Press

Extreme cold serves as good reminder on energy policy

CLARION LEDGER, FEBRUARY 15, 2018 – As the sun rose recently when temperatures were near 10 degrees, I was drinking some hot coffee in my comfortable 70-degree living room and looking out across a snow-covered neighborhood. The steam at the vent pipes on houses caused me to realize most others were also in their warm homes all across Mississippi, with schools and many offices closed due to icy roads.

Because of my job, I thought about the enormous amount of energy required to maintain the comfort every household expects in harsh weather conditions. The elaborate network of pipes needed to deliver the amount of natural gas needed to keep multitudes of homes, businesses and healthcare facilities heated during dangerously cold weather is mind-boggling. The electricity generation and delivery system built to enable our way of life constantly delivers what we demand in an instant, keeping energy and water moving and powering the devices we depend on for information and communication. And remarkably, when these systems are put to the test like in the recent extreme cold, they prove to be reliable and without interruption.

As a society of people so dependent on energy for our health, comfort and well-being, we should know our energy systems are not built to provide some energy to everyone. Rather, our systems are built to provide all the energy everyone needs and wants in extreme circumstances, when every heater or AC for miles is running. As a state rich in natural resources, nature is a precious asset in Mississippi, but Mother Nature can be harsh at times.

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Utilities push back against proposal to mandate renewable energy increase

CRAIN’S DETROIT BUSINESS, FEBRUARY 14, 2018 – Michigan utilities are speaking out against a ballot drive aimed at mandating an increase in the amount of power generated from renewable sources in the state.

DTE Energy Co. CEO Gerry Anderson believes the state of Michigan and his company has a good plan to build sufficient renewable energy resources in the state over the next five years.

Anderson said in an interview with Crain’s that a ballot initiative, whose language was approved this week, that would double the current mandate for renewable energy in the state is the wrong way to go and should only be used as a last resort if legislation fails.

“Energy policy is complex, and a ballot initiative is a bad idea” for many reasons, he said. “The best place to do that is through legislation. … We did that twice (in 2008 and 2016).”

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This hydropower harnesses energy one water drop at a time

SCIENCE NEWS FOR STUDENTS, FEBRUARY 9, 2018 – A rainy day can be a chance to recharge — literally. While you relax on the couch with a movie, the raindrops falling on your windows might one day provide the power for your TV. This is the idea behind an invention that harvests energy from water, one drop at a time.

The technology is based on the triboelectric (TRY-boh-ee-LEK-trik) effect, explains David Ma. The triboelectric effect is the generation of an electric charge due to friction. An engineer at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, Ma knew that it’s possible to generate electricity by rubbing two things together. So, he thought, “Why don’t we use water?”

A drop of water sliding across a surface coated with two different materials would generate enough friction to create an electrical charge. By placing metal wires that the droplet touched as it moved, it should be possible to harvest electricity, he reasoned.

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Alaska’s energy and arctic-tech startup scene is warming for global challenges

GREENBIZ, FEBRUARY 9, 2018 – Alaska’s unique take on innovation is driven by its vast geography and harsh climate. For a technology to be useful here, it must perform well in remote and harsh conditions, be easy to repair and solve a real problem. This unfussy approach to innovation is at the heart of the state’s emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem, where entrepreneurs, researchers, policy wonks and technologists are tackling on some of the world’s most challenging problems in the energy sector.

With the highest cost of electricity and some of the highest per-capita energy consumption in the United States, Alaska is hungry for energy innovation because of the outsized impact that energy costs have on our residents’ pocketbooks. This is particularly true in rural parts of the state.

And with 12 percent of the world’s islanded microgrids, the state offers a unique opportunity to deploy flexible energy solutions that can be adopted in remote regions globally. Think Puerto Rico and Samoa. Both are isolated from mainland electric grids, face high energy costs and are highly susceptible to disruptions in fuel supply chains based on extreme weather conditions.

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Trump once again seeks to slash funding for clean energy in 2019 budget

CNBC, JANUARY 31, 2018 – The Trump administration’s 2019 budget proposal will seek deep cuts to clean energy research spending when it is released next month, according to draft budget documents obtained by the Washington Post.

The spending reductions would hit programs aimed at driving down the cost of solar energy, a sector that is creating jobs at a faster pace than the broader U.S. economy. It would also wipe out a home weatherization program that has trained thousands of Americans and lowered utility bills for ratepayers, the Post reports.

The proposal asks Congress to appropriate $575.5 million for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a 72-percent drop from the previous fiscal year. In its first budget proposal, the Trump administration proposed cutting the office’s funding by two-thirds to $636.1 million.

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Embrace our energy opportunity

THE HILL, JANUARY 30, 2018 – Economic issues will be front and center in President Trump’s first State of the Union address, followed by endless debate over which economic achievements the administration can claim as its own. While the pundits hash that out, here’s a theory to consider: Powerhouse performance from the U.S. oil and natural gas industry is the often unsung hero of American economic growth.

Over the course of the past decade, the nation’s natural gas and oil industry – made up of more than 10 million hard-working men and women – accomplished what many thought impossible. Our industry employed advanced technology and the best of the American entrepreneurial spirit to move the nation from energy scarcity to energy abundance. We have played a leading role in reducing energy costs for American families and businesses, spurring a manufacturing renaissance, strengthening the nation’s energy security and slashing U.S. carbon emissions even as the market has soared to record highs.

With the right policies in place, we can ensure our era of energy abundance is only beginning.
The administration’s newly released five-year plan, which considers new areas for development in the outer continental shelf (OCS), represents an important step forward. Existing policy has kept 94 percent of federal offshore waters off limits to exploration.

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EIA Expects Wind Energy To Surpass Hydro In 2019

CLEAN TECHNICA, JANUARY 26, 2018 – The US Energy Information Administration has this week predicted that electricity generated from wind energy will surpass that from hydroelectricity, the previously-dominant renewable energy source in the US.

According to the latest Short-Term Energy Outlook published this week by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), this is due to a lack of new hydro plants coming online in the next two years plus continued wind installations. Specifically, the EIA explains that increases in hydroelectric generation in 2018 and 2019 will largely rely on precipitation and water runoff, and although weather patterns will also affect wind electricity generation, the EIA’s forecast for wind is more dependent on the capacity and timing of new wind farms coming online.

Both technologies will follow natural seasonal patterns — hydropower will peak in spring when precipitation and snowpack melt increases water runoff, while wind energy will peak in spring and fall. For hydropower specifically, the EIA expects hydropower generation to be down slightly in 2018 and 2019 after a relatively wet 2017. In 2017, hydropower provided 7.4% of total utility-scale generation, but that figure will drop in 2018 to 6.5%, and 6.6% in 2019.

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Free markets and free trade will fuel U.S. energy dominance

WASHINGTON TIMES, JANUARY 22, 2018 – The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee got some very good news last week. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, testified that the U.S. is becoming the “undisputed” global leader in oil and gas production.

Chalk it up to American ingenuity. Mr. Birol predicted that, given “the remarkable ability of producers to unlock new resources cost-effectively,” the U.S. by 2040 might well push its combined oil and gas output to “a level 50 percent higher than any other country has ever managed.”

To keep these positive trends going, however, the Trump administration will need to commit more fully to free markets and free trade.

American energy producers remain unduly restrained by excessive regulation. The Obama administration piled regulations on conventional fuels to tip the playing field in favor of more expensive, politically favored renewable power sources. It further biased investment and production by propping up less-competitive energy projects with government subsidies.

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U.S. South Defies Solar Slowdown as Utilities Tap Savings

BLOOMBERG, JANUARY 19, 2018 – The U.S. South is providing the solar industry with a few bright spots this year even as growth slows nationally.

Florida will lead the way as NextEra Energy Inc.’s Florida Power & Light utility replaces an aging coal-fueled plant that will save customers $183 million a year. Entergy Corp.’s Arkansas utility will get 81 megawatts from a single project, boosting installations in the state.

Solar laggards are leading the charge in installations this year as high-penetration markets such as California, Arizona and North Carolina see developers ease off the accelerator after years of rapid expansion. Nationally, investment in new solar will decline for a second year, dipping to about 11 gigawatts from 12.5 gigawatts in 2017, before making a comeback in 2019, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research.

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U.S. rising as world’s ‘undisputed’ energy leader, global chief tells senators

WASHINGTON EXAMINER, JANUARY 16, 2018 – The head of the International Energy Agency said the shale revolution has made the U.S. the world’s “undisputed” oil and natural gas leader, as he visited Capitol Hill Tuesday morning to discuss how the world energy system is changing.

“What we see is a result of the shale revolution,” International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol told the Senate Energy and Resources Committee. “The U.S. is becoming the undisputed leader of oil and gas production worldwide.”

Birol was in Washington to discuss the international agency’s global assessment and energy projections into the next decade. The U.S. is a IEA member state and a contributor to the international energy body.

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U.S. energy regulator rejects bid to favour coal and nuclear power

REUTERS, JANUARY 10, 2018 – Federal regulators in the United States have declined to act on a proposal from the secretary of energy that would have supported coal-fired and nuclear power plants by mandating special tariffs for essential reliability services.

In September, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to consider a rule ensuring full-cost recovery for generators providing reliability services and that store at least 90 days of fuel on site.

FERC is an independent regulatory agency but the secretary invoked a little-used authority in the Department of Energy Organisation Act to require the commission to consider his proposed rule.

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U.S. Energy Regulator Rejects Plan To Aid Coal, Nuclear

HUFFPOST, JANUARY 8, 2018 – The U.S. power grid regulator on Monday rejected a directive by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to prop up aging coal and nuclear power plants, in a setback for the Trump administration that disappointed coal miners but pleased drillers, environmentalists and renewable energy advocates.

Perry had directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in September to consider a plan subsidizing those plants for what he said were their contributions in making the power grid more reliable and resilient.

FERC said in its ruling that such subsidies may not be fair. “The record … does not demonstrate that such an outcome would be just and reasonable,” the agency said in the filing. FERC said it had embarked on a new process to determine whether the grid can be strengthened.

