City of Atlanta Passes ‘EV Ready’ Ordinance

Earlier this year, the City of Atlanta passed a 100 percent clean energy resolution to begin transitioning the City away from fossil fuels to cleaner, more renewable energy sources. As a part of that goal and efforts to be a top-tier sustainable city, Atlanta Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, with support from the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and local partners, proposed a new ordinance, 17-O-1654, that would require that 20 percent of all new commercial parking structures and all new single-family residential homes in Atlanta be ‘EV ready.’ The ordinance was passed unanimously by the Atlanta City Council on Monday.

Supporters testify at Monday's hearing for the City of Atlanta 'EV Ready' Ordinance

The ordinance means that new facilities will be required to be equipped with the conduit and wiring needed to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. This will help support the transition of the city to cleaner, more affordable transportation — as electric vehicles, over their lifetime, are less expensive to fuel and operate.  It will also build confidence among EV drivers that they will have increased access to charge their cars.

As highlighted by the Mayor’s Office of Resilience, this ordinance lays the groundwork for greater deployment of EV charging stations in Atlanta, incentivizes EV deployment, as having convenient, accessible charging is critical to putting more EVs on the road. By requiring new facilities to be “EV Ready,” it also avoids future cost barriers. Installing the infrastructure for EV charging in new construction rather than retrofitting existing structures later could cut costs by more than 75 percent. Read more…

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TVA’s Secretive Attempt to Raise Mandatory Fees Across the Valley

Sarah Gilliam, SACE’s Communications Coordinator, contributed to this blog post.

What is a fixed charge?

Think of a fixed charge as a mandatory fee. A fixed charge added to your total utility bill that is the same amount each month. This mandatory fee is not affected by the amount of energy you actually consume each month. That means that even if you don’t use very much energy in your own home, you will be charged this mandatory fee no matter what. Utilities use these mandatory fees as a way to ensure that it earns enough money to recover costs and generate a reasonable revenue.

How could these mandatory fees affect me?

Whether you flip the switch or conserve energy, you will pay a fixed charge. However big industrial consumers will get a lower rate for using more electricity. The more they use, the less they pay! This is democracy at its worst and discriminates against low-income people.

Residential customers get their power from a local power company – e.g. Memphis Light, Gas and Water, Nashville Electric Company, Huntsville Utilities, etc. Whatever price TVA charges your local power company for electricity, including any fixed charges, get passed on to you via your local power company. As a federal public power provider, TVA is tasked with setting electric rates and providing power at the lowest possible cost.

Historically, TVA did a good job of fulfilling its primary mandate, providing low cost power to residential customers, while also keeping rates competitive for large industrial customers in order to continue to attract these large employers to the Valley. Recently, however, TVA is operating more and more like an investor owned utility – continually reducing rates for large industrial customers while raising rates for residential customers. If TVA actually added fixed charges into its rate setting structure, residents will bear the brunt of that added economic burden.  In a region of the country where thousands of families struggle to pay utility bills – where every penny is saved in order to lift communities out of poverty – why would a public power provider make it harder for its customers to save money? Read more…

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New Solar Choice Coalition Launched in Tennessee

As the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) contemplates structural rate changes that would limit or prevent customer choice and fair access to affordable renewable energy, SACE was proud to join founding members of Tennesseans for Solar Choice who gathered in Nashville on November 8th, 2017 to launch a new initiative in defense of energy freedom and fair access to affordable, solar energy.

The launch also had a visit from a tongue-in-cheek guest - TVA's Monopoly Man

Founding members of Tennesseans for Solar Choice include:

Conservatives for Energy Freedom
Tennessee Small Business Alliance
National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association (TenneSEIA)
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE)

This diverse group of organizations plans to work together across political lines to ensure that TVA, as a self-regulating, federal monopoly does not make decisions that limit customer choice for residents, businesses, or Local Power Companies, through unfair rate structures or heavy-handed tactics that restrict the solar power market.

Read more…

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Guest Blog: Resilience is military’s new energy focus. Will it bear fruit in North Carolina?

This is a guest blog written by Elizabeth Outz, originally published by Southeast Energy News. To view original article, click here.

 

A solar array at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

In step with the U.S. military’s latest energy priorities, Charlotte-based Duke Energy just declared its plans for a self-sustaining microgrid – powered by solar and batteries – that will provide backup electricity to a National Guard facility.

