CLEAN ENERGY

From Plain Dealer: What Pruitt’s EPA Would Mean For Ohio Clean Energy

Plain_Dealer_mastheadScott Pruitt at EPA Will Hobble Ohio’s Alternative-Energy Economy: Jane Harf (Opinion)
January 22, 2017

Jane Harf, former American Electric Power executive, and head of the Ohio EPA, is a longtime friend of ELPC. She recently had this op-ed published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

GRANVILLE, Ohio — In Ohio, the clean energy economy isn’t merely the future – it’s the present. We already see clean energy providing jobs, saving money, and making our nation more secure. And we know we’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

So it was very troubling when President Donald Trump named Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as his nominee to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt has repeatedly sued to block standards that would reduce harmful pollution and boost clean energy. His nomination suggests what many of us have feared about the Trump administration – that it will not understand either the future potential of the clean energy economy, or its current growing role in Ohio and across the nation.

The clean energy economy is taking off around the country. Millions of Americans now work in the industry. Indeed, more Americans work in wind and solar power today than in coal mining and oil and gas extraction. In 2016, more than half of electricity generation capacity added to the U.S. grid came from renewable resources, reports Daniel Cusick of E&E News.

More and more Republicans are starting to recognize clean energy’s economic opportunity.

In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich has repeatedly shown support for a healthier, more diverse energy mix. He remained committed to this vision last month when he vetoed Substitute House Bill 554, a bill passed in the Ohio legislature that would have extended the “freeze” on clean energy development.

In vetoing the bill, Kasich explained that, “Ohio workers cannot afford to take a step backward from the economic gains that we have made in recent years … and arbitrarily limiting Ohio’s energy generation options amounts to self-inflicted damage.”

A recent report from the Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy, titled “Grounds for Optimism: Options for Empowering Ohio’s Energy Market,” found that Ohio could grow the economy by billions of dollars, help residents save money on their electric bills and health care costs, and create tens of thousands of jobs by embracing renewable energy and efficiency standards.

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EnergyWire: ELPC’s Learner Expresses Commitment to Advance Clean Energy Standards

EnergyWireIn Midwest, a Vow to Continue Clean Energy Push Under Trump
January 23, 2017
By Jeffrey Tomich

Across the Midwest, clean energy advocates will go to work today like they would on any other Monday.

They’ll engage with legislators, regulators and utilities on policies to advance wind, solar and energy efficiency and curtail emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants that affect the environment and public health.

Moving forward, of course, there is one obvious change. While green groups generally had backing from the White House over the last eight years, they now face a brisk headwind with Friday’s inauguration of President Trump.

Within minutes of taking the oath of office, the incoming administration scrubbed references to climate change from the White House web site and posted an energy policy summary that outlined plans to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan.”

Clean energy advocates across the Midwest said the reversal in policy at the executive branch cannot overcome trends that are increasingly steering utilities away from coal and to cleaner sources of energy.

Solar panels are a fraction of their cost only a few years ago. Utilities and corporations are continuing to add thousands of megawatts of new wind generation across the Midwest. Energy demand is declining, or at least flat-lining even as local economies grow. And emissions are falling and aging coal plants are retiring.

“There’s a market transformation that’s going on that’s being driven by smart policies combined with technological improvements,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Midwest environmental advocacy group.

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WGN Radio: Learner Talks Environmental Policy Under Trump Administration

wgnradiowlogo-wideWhat Can We Expect from President Donald Trump’s Environmental Policy?
January 19, 2017
With Justin Kaufmann

Howard Learner, President and Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center joins Justin to talk about Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Rick Perry, Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Energy and what we can expect from President Trump’s environmental policy moving forward.

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Midwest Energy News: ELPC’s Howard Learner Remains Positive Despite Forthcoming Trump Administration

Midwest-Energy-News-LogoQ&A: Advocate Upbeat about Midwest as Trump Administration Looms
January 19, 2017
By Kari Lydersen

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center based in Chicago, spent the early 1980s fighting for fair housing laws and civil rights protections during the Reagan administration.

On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, Learner lamented how he feels like the clock has turned back three decades, and he’s again in the position of fighting for basic protections and rights that many Americans have long embraced.

