Guest Post: Under new governor, what’s next for energy in North Carolina?

This post originally ran on Southeast Energy News and was written by Rhiannon Fionn. To read the original story, go here.

 

When Democrat Roy Cooper is inaugurated as North Carolina’s next governor on Jan. 1, it will likely mean a major shakeup in agencies that regulate the state’s energy industry.

While little is known about who Cooper will choose, we do know that his transition team began work shortly after election day and that they’re accepting applications.

It is anticipated that the current heads of both the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of Commerce – both cabinet-level positions – will be replaced. Commissioners for both the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) and the Utilities Commission (UC) are also appointed by the governor, though EMC commissioners can also be appointed by legislative leaders and UC commissioners.

Several new appointments are expected for the Utility Commission during Cooper’s term: six of seven commissioners’ terms will expire within the next four years; three of those end on June 30, 2017. Current Gov. Pat McCrory’s appointment of Edward S. Finley, Jr. to the commission’s chair also expires in 2017, though his term doesn’t end until 2019. Read more…

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How the Trump Administration and Congress Should Use Science to Govern

This blog is a guest post by Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists. The original post ran here on November 30, 2016.

The election of Donald Trump raises many questions about the future role of science and evidence in policy making. Many of us are deeply troubled that some transition team memberssenior administration officials and people nominated to head up federal agencies have a history of attacking scientists and misrepresenting science.

We’re concerned as well that an emboldened Congress may attempt to pass legislation that cuts science out of existing public health and environmental laws, and cut funding for research critical to understand our changing planet – putting at risk the health and well-being of Americans and people around the world.

Across the major issues that confront us—from disease outbreaks to climate change to food safety to cybersecurity—people benefit when our nation’s policies are informed by scientific knowledge unfettered by inappropriate political or corporate interference.

That is why, in this moment, it is essential for scientists across our nation and across disciplines and institutions to lay out our community’s expectations for how President-elect Trump and Congress should use science to govern. Read more…

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Massive Rate Increase Lands FPL On Naughty List

SACE Florida Director Susan Glickman also contributed to this post.

Christmas may be 25 days away, but it came early for the state’s biggest power company, Florida Power and Light (FPL). Following the embarrassing and expensive failed attempt to pass the utility funded anti-solar Amendment 1, the monopoly utility just got the top item on their wish list – a massive rate hike, which will raise profits substantially, after already raking in over $1.6 billion in profit last year.

image credit KPTV 12

Despite widespread opposition from consumer advocates and FPL customers, the rate increase passed unanimously at the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) in a hearing on November 29, 2016. The rate hike is set to begin in January of 2017 and will increase each of the next four years, ultimately charging consumers an additional $811 million dollars. In practical terms, this means that a residential FPL customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours monthly can expect to see their monthly bills increase about $10. [1,000 kilowatt-hours is what an “average” customer uses although individual monthly bills will vary depending on actual use.]

Read more…

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Wind Farm Fact Check

Simon Mahan, SACE’s Renewable Energy Manager, contributed to this blog.

Wind power is wildly popular. But, wind power hasn’t been as quick to catch on here in the South, so we get a lot of questions and comments about wind energy. Let’s clear the air on wind farms.

Americans overwhelmingly (83%) favor expanding wind energy according to Pew Research Center: http://pewrsr.ch/2cSYPlm

According to the American Wind Energy Association, “Texas, Maine and Vermont for the first time generated 10 percent or more of their electricity from wind. Those states join Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Minnesota, Idaho, Colorado, and Oregon in the 10 percent and up club. In total, eight states generated 15 percent or more of their electricity supply from wind in 2015, and 20 states generated more than 5 percent of their electricity from wind.”

Wind energy and birds can coexist. See SACE video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4woHlQ2XEA4

Wind power has among the lowest impacts on wildlife of any way to make electricity. Leading wildlife groups like the Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, and the World Wildlife Fund support responsibility sited wind turbines. Wind energy is the low-cost solution to carbon pollution in particular which threatens all wildlife. Unlike all other human sources, the wind industry works to minimize and offset the limited impacts it has on individual birds, building on a legacy of care for birds and environment.