The only problem, from the point of view of North Carolina clean energy leaders: the project will be built in Indiana.

The announcement continues a trend the leaders decried recently at a forum in Wilmington: only military installations outside the Tar Heel state excel in meeting energy priorities handed down from U.S. Department of Defense.

Still, many of those who gathered last week for a roundtable discussion of the military and energy hope change is on the horizon – thanks to the state’s growing number of microgrids and a sweeping new energy law adopted this summer.

A new focus on resilience

The nation’s largest energy consumer, the U.S. military has long prioritized curbing energy use and developing renewable energy for practical reasons: supply of wind and sunshine are infinite and less vulnerable to attack, and distributed energy generation provides security against disruptions to the wider electric grid.

North Carolina has the second most solar capacity in the country, and also the third most uniformed military personnel. But with only one major solar array at Camp Lejeune – a Marine Corps training base along the coast – the state’s installations do little to reflect the military’s past goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. Read more…

FPL says customers should pay for its pollution mistakes (+ profit)

If you see smoke in your home, you are going to check out the source of the smoke, right? If the smoke gets thicker, your are definitely going to call the fire department to limit damage and save your home. You are certainly not going to sit on your hands.                                                              

That’s why its stunning that FPL sat on its hands – for 40 years – after it knew or should have known that it had a problem with an underground contamination plume from its cooling canals at its Turkey Point plant. There was “smoke” everywhere in the way of data, but FPL and its consultants downplayed it and just plain ignored the warning signs.  State regulators in 2016 issued a Notice of Violation to FPL for violating ground water standards meant to protect drinking water. FPL and regulators agreed on a clean up plan.

The clean up will cost over $200 million. FPL wants its customers to pay for it AND the price tag will include a profit for FPL – if the company gets its way at the Florida Public Service Commission.

That’s right, FPL wants families and businesses in its te Read more…

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Jobs, $$$, and Clean Energy: Solar Company Investing Big in South Carolina

Cypress Creek Renewables presents a check to Greenville Tech for solar workforce development. Photo credit WSPA.

South Carolina got a major announcement on Thursday, when solar energy development company Cypress Creek Renewables proposed a major investment in the Palmetto State. Cypress Creek announced they aim to build 2,000 megawatts of solar in SC over the next 3-5 years, which is enough to power about 600,000 homes. This amount of solar means a $1.5 billion investment in our state by a single solar company, and up to 10,000 construction jobs over the 3-5 year build out period. The buildout is reported to be spread among 80 sites, which likely means many localities–predominantly rural–would benefit by the development in the form of local jobs, and revenue from property taxes.

Underscoring the seriousness of their investment in South Carolina, Cypress Creek also announced a partnership with Greenville Technical College to begin a solar jobs training program. A 2 gigawatt buildout of solar will require trained workers and the partnership with Greenville Tech is a good step in ensuring that South Carolina’s workforce will be adequately prepared for the multi-billion dollar opportunity of solar power. Read more…

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Congress: Picking energy losers, over clean energy winners

Congress just released its proposed “tax reform” plan – and it’s a doozie. Instead of promoting renewable energy and electric vehicles, the plan would slash those incentives – while giving a massive bailout to the failing nuclear industry.

Two years ago, Congress passed a massive overhaul for the wind and solar industries that gave a clear path for phasing-out tax credits for those industries. The newly proposed “tax reform” plan reneges on that promise made two years ago and threatens tens of billions of dollars in clean, domestic, renewable energy development and the jobs that these industries support.

The wildly popular, and effective tax credit for electric vehicles has produced many jobs, cut pollution, and increased our energy security. But now Congress’s “tax reform” plan would totally eliminate the electric vehicle tax credit, and slam on the breaks of this American industry.

Meanwhile, Congress would extend $6 billion worth of subsidies to the failing nuclear industry.

If these proposed changes concern you, click here to tell Congress to support clean energy and electric vehicles!

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Worst to First? Lifting up Tennessee Through the Proud Voter Challenge

Angela Garrone, SACE’s Southeast Energy Research Attorney contributed to this blog post. 

Here in the South, we are experiencing an extreme drought in the form of elected officials who understand the importance of clean energy for our country’s future. In just the past year, wind energy development in North Carolina is under attack, and offshore drilling and seismic blasting are, once again, a threat to our coasts. Devastating and unprecedented storms like Irma have swept through Florida, while many elected officials in the state, including the Governor, continue to ignore the reality that is climate change.