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Sneaky! US Energy Dept. Enlists Anytown USA In Solar Energy Stealth Attack

CLEANTECHNICA, JANUARY 8, 2018 – The US coal industry just can’t win for losing. Industry analysts agree that President* Trump was blowing smoke when he promised to bring back coal jobs, and meanwhile the US solar energy industry has continued to benefit from sustainable power programs launched under President Obama. The latest in a long string of examples is the SolSmart project funded by the US Department of Energy. SolSmart enlists local governments to help accelerate the renewable energy transition, and it already has 158 recruits on its way to a goal of 300.

Renewable energy analysts and advocates have recognized that cities can be effective drivers of the sparkling green low carbon economy of the future, even in the absence of a cogent national policy.

That insight predates the Trump administration, and local action is all the more important now that Trump’s coal-friendly “energy dominance” strategy has pushed an aggressive national climate change response aside, in favor of policies ramping up fossil fuel development.

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US Energy Department Directs $30 Million To Develop Shale Projects

OIL AND GAS INVESTOR, JANUARY 3, 2018 – Six small U.S. oil and natural gas drilling projects will receive about $30 million in federal funding for research and development to help achieve President Donald Trump’s policy of boosting output of fossil fuels, the Department of Energy (DOE) said Jan. 3.

The projects, selected by the DOE under the direction of Congress, are in what is known as unconventional shale development. They currently produce less than 50,000 barrels per day each.

The selected projects are at sites including the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale in Louisiana and Mississippi that has been estimated to contain 7 billion recoverable barrels of light, sweet crude oil and the Huron Shale in Appalachia, which is rich in natural gas.

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AP Fact Check: Donald Trump on energy, security and the Amtrak derailment

PBS, DECEMBER 19, 2017 – In laying out his national security strategy, President Donald Trump sold short the records of his predecessors, speaking as if the energy boom started with him and the gates of America were wide open before he came along.

On Twitter, meanwhile, Trump tweeted a wrong score in the game of politics and got ahead of the facts in the deadly Washington state Amtrak crash.

A look at some of his statements Monday:

TRUMP on his predecessors: “They put American energy under lock and key.”

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Why Tax Overhaul Can’t Kill The Renewable Energy Surge

FORBES, DECEMBER 18, 2017 – Some smart analysts have been arguing that Congress is about to massively undercut America’s long journey to increasing the amount of renewable energy in the U.S. energy mix. Let me explain why I don’t buy it.

What had advocates for the renewables industry worried was a part of the tax bill, unveiled in its final form by Republicans on Friday, that looks headed for the president’s signature soon.

The bill was greeted with some thanks and some angst by some renewable energy interest groups. The focus of their concern was the tax provision called the U.S. federal Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Production Tax Credit (PTC), which provide a 30% tax rebate and tax credits of varying amounts per kilowatt-hour of electricity sold for wind, solar and various other “renewable” energy resources including fuel cell power plants.

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New head of U.S. energy agency seeks delay of coal, nuclear rule

REUTERS, DECEMBER 8, 2017 – The new chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission late on Thursday requested a 30-day delay on a decision on a plan promoted by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to subsidize aging nuclear and coal-fired power plants.

Kevin McIntyre, a Republican, wrote a letter to Perry proposing to extend the deadline for a decision on the so-called Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule. Perry in September had issued FERC a directive to consider the rule and decide on it by Dec. 11. The plan would allow plants that maintain at least 90 days of fuel supply on site to recover their full costs through regulated power pricing.

FERC received more than 1,500 comments on the plan, many of them from groups representing natural gas drilling, wind and solar power, and consumers that slammed the plan. Grid operators also criticized the plan.

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Keystone XL Approval Is Vital to U.S. Energy Dominance

REAL CLEAR ENERGY, DECEMBER 6, 2017 – This month, Nebraska regulators approved the Keystone XL Pipeline after years of legal and partisan back-and-forth. And it comes at a critical juncture – not only for America’s ability to transport energy resources but also for the country’s opportunity to bolster international relationships around the world by helping key allies meet their energy needs.

Once a point of weakness, energy has quickly become one of the United States’ strongest assets. Only a decade ago America relied on foreign suppliers to meet nearly two-thirds of oil demand. It now produces almost 80 percent of consumption here at home. Just within the last year, the country has become a net exporter of liquefied natural gas and crude oil. Nearly 35 percent of U.S. electricity is generated by natural gas-fired plants, offsetting coal more and more, which is helping to reduce carbon emissions.

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Former U.S. Energy Secretary Moniz caps first day of nuclear reaction commemoration

U Chicago News, DECEMBER 2, 2017 – Former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz capped the first half of a two-day commemoration of the first sustained nuclear chain reaction achieved at the University of Chicago 75 years ago this week.

Moniz detailed the complex challenges posed by nuclear weapons in the current global security landscape as well as continued ways to harness benefits from nuclear technologies.

In his current work heading the nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative, Moniz said, he’s focusing on practical steps toward managing risk and reducing threats. “It is for us to think clearly about those, and to work at solutions to be ready when the opportunity appears,” said Moniz, a physicist and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who served as energy secretary from 2013 to January 2017.

Moniz’s talk concluded a half-day exploration through discussions and art of the legacy of Chicago Pile-1, the experiment on Dec. 2, 1942 that produced the first controlled chain reaction.

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Graphene Loophole Could Provide “Clean And Limitless” Energy In The Future

IFL SCIENCE, NOVEMBER 27, 2017 – Researchers say they have discovered an unusual property of graphene that means it could be a “clean and limitless” source of energy in the future.

The scientists from the University of Arkansas studied the movement of graphene, the so-called “miracle material” that’s composed of a single layer of carbon atoms, first discovered in 2004.

Its existence is a bit of quandary, however, as graphene is essentially a two-dimensional material that shouldn’t exist. But thanks to a loophole, namely that the carbon atoms that make up graphene are fluctuating, it is able to exist. This is known as Brownian motion.

In this research, published in Physical Review Letters, Paul Thibado from the University of Arkansas and his students observed the movement of graphene under a scanning tunneling microscope (STM). At incredibly small scales, they found there was not only Brownian motion but also larger movements of the graphene sheet itself, with the atoms moving together.

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U.S. energy sources and uses: everything you need to know in one lovely chart

Green Car Reports, NOVEMBER 23, 2017 – One of the interesting side effects of plug-in electric cars turns out to be a greater awareness of energy sources and uses.

A 2012 California study, for instance, showed roughly four out of 10 electric-car drivers either had or were considering solar panels to provide electricity to their home.

And because electric cars everywhere in the U.S. have lower wells-to-wheels carbon-dioxide emissions than the average new vehicle, their ability to slow those emissions that contribute to climate change is huge.

The climate-change argument, in fact, is one of the underlying topics electric-car owners find themselves discussing, given the politicization of that topic in the U.S.

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At least 40% of the world’s power will come from renewable sources by 2040

BUSINESS INSIDER, NOVEMBER 20, 2017 – The explosive growth of renewable energy has shaken up the energy industry over the last decade.

As the costs of solar and wind continue to fall and bottlenecks like storage capacity are diminished, the International Energy Agency predicts that renewable energy will comprise 40% of global power generation by 2040. In the next five years, the share of electricity generated by renewables worldwide is set to grow faster than any other source.

Last week, Thomson Reuters released its inaugural Energy 100 list, which evaluates companies in the sector (both traditional and renewable) based on eight criteria, including innovation, environmental impact, social responsibility, and risk management. The top companies go “beyond the balance sheet,” according to the report — in addition to their solid financials, they have created advanced sustainability programs, developed groundbreaking technologies, and benefited their surrounding communities.

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Half of OPPD’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2020, CEO says

OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, NOVEMBER 14, 2017 – Omaha Public Power District President and Chief Executive Tim Burke said half the energy the utility sells to retail customers will come from renewable sources by the end of 2020.

Burke said in remarks over lunch at the 10th annual Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference on Monday that the utility is working on a request for proposals for up to 300 megawatts more of wind energy.

Once that project is online, more than 50 percent of OPPD’s retail sales will come from renewable energy sources.

For comparison, less than 20 percent of OPPD’s retail sales in 2016 came from such sources, which include wind turbines, natural gas extracted from the Douglas County landfill and hydropower from dams in the western U.S.

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Wind and Solar Power Advance, but Carbon Refuses to Retreat

THE NEW YORK TIMES, NOVEMBER 7, 2017 – Two decades have passed since diplomats from around the world emerged from a conference hall in Kyoto, Japan, with what was billed as the first deal ever to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases that are relentlessly warming the earth’s atmosphere.

Climate diplomacy has made a lot of progress since then. All but one of the world’s nations — the United States — have enlisted in the cause, making concrete commitments to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

Leaving aside President Trump’s past declarations that climate change is a hoax, there are heartening signs that the strategy may work: Global carbon-dioxide emissions have stopped rising. Coal use in China may have peaked. The price of wind turbines and solar panels is plummeting, putting renewable energy within the reach of meager budgets in the developing world.

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What Actually Is “Clean” or “Renewable” Energy?

SLATE, NOVEMBER 2, 2017 – In his ongoing quest to dismantle his predecessor’s signature achievements, President Trump is threatening to repeal the Clean Power Plan. On its face, the news is discouraging: The law’s state-by-state carbon emissions guidelines and strict regulations on coal-fired power plants were on track to have a huge impact. By 2030, the bill’s guidelines would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the utility sector to below 2005 levels, which would have enabled America to meet its commitments to lowering carbon dioxide emissions made in the Paris climate accord. Losing it would seem to be an enormous blow.

But the panic seems to be premature. Many states, including California, home to nearly 40 million power-consuming people, are on track to exceed their emissions goals with or without the bill’s help. The bill would have hastened changes in states that are more reluctant, but the U.S. is, according to the most recent numbers, still on track to meet the emissions goals the bill set forth. That’s because cities and states have a large amount of autonomy to fight climate change on their own. In the wake of Trump’s election, many local and state governments have taken the power (excuse the pun) into their own hands. There has been a burst of mass movements—from the coalition of states pledging that they’re “still in” the Paris Agreement to the cities resolving to run on 100 percent renewable energy—to make sure they’re providing clean energy to their residents.

