Why Florida’s west coast needs a regional approach to address sea level rise, hurricanes and more

Hurricane Irma over FloridaWith the Tampa area ranking as the most vulnerable metro area in the nation to damage from storm surge flooding, it’s clear that Florida’s west coast region needs to act now to make its communities more resilient. An effort is under way to bring local governments in the region together to form the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition, allowing west coast counties and municipalities to work together toward solutions to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate, including challenges like flooding and increasingly powerful hurricanes. Read more in this excerpt from the Tampa Bay Times, written by Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long and SACE Florida Director Susan Glickman:

Column: A Tampa Bay approach to make region more resilient against flooding, storms
By Janet Long and Susan Glickman, special to the Times

It seems like we have been inundated lately with news stories about growing threats to Florida’s economy and quality of life from hazards to our natural environment.

Whether it’s pollution, as recently reported in the Tampa Bay Times, in our waterways from single-use plastics or more frequent and longer-lasting toxic algae blooms sending anglers and beachgoers fleeing, we have challenges that must be addressed.

Unfortunately, plastic pollution and algae are just two of the many critical environmental issues that we face today in the Tampa Bay region.

In 2015, local scientists predicted that sea levels in Tampa Bay will rise between six inches and more than two feet by the middle of the century. The City of Tampa was also ranked by a firm that creates models for the insurance industry as the most vulnerable metropolitan area in the United States to storm surge, with $175 billion in potential losses. Two other Gulf Coast cities — Fort Myers and Sarasota —also made the Top 8 list.

Two years later, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council studied the economic impacts of sea level rise using Geographic Information Systems, property records and employment data. They found that year-round flooding could have as much as a $162 billion impact on the regional economy.

It’s plain to see that it’s time for action. As sea levels rise, we can expect to see greater storm surge, more intense rain events and an increase in hurricane intensity, according to NASA hurricane and climate scientist Timothy Hall. At a recent presentation to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, Dr. Hall said, “There will be more Category 3, Category 4, Category 5 storms — the major hurricanes. In fact, there will be storms that achieve intensity levels never seen before historically.”

Faced with daunting challenges like sea level rise and increasing hurricane intensity, local government officials must strengthen efforts to protect our communities and our natural resources by working together to become more resilient at a regional level.

The good news is that an effort is under way in our region to bring local governments together to develop a Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition, which would allow local counties and municipalities on Florida’s west coast to collaborate on solutions to make our communities more resilient, healthy and safe.

The coalition would include Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties and dozens of city governments. Together, local communities will develop a regional resiliency action plan. Plans are under way for coalition members to sign an agreement to collaborate in early October. Already, the Pinellas and Citrus County Commissions have approved the Memorandum of Understanding. This regional effort is well under way.

Four southeast Florida counties — Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach — formed a similar coalition and signed the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact in 2010. Some 35 local governments have since signed on, and they have implemented numerous initiatives to both adapt to climate change and reduce emission to mitigate the worst potential impacts. They also jointly advocate for state and federal funding.

Our region, our community will be best served if we follow suit and get out in front of these problems. Though the challenges before us are great, there is reason to be hopeful if we act now.

Read the full article here: https://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/Column-A-Tampa-Bay-approach-to-make-region-more-resilient-against-flooding-storms_170163139

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Recap of South Carolina Energy Policy in 2018 Legislative Session

Following the cancellation of the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant, the 2018 legislative session in South Carolina was a historic opportunity for significant, long-lasting reform in South Carolina energy policy. Political focus over the last year gravitated to energy issues and by the beginning of the session in January, energy was anticipated to be the number one issue.

So let’s see what policies legislators proposed, and which of those policies they actually passed:

Policy introduced in legislation Policy passed into law?
Repealing advance cost recovery for construction of risky power plants and rolling back customers’ rates that pay for the canceled nuclear construction Yes
Establishing a consumer advocate to fight for consumers in utility regulatory cases and reforming the mission of public interest-focused state agency ORS Yes
Tweaking the selection process for utility regulators and Santee Cooper board members No. Several bills to accomplish this were passed by the House but not the Senate.
Raising the limit of fair compensation to solar customers No
Encouraging competition from independent power producers No
Promoting low-cost energy efficiency No
Banning political campaign contributions from utilities No

Taken together, these bills sought to address some of the serious issues that led to the V.C. Summer disaster that left customers potentially holding a $10 billion bill. Read more…

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Electric Vehicle Weekly News Roundup – July 20

Electric Vehicles
Tesla Will Be The First Automaker To Lose the Federal Tax Credit For Electric Cars. Congratulations Tesla on selling more EVs than any other company! Tesla delivered its 200,000th vehicle this month, which unfortunately means a phase-out of the federal tax credit is underway. Tesla customers who take delivery before January 1, 2019, will receive the full $7,500 credit. Customers who take delivery between January 1 and June 30, 2019, will be eligible for half that amount.