Clean energy and environmental justice issues must be a top priority in the South or we risk being left in the dark ages of 20th century energy. But – how do we get there? We have to start by boosting voter turnout in local and statewide elections and organize with others across the Southeast that are ready to start building a clean, just energy future. And where better to start organizing than the state in our region that is falling the furthest behind in voter engagement – Tennessee.

The Volunteer State ranks 50th in voter turnout and 40th in voter registration. In total, there are around 750,000 unregistered minority, single women and under 30 year old potential voters – 750,000 Tennesseans whose voices are effectively silenced because they aren’t taking advantage of the power of the ballot box. Meanwhile, over $74 million a year is being spent by private interests lobbying the state legislature. Big money is overwhelmingly outweighing the voices of citizens in Tennessee.

The good news for Tennessee is that we have nowhere to go but up! It’s time to start making changes and educating others on the issues and how to register to vote. That’s why SACE is joining the Proud Voter Challenge – a voter registration campaign that brings together a non-partisan coalition of individuals, community groups, and organizations in Tennessee that will support citizens through effective voter registration and turnout efforts.

Read more…

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Boo! Should Duke Energy’s Shift from Electricity Rates to Mandatory Fees Scare Us?

Duke Energy Progress is facing a tough time with its spooky request to raise customer rates by 14 percent. North Carolina’s customer advocate has come out strongly against the 14 percent rate hike, and thousands of Duke Energy Progress customers have attended public hearings or signed a petition against allowing Duke Energy to increase electric bills to cover its “coal ash mess.”

Less well known is that Duke Energy is also seeking a hair-raising increase in the mandatory fee to $19.50 per month for residential customers. As recently as 2013, the mandatory fee was only $6.75. If Duke Energy’s request is granted, its monthly charge will have tripled in just 5 years!

That is not all: Duke Energy actually believes that its monthly charge should be $27.82. Duke is requesting a “smaller increase” to a monthly charge of $19.50 as part of “slowly” migrating towards the target amount. Duke Energy hasn’t said when it would like to start tacking on the additional $8.32, but it probably won’t be on All Saints’ Day.

Residential Mandatory Monthly Fee Trend - Duke Energy Progress

If the North Carolina Utilities Commission accepts Duke Energy’s proposal, what can you do to avoid the “Basic Customer Charge”? Absolutely nothing. It doesn’t matter how much electricity you save or solar power you generate, you still have to pay this mandatory fee to Duke Energy. Is this a fair fee?

Duke Energy’s monthly charge increase is being contested by at least three experts who have filed testimony in the rate case, including testimony filed by our attorneys at Southern Environmental Law Center and sponsored by the North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina Housing Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. And nationwide, the trend in utility proposals to increase the fixed charge rate is leading to many rejections (see in-depth chart on fixed charge rate trends at end of blog), such as the withdrawal of the Gulf Power fixed charge proposal that SACE contested.

Read more…

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Walk Like An Egyptian: What Climate Change Studies of Ancient Egypt May Teach Us Today

The study of ancient history provides many examples of how civilizations around the world rose and then fell due to a wide range of factors: famine, warfare, geological catastrophe, or disease. Archeologists have previously unearthed evidence of environmental changes suddenly wiping out a civilization, such as the 300-year drought that decimated the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia in approximately 2200 BC.

However, a new study takes that idea a step further and suggests that climate change — having sparked famine and civil unrest — may have lead to societal collapse in an ancient empire. Researchers of a study published in Nature Communications present evidence that massive volcanic eruptions altered the flow and seasonal flooding of the Nile River (which was, and still is, the lifeblood of Egypt) and the resulting famines and social unrest may have have been contributing or leading factors in the collapse of the Ptolemaic Egyptian Empire (300 BC to 30 BC). Lead researcher Joseph Manning of Yale University noted that “In years influenced by volcanic eruptions, Nile flooding was generally diminished, leading to social stress that could trigger unrest and have other political and economic consequences.”

But what does evidence of climate change in ancient Egypt have to do with with us today, specifically with those of us living in the Southeastern United States? Perhaps little – that climate change was caused by volcanic eruptions, not anthropogenically-driven by carbon pollution as we are seeing today. On the other hand, the idea that climate change may have stressed structures of an ancient civilization to the breaking point offers a profound warning for modern societies, particularly those that depend on seasonal rains (or monsoons) for agriculture. Read more…

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