Seeking Southern Climate Champs – Are You In?

The attacks to clean energy are in full force. President Trump is pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, halting EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and placing dirty pipelines back on the table. Here in the Southeast, wind energy development is under attack, and offshore drilling and seismic blasting are, once again, a threat to our coasts.

But the resistance is also in full force. Across the South, we have scientists organizing their first marches for action, and community events filling up to standing room only. And, regardless of the decisions made on Capitol Hill, the price of clean energy is plummeting and thriving. North Carolina’s first wind farm, Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East, is a $400 million capital investment, and the project is expected to generate $250,000 in local property tax revenues in just 2017 alone. Three of our states in the Southeast (Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida) were ranked in the top 10 for PV installations in 2016 and show no signs of slowing down.

SACE is obviously disappointed with the blatant failure of our country’s leadership to take responsibility for our own climate pollution and seize all the opportunities presented by affordable, renewable energy, but our work is not slowing down. It’s ramping up, and that’s where you come into playSo much is on the line right now, and we’re looking for climate champions to join us across the Southeast to get involved and stand up for our climate. Can you write a letter to the editor? Attend a local event? Make phone calls for a SACE campaign? Or maybe you have other ideas to share with us…

Take a few minutes and sign up to get involved here!

Last year, SACE led a coalition that was successful in two major solar ballot victories despite being severely underfunded and understaffed. The Solar Choice campaign went toe to toe against a $26 million utility-backed campaign and won! The  key to our success? People Power.

Read more…

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A Penny Shared is a Penny Used to Lift Energy Burdens in Memphis

MLGW gave away energy kits, which included items to help customers lower energy usage, such as energy efficient light bulbs and weather stripping.

As temperatures begin creeping above 100 degrees and air conditioners strain to keep homes and businesses cool, Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) kicked off its official roll out period for its new Share the Pennies program.

MLGW, TVA’s largest customer and the nation’s largest three-service municipal utility, invited customers with the largest energy burdens to attend its Caring for the Community kick off event, held at the Orpheum on July 14th. SACE staff were on hand to celebrate, having worked diligently for almost two years with advocacy groups like the Memphis Branch of the NAACP, political leaders, MLGW staff and community members to bring about this new program.

[Be sure to sign our online petition , found at the end of this blog, to help bring more funding for low-income energy efficiency and more clean energy to Memphis!]

Read more…

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“Theater of the Absurd” underway with Georgia’s nuclear power expansion

At the end of June the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) held a hearing on the 16th semi-annual Vogtle Construction Monitoring (VCM) review docket. Numerous public witnesses from around Georgia came to express their ongoing, serious concerns with the water-intensive, years delayed and many billions of dollars over budget new nuclear power expansion project at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle, along the Savannah River near Waynesboro. The testimony from the PSC staff and consultants was compelling, showing instances in which the project is no longer economic to pursue and highlighting missed deadlines, productivity problems and more.

The bankruptcy of reactor designer and builder Westinghouse back in March has caused even more problems and Southern Company, on behalf of its subsidiary, Georgia Power, and project partners Oglethorpe Power, MEAG and Dalton Utilities, is working to develop a schedule and cost estimate to complete. It’s shocking that 8 years into the project construction is only 32% complete, productivity is still a problem, workers are spending more time on “non-work activities” than actual “work-related activities” and there is neither a reliable cost estimate nor schedule for completion. Southern Company is in the process of taking over the project from Westinghouse, perhaps by the end of this month, and supposedly expects to have the cost and schedule information sometime in August. When this information is made public and ultimately what happens next is anyone’s guess. Will Southern Company and its partners move ahead with both reactors, pursue one and delay the other, abandon the whole project, propose other options?

But one thing is for certain, public commenter Barbara Antonoplos delivered entertaining testimony, accurately welcoming us all to “The Theater of the Absurd.” Read her full comments below or you can listen to her deliver them to the Commissioners by clicking here and listening at 35 minutes into the hearing (feel free to listen from the start to all the public commenters and the full recording of the entire hearing can be found here, in 3 parts). To get involved, please sign this petition demanding regulators protect consumers by holding utilities accountable and conducting a transparent, open and public review of this troubled project.  – Sara Barczak, SACE High Risk Energy Choices Program Director

Comments by Barbara Antonoplos, delivered at the Public Service Commission’s 16th VCM hearing, June 29, 2017

“I’ve read all these testimonies that were filed for today, and I thought I was reading reports, but they read more like a script for the Theater of the Absurd!

