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Economist explains bleak economic realities of oil crash

eenews | Posted on May 10, 2016

As a result of Alaska's full-blown dependence on oil money, the state now faces a grim $4.1 billion budget deficit. Knapp's message is simple, but sobering: "The era when we can rely on oil to pay for most of state government is basically coming to an end."

According to Knapp, the state faces four basic options for reducing the state budget deficit. "We have a problem that can really only be solved by pulling a lot of economic levers," he said. "And the essential issue we face is: How hard do we pull each one?"

First, the Alaska Legislature needs to cut the state's $5.2 billion budget, although which programs should be reduced and how large those cuts should be remains a hotly debated issue. Second, Alaska residents and businesses will have to kick in more money for state programs. This year, the state expects to receive about $1 billion in oil money and $500 million in non-oil revenues. Alaska is currently the only state in the union that doesn't charge a state income or sales tax.

Without energy, West Virginia's economy is flat, and that's a problem

West Virginia Public Broadcasting | Posted on May 10, 2016

It's possible West Virginia's coal mines might never come back. It's something both presumptive presidential nominees have been reckoning with as they campaign in the state ahead of Tuesday's primary.

But a relatively small number of West Virginians are actually in the coal business — energy is more than 17 percent of gross domestic product, or GDP, but just 4 or 5 percent of employment — so what about the rest of the economy?

In six counties, between a fourth and a third of people have lost jobs in the past few years. Plus, the decline in natural gas has been a double-whammy. And unlike Wyoming and North Dakota, most of those workers stay in West Virginia, driving up the unemployment rate, or they drop out of the workforce entirely. West Virginia already has the lowest workforce participation rate in the nation, and it leads in disability payments. And those aren't the only factors holding back employment: West Virginian workers also trail the nation in education and overall health.

Bill introduced in Ohio Senate would extend freeze on renewable-energy standards | Posted on May 10, 2016

Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati, introduced a bill on Monday that would extend a freeze on the state's renewable energy standards for another three years.

After lifting the freeze in 2019, Senate Bill 320 would phase in renewable energy goals in three-year increments through 2028. Utilities would be required to obtain 5.5 percent of their energy from renewable sources in 2022, 8.5 percent in 2025 and 11.5 percent in 2028. Starting in 2029, the goal would be 12.5 percent.

PJM Study Defends Markets, Warns State Policies can Harm Competition

RTO Insider | Posted on May 10, 2016

A PJM Energy Market analysis released concludes that the RTO’s markets are efficiently managing the entry and exit of capacity resources but warns their efforts could be hamstrung by policies to protect social, economic or political interests.“Policymakers must weigh these trade-offs, but understand that pursuing individual actions that ‘defeat’ efficient market outcomes will aggregate to a point they will altogether thwart effective operation of the market to the point it can no longer be relied upon to govern resource exit and entry and attract capital investment when needed,” it said.
The report was commissioned by the Board of Managers last summer, following efforts by money-losing coal-fired generators in Ohio and nuclear generators in Illinois to win state-backed subsidies.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is grappling with how to respond to a recent FERC order requiring federal review of power purchase agreements it granted to American Electric Power and FirstEnergy.

Meanwhile, Exelon CEO Christopher Crane said in an earnings call on Friday that if Illinois legislators don’t step in and provide aid, it will decommission its money-losing Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants beginning next year. 

Atlantic Sunrise pipeline gets a green light from FERC and a lawsuit from enviros

State Impact - Pennsylvania | Posted on May 9, 2016

The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project won preliminary approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday, paving the way for the $3 billion expansion of the Transco system to move forward as environmentalists simultaneously filed a federal lawsuit objecting to the pipeline. FERC released its draft environmental impact statement, concluding the environmental impact would not be significant.

The project includes construction of 197.7 miles of new pipeline, most of which would be in Pennsylvania, and designed to move Marcellus Shale gas from Northeast Pennsylvania as far south as Alabama. The new lines would cross through ten Pennsylvania counties.

A Top Utility Regulator Talks About How to Prepare California for 50% Renewable Energy

Green Tech Media | Posted on May 9, 2016

As California looks to get half its electricity from renewables by 2030, energy regulators in the state have never been busier.

Among the many pressing issues facing the California Public Utilities Commission this year: how to share data between utilities and distributed energy providers; how to allow utilities to rate-base distributed energy assets like storage, rooftop solar and electric-vehicle chargers; how to design new dynamic rates to shift demand and avoid cost-shifting; and whether to allow third parties to deploy infrastructure as a service model in place of traditional generation, transmission and distribution build-out.

Renewables Swamp Natural Gas in First Quarter 2016

Renewable Energy World | Posted on May 9, 2016

Setting a new lopsided quarterly record, renewable sources outpaced — in fact, swamped — natural gas by a factor of more than 70:1 for new electrical generating capacity placed in-service during the first three months of calendar year 2016. According to the latest just-released monthly "Energy Infrastructure Update" report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, nine new "units" of wind provided 707 MW, followed by 44 units of solar (522 MW), 9 units of biomass (33 MW), and one unit of hydropower (29 MW). By comparison, only two new units of natural gas (18 MW) came on line.

Coal company claims water rules would kill underground mining

Western Energy News | Posted on May 5, 2016

The nation’s largest underground coal mining company claims a proposed update to the federal stream protection rule is the top regulatory threat to its industry.  “What this rule does is put an end to underground mining in the United States,” Gary Broadbent of Murray Energy Corporation said at an Ohio State Bar Association program in Columbus on April 14. The closely-held company is headquartered in St. Clairsville, Ohio. Environmental organizations maintain that the new rule is necessary to reflect current knowledge about ecology and to address shortcomings in existing regulations, which are more than 30 years old.

Regulators warn updated grid needs updated reliability rules

Midwest Energy News | Posted on May 4, 2016

The lumbering coal-fired power stations facing closure because of age and air emissions have been the workhorses of the U.S. high-voltage electric transmission grid. When the grid was stressed and frequency dropped, they ran harder.

Now, as tomorrow's grid is reshaped with more wind farms, solar arrays and gas-fired plants, experts warn that new regulation will be needed to ensure that these new resources provide the frequency support and other essential services that the coal plants delivered.

According to the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), those cleaner, greener sources of power provide a "significantly lower level of essential reliability services than conventional generation."

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) also said there is a "significant risk" that primary frequency support -- the initial source of backup power for the grid -- could be weakened if gas, wind and solar don't offer the services the shuttered coal plants provided.

April winds led to ‘unprecedented’ power production in Upper Midwes

MPR News | Posted on May 4, 2016

It’s not your imagination. It’s been windier than usual lately across Minnesota.  April is the windiest month of the year on average in Minnesota. And this April our winds have blown harder than average.  It turns out our winds have been producing some unprecedented power production across the Upper Midwest lately.  On one day last November, more than 50 percent of Xcel’s total energy output was produced by wind. That’s a pretty remarkable fact for renewable energy, and one that might have been unthinkable just five or 10 years ago.