August 10, 2015

Lords, Subsidy Cuts and an ‘Orwellian’ Government in the UK

The proposed cuts to solar subsidies has attracted the ire of the renewables industry since they were unveiled by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) late last month, but stinging criticism has poured in from unexpected sources too.

During a House of Lords debate for the draft Energy Bill, which is hoped to ascend into law next year, a number of lords clashed over the scant clarifications both within the bill and forthcoming from the DECC with regards to proposals to close RO support for sub-5MW solar farms a year earlier than planned.

August 4, 2015

French Energy Transition Bill Adopted

France's National Assembly yesterday gave final approval of the country's energy transition bill. Under the legislation, France's reliance on nuclear energy will be reduced to 50% of power generation by 2025.

French president Francois Hollande's 2012 election pledge was to limit nuclear's share of French generation at 50% by 2025, and the closure of France's oldest nuclear power plant, Fessenheim, by the end of 2016. In June last year, following a national energy debate, his government announced that the country's nuclear generating capacity would be capped at the current level of 63.2 GWe. It will also be limited to 50% of France's total output by 2025. Nuclear currently accounts for almost 75% of the country's electricity production, making closures of power reactors appear inevitable.

August 3, 2015

Can UK's Solar Industry Survive Without Subsidies?

Putting solar on the chopping block may damage the industry badly at a time when it just needs that last push to become independent.

Energy experts believe a rumoured government plan to cut subsidies to solar could cripple the burgeoning industry just before it is able to stand on its own.

Late last week the government issued ambiguous warnings that the solar industry’s days of living off top-ups from bill-payers were numbered. A cabinet source revealed to the BBC that the government view had hardened further towards green subsidies and a “big reset” was coming.

August 2, 2015

Hydrogen Heats Up: Alternative Energy Source Gains Traction in Hawaii

Hydrogen-powered vehicles are beginning to roll onto Hawaii’s transportation scene.

Two 25-seat hydrogen-powered buses will soon be shuttling tourists between the visitors center and the Thurston Lava Tube at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, and hydrogen might someday fuel the Wiki-Wiki shuttles at Honolulu Airport.

July 31, 2015

Passage of California Climate Change Bill Could Set Global Example

When Gov. Jerry Brown visits the Vatican this week for an international conference, he'll be carrying a resolution from state lawmakers supporting Pope Francis' recent encyclical on climate change.

He's hoping the Legislature will send an even stronger message later this year by passing new environmental rules aimed at helping California slash greenhouse-gas emissions over the next few decades.

Approval of the legislation, intended to enact goals outlined by the governor this year, would bolster Brown's calls for global action on climate change with a display of regulatory muscle in his own state.

Oil companies have ramped up opposition, and utilities are angling for changes in the bill that would make it easier for them to fulfill requirements to produce renewable energy. But so far, no one has been able to stop the legislation, which has passed the state Senate and is advancing in the Assembly.

Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), one of the bill's authors and its most high-profile champion in the Legislature, has been meeting individually with Assembly members to further secure their support.

"I'm not taking anything for granted," he said.

The proposal would increase the generation of electricity from renewable sources, boost energy efficiency in older buildings and reduce by half the amount of gasoline used on state roads.

The pope's invitation to Brown for the Vatican conference is a sign that "the world is watching what happens in Sacramento very closely," De León said, and he plans to ensure that the legislation reaches the governor's desk.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said there are still some kinks to work out in the proposal — she is one of several lawmakers to say "the devil is in the details" — but she expects it to move forward.

"It's one of the most important things that we're going to do this year," Atkins said. "We see this as one of the big challenges on how California moves forward."

Brown is one of dozens of officials from around the world who were invited to the Vatican conference, which will focus on climate change and modern slavery. The governor is scheduled to address the gathering Tuesday and Wednesday.

It's the latest of several international trips the governor has taken to urge others to do more to curb global warming. He's also been rallying states and provinces to sign an agreement to match California's target for reducing emissions by 2050.

It's one of the most important things that we're going to do this year.- Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins.

