It’s official: California’s investor-owned utilities did not meet their 20 percent renewable energy target by 2010.Together, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric got about 18 percent of their power from geothermal, wind, solar, small hydroelectric, biomass and biogas sources in 2010. That’s up from 15 percent in 2009, overall.
Breaking down the numbers further shows Edison in the lead, with 19.4 percent of its load from renewables. PG&E was just behind, with 17.7 percent met through renewable energy contracts, and SDG&E was way off the pace, at 11.9 percent.
Because PG&E and Edison are far bigger than their counterpart in the San Diego region, the average numbers came fairly close to the 20 percent target. PG&E got 13,760 gigawatt-hours from renewables in 2010, to Edison’s 14,548 GWh and SDG&E’s 1,940 GWh.
The data, from the state’s Public Utilities Commission, confirm a commonly told suspicion that the utilities would not meet the mandate in place since 2003. The PUC in a statement noted that the IOUs have a few more years to meet the 20 percent target under “flexible compliance” mechanisms written into the rule. The commission expects full compliance to occur by the end of 2012.
Geothermal was the most plentiful source of energy under the renewable portfolio standard, accounting for more than 35 percent of renewable generation for the three IOUs. Wind was next in 2010, at close to 30 percent, followed by biomass, small hydro, biogas and solar.
Solar is the area expected to grow most rapidly over the next decade, with PUC estimating its share will grow from about 2 percent of the RPS in 2010 to more than 30 percent in 2015 and even higher in 2020.
Up next for the IOUs is a 33-percent-by-2020 target enacted by executive order by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). Lawmakers in Sacramento are also trying to codify the 33 percent RPS, with the Senate having last month passed a version of the mandate (E&ENews PM, Feb. 24).
Unlike the 2010 target, the 2020 version will apply to all electric utilities in the state, including public power.
Republicans have spent a lot of time this year criticizing the EPA, so one would think that President Barack Obama’s proposal to cut $1.3 billion from its budget would be well-received.Not quite.
For all their talk about the “job-killing” EPA, Republicans have a dirty little secret: They actually like many of the agency’s efforts, particularly bread-and-butter programs aimed at cleaning up drinking water and air pollution in their districts.
It’s in those areas where Obama has suggested the most budget pain, putting Republicans in the position of defending EPA and accusing the White House of playing politics.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Washington’s top climate skeptic and most vocal opponent of EPA regulations, took issue with the proposal to slash nearly $1 billion from state revolving loan funds “” cash that gets doled out to local drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects.
“You can bet these cuts will be restored, because many of my colleagues believe these are worthwhile programs,” Inhofe told EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at a hearing Wednesday.
Inhofe also accused the administration of performing a “fiscal bait and switch” by proposing cuts to those well-liked programs instead of slashing programs “that don’t deserve funding.”
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee that includes EPA, said Obama is “either playing politics with his budget or this further illustrates that the EPA is simply out of touch.”
California’s cap-and-trade program is being threatened by groups of local residents, even after the ambitious climate plan survived an electoral challenge in November.Communities For A Better Environment, California Communities Against Toxics, Society For Positive Action and other groups and individuals have sued state regulators, claiming the climate plan will not reduce pollution. The plaintiffs argue that industrial facilities should cut their actual emissions, rather than trade rights to pollute.
“All the evidence showed that cap-and-trade programs have failed environmental justice communities,” said Alegria de la Cruz, an attorney with
A rebounding economy and growing pool of deep-pocketed investors could drive the U.S. solar industry to double its installations for a second year, but the capital costs for the clean energy systems remain huge.The U.S. photovoltaic industry is coming off its best-ever year, with about 1 gigawatt in new panels installed. That is about equal to the capacity of a nuclear power reactor, or enough to power about 1 million homes, and many solar companies expect new installations to reach 2 GW this year.
Costs of the panels that turn sunlight into electricity continue to decline, although they still rely on subsidies to make them competitive with fossil fuel plants, a hurdle that makes many investors wary.
But the industry’s shift toward ever-bigger solar power plants has attracted the interest of large investors.
“We’ve got more than enough money to finance as much solar as I can find,” said John Anderson, senior managing director and the head of power and infrastructure at John Hancock Financial Services in Boston, which spent about $3.5 billion last year on power projects and infrastructure.
“I want to find places where I can invest $50 million or more,” he said, citing such previous projects as the 14 megawatt Nellis Solar Plant in Nevada and 17 MW Greater Sandhill plant in Colorado.
