(Photo by Chris H. via Creative Commons)
Hearings begin today on an Ohio bill that would cancel requirements for additional renewable energy and energy efficiency after 2014.
Senate Bill 310 would freeze Ohio’s renewable and alternative energy requirements at 2014 levels. Those levels are about one-tenth of the current law’s target of 25 percent by 2025.
Energy efficiency requirements would stay at the 2014 level of 4.2 percent. Current law calls for a 22 percent cumulative reduction in retail electricity sales by 2025. That’s about five times as much as the 2014 levels.
The bill, introduced last Friday by state Sen. Troy Balderson of Zanesville, would also set up a study committee, let larger electrical customers opt out of the law’s energy efficiency requirements, and require utility bills to have separate line items for the costs of energy efficiency and renewable energy compliance.
Introduction of SB 310 follows after vigorous opposition throughout the fall to Senate Bill 58. That bill, introduced by Cincinnati-area State Senator Bill Seitz, would have substantially weakened the energy efficiency and renewable energy standards, while nominally leaving their targets in place.
“If I had a preference, it would be for 58,” Seitz says. But, he adds, “We’re also trying to get something passed, so I’m comfortable with either approach.”
Workers pour concrete into a wind turbine base at Ohio Northern University in 2010. (Photo by Ken Colwell via Creative Commons)
New rankings from a market-based think tank give Ohio an average score for renewable energy. But advocates say the score doesn’t take into account more recent developments.
Last week, EnergyTrends.org released grades for states based on overall performance in renewable energy. Ohio got a C+.
The website’s scoring system gives points for installed capacity, growth in renewable energy, electric savings, and state incentive programs. It also considers evaluations from groups such as the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Ernst & Young, and SolarPowerRocks.com.
“The highest of the letter grades that were given was a B+,” notes Don Soifer, executive vice-president for the Lexington Institute, which runs the EnergyTrends.org website. Ohio’s grade was close to the middle.
Coal barges on the Ohio River. (Photo by Bill Alden via Creative Commons)
A case before the Ohio Supreme Court could leave the state’s ratepayers with no way to recover unreasonable utility overcharges.
American Electric Power-Ohio is challenging an order requiring it to credit customers for $35 million in excess coal costs. In another case just last month, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that AEP could keep $368 million in past overcharges.
AEP argues that both cases involved “retroactive ratemaking” — going back and changing utility rates after the fact.
The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) says both cases show how the current regulatory scheme favors utilities.
Oberlin College’s solar array was completed in 2012. (Photo by Kelly Ricks, used with permission)
Oberlin College wanted to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by producing solar energy, but it had no way to move the power from where it would be produced to where it could be used.
Meanwhile, the city of Oberlin’s electrical utility, with a network of power lines and a power portfolio already heavy on renewables, was also looking to further shrink its carbon footprint.
The two of them formed an unusual union, and spawned a mutually-beneficial offspring: a 2.27-megawatt solar array located on the college campus, and connected by the city utility’s distribution lines to the power grid.
What at first seemed an unlikely partnership now has yielded results well beyond expectations.
(Photo by Walter Grutchfield via Creative Commons)
Two economists who favor scaling back Ohio’s energy efficiency standard admit they did not consider all potential benefits in their recent reports criticizing the current law.
Last week, an industry group released two reports finding fault with an analysis that projects billions of dollars in costs and thousands of job losses if Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards are rolled back.
The new reports conclude that the costs of energy efficiency programs outweigh one benefit—lower wholesale energy prices. The reports’ authors acknowledge, however, that they did not calculate any other potential benefits.
The new reports are basically “nitpicking,” responds Joseph Fiksel. He heads The Ohio State University’s Center for Resilience, which did the modeling work last fall.
More importantly, supporters of the current law say, the reports don’t address basic problems in a pending bill that would scale back Ohio’s energy efficiency law.
“The Chicago metropolitan market is the largest untapped solar market in the U.S.,” according to a firm that specializes in networked energy storage modules. (Photo by Jennifer Wang via Creative Commons)
Cross-posted from Greentech Media with permission
By Katherine Tweed
When GTM Research recently looked at some of the most interesting state markets for distributed storage, Illinois did not make the top of the list.
But northern Illinois, which is the westernmost part of PJM territory, is exactly where Intelligent Generation is looking to make inroads with its behind-the-meter energy storage and software-as-a-service package.
“We are all about monetizing storage when it’s combined with solar,” said Jay Marhoefer, founder and CEO of Intelligent Generation. IG integrates client-owned storage assets with the grid to cut demand charges, as well as to provide frequency regulation or other services based on the owner’s needs.
If a grocery store in Ohio is talking to a solar developer, the store owner may find that the payback is simply too long, explained Marhoefer. A solar developer partner will then call IG, which will run analytics to size a solar system integrated with storage to serve the load so that it has a more attractive payback.
(Photo by Damian Gadal via Creative Commons)
In deregulated Midwestern states, many residential customers and whole towns and cities – through municipal aggregation – are now able to choose an electricity supplier other than their utility.
Shopping around for an alternative natural gas supplier, however, is much less common, and many customers likely don’t know they have the option to switch gas suppliers even years after deregulation laws made it possible.
Alternative gas suppliers and energy marketplace companies – like ChooseEnergy, which launched its residential natural gas switching services in Illinois and Ohio recently – say that consumers can save money by shopping around for a gas plan.
Some consumer advocates and energy experts, meanwhile, say that differences between the gas and electricity sectors mean that customers have much less to gain by switching to an alternative gas supplier. In fact an analysis by the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) in Illinois shows that a great majority – 88 percent – of customers have actually lost money by switching natural gas plans.
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Solar installers, manufacturers, and suppliers added employees in the Midwest last year at a rate more than double the national average.
The solar industry now directly employs an estimated 17,044 people in the Midwest, according to the latest State Solar Jobs Census, released Tuesday by The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit research group. That’s a 51 percent increase from the 11,300 jobs it counted in the region in 2012.
Nationally, the number of solar jobs grew by almost 20 percent to an estimated 142,698, nearly half of which are located in Arizona, California, Massachusetts or New Jersey.
The foundation also took a more in-depth look at Minnesota’s solar industry so that it will have a baseline for evaluating the impact of that state’s recently passed solar policy, including a 1.5 percent solar mandate.
Installers say farms like this one in central Minnesota make ideal locations for solar arrays. (Photo by CERTs via Creative Commons)
Solar installations have been taking off in many areas of the Midwest, but perhaps nowhere more so than in farm country.
“It’s a huge buzz now throughout the agriculture industry,” said Todd Miller, sales director for CB Solar in Ankeny, Iowa.
In Washington County, Iowa, for example, farmers with access to an unusual and lucrative combination of federal, state and utility incentives were anticipating payback periods of as little as two years, according to Ed Raber, director of the county’s economic development corporation.
Consequently, he said, “There are more solar panels in Washington County than in any other county in Iowa.”
This mobile biofuel refinery solves supply chain problems by traveling directly to where feedstock can be obtained. (Photo courtesy Battelle)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Amanda Peterka
Companies aspiring to produce next-generation biofuels struggle to get raw material to production plants.
Collecting biomass — crop residues, tree trimmings and grasses — requires a sprawling rural network of landowners, truckers and storage facilities, a complicated and expensive proposition.
So research-and-development nonprofit Battelle Memorial Institute is trying to take the production plant to the biomass field on the back of an 18-wheel tractor-trailer.