news by topic
In a sign of the times, Exxon taps wind and solar for Texas oil-patch power
In a state once largely reliant on coal-fired electricity generation, ExxonMobil has signed a 12-year deal for solar and wind power to expand drilling its operations in the Permian Basin.
Coal industry falters in quest for workable carbon-capture technology
Costly initiatives to develop workable, economic technology to capture carbon from coal-fired generation have come up short as renewable energy and natural gas have made such work all but irrelevant.
Governor-elects in four states call for transition from fossil fuels
Newly elected governors in four states will take office after having endorsed policy platforms for renewable energy expansion and cleaner electricity production. They are Steve Sisolak of Nevada, Gavin Newsom of California, Tim Walz of Minnesota and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, who said, “We will be known as the clean energy state of America."
Survey: Majority of Americans prefer renewable energy
A poll by Consumer Reports finds that most Americans would prefer to get their electricity from renewable sources. Of note in the survey results: Residents of four states with a higher-than-average use of coal—Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia—are in line with the majority.
Momentum toward industrial-scale solar on Navajo lands
Momentum is growing around modernizing tribal renewable-energy policies on the Navajo Nation of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, according to a new report. The shift is being driven in part by the large-scale deployment of solar generation throughout the Southwest, where Navajo lands remain something of an island in a growing regional sea of utility-scale solar installations.
Commentary: Why bipartisan support for renewables is strong
As wind and solar continue to expand nationally across electricity-production markets, bipartisan support is increasingly evident, and stereotypes around political divisions over energy policy are crumbling. “Rural Republican districts are often the locations with the best solar and wind resources, and when those resources are harnessed they bring good jobs to places where new sources of employment are often otherwise scarce,” the author writes.
Indiana utility to shutter five remaining coal plants
Northern Indiana Public Service Company has announced plans to close its five remaining coal-fired plants and replace them with renewable electricity generation. NIPSCO, as the utility is known for short, provides power to 468,000 households and businesses. “This creates a vision for the future that is better for our customers, and it’s consistent with our goal to transition to the best cost, cleanest electric supply mix available while maintaining reliability, diversity and flexibility for technology and market changes,” said company’s president.
Op-ed: The U.S. military’s embrace of power-generation transition
Contrary to what some elected officials have suggested, the U.S. military knows what it is doing as it embraces renewable energy. A case in point: U.S. Army base Fort Hood’s integration of wind into its electricity-generation mix. “Wind power can also play an important role in strengthening our military and national security. There’s a prime example right here in Texas: Fort Hood gets around half of its electricity from wind and solar, and securing the base’s energy supply was a prime motivator for this move,” write the authors.
Op-ed: Momentum favors renewables
Cost, energy security, environmental concerns and public health are among the reasons cleaner forms of energy are gaining on coal. Technology companies are a force as well. “The five largest publicly-traded companies in the world—Apple, Amazon, Google’s Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook—all have corporate commitments to use 100 percent renewable energy and at least three of them have already hit those ambitious targets,” writes the author. “The eighth largest, Berkshire-Hathaway, owns one of the country’s largest utility wind and solar portfolios and is aggressively developing more renewable energy projects.”
Colorado city aims to modernize its economy around renewables
Pueblo, Colo., nicknamed “Steel City” for its industrial past, is investing in a renewable energy industry expansion around the presence of Vesta Wind Systems, a turbine-tower manufacturer that employees 4,000 people along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. Xcel Energy is pushing for approval of a power-generation transition that would include wind and solar, and several renewable energy companies are looking to move to the area because of its wind and solar resources and its proximity to major regional transmission lines. The city is “poised to become the renewable energy hub for Colorado and likely the region,” one economic-development official said.
A movement in Kentucky toward electric vehicles
A “bourgeoning renewable energy movement” in Kentucky is the subject of a documentary premiering this week in Lexington that looks at the growing popularity of electric cars. "What surprised me is that folks in Eastern Kentucky are a lot more enthusiastic about the prospect of new energy, energy like solar and battery technology, than I would have thought they might have been ... or than I think national media leads us to believe that communities are out there," the filmmaker said.
