In February, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced state-supported solar power in New York increased nearly 800 percent from December 2011 to December 2016, leveraging nearly $1.5 billion in private investment. Solar growth is critical to the Governor’s Clean Energy Standard that 50 percent of New York’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030.
“New York is a national leader in clean energy, and the tremendous growth of the solar industry across this state demonstrates this renewable technology’s increased accessibility and affordability for residents and businesses," Governor Cuomo said. "Our investments in this clean energy resource create jobs, reduce carbon emissions, support economic growth, and help build a cleaner, greener New York for all."
The 795 percent solar growth in the State over the last five years was supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the New York Power Authority, the Long Island Power Authority and other private and public sector actors. 64,926 projects were installed through the end of 2016, compared with 9,079 through the end of 2011. These state-supported projects total nearly 744 megawatts of solar power installed. That amount of electricity would be sufficient to meet the needs of more than 121,000 average homes.
The significant growth of solar power is attributed to a combination of factors, including the NY-Sun Megawatt Block Incentive program, a decline in solar equipment prices, and growth in the number of installer businesses marketing solar directly to consumers.
Richard L. Kauffman, Chairman of Energy and Finance for New York said, “Under Governor Cuomo’s nation-leading Reforming the Energy Vision strategy, solar power is integral to driving the State’s clean energy economy while reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Clean, renewable energy will help the State meet its aggressive energy goals, make electricity more affordable for New Yorkers and bring about a more resilient and versatile energy system.”
The largest percentage increase in solar power was in the Mohawk Valley, followed by the Finger Lakes Region, Central New York and the Southern Tier. Long Island has more installations than any other region of the State, followed by the Mid-Hudson Valley and Capital Region.
There is an interesting dichotomy happening with the EPA under the Trump Administration; reports state the administration cuts funding to the office while also steering away from clean energy projects. But we also see the exact opposite in terms of what the reports say, at least in the short term. Here's an example.
On Friday, February 24, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a $1.09 million Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grant to the historic Gees Bend Ferry in Wilcox County, AL. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is funding this repowering project through the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) as a part of the National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program. The grant was announced by the EPA during an event hosted by state, federal and local officials to celebrate 10 years of ALDOT ferry service between Camden and Gee's Bend, the home of the famous Quilters of Gee's Bend. The DERA award will provide partial funding to replace the current diesel-powered ferry with a 100% electric ferry. This will be the first zero-emission passenger/vehicle ferry of its type in the United States, and only the second of its kind in the world. "This is a tremendous example of how EPA collaboration with state partners can produce environmental as well as economic benefits," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. "Diesel engines are incredibly durable, with millions in operation in Alabama, and across the nation. EPA receives annual funding to provide DERA grants to retrofit, repower, or replace older engines. These grants provide not only environmental and health benefits by eliminating exposure to diesel exhaust, but cost-effectiveness as well. We are thrilled to provide partial funding for this exciting transformation," he added. EPA has implemented standards to make newer diesel engines more than 90 percent cleaner. Older diesel engines emit large amounts of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, which are linked to instances of aggravated asthma, lung damage and other serious health problems. Since 2008, the DERA program has funded more than 700 clean diesel projects across the country, reducing emissions in more than 70,000 engines. Let's hope projects like this will still get support from EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, and the Trump Administration. It's smart business on so many levels.
U.S. President Trump’s First Energy Plan
Photo Credit DonkeyHotey Creative Commons
Significant changes were made to the WhiteHouse.gov website in relation to climate change and energy less than an hour after President Trump took the oath of office. If you haven’t seen these changes, we want to bring you up to date. If you have, then it might be worth taking a second look and asking yourself where you stand when it comes to these changes.
A page on climate change disappeared from the Executive Branch’s main site and was shifted to an archive site.
It states President Trump is committed to “Eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies,” such as the Climate Action Plan; which in 2013 set a goal doubling renewable electricity generation. That plan would have seen all federal buildings sourcing 20% of their electricity supply from renewable energy sources from 2020.
“For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry,” says the summary.
The America First Energy Plan page states the Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution and revive America’s coal industry.
There isn’t a single mention of wind energy, solar power or renewable energy in general in the policy summary.
Under the Obama Administration, the USA’s solar capacity grew from 1.2GW of solar energy capacity in 2008 to 31GW. Wind power capacity increased from 25GW capacity to 75GW.
The USA reached 1 million solar rooftops in the first half of 2016. It took decades to reach the first million, but the next million should only take a few years.
A recent report from the Department of Energy states 373,807 Americans spend time working in solar manufacturing, installation, distribution, or in the provision of professional services to the sector. The USA’s wind technology sector boasts a total of 101,738 workers.
While the wording of the America First Energy Plan wasn’t exactly encouraging in terms of renewables, the future for the industry doesn’t appear to be one of gloom and doom.
Just prior to leaving office, an article by Barack Obama published in the journal Science gave four reasons why he believes the trend toward clean energy is irreversible.
Is Fiat Chrysler following Volkswagen’s Fate?
Earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice of violation to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. and FCA US LLC (collectively FCA) for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act for installing and failing to disclose engine management software in light-duty model year 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0 liter diesel engines sold in the United States. The undisclosed software results in increased emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the vehicles. The allegations cover roughly 104,000 vehicles. EPA is working in coordination with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which has also issued a notice of violation to FCA. EPA and CARB have both initiated investigations based on FCA’s alleged actions.
“Failing to disclose software that affects emissions in a vehicle’s engine is a serious violation of the law, which can result in harmful pollution in the air we breathe,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “We continue to investigate the nature and impact of these devices. All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage.”
“Once again, a major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules and got caught,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “CARB and U.S. EPA made a commitment to enhanced testing as the Volkswagen case developed, and this is a result of that collaboration.”
The Clean Air Act requires vehicle manufacturers to demonstrate to EPA through a certification process that their products meet applicable federal emission standards to control air pollution. As part of the certification process, automakers are required to disclose and explain any software, known as auxiliary emission control devices, that can alter how a vehicle emits air pollution. FCA did not disclose the existence of certain auxiliary emission control devices to EPA in its applications for certificates of conformity for model year 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks, despite being aware that such a disclosure was mandatory. By failing to disclose this software and then selling vehicles that contained it, FCA violated important provisions of the Clean Air Act.
FCA may be liable for civil penalties and injunctive relief for the violations alleged in the NOV. EPA is also investigating whether the auxiliary emission control devices constitute “defeat devices,” which are illegal.
In September 2015, EPA instituted an expanded testing program to screen for defeat devices on light duty vehicles. This testing revealed that the FCA vehicle models in question produce increased NOx emissions under conditions that would be encountered in normal operation and use. As part of the investigation, EPA has found at least eight undisclosed pieces of software that can alter how a vehicle emits air pollution.
FCA US LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., a multinational corporation.
President Obama’s Environmental Legacy
Photo Credit: PRODonkeyHotey
It seems that the last environmental act that the President will add to his legacy will focus on the health of our oceans. Some may have questioned President Obama’s strength when it comes to the interests of the environment, but now they’re more concerned on whether there will be any interest in protecting the environment at all with the incoming administration.
On December 20, the United Sates, in partnership with Canada, took
historic steps to build a strong Arctic economy, preserve a healthy Arctic ecosystem and protect our fragile Arctic waters, including designating the bulk of our Arctic water and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean as indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas leasing.
These actions, and Canada’s parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth. They reflect the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and the ability to clean up from a spill in the region’s harsh conditions is limited. By contrast, it would take decades to fully develop the production infrastructure necessary for any large-scale oil and gas leasing production in the region – at a time when the majority of us feel the need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels.
In 2015, just 0.1 percent of U.S. federal offshore crude production came from the Arctic and Department of Interior analysis shows that, at current oil prices, significant production in the Arctic will not occur. That’s why looking forward, there is a need to focus on economic empowerment for Arctic communities beyond this one sector. Obama’s Administration has proposed and directed unprecedented federal investments in the region, but more must be done – by the federal government, the private sector and philanthropy – to enhance infrastructure and our collective security, such as the acquisition of additional icebreaking capacity, and to lay the groundwork for economic growth in the industries of the future.
If it didn’t really happen we would have never thought it possible- Al Gore working with Donald Trump on climate change! It’s like Felix Unger trying to get Oscar Madison to work on cleaning his room. Not happening! But one thing Felix didn’t have in his corner was Oscar’s daughter trying to get her farther to listen to Felix.
Al Gore may have all he needs in getting the Trump Administration to pay attention to climate change, and that’s thanks to Ivanka Trump. It’s no secret that Ivanka and her husband’s opinions and counsel are well respected by Trump. This week, Ivanka was credited with organizing a meeting between her father and Al Gore to discuss climate change.
Mr. Gore said the meeting "Was a sincere search for areas of common ground,” which, in our mind, is a step in the right direction.
If we look deeper at this, what should we think? Well, Trump has been building his administration with conservatives, and many of the possible names for his environmental posts are not in favor of current policy. If Ivanka Trump pushes the issue and Al Gore continues his "interesting conversation" with the president, however, this could become a test of how willing President Trump is to cross party orthodoxy.
In the end, how this plays out may have more to do with how influential Ivanka is rather than how persuasive Al Gore is. Ivanka Trump is perceived to be a more progressive voice on her father's transition team, compared to his other advisers. Being a mother of three children Ivanka may have a much greater interest in making sure that her children will live in a healthy and clean environment.
We’ll continue to cover this story and we’re hoping that this “odd couple” can help keep our planet clean.
UN calls for strong climate action as
Paris Agreement enters into Force
Last week UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked the entry into force of the Paris Agreement with a call for strong action on climate change to realize the potential of the landmark agreement.
Meeting with civil society representatives, the Secretary-General said, “I ask each and every one of you to keep up the fight. Hold governments accountable and press for action.”
“Today we make history in humankind’s efforts to combat climate change,” he said. “Now is the time to strengthen global resolve, do what science demands and seize the opportunity to build a safer, more sustainable world for all.”
Members of civil society, representing a range of organizations working around the world, including in Egypt, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Guatemala, told the Secretary-General that they were committed to carrying on efforts to reduce emissions and to focus on the needs of people.
The Agreement provides that it shall enter into force 30 days after 55 countries, representing 55 percent of global emissions, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance or accession with the Secretary-General. Those conditions were met on 5 October, triggering today’s entry into force.
There are now 98 parties to the Paris Agreement, with Gabon, Indonesia, Ireland, the Republic of Korea, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Viet Nam among the latest to join.
“At a time of record heat, Member States embraced this new global agreement in record time,” Mr. Ban told civil society leaders at an event marking the Agreement’s entry into force. “It is a credit to all of you. And it is historic for the world.
“Today we celebrate, reflect and give thanks. I am deeply grateful to all of you and your organizations – representing millions of people. At a time when civil society is under attack in so many parts of the world, you have shown that citizens’ groups are essential partners for progress. Your vision, courage, persistence and leadership made this day happen.
“We marched shoulder-to-shoulder in 2014 before the Climate Summit I convened. Millions of others held climate marches around the world. You showed the climate challenge stakes – and the solutions. You mobilized hundreds of millions of people for the cause.”
The Agreement will now enter into force in time for the Marrakech Climate Conference (COP 22) that begins in Morocco on 7 November, where the first Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement will open on 15 November.
Countries have been joining the agreement at a steady pace. There were 15 countries that formally joined the Agreement on 22 April, the day the Agreement opened for signatures, and then 31 countries which joined at a special event at the UN on 21 September during the General Assembly high-level week. In early September, the world’s two largest emitters, China and the United States, joined the Agreement, providing the impetus for other countries to quickly complete their domestic ratification or approval processes.
The Secretary-General cautioned that time is short while global temperatures continue to rise. “We remain in a race against time. But with the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world has the plans we need to make the shift to a low-emission, climate-resilient path. Now is the time to strengthen global resolve, do what science demands and seize the opportunity to build a safer, more sustainable world for all.”
He added, “We are the first generation to really feel the effects of climate change – and the last that can prevent its worst consequences. Today shows us what is possible when we join forces for our common future.”
Robust progress to address potent
President Obama believes that no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change, and his Administration is committed to taking responsible steps to ensure that further damage is not inflicted onto the earth for future generations.. On Friday, October 13, the White House announced a suite of new private-sector commitments and executive actions that will reduce the use and emissions of the potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). In addition, the White House recognized the robust progress that has been made against the private-sector commitments and executive actions that were announced in September 2014 to address HFCs. In the past year, a series of actions have been taken that will cut consumption of HFCs by the equivalent of more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2025. Moreover, the private-sector commitments and executive actions announced to-date will slash U.S. reliance on HFCs and reduce cumulative global consumption of these greenhouse gases by the equivalent of more than 1 billion metric tons of CO2 through 2025. This is equivalent to taking 210 million passenger vehicles off the road for a year.
HFCs are factory-made chemicals that are primarily used in air conditioning, refrigeration, and foam insulation, and they can be up to 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change. Absent ambitious action to limit their use, emissions of HFCs are expected to nearly triple in the U.S. by 2030.
When the President launched his Climate Action Plan, he pledged to reduce emissions of HFCs through both domestic and international leadership. This past July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program that will prohibit the use of certain HFCs where safer and more climate-friendly alternatives are available. Simultaneously, EPA also listed as acceptable additional climate-friendly alternatives in order to expand the options for businesses to use chemicals that are less harmful to the environment.
As a complement to those regulatory measures, today’s commitments and progress demonstrate that U.S. companies are at the cutting edge when it comes to developing the next generation of safe and cost-effective alternatives to HFCs and also incorporating these alternatives into American cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, foams, and other products. These announcements come from a diverse set of companies – including producers of the chemicals, manufacturers of equipment that use HFCs, and end-users – which demonstrates that companies throughout the HFC supply chain are stepping forward to phase out or phase down the use of HFCs and transition to alternatives with lower global warming potential (GWP).
Friday’s announcements also highlight U.S. leadership in addressing HFCs in advance of the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Dubai in two weeks (November 1-5). The U.S. has been working to negotiate an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs globally, and our bilateral announcements with China, India, Brazil, and others recognize the need to advance progress on managing HFCs through the Montreal Protocol. With strong international action on HFCs, up to 0.5°C of warming could be avoided by the end of the century, substantially furthering our goal to limit global temperature rise.
Energy & Environmental Leaders Day 2016
On Friday, September 30, Providence, RI played host to the 7th Annual Energy and Environmental Leaders Day an event that is produced by Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and his staff. This year’s theme was “Oceans,” and with that, the event brought together a stellar group of keynote speakers who addressed a range of topics on the theme. They included Dr. Jeremy Jackson, Professor of Oceanography Emeritus, who spoke about the effects of climate change will have on our oceans, its life, and the cities that are on the coastline. From the University of Georgia, Associate Professor Dr. Jenna R. Jambeck spoke on the plastic contaminates that are plaguing our waters. And Dr. Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, spoke on the conservation efforts needed to protect our marine ecosystems. Though there were many examples that should raise concern, such as Dr. Jeremy Jackson’s reference to what Miami and other coastal cities will be facing in the next thirty years due to climate change, there were also examples hope as Dr. Sala indicated that oceans, if protected, have an incredible ability to rejuvenate life.
The guests were also treated to a fascinating panel discussion titled"Climate Change and the Web of Denial." This panel discussion looked at how big money is influencing Washington, and how it is used to actually punish those who would accept the science of what is happening in the world today. The panel also looked at Dark Money and helped to define what it is, how it gets its message out and how intent is camouflaged behind otherwise respected titles. The panel was moderated by Brown University Professor, J. Timmons Robert, and the panelists included Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, New York Times and Brown University writer Cornelia Dean, and Climate Nexus Executive Director Jeff Nesbit. Following the panel discussion was a passionate speech delivered by Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey, a true leader when it comes to renewables, who shared his thoughts on the urgency of addressing climate change and other threats to our environment.
As always, Senator Whitehouse not only provided an excellent learning opportunity, but was a gracious host who concluded the event by recognizing two outstanding professionals from the public service sector: Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator, EPA Region 1, and Grover Fugate, Executive Director, Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.
The entire event is being produced into a multipart series that will be available for on-demand viewing on RNN and will be released over the course of the next month. Stay tuned.
First Marine National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean
Last week, President Obama designated the first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean, protecting fragile deep-sea ecosystems off the coast of New England as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. The new national monument – which encompasses pristine underwater mountains and canyons – will provide critical protections for important ecological resources and marine species, including deep-sea coral and endangered whales and sea turtles.
While this announcement is a move we support, we also realize that for many in the New England area the designation is not without controversy particularly within the the fishing industry where many in the the area depend on for their living.
“We’ve been fishing out there for 35 years. It’s a big blow to us,” said Jon Williams, president of the Atlantic Red Crab Company in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
We also find the location and the timing of the designation very interesting considering the vicinity to the very first Off-Shore Wind Turbine project in the Americas, Deepwater Wind, which is now very close to completion. Is this just a coincidence, or is there a bigger plan in the works?
Last week’s action follows President Obama’s decision last month to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii by 442,781 square miles, creating the world’s largest marine protected area. These actions reflect President Obama’s commitment to the goals of combatting climate change and protecting our ocean, in a way that respects local communities, economies and native practices.
By permanently protecting these resources and reducing other threats to their respective ecosystems, these actions will also improve ocean resilience in the face of climate change, and help to sustain the ocean ecosystems and fishing economies in these regions for the long run. These priorities are also reflected in the President's budget where the Administration continues to call on Congress to grow our investment in ocean research and support dedicated programs that build coastal community and marine ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change.
Beyond the important impact of these actions for all Americans, U.S. leadership is yielding dividends globally. Thanks in part to the strong example set by President Obama and the United States, more than twenty countries attending this week’s Our Ocean Conference will announce the creation of 40 significant new marine protected areas, totaling nearly 460,000 square miles of ocean. When combined with the Papahānaumokuākea expansion, the nations of the world have protected more than 900,000 square miles of ocean in 2016, exceeding last year’s record of more than 730,000 square miles.
Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument
Last week’s designation will protect 4,913 square miles of marine ecosystems with unique geological features that have been the subject of scientific exploration and discovery since the 1970s. These features include three underwater canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon, and four underwater mountains known as “seamounts” that are biodiversity hotspots and home to many rare and endangered species. Scientific expeditions to this region have yielded new discoveries including species of coral found nowhere else on Earth and other rare fish and invertebrates. Additionally, the canyons and seamounts provide habitat for protected species such as sea turtles and marine mammals, including endangered sperm, fin, and sei whales and Kemp’s ridley turtles. The newly protected marine area in the Northeast will be jointly managed by the Department of Commerce and the Department of the Interior.
According to a study released earlier this year by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), ocean temperatures in the Northeast are projected to warm close to three times faster than the global average. Additionally, the first of several assessments to analyze the impacts of climate change on fish stocks and fishing-dependent communities, found that warming oceans are threatening the majority of fish species in the region including salmon, lobster, and scallops. In September 2015, 145 prominent marine scientists wrote a public letter voicing their conclusion that the threats to the unique marine environment in this region warranted permanent protection to preserve intact ecosystems. Today’s designation will help build the resilience of that unique ecosystem, provide a refuge for at-risk species, and create natural laboratories for scientists to monitor and explore the impacts of climate change.
EPA Finalizes Rule to Reduce Smog-Forming Pollution Transported Across State Lines
Photo by Rennett Stowe Follow
Cost-effective final rule provides public health benefits for Americans in the East.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized updates to the agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) that will help protect communities in the eastern U.S. from smog-forming pollution that crosses state lines and will help states meet the 2008 air quality standards for smog, or ozone. The CSAPR Update will continue to reduce summertime emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) from power plants that contribute to downwind ozone problems in the eastern U.S.
“This update builds on the decades of success under the Clean Air Act that has led to significant cuts in nitrogen oxide emissions from upwind states that affect their downwind neighbors,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The common-sense actions that power plants can take to quickly and affordably reduce this harmful pollution will help protect the health and lives of millions of Americans, restore visibility at our nation’s most treasured parks, and ensure that air quality continues to improve in the eastern United States.”
The CSAPR Update identifies cuts in NOX emissions in 22 states that contribute significantly to downwind ozone air quality problems and can be achieved using already installed, proven and cost-effective control technologies and other readily available approaches at affected sources. The cuts in NOx emissions under the final rule will lead to significant improvements in air quality starting in the 2017 ozone season (May-September).
EPA estimates that in 2017 this rule and other changes already underway in the power sector will help cut ozone season NOx emissions by 80,000 tons—a 20 percent reduction from 2015 levels. The final rule will provide annual benefits of up to $880 million in 2017, far outweighing the estimated costs of $68 million. For every dollar invested, American families would see up to $13 in health benefits.
The final CSAPR Update also provides improvements to visibility in national and state parks, and increases protection for sensitive ecosystems including Adirondack lakes and Appalachian streams, coastal waters and estuaries, and forests.
NOX emissions can react in the atmosphere to create ground-level ozone pollution, especially during the warm summer months. These pollutants can travel long distances, often crossing state lines and making it difficult for other states to meet and maintain the air quality standards for ozone that EPA establishes to protect public health.
Following the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” mandate to limit interstate air pollution, the rule will help states that are struggling to protect air quality from pollution emitted outside their borders, and it uses an approach that can be applied in the future to help areas continue to meet and maintain air quality health standards.Under the "good neighbor" provision, states develop state implementation plans while EPA plays a backstop role by issuing federal implementation plans (FIPs) if a state fails to submit an approvable plan. Today's action provides the FIP, and a partial remedy, for all 22 affected states under EPA's backstop obligation.
CSAPR, which was finalized in 2011, was designed to help states meet the 1997 ozone standards. EPA’s approach in the 2011 rule has now been affirmed by the Supreme Court and EPA is applying this same approach to the 2008 ozone air quality standards to help states address transported ozone pollution under the strengthened standards. The final CSAPR Update reflects stakeholder input and more than 15,000 comments received during the public comment process for the proposal, a public hearing, and a July 2015 Notice of Data Availability (NODA). The rule also responds to the July 2015 decision of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, addressing the court's concerns regarding ozone season NOx emissions budgets for 11 states.