Automaker Chevrolet is also very close to reaching the 200K vehicle mark which means it too will begin the phase-out process of the federal tax credit. In last week’s Weekly News Roundup we shared GMs plans to ramp up production of their Bolt EV. Learn more about the car as Zachary Shahan of Clean Technica discusses acceleration, handling, and interior of three popular EVs in his article: BMW i3 vs Chevy Bolt vs Nissan LEAF (Comparison Review)Read more…

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A mystery: Peaking power plants using more natural gas than ever in the Southeast

The 680 MW Vandolah Power Station is a natural gas combustion turbine plant used to provide peaking power. It is owned by Northern Star Generation under a long term contract with Duke Energy Florida.

In 2016, there was an unusual spike in the operation of natural gas combustion turbine plants at several Southeastern utilities. At just 14 plants, fuel expenses increased by $210 million compared to recent years.

Across the Southeast, utilities increased gas peaker generation by 80%, compared to average use in 2010-14. Most of the increase occurred at 14 of 95 peaking plants in the Southeast. Duke Energy’s three operating companies were responsible for about 40% of the spike.

Just why such a spike might occur is a bit of a mystery. I’ll suggest a few theories below, but I am hoping that readers will comment on this and suggest a more plausible theory (or combination of theories).

What’s at stake?

Fueling gas peaker plants with natural gas affects our climate twice. Most obviously, by the carbon pollution that rises from the smokestack at the plant. But as Bill McKibben writes, “… any methane that escapes unburned into the atmosphere on the way to the power plant warms the planet very effectively — so effectively that if you leak more than 2 or 3 percent, it’s worse for climate change than coal.”

As has been widely reported, a ten-year study of the oil and gas supply chain shows that methane emissions are about 60% higher than EPA had previously estimated. As reported in Bloomberg,

“The bottom line is that the amount of methane being lost across the supply chain is substantial, it’s higher than current estimates from the EPA, and the amount is large enough to double the climate footprint of natural gas on a 20-year basis,” Ramon Alvarez, associate chief scientist at EDF and lead author of the study, said in a telephone interview.

As EDF points out, the oil and gas industry has “significant opportunities … to dramatically and cost-effectively reduce methane emissions today.” In the Southeast, where there is relatively little oil and gas industry association with methane emissions, the biggest thing we can do to reduce methane emissions is to reduce the use of natural gas. It’s complicated, but basically the leak rate is a percentage of total consumption, so leaks increase (or decrease) when natural gas consumption goes up (or down). Until industry acts to stop the leaks, more natural gas consumption means more methane in our atmosphere, and an acceleration of global warming.

Read more…

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New Websites Launched To Engage Florida Solar and Climate Voters

SACE is happy to announce we have launched two websites to engage Florida voters who believe we need to prioritize solar energy and climate change policy. Hot off the presses are FloridaSolarVoter.org and FloridaClimateVoter.org.

The websites are intended to reach out to Floridians who care about solar or climate change and help make it easier for them to vote in this November’s election. The websites feature four main features: 1) get registered to vote; 2) sign up to vote by mail; 3) get a reminder to vote when election day approaches; and 4) resources to learn more about the voting process.

The websites are available in both English and Spanish.

We hope that Floridians who care about solar or climate change will use these websites to make it easier for themselves and their friends and family to vote. Online voter registration is new to Florida as of last fall, and it provides an easy way for you to get registered to vote and for you to encourage your friends and family to get registered to vote.

Florida has much at stake with the impacts of global warming becoming more visible each year. We still have a ways to go to live up to our name of the Sunshine State when it comes to solar energy. The elections this November are critical to securing a safe, healthy environment and a prosperous economy for generations to come.