U.S. power-generation industry ignores federal government efforts to save coal
Utility heavyweights that include American Electric Power, Duke Energy, Southern Company and Xcel Energy continue to invest heavily in a move away from coal-fired electricity generation. Executives at such companies say the trend will continue, regardless of recent federal policy moves to thwart it. “Reducing reliance on coal, leveraging cleaner natural gas energy and expanding renewables on our system is part of our long-term investment strategy to continue to drive carbon out of our system,” said a spokesman for Duke.
Xcel gets the green light in Colorado to move from coal to wind and solar
Colorado regulators have approved a plan by Xcel Energy to shift to renewable energy for power production over the next few years while closing 660 megawatts of coal-fired capacity by shutting down two aging plants in Pueblo. Xcel is planning to have 1,100 megawatts of wind-powered electricity capacity online by 2027, 700 megawatts of solar, 275 megawatts of battery storage and 380 megawatts from existing natural gas sources (a megawatt is enough to power about homes). Xcel’s strategy would invest $2.5 billion in eight counties, and the company said the changes would result in $213 million in ratepayer savings.
New Mexico legislators acknowledge need for greater tax-base diversification in San Juan County
Lawmakers in New Mexico are grappling with how to manage the imminent closure of a coal-fired power plant in San Juan County in a way that will protect the local tax base. The state is also exploring job-retraining programs in the area alongside policies that would encourage investment in local renewable energy and natural gas projects. The San Juan Generating Station produces millions of dollars in tax revenues for the county, and its owner, Public Service Company of New Mexico, is seeking a state deal that would support a transition to other forms of more economical power generation.
Commentary: Wind and solar suggest a potential boom in Ohio’s energy industry
Ohio stands to benefit from the expansion of the renewable energy industry, which by one estimate can create $2 billion in economic activity and 5,500 new jobs over the next decade or so. The state’s electricity market is ripe for the development of wind farms, rooftop solar, and utility-scale solar projects that could supply power to 1.1 households, nearly a quarter of the state’s total by 2020. “As the regional market continues to grow, Ohio can capture both investment and economic growth by building wind and solar facilities, providing itself and other PJM states with clean electricity,” writes the author.
Op-ed: Just transition for rural Colorado
A labor leader lauds Denver’s mayor for an initiative that aims to make the city a renewable energy bastion over the next generation, but urges leaders to invest in rural communities, too, where railroad employees, pipe fitters and power plant specialists are being displaced by the electricity-production transition occurring nationally. “Workers who have toiled in the mines, hauled our coal, and operated our power plants for decades deserve our support as we move towards new ways of generating energy,” writes Joshua Downer of the AFL-CIO.
Texas city of 50,000 goes 100% renewable, setting a pace for others
Georgetown, Texas, a community of about 50,000 people near Austin, has become the first city in Texas to switch entirely to renewable electricity generation. The city has signed long-term deals for solar- and wind-powered energy in a move that has rid it of its former reliance on coal and natural gas and that serves as a model other municipalities can follow. “Georgetown has already reached out to neighboring cities to help them make the same changes,” reports an Austin cable-news station.
Michigan conservatives call for more emphasis on renewables
A conservative energy group in Michigan has published a report calling for expansion of the state’s renewable energy as a way to expand the economy and capitalize on market trends. The report endorses a 15 percent renewable energy standard by 2021 and 20 percent by 2027. “It’s not an unrealistic target, given the trajectory and rapid advances in renewables in Michigan,” said a spokesman for the group.
Rocky Mountain Power sees renewable energy as ‘increasingly attractive’
“Renewable energy — particularly solar and wind power — have become increasingly attractive,” says a spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power, which has signed a long-term agreement to buy power produced by the first utility-scale solar project in Wyoming. The Sweetwater Solar LLC plant received crucial clearance this week from the Bureau of Land Management. It will produce enough electricity to power 17,000 homes, and is expected to go online by the end of this year.