President Obama Designates the World's Largest Marine Protected Area
Last Friday, President Obama expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii, creating the world’s largest marine protected area. Building on the United States’ global leadership in marine conservation, today’s designation will more than quadruple the size of the existing marine monument, permanently protecting pristine coral reefs, deep sea marine habitats, and important ecological resources in the waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.
Following this historic conservation action, the President will travel to Hawaii next week. On Wednesday evening, he will address leaders from the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which is being hosted in the United States for the first time. On Thursday, he will travel to Midway Atoll, located within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, to mark the significance of this monument designation and highlight first-hand how the threat of climate change makes protecting our public lands and waters more important than ever.
The monument was originally created in 2006 by President George W. Bush and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. Since that time, new scientific exploration and research has revealed new species and deep sea habitats as well as important ecological connections between the existing monument and the adjacent waters. Today’s designation will expand the existing Marine National Monument by 442,781 square miles, bringing the total protected area of the expanded monument to 582,578 square miles.
The expansion provides critical protections for more than 7,000 marine species, including whales and sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act and the longest-living marine species in the world — black coral, which have been found to live longer than 4,500 years. Additionally, as ocean acidification, warming, and other impacts of climate change threaten marine ecosystems, expanding the monument will improve ocean resilience, help the region’s distinct physical and biological resources adapt, and create a natural laboratory that will allow scientists to monitor and explore the impacts of climate change on these fragile ecosystems.
The expanded monument area also contains resources of great historical and cultural significance. The expanded area, including the archipelago and its adjacent waters, is considered a sacred place for the Native Hawaiian community. It plays a significant role in Native Hawaiian creation and settlement stories, and is used to practice important activities like traditional long-distance voyaging and wayfinding. Additionally, within the monument expansion area, there are shipwrecks and downed aircraft from the Battle of Midway in World War II, a battle that marked a major shift in the progress of the war in favor of the Allies.
All commercial resource extraction activities, including commercial fishing and any future mineral extraction, are prohibited in the expansion area, as they are within the boundaries of the existing monument. Noncommercial fishing, such as recreational fishing and the removal of fish and other resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices, is allowed in the expansion area by permit, as is scientific research.
In recognition of the value of Papahānaumokuākea to Native Hawaiians, and in keeping with President Obama’s commitment to elevating the voices of Native peoples in management of our resources, Secretary of the Interior Jewell and Secretary of Commerce Pritzker also announced that the Departments will soon sign an agreement with Hawaii’s Department of Natural Resources and Office of Hawaiian Affairs providing for a greater management role as a trustee in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. This arrangement has been previously requested by Senator Brian Schatz and Governor Ige.
Friday’s action by President Obama responds to a proposal put forward by Senator Schatz and prominent Native Hawaiian leaders, in addition to significant input and local support from Hawaii elected officials, cultural groups, conservation organizations, scientists and fishermen. This step also builds on a rich tradition of marine protection in Hawaiian waters and world-class, well managed fisheries, including a longline fishing fleet that is a global leader in sustainable practices.
In addition to protecting more land and water than any Administration in history, President Obama has sought to lead the world in marine conservation by combating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, revitalizing the process for establishing new marine sanctuaries, establishing the National Ocean Policy, and promoting ocean stewardship through the use of science- based decision making.
EPA and DOT Finalize Greenhouse Gas and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Heavy-Duty Trucks
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly finalized standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that will improve fuel efficiency and cut carbon pollution, while bolstering energy security and spurring manufacturing innovation. The final phase two standards were called for by President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and respond to the President’s directive in early 2014 to develop new standards that run into the next decade.
The final phase two program promotes a new generation of cleaner, more fuel-efficient trucks by encouraging the wider application of currently available technologies and the development of new and advanced cost-effective technologies through model year 2027. The final standards are expected to lower CO2 emissions by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons, save vehicle owners fuel costs of about $170 billion, and reduce oil consumption by up to two billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program. Overall, the program will provide $230 billion in net benefits to society, including benefits to our climate and the public health of Americans. These benefits outweigh costs by about an 8-to-1 ratio.
The final standards are cost effective for consumers and businesses, delivering favorable payback periods for truck owners. The buyer of a new long-haul truck in 2027 would recoup the investment in fuel-efficient technology in less than two years through fuel savings.
“The actions we take today on climate change will help lessen the impacts on future generations,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “This next phase of standards for heavy- and medium-duty vehicles will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while driving innovation, and will ensure that the United States continues to lead the world in developing fuel-efficient technologies through the next decade and beyond.”
“Today’s ambitious but achievable announcement is a huge win for the American people, giving us cleaner air, more money saved at the pump, and real benefits for consumers across the supply chain,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Today’s action preserves flexibility for manufacturers to deliver on these objectives through a range of innovations and technology pathways.”
Heavy-duty trucks are the second largest segment and collectively make up the biggest increase in the U.S. transportation sector in terms of emissions and energy use. These vehicles currently account for about 20 percent of GHG emissions and oil use in the U.S. transportation sector. Globally, GHG emissions from heavy-duty vehicles are growing rapidly and are expected to surpass emissions from passenger vehicles by 2030. Through the Paris climate agreement and discussions with other countries, the United States is working with other major economies to encourage progress on fuel economy standards, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that will improve global energy and climate security by reducing our reliance on oil.
The product of four years of extensive testing and research and outreach to industry, environmental organizations, labor unions, and other stakeholders, the vehicle and engine performance standards would cover model years 2021-2027, and apply to semi-trucks, large pickup trucks and vans, and all types and sizes of buses and work trucks. These standards will result in significant GHG emissions reductions and fuel efficiency improvements across all of these vehicle types. For example, when the standards are fully phased in, tractors in a tractor-trailer will achieve up to 25 percent lower CO2 emissions and fuel consumption than an equivalent tractor in 2018.
The agencies are also finalizing fuel-efficiency and GHG standards for trailers for the first time. The EPA trailer standards, which exclude certain categories such as mobile homes, will begin to take effect in model year 2018 for certain trailers, while NHTSA’s standards will take effect as of 2021, with credits available for voluntary participation before then. Cost effective technologies for trailers – including aerodynamic devices, light weight construction and self-inflating tires – can significantly reduce total fuel consumption by tractor-trailers, while paying back the owners in less than two years due to the fuel saved. Recognizing that many trailer manufacturers are small businesses, the program includes provisions that reduce burden, such as a one-year delay in initial standards for small businesses and simplified certification requirements.
Compared to the proposal, the final program:
Achieves 10 percent more GHG and fuel consumption reductions;
Has more robust compliance provisions, including improved test procedures, enhanced enforcement audits and protection against defeat devices;
Includes more stringent diesel engine standards
Improves the vocational vehicle program with a regulatory structure better tailored to match the right technology for the job;
Maintains the structure and incremental phase-in of the proposed standards, allowing manufacturers to choose their own technology mix and giving them the lead time needed to ensure those technologies are reliable and durable.
NHTSA and EPA have worked together to harmonize their standards under this program. The agencies have worked closely with the State of California’s Air Resources Board in developing and finalizing the standards. All three agencies are committed to the goal of setting harmonized national standards. Throughout every stage of development, this work has benefited from a collaborative dialogue with industry, labor and environmental organizations. For example, this feedback has improved the agencies’ ability to measure industry performance and enforce compliance for both full vehicle and engine standards.
Today’s final rulemaking builds on the fuel efficiency and GHG emissions standards already in place for model years 2014-2018, which alone will result in CO2 emissions reductions of 270 million metric tons and save vehicle owners more than $50 billion in fuel costs. Truck sales were up in model years 2014 and 2015, the years covered under the first round of truck standards.
The rule also builds on standards that the Administration has put in place for light-duty vehicles, which are projected to reduce carbon pollution by billions of tons of over the lifetime of vehicles sold, and will save consumers money at the pump.
For more details on DOT’s and EPA’s phase two greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, click here for details.
Massachusetts Governor Baker Enacts
Hydro Clean Energy Bill
Hydro-Québec praised the actions of Governor Baker and the Massachusetts legislature for enacting clean energy legislation that recognizes the important role of hydropower in the supply mix. The new measure is historic as it authorizes the purchase of significant quantities hydropower and the associated transmission needed to deliver it to customers for the first time in the Commonwealth. With this new law, Massachusetts is better positioned to meet its 2020 GHG emissions reduction requirement under the Global Warming Solutions Act. Moreover, it establishes a foundation from which the entire New England region can collaborate to transition to a cost-effective clean energy future of scale.
The measure is innovative as it promotes options for hydropower to be paired with other variable renewable sources, such as wind and solar, to deliver blended renewable products to the marketplace. In this way, Massachusetts has created an opportunity, unavailable until now, to benefit from the flexibility and energy volume offered by large hydropower resources – and increased integration of local renewable resources.
"The action being taken in Massachusetts is bold and ensures that the mechanisms are in place for concrete progress to increase the state's reliance on clean energy based on competitive processes" said Hydro-Québec CEO Eric Martel. "Hydro-Québec is eager to begin the process of working with Massachusetts to implement the new law and to develop solutions that can meet the goals of the state for clean, stable and reliable sources of electricity."
Added Mr. Martel "Hydro-Québec applauds the leadership of Massachusetts and the New England region in designing competitive, regional processes for procuring clean energy resources that are in the best interest of customers. We look forward to further discussing these questions during the upcoming conference of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG-ECP) that will convene later this summer in Boston."
CLINTON and Sustainability
Last week, we reviewed the RNC and their presidential candidate, Donald Trump, to see where he stood when it comes to sustainability and the environment. This week, it's the Democrats' turn as they hold their convention in Philadelphia.
Similar to what RNN did with Donald Trump last week, this week we are sharing quotes and coverage of Hillary Clinton, and her statements and actions on the renewable energy policies, including the Production Tax Credit for wind energy. RNN in no way endorses or supports any candidates and provides this information so our readers can better asses the stances each candidate takes.
Sec. Clinton: Trump Has “No Credible Plan” To Rebuild Infrastructure; “I’d Rather Spend Our Money On … Modernizing Our Energy Grid.” In a June 2016 speech in Columbus, Ohio, Sec. Clinton said of Donald Trump, “He has no credible plan for rebuilding our infrastructure, apart from the wall that he wants to build. Personally I’d rather spend our money on rebuilding our schools or modernizing our energy grid.” [Hillary Clinton, 6/21/16]
Sec. Clinton Unveiled Plans For Parks, Lands And Water, Including Renewable Energy Production On Federal Lands And Creating New Parks And Monuments. According to an article in E&E News, “A Hillary Clinton administration would increase tenfold renewable energy production from federal lands and waters; replace and expand the Land and Water Conservation Fund to address dilapidated infrastructure in national parks; and open up millions more acres for hunting, fishing and recreation. The front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president made those promises and more in a sweeping policy platform she unveiled today. Clinton's plan for conserving parks, lands and water also calls for increased federal investments in water conservation; reforming wildfire budgeting; providing incentives for farmers and ranchers to conserve habitat for at-risk wildlife; and ensuring new parks and monuments celebrate women, communities of color, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.” [E&E News, 6/1/16]
Sec. Clinton: I Want The U.S. To Be The “Clean Energy Superpower” Of The 21st Century. During an April 2016 MSNBC town hall, Sec. Clinton said, “We are … going to look at how we use clean renewable energy to create more jobs because we have to deal with that. And somebody is going to be the 21st century clean energy superpower. It's either going to be China, Germany or us. I want it to be us because there will be a lot of jobs, again, that have to be done right here in America.” [MSNBC, 4/25/16]
Sec. Clinton: Due To “Extraordinary Threats” Posed By Climate Change, My Record Is One Of Trying To End Oil Subsidies, Because We Need To Transition From Fossil Fuels To Clean Energy. During an April 14, 2016 Democratic primary debate in Brooklyn, NY, Sec. Clinton said, “We need to talk about this issue and we should talk about it in terms of the extraordinary threats that climate change pose to our country and our world. And that's why for the last many years, both in the Senate and as secretary of State, it's been a big part of my commitment to see what could be done. But there has never been any doubt that when I was a senator, I tried -- I joined with others to try to get rid of the subsidies for big oil. And I have proposed that again, because that's what I think needs to be done as we transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.” [Washington Post, 4/14/16]
Sec. Clinton: For “Economic And Environmental And Strategic Reasons,” U.S. Helped Countries That Were “Heavily Dependent On Coal And Oil” Use Natural Gas As A Bridge To Clean Energy; “We Want To Cross The Bridge As Quickly As Possible.” During an April 14, 2016 Democratic primary debate in Brooklyn, NY, Sec. Clinton said, “I don't think I've changed my view on what we need to do to go from where we are, where the world is heavily dependent on coal and oil, but principally coal, to where we need to be, which is clean renewable energy, and one of the bridge fuels is natural gas. And so for both economic and environmental and strategic reasons, it was American policy to try to help countries get out from under the constant use of coal, building coal plants all the time, also to get out from under, especially if they were in Europe, the pressure from Russia, which has been incredibly intense. So we did say natural gas is a bridge. We want to cross that bridge as quickly as possible, because in order to deal with climate change, we have got to move as rapidly as we can. That's why I've set big goals. I want to see us deploy a half a billion more solar panels by the end of my first term and enough clean energy to provide electricity to every home in America within 10 years. So I have big, bold goals, but I know in order to get from where we are, where the world is still burning way too much coal, where the world is still too intimidated by countries and providers like Russia, we have got to make a very firm but decisive move in the direction of clean energy.” [Washington Post, 4/14/16]
Sec. Clinton Applauded The Obama Administration For Reversing Its Decision To Permit Drilling Off The Southeastern Atlantic Coast, Adding, “Time To Do The Next Right Thing And Protect The Arctic, Too.” On march 14, 2016, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration was “expected to withdraw its plan to permit oil and gas drilling off the southeast Atlantic coast … In January 2015, Mr. Obama drew the wrath of environmentalists and high praise from the oil industry and Southeastern governors after the Interior Department put forth a proposal that would have opened much of the southeastern Atlantic coast to offshore drilling for the first time. The proposal came after governors, state legislators and senators from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia all expressed support for the drilling. Lawmakers in the state capitals saw new drilling as creating jobs and bolstering state revenue.” Reacting to the news, Sec. Clinton tweeted, “Relieved Atlantic drilling is now off the table. Time to do the next right thing and protect the Arctic, too.” [@HillaryClinton Twitter, 3/15/16; New York Times, 3/14/16]
Sec. Clinton: “We Are Going To Move From Fossil Fuels To Clean Energy … In A Quick, But Thoughtful Way”; Banning Extraction On Public Lands Is A “Done Deal.” On February 4, 2016, Sec. Clinton had the following exchange with an audience member at a campaign event:
AUDIENCE MEMBER: With so much of the environmental community opposing fracking, how do you expect to win over young people’s vote if you still support fracking?
SEC. CLINTON: I have said repeatedly that we are going to move from fossil fuels to clean energy. We’re going to have to do it in a quick, but thoughtful way … What the government does have the authority to do is to impose
very strict regulations on the chemicals being used; closing the Halliburton loophole; on the methane release. There’s a lot we can do…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: But that doesn’t stop the CO2 from going into the atmosphere when we burn it.
SEC. CLINTON: We will get there, but I don’t want to mislead you and say I can ban it…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Perhaps banning extraction on public lands?
SEC. CLINTON: Yeah, that’s a done deal.
[350 Action YouTube Channel, 2/4/16]
Sec. Clinton: I Want 500 Million Solar Panels, As Well As Enough Clean Energy To Power Every Home, In The Next Four Years. During the February 4, 2016 Democratic primary debate, Sec. Clinton said, “I think we've talked a lot tonight
about what we're against … I'm for a lot of things. I don't want to just stop bad things from happening, I want to start good things happening. I believe if I’m so fortunate to get the nomination I will begin to work immediately on putting together an agenda and begin to talk with members of congress and others about how we can push forward. I want to have half a billion more solar panels deployed in the first four years. I want to have enough clean energy to power every home in the next four years.” [Washington Post, 2/4/16]
Sec. Clinton, On Big Oil: “I Want To Take Away All Their Subsidies.” On February 3, 2016, CNN reporter Dan Merica tweeted, “HRC asked about taking oil money: ‘They must have put it in the wrong envelope. I want to take away all their subsidies.’” [@DanMericaCNN Twitter, 2/3/16]
Sec. Clinton: Repairing “Faulty Water Control Infrastructure” Can Help “Deliver Affordable Reliable Electricity While Reducing Carbon Pollution.” On November 30, 2015, Sec. Clinton unveiled her infrastructure plan. The plan, in part, read, “Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the stark dangers posed by faulty water control infrastructure. And these public safety concerns are only intensified by the increasing threat of severe weather due to climate change. We need to substantially increase funding to inspect these structures, bring them into good repair, and remove them where appropriate. Our existing dams can also be a significant source of new clean energy generation, and Clinton will support efforts to increase dams’ capacity to deliver affordable and reliable electricity while reducing carbon pollution.” (Hillary Clinton Campaign Website, 11/30/15]
Sec. Clinton: A Clean Energy Future Means “Helping To Bring Solar And Energy Efficiency Technologies To More LowIncome Communities.” On November 9, 2015, Sec. Clinton received an endorsement from the League of Conservation Voters. During her remarks, she said, “I want to make sure every American shares in the benefits of a clean energy future. That means helping to bring solar and energy efficiency technologies to more low-income communities. I think this is something we don’t talk about enough … An African-American child is still 500 percent more likely to die of asthma than a white child, because they often live near power plants and other polluters, and they, unfortunately, often bear the consequences.” [PSB Satellite YouTube Channel, 11/9/15]
Sec. Clinton: Transitioning From Fossil Fuels To A Clean Energy Economy Can Create “Millions Of Good New Jobs And Businesses,” And Help Curb The Effects Of Climate Change. On November 5, 2015, Sec. Clinton appeared on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. During the interview, she had the following exchange with the show’s host, Jimmy Kimmel: KIMMEL: I find it interesting that the vast majority of the [Republican] candidates, and people who are Republicans, believe that man-made climate change is a myth, or some sort of conspiracy designed to hurt our economy. Do you think that most people genuinely believe that, or are they towing the party line? SEC. CLINTON: “I think it’s both, Jimmy. I think some people do believe it. When you hear them say, as they often, do, “I’m not a scientist,” my response that that is, “Go talk to one, and maybe you could get some information that would enlighten you or educate you about the problems that climate change is confronting us with,” because it IS an existential crisis. I think some [candidates] are doing it because they have strong supporters, people who are maybe from the fossil fuel industry, for example, and they don’t want to cross them. So, they adopt that position, and whether they really believe it, or it’s just political opportunism, I can’t tell. But, the fact is, it’s hurting our country, and what I don’t understand is, there are huge economic opportunities here. If we were the clean energy superpower of the 21st century, we would create millions of new good jobs and businesses, and we would transition away from fossil fuels, and help the climate at the same time. [ABC, 11/5/15]
Sec. Clinton: My Energy Plan Invests In Clean Energy, R&D, And Will Create Jobs And Grow The Economy. During the October 13, 2015 Democratic primary debate, Sec. Clinton said, “I traveled across our country over the last months listening and learning, and I’ve put forward specific plans about how we're going to create more good paying jobs by investing in infrastructure and clean energy, by making it possible once again to invest in science and research and taking the opportunity posed by climate change to grow our economy.” [CNN Debate, 10/13/15]
Sec. Clinton: “Modernizing North American Energy Infrastructure” Meant Ensuring That The Federal Government Did Its Part To Make Clean And Affordable Energy “More Efficient And Effective.” In September 2015, Sec. Clinton released an energy plan for “modernizing North American energy infrastructure.” One of the plan’s pillars aimed to “unlock new investment sources.” Specifically, Sec. Clinton would “ensure the federal government is a partner in getting clean and
affordable energy to market by making the infrastructure review and permitting process more efficient and effective.” [Hillary Clinton, 9/23/15]
Sec. Clinton: “Modernizing North American Energy Infrastructure” Meant Focusing On “Coordinated Targets For Clean Energy And Cutting Carbon Pollution.” In September 2015, Sec. Clinton released an energy plan for “modernizing North American energy infrastructure.” One of the plan’s pillars aimed to “forge a North American climate compact.” Specifically, Sec. Clinton would “drive greater ambition in the global fight against climate change through coordinated targets for clean energy and cutting carbon pollution, internationally recognized reporting mechanisms, and a binding review process.” [Hillary Clinton, 9/23/15]
Sec. Clinton In 2015: “We Need To Continue The Production Tax Credits, We Need To Be Investing In … Wind.” During a July 2015 campaign stop in Iowa, Sec. Clinton said, “Iowa is making a transition but the rest of the country is not. And we need to change the tax incentives, we need to continue the production tax credits, we need to be investing in solar and wind and advanced biofuels, and yes, energy efficiency and there are millions of jobs if we do that right.” [KTVO, 7/7/15]
Sec. Clinton In 2007: “I Will Make The Production Tax Credit For Wind … Permanent.” In a November 2007 speech on energy and climate change in Iowa, Sec. Clinton said, “I will strongly support a renewable portfolio standard, with 25% of electricity coming from wind, solar, and other renewable sources by 2025. … As President, to help us reach 25% by 2025, I will make the production tax credit for wind and solar permanent. No more guessing what you're going to get as you move forward with your production.” [Council on Foreign Relations, 11/5/07]
TRUMP and Sustainability
This week kicked off the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, where the eyes of the world are looking at someone who may very well be the next leader of one of the most powerful and influential countries. And this may also be one of the most tumultuous times in the world's history, so the next President of the United States is going to have their hands full. We wanted to get a better sense of where Donald Trump stands when it comes to sustainability, renewable energy and the environment. These should be core issues for the next President, because as reported by the U.S. Department of Defense back in July 2015, "Global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries."