Even the largest existing U.S. plant, Sempra Energy’s 48 MW plant at Copper Mountain, Nevada, pales in comparison to planned facilities such as First Solar’s 290 MW Agua Caliente plant in Arizona.
The rebounding U.S. economy is likely to lift power prices, making it easier to finance solar projects, but the industry would likely need to raise about $10 billion to reach the 1.6 GW mark that consultancy IHS Herold expects to be built in 2011.
The U.S. Energy Department offered project developers Wagner Wind Energy and Independence Wind LLC a conditional commitment for a $102 million loan guarantee for a wind farm they are planning near Roxbury, Maine.The project is expected to connect to new transmission lines to provide power to Central Maine Power Co., the local utility, the Energy Department said today in a statement.
The 50.6-megawatt Record Hill project, sponsored by the Yale University Endowment fund, will have 22 turbines with capacity of 2.3 megawatts each, from Siemens AG (SIE), according to the statement.
“Record Hill introduces an innovative technology to the U.S. that will boost domestic wind generation and help us reach President Obama’s goal of doubling clean energy produced in America by 2035,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in the statement.
The turbines feature a system of sensors and processing software that allow them to continue to generate electricity under turbulent conditions and with reduced wear and tear.
The Energy Department’s loan guarantee program has issued or offered conditional commitments totaling almost $18 billion to 20 clean energy projects, the agency said.
When the money ran out, shrimper Darla Rooks gave up her apartment and moved in with her daughter. One of an unprecedented half a million BP claimants, the Louisiana shrimper and oyster harvester has spent her life on Gulf waters — she even got married in her fishing boots. Now she’s swimming in red tape.”We’re starving to death,” she said from her daughter’s home in Mississippi, which she and her husband were renovating – adding a room for themselves. “We’re having to move in with our families and rely on our families, it’s humiliating, my daughter just got married, six months back”¦ ” she said. “We count on our living to supply us with what we need. We know no other way.”
So far, the $20 billion Deepwater Horizon disaster compensation fund, headed by Washington attorney Kenneth Feinberg, has paid about $3.6 billion to 170,000 claimants, the vast majority of which have been emergency payments of a few thousand dollars. But claimants, from shrimpers in Louisiana to hotel owners in Florida, complain the compensation process has been too slow and that their needs have gone unmet.
And what Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility has offered is a pittance compared with what many feel they deserve. Of the 8,200 claimants that have been offered final compensation, only 2.5 percent have accepted it.
For those like Rooks, filing for a claim means miles of overwhelming paperwork. “It will never get done,” she said. “I can never give them what they want. This can go on for 20 years. What they just gave me … I’m owed more than that.”
As oil prices have risen in recent weeks, calls have been growing in Congress for the Obama administration to consider tapping into the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve, which is now at its full capacity of 727 million barrels.Senator Jeff Bingaman, the influential chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, this week added his voice to the chorus, urging President Obama to be prepared to consider a significant sale of oil from the reserve to stabilize prices and temper any disruption in supply.
“Between the lost production in Libya, the crude oil dislocation associated with additional Saudi production and the prospect of further turmoil in the region,” Mr. Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, said in a floor statement late Wednesday, “we are now unquestionably facing a physical oil supply disruption that is at risk of getting worse before it gets better.”
He said that previous sales from the reserve had quickly brought domestic oil prices down and calmed edgy markets.
Other members have raised similar suggestions, saying that a sale at the current price of nearly $100 a barrel could produce billions of dollars to ease pressures on the federal deficit and accelerate policies intended to reduce oil consumption, like tax incentives for the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles.
But the administration has so far resisted these calls, saying that excess oil production capacity around the world remains well above the amount of oil whose flow has been disrupted by unrest in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East. Officials said that opening the spigot on the strategic reserve would send precisely the wrong signal to domestic consumers and international oil markets at a time when gasoline prices have risen only modestly and oil supplies are not yet severely strained.
Steven Chu, the energy secretary, said in an interview that the administration was closely monitoring the situation but warned against an overreaction to recent increases in oil prices.
“We don’t want to be totally reactive so that when the price goes up everybody panics and when it goes back down everybody goes back to sleep,” he said, echoing Mr. Obama’s description of the American public’s response to oil prices as alternating between shock and trance.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a vocal critic of the Environmental Protection Agency, has signed on as a co-sponsor of Republican legislation to permanently block the agency’s climate rules.The addition of Manchin, who is up for reelection in 2012, as a co-sponsor means that the authors of the bill have been able to get at least some Democratic support in both the House and the Senate. Forty-three Senate Republicans sponsored the bill.
