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U.S. EPA chief defends big energy projects, says climate not top priority

Reuters | Posted on April 18, 2019

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will unveil a proposal to speed state-level permitting decisions for energy infrastructure projects soon, the agency’s chief told Reuters, blasting states that have blocked coal terminals and gas pipelines on environmental grounds.

Puerto Rico governor signs 100% renewable energy mandate

Utility Dive | Posted on April 18, 2019

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Thursday signed into law a 100% renewable energy mandate that the hurricane-battered island must meet by 2050. The Public Energy Policy Law of Puerto Rico, passed last month by territory legislators, directs the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to source 40% of its power from renewables by 2025 and cease burning coal in 2028 on its way to 100% renewables. The signing comes days after a Department of Energy official recommended the installation of a large gas generator in San Juan, but admitted it "may be at odds" with the 100% goal. PREPA's CEO told reporters it is evaluating the proposal in its revised integrated resource plan

Washington 100% clean energy bill gets one step closer to Inslee's desk

Utility Dive | Posted on April 18, 2019

Washington's House of Representatives on Thursday approved a 100% clean energy bill, following Senate approval on March 1, making it the fourth state in the country to commit to such a goal. Senate Bill 5116 passed the House 56-42, and will require the state to power 100% of its electricity from carbon-free resources by 2045. The legislation phases out coal entirely by 2025 and requires all electricity sales to be carbon-neutral by 2030.The bill was amended in the House so will still ​need to be reconciled in the Senate. Then, the bill will move on to Gov. Jay Inslee, D, who released a clean energy legislative package in December, which included five policy goals to reduce the state's carbon emissions, including the 2045 and 2025 goals in the bill.

Homegrown energy can't tame U.S. pump prices

The Wall Street Journal | Posted on April 17, 2019

Once upon a time, stormy politics in the Mideast routinely inflicted pain on Americans at the pump. Recently it was storms in the Midwest as infrastructure issues in a region known for corn, not petroleum, made it difficult for some refiners to get the ethanol needed for gasoline. America’s energy renaissance didn’t help one bit.  Almost all U.S. gasoline is blended with 10% ethanol thanks to the Renewable Fuel Standard. The mandate at the time was meant to make gasoline cleaner and encourage a shift from dependence on foreign energy sources.The mandate not only has been a boon for farmers, absorbing a big chunk of the world’s largest corn crop, but also a political third rail. When flooding hit the Midwest last month, above-ground shipping was disrupted. The agribusiness company Archer Daniels Midland warned in late March that this could affect earnings.


Michigan revisits policy that limits solar development on farmland

Energy News Network | Posted on April 11, 2019

As states consider the compatibility of utility-scale solar projects on farmland, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration is revisiting a state policy that the industry says has acted as a barrier. Michigan’s Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program provides tax incentives to landowners who keep land under contract for agricultural practices for decades. In 2017, under former Gov. Rick Snyder, the state issued a policy saying commercial solar development is not compatible with the program, and landowners would have to end their farmland preservation contracts if they entered into commercial solar leases.Farmers can exit the preservation program under a variety of conditions. However, doing so in most cases means paying back the previous seven years of tax credits plus 6% interest. This has been a barrier for farmers interested in commercial solar leases.Under Whitmer, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is reviewing the policy, looking at both short- and long-term solutions for farmers interested in solar leases. The process could result in legislation requiring solar projects on preservation land to include agriculturally compatible features, such as raised panels allowing for grazing or shade-tolerant crops. 

Illinois:Lottery Held To Decide Which Solar Energy Projects Get Credits To Sell Power To Utilities

WIll | Posted on April 11, 2019

Hundreds of proposals for solar electricity projects in Illinois competed to win renewable energy credits in a special lottery. The credits will be used to mark the sale of renewable energy to utility companies that are required by the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act to buy a certain amount. “Renewable energy credits are designed to recognize the environmental attributes of renewal energy, and put a monetary value on something that traditional markets don’t properly value,” said Anthony Star, who manages the Illinois Power Agency, which conducted the lottery, using a random number generator. Results of the lottery can be found at this link to the IPA website.Solar energy projects in Illinois do not need renewable energy credits to sell electricity to utilities. But Star says their chances for profitability would be less without them.

Montana judge rules PSC intentionally set PURPA rates to kill solar projects

Utility Dive | Posted on April 11, 2019

A Montana district court judge last week issued an order in favor of solar developers, ruling that the state's Public Service Commission intentionally disadvantaged small solar projects in violation of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). The ruling comes after a June 2017 audio recording captured Commissioner Bob Lake acknowledging that cuts to compensation rates the commission had approved that morning were likely deep enough to kill small solar projects. After the recording was released, a number of solar developers in the state filed suit against NorthWestern and the PSC.The PSC cut the rates utilities have to pay solar producers under PURPA by 40%, from $66/MWh to $31/MWh, and cut contracts from 25 to 15 years. District Judge James Manley's order gives the PSC 20 days to come up with new compensation rates and restore contracts to 25 years

Ohio GOP lines up bill to save FirstEnergy nuclear plants

Utility Dive | Posted on April 11, 2019

Ohio Republicans are reportedly circulating legislation that would provide financial support to FirstEnergy’s two nuclear plants slated for closure in the state. A draft version of the bill would create an "Ohio clean air program" that would provide a total of $300 million annually to the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants through customer bill surcharges. Energy News Network released a version of the bill last Thursday. A bill sponsor told the bill could be formally introduced late this week but its provisions are "still in a state of flux." Lawmakers must pass support legislation by June, when FirstEnergy must decide whether to purchase more fuel for the plants or shut them down.

Why some environmental groups oppose a bill to help out low-carbon nuclear plants

Pennsylvania Capital Star | Posted on April 11, 2019

After Sen. Ryan Aument revealed his version of a plan to prop up the state’s nuclear power plants on Wednesday, it didn’t take long for the criticism to start rolling in. “We don’t need to see the forthcoming bill to know that any proposed legislation would rob ratepayers, including Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens, to support corporate greed,” the No Nukes Bailout Coalition, a group that includes the AARP, gas industry interests, and commercial electric users, said.The debate over whether lawmakers should forestall the shutdowns of two of the state’s five nuclear power plants is one of the most divisive issues of this legislative session. A bill similar to Aument’s was introduced in the House in March.And it’s made unlikely allies among some critics, which include everyone from liberal consumer advocates to the conservative Americans for Prosperity.

Ohio bill would create ‘clean air’ fund to benefit nuclear, excluding wind and solar

Energy News Network | Posted on April 11, 2019

Legislation to subsidize two FirstEnergy Solutions nuclear power plants in Ohio is about to surface in the Ohio House. Republican majority leaders have been circulating a proposal that would add up to $300 million annually to electric bills across the state, creating a state “clean air program” with grants administered by political appointees.About $180 million would be earmarked for the FirstEnergy Solutions nuclear power plants, say analysts who have looked at the legislation. The remaining $120 million could be used to prop up other companies — though it appears those companies would not be owners of wind and solar farms.