The following are quotes and coverage of Donald Trump and his statements and actions on the renewable energy policies, including the Production Tax Credit for wind energy. RNN in no way endorses or supports any candidates and will also do a similar review of the Democratic nominee during that convention.
Trump: Hillary Clinton Wants To “Shut Down The Mines … I Want To Do Exactly The Opposite.” During a June 2016 speech in Monessen, Pennsylvania, Trump said, “Hillary Clinton wants to shut down energy production and shut down the mines, and she wants to shut down – she said it just recently – she wants to shut down the miners. I want to do exactly the opposite.” [American Bridge, 160628_MD_593_A (31:55), 6/28/16 (video available from American Bridge)]
Trump Wants To Re-Allow Drilling On Federal Lands. In a May 2016 speech to the North Dakota Petroleum Council, Trump said that in his first 100 days in office, he would “lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas. We’re going to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies.” [Donald Trump PressRelease, 5/26/16]
Trump Would Revitalize Coal. In a May 2016 speech to the North Dakota Petroleum Council, Trump said that in his first 100 days in office, he would “save the coal industry and other industries threatened by Hillary Clinton’s extremist agenda.” [Donald Trump Press Release, 5/26/16]
Trump Wanted To Bring Coal Jobs Back To Appalachia, But Did Not Have A Plan For How He Would Do So; “To Pull It Off, He Will Have To Overcome Market Forces And A Push For Cleaner Fuels That Have Plummeted Coal.” According to The Washington Post, “Donald Trump says he would bring back lost coal-mining jobs, and he is positioning for the November election in big coal states by portraying Hillary Clinton as a job killer. Trump, however, has yet to explain exactly how he will revitalize Appalachia’s coal industry. To pull it off, he will have to overcome market forces and a push for cleaner fuels that have pummeled coal. Coal’s slump is largely the result of cheap natural gas, which now rivals coal as a fuel for generating electricity. Older coal-fired plants are being idled to meet clean-air standards.” [The Washington Post, 5/5/16]
Donald Trump Affirmed His Support For The Renewable Fuel Standard After Touring The POET Biorefining Plant In Gowrie, Iowa. “Before attending the rally in Fort Dodge, Trump stopped at the POET Biorefining plant in Gowrie to tour the plant and discuss the renewable fuel standard with plant leadership and the co-chairs of America’s Renewable Energy. … That meeting was closed to the public, but afterward, Trump took two questions from a group of about 35 people who had been invited to a closed event. There, Trump affirmed his support of the renewable fuel standard. ‘I just want to tell you, you have my support,’ he said. ‘I’m with you.’” [Des Moines Register, 12/13/15]
Trump Was “Fine” With The Production Tax Credit For Wind Energy, Adding That Wind Is “Very Expensive,” And Will Need Subsidies. During a November 2015 campaign stop in Newton, Iowa, Trump was asked for his stance on the wind energy tax credit. He responded, “I’m fine with it. Any form of energy – we’ve got to get away from the Middle East. I will say, wind is a problem because it’s very expensive to build the towers – very, very expensive. As you know, when you have $40 oil, it’s not economic, so they’re going to have to do a subsidy, otherwise wind isn’t going to work. Wind is a very expensive form of energy, and it’s got problems of storage, and lots of other things. But, I want to see whatever you can do – ethanol, I’m totally in favor … Wind will need subsidies. It’s going to have to have subsidies.” [American Bridge, 151119_DMT_459_A (43:00), 11/19/15 (video available from American Bridge)]
HEADLINE:“Donald Trump Hated Wind Farms — Until An Iowa Voter Asked.” [Washington Post, 11/19/15]
Trump, On Wind Energy: “Windmills Look Nice, But They Kill A Lot Of Birds. Did You Know That?” During a November 2015 campaign stop in New Hampshire, Donald Trump took questions from the audience, including one from “twelveyear-old Annabelle Watson, a homeschooled student accompanied by her mother, who asked Trump about the benefits of fracking versus using wind energy. ‘Well, the windmills look nice,’ Trump told her. ‘But they kill a lot of birds. Did you know that?’” [National Review, 11/4/15]
Donald Trump Supported The Keystone Pipeline And Lifting The Ban On Crude-Oil Exports. “All of the GOP candidates for president support the Keystone pipeline and many, including retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, businessman Donald Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, support lifting the ban on crude-oil exports to foreign markets.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/29/15]
Trump: “If I Am Elected President I Will Immediately Approve The Keystone XL Pipeline. No Impact On Environment & Lots Of Jobs For U.S.” [@realDonaldTrump, Twitter, 8/18/15]
Trump Called For Building The Keystone Pipeline Even Though “We Don’t Even Need It.” “Trump also discussed energy policy, where he said, ‘The Keystone Pipeline should be approved immediately. Not that I want it, because we’re bringing in oil from Canada, but you know what, it’s a lot easier than Saudi Arabia and some of these other places, and Canada’s been a great neighbor, et cetera, et cetera. But they should approve it. Number one, it’s jobs. Immediately, you’re building it, it’s jobs, it’s good. It’s not going to hurt anything in terms of environmentally. It’s hard to believe that that has not been approved. But get it approved. More oil coming in, the more we can have where we don’t have to go to foreign places, really foreign places to get the oil. So, there’s a simple one. it’s going to create jobs. It’s overall good. But we don’t even need it, in one sense, because we have so much under our own land we can do it, but we have to get rid of some of the restrictions.’” [Breitbart, 8/12/15; Hannity, Fox, 8/12/15]
Trump Urged Scottish Parliament To Cancel Proposal For Offshore Wind Farm Because They The Turbines Would Spoil The View At His Golf Resort; “They Are Ugly, They Are Noisy … If Scotland Does This, Scotland Will Be In Serious Trouble.” In April 2012, Trump urged Scotland’s parliament to “end plans for an offshore wind farm he fears will spoil the view at his exclusive new $750-million-pound ($1.2-billion) golf resort … ‘Scotland, if you pursue this policy of these monstrous turbines, Scotland will go broke,’ he said. ‘They are ugly, they are noisy and they are dangerous. If Scotland does this, Scotland will be in serious trouble and will lose tourism to places like Ireland, and they are laughing at us.’ … When challenged to produce hard evidence about his claims on the negative impact of turbines, Trump said: ‘I am the evidence, I am a world class expert in tourism.’” In September 2012, Trump tweeted,” English taxpayers should stop subsidizing the destruction of Scotland by paying massive subsidies for ugly wind turbines.” [Associated Press, 4/26/12; Donald Trump Twitter, 9/26/12]
Trump Criticized Environmental Restrictions That Prevented The U.S. From Tapping Its Coal And Natural Gas Resources. TRUMP: “First of all, they're also going very heavy into coal. If you look at what China is doing, they're going heavy into coal whereas the environmental restrictions make it almost impossible for us to do the coal thing anymore. We are a tremendous source of coal. We are called the Saudi Arabia of coal, but it's Saudi Arabia times 100. So, you know, we don't use our natural resources. Whether it is clean or not, the fact is clean coal is coming along and it is a great source of energy. So many other things we're not using, natural-gas, to the extent that we should be. You know, if you look at certain countries in the Mideast, they are getting rid of their gas. They're selling us oil because they don't want to use it because we're paying a lot and they're using natural gas. And we have a tremendous natural gas reserves. So there are so many things, Eric, that we are not doing, and it is inconceivable that they are not started.” [Follow The Money, Fox Business, 6/28/11]
Trump Opposed Restrictions On Drilling For Oil. KILMEADE: “Donald, do you have an opinion on the fracking and the natural gas, who you be going at? Do you have an opinion on drilling here at home?” TRUMP: “Well, I think we should just drill. I mean this is crazy. They can't drill in the Gulf. They can't drill in Alaska. They can't drill anywhere and in the meantime, we're being held hostage by all of these foreign nations that are ripping us. So I think we should just open it up. I understand the environmental, I understand it probably better than any. I've received many, many environmental awards. But they are holding this country to a level that is impossible for us to do anything and if we're going to get back on track, we have to get oil down to $45, $50 or $60 a barrel. And right now, it looks like it's going up to $150. So we can never come back if oil is at these levels.” [Fox & Friends, Fox News, 4/25/11]
Trump Said He Would “Absolutely” Drill On ANWR. HANNITY: “You would drill on ANWR, you drill in the 48 states. ”TRUMP: “Absolutely.” [Hannity, Fox News, 4/14/11]
2016 EPA Environmental Achievements Awards
ReNewable Now was on site at Fanueil Hall, Boston to cover the 2016 Environmental Merit Awards in New England. This ceremony is one of the oldest the EPA sponsors, with a history dating back over 45 years. Reporting that day for ReNewable Now that day was Rhode Island College's Sustainability Coordinator, James Murphy, and RI USGBC Chairman Kenneth Filarski who helped to put things into perspective, while providing interviews with Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office, and one of the honorees, Peter Arpin of the Arpin Group.
Organizations and Residents Recognized by
EPA for Environmental Achievements
EPA's Curt Spalding being interviewed by Jim Murphy, RIC Sustainability Coord.
Mother Nature seems to have been working with the EPA this past Tuesday as dozens of recipients from across New England converged on a beautiful day at Faneuil Hall, Boston to be honored for helping to improve New England's environment.
Each year EPA New England recognizes individuals and groups in the six New England states who have worked to protect or improve the region's environment in distinct ways. The merit awards, given out since 1970, honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts.
"We are proud to honor those citizens, businesses and organizations who have gone the extra mile to help protect and preserve our region's natural resources," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "These New England award winners are committed to making our towns, cities and countryside of New England healthy, vibrant places with clean air, land and water."
The Environmental Merit Awards, which are given to people who have already taken action, are awarded in the categories of individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization. Also, each year EPA presents lifetime achievement awards for individuals.
US Consumer Coalition Launches
National Fair Energy Initiative
With new technologies, products, government regulations and environmental concerns impacting energy consumers more than ever before, the US Consumer Coalition (USCC) has launched a national Fair Energy Initiative to be a powerful voice for all Americans faced with a complex and changing energy industry. USCC will be engaging in a dialogue across the country with State and Federal officials, the media, energy experts and consumers to ensure energy industry practices are fair, protect choice and lower costs.
"In any family or business budget, the cost of energy is a major expense that continues to rise," said Brian Wise, President of USCC. "As the industry changes and innovative products emerge, consumers will benefit from a more level playing field. More competition in the market coming from expanding sources of energy will lower costs and provide reliable energy for all Americans."
The first issue the initiative will tackle is the unfair practice of energy companies passing the costs for electric vehicle charging stations on to ratepayers who don't use them. "Most consumers have no idea that the plan from the utility industry is to pass the bill for what will ultimately be billions of dollars in new infrastructure along to consumers who can't afford electric vehicles," said Wise. "Hard-working Americans shouldn't be paying to charge some Hollywood celebrity's Tesla. That isn't fair."
The US Consumer Coalition believes that excessive regulation, restrictions on the development of new sources of energy, and special interest politics adversely affect America's consumers by driving up energy prices, stifling innovation, and restricting research and development in the industry.
The organization also hopes that promoting fairer energy policies that expand innovation and choice will also strengthen national security and stimulate a robust economy.
"Americans deserve energy that is reliable, sustainable and affordable," said Wise. "The best way to do that is to inform and activate America's consumers to ensure we have an energy future that embraces competition, and a diversified marketplace for production and distribution."
US Common Sense Launches GovRank.org,
Nationwide Fiscal Sustainability Platform
On March 10, United States Common Sense, a data-driven policy group, launched GovRank.org. The platform offers free public access to the financial data of state and local governments across the U.S., as well as their financial records and information about their fiscal performance in the years following the onset of the Great Recession. The organization also researched the nature of fiscal distress and fiscal sustainability, and it developed a framework to compare fiscal performance across governments, making the results available on GovRank's individual government profile pages. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation provided funding support for the project.
"As a nation, we don't pay attention to fiscal health until we're doing fiscal autopsies," said Autumn Carter, US Common Sense's Executive Director. "We've witnessed some high-profile struggles—Stockton, San Bernardino, Detroit, Chicago, California, Illinois—but it would have been better to draw effective attention to their situations before they became so dire. GovRank.org offers the public the best opportunity to reframe our fiscal discussions around forward-looking sustainability, rather backward-looking post-mortems."
GovRank's more than half-million data points and the 100,000 PDF financial audits from which US Common Sense extracted them comprise the largest freely accessible public finance database and financial records repository in the nation. The non-partisan 501(c)(3) non-profit spent a year quietly undertaking the civic engagement initiative, compiling the reports and an additional 70,000 budgets for governments that serve as few as 700 residents, and issuing over 10,000 public records requests. It successfully developed a method to programmatically extract top line financial figures from comprehensive financial records and manually extracted the remainder. The downloadable database includes government revenues, expenses, assets, liabilities, and public employee pension and non-pension liabilities for years dating back to 2008-09, which is the earliest date for which data was broadly available.
GovRank provides percentile rankings of fiscal performance, including an overall rank and three components: budget balance, asset flexibility, and pension funding. Based on its analysis of GovRank data, US Common Sense developed the following findings:
Overall worst performing states (starting with worst): Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, Kentucky, Massachusetts, California, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.
Overall best performing states (starting with best): Wyoming, Idaho, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Utah, Montana, Texas, and Indiana
Overall worst performing cities with at least 100,000 residents (starting with worst): Montgomery, AL; Chicago, IL; New York, NY; Houston, TX; Birmingham, AL; Indianapolis, IN; Detroit, MI; Flint, MI; Omaha, NE; and Portland, OR.
Find the platform at GovRank.org.
Mandatory Solar Power In San Francisco?
San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener has introduced legislation that would require solar panels to be installed on new residential and commercial buildings constructed in the city.
If the legislation should pass, San Francisco will be the first major city in the USA where solar was mandatory on new builds.
“This legislation will activate our roofs, which are an under-utilized urban resource, to make our City more sustainable and our air cleaner,” said Senator Wiener.
“In a dense, urban environment, we need to be smart and efficient about how we maximize the use of our space to achieve goals like promoting renewable energy and improving our environment.”
California already has legislation stating 15% of roof area on new small and mid-sized buildings must be “solar ready,” – now he wants to see that roof area to actually have solar installed; either in the form of PV (photovoltaic) panels or solar hot water systems.
The proposed legislation appears to have strong support – both Mayor Ed Lee and former Mayor Gavin Newsom are both eager for San Francisco to meet 100% of its electricity requirements through renewable energy.
The former President of the San Francisco Commission on the Environment, Josh Arce, says the legislation would also create a significant number of jobs.
State of The Union Highlights
President Barack Obama highlighted his administration's progress on wind and solar power in his final State of the Union address - and wants to see more of the same.
In 2009, President Obama launched an economic stimulus package, with billions earmarked for renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives.
In 2009, President Obama launched an economic stimulus package, with billions earmarked for renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives.
Yesterday, he spoke of the results of that and other initiatives during his term in office.
“In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal – in jobs that pay better than average,” he said.
Yesterday we reported the U.S. solar workforce alone grew to a total of nearly 209,000 last year – three times the number employed in the coal mining industry and also more than in the oil and gas extraction industry.
“We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy – something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support.”
During his time in office, President Obama has become increasingly vocal regarding his attitude to the fossil fuel sector. In 2013, he proposed billions more be ploughed into renewable energy while eliminating $4 billion in fossil fuels subsidies.
While he’s had little success on the fossil subsidy front, his attitude hasn’t changed.
“Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future — especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet,” he said.
On the issue of climate change, he again displayed his contempt for “climate deniers”.
“Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”
Last year, President Obama unveiled his Clean Energy Plan, which aims to see 30% more renewable energy generation in 2030 and cheaper power bills.
“But even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record – until 2015 turned out even hotter – why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?”
U.S. President Barack Obama, State of the Union address, 2016.
Congress Votes to Extend Wind, Solar Tax Credits
The recently passed extension of an investment tax credit (ITC) will bring further massive growth to the USA’s wind energy and solar power capacity; plus generate more than a hundred thousand new jobs.
The ITC is a 30 percent credit for wind, solar power and energy storage systems installed at eligible residential and commercial properties. It has underpinned much of solar’s growth in the USA – 1,600 percent since it was implemented in 2006.
The ITC was due to expire in its current form at the end of next year. From January 1, 2017, the tax credit was expected to drop to 10% for commercial solar projects and disappear entirely for home solar power systems.
The uncertain future of the ITC past 2016 was already impacting investment; particularly given that as recently as a few weeks ago; an extension seemed unlikely. Aside from its local impacts, its demise would have also been much more than a blip on the global market – solar capacity installation was forecast to decline by 10% globally after the ITC expired.
But extended it was – the ITC will stay at 30% through 2020.
“A five-year extension of the ITC will lead to more than $125 billion in new, private sector investment in the U.S. economy,” says the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) “And much of this growth will come from small businesses, which make up more than 85 percent of America’s 8,000 solar companies.”
With the extension in place, the USA’s solar capacity is forecast to triple by 2022; reaching 95 gigawatts.
“That’s enough to power 19 million homes and represents 3.5 percent of U.S. electricity generation- up from 0.1 percent in 2010. And the extension will offset 100 million metric tons of CO2 annually- equivalent to the emissions from 26 coal fired power plants,” the organisation states.
The USA’s solar industry is also a major employer. According to the SEIA, the sector is currently responsible for 200,000 jobs and the extension is likely to add another 140,000 jobs or more.
UN chief hails new climate change agreement as 'Monumental Triumph'
Following the adoption of the new Paris Agreement on climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said government representatives made history today.
“The Paris Agreement is a monumental triumph for people and our planet,” said Mr. Ban in a tweet, immediately following its adoption. “It sets the stage for progress in ending poverty, strengthening peace and ensuring a life of dignity and opportunity for all.”
Gaveling the Agreement with a green hammer, the French Foreign Minister and President of COP21, Laurent Fabius, announced the historic news – a moment greeted with loud applause and cheers, as the room stood up. Many delegates hugged, while others had tears in their eyes.
For the first time today, 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and joined to take common climate action. This followed two weeks of tireless negotiations at the United Nations climate change conference (COP21).
The Paris Agreement and the outcomes of COP21 cover all the crucial areas identified as essential for a landmark conclusion: mitigation – reducing emissions fast enough to achieve the temperature goal; a transparency system and global stock-take – accounting for climate action; adaptation – strengthening ability of countries to deal with climate impacts; loss and damage – strengthening ability to recover from climate impacts; and support – including finance, for nations to build clean, resilient futures.
“In the face of an unprecedented challenge, you have demonstrated unprecedented leadership,” the UN chief said taking the COP21 stage just minutes later. “You have worked collaboratively to achieve something that no one nation could achieve alone. This is a resounding success for multilateralism.”
Obama pledges $30m for climate risk insurance at COP21
US President Barack Obama announced at COP21 on Tuesday, December 1, that the US will commit $30 million to climate risk insurance schemes in the Pacific, Central America and Africa.
The money is part of a wider set of actions to assist nations that are the most vulnerable to climate change and will boost their resiliency to impacts such as rising sea levels, flooding and droughts, according to the US Department of State.
As part of the initiative, the US will provide climate data, tools and services, and will incorporate climate change considerations into development assistance.
Amjad Abdulla of the Maldives and chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) said the development is“a sign of progress… we now encourage our partners to recognise the full scale of the challenge we face and help us tackle it together.”
The move is in line with the target that G7 leaders set earlier this year to increase the number of people from the most vulnerable developing countries with access to climate risks insurance by up to 400 million by 2020.
The newly announced finance from the US will support the Pacific Catastrophic Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative and the African Risk Capacity programme, and will expand the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility to cover Central American nations.
In June, Germany pledged to provide €150 million to initiate the programme and catalyse private sector involvement.
FDA Approves Genetically Engineered Salmon
Are the flood gates about to be opened when it comes to genetically engineered (GE) foods?
On November 19, 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, based on sound science and a comprehensive review, is taking several important steps regarding food from genetically engineered (GE) plants and animals, including the first approval for a genetically engineered animal intended for food, AquAdvantage Salmon, AKA AquaBounty Technologies. The agency is also issuing two guidances for manufacturers who wish to voluntarily label their products as containing ingredients from GE or non-GE sources: a draft guidance on labeling foods derived from Atlantic salmon, and a final guidance on foods derived from GE plants.
The FDA has approved AquaBounty Technologies’ application for AquAdvantage Salmon , an Atlantic salmon that reaches market size more quickly than non-GE farm-raised Atlantic salmon. The FDA regulates GE animals under the new animal drug provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, because the recombinant DNA (rDNA) construct introduced into the animal meets the definition of a drug. In this case, the rDNA construct introduces a trait that makes the AquAdvantage Salmon grow faster.
“The FDA has thoroughly analyzed and evaluated the data and information submitted by AquaBounty Technologies regarding AquAdvantage Salmon and determined that they have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat,” said Bernadette Dunham, D.V.M., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
Based on a comprehensive analysis of the scientific evidence, the FDA determined that AquAdvantage Salmon meets the statutory requirements for safety and effectiveness under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Among the requirements the sponsor had to meet are that food from the fish is safe to eat; the rDNA construct (the piece of DNA that makes the salmon grow faster) is safe for the fish itself; and the AquAdvantage Salmon meets the sponsor’s claim about faster growth. In addition, the FDA determined that food from AquAdvantage Salmon is as safe to eat and as nutritious as food from other non-GE Atlantic salmon and that there are no biologically relevant differences in the nutritional profile of AquAdvantage Salmon compared to that of other farm-raised Atlantic salmon.
