Unblocking the Sun – Join Us!


Today, the sun will be completely blocked by the moon in the first total solar eclipse in the United States since 1979. As people assemble in the “path of totality” to witness this rare event, we want to remind you that while it is indeed amazing to see the moon block the sun, we must fight to keep monopoly utilities in the Southeast from doing the same!

Sign up here to join our fight for solar freedom and bring more clean energy to the Southeast! Read more…

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Is TVA Causing a Solar [Market] Eclipse?

TenneSEIA, the Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association, issued a press release yesterday about TVA’s decision to continue restricting the Green Power Providers program.  I agree with their President, Matt Beasley: “this decision indicates a genuine lack of commitment by TVA to its own program.”  The reality is that TVA is withdrawing support for solar power and, much like the solar eclipse we’ll all see on Monday, TVA is blocking the sun.

SACE supported the recommendation TenneSEIA made earlier this year for how TVA could boost participation in its Green Power Providers (GPP) program by raising the individual size limit from 50 kW to 200 kW. This adjustment would allow more businesses the option of going solar on their own commercial properties.

TVA’s priority seems to be primarily “utility scale” systems and projects that they do in partnership with local power companies. While we support these efforts, we want to see all solar market segments functioning in the TVA region – residential, commercial (small and medium), as well as utility-scale. TVA does also offer a Distributed Solar Solutions program designed for larger commercial solar installations (up to 2MW), but the conditions imposed on that program effectively leave many medium-sized businesses excluded by TVA. The TenneSEIA proposal would have extended the simplified approach of the Green Power Providers program to the medium-scale solar installations that appeal to firms of that size. Read more…

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Democracy in Action: Why I Asked EPA Not to Roll Back Water Pollution Standards

Kailie Melchior testifies at EPA. Click image to open video on Youtube.

Coal fired power plants discharge huge quantities of polluted wastewater, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to delay compliance deadlines for the very modest 2015 power plant water pollution rule – an intention it reiterated in a letter to an industry group on August 11. On July 31, I joined activists from around the country at EPA’s only hearing on the rollback, held in Washington, DC.

As you can imagine, delaying limits on this nasty water pollution could have some very serious consequences. Here are a few of the toxic pollutants in question:

I did some digging to see why this delay was being proposed. What threat could there be that would require taking such a dangerous gamble on people’s health?

What I found was pretty appalling. The EPA’s proposal to delay compliance deadlines for what’s formally known as the Effluent Limitation Guidelines for Steam Electric Power Plants, or ELGs, is based solely on costs the power plant industry worries it will incur in order to comply with these standards. However, the vast majority of power plants will incur zero costs! In fact, the EPA estimated that overall only about 12% of power plants and 28% of coal or petroleum coke burning plants would incur any costs. What’s more, for all but a handful of plants, those costs will amount to less than 1% of the company’s revenue. Read more…

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What do fidget spinners and wind turbines have in common?

If you’ve been near school-age children lately, you know fidget spinners are all the rage. Fidget spinners are these three-lobed toys that have several circular ball bearing appendages that help you spin the device as you fidget; hence “fidget spinners”.

As I attended the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER 2017 conference in Anaheim this past May, a number of expo exhibitors were giving away fidget spinners as conference attendee swag. At first, I just thought these companies were simply jumping on a trend, but then began to think a bit about the similarities between fidget spinners and wind turbines. No, really.

Read more…

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Road Trips On Electrons

This is a guest post written by David Earnhardt, EV owner and member of the Blue Ridge EV Club. The original post can be found here.

One of the most common questions I get when I talk about driving electric is “But what if you want to take it on a road trip?”  A worthwhile question, that I never really had a great answer for until now. I chose to begin driving electric about 5 years ago in a CARB state…which meant that my driving choices were easier to manage.  I could charge at home and work, I had a L2 approximately 4 blocks from my home, and my little Smart Electric Drive was the perfect vehicle for the city.

But my move to North Carolina presented a different set of challenges to my desire to drive electric.  I could no longer charge at home, my job changed to needing more range, and my lease ended for the Smart…so I changed to a 2016 Nissan LEAF and have been completely dependent on public charging infrastructure ever since. Read more…

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Nuclear cancellation fallout in South Carolina

SACE intern Kailie Melchior contributed to this post.