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U.S. Energy Regulator Says Coal More Reliable Than Natural Gas

BLOOMBERG, OCTOBER 27, 2017 – The regulator charged with implementing Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to keep coal plants online has something in common with the former Texas governor: Both men believe that coal and nuclear power are more reliable than other energy sources.

Coal and nuclear “are firm, non-interruptible fuel sources” that are more resilient to extreme-weather events than fuels which must be obtained off site such as natural gas, Neil Chatterjee, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told Bloomberg reporters during a roundtable discussion Friday in Washington.

The comments may put him at odds with the organizations that he regulates as FERC evaluates Perry’s proposal. Chatterjee said the commission will act on it by Dec. 11.

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Plan to support coal, nuclear divides U.S. energy industry

REUTERS, OCTOBER 23, 2017 – U.S. industries that rarely agree – gas drillers and renewable energy producers – urged a federal agency on Monday to dump a government directive to prop up ageing nuclear and coal plants, saying the electricity grid was already reliable.

The split in the energy industry showed that a Trump administration push to make the country energy “dominant” by boosting output from every part of the sector may face hurdles.

A group of 20 organizations including the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Solar Energy Industries Association submitted comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as it considered a regulation proposed late last month by U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

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Governors Push Clean Energy Technology

U.S. NEWS, OCTOBER 16, 2017 – Despite federal rollbacks of Obama-era environmental and energy policies, states from both sides of the political aisle – and both sides of the country – are leading the charge toward renewable energy.

Both Republican and Democratic states are pushing policy and investments in green technology to reduce their energy consumption and drive economic growth, despite partisanship in Washington, D.C., that has divided climate and clean energy issues along party lines. Electric cars, clean energy storage and affordable solar panels are among the top recent innovations in states pushing clean energy, governors said during a panel at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas Oct. 13.

Western states including Nevada have led the way in integrating clean energy innovation, which Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, called an “irresistible force” during the summit. The state’s renewable energy production has nearly doubled since 2009, he said, and its clean energy workforce has grown 9.5 percent over the past year, more than three times faster than other Nevada industries.

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Michigan’s ‘largest solar park’ will produce enough energy to power 11,000 homes

CNBC, OCTOBER 10, 2017 – It experiences harsh, cold winters, but Michigan is now home to a 200,000 panel solar array on a 250-acre site.

The Lapeer solar park is operational and generating enough renewable energy to power 11,000 homes, it was announced Monday. It is one of the largest utility-owned solar parks east of the Mississippi River, Detroit based DTE Energy said in a statement.

Irene Dimitry, DTE Energy’s vice president of business planning and development, said the company wanted to provide its customers with energy that was “reliable, affordable and cleaner.” Dimitry added that DTE planned to cut carbon emissions by more than 80 percent by the year 2050.

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U.S. Tax Reform Would Leave Renewable Energy Out in the Cold

BLOOMBERG, OCTOBER 3, 2017 – The prospects for a broad tax reform with lower corporate rates has excited business leaders and boosted the stock market — except for renewable energy.

Tax reform “will make renewables more expensive,” Keith Martin, a partner at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, said in an interview Tuesday at Infocast’s Solar Connect conference in San Diego.

The reasons: reducing corporate taxes would threaten a key source of clean-power financing. A broad reform of the tax code may also lead to pricier debt for new power plants and lower savings from depreciation. And some developers are concerned about the future of two critical U.S. tax credits. President Donald Trump campaigned on tax reform, and the S&P 500 Index has gained more than 18 percent since the election, while the Bloomberg Global Large Solar Energy index of 16 companies has slumped 13 percent.

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U.S. energy head seeks help for coal, nuclear power plants

REUTERS, SEPTEMBER 29, 2017 – U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has asked federal regulators to attempt to keep the nation’s struggling coal and nuclear power plants open by rewarding them for contributing to the resilience of the electric grid, the Department of Energy said on Friday.

The move drew praise from the coal and nuclear power industries. But it raised alarm bells among renewable energy groups and environmentalists concerned that such incentives were unfair and could lead to an increase in emissions from coal plants linked to global warming and more toxic waste from nuclear plants before a permanent repository is built for the country.

“The continued closure of traditional baseload power plants calls for a comprehensive strategy for long-term reliability and resilience,” Perry said in a Sept. 28 letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

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NEW ENERGY SOURCE: SCIENTISTS DISCOVER TECHNOLOGY THAT COULD POWER 70 PERCENT OF U.S.

NEWSWEEK, SEPTEMBER 27, 2017 – A team of researchers developed a new way to get energy from ordinary water. Now, they say a new study shows it could be used to generate the majority of America’s power.

New research reported in Nature Communications, finds that energy harvested from the evaporation of water in America’s lakes and reservoirs might be able to provide up to 70 percent of U.S. demand for electricity; a huge 325 gigawatts of power, according to Science Alert.

In 2015, Columbia University’s Ozgur Sahin and his team developed a system that would let them extract energy from evaporating water using bacterial spores. The team stuck Bacillus subtilis spores to tape and exposed them to water.

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A Federal Agency Just Put America’s Solar Power Industry in Danger

TIME, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017 – The future of solar power in the U.S. was thrown into question Friday by a closely watched federal ruling. The International Trade Commission, an agency that advises on some trade issues, ruled that Chinese solar panel imports threaten American manufacturers, giving the White House authority to impose a tariff on imports of solar panel. Such a measure would dramatically increase the cost of solar panels in the U.S., making the electricity source less competitive with fossil fuels like natural gas and coal.

The case was brought by two U.S. solar panel manufacturers — Suniva and SolarWorld — that have struggled to compete in recent years as Chinese manufacturers slashed solar panel prices and U.S. energy companies bought and installed them. “Without temporary relief, there will likely be no existing American [solar] cells or modules industry within a short period of time,” wrote Suniva in a federal complaint. “Relief is necessary to prevent the permanent loss of a competitive domestic industry.”

While the ruling could protect American solar panel manufacturers from foreign competition, it could also threaten other sectors of the solar power industry — and renewable energy in the U.S. as a whole. Thousands of Americans rely on the solar industry for jobs installing, repairing and operating solar panels, whether those panels are made in the U.S. or not. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has claimed that a tariff could cost 88,000 U.S. solar jobs of more than 250,000 employed in the industry. (Solar panel manufacturing accounts for about 8,000 of those 250,000 jobs.)

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US EIA Predicts 28% Increase In World Energy Use By 2040, Declining Role For Coal, Increased Renewables

CLEAN TECHNICA, SEPTEMBER 18, 2017 – The US Energy Information Administration last week published figures which project that world energy consumption will increase by 28% between 2015 and 2040, that coal demand will remain flat, and renewable energy will be the world’s fastest-growing energy source.

For outsiders looking in on American politics, it sometimes feels as if the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing — and that nobody knows what the gallbladder is doing, or really why it’s there in the first place. (Author’s note: In this scenario, the gallbladder — “where bile is stored and concentrated before it is released” – Wikipedia — refers to US President Donald Trump, just in case it wasn’t clear.) There has obviously been a lot of vitriol and lies spouted by the US President and many of his cronies against renewable energy and in favor of coal. However, it seems that not everyone currently serving in the US Government agrees with the top-down view of renewables and coal.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) published its latest International Energy Outlook 2017 (IEO2017) report last week — not necessarily out of the ordinary, in and of itself, but the key findings were definitely interesting — accurate, in line with all current evidence, but nevertheless interesting and surprising.

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U.S. Energy Department grid study calls for boost to coal, nuclear power

REUTERS, AUGUST 24, 2017 – A U.S. Energy Department report calls for incentives to boost coal-fired and nuclear power plants following a slew of closures that it said undermined reliable sources of electricity.

The findings of the study, released late on Wednesday, drew praise from the coal and nuclear industries and a mixed reaction from renewable energy groups – some of which said the report’s recommendations could help them too.

President Donald Trump has promised to revive the ailing coal mining sector but has also said he welcomes all forms of energy development to shore up domestic production.

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Almost every country in the world can power itself with renewable energy

POPULAR SCIENCE, AUGUST 24, 2017 – The country’s energy mix is under scrutiny. A report commissioned by Energy Secretary Rick Perry acknowledges that low natural gas prices—not renewables—are behind the recent closure of coal energy plants, and that the grid has managed to withstand the increasing presence of renewable energy. According to an unrelated study published this week in the journal Joule, the world is poised to give up fossil fuels altogether.

The research lays out renewable energy roadmaps—the mix of resources a given country would need to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy—for 139 countries collectively responsible for more than 99 percent of the global carbon emissions. According to the resulting analysis, the planet is pretty much ready to go 100 percent renewable by 2050.

Fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil are not renewable resources. It took an extremely long time for the Earth to produce them, and they’re going to run out. And now that we know them to be significant contributors to human-caused climate change, trying to replace them is basically a no-brainer. Still, many regard renewable energy as the flighty, less dependable sibling of our go-to fossils. But according to the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy sources accounted for roughly 15 percent of total electricity generation and 10 percent of total U.S. energy consumption in 2016. Some of that investment in renewable energy is being led by places that we tend to associate with petroleum, like Texas, where wind energy provided more than 12 percent of that state’s electricity in 2016.

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What Is the Future of US Nuclear Power Industry?

LEARNING ENGLISH, AUGUST 14, 2017 – As America’s nuclear power industry continues to suffer major economic difficulties, some are questioning whether it can – or should – survive.

The latest setback came July 31, when state power companies in South Carolina halted construction of two reactors. After spending about $9 billion, the companies decided that increasing costs and repeated building delays did not make the project worth finishing.

U.S. energy company Westinghouse Electric had been building the nuclear plant, which it started in 2012. In March, Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy, due in part to huge losses related to the South Carolina project, as well as others.

