Topics in this January 2012 Green Power Update
Go directly to Wind news
Go directly to Solar news
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Wind Energy Update
Congress stalls on wind energy Production Tax Credit extension in 2011
Pennsylvania has a lot to gain from an extension of the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) in 2012. According to a recent report, Colorado, Texas, Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, Oregon, North Dakota and Ohio stand to see significant job and private investment growth from an extension. While bipartisan legislation was introduced at the end of 2011 to extend the wind PTC, Congress did not take action by year's end. Even so, industry associations such as the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) remain optimistic that the U.S. wind manufacturing success story will be a prominent narrative in efforts to extend the PTC in 2012. The PTC, having been extended before, ensures stability for the wind industry as it continues to develop. It is vital that the PTC be extended as soon as possible in the new year to avoid a shutdown of the industry. In Pennsylvania alone, there are 4,000 direct and indirect jobs supported by the wind industry that stand to be impacted.
Duquesne University Switches to Pennsylvania Wind Power
Duquesne University, located in Pittsburgh, will now source all of its wind power from Pennsylvania wind farms. The university, which had previously purchased wind nationally, decided to make the switch to Pennsylvania wind in order to support the wind industry's growth in the state. Owing to its pursuit of a renewable energy portfolio, Duquesne was recently recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with an Energy Star Award, making the school the first recipient of this award in Pennsylvania.
We commend Duquesne for making the commitment to buy Pennsylvania wind energy. Purchasing renewable energy from local over national projects provides greater benefits to the state and ensures that clean power is being delivered to our power grid. When added to the grid, renewable energy can help increase reliability by diversifying our electric supply, hedging against volatile fossil fuel markets and helping to push more inefficient and expensive power plants off the grid, thereby saving all Pennsylvania electric consumers money.
Supporting local and regional projects can create demand for new renewable energy development in the region, helping to grow jobs and boost our economy. Renewable power facilities can also increase a local tax base and provide income for farmers and rural communities through landowner lease payments.
Mid-Atlantic Wind Energy Transmission Line
The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Renewable Energy Program was authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The intention of the program and its directives is to provide a framework for leases, easements and rights-of-way for activities on the OCS that support production and transmission of energy from sources other than oil and natural gas. Atlantic Grid Holdings, LLC recently filed a right-of-way request to build a high-voltage direct current line which would transmit power generated by wind turbine facilities off the coasts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The transmission line would facilitate 7,000 megawatts of wind turbine capacity being sent directly to the grid. On a related note, the Department of Interior has approved 25 major renewable energy projects on public lands over the last two years. According to Atlantic Wind Connection, "AWC's filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission later this year will outline details of the project including how it benefits consumers and businesses by improving power flows across the region. The project will continue collaborating with developers and officials to map the optimal path for the line. To begin construction, AWC will need approval from federal, state, regional and local regulators as well as from PJM, the region's grid operator."
Solar Energy Update
Update on Solar Jobs Bill
Representative Chris Ross (R-Chester) introduced the Solar Jobs Bill (House Bill 1580) in October and it now has 113 co-sponsors, or a majority of the 203-member Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The bill has been referred to the House Consumer Affairs Committee chaired by Representative Robert Godshall (R-Montgomery) and a hearing, originally scheduled for November 17, will be held on January 11, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. Although the schedule of testifiers has already been established, those interested in listening to the hearing are encouraged to attend in Room 140 Main Capital.
U.S. Commerce Department to delay decision in China solar case until February
The U.S. Commerce Department has decided to move its preliminary ruling announcement from January 12 to February 14 with respect to the investigation of charges of unfair Chinese government subsidies to the solar industry. The case has been brought to the U.S. Commerce Department by a U.S. division of German solar company SolarWorld. U.S. solar companies including solar project developers have voiced concern, and even opposition, to the case as they believe it could threaten the expansion of solar projects nationally. Other U.S. solar concerns, such as solar equipment manufacturers, maintain China's subsidies are destroying the U.S. solar manufacturing industry. In 2010, the U.S. imported $1.5 billion in solar products, up from $640 million in 2009. Given the complexities of the case, the delay was anticipated.
We need your help documenting renewables in action!
For those who already sent in pictures, thanks! Please continue to send us photos of your solar installs (home or commercial), solar companies, wind equipment, farm biodigesters, home or office energy efficiency projects. We'd like to showcase renewables in action throughout Pennsylvania. These photos will be featured on PennFuture's Energy Center Facebook page to help spread the word on how we're making clean energy, and energy efficiency, happen. Email pix to burger (at) pennfuture (dot) org.