The last few days have been a whirlwind in South Carolina’s energy realm with the announcement that major utilities are abandoning the under-construction nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer power plant. Here is a brief description of what’s been going on from SACE’s point of view.

The background:

The V.C. Summer power plant in Jenkinsville, South Carolina is the site of two under-construction nuclear reactors. The reactors are owned jointly by South Carolina Electric & Gas parent company, SCANA, and state-owned utility Santee Cooper (55 percent and 45 percent ownership shares respectively).  Each reactor is designed to be 1,100 megawatts (MW) in size for a total of 2,200 MW of overall capacity if complete. SCANA and SCE&G began the project in 2008 with estimated completion dates set at April 2016 for Unit 2 and January 2019 for Unit 3. From very early on in the project, Santee Cooper and SCE&G have been perpetually changing the completion dates and asking for more and more rate hikes to pay for it. Altogether, the reactors are about 37 percent built, nine years into the project.

The project’s continued viability has been in doubt for years, however it came to a head earlier this year when lead contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy. In the aftermath of the announcement, SCANA and Santee Cooper began internal analyses to understand what the future of the project looked like.

Santee Cooper called a last-minute board meeting on Monday at which they revealed their internal analysis and the figures they shared were very eye-opening:

  • total project cost they pegged at $25 billion – up from an initial estimated $10 billion at the project outset
  • substantial completion date for the project was estimated to be pushed out to November of 2024 – initially estimated at April 2017, meaning 7.5 years delayed
  • additional rate increases of 41 percent would be required to finish the project

After the presentation, Santee Cooper’s board voted unanimously to abandon both reactors and stop throwing good money after bad.

Read more…

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Federal Licensing Update for FPL’s Proposed Turkey Point Reactors: What You Need to Know

This post was written by Kailie Melchior, High Risk Energy Intern with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) with contributions from SACE’s High Risk Energy Program Director, Sara Barczak.

On May 2, 2017 in Homestead, Florida, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Atomic Safety Licensing Board, heard arguments from the parties challenging Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) request for a federal license to build two additional nuclear reactors (proposed Units 6 and 7) at their existing Turkey Point facility in Miami-Dade County.  Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, National Parks Conservation Association, and two local Miami residents filed this legal challenge back in 2010 and were successful in getting to this important hearing stage.

FPL plans to dispose of the proposed Turkey Point nuclear reactors’ polluted wastewater, that would contain numerous chemical contaminants, including the four highlighted in the litigation: ethylbenzene, heptachlor, tetrachlorethylene, and toluene, by injecting it underground into the Boulder Zone on the assumption that it is completely isolated from the overlying Upper Floridian Aquifer. However, because no seismic study has been done, FPL cannot be certain that the polluted wastewater will not impact the overlying Upper Floridian Aquifer, which is an important future drinking water for south Florida.

On July 10, 2017, against the advice and counsel of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and a number of other environmental groups and individuals concerned about the chemical contaminants migrating from the Boulder Zone into the Upper Floridian Aquifer, a NRC board approved Florida Power & Light’s proposal.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff determined that the public radiation that would likely result from this would be so small “as to be difficult to measure,” and therefore concluded that the radiation would have “no measurable impact on public health.” However, the NRC ignored many important considerations and analysis technologies, such as seismic reflection studies, that can be done to make sure that FPL doesn’t make the dangerous gamble of polluting important drinking water for the people of south Florida.

But, the fight isn’t over; full approval for these proposed nuclear reactors has yet to come. There are other approvals required, including permits to fill hundreds of acres of wetlands, many of which are very unique and ecologically important and connected to the greater Everglades ecosystem. Futhermore, FPL no longer has a builder given Westinghouse’s bankruptcy. In nearby South Carolina, the two under construction AP1000 reactors have just been cancelled and the fate of any future nuclear construction project in the U.S. is unlikely.

Rather than put our faith in a utility that has continually put profits before the health and wellbeing of the people of Florida, SACE is committed to fighting this increasingly speculative nuclear expansion that will be costly not only to FPL customers but also to the region’s water resources and remarkable environmental resources such as Biscayne and Everglades National Parks. Take action today by voicing your concerns to the Florida Public Service Commission as they consider FPL’s request related to the new reactor proposals.