Industry groups had hoped the South Carolina reactors would mark a new beginning for U.S. nuclear power and show the benefits of the latest technology.

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If we keep subsidizing wind, will the cost of wind energy go down?

PBS NEWSHOUR, AUGUST 6, 2017 – There are high hopes for renewable energy to help society by providing a more stable climate, better energy security and less pollution. Government actions reflect these hopes through policies to promote renewable energy. In the U.S. since 1992 there’s been a federal subsidy to promote wind energy, and many states require electricity utilities to use some renewable energy.

But when is the right time to stop government support for an energy technology?

This is a timely question: Rick Perry’s Department of Energy is currently working on a grid reliability report that many expect to argue that wind and solar cause reliability problems because they don’t supply power continually. A conclusion like this can be used to justify removal of government subsidies or regulations favoring other sources of energy.

Subsidies need not last forever – there can come a time when its objective has been achieved or experience suggests the subsidy is not working as intended.

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If we keep subsidizing wind, will the cost of wind energy go down?

PBS NEWSHOUR, AUGUST 6, 2017 – There are high hopes for renewable energy to help society by providing a more stable climate, better energy security and less pollution. Government actions reflect these hopes through policies to promote renewable energy. In the U.S. since 1992 there’s been a federal subsidy to promote wind energy, and many states require electricity utilities to use some renewable energy.

But when is the right time to stop government support for an energy technology?

This is a timely question: Rick Perry’s Department of Energy is currently working on a grid reliability report that many expect to argue that wind and solar cause reliability problems because they don’t supply power continually. A conclusion like this can be used to justify removal of government subsidies or regulations favoring other sources of energy.

Subsidies need not last forever – there can come a time when its objective has been achieved or experience suggests the subsidy is not working as intended.

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The Fate of America’s Nuclear Future Rests on One Utility

FORTUNE, AUGUST 1, 2017 – With a multibillion-dollar nuclear project in South Carolina dead, the fate of America’s nuclear renaissance now rests on one utility: Southern Co.

Scana Corp. dropped plans for two reactors Monday, leaving the two that Southern is building at the Vogtle plant in Georgia as the only ones under construction in the U.S. And even they are under threat: The utility had to take over management of the project from its bankrupt contractor Westinghouse Electric Co., and the plant is still years behind schedule and billions over budget. Now it must decide whether to finish them.

Southern calling it quits could prove to be the final nail in the coffin for the long-awaited U.S. nuclear renaissance that has failed to materialize in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident. In 2012, Southern and Scana became the first companies to gain approval to build U.S. reactors in more than 30 years — only to find themselves in troubling times for the industry.

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Don’t squander America’s leadership in nuclear energy

THE HILL, JULY 26, 2017 – The United States government invented civil nuclear energy, commencing a wide-ranging research, development and demonstration program built off of the World War II Manhattan Project.

The Atoms for Peace program, initiated by President Eisenhower in the mid-1950s, gave the effort a major boost. The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission — the predecessor of today’s U.S. Department of Energy — later began research development and demonstration programs in virtually all areas of energy technology.

That was decades ago. So why should the federal government today continue to have a role in nuclear energy development or, for that matter, any form of energy technology development? Why not leave energy development and deployment to the private sector?

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China is crushing the U.S. in renewable energy

CNN, JULY 18, 2017 – China may be the planet’s biggest polluter but it’s also powering ahead of other countries on renewable energy.

As the Trump administration yanks the U.S. out of the Paris climate change agreement, claiming it will hurt the American economy, Beijing is investing hundreds of billions of dollars and creating millions of jobs in clean power.

China has built vast solar and wind farms, helping fuel the growth of major industries that sell their products around the world.

“Even in China where coal is — or was — king, the government still recognizes that the economic opportunities of the future are going to be in clean energy,” said Alvin Lin, Beijing-based climate and energy policy director with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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Electricity investment overtakes oil, gas for first time ever in 2016: IEA

REUTERS, JULY 11, 2017 – Investments in electricity surpassed those in oil and gas for the first time ever in 2016 on a spending splurge on renewable energy and power grids as the fall in crude prices led to deep cuts, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday.

Total energy investment fell for the second straight year by 12 percent to $1.7 trillion compared with 2015, the IEA said. Oil and gas investments plunged 26 percent to $650 billion, down by over a quarter in 2016, and electricity generation slipped 5 percent.

“This decline (in energy investment) is attributed to two reasons,” IEA chief economist Laszlo Varro told journalists.

“The reaction of the oil and gas industry to the prolonged period of low oil prices which was a period of harsh investment cuts; and technological progress which is reducing investment costs in both renewable power and in oil and gas,” he said.

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Gov’t Report: Fossil Fuels ‘Continue To Dominate US Energy Mix’

DAILY CALLER, JULY 3, 2017 – Fossil fuels still “dominate” the U.S. energy markets, according to a report published Monday by the Department of Energy’s statistics agency.

Fossil fuels accounted for 81 percent of total U.S. energy consumption in 2016, according to the report. Roughly 35 percent of all U.S. energy comes from oil, while nearly 30 percent comes from natural gas. The largest supplier of non-fossil fuel energy is nuclear power, which accounts for almost 10 percent of U.S. energy.

The only fossil fuel energy source in decline is coal, which is mostly being replaced by natural gas, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

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Trump announces efforts to revive nuclear energy, export more American coal

CNBC, JUNE 29, 2017 – President Donald Trump on Thursday announced a number of energy initiatives, including a review of U.S. nuclear energy policy and efforts to make sure new coal plants are built overseas.

The announcements came during a speech on achieving American “energy dominance.”

The position is similar to previous administrations’ goals of achieving “energy independence,” dating back to the 1970s. President Barack Obama paved the way for Trump by lifting a 40-year ban on exporting U.S. crude oil and by approving about two dozen liquefied natural gas export licenses.

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U.S. energy secretary steps carefully around budgetmakers in Congress

SCIENCE MAGAZINE, JUNE 23, 2017 – Secretary of Energy Rick Perry once performed the Cha Cha and the Quickstep on the television show Dancing with the Stars. So it’s no surprise that the former Texas governor displayed some careful footwork this week before three congressional panels examining the Trump administration’s 2018 budget request for the Department of Energy (DOE). The president has called for deep cuts to science and technology programs at the $30 billion agency, evoking harsh criticism from lawmakers across the political spectrum.

In the face of that opposition, Perry this week repeatedly pirouetted away from defending the spending request. He noted that it was finalized, without his input, before he took office in early March. And he signaled that he recognizes Congress is the lead partner in the annual budgetary dance, because it holds the purse strings. “We have some work to do on this budget, I know that,” he told members of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on 21 June, adding that he “looked forward” to working with lawmakers to address their concerns about spending levels. (Perry also met with House of Representatives appropriators on 20 June, and on 22 June with a Senate energy panel that oversees DOE programs.)

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Renewables Generated Ten Percent of U.S. Energy In March

SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE, JUNE 19, 2017 – In March, power generated by wind and solar energy in the United States topped ten percent for the first time, reports Reuters. The figure comes from a report released by the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration which keeps track of power generation.

The ten percent figure is encouraging, but the peak this time of year is somewhat expected. Spring usually marks a period of low electricity demand. It also is usually a time with strong winds and increasing daylight, which cause renewable power to spike. The agency expects wind and solar will represent a similar amount in their April report as well before decreasing a bit during the summer and increasing again in autumn. According to the report, both wind and solar are growing, and represented seven percent of total U.S. power generation in 2016.

Some states did even better than the average ten percent. In 2016, Iowa produced 37 percent of its electricity from wind and solar, Kansas produced 30 percent, Oklahoma produced 25 percent and Texas produced 13 percent. In absolute terms, however, Texas generated the most wind power in the U.S. last year.

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Renewable Energy Record Set in U.S.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, JUNE 15, 2017 – The U.S. set a new renewable energy milestone in March, in data released Wednesday. For the first time, wind and solar accounted for 10 percent of all electricity generation, with wind comprising 8 percent and solar coming in at 2 percent.

The report was published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which collects and disseminates environmental data that is used to inform policymakers.

Wind and solar generation typically peaks in the spring and fall when there is less energy demand, and the EIA expects April to continue the record-setting 10 percent trend. That 10 percent mark is expected to slip in summer months, but 2016 saw an overall growth in renewables.

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The Edge: Pros And Cons Of US Energy Policy Shifts

FORBES, JUNE 13, 2017 – US energy policy is being shaken up. First the domestic agenda, then the international dimension – pulling out of the Paris Agreement on global climate change late last month. An ‘America First’ energy policy is meant to be great news for US producers. But will these moves boost investment and company behaviour as much as the administration hopes?

What’s changed in US policy? The March Energy Independence Executive Order included review of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Other proposals relevant to the upstream industry are the direction to revise or rescind the Bureau of Land Management’s 2015 hydraulic fracturing rule; and the 2016 limits on venting/flaring of methane.

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The U.S. solar industry is doing just fine under Trump — for now

THE WASHINGTON POST, JUNE 9, 2017 – Coming off a record year for U.S. solar installations in 2016, the first quarter of 2017 wasn’t so bad either, according to data released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the industry’s lead trade group.

The U.S. saw the installation of more than 2 gigawatts, or billion watts, of new solar capacity, a quarter of it on individual rooftops, according to a Thursday report by SEIA and GTM Research.

That ranks solar second to natural gas overall for new U.S. electricity installations in the quarter, and was only a slight — 2 percent — year-on-year decline.

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Fragile future for US nuclear power

BBC, MAY 30, 2017 – No one died, there were no direct health impacts, but the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear accident burned so deeply into the US psyche that it has helped limit the future use of the power source across America.

A major factor in turning the accident into a “disaster” was timing. Just 12 days before the 1979 accident that saw a partial core meltdown at one of the two reactors at the Pennsylvania plant, The China Syndrome was released in cinemas across the US.

The film’s plot centred on a major safety issue at a California nuclear plant. It was a spooky backdrop to the worst real world nuclear accident in US history.