All forms of energy have government incentives, most of them are permanent in the tax code. The only energy resources preparing to phase out their incentives are wind and the other renewable industries. The wind Production Tax Credit is set to phase out starting next year. Thanks to performance-based tax policy, the U.S. is number one in the world in wind energy production, supplying enough electricity to reliably power 20 million American homes.

Read more…

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#GivingTuesday 2016 is here – Support clean energy!

Support clean energy this #GivingTuesday

First Black Friday. Then Cyber Monday. Now Giving Tuesday! With one commercial holiday after another, it’s hard not to get caught up in the season of shopping, instead of the season of giving.

But this year, while you’re out scouring for deals on things to purchase for your loved ones, take a moment to hunt for ways to protect your loved ones too: Participate in Giving Tuesday, and give your community the gift they deserve.

For the fourth year, SACE has joined #Giving Tuesday- a global day of giving that aims to harness the collective power of a unique blend of partners – charities, families, businesses and individuals – to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season.

Coinciding with the Thanksgiving Holiday and the kick-off of the holiday shopping season, Giving Tuesday reminds us that this is the time to pay it forward. It inspires us to take collaborative action now, to help ourselves and help our communities improve quality of life throughout the country.

During the most generous season of the year, #GivingTuesday is an excuse to give back in better, smarter ways to the causes you support, in order to help create a better world.

On November 29th, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, you can join others around the country and encourage spending with a purpose. Be part of the movement to change the way we produce and consume energy in the Southeast by supporting the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

You can participate by investing just $5.00 and becoming a SACE member by visiting the donate page of our website.  

Read more…

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Coal ash protesters arrested in Puerto Rico

Click for video of protesters blocking coal ash trucks in Peñuelas, PR

This post is adapted from a November 23 press release from Ruth Santiago, Esq. and Yvette González Cuascut. 41 people were arrested on Thursday, November 24 and Puerto Ricans continued to march (link in Spanish) on Friday. We felt it important to amplify this story given the increasing concern about coal ash in the Southeast, though the news comes from a little further to the Southeast than SACE usually covers. 

Dozens of residents of Peñuelas, Puerto Rico and their supporters were arrested today [November 23] for protests against the trucking of AES Puerto Rico, L.P. coal ash waste to the Peñuelas Valley Landfill. Among those arrested is Puerto Rico Senator Maria de Lourdes Santiago. The arrests started on Monday, November 21, 2016 when 21 people were detained. Today, 41 more people were arrested and more interventions are expected.

Community members cite a municipal ordinance which prohibits use of coal ash in the town of Peñuelas as the basis for their opposition to the coal ash. Approximately 43 other municipalities in Puerto Rico have prohibited the use of coal ash as fill material at construction sites and in their landfills. The AES coal ash has been used as daily cover for garbage or just left in mounds exposed to the breeze and rain which has led to fugitive dust and water contamination. Read more…

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Thankful for More Solar in Alabama

While the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has been retiring old coal plants or investing in expensive pollution controls to keep other coal plants operational, it has primarily focused on replacing any lost generation capacity with its preferred version of “clean energy” – nuclear and natural gas. However, TVA is moving further into the renewable energy sector, recently stepping into the utility-scale solar market, with 16.7 megawatts (MWs) of solar projects announced in March of this year.

Private companies and developers have been responsible for additional solar development in the Valley, including two projects that now represent the largest ground-mounted and roof-mounted solar arrays in Tennessee – at a U.S. Naval Base in Millington, TN and the new IKEA store in Memphis, TN (respectively).

Adding to these solar developments, NextEra Energy Resources brought the largest solar plant in Alabama online last Friday, November 18th. The 75 MW River Bend Solar Energy Center is located in TVA’s service territory, in Northern Alabama, and will provide power to the TVA grid under a 20 year power purchase agreement (PPA).

In June 2015, the University of Alabama released a study that estimated the River Bend project would result in significant economic benefits to the region in the form of $52 million in local taxes, $468,000 in sales taxes, $51.5 million in property taxes and $145.8 million in output (including $84.8 million contribution to GDP). Recently, company officials have said that the local school system will receive $9 million in taxes over the 20-year life of the PPA.

The 300,000 single-axis tracking solar panels that make up the River Bend project will follow the sun from east to west each day, nestled between cotton, corn and soybean fields. Although the River Bend project will likely still be operational and harvesting the sun’s energy 20+ years from now, it remains unclear if TVA will continue to purchase power from the project after the current 20-year PPA expires.