Barbara Antonoplos at the GA PSC, June 29, 2017

 …Where the more the laborers work, the more behind they get!

…Where, as more people are paid for idle time, more people are hired to manage them!

…Where the more of a failure the whole enterprise is, the more money “The Company” makes!

…Where the expenditure of more and more billions of dollars on a failing experiment is called a “deal” for consumers! Read more…

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FPL has a “great” nuclear reactor deal for you! Interested?

Hey FPL customers, your monopoly utility claims to have a “great” deal for you!          

The Art of the Steal

FPL plans to build 2 nuclear reactors, but it won’t commit to actually build them – it won’t even commit to a price tag. In fact, there is no construction company to build them now that Westinghouse has recently filed for bankruptcy. The reactor project is so speculative FPL can’t say whether it would even be a good deal for customers.  Yet, it wants to continue to pursue licenses for this risky project, rack up millions of dollars in costs and profit, and have you pay the final tab – regardless of whether the reactors ever get built. Are you in?

This deal is like a predatory credit card scheme where FPL gets to run up your charges for as long as it wants, then and at some future date, present you with a staggering bill. And ironically, you won’t have purchased anything since the speculative reactors will likely never be built – so no electricity will ever be produced. Wouldn’t you prefer a better offer? Unfortunately, you will be stuck with this one if the Florida Public Service Commission approves FPL’s request.

What you need to know

FPL, in a stunning display of “chutzpa” filed a petition in May with the Commission as part of the annual nuclear cost recovery clause docket, arguing that it’s “reasonable” for the Company to continue to pursue a construction and operating license for its proposed Turkey Point 6&7 reactors. Yet, it can’t prove the reactors are economically feasible – due to “uncertainty” in the industry. Under the Commission’s own rules, FPL has the burden to prove the reactors make economic sense for customers before it can get permission from the Commission to spend money on the reactor projects for later recovery from customers. Here’s what you need to know:

  • No analysis: FPL has not filed the required annual feasibility analysis for the Commission to determine if the proposal is a good deal for customers. Moreover, FPL won’t provide the Commission with future required feasibility studies as it obtains and maintains its license.
  • No builder: Westinghouse, the designer and builder of the AP-1000 reactor has filed for bankruptcy and declared that it’s out of the reactor construction business.
  • More costs: it’s not clear how much this request will ultimately cost customers, it will be $25 million, just for this year, and will likely add up to $100 million or more – it depends on when FPL decides to move forward or cancel the project and recover “preconstruction” costs from customers.
  • More profit: meanwhile, FPL shareholders will continue to earn a hefty profit on the customers’ bill balance.
  • More bleeding: customers have already sunk about $300 million into the project.
  • Enough is enough: a hearing is set at the Commission for August 15, 2017 Read more…

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Massive Iceberg Calves, Reminding Us Of Ever-Increasing Temps

Larsen C Iceberg - BBC

Courtesy BBC.

This week, the world witnessed the calving (or breaking off) of an iceberg so enormous even scientists, not prone to exaggeration, are proclaiming it rare. The Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica had a growing rift for years and it finally completed its path to the ocean, breaking off as a huge chunk of free floating ice. The iceberg weighs 1 trillion tons and is roughly the size of Delaware (and other reference points are shown to the right for comparison).

This calving event, and the melting of the iceberg yet to come, will not directly raise sea levels, since the ice was already in the sea; however, it could cause near-term destabilization of surrounding glaciers and facilitate faster land-based ice melt which would raise sea levels. Scientists say that it will take months or years to understand how much this calving event will have affected the remainder of the ice shelf.

The calving event was not directly caused by climate change, however it may have been affected by warming temperatures, particularly as oceans absorb the large majority of global warming heat. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of global warming over the past 50 years is held in the world’s oceans  and the rate of ocean warming in recent years is double what it was in 1960. In additional to warm oceans hastening sea ice melt, they also expand from the heat, which has been the primary cause of sea level rise historically. Read more…

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Guest Blog: Entering the World of Electric Vehicles

This is a guest post written by Samantha Beharrysingh, who is an active member of the Blue Ridge EV Club. To view the original post, click here.

Leilani Munter addresses the crowd at the 2016 National Drive Electric Event in Asheville, NC.