But Learner said he is up for the battle, and confident that public opinion, state and local politics and economics are on his side. 

Midwest Energy News talked with Learner about the impending Trump administration and the ELPC’s plans for the next four years. (EDITOR’S NOTE: This transcript has been updated for clarity)

Midwest Energy News: So how do you feel about the next four years?  

Learner: We have a plan, we’re geared up to fight back. The best defense is a good offense – we’re fired up and ready. At ELPC we need to step up and be prepared to act in the changing political landscape, we need to find ways to play to win both in terms of defense in Washington D.C. and the place we can play offense to achieve important progress in the states and the cities. The Midwest is a pretty good place for us to get things done.

What role does the Midwest play exactly in the struggle to protect the environment and clean energy during the Trump administration?

The American public and pragmatic Midwesterners strongly support core environmental values like clean air, safer drinking water and people being able to live in communities without toxic threats. And there’s strong bipartisan consensus in favor of clean energy development that’s good for jobs, economic growth, the environment.

There have been good examples in the Midwest that illustrate both points. The tragedy of contaminated water in Flint has made it clear to Democratic and Republican policymakers around the Midwest that the public won’t accept unsafe drinking water. It’s a bipartisan issue, it’s a nonpartisan issue.

Recently [Illinois Gov. Bruce] Rauner signed into law legislation to reduce the lead risk in the drinking water supply for children in public schools and day care centers…When it comes to clean safe drinking water and healthier clean air, there is strong mainstream public support for better protection by both the U.S. EPA and the state EPAs. They believe there are common sense solutions that we can carry forth, that transcend partisan urban-rural and other divides.

Are you saying that it will be up to governors and state legislatures to pass stronger laws in case the Trump administration weakens or does not enforce federal protections?

On the clean water, clean air and clean energy fronts, it’s clear we’re going to need to play defense in Washington D.C. Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be U.S. EPA Administrator.  Mr. Pruitt has spent his career as an Attorney General persistently suing the EPA to stop or stall standards to protect clean air and safe drinking water. It is the fox guarding the chicken coop. As the old saying goes, you hope for the best but you plan for the worst.

Unfortunately I expect that ELPC and our colleagues will have to file lawsuits to require the EPA to do its job and fulfill its responsibility, to protect healthy air and clean drinking water for people around our region.

The Trump transition team has indicated that they plan to greatly cut back EPA’s environmental enforcement. If EPA does step back on its environmental enforcement responsibilities, ELPC will help stand up to fill the gap. We’re hiring some additional public interest litigation attorneys. This is one of ELPC’s core strengths, and we are building upon it. This is a time in which public interest environmental litigation is needed both to defend the core environmental laws and to file citizen suits for environmental enforcement.

We have 20 environmental attorneys, and we are stepping up and hiring additional litigants. Secondly, we have created the expanded HELP program – the High-impact Environmental Litigation Program. After the election we got calls from a number of attorneys saying, “I want to help — give me a pro bono case I can do.” We are building upon and expanding on ELPC’s top-rated environmental litigation team and at the same time we are tapping a number of experienced litigators who want to take on pro bono cases to help protect clean air and clean water.

Since many environmental laws are self-implementing, depending largely on citizen suits for enforcement, is it really that different from what you’ve had to do during previous administrations?

We’ve certainly brought citizen suits in the past, we have a citizen suit pending in federal court in central Illinois to enforce clean air violations by Dynegy at its [E.D. Edwards] coal plant. But this is different. When an administration cares about environmental regulations in a positive way, the Attorney General tends to bring the enforcement actions, and we fill some gaps. If we see President Trump’s administration retreating on its enforcement responsibilities, ELPC will step up and have a much more vibrant enforcement strategy. We’re preparing to do that by increasing our in-house litigation team.

That all takes resources and funding. Some media outlets and non-profit organizations have actually seen a boom in support because of Trump. Has that happened for environmental organizations, or do you expect it to happen?

We’ll see. There are some groups out there these days that seem to be asking for money twice a day, it’s a disaster and then it’s another disaster. I hope we’re at a time when environmental philanthropy will be stepped up in response to the needs of the times. These are extraordinary times. And it doesn’t hurt that the stock market is at a relatively high point.

