Members of the Pimicikamak Okimawin Nation protest a Manitoba Hydro dam in 2007. AP Photo / Canadian Press, John Woods (click to enlarge)
Two representatives of a Manitoba tribe spoke to Minnesota lawmakers this week in opposition to proposed legislation allowing utilities to count new hydropower projects toward meeting their renewable energy goals.
The Minnesota Legislature is deadlocked this week as a Monday deadline looms. Energy issues so far have taken a back seat to discussion over transportation, education, health care and the budget.
Currently, Minnesota does not allow utilities to count hydropower projects of more than 100 megawatts in renewable energy standards’ calculations.
Although the state has seen little hydropower built in recent years, Xcel Energy and Minnesota Power both buy power from Manitoba Hydro, which provides the state with an estimated 11 percent of its electricity.
Over the next few days the Minnesota Legislature will likely try to merge two vastly different bills involving energy policy into an omnibus bill that will likely face heavy scrutiny from Gov. Mark Dayton.
Gone is a major priority of energy and environmental groups (including members of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News) that would have raised Minnesota’s renewable energy standard to 40 percent by 2030.
Instead, the GOP-led House plan calls for a rollback of much of Minnesota’s bipartisan Next Generation Energy Act. The legislation is part of a jobs bill, unlike Senate legislation that mainly focuses on energy policy.
The House bill “is really unfortunate, short-sighted and a step backwards for Minnesota,” said Justin Fay, who led the Clean Energy & Jobs campaign to raise the renewable energy standard.
Mark Barteau leads the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute. (Photo by Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing, used with permission)
The University of Michigan’s Energy Institute is like a timeline of this country’s energy past, present and future.
The institute was founded in 2006 and built on the legacy of the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project, a “living memorial” launched in 1948 that promotes research into the peaceful application of nuclear energy. The Ford Nuclear Reactor — decommissioned in 2003 — is located in the back of the Institute’s Ann Arbor building.
Today, researchers are exploring the latest in advanced battery technology and energy storage in new labs just down the hall from the old reactor.
Since Mark Barteau, who spent much of his career at the University of Delaware, became director of the Energy Institute in 2012, he has focused on raising the awareness and applicability of the work being done at the institute to inform policy discussions at the state level.
(Photo by Alex Gorzen via Creative Commons)
Michigan Democrats introduced legislation Thursday to double the state’s efficiency and renewable energy standards by 2022.
The “Powering Michigan’s Future” bill package, announced by a bicameral group of Democratic lawmakers in Lansing, heads to committee in both Republican-controlled chambers where it faces an uncertain future.
Michigan Republicans are looking to abandon the renewable energy standard (PA 295) that passed with bipartisan support in 2008.
When the 10 percent renewable energy standard levels off at the end of the year, both Republican chairs of energy committees want to move to an Integrated Resource Plan process, saying that could drive utilities to pursue renewable and efficiency efforts if it makes sense financially and to comply with federal emission regulations.
Clean-energy advocates have said the IRP process isn’t an effective substitute for standards, which they say provide a clearer market signal to utilities and developers.
(Photo by avacados via Creative Commons)
A key component of energy proposals emerging from the Michigan legislature is that more robust long-term planning requirements for utilities can effectively replace renewable energy and efficiency standards.
Known as Integrated Resource Plans, Republicans in the House and Senate say requiring utilities to file these every three to five years will produce the most cost-effective resource mix into the future, eliminating the need for meeting goals under a renewable portfolio or energy efficiency mandate.
Formal IRPs are required in 28 states and come in various forms. Typically they are filed every two to five years and forecasts of supply, demand and other market factors can stretch upwards of 20 years.
While experts who follow clean-energy policies say such planning can be helpful in outlining long-term needs for utilities, some argue that — if the goal is expanding renewables or energy efficiency — IRPs are unable to produce the same results as clearly defined standards. Moreover, they are liable to become esoteric exercises in utility planning.
Kansas’ renewable portfolio standard is being challenged in the state legislature again this year.
It’s the fourth consecutive year that renewable-energy opponents such as Wichita-based Koch Industries and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce have attempted to downsize or eliminate the requirement that investor-owned utilities derive increasing proportions of their energy from renewable sources.
A 2009 law requires the state’s major utilities to obtain a steadily increasing proportion of their power from renewable sources. The law applies to 10 percent of power sold this year, 15 percent in the years 2016 through 2019, and 20 percent annually starting in 2020.
Will Kenworthy, VP of regional operations for Microgrid Solar speaks at an event introducing new clean energy legislation in Illinois. (Photo courtesy Illinois Environmental Council)
Illinois legislators are introducing a sweeping bill today that would “fix” the state’s troubled Renewable Portfolio Standard, create ambitious goals and policies for energy efficiency and solar energy and, backers say, create 32,000 clean-energy jobs per year.
The bill is being sponsored by state Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and state Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook). It realizes the stated goals of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, a group of 26 organizations and 33 businesses that launched earlier this month (and includes members of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News).
The bill extends and ramps up the state’s renewable standard by requiring 35 percent of energy consumed in Illinois to be generated by clean renewable sources by 2030. The current standard calls for 25 percent by 2025, and experts were worried the state would not meet these goals because of problems with how the standard is currently structured.
(Photo by Brett Ciccotelli via Creative Commons)
Ohio’s top environmental official gave legislators a “bucket” list of objections to the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan on Thursday and recommended skepticism about how the state’s clean energy standards would help achieve compliance.
Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler testified before the Energy Mandates Study Committee formed as a result of a 2014 law that froze and scaled back the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Also testifying last Thursday was Asim Haque, Vice-Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).
Senate Bill 310 directs the committee to consider the costs and benefits of Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards and to recommend whether any additional changes should be made.
Minnesota would see more than $6.2 billion in capital investments if the state raised its renewable energy standard (RES) to 40 percent by 2030, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Meanwhile, the change would have a minimal impact on ratepayers, the UCS says.
Currently the state’s policy calls for 25 percent of energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. With Minnesota receiving 19 percent of its energy from renewable sources today, the prospect of increasing the goal to 40 percent has gotten the attention of policy groups and lawmakers.
This story has been updated to include comments from Consumers Energy.
Despite strong public support for renewable energy expansion in Michigan, three state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would repeal Michigan’s 10 percent renewable energy standard.
State Rep. Tom McMillin, a Republican from suburbs north of Detroit who is term-limited out of office this year, introduced House Bill 5872 on Oct. 1. It would repeal the section in Michigan’s 2008 renewable energy law that stipulates how much capacity should come from renewable sources by 2015.
The bill is co-sponsored by fellow House Republicans Ken Goike and Ray Franz. The three were part of a group of legislators that attempted to repeal the RPS in 2012, though that attempt never made it out of committee.
Michigan utilities are on pace to meet the 10 percent standard by the end of next year. Over the summer, a Senate working group involving lawmakers and stakeholders has studied how the state should move forward once the mandate is reached.