So please take a moment to visit FloridaSolarVoter.org or FloridaClimateVoter.org to either register to vote, vote by mail, or get voting reminders, and please share these websites with your friends and families and on Facebook and on Twitter – here’s a sample post/tweet for each:

Love #solar? Ready to #vote for solar-loving candidates? Check your registration & request your mail-in-ballot! www.floridasolarvoter.org #gotv #FL #solarvoter

Concerned about #climatechange? Ready to #vote for pro-climate candidates? Check your registration & request your mail-in ballot! www.floridaclimatevoter.org #gotv #FL #climatevoter

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Electric Vehicle Weekly News Roundup – July 13

Electric Vehicles
The movie Field of Dreams gave us the phrase “if you build it, they will come.” Chevrolet realized the opposite is true too. If they come (asking for a product), you should build (enough to meet demand). This week, Chevrolet announced a commitment to increase Bolt EV production by 20% to meet demand. The Bolt EV has proven more popular than expected in North America and South Korea

VW hopes to match the needs of young tech-savvy consumers with car-sharing vs. ownership. VW Announces New All-Electric Car-Sharing Platform ‘WE’ To Launch Next Year. This trend of car-sharing is likely going to continue disrupting traditional car ownership and is one to watch.

Infrastructure
The Union of Concerned Scientists released a fact sheet outlining 10 principles that are important to guide utility investment in electric vehicle infrastructure. The central message is that utility investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure is important public policy and ultimately a good deal for ratepayers.

More charging infrastructure is popping up all over the South! In a partnership with Alabama Power Corp., the Birmingham Airport is adding 9 charging stations. In Athens, GA Epps Bridge Centre has just installed a Tesla 10-port charging station. It marks the eighth in Georgia and will make travel easier for drivers seeking to avoid Atlanta going from Florida to North Carolina. Read more…

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Turkey Point Reactors: Negligence, Litigation, and a “Pause”

FPL’s Turkey Point cooling canals with Biscayne Bay in the distance

There are a lot moving parts when it comes to both the existing and proposed nuclear reactors at FPL’s Turkey Point plant in south Florida. It can be hard to keep track of recent events – so here’s some helpful background and an update.

 Existing reactors: Negligence and Litigation

The existing Turkey Point reactors, Units 3 & 4, which began operation in early 70’s, use a 10 square mile unlined cooling canal system (CCS) to cool the units. It’s an antiquated technology used nowhere else in the nation – for good reason. The miles of canals are unlined, and due to the porous geology of south Florida, water from the canals has leached underground to form a plume of hyper-saline and contaminated water spreading westward in the Biscayne Aquifer towards drinking water wells and eastward into Biscayne National Park. The Biscayne Aquifer is the sole drinking water source for Miami-Dade County and the Keys.

FPL’s legacy of negligence – dating back as early as 1978 – led to the environmental damage today. FPL violated its federal discharge permit and state and local water quality standards standards. State regulators issued a Notice of Violation against FPL in 2016 and ordered it to clean up its mess.

Customers take it on the chin

But it’s FPL’s customers that are on the hook for over $200 million for the remediation effort – thanks to the Florida Public Service Commission’s (PSC) 2017 approval of FPL’s request to recover clean-up costs from its customers. The PSC commissioners were appointed by Governor Rick Scott. SACE and other parties intervened in the PSC’s environmental cost recovery docket to protect customers’ interests. Almost 900 letters were received from FPL customers calling on the PSC to reject FPL’s unfair demand – but to no avail. Worse yet, several experts, including a SACE expert, have concluded that FPL’s clean-up plan won’t even achieve the intended result. Read more…

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Register Now for Tennessee Valley Solar Conference

ACT NOW: EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION DEADLINE JULY 31

TVA is a large, mostly untapped, solar market with great opportunity for growth. Tennesseans for Solar Choice recently illuminated the embarrassingly low progress from the first half of 2018.

As part of our ongoing efforts to remove barriers to clean, affordable solar energy for all, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is proud to sponsor the upcoming Tennessee Valley Solar Conference. Read more…

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As expected, TVA utilities respond to the Grid Access Charge with increased fixed fees

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) utilities (known as Local Power Companies or LPCs) are responding to TVA’s rate structure change by increasing fixed fees for residential and small commercial customers. This runs contrary to TVA’s claims that these customers would see little to no impact on their bills. Since LPCs are required to purchase all power from TVA at wholesale prices, increasing fixed fees is the simplest and least-risky way to pass TVA’s new Grid Access Charge (GAC) through to customers.