Energy Efficiency Update
New report shows Act 129 saving electric customers money
A new study conducted by Optimal Energy on behalf of PennFuture shows that Act 129, Pennsylvania's 2008 Energy Savings Law, has saved electric customers money, created jobs and lowered emissions.
Act 129 requires Pennsylvania electric utilities to reduce their overall electricity load by 1% by May 31, 2011 and 3% by May 31, 2013, and to reduce peak demand by 4.5 percent by offering electric customers a portfolio of cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation programs.
Optimal Energy analyzed Act 129 data through May 31, 2011 and found that utility energy efficiency programs lowered the state's electric load by 2,073 gigawatt-hours (GWh) -- 41% greater than was required by the law for that period. In fact, every utility exceeded its first Act 129 savings goal of a 1% reduction in consumption load with the exception of West Penn Power.
Act 129 programs enacted to date will net Pennsylvania over 4,000 jobs years (job years are measured as one full-time job for one year) and avoid 23 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent over the lifetime of the installed energy efficiency measures, equal to taking 4 million cars off the road for one year.
Act 129 programs are producing real, tangible benefits for Pennsylvania's electric customers, economy and environment while costing less than supply-side resources. According to the Optimal study, Pennsylvania has over 31,500 GWh of cost-effective energy efficiency savings yet to be captured. This means there is still tremendous opportunity for the energy efficiency marketplace to develop and grow for years to come. We trust the Public Utility Commission will realize the benefits of Act 129 and make a determination on its extension early next year in order to provide a seamless transition into the next phase of this important program.
To view the full report click here.
PennFuture files petition to extend Act 129
On the heels of the Optimal Energy report highlighting the benefits of the first two years of Act 129, PennFuture filed a petition before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) asking the agency to begin the process to extend the Act immediately, rather than waiting for the legal deadline of November 30, 2013.
The current Act 129 program expires on May 31, 2013. The PUC has until November 30, 2013 to determine if the program has been cost-effective; and if so, is required to set new savings goals. But if the PUC does not take action well in advance of the November 2013 date, there will be a "blackout" period for utility energy efficiency programs. This will mean several months of inaction between the time utilities are required to meet their 2013 goals (May 31, 2013) and when the PUC makes a determination on future goals (November 30, 2013), and approves those new utility plans. During this blackout period, utilities will be unable to implement energy efficiency programs, which will result in job losses for conservation service providers, consumer confusion about the availability of programs, and reduced return on ratepayer investment.
PennFuture's petition urges the PUC to take action now to extend the program, and to allow the state's electricity utilities to begin planning to implement the energy savings program beyond 2013. Issuing the next savings goals by May 2012, will allow utilities a full year to plan and receive approval for the next phase of this important program. PennFuture is also asking that utilities that meet their 2013 goals ahead of schedule be allowed to bank excess savings for future compliance years. This will remove disincentives to over compliance and further help avoid a shutdown of programs.
Congress denies Department of Energy funds to enforce light bulb standards
The enforcement of light bulb efficiency standards has been temporarily blocked by a year-end provision passed by Congress. The standards increase efficiency by 30 percent and would have gone into effect January 1, 2012. While the provision keeps the Department of Energy from spending funds on the enforcement of the light bulb standards, many light bulb manufacturers have already made the switch to more energy efficient lighting. Standards will become applicable to 100-watt bulbs in 2012 and other sizes in future years. The standards apply to all light bulbs including compact fluorescent, halogen incandescent and traditional incandescent and could save consumers $6 billion a year on their electric bills.
Earlier this year, the Department of General Services (DGS) suspended the Guaranteed Energy Savings (GESA) program that allows state and local governments as well as school districts to partner with private industry in order to finance energy efficiency upgrades without having to raise upfront capital via taxes or other means. Since that time, DGS has been conducting an internal review of the program.
Under the GESA model, an energy service company (ESCO) develops, implements and finances (or arranges financing for) an energy efficiency project and uses the income stream from the energy savings to repay the costs of the project, including investment costs. This is a low risk approach for the government entity or school district as the ESCO is required to pay for any shortfall in energy savings.
On December 2, DGS issued program changes and new program documents they are proposing to use in all future DGS GESA projects. These new documents make changes such as requiring every project to be open for bidding to all contractors based upon an established scope of work, with predefined energy conservation measures and no prequalification. On January 5, PennFuture filed a right-to-know request with DGS requesting documentation and materials related to the GESA program evaluation that DGS has referenced as justification for its proposed changes.
