Great River Energy’s headquarters northwest of Minneapolis has a solar array and wind turbine, but the co-op remains more coal-dependent than other utilities. (Photo courtesy Great River Energy)
More than a year after being criticized by state regulators for being too coal-dependent, a Minnesota energy provider is taking another run at planning for a lower-carbon future.
In July 2013 the five-member Minnesota Public Utilities Commission took the unprecedented move of rejecting a long-range integrated resource plan submitted by Great River Energy due to its reliance on coal-fired energy generation.
The 3-2 vote led GRE to formulate some new strategies in a second version of the resource plan — that details energy consumption and generation for the next 15 years — that was submitted last October. The new plan calls for faster depreciation of two coal-fired plants, an end to a contract with an aging Wisconsin coal-based facility, increased conservation measures and more renewable energy.
“We looked carefully at the language of the order, and we think the commission will find it very acceptable this year,” said David Saggau, chief executive officer and president. “This is a plan our members feel comfortable with and they like the balance we’re striking. They’re very realistic about the transition that’s occurring in our industry and they like the steps that we are taking to address future resource needs.”
Ellen Anderson speaks at the 2008 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference. (Photo ©BlueGreen Alliance, used with permission)
Ellen Anderson has served many roles in the past, all with a major focus on energy. As a Minnesota state legislator for 18 years she helped crafted the state’s renewable energy standard and community-based energy development legislation.
She also spent around a year as a regulator heading up the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission until the Legislature failed to confirm her.
Earlier this year Anderson’s career took a new turn when she became executive director of The Energy Transition Lab at the University of Minnesota.
The lab will bring together the University’s deep strength across many disciplines related to energy — from policy to science — to create tools that communities around the nation and the world can deploy to strategies for reducing carbon, improving efficiency and increasing renewables.
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.”
Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell speaks at a benefit in 2009. (Photo by Steven Depolo via Creative Commons)
Grand Rapids, Michigan Mayor George Heartwell is counting down the days until he has to leave office: “419 days, seven hours and 20 minutes,” he smiled at the end of an interview last week.
But it’s not for a desire to leave — in a local election this month, voters approved term limits for citywide elected officials, leaving Heartwell as a lame duck in 2015. He will have served 12 years on the job.
Heartwell, 65, sat down with Midwest Energy News to talk about his time in the mayor’s office, a part-time job in a weak-mayor system that gives most policy control to a board of commissioners.
Yet Heartwell has elevated the city as a model for sustainability, renewable energy and energy efficiency. It includes an aggressive 100-percent renewable energy goal by 2020 (it’s at 25 percent now) and an entire city lighting system comprised of LEDs.
During his time in office, the United Nations recognized the city as a “Regional Center of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development” (one of two in the U.S.) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce named it the most sustainable city in the country in 2010.
(Photo by Michael Leland via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
States within the Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s footprint could save billions of dollars complying with U.S. EPA’s proposed carbon rules for existing power plants by banding together and applying strategies beyond the four “building blocks” put forward by the federal agency, according to an analysis by the grid operator.
The analysis was conducted by the Carmel, Indiana-based regional transmission operator to help members prepare comments to submit to EPA. Results were presented to the grid operator’s Planning Advisory Committee on Wednesday. MISO hasn’t decided yet if it will submit formal comments by the deadline, which was extended until Dec. 1, said Brian Rybarik, MISO’s interregional director of external affairs.
(image via C2ES, click to go to original version)
Compared to other regions of the country, the upper Midwest is one of the pacesetters nationwide for reducing energy use.
As a result, according to new calculations, the states clustered around the Great Lakes will be relatively well-positioned to meet the carbon standards now being developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state governments.
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions recently published a map with calculations of how much each state reduced its electricity use in 2012 as a result of efficiency measures, and how that stacks up against the efficiency goal proposed as part of the EPA’s developing new limits on emissions of carbon dioxide.
[Story updated 3:02 p.m. with PUC decision]
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously today to further study whether to adopt the Environmental Protection Agency’s social cost of carbon calculation.
The state’s Department of Commerce and Pollution Control Agency have both supported adopting the federal carbon price. Currently, the PUC uses carbon cost numbers established in 1997, years prior to new research that suggests the impact of carbon is much greater than previously thought, said J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director for Fresh Energy, the St. Paul nonprofit where Midwest Energy News is based.
However, commissioners raised concerns about adopting a metric from an outside agency without further deliberation. Today’s vote means the issue will go to the Office of Administrative Hearings to be argued before a judge.
The Cincinnati Zoo solar array. Photo by Kathiann M. Kowalski
A giant solar panel canopy is exceeding expectations by cutting electricity costs for the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. At the same time, 1.5 million visitors each year get an up-close look at clean energy.
The 6,400-panel solar array covers most of the zoo’s Vine Street parking lot. At peak operation, it supplies roughly 20 percent of the Ohio zoo’s electricity. As a bonus, the array shades visitors’ cars on hot summer days.
“It’s been everything we wanted and more,” said Mark Fisher, Vice President for Facilities, Planning and Sustainability at the Zoo.
(Photo by eXtension Farm Energy via Creative Commons)
A policymaking storm is brewing in Michigan as state officials and lawmakers simultaneously devise a plan to comply with proposed federal carbon rules and also revisit the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard that expires next year.
It appears regulatory officials and lawmakers are attacking the two issues separately — the Department of Environmental Quality recently appointed an official to lead the process of complying with President Obama’s rules; meanwhile, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Technology Committee has a task force studying a new RPS.
Somewhere in the middle will likely be a debate over ramping up renewable energy production and considering other non-renewable power sources to lower emissions. Michigan may have the added benefit of tackling the two issues at the same time, as each process could inform the other.
Bob Inglis. (Photo by Canada 2020 via Creative Commons)
Former South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis served two six-year stints in the House of Representatives, with a spell doing real estate law in between.
As Congress was considering the Waxman-Markey bill that would have instituted a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions, Inglis proposed an alternate approach – a “revenue-neutral” tax on carbon that would be paired with cuts in other taxes.
His acknowledgement of climate change and other moderate positions alienated him from Tea Party-aligned factions, and he lost in the 2010 Republican primary. In 2011 he spent a semester as a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, and launched the Energy & Enterprise Initiative (E&EI), a non-profit organization based at George Mason University aimed at promoting his carbon plan.
During a recent Chicago visit, Inglis talked with Midwest Energy News.