Jeff Deyette is a senior energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Cross-posted from The Equation
By Jeff Deyette
Members of the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee heard testimony this week on two bills that would roll back Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Backed by fossil-fuel funded special interest groups and their political allies, these proposals would undermine Ohio’s emerging clean energy industries and make the state even more dependent on coal and natural gas.
It is no coincidence that the primary sponsors of these bills are both members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Last year, the Washington Post, UCS, and others exposed ALEC’s scheme to deploy model legislation written by the Heartland Institute, and backed by deeply flawed and soundly refuted analyses from the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, that would repeal renewable electricity standards (RES) now in place in 29 states.
ALEC, the Heartland Institute, and the Beacon Hill Institute all come to the table with dubious records of spreading disinformation to sow doubt about the scientific evidence on climate change and the consequences of tobacco use. Each has received funding from fossil fuel and tobacco interests.
So far, their campaign to roll back RES policies across the country has failed. Policymakers in states like Kansas and North Carolina exhibited sound judgment in rejecting the disinformation and repeal attempts. Likewise, Ohioans should be skeptical of claims about the Buckeye State’s clean energy policies coming from these groups, and the politicians who repeat them.
Will Reynolds is an environmental advocate from Springfield, Illinois.
By Will Reynolds
Governor Pat Quinn recently spoke at the annual dinner of the Illinois Environmental Council held in Chicago, where he was applauded as a longtime ally. His record as Governor reflects his commitment to clean energy and the environment. At least when he’s in Chicago.
When Quinn travels south, the tree-hugging Dr. Jekyll transforms into a dirty energy Mr. Hyde on issue after issue.
Environmentalists celebrated when Quinn vetoed a bill to provide rate increases for a coal-to-gas plant Leucadia Corp proposed in a heavily polluted area of southeastern Chicago.
But for southern Illinois, Quinn signed a bill to subsidize a similar coal-to-gas plant proposed near Mt. Vernon. When signing the bill Quinn claimed, “This important project will help revive the coal industry in southern Illinois.” The project eventually failed after plunging natural gas prices made it difficult for the company to find investors.
After taking opposite positions for the northern and southern ends of the state, what happened when a company asked for a mandatory rate increase to subsidize yet another coal gasification plant proposed in the central Illinois town of Taylorville? Quinn stayed publicly neutral.
Allison Clements is a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
As the Senate considers confirming Ron Binz as the next chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), rhetoric is heating up and putting the independent regulatory agency in a place it is uncharacteristically but increasingly finding itself these days – the spotlight.
In recent weeks, a few special interests have attempted to paint Binz, and FERC itself, as ploys in furthering the president’s “anti-coal” agenda. But the anti-coal charge doesn’t work when you think through the (still relatively unknown) role that FERC actually plays in energy regulation.
What is it FERC does, exactly?
FERC has several different jobs, none of which allow for favoring particular types of power generation over others. In addition to its authority over gas pipeline permitting and hydroelectric facility licensing, the Commission is charged with ensuring transmission grid reliability, protecting consumers from unreasonable costs, and creating a level playing field for all types of resources that provide transmission or generation services. Richard Caperton at Center for American Progress recently described some of these roles in a great blog post.
By Tom Sanzillo and David Schlissel
Peabody Energy, the nation’s largest coal company, promised 217 municipalities and 17 electric membership cooperatives in the Midwest a source of low-cost, stable electricity in return for bearing the financial risk of building the Prairie State coal-fired power plant. The plant, in Southern Illinois fully connected to the grid less than a year ago.
Construction costs came in at least one at least one billion dollars over budget. Struggling Midwestern communities are now being hit with high costs, which have to be passed along to residents and small businesses or absorbed by strapped city budgets. If cities start to run out of money, defaults on the $5 billion of bonds issued for the plant may well occur.
Last week, we conducted a formal survey of our readers just to check in and see how we’re doing. And by and large, you all seem to be pretty happy with Midwest Energy News. We’re grateful for that feedback.
The full results can be found here, below is a summary that hits the high points.
A solar powered electric car charging station at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. (Photo by ANL via Creative Commons)
Cross-posted from NRDC Switchboard with permission
By Max Baumhefner and Cecilia Springer
Uncovering a fraud is uniquely satisfying, which is perhaps why news outlets continue to provide electric car deniers with a platform to proclaim they aren’t as green as they appear. But close examination reveals the latest round of skeptics to be lacking in substance.