The governor has also set an interim goal of requiring the state to cut emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. It's an ambitious target that members of his administration insist is achievable.

"This isn't something that was just plucked out of thin air," said Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board and one of the state's top officials on climate change programs. "This was based on a careful assessment."

De León's legislation is part of the effort to reach that target.

The measure has already been amended to spur the installation of more charging stations for electric vehicles, and De León said he's been talking to utility companies about their concerns.

"The bill is still fluid and dynamic," he said.

The legislation would require utilities to obtain half of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind by 2030, up from a mandate of one-third by 2020. Utilities have expressed conditional support for the bill, but they want rooftop solar panels to be factored into the equation.

"If rooftop solar is a renewable resource, we need to be able to count that toward this goal," said Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo.

Another provision of the legislation, slashing the use of gasoline, has been hotly contested by oil companies and questioned by lawmakers from both parties.

Eloy Garcia, a lobbyist for the Western States Petroleum Assn., recently told an Assembly committee that the proposal is unfair and impossible to fulfill.

"It is entirely arbitrary, entirely aggressive, infeasible and we're not even sure what the main purpose is other than to punish petroleum resources," he said.

An analysis from E3, an environmental consulting firm based in San Francisco, said the state could need up to 8 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030 to help slash carbon pollution as much as Brown wants. Right now there are only 142,000 such vehicles on the road, according to the Air Resources Board.

"The market will have to expand, and prices will have to come down," said Jim Williams, E3's chief scientist. "You're going to want an attractive deal for the consumer."

Another sticking point has been leaving the job of implementing the gasoline rules in the hands of the Air Resources Board, a regulatory agency whose leaders are appointed by the governor.

Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina), the only Democrat to vote against the bill at a recent Assembly hearing, said he was concerned about a move that would give "unscripted power — unregulated, limitless power" to the board and "take it away from elected officials."

De León said such objections to the legislation, SB 350, should not stand in the way of its passage. He emphasized that lawmakers would "expect transparency and accountability" from the board.

He said it's possible to hit the gasoline target with a mix of policies such as better urban planning to reduce driving distances, increasing the availability of alternative fuels and putting more efficient vehicles on the road.

Some lawmakers remain unsatisfied.

Assemblyman Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) said during a hearing that the legislation needs to be more detailed, especially if the state is trying to portray itself as a world leader in addressing climate change.
"If we get this wrong, we're going to look like fools in California," he said.

July 30, 2015

National Renewable Energy Act to change landscape of RE in India

Independent status to RE, fresh norms & strict regulations

Aiming to consolidate the renewable energy sector and give it an institutional structure, the Union government has drafted the National Renewable Energy Bill, 2015. After it is passed by Parliament it would enable a National Renewable Energy Policy, Renewable Energy Corporation of India, an advisory group and a committee on the same.

Till now, the renewable energy sector was governed by the Electricity Act, 2003, which is also undergoing amendments.

July 27, 2015

Industrial Battery Maker Appears at Legislature to Boost Case for Renewable Energy Legislation in North Carolina

Republican Rep. John Szoka of Cumberland County been criticized by some on the political right for sponsoring a bill that he says could vastly grow the amount of solar-powered electricity production in North Carolina.

On Wednesday Szoka addressed one of complaints by bringing the representative of industrial battery maker Alevo to the legislature to make a presentation about its products. Alevo's batteries are designed to store electricity for utility companies, including electricity from solar farms and wind farms, to help them maintain a consistent supply.

July 26, 2015

Renewable Energy Standards Reconsidered as States Question Mandates, Fret Over Costs

California Gov. Jerry Brown drew headlines for his proposal to increase the state’s renewable energy standard to 50 percent by 2030, but elsewhere, the momentum on mandates is shifting in the opposite direction.

A half-dozen states have moved to scale back, freeze or eliminate their renewable energy standards in the past year, fueled by concerns over higher energy prices, the impact of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and the growing perception that it’s time to take the training wheels off the wind and solar industries.

