
A trio of major pipeline projects proposed by Canadian fuel transporter Enbridge have been moving forward in Minnesota, mostly below the national radar.
“We need the national attention in Minnesota,” Cobenais said. Minnesota has sent busloads of protestors to Nebraska and Washington, D.C., he said. Now, “they should be here with us, too.”
This chart from ACEEE shows energy efficiency costs relative to new generation. (Click to enlarge)
Energy efficiency remains far cheaper – especially in the Midwest – than investing in additional generation.
That’s the case even in states where a long history of energy-efficiency has pushed up the cost of squeezing out additional savings.
Those are among the findings of two recently-published studies, one by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), the other by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
Together, the studies send “a signal to keep going” with more ambitious energy-efficiency efforts, said Rebecca Stanfield, a deputy director for policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
(Photo by PXLated via Creative Commons)
A legislative reform moving ahead in Minnesota aims to better position the state to become a wind energy exporter.
Minnesota has long been a wind energy leader. The state has nearly 3,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity, ranking it seventh in the nation.
Almost all of it’s been built for Minnesota customers. The state exports relatively little wind energy compared to neighboring Iowa or North Dakota.
It’s not for lack of resources. Minnesota has enough land and wind to conceivably generate nearly 500,000 megawatts of wind power.
“We have more [potential] wind energy in the state than we can develop ourselves, and we should use that resource,” said Ben Gerber, energy policy manager for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. “If we didn’t develop this it would be like North Dakota only developing the oil they needed in their state to meet their own needs.”
Over the last several months, Gerber worked with the wind industry and environmental groups to identify and target a potential regulatory barrier that may be deterring developers from trying to sell Minnesota wind energy into other states.
A wind turbine near Alma, Michigan. (Photo by Corey Seeman via Creative Commons)
With Michigan’s renewable energy standard set to expire at the end of 2015, and a high-profile fight over the standard in 2012 still fresh in many minds, debate has swirled about the costs and benefits of renewing or strengthening the law.
Amid the discussion, a recent study finds that Michigan could more than triple its renewable energy resources by 2030, with virtually no extra cost to consumers
Michigan’s current Renewable Energy Standard (RES) – created by a 2008 law – is among the least ambitious in the country. It requires just 10 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2015.
That compares to Illinois and Minnesota standards that call for 25 percent by 2025; a number of states calling for 20 percent by 2020; and on the high end, a New York standard of 29 percent by 2015 and California’s 33 percent by 2020.
Increasing Michigan’s standard to more than 30 percent is not only feasible, according to the March 12 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, but would result in only a 0.3 percent increase for ratepayers over 15 years.
The myPower device uses motion from walking to charge a smartphone or other device. (courtesy photo)
Part four of a four-part series
On April 3, startup companies will duke it out during the Clean Energy Challenge for $500,000 in prize money and the chance to attract new investors and partners. Here is the last of Midwest Energy News‘ series of profiles of four finalists.
Running with myPower
It’s a common dilemma for young urban professionals and students: they’re on the move all day, and constantly on their smartphones. As evening sets in, their active work life shifts to an active social life. But that’s often right when those omnipresent phones run out of battery power, cutting them off from friends and updates.
Chicago entrepreneur Tejas Shastry and his colleagues say they have a solution in myPower: a sleek, wearable device that harnesses kinetic energy from a workout or simply a busy day of dashing around, providing enough energy to charge a smart phone for up to five hours.
(Photo by Jody McIntyre via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing LLC
Republished with permission
By Evan Lehmann
The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based libertarian group, is raising its rhetoric a notch by claiming that rising greenhouse gas levels will actually help the world more than harm it.
The group points to increased plant and forest growth, bigger crop yields and longer growing seasons as benefits derived from rising concentrations of carbon dioxide. The assertions are made in a 150-page report that reviews studies, some going back to the 1980s, that Heartland officials say are purposely ignored by scientists contributing to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Altogether, Heartland says, the economic and scientific benefits of a warming world “greatly exceed any plausible estimate of its costs.”
Equare says its waste-to-energy technology can convert cattle manure and other sources into energy with zero emissions. (Photo by NDSU Ag Communications via Creative Commons)
Part three of a four-part series
On April 3, startup companies will duke it out during the Clean Energy Challenge for $500,000 in prize money and the chance to attract new investors and partners. Here is the third of Midwest Energy News‘ series of profiles of four finalists.
Nothing wasted with Equares: Early stage company
Equares Energy Company turns one of the most noxious and despised types of waste – manure from concentrated animal operations like dairies and feedlots – into power, without producing any emissions.
A contraption called the CleanStream Reformer 140 heats waste to a point that it breaks down into hydrogen-rich syngas, which is then fed into a fuel cell that makes electricity in a non-combustion process.
The heat from the process can also be harnessed for onsite use, such as drying grain or warming an incubator for baby animals.
Part two of a four part series.
On April 3, startup companies will duke it out during the Clean Energy Challenge for $500,000 in prize money and the chance to attract new investors and partners. Here is the second of Midwest Energy News‘ series of profiles of four finalists.
Saved by MeterHero
A few years ago, Milwaukee resident McGee Young realized that even as a college professor with advanced degrees, he could not read his water bill. His usage was listed in cubic feet – “you could not get a worse way to communicate that to a regular person.”
This sparked Young about two years ago to develop a product, H2Oscore, that gives people real-time, accessible information about their water use and how it compares to other local homes. About three quarters of people who used the program reduced their water usage, Young’s team found.
“It’s getting more and more important from an ecological and pocketbook perspective to manage our water more effectively,” Young said. “For us that started with better information.”