TVA is again attempting to mask the impacts of rate changes by making several small changes over a period of time, in an apparent attempt to avoid the outrage that a bigger, larger change would surely invoke. (In fact TVA’s initial proposal was twice the size it actually made, and it considered a change five times larger; fortunately, it was dissuaded after considerable public outcry from small businesses, advocates, and LPCs themselves.) TVA’s rate approval process continues to be behind the scenes. If TVA is allowed to continue, it will have substantially and covertly transformed TVA rates to the detriment of customers, particularly low-income, fixed-income, solar, and efficient customers.

What is the Grid Access Charge again, and why do I care?

In May, TVA’s Board approved a rate structure change that moves a portion of what LPCs pay TVA from variable rates (based on actual usage) to fixed charges (an annual fee based on the previous 5 years of usage). This is called the Grid Access Charge (GAC) and SACE raised questions about the substance of the rate change and the way that TVA pushed it through in our public comments and previous blogs. TVA is adjusting rates to ensure recovery on investments made under the assumption that load would continue to grow unchecked into the future. Now that load growth is flat (and declining in some areas), TVA is at risk of not recovering on those investments, and so is shifting that risk onto LPCs – and their customers – via the GAC.

The initial impacts of the GAC will not be very significant for most customers of two of the early LPCs to pass the GAC on to their customers: Cleveland Utilities and Columbus Light and Water. But there’s good evidence that while impacts start low, they will grow.  TVA has stated that it would like the GAC to be at a level 5 times what was approved. It is currently at $0.005/kWh, but SACE’s comments on the draft proposal discussed a private 2017 presentation where TVA stated that it expects the GAC to have a “trajectory” to $0.025/kWh. TVA’s response (Appendix D) did not rule out this trajectory, and stated that “additional rate changes… are reasonably foreseeable.” As LPCs phase-in implementation and TVA ratchets up the GAC, the impacts to customers, the economy, and the environment also grow. Read more…

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SACE Comments on the Path Forward for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy

SACE submitted comments last week to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management as part of their “Request for Feedback” on the path forward for Atlantic offshore wind development. With our comments, we sought to encourage the development of offshore wind energy off the Southeast coast, which could serve as a large economic and environmental opportunity.

We said:

We would like to voice our support for offshore wind energy off the Southeast coast. The Southeastern U.S. coast is home to some of the best offshore wind resources in the country. The relatively shallow offshore waters in our region are ideal for developing wind farms. This abundant resource represents a huge economic and environmental opportunity over the next several decades. For example, Clemson University found that developing 1 gigawatt of offshore wind energy off of South Carolina’s coast would create 3,879 in-state jobs, annually contribute $366 million in output and $61.6 million in local and state government revenue. Furthermore, analysis by our organization, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, found that offshore wind energy off the coast of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia could provide high-value power at times of peak electricity demand in summer months and mitigate the need for using expensive peaking electricity generating units.

In addition to the ability for offshore wind development to promote economic development in the Southeast, it would also increase our energy security, diversify our region’s energy portfolio, reduce global warming pollution, and conserve water resources that would otherwise be used in conventional electricity generation. Moreover, offshore wind energy from the Southeast can help our region achieve the Department of Energy’s national vision of generating 20% of its electricity from wind power by the year 2030.

Due to these many factors, support for offshore wind is generally high in the Southeast. Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina issued an executive order in support of wind energy in July 2017,3 the South Carolina Legislature passed a joint resolution in support of offshore wind development in May 2014,4 and several municipalities along the Southeast coast have adopted resolutions or proclamations supporting offshore wind development, including Carolina Beach, NC, Wrightsville Beach, NC, North Myrtle Beach, SC, Charleston, SC, North Charleston, SC and Tybee Island, GA.

Additionally, we encouraged BOEM to prioritize conservation of the North Atlantic right whale by incorporating the most up-to-date information in the upcoming South Carolina environmental assessment, and updating the North Carolina environmental assessment if need be.

Finally, we encouraged BOEM to take viewshed issues into account in the next comment period once a potential developer has proposed details about a potential wind farm, including turbine size, distance from shore, and night time lighting strategies.

Offshore wind energy presents a massive opportunity for clean energy, which could boost the economy and protect the environment. SACE looks forward to helping participate constructively in making the offshore wind future a reality here in the Southeast.

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