‘Good, high-paying jobs’ in Wyoming’s emerging wind industry
As Wyoming grapples with how to manage its energy industry transition, more people are considering the economic benefits of the wind industry. One project in particular, the TransWest Express,captures some of the possibilities. “These are good, high-paying jobs. And when we finish this project, the permanent jobs are going to be roughly 150 people, well paid, fully-benefitted jobs that are really a boon to those communities,” said the CEO of the company building TransWest.
Report: Trend away from coal-fired generation persists
A new report on global electricity-generation trends finds once-conventional forms of fuel continuing to lose market share. The shift is driven partly by U.S. corporate preferences. “Coal emerges as the biggest loser in the long run,” said Elena Giannakopoulou, an energy economist for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “The future electricity system will reorganize around cheap renewables—(and) coal gets squeezed out.”
Xcel steps up date for retirement of two Colorado coal plants
Citing the “historically low” cost of renewables, Xcel Energy is pressing for state approval to close two coal-fired generators in Colorado a decade earlier than planned. The plants, part of the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo, would be retired in 2022 and 2025 under the proposal, and would be replaced by a pair of existing gas-fired plants, three windfarms and five utility-scale complexes.
Moody’s: U.S. Utilities Tied to Coal-Fired Business Models Are at Risk
Broad acceptance of renewable energy will drive more coal-fired power plants out of business, says a report from Moody’s Investors Services. “Utilities may be required to shut down carbon-emitting generation assets — particularly coal plants — before the end of their useful lives,” concludes the report, which details how cost and consumer preferences are driving transition.
Report: U.S. Solar Jobs Outnumber Coal 2-1
A report from a think tank led by former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz found that solar-industry jobs topped 350,000 last year, more than double the total in coal-related work. The report ties half of all 133,000 news jobs in the energy sector to efficiency initiatives. Solar is gaining also on the natural-gas industry.
Editorial: China Is Becoming the New Texas
“Consider this a friendly warning that things can change quickly,” says a Texas editorial that acknowledges the fast pace of change across the global energy economy and that sees Asia as the epicenter of rapid advances in solar and wind. “Decades may seem like a long time — until you imagine trying to convince 1980s coal country that it needed to worry about natural gas.”
A Push in Southern Ohio for a More Diversified Economy
Athens County, Ohio, in the heart of Northern Appalachian coal country, has the biggest solar energy capacity per capital in the state, and residents are calling for more. “It’s wrong to think that this region has only a coal-country mindset,” one advocate said. “There is a push to be new energy leaders in new ways. We want to generate our own power because we want to be independent from the extractive powers that have made decisions for this region for so long.”
Wind Boom Brings 3,000 Jobs and Billions in Infrastructure Investment to Rural New Mexico
New Mexico ranked first nationally for windfarm construction last year, according to a new study that sees the state’s rural communities benefitting especially from an influx of investment that is expected to continue. The wind industry has invested $3 billion in New Mexico and created about 3,000 jobs: “Employment runs the full gamut, from front-end field workers who assess wind resources and work with local communities to construction jobs and long-term employment for operations and maintenance folks. “Wind technicians make up one of the two fastest-growing jobs nationwide alongside solar installers.”
Commentary: Politics of Status-Quo Energy Policies Are Failing
The “decarbonization” of the economy is gaining momentum, even with stiff political resistance in Washington, as gains in technology continue to translate into cost advantages that favor wind and solar over fossil-fuel-fired electricity generation. “The renewable energy future is already pretty much here,” writes the author.
A Coming Boom Seen in Virginia’s Emerging Solar Industry
The Solar Energy Industries Association sees a nascent solar industry in Virginia tripling in generation capacity over the next five years and powering more than 200,000 homes. Growth is spurred by declining installation costs and demand from consumers. “Some industry officials and clean-energy advocates expect even-sharper growth during that timeframe and say the solar expansion almost certainly will accelerate across Virginia in the decades beyond,” says a newspaper report.
