March 26, 2018
The Chumash people of Southern California asked the California Energy Commission to prevent construction of a gas peaker plant at a site considered sacred by the Chumash. If regulators agree to suspend the project, it will add to the recent trend of California rejecting gas infrastructure.
The Energy Department has withdrawn from a 2016 agreement to partner with Clean Line Energy Partners on a transmission line that would have delivered wind energy from Oklahoma eastward. "The project is not dead, but is on a much slower track," a Clean Line spokeswoman said.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill that minimizes fines for utility companies that don't meet potential clean energy mandates that could be added to the state Constitution. Environmentalists are trying to get a ballot measure that would require utilities to get half their power from renewables by 2030.
Federal regulators pushed back on Energy Secretary Rick Perry's attempt to bail out coal last year. But there are still powerful forces pushing to keep old fossil fuel power plants open as long as possible, and it could mean higher costs, more pollution, and uneconomic power plants delaying the market entry of cleaner alternatives.
Alberta—known for its production of tar sands oil—is closing several coal-fired power plants and has increased its tax on carbon emissions by 50 percent to help Canada reach its Paris climate agreement goals. At the same time, however, the province is increasing its high-emissions tar sands output.
March 23, 2018
At a time when the world needs to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy-related carbon emissions crept up 1.4 percent in 2017, according to a new International Energy Agency report. Fossil fuels met the bulk of new global energy demand, but renewable energy also grew.
The Arizona Senate passed a bill aiming to thwart a proposed constitutional amendment that would require half of the state's energy to come from renewables by 2030. The bill would require public utilities that violate the renewable energy standard to pay a fine of $100 to $5,000 — an amount so small critics say utilities could ignore the rules completely.
Pacific Gas & Electric says it will switch off power to minimize sparks in vulnerable areas during periods of extreme fire danger. State investigators are looking at whether the utility's equipment set off deadly wildfires last year. PG&E and other utilities have resisted preemptive power cutoffs in the past.
Hydrogen fuel cell cars are losing out against electric cars that run on batteries, and yet many auto industry executives are still pushing them as the way of the future.
Mexico is poised to increase its clean energy portfolio by 24 terawatt-hours by 2022, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The country has a goal of 35 percent clean energy generation by 2024.
March 22, 2018
The Trump administration refused to accept European Union alternatives to tariffs on solar cells and modules, according to the World Trade Organization. The EU said its operations were not hurting the U.S. and asked for less penalizing alternatives.
New Mexico regulators approved a $1.6 billion plan by Xcel Energy to build two huge wind farms along the Texas-New Mexico border and to buy additional wind power from NextEra Energy Resources. Xcel says the three efforts will be able to power more than 440,000 homes.
Microsoft plans to buy 315 megawatts of power from a solar farm in Virginia that is expected to be the largest in the state and one of the largest on the East Coast, with more than 750,000 solar panels. The tech giant plans to use solar to power its data centers in Virginia.
Last year, Georgetown, Texas, shifted to all renewable energy. "We're doing this because it's good for our citizens," said Republican Mayor Dale Ross. "Cheaper electricity is better. Clean energy is better than fossil fuels."
March 21, 2018
The latest Energy Information Administration data shows a jump in wind and solar energy generation in 2017, while coal generation fell 2.5 percent from 2016 levels. For the first time in at least a decade, no new coal generation capacity opened.
After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico's power grid, a few bright spots were established on the islands where solar power systems were set up after the storm. But making renewables a mainstay will require more than solar panels and wind turbines.
Ten years ago, grid operators discovered the "duck curve": a peak in energy demand in the morning and another peak in the evening — but in between, there's a lag that gets bigger as more solar is added to the grid. As renewable energy come online, utilities are trying to figure out how to use energy storage make the grid more flexible.
Another rooftop solar company has entered the storage market: Sunnova, a solar financer, just launched its solar-plus-storage service in California. It's the latest shift as the residential energy storage market heats up.
Chattanooga, Tennessee, which has been a testbed for smart grid technology in the Southeast, is installing a solar-plus-storage microgrid at its airport in a project with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The airport gets some of its power from a solar array, and the microgrid project will tie that to two 250 kilowatt batteries.
March 20, 2018
Vattenfall's winning zero-subsidy bid to build two 350 megawatt offshore wind farms follows a similar zero-subsidy tender in Germany last year, but the Dutch wind farms are expected to be completed first.
Maryland lawmakers have rejected two clean energy bills that would have expanded the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard and phased out fossil fuels by 2035. Lawmakers said they were worried about ratepayer costs and environmental impacts.
Solar industry stakeholders filed 55 comments to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative looking for exclusions from Trump's solar tariff. One was U.S.-based SunPower, which says it will have to lay off employees and stop investments in U.S. solar manufacturing unless exclusions are approved.
Britain's wind farms generated a record 14.7 gigawatts of power last Saturday, representing 34 percent of the country's electricity generation. Britain plans to add 2 more gigawatts of wind farms this year as coal and nuclear plants retire.
By 2019, the University of Hawaii Maui College will be one of the first campuses in the U.S. to generate all of its energy from an on-site solar installation and battery storage. The entire university network plans to be 100 percent renewable by 2035, and the state plans to be by 2045.
March 19, 2018
Arizona utility regulators have instituted a nine-month moratorium on new gas plants larger than 150 megawatts. They are in the process of examining an overhaul to pursue 80 percent clean energy with a focus on energy storage.
Lithium, a key ingredient in rechargeable batteries, could be a lifeline for oil companies as they shift toward renewable energy and away from fossil fuels, an executive with an investment bank that advises energy companies says. Demand is projected to rise from 200 metric tons in 2016 to 7,845 metric tons per year by 2030.
While the remaining coal fleet faces pressure from natural gas and pending environmental regulations, the coal-friendly policies of the Trump Administration are giving it hope and younger, larger plants may be less likely to incur capital expenditures for refurbishments and upgrades.
In an effort to get Californians to stop driving as much and reduce emissions, a new bill would allow eight-story buildings near major transit stops, even if local communities object. The proposal, opposed by major environmental groups, points to a divide over how far the law should go to reshape urban lifestyles.
Thousands of entrepreneurs and inventors gathered at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit last week to discuss new clean energy technologies, including wind turbine blades inspired by the leaves of palm trees, biofuel made from seaweed and new battery storage chemistries.
March 15, 2018
Last year marked the second straight year of double-digit growth in the solar industry, despite uncertainty around Trump's solar tariffs, according to an annual review from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. But researchers forecast the U.S. will install less solar capacity in the coming years than previously expected.