Solar has only become more attractive and available as solar panel technologies have become more advanced, leading to decreased costs for solar and making it one of the cheaper generation resource options for TVA. SACE continues to advocate for increased solar development across the Valley, despite TVA’s recent signals that it is scaling back opportunities for solar, especially roof-top or distributed solar, with the expiration of incentives under its Green Power Provider program.

For now, Northern Alabama has a lot to be thankful for, as they become home to Alabama’s largest solar array and all of the benefits that come with investment in clean, renewable solar power.

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Q and A: Republican seeks to build on South Carolina’s solar momentum

This post originally appeared in Southeast Energy News on Nov. 21, 2016 and was written by Jim Pierobon. The original post can be found here.

Former four-term South Carolina Congressman Gresham Barrett is joining with Sunrun to launch the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition.

Their over-arching goal is to build on the momentum generated by the industry’s rapid growth spawned by unanimous passage in 2014 of “Act 236” by the South Carolina legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Nicki Haley. That law allows for solar sales by third parties and enables net metering.

According to the most recent census of verifiable solar jobs in South Carolina, the state accounts for about 1,764 solar installation, manufacturing, sales, distribution and project development jobs. How the industry continues to grow may depend on a collaborative effort it has forged thus far with utilities and whether the federal solar Investment Tax Credit survives a review by the next Congress and President-elect Donald Trump. A push for another solar-friendly law in the state legislature is underway.

Barrett, who also serves as Pastor of LifePoint Church in Greenville, South Carolina, spoke with Southeast Energy News about the initiative.

Southeast Energy News: How do you see building on solar’s gains in South Carolina going forward?

Barrrett: In just a few years’ time, South Carolina has become a leader for solar energy growth in the South. In fact, in 2015 South Carolina was ranked number one in solar capacity growth, and number two in solar job growth in the United States.

This movement is a result of an open and collaborative process with utilities, policymakers, and key industry stakeholders coming together to support a smart solar program in the state. We will look to continue this collaborative process, working with utilities like South Carolina Electric & Gas and Duke Energy, to make sure homeowners are not taxed at a higher rate because they choose to go solar while also working with businesses and utilities to continue South Carolina’s highly successful net metering policy.

How might you work with Gov. Haley to achieve more gains for solar?

In 2014, South Carolina’s Legislature unanimously passed, and Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law, common-sense solar energy policy – including net metering and allowing for third party leasing – that created hundreds of good jobs in just one year. Thanks to Gov. Haley and leaders in the State House, South Carolina has become a state on the move when it comes to giving people the chance to produce their own power. Our state needs to continue to lead on this issue and push for the removal of any barriers. Read more…

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#UNselfies this #GivingTuesday

We’ve all heard of Black Friday. And probably Cyber Monday. But what about #GivingTuesday? Join this global day of giving on November 29, 2016 by donating to SACE, who is committed to fighting global climate change! DONATE HERE

What does your donation go towards:

The minute you donate to SACE you are strengthening the call for clean energy. Your membership creates awareness of critical energy issues throughout the Southeast and together we will work to educate decision makers about the impacts energy use has on the environment and public health. By becoming a member of SACE you are helping to promote responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe and healthy communities throughout the Southeast.

Read more…

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TVA: The Time to Contract for Clean Line’s Wind Power is Now

The time to contract for low cost wind power is now. One of the largest renewable energy projects our region has seen will bring huge amounts of cheap wind energy to the South, but utilities like the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) must act quickly to make wind power purchase commitments by the end of the year to lock in the lowest cost wind power prices available. Sign our petition today & support bringing abundant, clean, cheap wind energy to the Southeast!

The 700-mile Clean Line Plains and Eastern Project is a proposed high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line that will deliver 4,000 megawatts of wind energy from the Oklahoma panhandle region to a converter station in central Arkansas where 500 megawatts of wind power can be dropped off and delivered to the state. The remaining 3,500 megawatts of wind energy will be delivered to Tennessee and made available to the rest of our Southeastern states. The 4,000 megawatts of power that will be produced by the project is equivalent to providing electricity for 1.5 million homes across our region – which is four times the output of the Hoover Dam annually! The project should begin construction in 2017 and should take 2-3 years to complete.

Read more…

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