DGS is accepting public comments until January 18, 2012 on the new documents, available at: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/construction_and_public_works/1235/guaranteed_energy_savings/1042409
Alternative Transportation Fuels
EPA Finalizes 2012 Renewable Fuel Standards:
As part of the Environmental Protection Agency's Renewable Fuel Standard Program (RFS2), the 2012 percentage standards for biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuels, cellulosic biofuels and total renewable fuels have been finalized. The RFS2 program, established by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, is in place to support renewables within the transportation sector and looks to encourage innovation, ensure domestic energy security and decrease greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. The program hopes to see production of biofuels reach 36 billion gallons by 2022. Below are the percentage standards for the four fuel categories for 2012. The 2011 standard for total renewable fuels was 13.95 billion gallons, showing a net increase in 2012 at 15.2 billion gallons.
|Biomass-based diesel (1.0 billion gallons; 0.91 percent)
|Advanced biofuels (2.0 billion gallons; 1.21 percent)
|Cellulosic biofuels (8.65 million gallons; 0.006 percent)
|Total renewable fuels (15.2 billion gallons; 9.23 percent)
Infrastructure Tax Credit for Alternative Fuels and Biodiesel Tax Credit Update
Washington, DC has had much to chew on over the past several months, not the least of which has been the federal budget. In the wake of all the politicking, two vital alternative fuels tax credits were allowed to expire: the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Tax Credit and the Biodiesel Production Tax credit, both of which ended December 31.
The Alternative Fuels Infrastructure tax credit is used when an individual or company installs an alternative transportation fuel fueling station, such as an electric vehicle charging station or natural gas refueling station. This 30 percent credit makes investment in equipment more attractive and helps get the infrastructure in the ground. This is needed to reassure people that alternative fueling stations will be available, easing vehicle range anxiety and promoting the alternative fuel and vehicle investment necessary to displace foreign oil as our primary transportation fuel.
The Biodiesel Production tax credit has created jobs and new businesses in Pennsylvania and has allowed those businesses to invest and grow. The biodiesel tax incentive provides a $1.00/gallon return and is structured in a manner that makes the fuel price competitive with conventional diesel fuel in the marketplace. When the tax credit lapsed at the end of 2009, national biodiesel production dropped by 42 percent, shutting down 52 of the nation's 190 biodiesel plants.
The Energy Center will follow this issue closely and make certain that Pennsylvania's federal and state Representatives and Senators understand the critical impact these credits have on our industries.
Pennsylvanians next in line for the Nissan LEAF
The all-electric Nissan LEAF will be available across the country by March 2012. Until then, advanced orders are being taken in seven states, including Pennsylvania. The Nissan LEAF (which became commercially available over the past year) and other electric vehicle models are hoping to meet 2012 projections of 120,000 vehicles sold. The U.S. government has invested $5 billion in the electric vehicle market since 2008, with $2.4 billion of that amount going toward research and development of battery technology. Although buyers of electric vehicles are currently eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, price parity is dependent on the price of gasoline in future years.
Electric vehicle charging networks continue to expand
Even though the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure tax credit expired at the end of 2011, 350Green, an electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure business and service provider, remains optimistic about the future of electric vehicles in the U.S. The company recently installed 47 chargers in the DC-Baltimore corridor as the region is one of 18 major metropolitan areas where there is strong demand for EV infrastructure. Frequent consumer visits to destinations such as shopping centers and pharmacies have dictated the placement of chargers at these locations. As confidence grows around vehicle range and accessibility, 350Green is confident consumers will consider the purchase of an electric vehicle. With the projection of one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, the company's infrastructure strategy is less a leap of faith and more a signal of what's down the road.
Pennsylvania is welcoming 350Green's plan to open 64 charging stations in cities and suburbs across the state, and EV owners will soon be charging up at turnpike rest stops between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia thanks to a $1 million grant announced by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and provided by the Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant (AFIG) program. Car Charging Group, LLC will install 17 stations along the Pennsylvania Turnpike and over the course of three phases, Level II and Level III charging stations will be installed. Level II stations can charge a car in four hours while a Level III station charges a vehicle in 20 minutes. The first phase will take place between Harrisburg and New Jersey, where current plaza renovations are ongoing. Later phases will include the turnpike between Harrisburg and Ohio and, finally, the Northeastern Extension. Finally, charging station manufacturer Eaton Corp. is teaming up with Pittsburgh Clean Cities and grocer Giant Eagle to place charging stations at stores in western Pa.
Find a map of existing and planned charging stations in PA here.
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards comment period opens
Late last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed increased pollution tailpipe limits and fuel efficiency Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 for new cars and light trucks. Adopting these standards will save the average consumer up to $6,600 in fuel costs over the life of a vehicle by 2025, according to EPA and NHTSA. A 60-day public comment period opened December 1, 2011 and ends Feb 13, 2012.