While citizens were frightened by TMI, so too were investors. The accident happened after just three months of commercial operation causing the plant owner to go bankrupt. The whole clean up effort took 14 years and cost almost $1bn.

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Solar jobs growing 17 times faster than US economy

CNN, MAY 25, 2017 – Solar employment expanded last year 17 times faster than the total US economy, according to an International Renewable Energy Agency report published on Wednesday that cited data from the Solar Foundation.

Overall, more than 260,000 people work in the solar industry, up by 24% from 2015.

The solar business has benefited from the falling cost of solar energy and generous federal tax credits that make it more affordable for businesses and homeowners to install solar panels.

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Tesla launches first aggregated ‘virtual power plant’ in US

ENERGY STORAGE NEWS, MAY 16, 2017 – Tesla has announced the first programme to aggregate the capabilities of hundreds of its residential and commercial stationary storage systems in a partnership with Vermont utility Green Mountain Power.

The pair will bundle together up to 2,000 of Tesla’s residential Powerwall and commercial and industrial (C&I) Powerpack systems to create a “single resource of shared energy”, Tesla said, calling it the “next step in tapping the potential” of energy storage systems in the field.

Ever since the launch of the Powerwall was first announced in April 2015, it appeared Tesla, which took over residential solar installer SolarCity in the final quarter of last year, was seeking to develop a business model of aggregated Powerwall and Powerpack resources, as Energy-Storage.News reported at the time.

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US Northeast states are devouring natural gas for electricity, and that’s a problem for coal

CNBC, MAY 14, 2017 – The Northeast U.S. states — a vast market that generates and consumes much of America’s annual electricity — is gradually using less coal to fire up its electricity plants.

In part of what the Energy Information Administration called a dramatic 10-year shift, the nine states that comprise the Northeastern U.S.’s energy grid have collectively doubled the share of natural gas used to generate electricity—even as the region churned out slightly less power from 2006-2016. Simultaneously, coal-fired power tumbled from 31 percent to 11 percent, the EIA said in a report.

“Increased access to low-cost natural gas from the Marcellus Shale and other regional shale plays has driven the switch away from coal in the Northeast United States,” the EIA said in a study last week. Analysts note that the cheaper and more plentiful natural gas becomes, the more incentive there is for producers to abandon coal.

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Bet You’d Be Shocked by How Much of Our Natural Gas Comes From Fracking

THE MOTLEY FOOL, MAY 7, 2017 – While crude oil dominates the energy news, natural gas is one of the most important — yet often overlooked — sources of energy in the United States. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than one-third of America’s electricity comes from natural gas; half of American homes use it for cooking, heating water and drying clothes; tens of billions of dollars’ worth of goods are made from it, and hundreds of thousands of vehicles use it as a fuel.

A whopping two-thirds of the natural gas produced in the U.S. is produced with hydraulic fracturing. And while there is some controversy around the risks of fracking, it has driven a huge increase in natural gas production and lowered the cost of the goods and energy produced from it.

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Renewable energy critic to oversee wind and solar programs in U.S.

ENERGYWORLD, May 4, 2017 – The Trump administration has named a fervent critic of government support for wind and solar projects to oversee federal renewable energy programs.

The Department of Energy confirmed Wednesday that Dan Simmons will lead its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Simmons has served as the vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, a Washington think tank that has received funding from the fossil-fuel industry. He previously worked at the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group supported by those who profit from the continued burning of fossil fuels.

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U.S. Wind Energy Installations Surge: A New Turbine Rises Every 2.4 Hours

INSIDE CLIMATE NEWS, May 3, 2017 – Every two and a half hours, workers installed a new wind turbine in the United States during the first quarter of 2017, marking the strongest start for the wind industry in eight years, according to a new report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released on May 2.

“We switched on more megawatts in the first quarter than in the first three quarters of last year combined,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, said in a statement.

Nationwide, wind provided 5.6 percent of all electricity produced in 2016, an amount of electricity generation that has more than doubled since 2010. Much of the demand for new wind energy generation in recent years has come from Fortune 500 companies including Home Depot, GM, Walmart and Microsoft that are buying wind energy in large part for its low, stable cost.

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Clean coal technologies: Vital for U.S. energy security, export opportunities

THE WASHINGTON TIMES, May 1, 2017 – It remains undeniable that West Virginia and the United States have an abundance of natural resources, and throughout our history, we have used and relied on these resources, particularly coal, to build and defend the nation. But for the last eight years, we had to work with an administration that denied just how important coal is to keeping America secure.

I have worked tirelessly to undo the devastating burden that overregulation placed on West Virginia’s economy and our communities. In 2015, I introduced a Congressional Review Act Resolution of Disapproval to stop the Obama administration from imposing the Clean Power Plan, an anti-coal regulation, on new coal-fired plants.

These regulations forced coal-fired plants to meet emissions standards that could not be achieved, even with the most advanced technology. Forcing coal to meet these standards — when experts know that the required technology was not sustainably operational on a commercial scale — made absolutely no sense.

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No, Trump’s new offshore-drilling rule won’t bring us ‘energy independence’

THE WASHINGTON POST, APRIL 28, 2017 – The Trump administration presents the president’s executive order, the “America First Offshore Energy Strategy,” issued Friday, as a boon to American energy consumers. Among other things, it directs the Interior Department to review and revise its five-year offshore drilling plan, making a first step toward opening parts of the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic oceans to oil and natural gas exploration and production. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says the order “puts us on track for American energy independence.” Since his campaign, Donald Trump has claimed boosting oil and gas drilling offshore will foster energy independence and benefit the economy. In fact, more offshore drilling will do neither.

Natural gas is most often used for electricity generation. All of our electricity is produced already domestically, whether it’s from gas, coal, nuclear, solar, hydropower or wind. Producing more gas just lowers the price and incentivizes utilities to favor natural gas over alternatives — both cleaner ones such as wind and solar, and Trump’s beloved coal.

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These States Use the Most Renewable Energy

US NEWS, APIRL 22, 2017 – Though most of the nation’s energy comes from fossil fuels, primarily natural gas, petroleum and coal, states have become increasingly committed to the use of renewable energy.

In 2015, renewable energy sources–including biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind and solar–accounted for about 10 percent of energy consumption in the U.S.

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Electric Grid Study Ordered by U.S. Energy Chief to Boost Coal

BLOOMBERG, APRIL 15, 2017 – U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is ordering a study of the U.S. electric grid, with an eye to examining whether policies that favor wind and solar energy are accelerating the retirement of coal and nuclear plants critical to ensuring steady, reliable power supplies.

The 60-day review, which Perry set in motion Friday, comes as regulators increasingly wonder how to balance electric reliability with a raft of state policies that prioritize less stable renewable energy sources.

In an April 14 memo obtained by Bloomberg News, Perry highlights concerns about the “erosion” of resources providing “baseload power” — consistent, reliable electricity generated even when the sun isn’t shining and the winds aren’t blowing.

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BASSETT: EPA SHOULD FIX THE RENEWABLE FUEL STANDARD

HOUSTON CHRONICLE, DECEMBER 15, 2016 – Energy is key to nearly everything that happens here in America. Think for a second about electricity and the countless things in your house that rely on you getting the power you need at a price you can handle.

A lot of thought goes into making sure that electricity is there every day for every one of us.

Now consider gasoline. Whether you live in a rural community or in the middle of a big city, you probably wouldn’t be able to do one-tenth of the things you do each day without it. It gets you to work, brings your family together on holidays, and delivers the goods you need at the store and the food you eat at a restaurant. Imagining our lives without gasoline is almost impossible – which is why our government needs to put a lot of thought into making sure it’s affordable and abundant.

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U.S., 35 STATES TO BOOST ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING NETWORK

REUTERS, NOVEMBER 3, 2016 – The White House said on Thursday it will establish 48 national electric-vehicle (EV) charging networks on nearly 25,000 miles of highways in 35 U.S. states.

The Obama administration said 28 states, utilities and vehicle manufactures, including General Motors Co (GM.N), BMW AG (BMWG.DE) and Nissan Motor Co (7201.T), and EV charging firms have also agreed to work together to jump-start additional charging stations on the corridors.

The corridors were required to be established by December under a 2015 highway law.

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U.S. ENERGY DEPARTMENT HONORS BERKELEY FOR INNOVATIVE ENERGY-SAVING

BERKELEY NEWS, OCTOBER 26, 2016 – UC Berkeley has won recognition from the U.S. Energy Department for its leadership in campuswide energy innovations.

As an example, the Energy Department cited Jacobs Hall, which opened last year as the home of the interdisciplinary Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation, for achieving 65 percent energy savings.

Berkeley also won praise for its Energy Management Initiative (EMI), which the Energy department called “an innovative approach to linking energy costs to building occupants.” Through EMI, Berkeley has achieved campuswide energy savings of $6.5 million and now has a practice in place to help benchmark energy performance in its buildings, the Energy Department news release said.

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US WOULD CRUMBLE UNDER EUROPEAN-STYLE ENERGY POLICIES, SAYS REPORT

THE DAILY CALLER NEWS FOUNDATION, OCTOBER 21, 2016 – The U.S. would lose more than 7 million jobs if it adopted the kind of energy policies popular in many European countries, according to a report published Friday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The European energy policies would impose a $676 billion drag on the U.S. economy, the report states, and result in Americans paying an extra $4,800 per year to heat their homes.

The price increase would ultimately lead to the loss of several million U.S. jobs, according to the report, which is part of a series of studies conducted by the group leading up to the presidential election. The group compared U.S. and European energy prices between 2008 and 2014.

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REVISITING THE BENEFITS OF THE U.S. ENERGY RENAISSANCE

FORBES, OCTOBER 10, 2016 – If you persevered through the end of the second presidential debate you heard a civilized discussion about energy policy from both candidates. At least they were on a similar page about this subject!

A well-timed report on the topic, recently released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, makes a compelling case for the U.S. energy sector, the potential for a future energy policy and ultimately a stronger economy.