The AquAdvantage Salmon may be raised only in land-based, contained hatchery tanks in two specific facilities in Canada and Panama. The approval does not allow AquAdvantage Salmon to be bred or raised in the United States. In fact, under this approval, no other facilities or locations, in the United States or elsewhere, are authorized for breeding or raising AquAdvantage Salmon that are intended for marketing as food to U.S. consumers. As required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the FDA completed an environmental assessment to determine whether approval of the application would result in significant effects on the quality of the human environment in the United States. The FDA has determined that the approval of the AquAdvantage Salmon application would not have a significant environmental impact because of the multiple and redundant measures being taken to contain the fish and prevent their escape and establishment in the environment.
These measures include a series of multiple and redundant levels of physical barriers placed in the tanks and in the plumbing that carries water out of the facilities to prevent the escape of eggs and fish. Finally, the AquAdvantage Salmon are reproductively sterile so that even in the highly unlikely event of an escape, they would be unable to interbreed or establish populations in the wild.
The FDA will maintain regulatory oversight over the production and facilities, and will conduct inspections to confirm that adequate physical containment measures remain in place. In addition, the Canadian and Panamanian governments will also be conducting inspections of the facilities.
The FDA held a Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee meeting on the sufficiency of the scientific review and a hearing to gather opinions on labeling of food from AquAdvantage Salmon. The agency received and reviewed comments from these two meetings. In addition, the agency released a draft environmental assessment and preliminary finding of no significant impact for public comment; these comments were also reviewed prior to the agency’s final decision.
The volunteer labeling question is quite interesting considering the push for GMO labeling. Are they one in same by those pushing for GMO labeling, or are they different? Science says they’re different, should the labeling also be uniquely different?
USDA Funds Rural Renewables
The United States Department Of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded loans and grants for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems to more than 1,100 rural small businesses and agricultural producers.
USD $102 million in loan guarantees and $71 million in grants has been provided to 1,114 projects financed through the latest round of Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which has helped finance 10,753 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects during the Obama administration.
Collectively, these projects will generate or save an estimated 8.4 million megawatt hours of electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 5 million metric tonnes.
”This funding will help incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology and reduce energy costs,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “But beyond the local benefits seen by a company saving energy costs and the global benefits of reducing carbon emissions, this funding will also create American jobs by supporting energy production and efficiency installations that are made in rural America.”
Under the program, grants for up to 25 percent of total project costs are offered and loan guarantees for up to 75 percent of total project cost. The minimum grant amount for renewable energy systems is $2,500 and the maximum is $500,000. For loan guarantees, the minimum is $5,000 and the maximum loan guarantee is $25 million.
Eligible renewable energy systems include biomass, geothermal, hydro, hydrogen, wind energy, solar power and marine.
Among the recipients of the latest round is Fresh Air Energy XVI, LLC; which is receiving a $3.8 million loan guarantee to finance a 6.5 megawatt solar power system in Greene County, North Carolina.
“President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities,” says a USDA statement.
"Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.”
Last year, $12.3 million in grants and $56.4 million in loans were awarded under REAP. REAP program funds can also be used for the purchase, installation and construction of energy efficiency improvements; such as high efficiency heating and cooling systems, insulation, lighting and upgrading of equipment.
81 Major Companies Sign Climate Pledge
CEOs from 81 of America’s biggest companies, including Walmart, Intel and Hershey’s, have gathered at the White House to pledge support for drastic action on climate change ahead of this year’s U.N. climate summit in Paris.
The business leaders met with President Barack Obama to sign the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, throwing their collective weight – and combined market value of USD $5 trillion – behind Obama’s call for a strong outcome to the Paris talks this November.
“As part of this initiative, each company is announcing significant pledges to reduce their emissions, increase low-carbon investments, deploy more clean energy, and take other actions to build more sustainable businesses and tackle climate change,” a White House briefing said.
The Climate Pledge was launched in July and includes company-specific goals for fighting climate change, such as Facebook’s goal to source 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2018 and Intel’s pledge to triple the installation and use of on-site renewable energy for its operations by 2020.
More companies are expected to sign up to the Pledge before Paris.
“We applaud the growing number of countries that have already set ambitious targets for climate action. In this context, we support the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future,” reads part of the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.
The White House said it had high hopes in the lead-up to Paris, with many nations already submitting post-2020 targets, but would continue to focus on building partnerships between the government and the private sector in order to drive the clean economy.
“Right now, we’ve got 81 companies who’ve signed on to what we’re calling the American Business Act on Climate Change,” said President Obama after the signing.
“They operate in all 50 states. They’ve got about 9 million employees, collectively, and about $5 trillion worth of market cap. These are some of the cutting-edge, most extraordinary businesses that we have. But it’s not just the big companies that are getting involved. It’s their suppliers and small businesses that are also getting involved — and saying, number one, we need a strong outcome in Paris.”
TECTONIC Shift in U.S. Energy Landscape
The USA’s energy sector emitted less carbon pollution last year than in 1996; primarily due to energy efficiency gains and the country’s renewable energy revolution.
The Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC’s) recently released report, “A Tectonic Shift in America’s Energy Landscape,” states the nation is already two-thirds of the way toward meeting President Obama’s Clean Power Plan goals of cutting 3 billion tons of carbon pollution by 2030.
A focus on energy efficiency saw electricity consumption rise 7.5 percent from 2000 to 2014; even though the U.S. population grew at nearly twice that rate.
“Over the past four decades, the United States has broken the link between economic growth and energy consumption,” states the report. Thanks in part to continuing progress on energy efficiency, the nation’s economy has tripled over this period, while energy use has increased by only one-third.”
Wind power production has seen 33-fold increase from 2000–2014 and solar power doubled its output in 2014 over 2013.
Just ten years ago, hydro-electric power in the USA was at a level three times that of all non-hydro resources combined. Last year, wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewable sources collectively generated electricity (7.5 percent of the U.S. total) than all the nation’s hydroelectric turbines.
“The amount of renewable energy from wind turbines, solar panels, and other technologies now equals roughly 10 percent of the nation’s energy use,” said report co-author and NRDC’s California Energy Project legal director, Sierra Martinez.
“That’s like powering the world’s largest economy for more than a month without using any pollution-spewing coal, oil, or natural gas, and without additional harm to our lands, waters, and wildlife that is associated with extracting fossil fuels.”
On the topic of coal, the USA burned less of it last year than in 1990. The country’s coal consumption is down more than 21 percent from its peak in 2005. As recently as 2009, coal fired power generation was outpacing natural gas, wind, and solar electricity production combined by a factor of two.
Moving boldly to combat climate change and curb toxic carbon pollution, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed landmark legislation - SB 350 by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) - that establishes world-leading energy efficiency and renewable energy goals for California.
"California has taken groundbreaking steps to increase the efficiency of our cars, buildings and appliances and provide ever more renewable energy," said Governor Brown. "With SB 350, we deepen our commitment."
Governor Brown signed the legislation from the East Terrace of the Griffith Observatory overlooking the City of Los Angeles and was joined by dozens of government, climate, business, environmental justice and community leaders.
SB 350 codifies goals Governor Brown laid out in his January 2015 inaugural address to double the rate of energy efficiency savings in California buildings and generate half of the state's electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
"Today, California is laying the groundwork for a healthier and sustainable future for all of our families," said Senate President pro Tempore De León. "We are showing the world through innovation how we can transition and increase access to renewable energy while cleaning up the air we breathe, especially in our most polluted communities."
The legislation is an important step in the state's landmark plan to cut climate-warming pollution. It also establishes state policy to promote transportation electrification to meet the state's climate and clean air goals.
"Rising sea levels will impact homes, businesses, infrastructure, our national security, and our economy," said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins. "That's why SB 350 is so important to our future. With SB 350 California is leading by example. It sets the course for our state, for the nation and for the world. There will come a time when climate change deniers finally pull their heads out of the sand. When that day comes, they can look around and see that California will be in better shape because we put SB 350 in place today."
SB 350 builds on California's current 33 percent renewables portfolio standard, signed into law by Governor Brown in 2011.
"We are extremely happy that Governor Brown is signing SB 350, and grateful for Senator Kevin De Leon's leadership," said Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA) Executive Director Martha Dina Argüello. "PSR-LA is committed to continuing to work with the Governor, the Legislature, and the California Air Resources Board to make sure SB 350 is fully implemented. By increasing renewable energy production and energy efficiency in buildings we can reduce the terrible health burdens caused by our use of dirty energy and fuels."
Over $100 Million In Funding Solar
In The USA In Less Than A Month
Less than a month after the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) committed $1 billion in new loans guarantees to fund the growth of clean energy systems in the USA, the Obama Administration last week announced the release of more than $102 million to help drive further innovation in solar technology.
The funding draws from the DOE’s massive SunShot program and is broken into two parts. More than $52 million will support 22 new projects from national universities, laboratories and private partnerships; with the aim of making solar power cheaper through research and development.
A further $50 million in funds will go towards driving down the cost of solar energy beyond the USA’s SunShot goal, which seeks to make solar power cost competitive with fossil fuels by 2020.
Of the 22 projects:
Six projects were awarded $7 million for work on advancing the “physics of reliability” of photovoltaic systems by designing better product testing for solar modules, information vital to reducing risk for solar investors.
$32 million will go to 14 projects focused on reaching Sunshot targets for developing Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology, which requires highly-efficient systems capable of operating at temperatures above 720C while achieving at least 50 per cent thermal-to-electric power conversion efficiency, far more efficient than current technology. CSP giant Abengoa Solar LLC, and some of America’s top-ranked universities, including Dartmouth and Oregon State are among the awardees.
Two projects received $13 million to design a national program for local governments aimed at cutting the red tape inhibiting access to solar energy for consumers. The program will help them grow their local solar markets, create jobs and promote sustainable economic opportunities. According to the DOE, the cost of going solar can be $3,000 higher for households in communities with difficult solar policies.
In addition, $20 million in PV research and development grants will be available for up to 35 projects to advance the limits of photovoltaic cell and performance of solar panels beyond SunShot’s 2020 target. The funding aims at reducing the cost of solar by one-half to one-third by 2030.
The remaining $30 million represents the coordinated release of Sunshot’s annual Tech-to-Market funding, which provides private enterprise with the cash boost required to bring new solar innovations to market, and ensures U.S. businesses have a positive impact on reducing the cost of energy from solar
“Since President Obama took office, the total cost of a home solar energy system has fallen by nearly 50 percent, while solar deployment is up nearly twenty-fold. Today, solar energy is cost-competitive with traditional energy sources in 14 states,” said Energy Secretary Moniz. “The projects announced today will help more communities nationwide reach the goals laid out in the Clean Power Plan, while ensuring that America continues to lead the world in clean energy innovation.”
Top 10 Solar States
The USA’s Top 10 solar states are not those blessed with the most sunlight, according to a new report, but those that have adopted strong support policies to encourage home owners to go solar.
That’s the key conclusion of “Lighting the Way III: The Top States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2014," from research group Environment Massachusetts, in conjunction with the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
In 2014, one third of all new installed electricity capacity in the U.S. came from solar power. Three states; Hawaii, California and Arizona, generate over five per cent of total electricity consumption from solar.
The report finds the vast majority of America’s solar capacity is coming from a small group of states that have welcomed the solar industry into their communities by instituting strong net metering policies, ambitious renewable energy targets and progressive solar purchasing schemes.
The Top 10 solar states are: ( alphabetically )
These states account for just 26 per cent of the U.S. population, but 86 per cent of the nation’s total installed solar electricity capacity.
These states have supported a USD $18 billion solar jobs bonanza, with employment in the industry growing 20 times faster than overall national economy in 2014. Solar energy last year offset 27.5 million tons of carbon emissions, the equivalent of taking 6 million cars off the road for a year.
“The states reaping the largest benefits from the growth of solar energy are not necessarily those with the most sunshine,” the report states. “Rather, they are the states that have laid the policy groundwork to encourage solar energy adoption.”
Most of the Top 10 states have strong net metering policies that pay owners of rooftop solar power systems full retail rates for excess electricity they export back to the grid. Every state in the Top 10 has a renewable electricity standard (RES) requiring utilities to source a minimum amount of energy from renewable sources, and eight have designated “carve outs” – a specific targeting of solar or other clean distributed energy source such as wind.
Hawaii, for example, leapt to number one in the solar rankings by passing a 100 per cent RES in June 2015; while Vermont for the first time joined the Top 10 by passing a 75 per cent RES three days later.
Arizona, on the other hand, fell from number one in 2013 to number eight in 2014 for installations of new solar capacity per capita after fees imposed on solar customers saw a fall in demand for solar energy.
“By following the lead of these states, the United States can work toward getting at least 10 percent of our energy from the sun by 2030, resulting in cleaner air, more local jobs and reduced emissions of pollutants that cause global warming,” the report (PDF) concludes.
Obama Reprimands Detractors of Renewable Energy
In a speech delivered last week at the National Clean Energy Summit, US President Barack Obama issued a very clear reprimand to those who stand in the way of the renewable energy revolution.
During the speech, the President highlighted his Administration’s track record on renewables, mentioned individual states’ efforts, plus some solar power technology and business model developments.
He also spoke about his recently-unveiled Clean Power Plan, which will result in 30% more renewable energy generation in 2030 and cheaper power bills.
With regard to residential solar, the President mentioned the number of US households with rooftop solar panels has grown from fewer than 20,000 to about 600,000 over the past decade, with more than 80 percent of that capacity added in the past four years. The US DoE Annual Energy Outlook 2014 projects 900,000 to 3.8 million homes in the US will have solar by 2020.
While generally a very upbeat speech, he didn’t mince words when it came to addressing those against renewables.
The President acknowledged while there would be some legitimate issues relating to rapid change in the energy sector, resistance from some fossil fuel interests wishing to protect the “old, outdated status quo” is and would continue to be a challenge.
“.. when you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding — that’s a problem,” said the President.
” That’s not the American way. That’s not progress. That’s not innovation. That’s rent seeking(*) and trying to protect old ways of doing business and standing in the way of the future.”
The President warned the opposition to clean, renewable energy would further increase its attacks as the revolution gained steam.
“Folks whose interests or ideologies run counter to where we need to go, we’ve got to be able to politely, but firmly say, sorry, we’re moving forward,” he said.
“We refuse to surrender the hope of a clean energy future to those who fear it and fight it, and sometimes provide misinformation about it.”
* Rent seeking is defined by Investopedia as “when a company, organization or individual uses their resources to obtain an economic gain from others without reciprocating any benefits back to society through wealth creation.”
Navy Signs Agreement for Largest Purchase of
Renewable Energy by Federal Entity
The Department of the Navy (DON), Western Area Power Administration (Western), and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power hosted a ceremony Aug. 20 at Naval Air Station North Island, California, commemorating an agreement to construct a 210 megawatt (MW) direct current solar facility to benefit 14 DON installations.
The agreement, signed last month, is the largest purchase of renewable energy ever made by a federal entity.
"The collaboration on Mesquite Solar 3 is a triumph of innovative problem solving, and will help to increase the DON's energy security by diversifying our power portfolio and improving energy efficiency," said Mabus. "This agreement is also projected to save the DON at least $90 million over the life of the project."
In addition to the energy security benefits to the DON, the Mesquite Solar 3 project will help the 14 installations comply with California's Renewable Portfolio Standard. At 210 MW, the solar facility will contribute 21 percent of the power needed to meet Secretary Mabus' goal of bringing one gigawatt of renewable energy into procurement by the end of 2015.
"We are pleased to partner with both the DON and Western to help contribute to the DON's renewable energy portfolio and to expand out Mesquite Solar complex," said Patti Wagner, president and CEO of Sempra U.S. Gas & Power. "The development of Mesquite Solar 3 will continue to stimulate the local economy in the region and would not have been possible without the strong support of neighboring communities, regulators and local, state and federal officials."
Western's Senior Vice President and Desert Southwest Regional Manager, Ronald Moulton, also commended the project. "The powerful collaboration between all parties made this project possible. We look forward to facilitating similar agreements with other Federal agencies, helping them meet their renewable energy goals, and building more partnerships for powering the energy frontier," he said.
In 2009, Congress mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) produce or procure 25 percent of total DoD facility energy from renewable sources by 2025, with each service responsible for generating a portion of that renewable energy. Mabus accelerated that goal, directing the DON to procure one gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy by the end of 2015.
With the signing of Mesquite 3 (210 MW), the recent groundbreaking at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, (17 MW) last month and upcoming groundbreaking at Kings Bay, Georgia, (42 MW), the Navy is on track to meet that goal with a total 1.2 GW of projects in the pipeline.
The list of installations that will be provided solar energy from the Mesquite 3 Solar farm include: Naval Base (NB) San Diego, NB Coronado, NB Point Loma, NB Ventura County, Naval Support Activity (NSA) Monterey, Naval Weapons Station (NWS) Seal Beach, NWS Det Norco, NWS Fallbrook, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) 29 Palms, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) Barstow, Marine Corps Recruitment Deport (MCRD) San Diego and Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MCMWTC) Bridgeport.
EPA Pollutes Colorado River with Toxic Sludge
What happens when the protector becomes the perpetrator? Well that scenario has, unfortunately, happened last Friday, August 4th in Colorado when the EPA accidentally compromised a dam to an old mine.
Toxic waste, including arsenic and lead, which seeped into a river in southwest Colorado, has now crossed the state border into New Mexico. More than 550 gallons per minute are entering the water flow system according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which caused the spill.
The agency says it should have the results of samples undergoing lab testing soon, so they can find out just how contaminated the river has become. Aside from lead and arsenic, federal officials say the spill also contains, cadmium, aluminum, copper and calcium.
High levels of arsenic can cause blindness, paralysis and cancer, while lead poisoning can create muscle and vision problems in adults and can be fatal for children.
"We're busting our tails to get that out," Environmental Protection Agency Regional Director Shaun McGrath said, as cited by AP. "We know the importance to people to have this information."
The bright orange toxic sludge, which entered the Animas River in Colorado, has now crossed the state border into New Mexico and reached the city of Aztec on Friday night. Local communities in both states are not happy and have blasted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for being slow in warning residents after the spill took place.
"There's not a lot we can do. We can keep people away (from the river) and keep testing. We still don't know how bad it is," San Juan County Emergency Management Director Don Cooper said, according to AP.
Officials in the cities of Aztec and Farmington say they have shut down the river’s access to water treatment plants, adding that the communities had a 90-day supply of water.
The Animas flows into the San Juan River in New Mexico, and the San Juan flows into Utah, where it joins the Colorado River in Lake Powell. There are also reports that the contaminated water is heading towards Utah.
The EPA says they have finished building two containment ponds, which are aimed at treating the toxic sludge in the river. However, this is very much a short-term plan, while the long-term issue of cleaning up the spill will take some time according to McGrath.
“The sediment, the metals that are in that sediment are going to settle out to the stream bottom," he said. "As we have storm surges, as we have flooding events, that sediment can and likely will get kicked back up into the water. We're going to have to do ongoing monitoring," McGrath added.
It is estimated that over one million gallons of toxic waste has already found its way into the river. The spill was caused after the EPA was investigating the abandoned Gold King Mine on Wednesday together with the state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. They accidentally breached a debris dam that had formed inside the mine and this triggered the release of the waste into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River in San Juan County.
Ironically, the initial goal was to find a safe way to pump out the wastewater from the mine, which was abandoned in 1923 and treat it, EPA spokeswoman Lisa McClain-Vanderpool said.
So this isn’t like a BP’s Deepwater Horizon where fines, lawsuits and settlements from a private company offset losses and pays for clean-up. Ultimately you and I, the American public are on the hook here and we will pay because it’s the right thing to do. But there has to be accountability, this is big disaster with potential long term effects. The EPA needs to be held at a higher standard than others if they are to retain the public's trust. We’ll be watching this and discussing it with our legal team on ReNewable Now’s Business Side of Green to get better insight to how this will play out.
President Obama Announces Historic Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants
The Clean Power Plan is a Landmark Action to Protect Public Health, Reduce Energy Bills for Households and Businesses, Create American Jobs, and Bring Clean Power to Communities across the Country.
On August 3rd the White House, President Obama and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will release the final Clean Power Plan, a historic step in the Obama Administration’s fight against climate change.
We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged. The effects of climate change are already being felt across the nation. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Extreme weather events – from more severe droughts and wildfires in the West to record heat waves – and sea level rise are hitting communities across the country. In fact, 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred in the first 15 years of this century and last year was the warmest year ever. The most vulnerable among us – including children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease, and people living in poverty – are most at risk from the impacts of climate change. Taking action now is critical.
The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants. We already set limits that protect public health by reducing soot and other toxic emissions, but until now, existing power plants, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, could release as much carbon pollution as they wanted.
The final Clean Power Plan sets flexible and achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, 9 percent more ambitious than the proposal. By setting carbon pollution reduction goals for power plants and enabling states to develop tailored implementation plans to meet those goals, the Clean Power Plan is a strong, flexible framework that will:
Provide significant public health benefits – The Clean Power Plan, and other policies put in place to drive a cleaner energy sector, will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent in 2030 compared to 2005 and decrease the pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog and can lead to more asthma attacks in kids by more than 70 percent. The Clean Power Plan will also avoid up to 3,600 premature deaths, lead to 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children, and prevent 300,000 missed work and school days.
Create tens of thousands of jobs while ensuring grid reliability;
Drive more aggressive investment in clean energy technologies than the proposed rule, resulting in 30 percent more renewable energy generation in 2030 and continuing to lower the costs of renewable energy.
Save the average American family nearly $85 on their annual energy bill in 2030, reducing enough energy to power 30 million homes, and save consumers a total of $155 billion from 2020-2030;
Give a head start to wind and solar deployment and prioritize the deployment of energy efficiency improvements in low-income communities that need it most early in the program through a Clean Energy Incentive Program; and
Continue American leadership on climate change by keeping us on track to meet the economy-wide emissions targets we have set, including the goal of reducing emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
The American wind power industry is celebrating after the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly in favour of extending more than 50 tax policies supporting the construction of new wind farms.
