White House Has Plans to Help Low-Income Communities Gain Access to Solar

In early July, the White House unveiled a new plan to help cut energy costs for low- and middle-income families. The new program would make it easier for people who lack startup capital, or who rent rather than own their homes, to invest in solar.

According to the Obama Administration, last year the United States brought as much solar energy online every three weeks as it did in all of 2008. The solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. The continually lowering price for solar energy is part of the inspiration behind the Administration’s effort to provide access to those communities who have historically been economically unable to access clean energy resources.

Solar Farm Will Generate Energy and Millions In Economic Benefits to Northern Alabama

A recent study by the University of Alabama Center for Business and Economic Research found that a proposed 80 MW solar farm, to be located in Lauderdale County, Alabama, could create millions of dollars in economic benefits to the area. The solar farm is being developed on a 640-acre tract of land by NextEra Energy Inc. and will sell the power to the Tennessee Valley Authority under a 20-year contract approved by the TVA Board in February 2015.

Climate Champion Sen. Whitehouse Discusses Climate Change with TN Advocates

Last weekend, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) visited SACE’s Knoxville office to sit down with clean energy and environmental advocates from Tennessee to discuss work done to combat climate change in the state. Representatives from SACE, Sierra Club, Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, Alliance to Save Energy and TenneSEIA were in the room as Sen. Whitehouse was briefed on TN’s air quality, past and future climate change impacts in the state and the amount of solar, wind and energy efficiency resources used by TN residents.

Supreme Court Mercury Decision Not a Real Game Changer

In a close 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States sent the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS) rule back to a lower court for review. Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion, which hinged on an interpretation of administrative law requirements and did not overturn EPA’s ability to regulate hazardous air pollutants from power plants.

While the Court did not overturn EPA’s analysis and conclusion that public health benefits of the MATS rule vastly outweigh the costs to the coal and oil industry, it did find that EPA should have first considered whether it was appropriate to regulate power plants under the Clean Air Act’s hazardous air pollution safeguards.

Google Announces New Data Center Located at Old Coal Plant Site!

Recently, Google announced its plans to open its 14th data center – this new one in Northern Alabama. The internet giant will be building the data center inside the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA’s) Widows Creek coal plant, which is set to retire . Google will begin construction in 2016 and is working with TVA to ensure that the data center is powered by renewable energy resources. The data center will take advantage of the existing transmission lines at the plant to bring in renewable energy.

TVA Advisory Board Meeting Gives Preview of Final 2015 IRP

Today, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Regional Energy Resource Council (RERC) ended two days of meetings in which they were given a preview of the recommendations in TVA’s forthcoming 2015 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). SACE staff have played an integral part in both the 2011 and 2015 IRP planning process, serving on each of the various [...]

First Legal Challenge to the Clean Power Plan Dismissed

Today, the DC Circuit dismissed the first legal challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The lawsuit, filed by the coal industry and several coal dependent states, claimed that EPA lacked the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. Ultimately, the DC Circuit found the legal challenge premature, given that EPA has yet to release the final version of the Clean Power Plan – which is expected to arrive in August.

Memphis Sustainable Schools Challenge Ends its First Year

Last month, the Shelby County Schools Sustainable Schools Challenge (SSC) held its first annual awards ceremony at the Memphis Botanic Garden to recognize and celebrate the outstanding work of students, teachers, and administrators who participated in the first city wide school sustainability initiative. SACE’s Memphis Energy Organizer, Sandra Upchurch, was part of the SSC steering [...]

TVA 2015 IRP Public Comment Period Closes – What’s Next?

While the scope of TVA’s IRP process has been unprecedented in the Southeast, some significant gaps between the IRP planning intent and recent decisions by TVA’s management and Board of Directors still exist. Even as electric demand growth has slowed to only 1% per year, TVA’s capital budget for 2015 is a record $3.5 billion. While TVA claimed that these decisions (below) were consistent with the 2011 IRP, this capacity expansion policy exists concurrently with TVA’s failure to invest in energy efficiency and meet the modest energy efficiency commitments made in the 2011 TVA IRP.

The Supreme Court, the Mercury Rule and Chicken Little

Last week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS), set to go into effect next month. The MATS rule, finalized in December 2011, requires coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions of toxic air pollutants through the installation of pollution [...]