May 11 News: Climate-ravaged Australia pares deficit by cutting funding for solar, low-carbon programs!

Constellation to build largest U.S. solar rooftop project

Australia Cuts Funding for Renewable Energy Programs to Reduce Spending

Australia’s government reduced its funding for solar-power plant projects to curtail spending.

Funding for the Solar Flagships program will be cut by A$220 million ($239 million) over the next two years, according to Treasurer Wayne Swan’s budget papers released yesterday.

Solar Flagships was announced in 2009 as a A$1.5 billion project to support the construction of as many as four large scale, grid-connected solar power stations in Australia.


The government is expected to announce the successful recipients of the funding in mid-2011. The program is intended to help meet a target of generating 20 percent of the country’s power from renewable energy by 2020.

“This is a disappointing federal budget for the solar industry,” John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Energy Society, said in a statement. “The Solar Flagships Program has been the subject of funding cuts, funding restorations and funding cuts. Another unnecessary solar policy roller-coaster.”

Funding for the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships program will be cut by A$670.9 million over five years, according to the papers. The program aims to support the construction of as many as four projects with an electricity generating capacity of 1,000 megawatts.

The government has also pushed back a A$100 Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund to 2023–2024 to assist early-stage renewable energy companies. It has increased funding for the Emerging Renewables program by A$60 million to A$100 million.

As I noted in an earlier post — Australia to cut, delay $500 million of clean-energy funding after record warming-driven floods — the government’s own Bureau of Meteorology released data showing that the warmest sea surface temperatures on record were fueling floods called ‘biblical’ “” floods covering an area “the size of France and Germany combined.” But in the most counterproductive decision imaginable, the government is cutting funding for clean energy programs “to help pay for reconstruction after the nation’s worst floods.”

Constellation to Build Largest U.S. Solar Rooftop Project in New Jersey

Constellation Energy Group Inc. (CEG), which agreed to be bought by Exelon Corp., is building the largest U.S. rooftop solar-energy project, at a Toys “R” Us Inc. distribution center in New Jersey.

Constellation will use 37,000 solar panels from Energy Conversion Devices Inc. (ENER) for the 5.38-megawatt project, Paramus, New Jersey-based Toys “R” Us said today in a statement. The system is expected to meet about 72 percent of the Flanders center’s power needs.

The rooftop system would be the largest at a single building when complete, overtaking SunPower Corp. (SPWRA)’s 4.8-megawatt array that’s being built on top of Glimcher Realty Trust (GRT)’s Jersey Gardens mall, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association.

NH Senate considers repealing cap-and-trade

Legislation to end New Hampshire’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is coming up for a vote in the state Senate.

New Hampshire is one of 10 Northeastern states participating in the program aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Under the program, generators must reduce pollution or bid at auction for allowances giving them the right to produce certain amounts of carbon dioxide.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a House bill that would end the state’s participation in the program. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 3–2 to recommend killing the bill.

Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley proposes changing the law instead. Bradley would narrow the energy efficiency programs qualifying for money under the law.

Gov. John Lynch opposes repealing the law.

US legislation would slash subsidies to oil companies

Democrats in the US Senate proposed on Tuesday eliminating billions of dollars in government subsidies to large oil companies, and using the money to reduce the budget deficit.

Their bill, which could come to a vote by next week, proposes to save $21 billion over 10 years in tax breaks to Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and Conoco Phillips.

“We’re serious about reducing the deficit,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said a few hours after the bill was introduced by fellow Democrats Robert Menendez, Claire McCaskill and Sherrod Brown.

“It’s really a no-brainer,” Reid continued. “Let’s use these savings from the taxpayer giveaways to drive down the deficit, not drive up oil companies’ profits.”

Dems plot to get $21B from Big Oil

Senate Democrats announced a proposal Tuesday to repeal $21 billion in tax incentives over 10 years for the five biggest oil and gas companies and use that money to reduce the deficit.

The plan goes after some of the same industry tax incentives that Democrats and President Barack Obama have been targeting for years. The message is also largely the same as when gas prices hit $4 per gallon three years ago: Taxpayers don’t need to foot the bill to help companies earning tens of billions of dollars in profits annually.

“This bill “¦ presents some pretty simple questions for policymakers: Do you think working class families should be the only people sacrificing to lower the deficit?” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) told reporters. “It’s time that the big five do the right thing for a change and pay their fair share.”

Democrats are able to point to big profits earned by the five companies “” ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips and Chevron Texaco “” during the first quarter of fiscal year 2011.

US seeks cooperation in fast-changing Arctic

The Arctic could become the next great international battleground for resources, with melting icecaps opening new shipping routes, fishing grounds and, most significantly, some of the world’s richest and as yet unexplored oil and gas deposits.

So far, the United States, Russia and other nations near the North Pole are trying to work together. They’ll take a baby step in that direction this week by agreeing to the first international treaty covering the Arctic Sea, a coordinated search-and-rescue pact that will grow in importance as more cargo and cruise ships start navigating the cold waters.

“We want to send a message in a post-Cold War world that the Arctic is a region of cooperation, not conflict,” said Jim Steinberg, the deputy U.S. secretary of state.

The message will be a cautious one, however.

House drilling fight part deux

The House is expected to approve two offshore drilling bills Wednesday, part of a broader GOP effort to dramatically expand domestic oil-and-gas production.

Lawmakers began debate Tuesday night on a series of amendments to a bill to require that the Interior Department act on permit requests within 30 days. The bill includes two 15-day extensions, but a permit would be deemed approved if the department has not acted within 60 days.

A vote on final passage of the bill is expected Wednesday.