Call it what you want – the U.S. energy renaissance or the shale revolution – since 2009 the U.S. energy sector has changed the course of history that will have a profound effect in the U.S. and across the globe for years to come.

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CLEAN POWER PLAN CAN BOOST ENERGY EFFICIENCY INVESTMENTS IN AFFORDABLE HOUSING

NRDC, SEPTEMBER 15, 2015 – One of the overlooked elements in President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) to set the first limits on carbon pollution from power plants is the positive effect it will likely have on low-income Americans – those who suffer most from climate change and who are facing a crisis in available affordable housing.

The Clean Power Plan, announced by the president on Aug. 3 to limit, will limit the emissions from power plants– the nation’s largest source of the pollution driving dangerous climate change– It has been called ambitious by some and tepid by others. However, it’s groundbreaking in its recognition of the need to include America’s families in efforts to address climate change. The rule established a Clean Energy Incentive Program to provide additional incentives to states that make early investments in energy efficiency and renewables targeting low-income communities and communities of color (as further outlined by my colleague, Dylan Sullivan).

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WHAT THE CLEAN ENERGY SUMMIT DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW

FORBES, AUGUST 24, 2015 – Barack Obama and Harry Reid claim prohibitively expensive wind and solar power are “clean” energy and thus worth their high cost. This message will be delivered all day long today at Reid’s Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. The problem with the Obama-Reid narrative is wind and solar power are not only prohibitively expensive, but they produce worse environmental damage than the conventional power Obama and Reid seek to vilify.

Wind turbines kill at least 1.5 million birds and bats in the United States each year while producing merely 3% of our electricity. Because many birds and bats are maimed at a wind turbine site but then die shortly later after flying or limping away from the wind facility – and away from the death toll count – environmentalist groups such as Save The Eagles say the death toll may be 10 times that amount.

Many of the birds killed by the giant turbines are protected and endangered species such as eagles, owls, hawks, sage grouse, ospreys, and falcons. Wind turbines’ prodigious bat kills are contributing to a dramatic decline in bat populations throughout the United States. Smithsonian magazine calls the ongoing bat decline “the most precipitous decline of North American wildlife in living memory.” Bat Conservation International reports “bats are being killed in alarming numbers at many wind energy facilities” throughout America and the world.

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‘CHOICE’ INITIATIVE EXPANDS ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE ENERGY: FRONT BURNER

ORLANDO SENTINEL, AUGUST 21, 2015 – I’m constantly asked why the Sunshine State is missing the boat on solar power when most states — even cloudy ones like New Jersey and Massachusetts — are moving ahead. Polling shows the majority of Floridians support solar, but our solar market is largely untapped.

That’s why a coalition called Floridians for Solar Choice — a diverse, bipartisan group of more than 50 respected organizations and businesses across the political spectrum — is working to increase access to affordable solar. By advancing a ballot initiative that removes legal barriers to solar, Floridians can have a voice and a choice on energy.

Current state law allows utility companies to sell electricity only to consumers. The Solar Choice Amendment would change that and allow solar companies to install solar panels on a home or business — with no upfront cost — and then sell the power to customers. When the initiative passes, more Floridians will have access to clean, affordable solar energy while maintaining consumer protections we have now.

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OBAMA TURNS BACK ON THE MIDDLE CLASS WITH NEW METHANE EMISSIONS REGULATIONS

SUN SENTINEL, MARCH 5, 2015 – In his State of the Union, President Barack Obama called on Congress to practice “middle-class economics,” by “unleashing new jobs,” “helping working families” and “building the most competitive economy anywhere.”

It seems odd, then, that the president spent the days leading up to the speech ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to unleash harsh and unnecessary new regulations on energy companies that will kill jobs, slap families with higher gas and electricity costs, and ravage the American economy.

The new rules will force the oil and natural gas industry to cut methane emissions by up to 45 percent by 2025. While that may sound like a fine way to give Mother Nature a break, the reality is there’s no evidence that the regulations will do anything to benefit the environment. In fact, the regulations are a clear example of a solution looking for a problem.

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SECRETARY MUNIZ’S ENERGY DEPARTMENT JOINES WITH JOHNNETTA COLE’S NATIONAL MUSEUM TO FOCUS ON MINORITIES IN STEM

THE ROOT, MARCH 2, 2015 – President Barack Obama’s Administration is continuing a focused push to get more African Americans into the technology and energy sector.

The Department of Energy launched the Minorities in Energy Initiative in 2013 during National Hispanic Heritage month, and last Wednesday, February 25, the department sponsored a Minorities in Energy Initiative event at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art to discuss the “art of science” and the importance of minority participation in both art and science fields.

Current Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz, and Dr. Johnnetta Cole, former president of Spelman College and Bennett College—and the museum’s current director—spoke to The Root on the issue.

“The Department of Energy is celebrating black history month and choosing to do so by focusing on the need to increase the number of people of color in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Cole.

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OBAMA’S ENERGY POLICIES HURT WORKING FAMILIES

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 26, 2015 – It has been more than six years since Barack Obama bluntly stated before the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board that during his administration, “if someone wants to build a new coal-fired power plant they can, but it will bankrupt them because they will be charged a huge sum for all the greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

A few short months later, President Obama took office and thus began a systematic decimation of coal communities and the hard-working men and women who have dedicated their lives to blessing our nation with the manifold benefits from affordable and reliable coal-based electricity.

Unfortunately for the once-prosperous middle class, this is one campaign promise President Obama kept. In June of last year, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed what is expected to be the most costly regulation in its history. The plan the EPA put forth stipulates a completely unrealistic timeline that poses dire consequences for America’s workers, their families and their communities.

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NORWESCAP WINS CONTRACT TO HELP WEATHERIZE HOMES IN HUNTERDON, WARREN AND SUSSEX

HUNTERDON COUNTRY DEMOCRAT, FEBRUARY 24, 2015 – The State of New Jersey announced the awarding of a $337,863 open competition contract to the Northwest NJ Community Action Partnership (NORWESCAP) to provide Weatherization Assistance Program services to eligible households in Hunterdon, Warren, and Sussex counties.

“Weatherization helps eligible households save money and significantly reduce their energy consumption,” said John Korp, NORWESCAP Associate Director for Housing & Energy Services. “We are very pleased to be awarded this competitive contract. The agreement will permit us to meet the demand for energy conservation services in our tri-county area. NORWESCAP has been providing this comprehensive service since 1976 and has weatherized over 7,000 homes to date.”

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SPRINGFIELD OFFICIALS PRAISE ENERGY UPGRADES AT SCHOOLS, CITY BUILDINGS, SLATED TO SAVE $1 MILLION ANNUALLY

MASS LIVE, FEBRUARY 24, 2015 – City and school officials, during a tour on Tuesday, praised major energy upgrades taking place at various schools and municipal buildings, including new boilers, expected to save $1 million annually in energy costs.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, who approved a $10 million bond for the energy improvement projects, said the work being done is “not only good for the environment and the quality of education here, but it’s also good for the bottom line – the budget.”

The work began last fall, and should be completed by late September, said Patrick J. Sullivan, the city’s director of parks, buildings, and recreation management.

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EFFICIENCY VERMONT PROMOTES ENERGY SAVINGS FOR SCHOOLS

VT DIGGER, FEBRUARY 23, 2015 – Representatives of the Vermont Department of Education, the Vermont Superintendents Association, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined Efficiency Vermont today at an award ceremony to recognize 22 schools for their excellent energy performance. Each school received an ENERGY STAR designation for meeting stringent standards for energy use and creating healthy learning environments. The ceremony, held at U-32 High School in Montpelier, also celebrated the continued progress of Project Green School, an initiative that aims to help all Vermont schools achieve the ENERGY STAR designation.

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NEW PROGRAM TO SUPPORT MISSOURI HOMEOWNERS IN ENERGY EFFICIENCY

KY3, FEBRUARY 21, 2015 – Gov. Jay Nixon has announced a new homeowner energy certification program that encourages Missourians to join the state in efforts to reduce energy usage by making improvements or upgrades to their homes. The Missouri Home Energy Certification (MHEC) validates energy-efficiency improvements and helps Missouri homeownerssave energy as well as recapture the value of their investments.

“Energy efficiency is a win-win for consumers and our economy,” Nixon said. “This new certificate is the state’s seal of approval to those taking positive steps to reduce energy usage and invest in systems that will add value to their homes. This is another opportunity for Missourians to make a difference in our state’s energy future as well as create jobs in the energy solutions industry.”

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USDA ANNOUNCES FUNDING FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROJECTS

RENEWABLE ENERGY FOCUS, FEBRUARY 19, 2015 – Rural agricultural producers and small business owners in the US can now apply for resources to purchase and install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. Thanks to the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), more than $280 million funding will be made available to help farmers, ranchers and other small business owners save money on their energy bills, reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, support America’s clean energy economy and cut carbon pollution.

The resources, announced earlier this month, are made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The funding we are making available will help farmers, ranchers, business owners, tribal organizations and other entities incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations. Doing so can help a business reduce energy use and costs while improving its bottom line. While saving producers money and creating jobs, these investments reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut carbon pollution as well.”

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PILOT PROJECT TO INCREASE ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN MULTIFAMILY HOUSING

THE AGGIE, FEBRUARY 17, 2015 – On Jan. 29, California Governor Jerry Brown, along with Secretary Julián Castro of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), announced in a press release a pilot program to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy for multifamily housing. The pilot program supports Brown’s goal of generating 50 percent of California’s electricity from renewable sources by 2050.

Ed Cabrera, interim public affairs officer for HUD region 9 based in San Francisco, explained that the program will vary state to state in terms of renewable energy in multifamily housing.

“Across the country, about a quarter of the nation’s households live in multifamily housing, so this is a very large part of the population. Many of these multifamily properties have cost-effective energy and water-saving opportunities that owners are currently not able to take advantage of because of a certain number of barriers — financing [and administrative] barriers. The focus on multifamily is to overcome those barriers,” Cabrera said.