The Hill reported earlier Thursday that three House Democrats signed on to the legislation. Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, have are both original co-sponsors. Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) also signed on to the legislation.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the panel’s energy subcommittee, authored the House version of the bill, while Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced the Senate version of the legislation.
The bill has a good chance of passing the House, but will face major hurdles in the Senate.
Republicans managed to get one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), to sign on to broad new legislation that would stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Staffers for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a lead author of the bill, will be pounding the pavement during the coming weeks to lure more Democrats to support the legislation, an Inhofe aide said.
But the big question is: will they succeed?
The legislation faces major hurdles in the Senate, and liberal Democrats vowed to kill the bill Thursday. “Scientists, citizens, and even the Supreme Court have spoken: EPA should regulate air pollution and safeguard human health,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said in a statement Thursday. “This legislation is a direct assault on the Clean Air Act, and I will fight it with every legislative tool available.”
But there are a handful of centrist Democrats who are queasy about EPA climate rules. To find those on-the-fence Democrats, you need not look any further than the list of co-sponsors for legislation authored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) that would delay EPA’s climate regulations for two years.
They include: Sens. Kent Conrad (N.D.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Jim Webb (Va.). Other Senate Democrats to watch are Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), who voted for Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) failed plan to block EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse emissions. Rockefeller voted for the Murkowski plan too, but he has more recently urged caution on going “too far” in limiting the agency’s authority.
You can bet those senators will be getting calls from Inhofe’s staff, but it’s unclear if any of them could be persuaded to back Inhofe’s far more sweeping legislation.
Support from Democrats in the House is less important because Republicans have a majority in the chamber. But Republicans still managed to get two senior Democrats to co-sponsor the bill: Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, are both original co-sponsors. Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) also signed on to the legislation.
The Environmental Protection Agency and global warming programs government-wide stand to lose big in the battle over the federal budget.The House already passed its bill to fund the federal government for the rest of this year, and it doesn’t just cut EPA programs “” it also steamrolls the Obama administration’s environmental policy.
The House bill would slash the EPA budget by nearly a third “” more than any other agency. It would stop the agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it would gut many other programs that prevent air and water pollution and enforce environmental laws.
Senate Democrats say the bill drafted by House Republicans would hobble the EPA.
“They have essentially unleashed war against the EPA, and in doing so, they are going to hurt the American people. And we have to stop it,” says Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who heads the Senate Environment Committee.
But Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, who heads the subcommittee responsible for the EPA’s budget, says the House bill responds to concerns that Republicans across the country have about EPA officials.
“They’ve gone far beyond their authority and, frankly, are costing jobs in this country,” Simpson says.
He says he’s had only a couple of calls complaining about the budget cuts, but lots of input from people who want to rein in the EPA.
Environmentalists say the public isn’t complaining because few people have heard about the extent of the cuts. They’re trying to spark an outcry with television ads. One, paid for by the Environmental Defense Fund, shows an ultrasound of a fetus and quotes an American Academy of Pediatrics study warning about the risks of mercury exposure to young children.
An announcer says: “The House sided with corporate lobbyists to block limits on mercury pollution. Did they think America wouldn’t notice?”
The ad is referring to pollution standards for cement plants, and an amendment added to the House bill would stop the agency from enforcing the standards.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as part of its review of a natural-gas drilling procedure, is looking at the radioactivity of wastewater used in the process. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, speaking at a congressional hearing Thursday, defended her agency’s efforts to study the safety of natural-gas drilling and left the door open to further regulatory action on the issue. The process, known as hydraulic fracturing, is used to extract hard-to-reach natural-gas pockets in the ground.
Ms. Jackson suggested that if public water-treatment plants couldn’t adequately treat wastewater from hydraulic fracturing to safe levels””a central concern of critics of extraction method””EPA could impose standards on drillers who send the waste to the plants.
“EPA can at any time set additional standards for what we call pretreatment, for waste that may go to a treatment plant,” Ms. Jackson said.
Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals underground at high pressures to release natural gas from shale deposits. In recent years, new technology has unlocked shale gas that was not previously accessible, leading to a boom of new wells across the country.
Critics say environmental regulators and the industry have failed to ensure the practice is safe, particularly with respect to fracturing fluid contaminating drinking water.
“What we see here are deliberate attempts to shield from the public additional concerns expressed by EPA scientists,” said Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D., N.Y.) said at a congressional hearing on EPA’s budget.
Ms. Jackson pushed back. “We have used a transparent, consensus-based process to scope the study,” she told lawmakers at the hearing. “We don’t want to stifle science.”