Numerous peer-reviewed articles have reached the same conclusion — from cradle to grave, electric cars are the cleanest vehicles on the road today. And unlike cars that rely on oil, the production of which is only getting dirtier over time, the environmental benefits of electric cars will continue to improve as old coal plants are replaced with cleaner sources and manufacturing becomes more efficient as it scales up to meet growing consumer demand.
Michael Vickerman is program and policy director of RENEW Wisconsin.
Once dismissed by electric utilities as a boutique energy resource, solar power has become the go-to renewable resource for a wide variety of electricity customers.
From data centers to department stores, from airports to auto dealerships, more and more customers around the country are tapping into this clean and quiet energy source that shines on their rooftops every day.
Nationally, solar energy’s growth has been nothing short of phenomenal. In the first quarter of 2013, solar energy accounted for nearly half (49 percent) of the new generating capacity built, elbowing out wind and natural gas as the fastest growing energy source in the United States.
Declining installation costs coupled with easier access to third-party owned systems account for solar’s rapid advancement, especially in the residential sector.
Even utilities in select states have begun diversifying their resource mix with large solar arrays.
For-profit businesses and homeowners in all 50 states can take advantage of the 30 percent federal investment tax credit in place through 2016. However, not all 50 states have flourishing solar markets. This is true even in states where electric rates are high enough to tempt homeowners and businesses to supply themselves with energy from the sun.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin happens to be one of those states with a languishing solar market, though it wasn’t always that way.
(Photo by Duke Energy via Creative Commons)
By Adam James
I have a confession to make. I am one of those folks who consistently write on wonky energy things without ever taking the time to write out simple explanations of the basic concepts or why they matter.
So, this piece will give a brief description of what electricity capacity markets are and how they work.
Todd Foley is the Senior VP of Policy and Government Relations for the American Council On Renewable Energy, based in Washington D.C.
By Todd Foley
The American entrepreneurial spirit is an incredibly strong force in the domestic and global marketplace. And when markets allow businesses – small and large – to compete, grow, and innovate on an equal and fair playing field, all Americans benefit.
Since 1987, many conventional energy sources have taken advantage of Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs), a business structure that is traded like a corporate stock but is taxed as a partnership, avoiding double taxation. However, renewables have been excluded from utilizing the MLP market that exceeds $400 billion in capital investments.
It’s time to allow renewable energy access to this important market tool, which has spurred tremendous investment in the nation’s energy infrastructure.
It is true there is a serious need for renewable energy policies at the federal and state levels that create long-term market certainty, boost distributed generation, and spur the growth of all renewables. The existing tax credits and CLEAN contracts, or feed-in tariffs, have been successful and remain vitally important. But that hardly means MLPs are a “lousy policy for renewables,” as John Farrell wrote in a May 31 commentary published on Midwest Energy News.
John Farrell directs the Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Cross-posted from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance
By John Farrell
If you follow the renewable energy industry and haven’t been sleeping, then you’ve probably heard about one of the few pieces of federal legislation purported to help clean energy that’s actually moving: expanding Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) to cover wind and solar energy. (H.R.1696)
This is not a good thing.
MLPs originated in 1986, when Congress decided that to allow certain businesses (oil and gas pipelines) to avoid paying corporate income tax. These partnerships function a lot like publicly traded corporations, with publicly traded stock, but don’t pay income taxes.
Most folks who’ve touted expanding MLPs to include renewable energy projects see this move as “leveling the playing field.” And it will, allowing big energy corporations to avoid paying taxes on their renewable energy projects just like they do for pipelines.
But that’s not the worst. Several years after the MLP was created, the federal agency responsible for setting the prices to use these oil and gas pipelines (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) allowed the not-paying-corporate-income-tax companies to charge rates for access as though they DID pay the corporate income tax. Including this phantom tax payment in rates amounted to a 75% increase in after-tax profits for pipeline companies.
This policy wasn’t even set in a public forum (such as a docket with public hearings), but through a shadow “policy statement” released after private meetings with the oil and gas industry (and after a federal judge had previously struck down the absurd notion that users of pipelines should have to pay phantom taxes).