Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Utility Commission Ruling to Continue Growth of North Carolina Solar Industry in 2015

solar-cells-491701_640North Carolina’s ranking of #3 in the country for solar energy investment is receiving national attention and prompting some states in the Southeast to ask, "What is North Carolina's secret?"

The answer: clean energy policies that give solar companies the business certainty they need to make investments.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission did just that in an important ruling last week that keeps standard solar electricity purchase agreements in place. These contracts between utilities and solar developers typically last 15 years and cover solar projects up to five megawatts. They can make all the difference in whether a solar project is built and in a solar developer’s ability to grow and hire new workers.

Duke Energy and other North Carolina utilities sought to weaken the terms of these standard agreements, which are set by the Utilities Commission. The utilities asked the Commission to abandon requirements that they enter into long-term agreements with solar developers and sought to eliminate the ability of larger solar projects to participate. Read More »

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Why 2015 is the Year for Clean Energy in the U.S. and China

https://www.flickr.com/photos/solarwindtec/7800628878/in/photolist-dXjdBi-anWxfb-dgWcSW-dgZvkB-7hJAVA-oADrZt-4QEpJW-cTjgcm-peEhiU-dgYUsC-pkqkDK-mDanui-9heXvG-9hbP4n-5om1Mv-fK8tQM-81zuQr-nChZ1E-9agPX3-8mBp5i-awgMXU-55CNL1-boqXjN-4JJdcJ-eaJzoj-6xGhiZ-cbVJd1-jryJPW-8rUQ8b-4QpriF-cTjcNQ-cTjg29-bpgZbn-36jEtS-36fbZT-36fbF6-36jETW-36jNXo-36jQF1-36fdKr-36fdXB-36fddR-36jMmd-36f2V4-36jHf1-36f9Ka-36jJsQ-36jNjW-36f8Y8-36f6XcWith a new year comes new promises and new opportunities – and that also goes for the United States and China, the world’s biggest climate polluters.

The good news is both nations appear ready to embrace solar and other renewables, investments that will cement their recent, bilateral agreement to tackle climate change.

Here are five signs renewables will finally gain traction in China and the U.S. in 2015 and continue to grow in coming years:

  1. China's solar investments are not slowing down.

Even in the very near-term, China is poised for dramatic solar adoption. The country was rushing to build 10 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic projects in the fourth quarter of 2014 alone, enough to power more than 7.5 million homes.

And 2015 shows no signs of slowing down, as China and other solar energy markets across the world are expected to continue to gain ground. Read More »

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Why Falling Oil Prices Don’t Hurt Demand for Renewable Energy

By: Victor A. Rojas, Senior Manager, Financial Policy, and Paul Stinson, Program Coordinator

solar greeneryIt’s understandable that many people would look at falling oil prices and wonder what it might mean for clean, renewable energy sources. Some recent headlines even suggest that cheaper crude might spell doom for the burgeoning clean energy economy.

Over the last six months, the price of crude oil has fallen by about 40 percent, currently trading below $60 a barrel, the lowest it’s been since 2009. Continuing global production and oversupply mean oil prices could remain low through the winter months and well into 2015.

While it’s true that stocks for some of the more trusted, clean energy investments are being dragged down by dipping oil prices, it doesn’t mean demand for clean energy is also suffering. In fact, as oil prices have tumbled, demand for energy efficiency and renewable energy only keeps growing.

Oil can mean energy, but energy doesn’t mean oil

The historic correlation between the price of oil and the demand for renewable energy has been increasingly weakened in today’s global markets. Like apples and oranges, we use oil and renewables to make completely different types of juice: oil primarily to produce transportation fuels, and renewables primarily to generate electricity. From an economics perspective, oil and renewables are not substitutes: when the price of one decreases, demand for the other does not decrease. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Financing, Investor Confidence Project, Natural Gas| Comments closed

Germany’s Energiewende Requires Sophisticated Governance, Political Stamina

"Berlin reichstag CP" by Cezary Piwowarski - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Berlin_reichstag_CP.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Berlin_reichstag_CP.jpgConceptualizing a policy as broad and ambitious as Energiewende – Germany’s goal to transition nearly 100 percent of its electricity supply to renewable energy by 2050 – is one thing. Implementing it is another thing entirely.

For this, ‘good governance’ is required – or as the Hertie School defines it: “an effective, efficient, and reliable set of legitimate institutions and actors engaged in a process of dealing with a matter of public concern.”

Energiewende’s implementation presents significant governance challenges. It is a public matter that requires cooperation and coordination from various public and private actors, as well as top-down decision-making. It also comprises diverse political levels and jurisdictions – global, European, federal, state, and municipal – as well as interest groups, cooperatives, alliances, banks, and individuals.

While Energiewende is very much a German policy designed for a German political context, there are still lessons the U.S. (and any country considering an energy transition for that matter) can learn from the challenges Germany has faced in developing a governance strategy to go where no one has gone before: overhauling the modern electricity system as we know it to make the German power grid more clean, efficient, resilient, and dynamic. Read More »

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Utility 2.0: What are Utilities Doing to Meet New York’s Vision for a 21st Century Energy System?

nyc skylineSince the New York Public Service Commission (Commission) opened its Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding in the spring to modernize the state’s electricity system, a lot has happened. Namely, New York utilities are already working to align themselves with the broad objectives outlined in the REV proceeding. Here is an overview of efforts by the state’s big players:

CON EDISON – Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management Program

Growth in electricity demand in parts of Brooklyn and Queens is taxing infrastructure and will require action from Con Edison to ensure reliability. Con Edison could pursue a costly $1 billion substation upgrade to meet this rising demand. Instead, the utility is slashing needed investment by half and plans to invest around $500 million – $305 million in traditional utility investments and $200 million clean energy resources – to address the area’s growing energy needs as part of its Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management program. Measures include:

  • Demand Response (a tool that pays customers to conserve energy when the electric grid is stressed): A new demand response system from energy services provider Alstom, which would allow 3.3 million customers to be compensated for the value they provide to the grid.
  • Energy Storage: Battery-based energy storage for electricity produced when electricity demand is low (off-peak hours) for use when demand is high (peak periods), easing the burden on the electric grid at those times.
  • Microgrids (which generate electricity nearby or on-site where it’s consumed): The development of microgrids to improve resiliency and enable the aforementioned demand response system.
  • Electric Grid Resilience and Optimization: Expanded use of smart meters, which provide detailed electricity use data throughout the day, will improve response time to power outages and give customers more control over their energy usage.

Read More »

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Texas Grid Regulator Cites Very Little Burden in Complying with EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Source: Armin Kübelbeck, Wikimedia Commons

Well, it didn’t take long before the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released, at the request of Texas’ very political Public Utilities Commission, another report about the impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) rules designed to protect public health.

This time ERCOT, which manages 90 percent of Texas’ electric grid, looked at the impact of seven EPA clean air safeguards on the electric grid, including the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), the Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS), the Regional Haze program (all of which go back before the Obama administration), the proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, and others. What was surprising to learn, though, is that after power companies in the state start complying with EPA’s other clean air protections, the proposed Clean Power Plan poses a minimal incremental impact to the power grid. We would only have to cut 200 megawatts of coal-fired generation, which equates to less than one coal-fired power plant. Read More »

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