Certainly people in the Midwest and around the country who care about the environment understand that it’s likely to be under siege if someone like Scott Pruitt does become the next EPA Administrator. I think when times are tough, people are willing to dip into their pocketbooks more and step up. But we aren’t taking out loans based on hoped-for increased fundraising, and you’re not going to see the fundraising emails from ELPC. This isn’t about money.

So a Trump administration especially with Pruitt as EPA Administrator would likely roll back enforcement of environmental regulations. On the clean energy development front, will the Trump administration halt progress?

We hope and believe that Congress will not allow the Trump administration to roll back the Production Tax Credit for wind power or the Investment Tax Credit for solar power. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) said [a PTC repeal] would happen “over my dead body.” This is pretty bipartisan.

Solar and wind power have strong bipartisan support. Look what has happened in about the past three months. Illinois passed a strong Renewable Portfolio Standard [fix] supported by both Democrats and Republicans. Iowa Gov. [Terry] Branstad has always taken pride in the state’s wind power leadership, and Iowa is starting to step up on solar development. Wind power development in Iowa is good for jobs, economic growth and the environment, and it’s supported by the entire Republican leadership as well as the Democrats.

Michigan just passed legislation that improves and steps up the RPS. Governor John Kasich in Ohio just vetoed the attempt by the legislature to freeze energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. In just the last few months, we’ve seen progress in four Midwestern states in significant ways.

And Minnesota has always been a leader, in Indiana we have a little work to do, in Wisconsin we have Gov. Scott Walker. But there are two new wind farms in Wisconsin now. For a long time wind power was stalled in Wisconsin, now there are large new wind farms going up in Wisconsin and Dairyland Power [Cooperative] is doing another 15 MW of solar. We’re seeing smart policy plus technological innovation driving clean energy development in the Midwest.

We’re going to have to play some defense in Washington D.C., but we’re looking at these four Midwest states if not five that have stepped up in the last few months. What it shows is first of all that clean energy development has strong mainstream public support. Secondly, it makes sense as a matter of economics. And policymakers understand where the economics are and they are supporting smart policies.

Trump claims he is such a great businessman, so if this is all true why would he undermine clean energy development? 

I will not try to interpret what’s going on in President-elect Trump’s mind. The ITC and PTC have created thousands of new jobs and accelerated cleaner energy in the power markets, protecting public health and the environment, which is what the public wants. This is good for jobs, good for economic growth and good for the environment.

Trump has said he wants to create jobs. If President-elect Trump were to support repealing these important public incentives, that would be a triumph of misplaced ideology over common sense.

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Midwest Energy News: ELPC’s Kelter says FirstEnergy’s Changes to Energy Efficiency Program is Improvement From Plan Before Ohio Freeze on Clean Energy Standards

Midwest-Energy-News-LogoOhio Utility’s Efficiency Programs to Move Forward Under Settlement
January 5, 2017
By Kathiann M. Kowalski

As 2016 drew to a close, key environmental groups signed onto FirstEnergy’s revised energy efficiency plan for its Ohio utility customers.

The December 8 stipulation addresses major objections to FirstEnergy’s earlier plan, including elimination of terms that would have let the company profit from energy-saving activities it played no part in.

FirstEnergy’s revised energy efficiency plan “comes on the heels of the thaw on Ohio’s previously frozen clean energy standards, and the growing acknowledgement across Ohio’s utilities of the value of energy efficiency for customers,” said Samantha Williams at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is one of the settling parties.

While other Ohio utilities continued to offer a range of money-saving efficiency programs during the recent two-year freeze on the state’s clean energy standards, FirstEnergy moved to gut most of its efficiency programs in 2014.

“Thankfully, the programs are back, and we’re very encouraged by the progress we’ve made with the utility in working towards more extensive, innovative options,” said Williams.

“The plan will allow our customers to participate in energy-saving programs through 2019, and strives to achieve energy savings each year that will meet or exceed Ohio’s annual reduction targets,” FirstEnergy spokesperson Doug Colafella said.

Not all parties have joined in the settlement, however, and the revised plan still requires approval by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. A hearing is scheduled for January 23.