July 24, 2015

Proposed RE Act in India Gives Sweeping Powers to the Centre

The proposed National Renewable Energy Act, 2015—the draft of which has been put up for public comments—seeks to give sweeping powers to Government of India to develop the renewable energy industry in India.

Under the first chapter—on ‘Institutional Structure’—the Act says that the Central government “shall have the power to take all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient” for the purpose of development of renewable energy in the country.

July 23, 2015

Support Platform for Renewable Energy Innovation Launched

Irena launches new platform to support renewable energy innovation, quality and collaboration via world's largest collection of global renewable energy standards, patents.

Policy makers and other energy sector players can now access the world’s largest collection of global renewable energy standards and patents thanks to a new online platform launched earlier this month by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

July 22, 2015

Labor Weighs Carbon Pricing Plan in Austrailia

Tony Abbott has warned of a “triple whammy” of carbon taxes from Labor after a leaked document from shadow cabinet proposed a raft of new climate policies including multiple floating carbon prices.

The opposition is in damage control over the confidential “options paper” which proposes two new carbon prices, separating schemes for industry and households, plus vehicle emission standards, new laws to govern power plants and energy efficiency targets for the family home.

July 21, 2015

Court Upholds Colorado's Renewable Portfolio Standard

A federal appeals court has rejected a challenge to Colorado's renewable portfolio standard, finding that the standard does not disproportionately harm out-of-state businesses.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld a lower court ruling against the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (EELI), which argued that Colorado's renewable portfolio standard means that some out-of-state coal producers will lose business with out-of-state utilities who feed power onto an interconnected grid serving 11 Western states, Canada and Mexico.

July 20, 2015

Challenge of NC Law Aims to Open Solar Markets

When Duke Energy connected the solar panels on the roof of a Greensboro church to its grid last week, solar advocates gained a symbolic but tentative victory.

Faith Community Church serves as a test of a North Carolina law that says only public utilities like Duke can directly sell electricity.

The advocacy group NC WARN owns the $19,000 solar array and wants to sell the electricity it generates to the church, despite the law, for about half what Duke charges.

July 19, 2015

Electricity Customers in Michigan Could Choose How Much Renewable Energy They Want Under Senate Plan

Michigan customers could decide how much renewable energy they purchase under a much-anticipated Senate energy plan.

The energy proposal was more than a year in the making, and to the disappointment of environmental advocates, it does not include mandates for renewable energy or energy efficiency. But in a new twist in an old argument, people would be able to control their own renewable energy future.

July 15, 2015

Baker Seeks to Curb Solar Speculators. Administration Tinkers with Auction Rules for Subsidies in Massachusetts

The Baker administration, which favors keeping a cap in place on one solar subsidy program, is now tinkering with another solar price support.

State officials say they plan to change the way a key solar subsidy is auctioned to curb price speculation by hedge funds and Wall Street firms. Judith Judson, the commissioner of the state Department of Energy Resources, estimates the changes in auction rules will save electricity ratepayers at least $20 million a year.

July 14, 2015

Bill Expected to Accelerate Solar Energy Growth in Iowa

 Gov. Terry Branstad on Friday signed into law HF 645, a bill that increases Iowa’s solar energy tax credits and adds production tax credits for utility solar projects.

“Solar works for Iowa,” said Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) who floor managed the bill in the Iowa Senate, where it passed with unanimous bipartisan support. “This legislation will accelerate the growth of the solar energy industry in Iowa. That’s good for the environment and our economy. Solar energy is already working for thousands of businesses, farmers and homeowners across our state.”

July 13, 2015

DTE Energy Issues RFP for Voluntary Solar Program

DTE Energy Co. has issued a request for proposals for multiple solar-generating plants in Southeast Michigan that would range in size from 5 megawatts to 50 megawatts.

Companies or individuals would propose to build the solar power generation plants and DTE would reimburse their costs. To offset its costs, DTE would own the solar stations and sell subscriptions to customers who would receive credits on monthly bills, said David Harwood, DTE’s director of renewable energy.