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TO STAY A GLOBAL ENERGY LEADER, U.S. MUST CAPITALIZE ON ARCTIC DEVELOPMENT

FORBES, FEBRUARY 17, 2015 – The recent fall in oil prices has prompted questions about America’s continued dominance as a global energy leader. However, those in doubt must remember two things: America still possesses rich energy resources and companies possess the technological advances that will enable us to prevail. We can continue this trajectory by putting policies in place which encourage corporations to invest in U.S. energy development, rather than elsewhere.

One case in point is the Arctic, which contains some of the world’s largest undiscovered reserves of oil and natural gas. Companies should be able to make exploration and development decisions in this region, unencumbered by government red tape. The price of oil may be a factor in their decision of when to conduct operations, but government roadblocks or slow approvals should not be the factors which deter their operational or investment decisions.

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THE WHITE HOUSE WALKS AWAY FROM CLEAN COAL

BLOOMBERG, FEBRUARY 14, 2015 – On the banks of the Illinois River, about 60 miles west of the state capital in Springfield, an old coal-fired power plant sits waiting for its future to arrive. First opened in 1948, it’s been dormant since 2011, when its owner, St. Louis-based Ameren, shut down the plant rather than retrofit it to meet federal standards. Last year workers came to give it a makeover. Using almost $1 billion in stimulus money, the project was supposed to become the poster child for clean-coal technology. Rather than spewing into the sky, the carbon dioxide produced as the plant burned coal would be captured into a pipeline buried below corn and soybean fields. It would run 30 miles east to Jacksonville, where the gas would be injected 4,000 feet underground. “It was like we were the phoenix rising,” says the plant’s director, Mike Long.

The resurrection was short-lived. On Feb. 3, the Department of Energy announced it was withdrawing support. Environmentalists who want investment in renewable power technologies rather than fossil energy cheered the decision. “We don’t need it, and we can’t afford it,” Bruce Nilles, head of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, says of carbon-capture projects.

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SOUTHERN CO. COURT LOSS IS CLEAN COAL’S SECOND SETBACK IN MONTH

BLOOMBERG, FEBRUARY 13, 2015 – Southern Co. said it’s reviewing its options after Mississippi’s high court threw out a key element of a financing plan for an over-budget plant in the state, the second set back this month for a high profile clean-coal project.

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday ordered refunds to customers of about $250 million and told regulators to must reconsider how to pay for the $6.2 billion project, the most expensive coal plant in history. The Kemper County project — the first commercial-scale plant to capture carbon dioxide and bury it underground — is seen as a showcase for supporters of the technology, including the Obama administration.

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ENERGY-EFFICIENT RENTAL HOUSING CAN SAVE RESIDENTS MORE THAT $600 PER YEAR, STUDY SAYS

VIRGINIA TECH, FEBRUARY 11, 2015 – Residents of energy efficient apartments save an average of $54 a month, or $648 annually, on their electricity bills, according a Housing Virginia study that demonstrates the impacts of energy efficient construction requirements in affordable rental housing.

The yearlong study conducted by Virginia Tech’s Center for Housing Research also finds that apartments built to higher energy efficiency standards, including third party testing and inspection, outperform new standard construction housing by more than 40 percent with respect to energy consumption.

The study is the first of its kind in Virginia and one of the first in the nation to verify actual electricity usage in apartments built to meet high level efficiency standards.

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USDA ANNOUNCES FUNDING FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROJECTS

HOOSIER AG TODAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2015 – USDA is offering grants for up to 25 percent of total project costs and loan guarantees for up to 75 percent of total project costs for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. The REAP application window has been expanded. USDA will now accept and review loan and grant applications year-round.

Eligible renewable energy projects must incorporate commercially available technology. This includes renewable energy from wind, solar, ocean, small hydropower, hydrogen, geothermal and renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters). The maximum grant amount is $500,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.

Energy efficiency improvement projects eligible for REAP funding include lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, fans, automated controls and insulation upgrades that reduce energy consumption. The maximum grant amount is $250,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.

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OBAMA TO PRIVATE SECTOR: $2B FOR CLEAN ENERGY

THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, FEBRUARY 10, 2015 – President Barack Obama is setting a goal of raising $2 billion from the private sector for investments in clean energy.

The White House says it’s launching a Clean Energy Investment Initiative as part of the Obama administration’s effort to address climate change.

The Energy Department will solicit investments from philanthropists and investors concerned about climate change. The aim is to spur development of technologies and energy sources that are low in carbon dioxide pollution, such as solar panels, wind power, fuel cells and advanced batteries.

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GOP AVOIDS SHOWDOWN OVER EPA CLIMATE CHANGE RULES

POLITICO, FEBRUARY 9, 2015 – Republicans’ aggressive energy agenda has so far conspicuously sidestepped one of their biggest campaign-trail targets: the climate change rules from President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency.

The House GOP plans to steer clear of a showdown over the greenhouse gas rules in a broad energy package that it will unveil this week, raising questions about whether Republicans are grasping for a workable plan to stop the carbon dioxide regulations that EPA will issue later this year.

In the Senate, GOP leaders avoided a fight over Obama’s climate change rules during January’s long debate over Keystone XL pipeline.

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OBAMA BUDGET OFFERS NO FUNDING BOOST TO HEATING PROGRAM FOR THE POOR

THE WASHINGTON POST, FEBRUARY 8, 2015 – In the depths of the Great Recession, the federal government more than doubled funding for a program that helps impoverished families pay their energy bills.

Since then, the program’s budget has decreased 30 percent, by $1.7 billion over five years.

But demand for the aid continues to outstrip supply, even with today’s lower oil prices — a stark reminder that many of the poorest Americans have been left out in the cold as the country’s economy heats up.

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CHILDREN LEARN IMPORTANCE OF ENERGY SAVING WITH AVISTA KIDS PROGRAM

KLEWTV, FEBRUARY 4, 2015 – For most, technology has become a part of every day life.

Kids are growing up with it, and adults are getting use to using it for almost everything. But with all this technology it’s easy to forget about saving energy. Avista is trying to change that and they’re starting with elementary students.

Avista Utilities is helping elementary school students learn about energy efficiency and being safe around energy with the Avista Kids Program.

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OBAMA BUDGET WOULD POUR FUNDS INTO CLIMATE, RENEWABLE ENERGY

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, FEBRUARY 3, 2015 – President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget plan would pour billions of dollars into climate-change and renewable-energy technologies, and repeal nearly $50 billion in tax breaks from the oil, natural-gas and coal industries.

The budget proposal, released Monday, underscores an intensifying push by Mr. Obama on his climate agenda, which he hopes to cement as a presidential legacy in his final two years in office.

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LIHEAP RUNS OUT OF CRISIS FUNDS AFTER ONLY TWO WEEKS

HAZARD HERALD, FEBRUARY 4, 2015 – The extreme winter cold brings with it the rising cost of utility bills, and in an economically depressed region like Eastern Kentucky, those bills can break the bank for many local families.

From November through January, hundreds of people lined up outside the Leslie-Knott-Letcher-Perry (LKLP) Community Action Council on Roy Campbell Drive to sign up for LIHEAP.

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HOW ‘LOW-HANGING FRUIT’ HAS POISONED ENERGY EFFICIENCY

GREENWICH EFFICIENCY, FEBRUARY 2, 2015 – Most folks in the efficiency world are familiar with the concept of low-hanging fruit — do a few small things, and big results will happen. The trouble is, we’ve found precisely the opposite to be true, and now we’ve not only come up with a way to express it, but have also identified two anecdotes that suggest our hypothesis might be accurate.

The few firms and organizations in the home performance/energy efficiency world that have actually tracked results have found energy-savings results to be almost ridiculously scattered. There is essentially no rhyme or reason to which projects work and which ones don’t. But we believe we may have cracked the code.

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EFFICIENCY CAMPAIGN AIMS TO CUT BUILDING ENERGY USE BY 25 PERCENT

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, JANUARY 30, 2015 – Think cutting your energy use by a quarter seems far-fetched? People who own or operate some of St. Louis’ tallest buildings and biggest institutions beg to differ.

More than three dozen have signed on to an efficiency campaign backed by the St. Louis Regional Chamber and the U.S. Green Building Council’s Missouri Gateway chapter. The campaign includes some of the region’s tallest buildings and largest employers, such as Metropolitan Square, Bank of America Plaza, Express Scripts and Washington University.

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ENERGY-SAVING PROPOSAL HAS BIPARTISAN OK

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, JANUARY 29, 2015 – Energy issues often lead to some of the most divisive policy debates in America, but even in our habitually contentious Congress, good ideas draw support from all sides.

We saw evidence of this on Jan. 20, when the U.S. Senate showered overwhelming and bipartisan approval onto an energy-efficiency measure proposed by Ohio’s Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire.

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ENERGY REFORM & LOW-INCOME CONSUMERS

WASHINGTON, January 22, 2015 – In many ways, the U.S. energy system is a modern marvel. Over the past century, electricity has become universal, reliable and relatively affordable, providing households of every kind with equal opportunity to benefit from this basic service. But over the last few decades, policymakers have sought to modernize the regulatory framework that led to these achievements. Many of these policy efforts have succeeded in achieving their stated purpose, but others have failed to generate anticipated gains. Common across all reform efforts, though, has been a distinct lack of focus on how new policies or new business models or new technologies in the energy space might impact the most vulnerable among us. In particular, there has been little regard at all for whether reforms might actually address the compelling needs of low-income consumers, a user group that has long struggled to afford this utility service. The following provides a brief accounting.

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HAWAIIAN ELECTRIC TO MAKE ROOFTOP SOLAR MORE COMMON, LESS LUCRATIVE

HONOLULU CIVIL NEWS, JANUARY 21, 2015 – Hawaiian Electric Co. is lifting constraints on its electric grids on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island to allow a lot more rooftop solar to come online, utility officials announced at a press conference Tuesday.

But the news, cheered by Hawaii’s beleaguered solar industry, was tempered by another announcement by HECO that it hopes to slash the amount that it pays rooftop solar customers for their electricity.