‘A Big Change’

Provisions of the revised plan “are quite similar” to ones outlined in previous filings, Colafella said, “with some tweaks based on input from stakeholders who signed onto the plan, including key environmental groups.”

Yet those changes matter a lot to Williams and the NRDC, as well as the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Ohio Environmental Council and Environmental Defense Fund.

Among other things, FirstEnergy will not get shared savings profits from cuts in electricity usage that result from customer actions in which the company played no role.

“Keeping ‘non-programs’ like these off the shared savings ledger means utilities will be more focused on other programs that are actively designed to provide new, cost-effective benefits to consumers,” Williams said.

“That’s a big change,” agreed Rob Kelter of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “To their credit, FirstEnergy has come up with what we feel is a very reasonable program. And it’s certainly a big improvement on what they were running before the freeze.”

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Greenwire: ELPC’s Learner Says Peabody Energy Reorganization Plan Dodges Self-Bonding Issue that Risks Shifting Mine Reclamation Costs to Communities

Greenwire

Peabody Sends Chapter 11 Plan to Bankruptcy Judge
December 23, 2016
By Dylan Brown

The nation’s top coal producer published yesterday its plan for escaping bankruptcy.

Peabody Energy Corp. delivered its Chapter 11 reorganization plan to Judge Barry Schermer of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The plan needs Schermer’s approval.

St. Louis-based Peabody joined many of its competitors in bankruptcy earlier this year in the wake of an unprecedented industry slump caused by plummeting coal prices, withering foreign demand, skyrocketing domestic natural gas production and increased regulation (Greenwire, April 13).

Industry debt is also a factor. Much of Peabody’s $10 billion or so debt stems from its 2011 expansion into Australia with the $5.2 billion purchase of Macarthur Coal Ltd.

In August, Peabody requested more time to draw up a restructuring plan, but President and CEO Glenn Kellow said his company and its creditors have now reached “a proposal that has broad consensus, maximizes the value of the enterprise and paves the way for a sustainable future.”

“Eight months ago, we set out on a path to strengthen the balance sheet and position the company for long-term success amid historically challenged coal industry fundamentals,” Kellow said in a statement.

According to Peabody, the plan would reduce its debt by more than $5 billion, lower regular payments and offer up $750 million in stock “backstopped” by a third party along with the issuance of new common stock to appease certain creditors. The company is also selling the Metropolitan mine in Australia if the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approves the deal.

Peabody expects to emerge with “substantial liquidity to satisfy near and long-term needs” as a public company. It is also preparing updated financial statements that show its recent performance

“While we still have outstanding issues to resolve prior to emergence, this plan demonstrates that Peabody retains an unmatched asset base, leading U.S. platform, substantial Australian thermal and metallurgical coal business, and a team of skilled employees,” Kellow said.

Peabody’s critics are skeptical of the plan’s handling of mine cleanups and $16.2 million in bonuses that the court approved for executives who hit performance targets.

Peabody has more than $1 billion in self-bonds, corporate promises that fulfill mine cleanup insurance requirements — more than than any other company (E&E News PM, Aug. 16).

“The company’s first proposed reorganization plan dodges the issue and unfairly risks shifting the costs for Peabody’s environmental cleanup responsibilities onto the public,” Howard Learner, an attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said in a statement. “A ‘feasible’ reorganization plan for Peabody to emerge from bankruptcy should not include continued self-bonding of mine reclamation costs.”

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Press Release: ELPC Responds to Ohio Gov. Kasich Veto of State Energy Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

STATEMENT BY ROB KELTER
Environmental Law & Policy Center

COLUMBUS, OHIO — Rob Kelter, senior attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said in response to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s veto of a bill passed by the Ohio State Legislature that would have made standards for energy efficiency and renewable energy voluntary for the next two years:

“The governor’s veto today is a positive step towards a clean energy future for Ohio. Ohio needs a balanced energy policy that includes renewable energy and energy efficiency. Business owners  in the state’s renewable energy sector and energy efficiency sectors need certainty about Ohio’s direction so they can continue to invest in the state and create jobs. This balanced approach also benefits Ohio utility customers because it will help lower their bills.”

