Carlos Mandeville co-authored this post.
This year is set to be another record-breaker for solar power: the industry is on pace to nearly double in size by the end of 2016, and there are now more than one million solar installations in the U.S. that generated more new electricity in the first quarter of the year than coal, natural gas, and nuclear combined. This is good news, in part because 2016 is also on track to be the hottest year in recorded history – awash in scorching hot solar rays we can tap for clean, renewable energy.
Unfortunately, solar power is still inaccessible to vast, unreached markets and segments of the U.S. population. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory says only 22 to 27 percent of residential rooftops are capable of hosting a solar system because of structural challenges, tree shading, or “ownership issues” – mainly households who rent, and cannot install solar panels on roofs they don’t own. Likewise, U.S. households who earn less than $40,000 per year (40 percent of the U.S. population) account for less than five percent of all solar installations.
But the solar game is changing. New models are emerging to complement and fill gaps in the market.
It’s unfortunate that a partisan group of Congressional representatives recently tried to turn back the clock on new rules from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that can protect taxpayers and local communities from the needless waste of our natural gas resources and methane pollution.
It was a disappointing move, considering that a bipartisan group of elected officials came together to defend the BLM’s natural gas waste rule during a budget fight on the House floor in July.
Some members of Congress are really good at expressing their opinions. However, in this case the facts clearly show that efforts to cut waste and protect our air are necessary and warranted.
Fact: Despite some creative data cherry-picking to spin a different story, the data is clear that methane emissions from oil and gas operations have grown significantly in the past decade (up 8% since 2005). Read More
New technology is evolving electricity transmission from a centralized, one-way system to a more distributed, interactive one. This system necessitates new electricity rates, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) unveiled this week at its annual summer meeting a draft manual that will help states across the U.S. design them.
The Distributed Energy Management Compensation Manual is basically a compendium of rate design options that regulators can consider, and it outlines each option’s pros and cons. NARUC President Travis Kavulla charged his staff with writing the manual – a monumental undertaking – and we commend the organization for this effort.
I was pleased to speak during the Town Hall event at which NARUC rolled out the draft manual, and my remarks focused on one critical need: good rate design process. Choosing the right electricity rate for a state is important, but so too is the process by which regulators arrive at that decision. Early in the document it recognizes, “A jurisdiction will need to identify its current status regarding DER [distributed energy resources], what role it expects DER to have in the future, understand the nature of DER adoption rates, and identify necessary policy developments to accommodate that future.” Now is the time to encourage NARUC to include in the manual a dedicated section that shows states how to build a process for ratemaking that will be sustainable, benefit consumers, and advance in tandem with electricity distribution technology. Read More
The "Texon Scar"
A massive release of produced water from an oil well in West Texas caused a vegetative dead zone that can be seen from space.
Oil and gas development produces massive amounts of air and water pollution that can have severe impacts on our communities and ecosystems. And data in a recent investigative article could help us understand more about where and how much oil, wastewater, and other fluids are spilled across the country.
According to an EnergyWire article by Pamela King and Mike Soraghan, in 2015 industry reported more than 10,000 cases of spills across the country. That amounts to 42 million gallons of harmful fluids – 12 million gallons more than previously reported.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management should do more to protect taxpayers from unnecessary waste of their natural gas resources. That’s the main takeaway from a new report from the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office. Its findings again underline the urgent need for BLM to finalize strong new standards to reduce methane waste.
Methane is both the primary component of natural gas and a very potent climate pollutant. In fact, pound for pound, methane is more than 80 times worse for our climate than carbon dioxide in the short term. This means that unnecessary methane waste and pollution like the GAO found in this new report is a double whammy – depriving taxpayers of revenue due to us for the development of our natural gas resources and dangerously accelerating climate change.
The GAO finds that BLM needs more consistent policies in place to better limit methane waste and pollution from the oil and gas production it oversees on hundreds of thousands of acres of federal and tribal lands. It’s a big problem. Read More
The climate change discussion is percolating even in surprising places. The latest sign: the American Petroleum Institute’s recent formation of an internal task force on climate change. Reportedly the new task force’s mandate is to revisit API’s approach to this crucial issue, going into an election year and with ever greater scrutiny on fossil fuels.
It is too soon to know whether the task force will rubber stamp a business-as-usual approach defined by glossing over climate concerns and attacking policy measures, or chart a new path instead.
But if the task force is serious about a fresh look at the issue, here are three keys for the task force to consider as it ponders the future of API on climate. Read More