The mood towards wind energy in the USA is in stark contrast to that back home, where the Abbott government’s “wonky” directive that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) cease investing in wind power projects has baffled industry experts and economists.
In a 23-3 bipartisan vote, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee passed a tax extenders bill for 2016. The bill retains language ensuring tax subsidies for wind energy developers continue so long as construction begins while the credits are in place.
Both the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) expired at the beginning of the year, causing consternation for the sector; as these incentives have been widely recognised as the predominant drivers of wind farm development and have cut the price of U.S. wind power in half.
This was proven in 2013, when the credits briefly expired, causing installations of new wind energy to fall 92 per cent and the loss of 30,000 jobs. When Congress reinstated the PTC the following year, 23,000 jobs were added and the U.S. wind sector finished 2014 with a workforce numbering 73,000 employees.
According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind has attracted over $100 billion in private investment for the U.S. economy since 2008 and the vast majority of Americans (84 per cent) want domestic wind power production to receive more or the same emphasis as other sources of energy.
“This is a big step in the right direction,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “We applaud the committee’s vote because it recognizes that the vast majority of American voters support these policies and want them continued. We urge the full Senate and the House of Representatives to follow the Senate Finance Committee’s bipartisan lead, and quickly pass this tax extenders package, which will continue to grow American jobs and heavy manufacturing, and support rural economic growth.”
Total U.S. installed wind capacity at the end of fourth quarter of 2014 stood at 65,879 MW – enough to power 18 million homes. More than 48,000 utility-scale wind turbines are now operating in the USA.
Obama To Boost Access To Solar Power
The Obama Administration has announced a new major initiative that will increase access to solar power for all Americans, with a special focus on low income households.
Part of the program will see an increased goal of installing 300 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy in federally subsidized housing.
In the President’s Climate Action Plan (2013), a goal of installing 100 megawatts of solar and other renewables in federally subsidized housing was set. That goal has already been surpassed (185MW) according to the White House, hence the new benchmark.
More than USD $520 million has also been pledged in independent commitments to boost community solar and increase uptake of solar panels and energy efficiency in low- and moderate- income households.
The National Community Solar Partnership will bring together multiple government agencies and solar companies, charged with the task of improving access to solar for the nearly 50 percent of households and businesses renting premises or that do not have sufficient roof space to install solar panels.
“The executive actions and private sector commitments that we are announcing today will help continue to scale up solar for all Americans, including those who are renters, lack the startup capital to invest in solar, or do not have adequate information on how to transition to solar energy,” says part of a statement from the White House Press Secretary office.
Other elements of the initiative aim to enhance employment opportunities in the USA’s solar industry. These include funding for the government supported civil society program AmeriCorps to roll out solar and create jobs in underserved communities, plus expansion of solar energy education and opportunities for job training.
It’s expected that by the end of the first year of the program, AmeriCorps members will have assisted in installing solar on 1500 low-income homes and 200 economically disadvantaged workers will have gained jobs in the solar industry.
These actions will build on the President’s goal of training up 75,000 workers to enter the nation’s solar industry by 2020 and the Solar Ready Vets Program.
President Obama’s passion for solar has played a major role in uptake of the clean power technology in the US. In 2014, the United States connected as much solar energy to the mains grid every three weeks as it did in all of 2008. The National Solar Jobs Census 2014 states the industry added workers at a rate nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy.
End New Coal Fired Power Generation
Secretary-General of the OECD, Angel Gurría, has called for an end to new coal.
In a lecture hosted by the London School of Economics and Aviva Investors in association with ClimateWise last Friday, Mr. Gurria said the most urgent threat to climate policy is new investment in unabated coal-fired electricity generation.
” Between now and 2050, if no further mitigation measures are undertaken, coal generation is projected to emit more than 500 GtCO2,” he stated – 500,000,000,000 tonnes. “That is around half the remaining carbon budget consistent with staying under 2°C.”
Mr. Gurría said new coal investment isn’t just bad for the environment; it’s a very risky investment.
“Governments need to be seriously sceptical about whether new coal provides a good deal for their citizens. If we muster the political will to set ourselves on a 2°C trajectory today, not all coal assets will be able to run for their full economic lifetime. Unsurprisingly, if we delay action, we will have to strand much more capacity overall, as steeper reductions will be required.”
Far from being one of nature’s gifts as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott referred to it last year; coal is not cheap due to the damage done by significant land disturbance, water contamination, air pollution, damage to ecosystems, and dust and noise pollution. For example, the cost of the health impact of air pollution from energy use in China was about USD 1.4 trillion in 2010.
“We have to move to the point where claiming that coal is cheaper or that it is the “only” solution is no longer good enough. Political and business leaders who make this claim have to be able to substantiate it against the alternatives.”
Alternatives now cost competitive with coal (depending on the region) include onshore wind, biomass, hydro, geothermal and solar power.
Since 2000, 60% of total power plant investments have been in low-carbon technologies. Even so, between 1990 and 2013, coal burnt for electricity generation doubled.
Mr. Gurría warned against a lackadaisical approach to COP 21; the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.
“There is little time left. Governments cannot afford to treat this year’s COP like just another round of an endless trade negotiations – The carbon clock is ticking!”
A recently published report from the OECD states coal is usually the least heavily taxed of all fossil fuels and subject to very low or no import tariffs; whereas import tariffs of 10-20% or more are often applied to renewables.
The US Department Of Energy has announced USD $32 million in funding to help train more American solar support workers, to further drive down the cost of solar and to increase access to important solar data.
Up to $12 million will be available to develop a solar support workforce, including professionals in the real estate and utility industries. This is in addition to the Obama Administration’s Solar Ready Vets initiative and President Obama’s goal of training 75,000 solar workers by 2020; announced last month.
“To ensure the continued growth of the U.S. solar industry and our clean energy economy, it is critical that we support workforce training programs that will give American workers the skills they need for well-paying jobs and also make sure American consumers have access to highly-trained, credentialed professionals when they choose solar to power their daily lives,” said Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall.
Another $5 million will fund projects with a goal of improving market transparency and access to key solar energy datasets, such as electricity production and financial performance information. Projects under the program will create new capabilities enabling existing solar databases across the industry to interact in a more efficient way.
$15 million will support projects creating new designs for concentrating solar power (CSP) collectors – which currently represent around 40 percent of a total CSP system’s cost.
In other recent news from the DoE, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz last week announced the release of Enabling Wind Power Nationwide, a report showing how the USA can realise the massive potential for wind energy deployment across all states.
Technical advances could see a much larger chunk of the USA suitable for wind power, bringing the total area of technical wind potential to 1.8 million square miles.
“Wind generation has more than tripled in the United States in just six years, exceeding 4.5 percent of total generation, and we are focused on expanding its clean power potential to every state in the country,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
The DoE says its support of the wind sector to date has helped install nearly 66 gigawatts of wind power capacity – enough to supply the power needs of more than 17 million homes – has and assisted in decreasing the cost of wind energy by more than 90 percent.
Hawaii Votes To Go 100% Renewable
Hawaii looks set to be the first US state to put a firm use-by date on carbon intensive energy generation.
The state already has a goal of sourcing 40 percent of its power through renewables by 2030. The new compromise bill voted by its legislature early this week sets targets of 30 percent renewables in 2020, 70 percent by 2030 and 100% renewables by 2045.
The compromise bill, House Bill 623, is now just awaiting Governor David Ige’s signature.
Hawaii has traditionally been heavily dependent on imports of petroleum and coal for power. According to Hawaii State Energy Office, in 2012, the state relied on oil for 71% and on coal for 15% of its electricity generation.
However, the dominance of filthy fossil fuels has been rapidly changing and the island state’s solar revolution is well under way.
Hawaiian Electric Company; consisting of Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light, were recently named among the USA’s top utilities for solar power. “With 12 percent of our customers using rooftop solar, new utility-scale solar arrays that are scheduled to come online by the end of 2016, and our goal to triple distributed solar by 2030, Hawaii will continue to lead the way in the integration of rooftop solar,”said Jim Alberts , Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for customer service.
Hawaiian Electric Company ranked fifth in interconnections in 2014 and fourth in cumulative interconnections in the Solar Electric Power Association’s (SEPA) annual rankings. The state ranked seventh in the nation overall for solar power compared with larger states across the mainland.
The Company serves 95% of the state’s 1.2 million residents on the islands of Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island, Lanai and Molokai.
Hawaii’s enthusiasm for renewables is motivated in part by climate change. Much of the state’s infrastructure is situated close to the water and sea level rise poses a very real threat. Some projections show Waikiki’s CBD could be submerged within a century.
Even with such motivation, reaching 100% renewables will be no mean feat and technical and regulatory hurdles have recently slowed growth of renewables in Hawaii.
EPA Issues Moratorium on New Pesticides
that Kill Birds and Bees
The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a moratorium that will restrict the use of new pesticides that have been blamed for declining bee populations, though the policy does not apply to products currently on the market.
The chemicals in question, neonicotinoids, are a new class of insecticides that affect the central nervous system of insects and result in paralysis and death.
Earlier this month, the EPA sent letters to companies that have applied for permits to use neonicotinoid pesticides, telling them the moratorium stands until they have assessed the risks on bee populations. The pesticides are known to have chronic effects on honey bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinator species, and are considered to be a factor in overall pollinator declines.
“EPA believes that until the data on pollinator health have been received and appropriate risk assessments completed, it is unlikely to be in a position to determine that such uses would avoid ‘unreasonable adverse effects on the environment,” the agency wrote, reported the Hill.
The EPA has made the study of new pollinator risks an agency priority, but the moratorium has no effect on the pesticides already on the market. The EPA also relies on industry-funded science that often contradicts peer-reviewed studies.
The neonicotinoid moratorium affects the chemicals Imidacloprid, Dinotefuran, Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam. According to research by Beyond Pesticides group, Imidacloprid has been found to be highly toxic to bees and other beneficial insects, upland game birds, and can leach into groundwater. Studies have found it disrupts mobility, navigation and feeding behavior. Other studies have discovered a decrease in foraging activity, olfactory learning and decreased hive activity.
The chemical Clothianidin, when used in Germany, caused a massive bee die-off in 2008, with the country subsequently banning the chemical pending further investigation.
More than 125 farmer, food safety, beekeeper, faith and environmental groups wrote to President Barack Obama last month “urging the moratorium on neonicotinoid and their chemical cousins, other systemic pesticides.”
More than 4 million Americans signed petitions urging the Obama administration to take action on bee-toxic pesticides. Among the petitioning groups was The Center for Biological Diversity, who have sued the EPA over its pesticide laws several times.
“This is an important first step in recognizing that these types of bee-killing pesticides have a devastating effect on our pollinators, and our agricultural systems and the environment,” Jonathan Evans, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, told RT. “Unfortunately it is only a first step and doesn’t address the large scale of these same pesticides that are already approved.”
“In essence, the EPA has recognized these products are dangerous and they are not going to allow new ones,” he continued, before adding that it “will do nothing about the existing harm that is occurring to…pollinators from already registered products.”
Evans said nearly every day there are new studies linking the impacts of neonicotinoids and other types of systemic pesticides to pollinator decline and adverse environmental harm, but the trouble remains with the broken US pesticide policy. He also blamed the EPA’s own Office of Pesticide Programs, saying it largely protects the chemical industry and rubber stamps getting new pesticides on the market.
The Center for Biological Diversity has brought several lawsuits against the EPA’s support of pesticide use, but the judge has usually ruled in favor of the EPA.
“The pesticide laws are very tilted towards agriculture, and what happens is [a company] provides a cost-benefit analysis where, if [they] can determine if [they] can make so much more profit on producing ‘X’ amount more corn or soy, [the EPA] view that as counterbalancing negative environmental impacts,” said Evans.
Evans said there is a growing integrated pest management movement that looks holistically at the system to determine what other types of beneficial insects can address pesticide problems, or if other types of pesticides can cause less harm.
He said that in the US there is a “spray first, ask questions later mentality, as opposed to using pesticides when they are really necessary.”
“Now you have the agricultural industry treating every seed – over 80-90 percent of corn or soy are treated with neonicotinoids before they are even planted. They are just bombing everything on the front end to potentially devastate any types of living organisms, even [insects] that would be beneficial, like pollinators.” MORE
US makes climate pledge to UN
The US has pledged to tackle climate change by cutting its carbon emissions 26-28% by 2025.
It made the formal offer to the UN as a step towards a global deal in Paris in December.
The EU has already promised to cut its emissions by a roughly similar proportion.
Tuesday, March 31st was the deadline for wealthy nations to make their offers – but some, such as Canada, have failed to submit in time.
The announcement was made on Twitter with the words: "America is taking steps to #ActOnClimate, and the world is joining us" - accompanied by a picture of the President in China.
The US announcement said: "The target is fair and ambitious. The United States has already undertaken substantial policy action to reduce its emissions. Additional action to achieve the 2025 target represents a substantial acceleration of the current pace of greenhouse gas emission reductions.
"Achieving the 2025 target will require a further emission reduction of 9-11% beyond our 2020 target compared to the 2005 baseline and a substantial acceleration of the 2005-2020 annual pace of reduction, to 2.3-2.8 percent per year, or an approximate doubling."
Analysts examining the promises made by the first few nations to commit say they are not strong enough to hold global temperature rise to the internationally agreed maximum of 2C.
The early deadline was set for rich nation submissions because the UN is desperate for the Paris meeting to avoid a repeat of the shambolic gathering in Copenhagen in 2009 that failed in its aim of protecting the climate.
Todd Stern, the US chief climate negotiator, previously said America’s contribution would be “quite ambitious”.
But he warned that the Paris process would not itself solve the climate problem. That, he argued, would need ongoing effort over decades.
The US has a climate action plan announced in 2013 with new restrictions on power plant emissions and tougher standards on vehicles.
But President Obama's policies are being strongly resisted by Republicans in Congress and the law courts, and other nations have been watching keenly to see if he would formally submit the offer to the UN.
The EU has offered to cut emissions 40% on 1990 levels by 2030 (the US offer is based on a 2005 baseline). Switzerland and Mexico also unveiled pledges.
China is expected to offer to peak emissions by 2030 at the latest, and to produce 20% of its energy from nuclear and renewables by the same date.
Dr Jeremy Woods, who runs Climate-KIC's Global Calculator project at Imperial College London, said: “The declarations are an important first step. However, since most experts agree that all of the intended pledges will not be enough to limit global warming to 2C, it’s vital that the international community has a clear view of the scale of the challenge ahead."
“Over the last decade, the EU’s emissions have shrunk, the US’s have remained more-or-less stable but China’s have risen dramatically from just over 10% of global emissions in 2000 to just under 30% in 2013. The world has been going in the opposite direction to that needed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
"Unless major emitters (governments and businesses alike) can find ways and reasons to dramatically change course we will move into uncharted and dangerous waters very soon.”
Mr Stern said: “You can look at the US, the EU, China - you could say I wish they did a little more than that. It’s not perfect - but then nobody is.”
Big Bucks For Big Wind Turbines
The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced a USD $1.8 million fund to support companies in the development of next-generation wind turbine blades more than 60 metres in length, research the DOE says is vital to unlocking over one million square-miles of wind energy across the USA.
New maps of wind speeds from the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory showing vastly more potential for wind capacity at heights of 140 metres have forced a rethink in turbine design and a focus on building multi-megawatt turbines fitted with rotors 120 metres in diameter.
As of last year, the Energy Department has spent over $160 million in support for projects focused on testing, manufacturing, and component development of next-generation wind turbines.
The DOE says that if these advancements are successful, wind turbines with hub heights up to 140 meters will unlock an additional wind power resource potential across 1,137,565 square miles of the United States, nearly tripling the amount of developable land area compared with 2008 turbine technology.
“I’m happy to report that today, wind energy is at the cusp of cost-parity with other forms of energy that we use widely in our economy,” said Under Secretary for Science and Energy Lynn Orr. “The Department of Energy is prepared to take it all the way to the finish line.”
Latest data contained in the Energy Department’s new Wind Vision Report reveals that funding innovation in the manufacturing, transportation, and assembly of wind turbines with hub heights of over 120 metres, along with bigger and lighter rotor blades, would make wind energy cost-competitive with fossil fuels – and allow wind power to be deployed economically in all 50 states.
“Every year, wind becomes cost competitive in more states, and this wind vision report shows that all 50 states could have utility-scale energy by 2050,” said White House Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Dan Utech. “The United States is uniquely poised to accelerate development of this important resource and technology, and the report will help us continue to build on the strong progress we’ve already made.”
Currently, 4.5 percent of the USA’s annual electricity generation is source from wind power. The wind industry already supports more than 50,000 related jobs in manufacturing, construction, operations and maintenance, and supporting services.
GMO Labeling Fight Continues,
from Congress to State Legislatures
A federal bill that would mandate the accurate labeling of genetically-engineered ingredients in food or beverages sold in the US has been revived this past February in Congress, the latest for the popular "right to know" movement that faces formidable corporate opposition. As federal officials continue to try to move a bill forward, so do states around the country.
Last week, Rhode Island was the latest state to respond to the popular movement seeking to mandate labeling as State Sen. Donna Nesselbush recently introduced two nearly identical bills to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee that would demand disclosure of any foods or ingredients that were genetically manipulated.
The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act is written to "establish a consistent and enforceable standard for labeling of foods produced using genetic engineering, including fish, thereby providing consumers with knowledge of how their food is produced."
On the national scene in February Democrats Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sens. Barbara Boxer and Richard Blumenthal reintroduced the legislation.
“We cannot continue to keep Americans in the dark about the food they eat,” DeFazio said, according to Food Safety News. “More than sixty other countries make it easy for consumers to choose. Why should the U.S. be any different?”
The US Food and Drug Administration would be required to enforce the law. The FDA first allowed the sale and consumption of genetically-modified organisms (GMO) in 1992, stating that bioengineered foods did not meaningfully differ in substance or safety from other foods grown by traditional plant breeding processes.
Opponents of GMO labeling involve major retailers and agribusiness firms that depend on domination of the food supply. Their major argument is that GMO foods, especially corn and soy, have been consumed by Americans for around two decades and have not been shown to have an impact on human health in that time.
While some supporters of GMO labeling concede that human health may not be affected by the direct consumption of GMOs, there are other worries that have pushed the pro-labeling contingent, some of whom are completely anti-GMO, to call for more transparency from the food industry.
Companies like Monsanto and Dow Chemical market their own patented seeds that, given their genetic modification, can be doused with biocides to kill pests and weeds, and which can jeopardize long-term health of the soil and the necessary biodiversity of a local environment that allows for natural pollination and, thus, food security.
Monsanto could be about to receive US government approval for its next generation of the Roundup Ready system. The company’s new GMO crops – coupled with a potent biocidal dicamba/glyphosate cocktail – make up what Monsanto has dubbed the 'Roundup Ready Xtend crop system,' designed to trump super weeds that have evolved along with its original Roundup herbicide.
State labeling efforts no match for corporate cash
In recent years, GMO-labeling measures have failed in multiple US states while giving a scare to their corporate opponents. Voters in California and Washington State narrowly rejected ballot initiatives in 2012 and 2013, respectively, though not without dragging the likes of Monsanto, Bayer and Dow Chemical into expensive campaigns to defeat the measures.
Last November, labeling efforts were defeated in Colorado and Oregon, albeit narrowly for the latter state. In what became the most expensive campaign in Oregon’s history, Yes on 92 – the pro-labeling contingent – was outspent $21 million to $9 million by No on 92, which included major agribusiness and biotechnology companies with deep pockets, including Monsanto and DuPont, as well as anti-labeling trade group the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
One labeling effort succeeded in November, in Hawaii’s Maui County, though Monsanto and Dow Chemical quickly sued the county despite voters’ wishes.
Amid a wave of concern over GMO foods sweeping through the US and around the world, agricultural giants lobbying against labeling measures have spent over $100 million fighting the measures nationwide, a sum certain to increase with each passing year.
In response to popular concern over the ramifications of genetically-modified organisms, powerful farming and biotechnology interest groups have joined forces, as RT has previously reported, under the name 'Coalition for Safe Affordable Food' to push a federal voluntary labeling standard for food made with GMOs in an effort to stem the tide of state legislation seeking to mandate labeling.
The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 -- called the “Denying Americans the Right-to-Know Act” by opponents -- was introduced by Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo, an ally of Charles and David Koch, heads of the powerful multinational corporation Koch Industries. In December, according to reporting by AgriPulse Communications, Pompeo said hoped the bill would see legislative action at the committee level in March or April 2015.
In 2013 and 2014, there were over 70 GMO labeling bills and ballot initiatives introduced across 30 US states, according to the Center for Food Safety.
Vermont’s governor signed the nation’s first GMO labeling requirement into law in 2014, to take effect in 2016. And we need to give a BIG SALUTE out to Ben & Jerry's and their "ISSUES WE CARE ABOUT. LABELIZE-IT campaign," who are really helping to be a driving force not only in their state of Vermont but across the country. Bbut the governor and Ben & Jerry's efforts have fell short due to a coalition of biotech firms and farmer groups who filed a lawsuit to prevent that from happening.
Connecticut passed legislation saying it would require labeling, but for the law to go into effect, it required neighboring states whose populations add up to at least 20 million residents to pass similar legislation. Maine passed a labeling bill in 2014, requiring five nearby states, including New Hampshire, to pass similar legislation before its own law takes effect.
According to a study that analyzed research on labeling costs ahead of Oregon’s ballot initiative, mandatory labeling of genetically-engineered foods available to consumers would result in a cost increase of only $2.30 per person each year.
President Barack Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget would see a boost in funding for renewable energy and climate programs, while removing some carriages from the fossil fuel gravy train.
According to the Washington Post, the Budget proposes increases for research and development of clean energy technologies including solar, wind and geothermal power, plus increased funding for electric cars and advanced battery systems. A permanent extension of a tax credit for wind energy and solar power has also been proposed.
