The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will propose reallocating biofuel blending obligations waived under its small refinery exemption program to other refiners, in an announcement that could come as early as Friday, according to two sources familiar with the agency’s plans. The move is a nod to biofuel groups frustrated with the agency’s broad expansion of the waiver program under the Trump administration, but will antagonize refining companies who say it will unjustly increase their regulatory costs. U.S. renewable fuel credits tied to ethanol jumped by a nickel on Wednesday on the news, hitting 28 cents apiece, according to two traders. The EPA is expected to make the announcement as part of the release on Friday of the agency’s proposed annual biofuel blending mandates under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), one source told Reuters. The RFS requires refiners to blend biofuels like ethanol into the fuel pool or buy compliance credits from those who do. Refineries with capacity of less than 75,000 barrels per day can seek waivers from the program if they can show that complying would cause them significant financial damage. The EPA under administrator Scott Pruitt has roughly tripled the number of waivers issued compared with the previous administration, drawing criticism that he is gutting the program. Biofuel groups say the waivers have cut the ethanol mandate from 15 billion gallons to 13.5 billion gallons.
PG&E Corp. and its subsidiary, Pacific Gas and Electric, announced today in an 8-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it will record a $2.5 billion pre-tax charge related to deadly wildfires in Northern California last year. The charge relates to the liability for the damage from 10 wildfires, but does not include potential government penalties or fines, or the impacts of seven other fires where PG&E does not believe it will take a loss. Earlier this month, Cal Fire, the state's fire management agency, said electric equipment owned by PG&E caused 12 wildfires that killed 18 people and burned hundreds of square miles. Some industry observers believe this could lead to bankruptcy for the utility.
The world’s biggest companies are increasingly worried about climate change. The terms “climate” and “weather” combined were among the most frequently discussed topics among executives of Standard & Poor’s 500 companies, beating “Trump,” “the dollar,” “oil” and “recession” according to analysis of 10 years of earnings call transcripts by S&P Global Ratings. “The effect of climate risk and severe weather events on corporate earnings is meaningful,” S&P said in the joint report with Hamilton, Bermuda-based Resilience Economics Ltd. “If left unmitigated, the financial impact could increase over time as climate change makes disruptive weather events more frequent and severe.”
President Trump directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to stop the closure of coal and nuclear plants, pushed offline by cheaper electricity from natural gas and renewables. The president told Perry to “prepare immediate steps” to stop the plants from retiring, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, adding that “impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation’s energy mix, and impacting the resilience of our power grid."
The CEO of the largest nuclear generator in the U.S. says the retirement of coal and nuclear plants does not constitute a grid emergency that warrants urgent intervention from the federal government, as President Donald Trump directed last week. Exelon CEO Chris Crane said the case for a grid emergency is difficult to make in the PJM Interconnection, the site of many potential retirements, when its reserve margin remains so high — 22% in its latest capacity auction. The company has not advocated for emergency action to save plants from retirement, he said. Crane said Exelon would rather work with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and regional grid operators to devise market-based plans to value resilience attributes of generators, but with more guidance from DOE and other federal agencies as to the specific nature of national security threats to the grid.
Aspen Electric, the municipal utility serving the resort town of the same name, achieved 100 percent renewables in 2015, and it didn’t break the bank to do so. Residential rates for Aspen’s customers rank among the lowest in Colorado, while meeting a 100 percent renewable energy goal set by Aspen’s city council 13 years earlier. And this month, upgrades to a Nebraska wind farm, of which Aspen Electric is a major customer, will push the utility’s costs even lower – dropping about 15 percent annually, or $475,000.
Wisconsin officials found elevated levels of toxic heavy metals near a frack sand mine spill that sent millions of gallons of sludge into a tributary, carrying it downstream into the Mississippi River.
Despite tariffs that President Trump imposed on imported panels, the U.S. installed more solar energy than any other source of electricity in the first quarter. Developers installed 2.5 gigawatts of solar in the first quarter, up 13 percent from a year earlier, according to a report Tuesday from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. That accounted for 55 percent of all new generation, with solar panels beating new wind and natural gas turbines for a second straight quarter.
Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation on Friday to encourage the installation of energy storage in the state and to integrate storage procurement mechanisms into utilities' long-term planning processes. House Bill 18-1270, also known as the "Energy Storage Procurement Act," sets a deadline of Feb. 1, 2019, for the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to develop procurement rules. Utilities will be able to file applications for rate-based projects by May 1, though they cannot exceed 15 MW. This is the second energy storage bill Colorado lawmakers have passed this year. In March, Hickenlooper signed a measure that focused on consumer-installed storage.
Two U.S. senators from Western states joined the legislative fight Thursday to repeal President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported solar panels, saying the higher taxes on foreign producers are jeopardizing jobs in the U.S.Republican Dean Heller of Nevada and Democrat Martin Heinrich of New Mexico introduced a measure that calls for duties and tariffs for solar cells to revert to previous rates and to allow for companies affected by the tariffs hike to seek reimbursements.The senators contend that the higher tariffs are stifling investment in the domestic solar market.