Renewable Energy Additions Outpaced Traditional Power-Generation Sources 2-1 in 2017
Renewable energy capacity additions beat out new fossil fuel projects globally by more than two to one in 2017, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the United Nations. The surge in renewables is led by solar but includes wind, biofuels and geothermal energy. “We are at a turning point ... from fossil fuels to the renewable world,” one commentator said. “The markets are there and renewables can take on coal, they can take on oil and gas.”
Commentary: A Better Way to Spend $2 Million in Utah Taxpayer Dollars
A Utah columnist questions a state proposal to budget $2 million to sue California over energy policies that reduce its need for coal, some of which it buys from Utah mines: “Instead of bankrolling a legal battle for a diminishing industry, the Beehive State should invest $2 million dollars in adapting our energy industry to fit market demands and employ those who have been or will be impacted by the continued decline of the coal industry.”
Survey: Swing-State Voters Favor Transition to Renewable Electricity Generation
A new survey finds that most voters in five swing states—Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia—favor state policies mandating 100 percent reliance on renewable energy for electricity generation. The survey results “serve as a potential warning to candidates to support renewable-energy policies or face possible voter backlash.”
Montana Ballot Initiative Aims to Smooth Transition
A former Montana lawmaker is promoting a ballot initiative that would have the state’s utilities increase their reliance on renewable energy to 80 percent by 2050. The proposal calls for job retraining and unemployment benefits for up to two years for workers currently employed by coal mines, power plants and railroads. And it includes a mechanism for replacing coal taxes and protecting government and tribal revenue.
Op-Ed: Sensible Change Comes to Virginia
Virginia is on the right path as it adopts stronger energy-efficiency standards, a broader commitment to solar and wind, and regulatory changes that encourage electricity-generation modernization. “Whether you’re an environmentalist concerned about the effects of climate change, a business trying to keep operating costs low or a consumer advocate looking out for low-income customers, this is a historic win that will generate economic and environmental benefits for years to come,” writes the author.
State Policies and Market Forces Limit What Washington Can Do to Save Coal
Trends in electricity generation are being driving increasingly by state policies that are adding to the larger momentum of market forces. Twenty-nine states have enacted requirements for more reliance on solar and wind which—combined with “the cheap price of natural gas and the rapidly falling cost of renewables,” as one analyst puts it—undermines Trump administration policies and rhetoric aimed at bringing coal-fired electricity back.
In North Carolina, Duke Energy pursues a long-term plan to drop coal
Responsible for about 60 percent of the state’s energy generation 12 years ago, coal’s share of the electricity-generation market in North Carolina has fallen to less than 30 percent, according to the most recent government data. “We take a long-term view on carbon emissions and continue to believe we will need to drive carbon out of our system,” says a representative for Duke Energy, which serves more than a third of the state’s electricity market.
Commentary: North American utility shift driven by ‘good business sense’
A recent industry survey has 80 percent of 600 utility executives in the U.S. and Canada expecting electricity generation markets to continue to embrace clean energy models in a move driven by business practicalities. “Programs to help customers save energy, and solar and wind energy are cheaper in most places than almost any other resource to meet customer energy needs, including coal and gas, and getting cheaper all the time,” writes the author.
Michigan’s Biggest Utility, Buyer of Wyoming Coal, Is Shifting Direction
Consumers Energy, the biggest utility in Michigan and an important customer of Wyoming mines owned by Arch Coal, Peabody Energy, and Cloud Peak Energy, is phasing out its coal-fired generation in favor of other power sources. The utility supplies electricity to more than 60 percent of Michigan’s 10 million residents. “We believe we’re going to be on the right side of history on this issue,” said Consumers CEO Patti Poppe.