An extra USD $38 million would also go to the development of controversial carbon capture and storage technologies in an effort to rein carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.
$7.4 billion has been proposed for clean-energy programs in total, which is up 13.8% from current levels.
The Wall Street Journal says President Obama is continuing to pursue his plans to repeal oil, natural-gas and coal tax breaks that would rake in nearly $50 billion for the federal government over the next decade; with most of that coming from the oil and natural gas sector.
The proposal also calls for the elimination of $3.1 billion in some payments to fossil fuel and other mineral development on public lands and in federal waters over the next ten years.
“Our Nation thrives when we are leading the world with cutting-edge technology in manufacturing, infrastructure, clean energy, and other growing fields,” said President Obama in his Budget message.
In other recent related news, the US Energy Department announced more than $59 million in funding to support the rapid moving of innovative solar manufacturing technologies to market. The Department is also awarding more than $14 million for 15 new projects to help communities develop multi-year solar deployment plans.
“As President Obama noted in his State of the Union address, the U.S. brings as much solar power online every three weeks as we did in all of 2008,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “As the price of solar continues to drop, the Energy Department is committed to supporting a robust domestic solar manufacturing sector that will help American business meet growing demand and help American families and businesses save money by making solar a cheaper and more accessible source of clean electricity.”
US Wind Industry Praises Climate Pact
The USA’s top wind power body is celebrating the historic agreement between America and China to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
American Wind Energy Association CEO, Tom Kiernan, said the bilateral treaty sent a strong signal to investors that U.S. was open for business in wind power projects and other clean electricity solutions.
“Wind power is one of the biggest, fastest, cheapest ways to reduce carbon pollution and it means American workers can make more of our own energy right here in America,” said Kiernan.
Under the deal, announced at this year’s APEC summit, the U.S. has committed to reduce its carbon emissions 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025, while China says its emissions will peak – then begin to fall – by 2030.
Mr Kiernan said the landmark agreement between the world’s two biggest polluters was a message to other nations that “solving climate change is a top priority on both sides of the globe”. Economies would benefit from instituting policies – such as the USA’s Clean Power Act – that promote renewable energy.
“This agreement sends the right message to businesses and investors that scaling up clean energy not only benefits our economy, but will continue to be supported at the highest levels as something the world needs,” he said.
According to AWEA, wind energy in the U.S. has been the largest new zero-emission energy source for the past three decades, avoiding 127 million tons of CO2 emissions each year – the equivalent of taking 20 million cars off the road.
Two policies are most likely to positively impact upon wind power’s contribution to the US-China climate pact:
Using special provisions under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act, President Obama recently mandated a Clean Power Act that all U.S. states must cut pollution from power plants by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Although individual states may decide how to comply with the cuts, the least disruptive methods are likely to be increasing the flow of renewable energy to the grid and carbon trading mechanisms.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Vision scenario calls for an increase in the current four per cent share of wind energy generation in America to 20 per cent wind by 2030, and 35 per cent wind by 2050.
“We appreciate the leadership that President Obama and the rest of these world leaders are showing on the critical task of rapidly scaling up low-carbon energy sources,” said Kiernan. “Here in America, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Vision for the growth of our industry, we can quadruple wind power by 2030 and save consumers money doing it, if policymakers keep supporting state renewable standards and federal tax incentives to attract the necessary private investment.”
Poland Rejects UN’s Zero Carbon
Poland is leading the bandwagon for a number of eastern European countries to shut down a United Nations target to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2100.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released yet another report on how critical the situation of climate change is, but plans to fix the problem were curbed days before.
The IPCC report went even further than previous UN ones, not only highlighting humankind’s role in the continuing weather pattern shifts, but suggesting that if carbon emissions are not cut completely by the year 2100, the Earth will suffer tragic consequences. Just days before, on October 28th, environment and energy ministers for the European Union (EU) met in Brussels. A resolution proposed by Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany suggested the IPCC’s soon to be released report’s target be implemented into the EU — but not everyone was ok with the plan.
Poland, along with the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Latvia, “categorically rejected” the target.
“I really find this a disgrace,” said the Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout. “After the IPCC report, everyone again said it was shocking, the science is clear, we should no longer delay action. And then as soon as it comes to political decisions, they step back from that. It just seems to be empty words every time. This is one of the key reasons why people don’t trust politics anymore.”
During the summit, countries also didn’t check on the progress that each of them had been making towards the pledge of reducing carbon emissions since France, Poland and the Czech Republic rejected the idea. It was decided instead that the information would be handled during next year’s Climate Summit in Paris.
The IPCC report’s target of zero emissions by 2100 was also only mildly embraced by Connie Hedegaard, climate commissioner representative for the the European commission (EC). Despite the target being the only way to keep temperatures from rising over five degrees celsius (5C) and bringing about tremendous change to the environment, Hedegaard argued she was “all in favour of having a direction in which we should be going but it might be a bit premature to state it so directly – not all member states will probably be ready to do so”.
Meanwhile, Detlef van Vuuren, a lead author on the IPCC report, said regardless of the politics, the facts aren’t changing.
“To reach the 2C target, being at or below zero emissions is a requirement,” he warned. “It is not possible to have any form of stabilization of the climate by 2100 without that.”
Renewable Energy Master Plan
For California’s Deserts
California’s booming renewable energy sector and its impact on the state’s delicate desert region has resulted in the U.S. Department of the Interior developing a draft plan covering over 22 million acres of land for the siting of solar and wind energy projects.
According to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) seeks to strike a balance between conservation and a national Climate Action Plan that calls for expanding clean, domestic energy on public lands to create jobs and cut carbon pollution.
“The draft plan released today will help provide effective protection and conservation of the California desert important for wildlife, recreation, cultural preservation and other uses, while encouraging streamlined renewable energy development in the right places,” she said.
Under the proposal, the Bureau of Land Management would split 10 million acres of public land into separate zones; separating renewable energy development areas and the increasing the size of National Parks. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would also speed up the approval process for new renewable facilities by relaxing its General Conservation Plan.
Since 2009, the Department of the Interior has approved 52 utility-scale solar, wind and geothermal projects on public lands in the USA. President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, released in June 2013, calls for the introduction of a further 20,000 MW of renewable capacity by 2020. Much of this capacity will be centred in California.
17 solar and wind projects are within the designated DRECP region, including BrightSource Energy’s massive $2.2 billion Ivanpah Concentrating Solar Plant in the Mojave Desert, among others.
An investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revealed that a number of birds, including some rare species, had died as a result of burns from flying too close to these large-scale solar farms, and BrightSource was recently forced to pay $20 million to protect a rare desert tortoise at the Ivanpah plant.
These environmental impacts, the Interior Department says, are why a roadmap for the future development of California’s renewable resources is necessary. The draft DRECP is open for stakeholder comment through January 2015 and if adopted, will establish the future of renewable energy production in the state’s desert until 2040.
Australian City May Have Created a
In the Land Down Under, there is a movement happening, one that we all need to watch, especially our representatives. Our community office holders need to be stepping out and taking a leadership position such as the Mayor Hipkins in the city of Nedlands.
In a first for Australia, a council has voted to make on-site clean power generation on all new homes and some commercial buildings compulsory.
The City of Nedlands in Perth has led the way in turning more of the vast ocean of under-utilised rooftops in Australia’s towns and cities into power generators.
“All new development and at Council’s discretion, substantial additions to existing development shall provide on – site power generation by solar, wind or other means, approved by Council as follows:
i. For each residential dwelling – a minimum capacity of 1.5kW; and
ii. For each non – residential development with a value exceeding $1 million – capacity determined by Council with due regard to roof area and height.”
The City of Nedlands is located 7km from Perth, Western Australia; where a population of over 21,000 live in the suburbs of Nedlands, Dalkeith, Mt Claremont, Swanbourne, Karrakatta, and parts of Floreat and Shenton Park.
In July, Mayor Max Hipkins said more needed to be done in making Australia’s towns and cities more sustainable.
“Sustainability is now core business for all levels of government – a necessity, not an option. National governments are often slow to take up new ideas, so
cities – and mayors – need to show leadership in sustainability and response to climate change.”
Mayor Hipkins is a qualified town planner and architect. He has also completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in Public Administration from the Western Australian Institute of Technology and a Master of Science in Environmental Engineering from the Civil Engineering Department of the University of Washington.
One of the earlier adopters of home solar power, in 2007 Mayor Hipkins designed his home on passive solar principles and installed a 3.6 kW solar power system. At that time, the system cost $35,000; but today, a good quality 3.5kW solar panel system fully installed in Nedlands can cost as little as $6,500.
Kudos to Mayor Hopkins for setting an example, and taking a leadership approach, ReNewable Now hopes cities and town around the world take notice and being to mover their communities in the right direction.
DiCaprio, UN Messenger of Peace
Sends A Clear Message
Last week was a momentous week for Climate Change advocates, and possibly as the beginning of a watershed moment, in that we are going to experience significant changes to how we conduct consumption of energy, and how we tart our environment. ReNewable Now starts from the halls of the United Nations, where we hear the call for change, and we go right to the streets with an actual report from ReNewable Now correspondent, Catherine Caldwell, who was there live for this historic occasion.
“We are not here to talk, we are here to make history,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today told world leaders at an “unprecedented and important gathering” that aims to raise ambition, mobilize resources, and generate action towards a universal climate deal.
“The human, environmental and financial cost of climate change is fast becoming unbearable,” Mr. Ban told the opening ceremony of his much-anticipated Climate Summit in the General Assembly Hall. “We need a clear shared vision.”
Many of the more than 120 Heads of States and Government, business, finance and civil society representatives are today expected to announce commitments that will reduce emissions, enhance resistance to climate change and mobilize financing for climate action.
“I am asking you to lead,” Mr. Ban told them. “We must cut emissions. Science says they must peak by 2020 and decline sharply thereafter. By the end of this century we must be carbon neutral.”
Underscoring the importance of climate change as the defining issue of our age, Mr. Ban noted that the international community’s response today will define the future.
He noted that UN Headquarters, which was heavily impacted by Super Storm Sandy, will be carbon neutral by 2020.
“To ride this storm we need all hands on deck,” the top United Nations official summed. “Today we must set the world on a new course.”
Over the course of the day, participants will announce national action and ambition plans, and take part in thematic discussions on topics ranging from climate science to climate, health and jobs.
The UN also hopes to raise at least $10-15 billion during the Summit for the flagship Green Climate Fund created to support developing countries on their path to low-emission and climate resilient development.
Speaking to journalists later in the day, Mr. Ban recalled walking in the People’s March on Sunday with more than 300,000 people concerned about climate change.
“They asked me to bring their voices into the halls of the United Nations,” he said in reference to a box he was given with 2 million signatures.
“That is what I have done. Our duty now is to listen,” he added in a press conference alongside President François Hollande of France and Peru’s President Ollanta Humala.
Mr. Ban highlighted some of the announcements being made at today’s Summit. They include a Mayor’s Compact, signed by more than 200 mayors representing 400 million people, to reduce annual emissions by between 12.4 and 16.4 per cent.
The UN chief also noted some announcements by some of the world’s largest and most well-known companies to adapt their supply chains to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change, as well as assist 500 million farmers in the process.
Among other announcements, oil and gas companies are to pledge efforts to curb the release of methane gas, and some of the largest financial institutions will shift more than 200 billion dollars toward building low-carbon economies by 2015.
Also addressing today’s opening, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said there is only one option – urgent, daring action on climate change.
He vowed to follow through on climate efforts initiated by his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, who is now Mr. Ban’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. On Sunday, Mr. de Blasio announced that New York City is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the earth’s surface than any other decade since 1850, noted the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chairperson, Rajendra Pachauri.
“How on Earth can we leave our children with a world like this,” he asked. “I’m not sure I could stand before you if the threats of climate change had no solutions. But they do.”
“We are told the costs of limiting climate change are unaffordable – they are not, but wait until you get the bill for inaction,” Mr. Pachauri added.
Former United States Vice-President Al Gore underscored that the world has entered a period of consequences.
“The path to change is here,” he noted. “All we need is political will. But political will is a renewable resource.”
Participants also heard from newly-appointed UN Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio who said he was speaking not as an expert but as one of the 400,000 concerned citizens who marched in New York on Sunday, as part of the worldwide Peoples’ Climate March demonstrations.
“As an actor I pretend for a living, I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems. I believe mankind has looked at climate change in the same way, as if pretending climate change wasn’t real it would go away. But I think we know now that isn’t the case,” he said.
Listing of aspects of climate change, such as ocean acidification and melting glaciers, he underscored that “none of this is rhetoric, none of this hysteria, this is fact.”
Mr. DiCaprio addressed the Summit ahead of actor Li Bingbing, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Goodwill Ambassador.
Speaking on behalf of civil society, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands, delivered a moving poem to her infant daughter saying that she “won’t let her down” on climate change action. The infant was brought onstage, met with a standing ovation.
Before the Government officials spoke, the President of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, highlighted the two objectives of the meeting – to generate ambitious action on cutting gas emissions, increasing resilience and propelling the world towards a cleaner, greener economy, and to mobilize political will towards a meaningful, universal climate change agreement in Paris in 2015.
Those climate talks are being overseen by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Hawaii Funding Up To $50 Million
For Zero-Waste Project
The State of Hawaii recently passed legislation to assist in funding a zero-waste project that converts crops, crop residues, dedicated energy crops, and agricultural waste into economically and environmentally sustainable biofuels and value-added co-products. Hawaiis Department of Budget and Finance is now authorized, with the approval of Governor Neil Abercrombie, to issue special purpose revenue bonds in an amount not to exceed $50,000,000 for the purpose of planning, permitting, design, construction, equipping, and operating BioTork Hawaii LLC's commercial facilities.
BioTork's bioconversion development efforts in Hawaii date back to 2010 when it launched proof of principle research for its technology. Using a proprietary evolutionary optimization approach, BioTork enhances the performance of non-GMO microorganisms under real-world industrial conditions in an unrivaled cost efficient way. The conversion process takes a few days to cycle in a heterotrophic environment, meaning no sunlight is needed, to create oil for biofuel and high-protein feed.
Basing its efforts on the requirements of the "Hawaii Zero Waste Program"ť, BioTork entered into collaboration with the Daniel K. Inouye Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (DKI-PBARC). Since that time the State of Hawaii, recognizing the progress and potential global impact of this project, committed $4,800,000 in research, development and capital improvement funding through a contract with DKI-PBARC to focus on BioTork's evolution technology. Some of these funds have been committed through the state's barrel tax allocations, which target energy and food security initiatives. Other funds have been appropriated through legislative capital improvement program allocations.
With the additional support of special purpose revenue bond funding, BioTork Hawaii LLC will be able to fuel the third step of its development program. This would involve scaling up to build and operate commercial facilities that will have the capacity to convert agricultural crops and by-products such as albizia, sweet potatoes, papaya, sugarcane bagasse, glycerol and molasses to biofuels and high-protein feed.
"The passage of this legislation greatly enhances BioTork's efforts in Hawaii. It demonstrates the attractiveness and the potential of our technology, which is focused on the bioconversion of agricultural waste, into a higher value product."ť, says Eudes de Crecy, CEO of BioTork.
At BioTork, "we firmly believe that in many circumstances there is much more value in converting carbon rich organic biomass into high value products, than just burning it, burying it or using it as fertilizer in the field. The model we pursue is to breed the good microbe candidates to specifically address the locally available biomass sources, using natural methods and to create much more value to the local and global economy", says Tom Lyons, CSO of BioTork.
BRAVO! Senator Whitehouse of Rhode Island
If the State of Rhode Island didn't think it had great leadership and representation in Washington, we suggest that it take a moment and view this video of Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, where he rebuffs Senator James Inhofe's efforts to block a formal resolution acknowledging climate change. This took place on Thursday, July 28th.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R.-Okla.) are practically like Batman and Joker around here (I’ll let you decide who is who depending on whether you have a brain or not). Inhofe continued the epic struggle by blocking a resolution that formally acknowledged the reality of climate change and carbon pollution’s role in it. Inhofe says he based his decision on a petition signed by 9,000 American people — though some of the signatures listed belonged to The Spice Girls (not American) and MASH’s Maj. Frank Burns (not a person).
The reflex response would of course be to froth at the mouth and start hitting yourself on the head with a mallet like a cartoon wolf. But instead Whitehouse, with the Zen calm of Lao Tzu, spends a solid seven minutes patiently eviscerating every denier argument ever (including why you should trust the combined intellect of NASA, NOAA, Mars Inc., and Walmart over that of Baby Spice).
Again Senator Whitehouse, BRAVO! And for those of you who took the time to listen to the Senator's speech, you would realize that Corporate America taking steps to adjust means new jobs, new innovation, and new opportunities for everyone's future in living a sustainable and happy life.
US States Benefit From Carbon Tax
A new U.S. study has found that market-based mechanisms such as pricing fossil fuels are the cheapest way for states to prepare for President Obama’s Clean Power Plan; which mandates a 30 per cent drop in carbon emissions from the power sector below 2005 levels nationwide by 2030.
The study, by financial consultancy firm Analysis Group, examined carbon pricing schemes in several states across the U.S. and found those economies had experienced a net benefit in job creation and productivity, as well as cheaper energy prices for consumers.
"Several states have already put a price on carbon dioxide pollution, and their economies are doing fine. The bottom line: the economy can handle – and actually benefit from – these rules," said Analysis Group Senior Advisor Susan Tierney.
President Obama’s Clean Power Plan utilises power under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Air Act to require that by 2030 all power plants in the US cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 per cent below 2005 levels. They also demand a cut in particle pollution, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 per cent, plus will shrink power bills by up to eight per cent by improving energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.
It is up to individual states to decide how they will meet the cuts – the EPA has set a June 2016 deadline for plans to be submitted - but the Analysis Group report found that a well-designed and thoughtful approach to carbon pricing would be the least disruptive method of complying with the new rules, particularly if there is cooperation at state level.
"States that work together to form carbon markets or other collaborative initiatives have the potential to experience greater benefits than they would by trying to meet the new standards by themselves," the report reads.
WTO Rules US Solar Panel
Anti-Dumping Tariffs Illegal
Back in early June, ReNewable Now featured a report that described the solar panel trade war with the U.S. and China as really being a disadvantage for the United States in the long run, and we shared and article from Forbes contributor Tim Worstall, who called the decision "one of those great moments in stupidity over trade policy".
Well, it would seem that the actions of the U.S. Department of Commerce were not just poorly thought out, but actually violated international trade agreements.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has ruled the U.S. violated international trade agreements in 2012 by imposing anti-dumping tariffs and countervailing measures against imports of Chinese-made solar materials.
The ruling was a response to an appeal from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce that alleged the increased tariffs not only affected solar panels, but a total of 22 other products; amounting to an annual export value of $7.2 billion.
The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) announced in 2012 it would raise import tariffs on Chinese solar cells and panels by up to 35.2 per cent in order to protect domestic solar manufacturing which, the Department claimed, was unfairly disadvantaged by state-owned Chinese companies flooding the American market with cheap solar panels and equipment.
The WTO Investigatory Panel found the U.S. DOC acted inconsistently with obligations set forth in the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures when it initiated punitive tariff hikes against China as DOC officials failed to sufficiently prove that Chinese state-owned and partially state-owned solar businesses were "public bodies".
The ruling is subject to an appeals process with a 120-day time limit, but for now the U.S. is definitely on the back foot. In an immediate response to the decision, China’s Ministry of Commerce pushed for a recalibration of trade rules between the two nations.
"China urge(s) the U.S. side to respect the WTO’s ruling, stop the abuse of trade remedy measures as soon as possible and ensure the environment of fair competition for Chinese businesses."
The US national solar trade group, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), responded more cautiously:
"We are continuing to follow developments closely, but today’s WTO decision is not expected to impact either the 2012 U.S. solar countervailing duty (CVD) order against China or any new CVD tied to the ongoing investigation until 2016, at the earliest. It’s also important to remember that this decision is subject to an appeals process, which could take approximately 120 days."
Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) president, Jigar Shah was critical of the DOC and its entire handling of the issue.
"CASE agrees with the WTO that some important parts of the protectionist 2012 U.S. solar tariffs are inconsistent with our trade commitments to others. Even more importantly, they hurt American solar workers and slow the deployment of clean energy," he said.
"Yet the American solar industry once again faces uncertainty and unnecessary price hikes due to a new round of legal actions at the Department of Commerce. June’s countervailing duty determination is increasing module prices by 14%, and the Department of Commerce may attempt to further hike rates and expand solar tariffs with a preliminary anti-dumping determination this week."
Food Waste Recycling PanelSets The Tone for Rhode Island
ReNewable Now hosted the first in a series of panel discussions that revolve around the recently passed Rhode Island bill making food waste recycling mandatory for institutions (details FOOD RESIDUALS RECYCLING). This new law will come into effect in 2016, but prior to that there are still a lot of questions, concerns, and opportunities. The series, titled "The 2016 Countdown to Food Waste Recycling RI," is meant to help answer questions, bring awareness to what is happening, anticipate issues, and most importantly motivate entrepreneurs to see the business side of this new law.
The first event consisted of a panel of experts who helped to set the overall tone of the new law, and possible expectations. They included no other than the driving force of the bill, R.I. Representative Donna M. Walsh, who spoke about her inspiration behind submitting the legislation, and also her amazement of the bill passing on its first introduction. The second panelist was Attorney Matthew Bussy, of Rhode Island's Hospitality Association, who are taking a close look at how this law will evolve and affect their members as time passes. The third person on the panel was Rhode IslandResourceRecovery's Sarah Kite, Director of Recycling Services. Sarah spoke overall about what they expect, and how it may impact RIRRC, and also how it could affect their existing relationship with Broadrock Renewable Energy if methane gas production decreases due to the diversion of food waste to private handlers.
