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.
(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.”
A bill before Indiana Governor Mike Pence could end a state efficiency program that has led to significant energy savings in the past two years.
Clean energy and environmental groups, along with some major companies, are pleading with Pence to veto the bill, saying it would mean higher energy bills and jobs lost as demand drops for products from light bulbs to efficient appliances.
Advocates say the state’s efficiency program, Energizing Indiana, is a “win-win-win situation” for companies, consumers and the environment. The program was created by a December 2009 order from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and was implemented in 2012.
The bill passed by lawmakers this year actually started as a much narrower provision that would have allowed large industrial users to opt out of the energy efficiency program. Large manufacturers like steel mills have paid millions of dollars to support the efficiency program, while typical households are paying an extra $2 or $3 a month.
Missouri state Rep. T.J. Berry represents a district just outside Kansas City. (Courtesy photo)
A Republican from an exurban district in the red state of Missouri, Rep. T.J. Berry is also a self-described “green champion.”
Berry, who represents an area just outside Kansas City where cul-de-sacs give way to farm fields, is known as the leading advocate for renewable energy in the Missouri House of Representatives. This session, he’s introduced three bills which would advance solar energy.
Last year, the Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association formally celebrated Berry for his support of solar power.
However, Rep. Berry hasn’t always been such a friend to solar in particular, nor to renewables in general.
(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.
Wind turbines in Butler County, Kansas. (Photo by Brent Danley via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
In Kansas, home of sprawling wind farms and the Koch brothers, conservative groups and renewable energy advocates are girding for a battle over the state’s green power law — a fight with broad political implications that’s drawing interest from far outside the state’s borders.
Kansas was the last among 30 states to put a renewable standard into law — one that requires utilities to step up their use of renewable resources for electric generation to 20 percent by 2020. Now opponents seek to be the first to win a repeal of a clean energy mandate.
The legislative tussle began two years ago in Kansas and is set to intensify this spring after the state Chamber of Commerce, led by a former Kansas House speaker, made a rollback of the renewable energy standard one of its legislative priorities.
Chuck Bushman’s chicken barn near Castalia, Iowa, has 360 solar panels. (Photo via ELPC)
©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Amanda Peterka
Chuck Bushman Farm flipped the switch earlier this year on 360 solar panels spread across its chicken barn in Castalia, Iowa.
Each panel is capable of generating 240 watts of power for the supplier of organic milk and chickens. Some days, the solar panels are able to produce more power than what is needed, and the farm banks it for when the demand for electricity exceeds what the panels provide. The farm also has smart meters for the chicken coop and the rest of its buildings to monitor where electricity demand is highest.
The Department of Agriculture provided the funding for the project through its Rural Energy for America Program, whose mission is to help farmers and ranchers install renewable energy technologies and improve energy efficiency. Since its creation in 2002, the program has given rural landowners grants and loans for about 7,000 projects in all 50 states.
Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, seen in this 2011 file photo, has tried for several years to weaken the state’s renewable energy laws. (Associated Press)
An Ohio lawmaker’s latest attempt to weaken the state’s energy laws is a “giveaway” for utilities that flies in the face of consumer and business interests, say critics.
The legislation, Substitute Senate Bill 58, is less ambitious than earlier attempts to repeal energy efficiency and renewable energy benchmarks set five years ago. The bill leaves those targets intact, but would eliminate an in-state requirement for renewable energy purchases and loosen efficiency rules for utilities.
Current law says 25 percent of Ohio’s electricity must come from renewable and alternative energy by 2025. Existing law also calls for a 22 percent cut in retail electricity sales by 2025.
At a hearing last week, sponsor Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati-area Republican, stressed that the bill keeps the mandates, “even though I would have preferred repealing them outright if left to my own choices.”
However, utilities will have to do less under the new bill.
“The meat and potatoes of this thing makes those benchmarks irrelevant,” says Dan Sawmiller of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal program. “That’s on both the energy efficiency side and on the renewable energy side.”
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.
The Liberty mural inside the Wisconsin state capitol in Madison. (Photo by JonU235 via Creative Commons)
A group of conservative Tea Party activists in Atlanta turned heads this summer when they announced a partnership with the local Sierra Club chapter to help pressure Georgia’s largest electric utility to boost its investment in solar power.
Six weeks later, solar power picked up another unexpected supporter in Wisconsin, where on Aug. 20 the state’s Libertarian Party endorsed a clean energy group’s proposal to let customers lease solar panels and other small renewable generators.
“Most of us don’t trust the environmental movement because they’ve cried wolf forever and ever. There are all kinds of philosophical disagreements, but at the end of the day this was pretty much a no-brainer,” said Paul Ehlers, state party chair.