Last year, I heard an inspiring talk given by Leilani Munter (Race Car Driver and Environmental Activist) about the various ways that we can reduce harmful fossil fuel emissions on the planet.  Although many topics were covered, the important points that made an impression were: Going Vegan and Driving an electric vehicle (EV).  The information about eating a plant-based diet was a nice reminder. I have been a vegetarian for many years and fully understand the environmental benefits.  Conversely, the topic of driving EVs was still very new and interesting to me.  This information, coming from a seasoned female veteran in the world of EVs was thrilling, to say the least!

My introduction into the world of EVs started when my husband purchased a Nissan Leaf in 2013.  Although we had been driving hybrid vehicles for several years, I knew very little about purely electric vehicles.  I was excited about his purchase, although I never drove the car. Read more…

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President Trump Threatens America’s Shores

Last week, the Trump Administration pushed its careless agenda to threaten America’s shores with risky offshore drilling despite overwhelming opposition from coastal Republicans and Democrats alike.

The announcement came in the form of a “Request for Information,” which kickstarts the process whereby the Administration can offer leases for offshore areas around the country to companies to use for oil and gas exploration and development. This process is known as the 5 Year Program and is typically completed every 5 years. The current 5 Year Program governing offshore leasing was just completed in January of this year and spans from 2017 to 2022. The current plan involved two years of thorough analysis by the U.S. Department of the Interior, thoughtfully gathering comments from citizens, elected officials, businesses, and the military, and evaluating the appropriateness of offshore drilling in certain areas in the context of those opinions. While the Obama Administration had initially proposed opening the Atlantic to offshore drilling in the first draft of the 5 year program, through the process of incorporating input from citizens, businesses, and local governments, it became clear that offshore drilling is not appropriate or desired for the Atlantic coast. As such, the Atlantic was removed from consideration for offshore drilling in the final version of the plan. Read more…

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Trump Can’t Stop This: Climate Action in the Southeast

This is a guest post co-written by Kevin Steinberger and Elisheva Mittelman with NRDC. It is the third blog in a series, highlighting the clean energy achievements and climate action continuing across the United States―despite the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back federal climate policies. To view the original post, go here.

Amazon Wind Farm in North Carolina. Courtesy Avangrid Renewables

Once laggards on clean energy, cities and states across the Southeast are taking significant steps to develop smart, clean energy plans―with more than 47 Southeast cities and 2 states pledging to accelerate clean energy development to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. This region will face some of the worst climate change impacts in the country, and its citizens and lawmakers are realizing that clean energy not only protects them from the dangers of rising seas, deadly heat waves, and extreme weather but is also a potent economic force that can spur tens of thousands of new jobs and bolster growth across the region.

Renewables and Energy Efficiency Are Gaining Momentum

Investment in clean energy is steadily increasing throughout the Southeast as the region moves toward a more affordable and efficient low-carbon energy system. Read more…

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Interview: A Groundbreaking Plan to “Drawdown” Greenhouse Gas

What will it take to get to a point where the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere starts getting smaller? That’s the question behind a new book from Paul Hawken and Project Drawdown.

The answers it provides may be surprising. Beyond renewable energy and green transportation, top climate solutions included expanding both sustainable agriculture and food choices, and the rights of women and girls.

The book includes beautifully photographed magazine-style features on each solution, making it stand out invitingly from the crowd of technical climate change literature.

Drawdown has a Southeastern connection: it was substantially funded by the Georgia-based Ray C. Anderson Foundation. Anderson was an industrial CEO who became a champion of corporate sustainability and win-win solutions that benefit business, ecological systems, and people.

I spoke with the Foundation’s Executive Director, John Lanier, who is Anderson’s grandson and also on the board of Project Drawdown, to learn more about what Drawdown tells us about how to take on climate change. Read more…

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Declaring Energy Independence In Your Home

This 4th of July, celebrate the anniversary of America’s independence with more than cookouts and sparklers. This Independence Day, declare your independence from our fossil fuel-power past and take some small personal steps towards realizing a clean(er) energy household.

A decade ago, just before another Independence Day, my Irish-born husband returned from the hardware store with bags full of supplies and said that he would observe this nation’s Independence Day by making our home more energy efficient (and less dependent on our local utility, Duke Energy).

While we were not then, and still are not, in a financial position to invest in solar panels or upgrade most of our relatively-new appliances, we were inspired by the hands-on approach to energy savings demonstrated in the short documentary Kilowatt Ours and had one year of utility bills from living in our 1920s house to compare against once we completed our energy efficiency upgrades. Read more…

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