The interest in the subject was clearly shown by a capacity filled studio where registration to the event had to be closed early. In the audience were stake holders from higher education such as Rhode Island College and Brown University and businesses such as Whole Foods Market, Farmfresh RI, and the Compost Plant.
The first episode within the series is being broadcast on 1320 WRNP, and will be made available as a podcast. If you would like to become part of the series just e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nothing Partisan About Renewing American Wind Power Incentives
This was recently shared with us by our friend Miles Grant from the National Wildlife Federation and we thought it would be a good example of how politics can be put aside when it come to the common good.
This was a letter that was submitted to Congress by New Bedford, Mass. Mayor Jon Mitchell (D) and Virginia Beach, Va. Mayor Will Sessoms (R)
New Bedford, Mass. Mayor Jon Mitchell (D)
Virginia Beach, Va. Mayor Will Sessoms (R)
At a time when Congress needs to demonstrate to the American people that it can still get important things done, it has a unique opportunity to do exactly that by renewing its commitment to critical wind energy incentives. We urge the Senate to pass its package of tax incentives that includes key credits for renewable energy. In doing so, Congress can show it is still focused on priorities that matter most to the public—encouraging the creation of good-paying jobs and spurring private sector investment.
As mayors of New Bedford, Massachusetts and Virginia Beach, Virginia, a Democrat and a Republican, we are not interested in partisan politics. We believe that effective job-creation strategies are critical for our cities to remain good places to work, live and raise families. We also believe that our local economies, and those of other communities from coast to coast, are primed to become the beneficiaries of thousands of new jobs from a new national renewable energy industry that has the capacity to power millions of homes – offshore wind.
Simply put, the offshore wind opportunity is real and we cannot afford to miss it.
With Congress advancing bipartisan, job-creating tax incentives, cities big and small across the country can experience the economic development benefits of the offshore wind industry. These jobs are already becoming a reality in the City of New Bedford. In the 19th century, New Bedford was the whaling capital of the world, and residents sailed to the far reaches of every ocean in a hunt for energy. Today, New Bedford is working to reclaim its title as “The City that Lit the World” by aggressively pursuing opportunities in the emerging American offshore wind industry.
A forward-looking state investment has made New Bedford, the nation’s top-grossing fishing port, the new home of the nation’s first purpose-built marine terminal for offshore wind, and the entire community has undertaken a concerted effort to prepare students, workforce and businesses for the green energy jobs of the future. Terminal construction has already created nearly 100 jobs. New Bedford is ramping up its preparations to stage the nation’s first off shore wind project, Cape Wind. And the City is doing the long-term strategic planning necessary to maximize our role in the generation of offshore wind projects to follow Cape Wind.
In short, New Bedford is doing everything it can to position itself as an ideal location for the industry to build its future. What it needs is a federal government partner.
Virginia Beach is likewise seizing the offshore wind opportunity. The Navy has given its assurance that properly-placed turbines can go hand-in-hand with critical military operations off the coast.
The Hampton Roads area has the largest concentration of military bases and facilities of any metropolitan area in the world. The area is also home to the nation’s largest shipbuilding industry – an industry well versed in producing the materials that can weather the rugged marine environment where offshore wind turbines will be erected.
Both New Bedford and Virginia Beach have the know-how and skilled workforces that can make them manufacturing hubs for the over 8,000 parts in a wind turbine. Offshore wind energy can preserve the traditions that have made both communities special while strengthening our economy, energy security, and natural resources for future generations. And we are very anxious to get started.
European and Asian observers are scratching their heads wondering why we are not seizing this opportunity. Over the course of two decades European leaders have installed more than 2,000 offshore wind turbines that provide clean renewable energy to millions of homes and businesses – while supporting nearly 60,000 jobs. China and Japan have offshore wind projects online, with big plans for future development.
The hardworking men and women of our communities deserve the same opportunities for good paying jobs. Our children, our wildlife, and future generations of both deserve clean air and clean water. There is nothing partisan about any of this.
Renewing incentives for offshore wind power will provide the financial stability our federal government has historically offered to many emerging industries. The private sector needs predictability to justify the billions of dollars in investment that will bring America’s offshore wind power opportunities to fruition – including, most importantly, the tens of thousands of manufacturing and maritime jobs that will keep it running. That’s where New Bedford and Virginia Beach come in.
Congress, let’s put our cities to work building a cleaner future, and let’s start today.
US/China Going to WAR Over Solar Panels 'Great Moment In Stupidity"'
The US government has announced a decision to whack additional import duties of up to 35.2 per cent on Chinese-made solar panels.
The ongoing solar trade war has its roots in complaints made by a Germany headquartered manufacturer in 2011. In 2012, the Department of Commerce imposed an initial round of tariffs on solar cells from China.
The new duties will expand from just solar cells to full solar panels assembled in China.
While the ruling is preliminary, the US will start collecting the duties ahead of the final decision later this year.
Forbes contributor Tim Worstall has called the decision "one of those great moments in stupidity over trade policy."
Given the US government is offering incentives to install solar panels; cheaper modules mean more solar bang for buck - a better return on investment for American taxpayers. Assuming the panels are of reasonable quality and the major goal is being achieved, Mr. Worstall questions the singling out of the Chinese Government.
"Let’s just assume that they really are subsidising Chinese producers. That the Chinese taxpayer is being charged so that panels will be cheaper for American consumers. The logical American reaction to this is to say thanks very much. Even, please subsidise some more and send us more panels."
Some have also commented the imposing of high duties plays right into the hands of the fossil fuel sector - increasing solar panel prices will slow uptake and help preserve the profits of coal based power generators.
While the issue of local jobs and manufacturing is an important one, slower uptake can also translate to job losses or dampened job creation rates in other areas, such as installation - where the bulk of solar jobs are created.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says the U.S. Department of Commerce's decision threatens to derail the rapid growth of the U.S. solar industry.
Obama "Nails It!"
Cutting Carbon Will Create Opportunities
In a sweeping initiative to curb pollutants blamed for global warming, the Obama administration unveiled a plan this week to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by nearly a third over the next 15 years.
ReNewable Now is excited about the possibilities here because we see the potential for new business opportunities putting people to work in alternative clean energy industries. And when you really study the issue, there are many diverse possibilities for the creation of new jobs even beyond energy. What is also important to consider is the cost savings in overall community health as it relates to our air quality, and what eventually may fall into our water and food supply.
This is the statement that came from the EPA yesterday as they made the announcement.
At the direction of President Obama and after an unprecedented outreach effort, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is today releasing the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Today’s proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.
"Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life. EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama's Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source--power plants," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don't have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment--our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs."
Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. While there are limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels.
With the Clean Power Plan, EPA is proposing guidelines that build on trends already underway in states and the power sector to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, making them more efficient and less polluting. This proposal follows through on the common-sense steps laid out in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.
By 2030, the steady and responsible steps EPA is taking will:
Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year;
Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.
The Clean Power Plan will be implemented through a state-federal partnership under which states identify a path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the proposed program. The proposal provides guidelines for states to develop plans to meet state-specific goals to reduce carbon pollution and gives them the flexibility to design a program that makes the most sense for their unique situation. States can choose the right mix of generation using diverse fuels, energy efficiency and demand-side management to meet the goals and their own needs. It allows them to work alone to develop individual plans or to work together with other states to develop multi-state plans.
Also included in today’s proposal is a flexible timeline for states to follow for submitting plans to the agency—with plans due in June 2016, with the option to use a two-step process for submitting final plans if more time is needed. States that have already invested in energy efficiency programs will be able to build on these programs during the compliance period to help make progress toward meeting their goal.
Since last summer, EPA has directly engaged with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others. The data, information and feedback provided during this effort helped guide the development of the proposal and further confirmed that states have been leading the way for years in saving families and businesses money through improving efficiency, while cleaning up pollution from power plants. To date, 47 states have utilities that run demand-side energy efficiency programs, 38 have renewable portfolio standards or goals, and 10 have market-based greenhouse gas emissions programs. Together, the agency believes that these programs represent a proven, common-sense approach to cutting carbon pollution—one in which electricity is generated and used as efficiently as possible and which promotes a greater reliance on lower-carbon power sources.
Today’s announcement marks the beginning of the second phase of the agency’s outreach efforts. EPA will accept comment on the proposal for 120 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold four public hearings on the proposed Clean Power Plan during the week of July 28 in the following cities: Denver, Atlanta, Washington, DC and Pittsburgh. Based on this input, EPA will finalize standards next June following the schedule laid out in the June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.
In 2009, EPA determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans' health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment. Taking steady, responsible steps to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants will protect children’s health and will move our nation toward a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations, while supplying the reliable, affordable power needed for economic growth.
Here’s what you need to know about the proposal:
Q: How does the government plan to limit emissions?
A: Unable to persuade the US Congress to act on climate change, Obama is turning to another law — the Clean Air Act.
The 1970s-era law has long been used to regulate pollutants like soot, mercury and lead but has only recently been applied to greenhouse gases.
Unlike with new power plants, the government can't regulate existing plant emissions directly. Instead, the government will issue guidelines for cutting emissions, then each state will develop its own plan to meet those guidelines. If a state refuses, the EPA can create its own plan. Q: Why are these rules necessary?
A: Power plants are the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Environmentalists and the White House say without bold action, climate change will intensify and endanger the public's wellbeing around the world. In its National Climate Assessment this year, the administration said warming and erratic weather will become increasingly disruptive unless curtailed.
“This is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now,” Obama said in May.
The United States is only one player in the global climate game. These rules won't touch carbon emissions in other nations whose coal plants are even dirtier. But the White House believes that leading by example gives the US more leverage to pressure other countries, such as China, to reduce their own emissions.
Q: How steep will the reductions be?
A: We don't know yet.
The administration hasn't said whether it will set one universal standard or apply different standards in each state. But Obama's senior adviser, John Podesta, said the reductions will be made “in the most cost-effective and most efficient way possible,” by giving flexibility to the states.
That could include offsetting emissions by increasing the use of solar and nuclear power, switching to cleaner-burning fuels like natural gas or creating efficiency programs that reduce energy demand. States might also pursue an emissions-trading plan — also known as cap-and-trade — as several northeast states have already done. Q: Doesn't Obama need approval from Congress? A: Not for this. A 2007 Supreme Court ruling gave the EPA the green light to regulate carbon-dioxide under the Clean Air Act. But that doesn't mean there won't be fierce opposition and drawn-out litigation. The government is expecting legal challenges and is preparing to defend the rules in court if necessary.
Q: Is this the final step?
A: Not even close. After the draft rule is proposed, there's a full year for public comment and revisions. Then states have another year to submit their implementation plans to the EPA.
Solar Helping Battle Electoral Fraud
An Australian company has developed a solar powered voter verification system to help ensure fairer elections in Africa.
Electoral fraud is an issue in all nations, but particularly so on the African continent. Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe won a seventh term in office last year amid accusations of large-scale electoral fraud.
The Genie ID system can generate photo ID and send images signatures and fingerprints back to a central location via 3G wireless networks for cross-referencing. This can help prevent voters from voting multiple times or attempting to assume the identity of a deceased person still on the electoral role.
Part of the system is Rollcall, which automatically initiates an adjudication process if suspected fraud is detected. The suspect registration is checked by two adjudicators, who then review the data and decide if a fraud has occurred or not.
The entire verification process takes 2 minutes from start to finish.
"The Genie ID Verification unit makes it easy for electoral officials at voting centres on Election Day to confidently verify that the person who is seeking to vote is actually the same person that appears on the Voter Registration ID card that is being presented before them," says the company.
The units can be powered directly from mains, or a small solar panel - an important feature given electricity supply can be sporadic or non-existent in many parts of Africa. Constructed from heavy-duty materials, the Genie ID can withstand harsh environmental conditions.
The parent company of Genie ID, The Jazzmatrix Corporation, is based in Iluka, Western Australia.
According to Dynamic Business, the company is in negotiations with the electoral commissions in Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Tanzania for Genie IDs; with Tanzania considering around 15,000 units and Mozambique is contemplating an order of 2,700 units.
Solar back on White House!
"I am very bullish on the future of solar energy as a key part of our clean energy future." - Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz
It's taken decades and nearly 4 years since approval from US President Barack Obama, but solar panels are finally back on the White House rooftop.
The installation, while of a modest size, acts as an important signal to the entire nation.
"Solar panels on the White House I think are a really important message that solar is here, we are doing it, we are doing a lot more,"said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.
"I am very bullish on the future of solar energy as a key part of our clean energy future."
Solar panels last featured on the White House in the 80's; thanks to the foresight of 39th U.S. President Jimmy Carter who had a solar hot water system installed in the 1970's. However, the panels were removed in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan who believed the installation "didn't befit a super-power".
There have been other solar installations on the White House grounds. A 9kW system was installed on a maintenance building in 2003 at the direction of George W Bush; but the system is said to be heavily shaded.
As the White House installation was unveiled, President Barack Obama also announced more than 300 organizations in the public and private sector have made commitments to accelerate deployment of solar power and invest in energy efficiency.
"The commitments represent more than 850 megawatts of solar deployed – enough to power nearly 130,000 homes – as well as energy efficiency investments that will lower bills for more than 1 billion square feet of buildings," says the White House blog.
"Additionally, the President announced new executive actions that will lead to $2 billion in energy efficiency investments in Federal buildings; smarter appliances that will cut carbon pollution by more than 380 million metric tons – equivalent to taking 80 million cars off the road for one year – and will save businesses nearly $26 billion on their energy bills; and training programs at community colleges across the country that will assist 50,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020."
The Windy CityBlows AwayPlastic Bags
“Paper or plastic?” will no longer be a choice in Chicago, starting next year.
As expected, at an April 30 city council meeting, Chicago aldermen voted 36-10 to ban plastic bags at chain and franchise stores. The ban goes into effect for large retailers in August 2015 and one year later for shops smaller than 10,000 square feet. Family-owned stores and restaurants will not be affected.
All stores will have to provide or sell reusable bags, recyclable paper bags or compostable plastic bags and have the option of charging for the disposable bags.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been supportive of the ban once small, family-owned businesses were exempted, as part of his larger plans to improve Chicago’s waste management and recycling systems.
Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno spent more than two years spearheading the anti-bag effort in Chicago and has called single-use plastic bags “a relic of yesterday’s economy,” insisting that no jobs or business will be lost because of the ban.
Is this a model for other cities across the U.S.? Some who fight for the environment have issues?
Environmentalist and executive director of Bring Your Bag Chicago, Jean Jordan, lambasted the bag ordinance in her own Tribune op-ed the day before the vote, saying that without a fee, the effort “masquerades as a piece of environmental legislation” that will not help stop litter or lower cleanup costs.
“The problem with the absence of a fee is that consumers aren’t encouraged to change their behavior: They will choose the ‘free’ bag, while retailers embed the costs of those bags in their product prices. A small fee is not punitive. It’s an educational tool that triggers consumer awareness of disposable bag waste,” she wrote.
Also noted from the plastics industry, according to them : that paper bags have a higher carbon dioxide footprint than plastic ones and compostable bags “are the worst of both worlds” if they don’t actually make it to a proper industrial composting facility.
For plastics industry groups, for whom concern about manufacturing jobs continue to mount as bag ban ordinances pile up around the country, the answer is simple: recycling programs.
“Comprehensive plastic bag recycling education would have been the better option for Chicago’s environment and would have preserved consumers’ freedom of choice. We are exploring all options to reverse this terrible decision,” APBA’s Califf said in an April 30 news release.
“It is extremely unfortunate that the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance that could destroy plastics manufacturing jobs in Chicago and other areas across the country that recycle these valuable products,” said SPI President and CEO William Carteaux.
For us here at ReNewable Now, this is a very interesting real life model that we can monitor and research deeper and truly see if the benefits outweigh the negatives. And for any of our readers out there who can share their knowledge on which is worse for the environment, COMPOSTABLE BAGS or PLASTIC, we would like to hear and share what you know with our readers.
Vermont to Make GMO Labeling Law
A law that would make Vermont the first U.S. state to enact mandatory labeling of foods made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, received final approval from state lawmakers on Wednesday and now heads to the governor's desk.
The Vermont House of Representative passed the bill 114-30. Last week, the Vermont Senate, by a vote of 28-2, approved the measure, which requires foods containing GMOs sold at retail outlets to be labeled as having been produced or partially produced with "genetic engineering." "Vermont's leading the nation on this, giving consumers basic information about the food that they are eating," said Falko Schilling, a spokesman for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, which backed the bill.
The Vermont bill also makes it illegal to describe any food product containing GMOs as "natural" or "all natural."
Unlike bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut, which require other states to pass GMO labeling laws before they can be enacted, Vermont's contains no such trigger clause. The law would take effect July 1, 2016.
Backers of the law said they expect Governor Peter Shumlin to sign it. Shumlin's office did not immediately comment.
The developers of genetically modified crops and the $360 billion U.S. packaged food industry are pushing for passage of a bill in Congress that would nullify any state law to require labeling of foods made with such crops.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than two dozen states are considering GMO labeling bills.
Some of the most widely-used GM crops are corn, soybeans and canola, staple ingredients in packaged foods.
Consumer groups say labeling is needed because of questions about the safety of GM crops for human health and for the environment. Last October, a group of 93 international scientists said there was a lack of empirical and scientific evidence to support what they said were false claims by the biotech industry about a "consensus" on safety. It said more independent research is needed and studies showing safety tend to be funded and backed by the biotech industry.
GMO crop developers such as Monsanto and their backers say genetically modified crops have been overwhelmingly proven safe.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association said Wednesday it was evaluating whether to sue to try to stop "this misguided legislation." Consumers can buy organic foods if they want to avoid GMOs, the group said.
"GM crops are safe and have important benefits for people and our planet," the GMA said in a statement. "The government therefore has no compelling interest in warning consumers about foods containing GM ingredients..."
US Plans New $4 Billion Renewables Support Program
The USA's Department of Energy (DoE) has issued a draft loan guarantee solicitation for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that could make as much as USD $4 billion in loan guarantees available. "Through our existing renewable energy loan guarantees, the Department’s Loan Programs Office helped launch the U.S. utility-scale solar industry and other clean energy technologies that are now contributing to our clean energy portfolio," said Secretary Ernest Moniz. "We want to replicate that success by focusing on technologies that are on the edge of commercial-scale deployment today."
The five key technology areas of interest to the DoE are: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy; enhancement of existing facilities and efficiency improvements.
The Department’s Loan Programs Office has been no slouch in supporting renewables and energy efficiency; with more than $30 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and commitments supporting dozens of projects throughout the nation.
Among the beneficiary projects was the Caithness Shepherds Flat wind project, an 845 MW wind farm located in eastern Oregon. The Department of Energy provided a $1.3 billion partial loan guarantee that was crucial to the project's success.
Another project to benefit was the Agua Caliente Solar project, a 290-megawatt solar panel based power station Yuma County, Arizona. The Department of Energy provided a USD $967 million loan guarantee for this project.
Before the latest program is rolled out, the Department is inviting public comment; which will be considered in defining the scope of the final solicitation. The draft solicitation can be viewed here.
The DoE's Loan Programs enables the body to work with private companies and financiers to mitigate the financing risks associated with clean energy projects, "and thereby encourage their development on a broader and much-needed scale."
Washington Gives Wind a Shot inThe Arm
Washington, D.C., — The renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) were included last week with bipartisan support, as the U.S. Senate Finance Committee reported out a tax extenders package whose swift passage is critically important to the continued growth of the U.S. wind energy industry.
“We’re grateful to all the supporters of renewable energy on the Senate Finance Committee,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “This provides a critical signal for our industry, which has created up to 85,000 jobs and has a bright future ahead, as we grow from 4 percent of the U.S. power grid to an expected 20 percent and beyond, so long as we have a predictable business climate.
“Passage by the full Congress will preserve an essential incentive for private investment that has averaged $15 billion a year into new U.S. wind farms, and create more orders for over 550 American factories in the supply chain.”
The bill would restore two key tax credits for the wind industry. Both credits have helped spur the sector’s rapid growth in recent years, but Congress allowed them to expire at the end of last year. Uncertainty over whether the incentives would be extended into 2014 was blamed for a startling decline in wind farm construction last year, when just 1 gigawatt of capacity was installed — down from 13 gigawatts the year before.
Thursday’s move by the Senate Finance Committee doesn’t guarantee that the full Senate will support resurrection of the credits, much less the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But encouraging signs emerged after Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) tried to kill the credits. He argued that restoring them would amount to picking energy-industry winners and losers and forcing taxpayers to “subsidize inefficient, uncompetitive forms of energy.” (Meanwhile, taxpayers continue a century-long tradition of subsidizing fossil fuels.) CleanTechnica reports on the encouraging bipartisan response to Toomey’s effort:
The PTC [wind energy Production Tax Credit] and the alternate Investment Tax Credit were added overnight to a modified “Chairman’s mark,” after an earlier draft released Monday left them and several other provisions for further negotiation.
They prevailed on a critical 18-6 vote during the committee markup late Thursday morning, on a motion by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to strip them out. Five Republicans joined the committee’s Democrats in voting down that amendment: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Thune (R-SD), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and John Cornyn (R-TX).
A number of Senators on both sides of the aisle highlighted the success of the PTC and ITC. Grassley spoke at length in favor of the tax credits, and called Toomey’s arguments against their extension “intellectually dishonest,” considering billions of dollars a year in permanent incentives for other forms of energy with which renewable energy competes.
Obama's Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions
In June 2013, President Obama gave a speech at Georgetown University where he laid out both the case for action on climate change and the steps his Administration will take to address it. The Climate Action Plan that the President announced includes steps to cut carbon pollution, help prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that are already on the way, and continue American leadership in international efforts to combat global climate change.
In his Climate Action Plan, President Obama directed the Administration to develop a comprehensive, interagency strategy to cut methane emissions. On March 28th, the White House released the Climate Action Plan - Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions. Learn more about the strategy in the fact sheetbelow, and check out the full Strategy here.
