Despite the setback delivered by the Supreme Court’s stay, action around the Clean Power Plan has not disappeared. Instead, the Environmental Protection Agency’s historic regulation is on the verge of another public input period and is also the focus of a recent Harvard study.
What’s more, EPA has a new proposal out and an upcoming public comment period related to the voluntary early-action piece of the Clean Power Plan, known as the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP). After hearing from stakeholders during a previous public comment period that ended in mid-December 2015, EPA has made some significant changes to the proposed CEIP. Most importantly, EPA has expanded the range of projects eligible for CEIP participation to include solar projects implemented to serve low-income communities.
Wind power is an American success story. Wind turbine component manufacturing or support facilities exist in all 50 states. Domestic content for wind farm projects is around 60%, meaning American jobs are helping build America’s domestic energy industry. In 2014, American companies exported about half a billion dollars worth of wind turbine components around the globe. A few major manufacturers here in the southern United States include General Electric’s turbine facility in Pensacola, Florida, Blade Dynamics in New Orleans, ZF Windpower in Georgia, PPG Industries in North Carolina, LM Blades in Little Rock, just to name a few.
Even utilities in our notoriously coal-dependent Southeast are getting in on the action. Duke Energy, one of the two biggest utilities in our region, in late April announced plans to increase its renewable energy capacity to 8,000 megawatts by 2020, up by one-third over previous targets. “We’re finding that it’s competitive” on a cost basis, Duke Energy company spokesman Randy Wheeless has said of renewables. “It makes good business sense.” The Atlanta-based Southern Company, parent company of Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, and Mississippi Power, intends to exceed its previously announced renewables totals for 2017 and 2018 and just bought a North Carolina company, PowerSecure, that focuses on distributed generation—smaller-scale local power often provided by renewable sources—along with energy efficiency. NextEra Energy, based in Juno, Florida and the parent of that state’s largest utility, Florida Power & Light (FPL), is a national leader in wind power development. “We continue to believe that the fundamentals for the North American renewables business have never been stronger,” NextEra Executive Vice President of Finance and CFO John Ketchum said on an April 28th earnings call.
Yet again, Tennessee senior senator, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R), has channelled his inner Don Quixote and is tilting at windmills – well, wind turbines to be exact. Just this week he took to the senate floor in Washington, D.C. to bash wind energy using his same old outdated arguments. Sen. Alexander has now set his sites on a proposed wind farm in Cumberland County, TN.
In his latest anti-wind campaign, Sen. Alexander used a photo of a poorly planned Palm Springs, CA wind project to bolster his claim that the proposed Crab Orchard Wind Project, pursued by Apex Clean Energy, would ruin the scenic views and environment in Cumberland County. But where is Sen. Alexander’s outrage with actual projects in Tennessee that are currently ruining communities scenic views and threatening the surrounding environment???
This year may be the biggest year for wind energy in the South. A number of factors are working together to create a massive market for wind energy all across the country. Some of the important factors include: technology has significantly improved, utilities are becoming more familiar with integrating wind energy, key federal tax incentives have been renewed and utilities are beginning to hedge against risks associated with fossil fuels.
2016 is the year to act on wind power in a big way and the clock is ticking. At the end of 2015, Congress passed a long-term phaseout of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy – a key federal incentive for the industry that continues to drive down the cost of wind energy.
In the spirit of Lent, SACE has reflected on the past 40 days of Lent by showcasing 40 places of worship that put their faith to work by promoting solar and wind energy. Using these forms of energy presents opportunities too not only reduce the impact on the environment, but it also saves money. Many faith-based organizations really benefit from the reduced cost that these resources provide – and it helps in more ways than one by allowing them to advocate for creation care. Clean energy is a positive step forward no matter the faith one subscribes to! Even numbers are solar – odd numbers are wind!
Late in the evening on February 18th, wind energy provided more energy to the Southwest Power Pool electric grid than coal, natural gas or nuclear power. At roughly 11PM, wind power generated nearly 40% of all the electricity in the SPP region, which includes Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and portions of New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. Meanwhile, the region received the remainder of its electricity from coal (37%), natural gas (11%), nuclear (10%) and hydro power (2%). That’s right: renewable energy provided more energy than either fossil fuels or nuclear reactors.
Conservatives strongly support clean energy. The strongest reasons why conservatives support clean energy include less pollution, more innovation and greater independence. “Voters, including Conservative Republicans, think clean energy keeps us healthier, safer, and more prosperous,” says the ClearPath results headline. When asked if “we should accelerate the growth of clean energy so that America can have cleaner, healthier air and less pollution at home,” some 91% of voters supported the statement.
In today’s world of heightened political theatre, it’s hard to be surprised anymore. Yesterday, however, the Supreme Court surprised many by agreeing to stay implementation of the Clean Power Plan before the review by the federal appeals court on the merits of the case.
The Supreme Court’s decision comes after a January 21st decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to deny the request for a stay by the coal industry and coal-dependent states. What’s most surprising is that the Supreme Court has never before halted implementation and compliance efforts for a regulation that is still awaiting review by a federal appeals court. Ultimately, the movement towards creating a cleaner electric generating sector will continue as utilities respond to market realities and customer demand for cheaper, cleaner energy sources.