HECO officials say that the reduced rate will level the playing field for residents who haven’t, or can’t, switch to solar, but are currently shouldering most of the costs of maintaining HECO’s infrastructure.

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POLL: NY WANTS COMPETITIVE SOLAR

FIERCE ENERGY, JANUARY 21, 2015 – An overwhelming majority of New Yorkers support a competitive solar market in the state. In fact, 94 percent support the use of solar, according to a poll of 500 state voters conducted by the Siena College Research Institute in partnership with The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC).

Further, 69 percent oppose changes to solar net metering credits that would force owners of solar panels to transfer all the power they produce to the electricity grid, and then buy that power back from the utility company. A small minority, 13 percent, support regulated utilities owning and placing solar panels on customers’ property — if the utilities are allowed to increase regulated rates for all customers to pursue such programs.

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INDIANA PROPOSALS SET UP LEGISLATIVE SHOWDOWN OVER ENERGY EFFICIENCY, SOLAR

ENERGYWIRE, JANUARY 15, 2015 – Indiana’s legislative session is scarcely a week old, but a pair of bills has already re-established a wedge between utilities and clean energy advocates.

One of the measures would allow utilities to propose their own energy efficiency goals and programs. The other would alter terms and impose demand charges for utility customers who choose to generate a share of their electricity with solar energy systems.

The bills dive into two of the thorniest energy policy issues facing states today — how to encourage reductions in energy use and give consumers the ability to generate energy with rooftop solar arrays while keeping utilities financially strong and able to reinvest in the grid.

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THE DEBATE OVER DISTRIBUTED GENERATION

POWER ENGINEERING, JANUARY 12, 2015 – As electric utilities reel from significant revenue losses caused by the growth of distributed generation – power produced outside the grid by homes and businesses – power professionals remain deeply divided over the breadth of DG’s impact on centralized power.

The division was plainly evident last month at POWER-GEN International 2014, where the debate raged in the conference rooms and hallways of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

“This is definitely creating a potential threat for utilities,” said Nisha Desai, vice president of Distributed Generation for NRG Energy. “The ones that are forward looking can turn this into an opportunity. The ones that don’t embrace it will certainly see their business models challenged.”

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EMPOWER CONSUMERS APPLAUDS THE WHITE HOUSE’S INCLUSIVE VISION FOR SOLAR POWER

WASHINGTON, SEPTEMBER 22, 2014 – Empower Consumers, an advocacy group that works to minimize financial hardships that arise as a byproduct of environmentally-focused energy policies, applauds President Barack Obama’s inclusive vision for enhancing energy efficiency and embracing alternative energy sources like solar. This vision was made clear in an announcement last week regarding new programs to further federal energy efficiency efforts. Among these programs was a series of commitments to increase alternative energy use like solar in affordable housing developments administered by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.

For Empower Consumers, the real benefits of these programs were outlined by HUD Secretary Julian Castro and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in an event held in conjunction with the White House’s announcement. Secretary Castro highlighted the many new economic opportunities that a more robust alternative energy sector might offer to lower income families. Empower Consumers agrees and hopes that HUD will work with counterparts at the grassroots level to make sure that these opportunities are truly available in the communities that will benefit from energy efficiency initiatives.

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Third-Party Solar Firms: Buyer Beware

SEPTEMBER 12, 2014 – A key enabler of the rapid growth of rooftop solar in the U.S. has been the emergence of a vast number of unregulated third-party solar leasing and financing firms. These companies, which operate on the margins of the energy sector, thus escaping the comprehensive consumer protection regime that governs traditional electric providers, have grown so prominent so fast as a result of generous subsidies and financial arrangements that oftentimes result in harmful consequences.

Third-party solar leasing firms account for well over 50 percent of new residential solar capacity in major markets. Leasing has made solar power more affordable for some by lowering solar’s up-front costs. Leasing now accounts for more than 75 percent of the total residential solar market.

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Energy Reform & Low-Income Consumers

SEPTEMBER 11, 2014 – In many ways, the U.S. energy system is a modern marvel. Over the past century, electricity has become universal, reliable and relatively affordable, providing households of every kind with equal opportunity to benefit from this basic service. But over the last few decades, policymakers have sought to modernize the regulatory framework that led to these achievements. Many of these policy efforts have succeeded in achieving their stated purpose, but others have failed to generate anticipated gains. Common across all reform efforts, though, has been a distinct lack of focus on how new policies or new business models or new technologies in the energy space might impact the most vulnerable among us. In particular, there has been little regard at all for whether reforms might actually address the compelling needs of low-income consumers, a user group that has long struggled to afford this utility service. The following provides a brief accounting.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) was one of the earliest attempts to reform the energy sector. Among many other things, it sought to make the energy market more competitive by eliminating or otherwise reforming the policies that were long used to protect energy monopolies. Similar reforms were sought in the 1990s via the Energy Policy Act of 1992, which provided the basis for pursuing “open access” of certain components of electricity service, yet another effort to introduce competition into a sector that had long been dominated by monopoly providers.

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Too Good to be True: The Real Impacts & Costs of Cheap Chinese Solar

AUGUST 21, 2014Recent reports from China have highlighted the poor quality of Chinese-made solar panels. This is hardly breaking news; the issue has been discussed at length in the U.S. for some time. These new reports, however, underscore the many problematic aspects of current solar policies and practices. The promise of solar can quickly be undermined by a market that has been flooded with defective photovoltaics and that lacks adequate consumer protections. As a result, consumers stand to lose the most.

The consequences of defective solar panels are troubling given the prevalence of Chinese-made photovoltaics around the world. One recent report found that, as of 2011, China produced 63 percent of the world’s photovoltaics. The study also found that China’s modular shipments have a compound annual growth rate of 123 percent – meaning that China’s hold on the solar manufacturing sector is projected to continue for some time.

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The Evolution of Energy Regulation and Consumer Protections

AUGUST 15, 2014 – The energy sector, shaped and guide by an array of regulators, has long served the public interests of all consumers equitably. Energy regulation – the full spectrum of laws, regulations and policies that guide this sector – is designed with one goal in mind: to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of affordable electricity to every consumer regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic status. Regulators ensure that this goal is achieved through providing avenues for public advocacy and representation, as well as through the facilitation of programs that ensure energy affordability. As the energy system continues to evolve, policymakers must ensure that technological advances and policies do not erode these mechanisms.

There are a number of regulators overseeing the generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity. Federal regulators, like FERC, largely regulate the interstate transmission and wholesale transactions of electricity. State-level regulators and agencies, including most notably public utility commissions (PUCs), are tasked with ensuring safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protecting the public interest; educating consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthering economic development; and fostering new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.

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EMPOWER CONSUMERS URGING CONGRESS TO EARMARK FUNDING FOR LOW INCOME HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

WASHINGTON, JULY 10, 2014 – EmPower Consumers has joined a growing list of organizations, governors, House members and Senators from both sides of the aisle, and others in urging Congress to adequately fund the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

A June 10 markup of the bill funding the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, indicated a recommendation of $3.39 billion by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee.

“All in all, this bill takes a thoughtful approach to funding these critical programs because this bill funds America’s priorities,” said U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman of the Subcommittee.

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EMPOWER CONSUMERS PRAISES PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONERS FOR STANCE ON RENEWABLE PORTFOLIO STANDARDS

Cites increased cost for consumers under and RPS mandate and carbon cap-and-trade

WASHINGTON – EmPower Consumers today praised the public service and public utility commissioners in ten states for a joint letter to Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House energy and Commerce Committee that called for a balance between federal energy policy and the direct impact on consumers, state economies and business.

The joint letter, signed by the public service commissioners in Ala., Ark., Ga., La., Miss., Mo., N.C., S.C. and W. Va., and the public utility commissioner in Tex., urges Congress to ensure that the transition to a low-carbon economy does not result in burdensome costs to consumers and does compromise the reliability of service.

“I am pleased that so many public service and public utility commissioners have expressed their concern about a federal RPS,” Bassett said referring to the joint letter. “As these commissioners have said, a one-size-fits-all national mandate could have unintentional consequences that could harm consumers and our economy.”

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EMPOWER TESTIFIES BEFORE U.S. HOUSE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE


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“EMPOWER CONSUMERS” COALITION CALLS FOR SMART SOLUTIONS TO AMERICA’S PRESSING ENERGY NEEDS

Washington, DC – Declaring “now is the time” for a common-sense approach to our nation’s energy challenges, a broad-based group of consumers, small businesses and former government officials called on policymakers to embrace long-term, pragmatic energy policies that take into account the needs of all Americans. The group, Empower Consumers, represents members from all regions of the country whose livelihoods are directly impacted by rising energy costs.

“Now is the time for Americans to come together to find pragmatic solutions to our climate change and energy challenges without unduly harming consumers and businesses,” said coalition spokesman Daryl Bassett, former Public Utility Commissioner of the state of Arkansas. “We applaud Congress for taking on these crucial challenges, but at a time of severe economic crisis it is essential to keep energy costs affordable for the millions of small businesses that employ the majority of U.S. workers. Energy costs also represent a hidden tax on the poorest Americans — single-parent families, minority communities, senior citizens, those living on fixed incomes — who already spend roughly one-quarter of their after-tax income on energy.”

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OBAMA ON HIS EMBATTLED BUDGET: LET’S TALK BUT…

LOS ANGELES TIMES, FEBRUARY 15, 2011 – Sweeping hand gestures were the order of today as President Obama defended his budget at a news conference (full text below), reflecting widespread skepticism over the seriousness of his spending “cuts.” At last, bipartisanship to believe in.

The Democrat invested 62 presidential minutes and about 8,000 chief executive words, many of them to defend his budget priorities. The first thing the nation needs to know is that President Obama is “confident.” It’s his new favorite phrase, supplanting “going forward.”

But the Washington political community on both sides is also confident that the Democrat’s immense budget is merely a placeholder for the real spending bargaining, which will come in the next two or three months over the budget and raising the debt ceiling.

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