Walking in Memphis—Just Feet Above a Coal Ash Cesspool

The groundwater beneath the coal-fired Allen Fossil Plant in southwest Memphis—only two miles from the city's drinking water supply—is contaminated with dangerously high amounts of arsenic and lead. Photo TVA/CC by 2.0

This guest blog by Lisa Evans, Sr. Administrative Counsel at Earthjustice, is re-posted from July 19, 2017. The original appears here.

Memphis residents now have another reason to sing the blues. Last week, the nation’s largest public utility, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), admitted that the groundwater beneath its Allen coal-burning power plant is poisoned with astronomically high amounts of arsenic. Levels of the potent carcinogen measure nearly 400 times the federal limit for drinking water. In addition, lead in the groundwater is more than four times the standard.

The pollution is so serious that U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen recently sent a letter to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation asking why it believes toxins found under the TVA’s Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis are not affecting drinking water.

The city’s water supply, serving 900,000 people, is only two miles from TVA’s leaking coal ash ponds. Filled with the toxic byproduct from burning coal, these ponds are the source of the hazardous mess. And the monitoring wells are only about a half-mile from deeper wells drilled by the TVA directly into the Memphis Sand aquifer.

One monitoring well beneath the Allen plant reported arsenic levels far above the federal limit for drinking water.

Arsenic, which causes multiple types of cancers, has been dubbed “the worst chemical in the world” because of its terrifying ability to harm all cells in the body. The levels of arsenic in Memphis’ shallow aquifer are higher than those found at Superfund sites where chemical munitions and arsenic pesticides were dumped. Read more…

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Utilities Knew: Documenting Electric Utilities’ Early Knowledge and Ongoing Deception on Climate Change From 1968-2017

This is a guest blog from the Energy & Policy Institute, originally published HERE.

Scientists had begun to warn electric utilities about climate change by 1968, and by 1988 the industry’s official research and development organization had acknowledged that, “There is growing consensus in the scientific community that the greenhouse effect is real.”

Despite this early knowledge about climate change, electric utilities have continued to invest heavily in fossil fuel power generation over the past half a century, and since 1988 some have engaged in ongoing efforts to sow doubt about climate science and block legal limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

The Energy and Policy Institute’s new report provides a first look into the electric utility industry’s nearly 50-year long relationship with climate science, based largely on original research that reviewed scores of industry documents. You can access the full report here: Utilities Knew: Documenting Electric Utilities’ Early Knowledge and Ongoing Deception on Climate Change From 1968-2017

Below are just a few of the key findings from the report.

The electric utility industry was warned about climate change in 1968

Dr. Donald F. Hornig, a science advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson, warned the 1968 Annual Convention of the Edison Electric Institute about the threat that allowing CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels to build up in the atmosphere could one day pose to the climate.

“Such a change in the carbon dioxide level might, therefore, produce major consequences on the climate – possibly even triggering catastrophic effects such as have occurred from time to time in the past,” Hornig said.

ABOVE: Dr. Donald F. Hornig (left), a science advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson (right). LBJ Library photo by Yoichi Okamoto

Read more…

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New Climate Movie Great Way To Inspire Action

An Inconvenient Truth, released in 2006, was the first major Hollywood film about climate change and was undoubtedly a turning point in the American story of climate action. The movie, a double Academy Award winner, was viewed by millions of people who hadn’t given much thought to the topic and educated people about both the problems we face ahead with global warming, and also inspired many to begin pursuing solutions. Now more than 10 years later, the team that brought us the movie is releasing a sequel, called An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, to be released nationwide next Friday, August 4.

An Inconvenient Sequel will in some ways pick up where the first movie left off, however, viewers will be able to see much of the landscape that has changed in the past decade, considering the advancements in the field of climate science, the many extreme weather events typical of a warmer globe, political shifts, and the economic and technological breakthroughs of global warming solutions such as solar and wind energy.

The movie is sure to be an excellent conversation starter with those new to the intricacies of this topic and diehard climate action advocates alike. The movie will be showing in dozens of cities around the Southeast (partial list below), so check here to see where the movie will be playing in a theater near you.

Partial list of areas with screenings: Atlanta, Charleston, Charlotte, Ft. Myers-Naples, Gainesville, Orlando-Daytona-Melbourne, Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, Greenville- Asheville, Jacksonville, Knoxville, Memphis, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, Tallahassee-Thomasville, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota, W. Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, Wilmington

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