July 12, 2015

FERC Removes Obstacles that Limit Distributed Renewable Energy in Colorado

In a July 1 ruling FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) cleared the way for Colorado’s Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA), along with other electric co-ops, to step outside the bounds of a 40-year power supply contract with Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association and tap into local renewable energy supplies. FERC's ruling, which was unanimous, clarifies what had been deemed unclear wording in PURPA (Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act), as well as Tri-State's regulatory status.

July 10, 2015

India Government to Allow Wind Energy Project Developers to Upgrade Tech in Maharashtra

The official added that many of these wind energy projects were around 10-15 years old and, hence, were using outdated technologies

To ensure better capacity utilization of wind energy projects and help them generate power at higher efficiency, the state government is planning to allow these project developers to upgrade their technologies.

Maharashtra has 4,442.05 MW installed capacity in the wind energy sector, which forms a bulk of its 6,702.93 MW renewable energy capacity. "In our new grid-connected renewable energy policy, we have allowed the re-powering of existing windmills… to enable their technological upgrade," said a senior energy department official, adding that this would hike the capacity utilisation factor (CUF) — a measure of efficiency — which was just 20-22% now.

July 9, 2015

Renewable Energy Comprised 59 Percent Capacity Added to Power Industry in 2014

Last year, 59 percent of capacity addition in the global power industry came from renewable energy. Also, the number of countries with renewable energy targets rose to 164 — an increase by 20 — in the year. The sector received an overall investment of $301 billion.

The findings were part of Worldwatch Institute–Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) annual Renewables Global Status Report (RGSR). The report was released recently at the Vienna Energy Forum.

July 8, 2015

Is Russia Set to Snatch UK's Uncertain Renewable Energy Investors?

Russia is expected to relax strict restrictions on the renewable energy market in a move that will attract international investors with the promise of impressive returns, according to new analysis.

As the UK slams the door shut on the onshore wind energy sector, Russian Energy Ministers are looking at cutting the current red-tape in a move that will act as a lure for wind power investment.

In 2013, Russia implemented an incentive system for renewable energy sources that is based on the wholesale electricity capacity mechanism and is intended to increase the share of renewable energy in the country's energy production.

July 7, 2015

Maine House Overrides Governor's Veto of Solar Bill

The House has overridden, by a vote of 107 to 40, Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of legislation aimed at encouraging community based solar electric power generation projects in the state.

The original legislation was far more sweeping than the measure that got bipartisan support in the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. It received a House vote of 125 - 19. It was then passed unanimously in the state Senate, after it was amended to remove a new set of complex definitions and new procedures for the Public Utilities Commission to follow in approving small, renewable energy projects.

July 6, 2015

Zimbabwe Government Develops Renewable Energy Policy

Government, through the Ministry of Energy and Power Development is in the process of developing a Renewable Energy Policy, which seeks to address economic and environment issues associated with the exploitation and use of renewable energy.

Through the policy, Government expects to prioritise the exploitation of available renewable energy resources and create an environment for an increased uptake of renewable energy and to give a guideline on how the renewable energy sector should be structured.

July 5, 2015

Uganda to Enact Biofuels Legislation

Legislation will create incentives like tax rebates, which will encourage investors to develop biofuels.

The Uganda cabinet has approved the Biofuels Bill 2015, and authorised the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Irene Muloni, to have it gazetted and introduced to Parliament for debate and enactment.

The Bill provides for the provision of regulations for the production of biofuels feedstock, production of biofuels storage, transportation, blending in petroleum products and their usage.

July 3, 2015

India Just Upped Its Solar Target Five-Fold, Will Install More Solar This Year Than Germany

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian Cabinet approved increasing the country’s solar target five times to a goal of reaching 100 gigawatts, up from 20 GW, by 2022.

The new solar capacity will be nearly split between residential and large-scale solar projects, with some 40 GW expected to be generated from rooftop installations and the remaining 60 GW coming from larger, grid-connected projects, such as solar farms.

“With this ambitious target, India will become one of the largest green energy producers in the world, surpassing several developed countries,” reads the announcement. “Solar power can contribute to the long term energy security of India, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels that put a strain on foreign reserves and the ecology as well.”