She said EPA intends to study the issue and take action to enforce the law if it has evidence of violations and if states, which she called the “primary” enforcers, do not act.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect citizens from premature death and other health problems would be gutted if Congress slashes funding as threatened by Republican lawmakers, its chief said on Wednesday.Republicans in the House of Representatives have been trying to cut the EPA’s budget for this year, saying its regulations on clean air and water hurt businesses.
“Big polluters would flout legal restrictions on dumping contaminants into the air, into rivers and onto the ground,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee.
Jackson said every dollar that goes to protecting federal clean air and clean water laws saves as much as $20 or $30 in costs for health problems requiring visits to hospitals.
“I’m simply saying it’s preventive medicine,” Jackson said.
The EPA released a report this week that said cutting pollution under the Clean Air Act will save $20 trillion by 2020 in health costs. It will also have prevented 230,000 premature deaths annually from heart attacks, and other health problems that can be brought on by smokestack pollutants such as soot, it said.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson came face to face with House Republicans Thursday for the first time since they voted to slash her budget and block funding for environmental regulations.Jackson fielded aggressive questions about the agency’s regulations at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. The topics ranged from the effects of the agency’s proposed climate rules to whether the agency would regulate spilled milk and dust.
“I believe EPA is headed in the wrong direction with an aggressive and overzealous regulatory agenda that far exceeds the authority it’s been granted,” full committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) accused the EPA of trying to regulate spilled milk, even though the agency has consistently said it has no intentions of doing so.
“How can the EPA promulgate new rules like this?” Flake said. “What’s next “” sippy cups in the House cafeteria?”
Jackson said Flake’s statements are “not accurate.” She said the agency moved to exempt milk storage from proposed regulations on inland oil containment facilities.
“The rule is for inland oil facilities that need containment to ensure our waterways are protected,” Jackson said. “We made it clear in our rules that we were not going to apply the rules to spilled milk.”
The hearing comes on the same day that House Republicans, with the backing of two top Democrats, plan to introduce legislation to permanently block EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.
The bill is part of a broad assault by Republicans in Congress on EPA climate rules. The House passed a spending bill last month that would prohibit funding for EPA climate rules through the end of September.
The United Nations postponed until April on Thursday a 40-nation meeting due to start designing a green fund to help poor nations fight climate change, missing a March deadline amid disagreements about who should attend.
Groups of Asian and Latin American and Caribbean nations have yet to decide their delegates for the first meeting of a so-called Transitional Committee, which had been due to meet in Mexico this month to work on a “Green Climate Fund”.
“The first meeting of the Transitional Committee…scheduled to be held on 14-15 March in Mexico City…has been postponed until the latter part of April 2011,” the Bonn-based Climate Change Secretariat said in a statement.
“Further information will be provided soon,” it said. Delegates say that many nations wanted to attending the talks, seeing it as a chance to gain early influence over the fund.
The fund, under which aid flows are meant to reach $100 billion a year by 2020, was agreed by governments in Cancun, Mexico, in December as part of a deal that the United Nations said reignited “a beacon of hope” for tackling global warming.
The fund was part of a package including steps to protect tropical forests and share clean technologies. It set a goal of limiting limit any rise in temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.
Among the few firm deadlines set in the Cancun Agreements was that the transitional committee should hold its first meeting by the end of March 2011. Asian nations have said that they will be unable to decide delegates until early April.
Rising aid is meant to help developing nations curb their greenhouse gas emissions by shifting from fossil fuels towards renewable energies and to help them adapt to the impacts of heatwaves, droughts, floods, storms and rising sea levels.
Earlier on Thursday in Tokyo, Christiana Figueres, head of the climate change secretariat, said that a separate meeting of ministers in Mexico this month would discuss the green fund as well as the work agenda for this year’s U.N. climate talks.
She said that the work on the green fund would start despite wrangling between rich and poor nations over the future of the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges almost 40 developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions until 2012.
Amid an Environmental Protection Agency regulatory spree unprecedented in U.S. history, nothing cleared the benches last year like the so-called boiler rule. Some 62 Senators, 177 House Members and 21 Governors publicly objected, business staged a collective revolt, and the EPA itself was forced to retreat and junk the original rule. No matter how ruinous a regulation, this almost never happens.
The problem is that the new rule, which came out last week and is meant to reduce air pollutants like mercury from industrial boilers, is nearly as bad. The Atlantic is smaller than the Pacific, but they’re both pretty …