FACT SHEET: Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions
With an all-of-the-above approach to develop homegrown energy and steady, responsible steps to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our kids’ health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so we leave a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations. That’s why last June, President Obama issued a broad-based Climate Action Plan, announcing a series of executive actions to reduce carbon pollution, prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to address global climate change.
Since June, the Administration has made substantial progress in meeting the ambitious goals laid out in the Climate Action Plan in a way that advances our economy, our environment, and public health. In just the last few months:
The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced permitting the 50th renewables-related project on federal lands during the Administration - bringing us closer to meeting the goal of siting enough wind and solar projects on public lands by 2020 to power more than 6 million homes.
President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation to develop fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles to save families money at the pump and further reduce reliance on foreign oil and fuel consumption.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has issued two proposed energy conservation standards for appliances and equipment and finalized two energy conservation standards. That’s on top of the five proposed and two final energy conservation standards DOE has already issued since June. These standards will help cut consumers' electricity bills by billions of dollars.
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced seven new “climate hubs” to help farmers and ranchers adapt their operations to a changing climate and the President’s Budget proposed a $1 billion in new funding for new technologies and incentives to build smarter, more resilient infrastructure to help communities prepare for a changing climate.
The Administration announced the Climate Data Initiative, an ambitious new effort bringing together extensive open government data and design competitions with commitments from the private and philanthropic sectors to develop data-driven planning and resilience tools for local communities. This effort will help give communities across America the information and tools they need to plan for current and future climate impacts.
The Administration has continued the work of the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group that’s working to promote clean energy and transportation solutions in both countries. And we’re working closely with India to accelerate its clean energy revolution and address the impacts of climate change in vulnerable communities.
Today, the Administration is releasing another key element called for in the President’s Climate Action Plan – a Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions. The strategy summarizes the sources of methane emissions, commits to new steps to cut emissions of this potent greenhouse gas, and outlines the Administration’s efforts to improve the measurement of these emissions. The strategy builds on progress to date and takes steps to further cut methane emissions from landfills, coal mining, and agriculture, and oil and gas systems through cost-effective voluntary actions and common-sense standards. Key steps include:
Landfills: In the summer of 2014, the EPA will propose updated standards to reduce methane from new landfills and take public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills.
Coal Mines: In April 2014, the DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will release an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to gather public input on the development of a program for the capture and sale, or disposal of waste mine methane on lands leased by the Federal government.
Agriculture: In June, in partnership with the dairy industry, the USDA, EPA and DOE will jointly release a “Biogas Roadmap” outlining voluntary strategies to accelerate adoption of methane digesters and other cost-effective technologies to reduce U.S. dairy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.
Oil and Gas: Building on success in reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector through voluntary programs and targeted regulations, the Administration will take new actions to encourage additional cost-effective reductions. Key steps include:
In the spring of 2014, EPA will assess several potentially significant sources of methane and other emissions from the oil and gas sector. EPA will solicit input from independent experts through a series of technical white papers, and in the fall of 2014, EPA will determine how best to pursue further methane reductions from these sources. If EPA decides to develop additional regulations, it will complete those regulations by the end of 2016.
Later this year, the BLM will propose updated standards to reduce venting and flaring from oil and gas production on public lands.
As part of the Quadrennial Energy Review, and through DOE-convened roundtables, the Administration will identify “downstream” methane reduction opportunities. Through the Natural Gas STAR program, EPA will work with the industry to expand voluntary efforts to reduce methane emissions.
Taking action to curb methane waste and pollution is important because emissions of methane make up nearly 9 percent of all the greenhouse gas emitted as a result of human activity in the United States. Since 1990, methane pollution in the United States has decreased by 11 percent, even as activities that can produce methane have increased. However, methane pollution is projected to increase to a level equivalent to over 620 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution in 2030 absent additional action to reduce emissions.
Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change; and putting methane to use can support local economies with a source of clean energy that generates revenue, spurs investment and jobs, improves safety, and leads to cleaner air. When fully implemented, the policies in the methane strategy will improve public health and safety while recovering otherwise wasted energy to power our communities, farms, factories, and power plants.
Steven Chu On Power Companies The "death spiral"
Former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu isn't mincing words these days - and he offers some advice to help power companies avoid a "death spiral".
The "death spiral" refers to the phenomenon where high penetration and low cost of renewables erodes the value of coal and gas fired electricity generation facilities.
It's not something that may happen one day - it's already occurring. German utility RWE lost more than $3.8 billion last year due to unprofitable fossil fuel power generation plants.
RWE isn't the only utility in Germany feeling the pinch. E.ON, Germany's biggest utility, recently stated it would shut more than a quarter of its power plants in Europe in response to a rise in renewables.
In Australia, mains-grid supplied electricity demand has been decreasing; partly due to the uptake of home solar power and commercial solar systems. The Australian Energy Market Operator says demand for 2013-14 financial year will again be lower than the previous year.
The death spiral could have been avoided if utilities embraced solar instead of resisting it in an effort to maintain their old-school and strong-arm approach to energy. While it's not too late, Big Energy needs to change how it views the threat it sees in small-scale solar; instead considering it an opportunity.
In an interview published on Forbes, Mr. Chu lashes out at utilities attempting to maintain the old status quo and curtail the growth of solar using tactics such as introducing extra charges for solar households or claiming grid stability issues. Mr. Chu states the latter is a 'bullshit argument' where solar hasn't yet reached 20% saturation.
He suggests utilities start embracing solar under a new model; one where they buy solar panels, batteries and associated equipment and partner with solar installation firms to install systems at utility customer homes. The customer pays nothing for the system - the utility owns the equipment and sells the electricity to customers at a much lower rate.
Utilities companies would benefit from a distributed electricity generation network installed "where they need it the most, at the end of the distribution system, for grid stability," says Chu.
New Zealand network operator Vector has already embarked on similar program with its SunGenie initiative. It provides installation of solar and storage, with the customer pays a fixed monthly cost.
"As a network operator, we see a lot of benefits in homes being able to make and store part of the electricity they use," states Vector.
"One of our big challenges is balancing load across the network at peak times. Homes that have solar electricity stored in batteries reduce the load on the grid, which is good for everyone."
Hasbro Recognized as U.S. EPA Honors Corporations for Cutting Greenhouse Gases
SAN DIEGO, California, - EPA's Climate Protection Partnerships Division is committed to reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) through cost-effective partnerships to advance clean energy and energy efficiency across the U.S. economy.
Corporations as different as aerospace giant Boeing, Caesars Entertainment with its hotels and casinos, the networking equipment company Cisco Systems, toy company Hasbro, Fruit of the Loom underwear, the Hartford Financial Services Group, telecommunications company Sprint and Mack Trucks were honored for their leadership in protecting the climate.Caesars
At the 2014 Climate Leadership Conference in San Diego, the U.S. EPA Center for Corporate Climate Leadership announced the winners of the third annual Climate Leadership Awards.
Nineteen awards were given to 15 organizations and two individuals in the public and private sectors for their leadership in addressing climate change by reducing carbon pollution.
Rhode Island's very own Hasbro toy company was also recognized during the awards ceremony with the Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management—Goal Setting—for the following accomplishments:
Hasbro established a GHG goal to reduce both absolute emissions and GHG intensity (per square foot) by 20 percent by 2020 from a 2012 base year.
Hasbro's plan to achieve its current goal includes replacing existing roof insulation with more energy efficient materials, making HVAC upgrades and replacements, converting from fuel oil to natural gas, and replacing hydraulic molding machines with electric machines.
This is Hasbro's third public GHG reduction goal. Hasbro's first goal achieved a 43 percent absolute reduction in GHG emissions from 2000 to 2007 for U.S. operations, while its second goal reduced global GHG emissions by 32 percent from 2008 to 2012. Both prior goals were established through the EPA's former Climate Leaders program. Hasbro was also awarded a Climate Leadership Award for Excellence in GHG Management (Goal Achievement) in 2012.
Other 2014 Climate Leadership Award winners were:
Organizational Leadership Award: City of Chula Vista, Sprint, and University of California, Irvine
Individual Leadership Award: Sam Brooks, associate director, D.C. Department of General Services, and Robert Taylor, energy manager, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission Supply Chain Leadership Award: Sprint Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management, a Goal Achievement Award: The Boeing Company; Caesars Entertainment; Cisco Systems, Inc.; Ecolab; The Hartford; IBM; Johnson Controls; Kohl’s Department Stores; Mack Trucks; and Novelis, the world’s largest recycler of aluminum Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management, a Goal Setting Certificate: Fruit of the Loom, Inc.; Hasbro, Inc.; and Kohl’s Department Stores.
“Our Climate Leadership Award winners have made great strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and are providing leadership nationwide in many sectors of our economy,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.
“Their innovative approaches and commitment to reducing carbon pollution demonstrate that efforts to address climate change are repaid by saving money and energy, while supporting more livable and resilient communities, and a healthier, better protected environment now and for future generations,” said McCabe.
The national awards program recognizes and incentivizes exemplary corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in response to climate change. Award recipients represent a wide array of industries, including finance, manufacturing, retail, technology, higher education and local government.
The EPA offered these awards in partnership with the Association of Climate Change Officers, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and The Climate Registry.
“The Association of Climate Change Officers is pleased to recognize another exceptional class of organizations and individuals who are demonstrating leadership in driving climate action into their organizational cultures,” said Daniel Kreeger, ACCO’s co-founder and executive director.
“These award recipients are demonstrating critical devotion and leadership to managing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the risks and challenges posed by climate change. These recipients are role models for corporate, organizational, and individual leaders who can and should be responding proactively to climate change risks and opportunities,” said Kreeger.
“Communities and businesses are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, and we need to act now to protect both our environment and our economy,” said C2ES President Eileen Claussen.
“We join EPA in applauding the winners of the Climate Leadership Awards. These companies, organizations, and individuals demonstrate that we can save energy, reduce emissions, and take decisive steps toward a low-carbon future,” Claussen said. “We hope their accomplishments will serve as an example for others to follow.”
“The Climate Registry applauds this year’s Climate Leadership Award winners for demonstrating a meaningful, results-oriented response to climate change,” said David Rosenheim, executive director of TCR.
“Exhibiting transparency, consistent metrics, and innovative mitigation measures, our deserving award recipients are building a stronger platform for policy, innovation, and business solutions to reducing carbon pollution,” he said.
Fruit of the Loom, Inc. set a GHG reduction goal of 40 percent between 2012 and 2015 for global operations. (Photo by Nathan Bush)
The President’s Climate Action Plan calls on the federal government to work with all stakeholders to take action to cut the harmful carbon pollution that fuels climate change. These organizations and individuals are working to do just that.
The EPA’s Center for Corporate Climate Leadership was launched in 2012 to establish norms of climate leadership by encouraging organizations with emerging climate objectives to identify and achieve cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reductions, while helping more advanced organizations drive innovations in reducing their greenhouse gas impacts in their supply chains and beyond.
The Center serves as a resource to help organizations of all sizes measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions, providing technical tools, ground-tested guidance, educational resources, and opportunities for information sharing and peer exchange.
Kicking Vehicle Efficiency into High Gear
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on improving the fuel efficiency of American trucks, at the Safeway Distribution Center in Upper Marlboro, Md., Feb. 18, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
When the President took office, the fuel efficiency standards for our cars had been stuck at 27.5 miles per gallon for twenty years – two decades of lost time when it comes to developing new technologies that can get more miles per gallon out of every tankful of gas. That’s why one of the very first actions the President took in office was to direct the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation to work with the auto industry to develop new fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. It was guided by a belief that if this industry was truly going to come back stronger than before – and thrive over the long term – then we had to build the cars of the future right here in America. After all, improving fuel efficiency represents one of the best opportunities we have to reduce our dependence on oil.
With the President’s leadership, the hope is to move forward. Taken together, the standards the Administration has put in place for cars and light trucks span model years 2011 to 2025 and they represent the toughest fuel economy standards in history. Under this first-ever national program, average fuel efficiency for cars and trucks will nearly double, reaching an average performance equivalent of about 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
In 2011, the President also established the first-ever fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, covering model years 2014 through 2018. Over the lifetimes of the vehicles covered, trucks and buses will reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons, saving vehicle owners and operators an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs.
Today, the President directed the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation to set the next round of fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks by March 2016. This next round of fuel efficiency standards will build on the historic work done to date, support American manufacturing innovation, and spur the development of new technologies. After years of idling on fuel efficiency, America’s truck fleet is on a straight road to lower emissions, fuel savings for drivers, and leading the world in advanced vehicles.
Check out our progress report, Improving the Fuel Efficiency of American Trucks, to learn more about today’s announcement and find out how the President is taking action on climate change by improving the efficiency of our vehicles.
Is Obama's Administration Supporting BIG OIL?? Possible change in renewable fuel standard draws fire
For many of us we've believed that President Obama, and his administration have always been authentic when it comes to helping to move our country towards a more sustainable, and self-sustaining future. But when we read reports that the federal government plans to change previously agreed upon policies when it comes to sustainability we become increasingly more cynical of the leadership.
This week we are sharing two important reports that have to do specifically with renewable fuels and the fight happening in Washington that will affect all of us. So as you read this first story under, "Possible change in renewable fuel standard draws fire," we also ask that you take a look at the second story, "BIG OIL vs RENEWABLE FUELS?"
The first story came to us from the Quad City Times in Des Moines, Iowa that is drawing attention to the vast strength of the Oil Industry and their Lobbyists when it comes to not only setting policy, but actually being able to change policy. For Renewable Now we are trying to get a ernest sense of what President Obama wants his legacy to be when it comes to renewable energy, is it authentic, or is it politics as usual? Read the article and you decide.
DES MOINES — Speakers at Iowa’s Hearing in the Heartland dropped the hammer Thursday on the federal government’s plan to roll back the Renewable Fuel Standard.
They charged that the change would hurt rural jobs, investments and the environment while increasing America’s reliance on foreign oil.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told participants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to scale back renewable fuel volume obligations would have a direct effect on Iowa’s 41 ethanol plants, Iowa’s 13 biodiesel plants and the scores of facilities across the Midwest. He estimated the EPA change would cost nearly 45,000 jobs nationally and pose undue financial hardship and stress for thousands of families.
“We’re trying to create jobs, not destroy jobs in this country,” he said.
Last November, the EPA made proposals to scale back its fuel standard requirements for the total amount of biofuels blended into the nation's gasoline supply.
The agency's proposal would lower the requirement to 15.2 billion gallons of renewable fuels, with 13.01 billion gallons from conventional ethanol and 2.2 billion gallons from advanced biofuels. Previous requirements passed by Congress called for 18.15 billion gallons of renewable fuels next year, with 14.4 billion gallons of conventional ethanol and 3.75 billion gallons of advanced biofuels.
On Thursday, a coalition of farmers, commodity groups, renewable fuel industry and elected officials from Iowa and six other Midwest states took turns slamming the decision to scale back the production targets that potentially could “strand” billions of dollars of private capital and hand a victory to “Big Oil” and “Big Food” interests who have opposed the government requirement.
“The (Obama) administration’s proposal is a significant step backward — undermining the goal of increasing biofuels production as a domestic alternative to foreign oil consumption,” said a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and 29 other U.S. senators.
“Further, the proposed waiver places at risk both the environmental benefits from ongoing development of advanced biofuels and rural America’s economic future. We urge you to modify your proposal,” the senators said in Thursday’s letter to McCarthy.
Grassley backed up the letter by telling the hearing participants at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates that the EPA’s proposed action would be harmful to biofuel producers, to Iowa’s rural economy, to America’s national security and the environment.
Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo, said homegrown, renewable fuels such as ethanol are contributing to America’s energy independence, but unfortunately those fuel sources are “under attack, not by a foreign enemy — but by the EPA” with proposed cutbacks that don’t make common sense.
Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann said the proposed fuel standard changes would curtail production of ethanol and other biofuels. She accused the federal government of “backtracking” with a course shift that would “pull the rug out from under” farmers, investors and various producers.
“This industry has faced uncertainty forever,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, one of five state agriculture secretaries who attended Thursday’s hearing. But he noted the current situation has posed a new and “damaging” threat, and he questioned the legality of the action.
Branstad laid blame for the EPA change on “Big Oil,”its lobbyists and allies, noting that the petroleum industry has fought the expansion of ethanol and has put pressure on retailers not to install blender pumps. “Big Oil is delighted that the EPA has recommended weakening the Renewable Fuel Standard. But they’re not happy. They want to repeal it altogether,”he said. “Their real goal is to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
Obama: Federal Government Has 7 Years To Triple Renewable Energy
When President Obama made his second State of the Union address, he talked extensively about the importance of addressing global climate change. “For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more,” he said. “But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
Obama now seems to be making good on those statements. On Thursday, the administration released an executive order directing the federal government to triple its use of renewable energy by 2020, which would bring the government’s renewable energy usage to 20 percent. The order will apply to all federal agencies, including the military.
The Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the executive order before it was published,noted that the federal government itself occupies approximately 500,000 buildings and operates 600,000 vehicles, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services. The order does not disclose the cost of the transition, but says the goal will be reached “to the extent economically feasible and technically practicable.”
The top priority for federal agencies is installing agency-funded renewable energy on-site at federal facilities, and retaining renewable energy certificates, or RECs. An REC is a certificate that represents the environmental value of one megawatt-hour of electricity. In buying a REC, the government essentially pays a little bit of money in order to claim and keep track of the clean benefit of the electricity produced.
Obama has pledged to address climate change during his second term, and in a June speech detailed a three-tier plan for the administration. That plan would cut carbon pollution in America, lead international efforts to cut global emissions, and prepare the U.S. for the costly impacts of climate change. President Obama framed the action as a moral obligation to do what we can for “the world we leave our children.”
“This is the global threat of our time,” Obama said in June. “And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late. That is our job. That is our task. We have to get to work.”
But once the President makes an official announcement of the executive order, he will likely face harsh opposition from fossil fuel-backed politicians who have historically opposed his attempts to mandate the use of more renewable energy. After his June speech, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) — a coal insider who maintains an income of almost $2 million from a coal firm — compared the President’s rhetoric on climate change to a “war on America.”
The military has already begun a transition to efficient and renewable energy, after the head of the U.S. Pacific Command cited climate change as “probably the most likely thing that is going to happen … that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.” The Army is now proceeding with its “Net Zero Energy” initiative, which means that on some domestic bases, they will aim to produce as much energy, water, and waste as they consume. Cost and reliability are the primary reasons, but cutting carbon pollution will be one of the outcomes.
American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act
On October 31, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced legislation that sets a target of generating 25 percent of the nation’s energy from renewable sources while reducing energy waste by 15 percent by 2025.
The second renewable energy bill introduced in the Senate that same week, Sen. Markey’s legislation also follows the science by including strong carbon accounting measures for biomass resources and other important provisions aimed at improving bio-energy supplies.
Critically, the American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act recognizes the importance of ensuring that the nation invests in truly low-carbon alternatives, by requiring that all biomass meets greenhouse gas emission standards as determined by the best available science.
In sum, the American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act will promote clean energy sources that cut carbon pollution, further expand our powerful clean energy economy which currently employs hundreds of thousands of American workers, drive innovation, and provide a strong market signal that the future lies in clean, renewable energy developed here in America.
Franz Matzner, associate director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, made the following comment: “This is the renewable energy legislation we need. It also is a wake-up call to those who want to deny science and stall progress: As a nation, it’s time to break our addiction to fossil fuels and invest in a cleaner, healthier future for our children."
“Coupled with President Obama’s climate change initiative, this legislation can take us one step closer to meeting the moral obligation we have to our children to cut pollution, tackle climate change and develop more sources of clean, renewable energy – and the jobs that come with it.”
But what is even a more compelling argument is that this kind of legislation will create jobs, and put people to work.
"Already, the clean energy revolution is employing thousands of workers across the country, while reducing carbon pollution. According to the BLS, 3.4 million people are already employed across the country in clean jobs, many of them weatherizing homes, producing high-efficiency air-conditioning systems, installing solar panels and wind turbines, and developing advanced new renewable technology. Energy efficiency remains the cheapest, cleanest, fastest way to cut pollution and save dollars while creating jobs." KEY PROVISIONS:
Strong growth for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Electric utilities will deliver 25% of their power from renewable energy by 2025, which will more than quadruple the electricity the nation currently gets from clean, renewable sources and significantly reduce carbon pollution from the power sector, and more than double the projections of renewable energy growth from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Electric and natural gas utilities will develop and expand efficiency programs to help customers get more energy for their dollar of spending by requiring that electric utilities achieve a 15% reduction in energy use and natural gas suppliers achieve a 10% reduction in use.
Clear distinction between renewable energy (supply side) and efficiency (demand side).
The industry, programs and costs of efficiency and renewables are quite different and the bill appropriately establishes different requirements for the two types of resources. The bill also recognizes that natural gas customers deserve access to efficiency programs and it requires investments by both electric and natural gas utilities.
Electricity sector is broadly covered.
By including retail electric utility service providers who sell at least 1 million megawatt-hours of electricity each year, the bill will deliver increased renewable and efficiency investments by most utilities to the benefit of their customers.
State RPS approaches protected.
The bill provides that the federal RES will not interfere with individual states RPSs and associated policies. Absent federal leadership and funding for over a decade, nearly 30 states plus the District of Columbia have set their own RPS goals and accompanying renewable energy development mechanisms to realize the vast economic and environmental benefits afforded by home grown renewable energy development.
State funds created to expand renewables and energy efficiency.
Revenues from ACP’s paid by electrical utility providers would go directly to the individual state that the utility serves. These revenues could then be used in that state for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and deployment programs.
Additional support for distributed resources.
The RES offers three times more RECs for electricity generated by distributed renewable sources such as solar photovoltaics (with administrative adjustments over time), and two times the RECs for renewable energy on tribal lands.
Depending on location, clean, distributed renewable energy sources offer benefits to both the local electrical grid and local air quality.