. We encourage you to offer you to submit testimony to EPA supporting a strong rule. If you can come to Philadelphia on January 19, contact Joy Bergey, our Federal Policy Coordinator. She can tell you how to register, and can provide talking points for your testimony.
Find a link to PennFuture's Action Alert here.
Other Clean Energy News
PUC ruling a victory for renewables
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) issued a final order on December 15 regarding its recommendations for upcoming electric distribution company (EDC) default service plans. Default service plans are filed by each EDC to demonstrate how they will procure power for their electric customers, and comply with the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS).
PennFuture filed comments in this proceeding, requesting that the PUC not apply its recommendation that EDCs limit the use of long-term contracts in default service plans to the procurement of Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) resources like wind and solar. When the PUC issued its Final Order it did, in fact, clarify that its long-term contract recommendations will not pertain to EDC procurement of AEPS technologies – a big victory for wind and solar.
Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind need minimum contract lengths of at least 10 to 15 years as they are still developing in the marketplace. Investors are unwilling to finance a project unless there are credit-worthy institutions committed to purchasing the power and/or renewable energy credits produced. Further, long-term contract prices are more reflective of the cost to build projects since they are not based on the current, short-term oversupply in the market.
States with highest installed wind and solar capacity see lowest increase in electricity prices from 2005-2010
Renewable energy has long been touted for its money-saving potential, and the numbers prove it. According to information provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the five states (Texas, California, Iowa, Minnesota, and Oregon) with the highest installed capacity of wind and solar experienced the lowest cost increases from commercial electricity production rates. On average, rates in these states increased by 1.35¢/kWh over five years (3.2% annually) while the five states with the lowest installed capacity of wind and solar (South Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama) had cost increases of 1.39 cents/kWh over five years (4.0% annually). Across the U.S., average rate prices increased by 1.8 cents/kWh over five years (4.1% annually). With all but one state seeing increases in average cost per watt for electricity, these findings suggest that along with health and environmental benefits, energy security and job creation, money saved is yet another reason why renewable energy should be welcomed by every state on behalf of its ratepayers.
Renewable Energy Generation shows strong growth rates in 2011
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in its Monthly Energy Review, has good news to share. Through September 30, 2011, the growth of renewable energy sources continued to expand, exceeding growth rates for nuclear power and fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources including biomass, geothermal, solar, wind and water provided 11.95% of domestic U.S. energy production for the first nine months of 2011 and 12.73% net U.S. electrical generation, an increase of 24.73% from the same time period in 2010. This strong growth, despite an ongoing recession, suggests investments in sustainable energy have been a wise choice.
According to International Energy Agency (IEA), Renewable Energy becoming cost competitive
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a report, "Deploying Renewables 2011," which includes a great deal of positive news, most notably that renewable energy technology is becoming increasingly cost competitive with more traditional energy sectors. The IEA suggests that renewable energy technology subsidies are justified for the time being so as to create momentum for businesses and investors eager to grow the clean energy economy. The renewable energy sector has grown substantially over the past five years and is now providing 20% of the world's power generation. The largest portion of renewable energy growth is taking place in OCED countries, with heavy expansion occurring in China, India and Brazil, all of which have large-scale subsidies in place. Overall, wind has grown the most in absolute terms.
Are you buying renewable energy yet?
Have you switched to a competitive supplier for your electricity service? why not make the switch to go green?
The choice to buy renewable energy has never been easier. There are numerous renewable energy products on the market today offered at rates equal to or less than current utility rates. Making the choice to support clean, renewable energy can not only save you money but can also save our environment, health and economy.
The more renewable energy added to our electric grid, the less produced from coal plants, creating real, beneficial reductions in harmful pollution. Switching to a renewable energy product helps support existing and new clean energy projects, and sends a strong message that renewables must be part of our future.
PennFuture has revamped its green energy shopping page to help guide you through the process. Visit the new site to find step-by-step instructions on how to shop, information on what to look for when choosing a product and a detailed shopping chart that compares products based on renewable energy content and location of resources.
BlueStar Energy Efficiency Business Opportunity
BlueStar Energy Solutions, an energy management company, is seeking self-starting professionals to sell commercial/industrial lighting retrofit projects that create financial return for customers. BlueStar has made strides to simplify facility auditing and sales processes with its new iPad-based approach. Interested parties pay a deposit to cover the cost of the iPad and related auditing equipment, and participate in a one-day training session; on-going support is also provided. Contact Gibson Armstrong at GArmstrong@bluestarenergy.com or (717) 371-0124 for details.