Commentary: A Grass-Roots Push Toward Responsible Change
Pushing back against new federal policies aimed at propping up the old U.S. energy economy, local governments are crafting their own electricity-generation strategies, note the authors: “2018 is shaping up to be a year when neighborhoods, towns and cities take control over their own energy destinies, working to promote a just transition to clean energy for all, regardless of income, race or zip code
Op-Ed: Why a Big Utility Is Embracing Wind and Solar
Costs for renewable technologies are decreasing. In Colorado, Xcel will replace two coal-burning units with built from scratch wind and solar plants and still save money.
A Moment of Transition-Investment Opportunity in the American Southwest
Navajo communities, strategically situated new important electricity-transmission lines in the American Sunbelt, have significant advantages in solar-electrification development: “These communities are increasingly being sought out by outside interests seeking development deals crafted to meet growing demand from utility companies that are switching from fossil-fuel powered electricity to renewables. Opportunities exist now to develop these opportunities to the benefit of Navajo people.”
$372 Million Lithium-Ion Battery Factory Will Help Diversify East Kentucky’s Economy
A California company plans to build a plant in East Kentucky to make batteries for the burgeoning electric-vehicle market. It will also move its headquarters to the area, bringing in a total of more than 1,000 jobs. State Sen. Ray Jones said the deal is “a game-changer not only for Pikeville and Pike County, but for the entire region.”
West Virginia’s Emerging Solar Market
The owner of a solar company in West Virginia sees the industry as a natural for the Mountain State: “The way I think about it as a West Virginian is that West Virginia has always been an energy state and this is just the next step.”
Biggest Utility in Kentucky Sees Coal Accounting for Little of Its Future Electricity Generation
PPL, the company that owns Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas and Electric has published a transition analyst in which it sees natural gas and renewables accounting for 80 percent of its electricity: “Just by virtue of [economics], you’re going to have substantial reductions and when you look out to 2050, substantial retirements of our coal-fired units will have happened by then.”
Op-Ed: Virginia Can Capitalize on New Energy Opportunities
Virginia lags its neighboring states in embracing transformational market forces and developing a modern energy economy. “We already know what the status quo costs our communities. But we haven’t seen what happens when we invest in local advanced energy businesses and jobs.”
Industry Survey: 61% of Utility Execs See Renewables as Biggest Investment Going Forward
In a new survey by management firm Black & Veatch, 61 percent of utility executives see renewables as their biggest likely electricity-generation investment over the next five years. “Rather than viewing these resources as intermittent, and thus unreliable, they now believe they can harness this distributed supply and with it, improve system flexibility and resilience.”
New Mexico Legislators Urged to Expand Renewable Energy Target to 50
Lawmakers are being pressed to increase New Mexico’s renewable energy generation mandate to 50 percent of total electricity generation in the state, from 20 percent. The state’s biggest utility, Public Service Company of New Mexico, is already planning to be out of the coal business by 2031.
Buffalo’s Transition Turns on Clean Energy Economy
PUSH Buffalo, a community group focused on urban development, is promoting career development in the growing clean energy economy “as the world moves to more efficient, renewable, distributed energy sources.”
Op-Ed: Corporate Focus on Renewables in Kentucky
Kentucky manufacturers that include Toyota and GM are showing a growing preference for renewable-powered electricity, and so are retailers like Walmart and logistics companies like UPS. The trend has given rise to the possibility of a state “green-tariff” program that many large power users would likely support.
Governors Are Leading U.S. Energy Transition
Wyoming is among the states developing renewable energy for export, one example of many in which “state leadership and energy markets are already headed toward renewables and away from fossil fuels, a trend federal policy changes won't deter.”
Coal’s Existential Problem, in 5 Charts
Free markets will continue to drive momentum toward cleaner electricity production in the U.S.. Coal is losing out steadily to renewable energy, which is becoming cheaper, and advance in technology do not favor coal.
Renewable-Energy Industry Is Getting Support Across Partisan Divides
“Conservatives who actually support clean energy” are being seen as allies in a national electricity-generation shift that is favoring renewables. Jobs, national security, and faith-based values are common ground in the transition, and alliances are being formed across party lines.