“Opponents of clean energy have distorted this debate from the start. The standards that Ohio is reinstating with the governor’s veto represent a positive, but modest, step towards a clean energy future for its citizens. Ohio is still heavily dependent on coal and nuclear energy, but now we’re back on track to a more balanced energy future.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer: ELPC’s Kelter Calls Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Veto of State Energy Bill Positive Step Forward

Plain_Dealer_mastheadKasich Wins Strong Support from Environmentalists for Green Mandates
December 27, 2016
By John Funk

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. John Kasich broke ranks with the legislature’s GOP leadership  Tuesday, vetoing a bill crafted by some of the state’s most conservative lawmakers, who believe wind and solar companies should compete against the state’s entrenched power companies on their own.

Kasich’s veto follows a campaign by environmental, business and consumer groups opposing the legislation.

Many of them celebrated the veto on Tuesday. Here are some of their comments.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio:

“While states such as Michigan and Illinois go forward with renewable energy, the Ohio Legislature seems determined to anchor us in the last century,” said Al Rosenfield, the league’s lobbyist. “We are pleased that HB 554 has been vetoed by Governor Kasich. We urge the General Assembly to sustain the veto, so that Ohio can move forward.”

Advanced Energy Economy: 

Today, Governor Kasich’s principled leadership has given Ohio an opportunity to get back on track,” said J.R. Tolbert, vice president for state policy. “He stood behind his commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency, allowing Ohio to regain its competitive advantage nationally. “Governor Kasich understands that renewable energy and energy efficiency create jobs and save money. That’s a formula that is good for business and good for every Ohioan.”

“The two-year freeze has cost Ohio jobs and investments. In the last three years, while Ohio has been idling, Michigan has attracted over $1.1 billion in renewable energy investments,” said Ted Ford, president of Ohio Advanced Energy Economy.

The Environmental Defense Fund:

“Today Governor Kasich put economic growth over politics, and stood up for a cleaner, healthier energy future for Ohio. With the state’s renewable and efficiency standards back in place, Ohio can reclaim its spot as a clean energy leader, clearing the way for well-paying jobs, millions in investment, and healthier air for all. Ohioans should cheer – it may be winter, but the clean energy freeze has finally thawed,” said Dick Munson, director, Midwest Clean Energy.

The Sierra Club Ohio Chapter:

We commend Gov.Kasich for vetoing the Ohio Legislature’s attempt to tie our state to outdated, dirty, and expensive energy sources. The world is doubling down on wind, solar, and energy efficiency, and Ohio’s robust manufacturing base is now in a better position to maximize that opportunity,” said Jenn Miller, director. “The return of energy efficiency and renewable energy standards will benefit all Ohioans, as Ohio’s clean energy programs result in lower energy costs, job creation, and improved air quality. We encourage Gov. Kasich to continue to move forward with clean energy policies that will benefit our state for years to come.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists:

Governor Kasich showed real leadership today. By vetoing House Bill 554, he has sent a strong message to the clean energy market that Ohio is serious about creating jobs and spurring investment in that industry,” said Melanie Moore, Midwest field director.

“The Union of Concerned Scientists has been working in coordination with local experts and activists for several years to lift the renewable energy standard freeze to create a win-win situation for the state’s economy and the environment. Governor Kasich’s actions have shown that he too believes Ohio families and businesses benefit when the state’s energy policy includes strong renewable energy and energy efficiency commitments.

EDP Renewables

“This courageous decision by the Governor is a positive step towards reaping a critical economic benefit for Ohio,” said Ryan Brown, executive vice president for eastern U.S. and Canada. “Reforming siting rules to allow Ohio communities that want to host wind farms to do so is the next step in taking advantage of this local resource.” EDPR is a Madrid-based international solar developer, which is completing a 100 megawatt project in Paulding County. The wind farm will power Amazon’s new data center in central Ohio.

The National Audubon Society:

“Conservative politics and profitable clean energy go hand-in-hand. Governor Kasich gets it and Ohioans owe him a big thanks,” said David Yarnold, Audubon president and CEO.

“Audubon has long supported the reinstatement of Ohio’s clean energy standards,” said Marnie Urso, Audubon’s senior program manager in Ohio. “Energy efficiency and renewable energy are vital components to protecting Ohio’s birds, wildlife and people from the threats of pollution and climate change.”

The Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund:

“I applaud Gov. Kasich for showing true leadership and vetoing this bill. HB 554 is a sloppy piece of legislation that could increase electric bills and clog our air with pollution while hampering innovation and job growth,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, president. “We urge legislators to follow Gov. Kasich’s lead and allow Ohio’s clean energy potential to be unleashed.”

 MOMS Clean Air Force:

“The 40,000 members of Moms Clean Air Force in Ohio are so proud of Governor Kasich for standing by his pledge to veto legislation that stifled clean energy development in our state,” sai Laura Burns, Ohio coordinator,

“We know there is a connection between an investment in clean energy technologies and a reduction in harmful emissions. By vetoing House Bill 554, Gov Kasich has not only demonstrated his commitment to a clean energy economy in Ohio, but he has also ensured that our children will be protected from air pollution. We thank Governor Kasich for his leadership.”

The Environmental Law & Policy Center:

“The governor’s veto today is a positive step towards a clean energy future for Ohio. Ohio needs a balanced energy policy that includes renewable energy and energy efficiency. Business owners in the state’s renewable energy sector and energy efficiency sectors need certainty about Ohio’s direction so they can continue to invest in the state and create jobs,” said Rob Kelter, senior attorney.

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Midwest Energy News: Learner Calls IL, Mich., & Ohio New Clean Energy Bills Passed a “mixed bag”

Midwest-Energy-News-LogoA ‘Mixed Bag’ for Clean Energy as Midwest Legislatures Close Out 2016
December 20, 2016
By Andy Balaskovitz

Lawmakers in three Midwest legislatures closed out their 2016 lame-duck sessions with plans to both expand as well as slow clean energy development. The proposals in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois came under three Republican governors and, aside from Illinois, Republican-held legislatures.

In each case, major utilities played significant roles — either prominently lobbying or behind the scenes — in getting policies adopted in their favor.

In Ohio, this meant a concerted effort toward what critics say further weakens the state’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. On Dec. 8, lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. John Kasich that makes those standards voluntary for the next two years. Advocates and others have since called on Kasich to veto the plan.

However, a different story played out in Illinois and Michigan, where clean energy was just part of broader statewide energy plans. In Illinois, Exelon pushed lawmakers for subsidies that would help keep open two uneconomic nuclear plants there at $2.4 billion over the next 10 years. Clean energy advocates supported the legislation, though, because it would update the state’s renewable energy standard in a way that will lead to more in-state solar and wind investment. In the past, Exelon had opposed such a measure out of fear that renewables would compete with its nuclear fleet.

In Michigan, major utilities DTE Energy and Consumers Energy supported a two-bill package that Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign that expands renewable and efficiency standards. But for the past two years, the state’s partially deregulated electricity market was in the crosshairs, with major utilities leading a push that critics said would have ended the state’s electric choice market. In the end, Michigan’s bills received widespread support from both sides of the electric choice debate as well as from clean energy groups.

“It’s plainly a mixed bag. Illinois and Michigan are stepping up to accelerate solar energy and wind power in ways that help build jobs, economic growth and environmental progress for the future,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

“Unfortunately Ohio is taking a step back by reverting to voluntary standards and taking other actions that weaken energy efficiency in the state. … We hope Gov. Kasich will step up and show leadership and put Ohio on a much stronger path for clean energy development.”

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ClimateWire: ELPC’s Learner Sees More Wind, Solar in Illinois’ Future

Midwestern Lawmakers Green The Grid, Slightly
Benjamin Storrow, E&E News Reporter

Midwestern state capitals buzzed with energy legislation in the dying days of 2016.

In Illinois, legislators handed out $2.4 billion in subsidies to two nuclear plants, bolstered the state’s renewable energy mandates and gave utilities added financial incentive to pursue energy efficiency measures. Michigan lawmakers haggled over how much of the state’s power market should be open to competition but ultimately made few major changes. And in Ohio, legislators passed a plan to effectively make the Buckeye State’s renewable power standards optional. The measure’s fate now hinges on Gov. John Kasich (R), who has voiced his displeasure with the plan.

The net impact of all that paper-pushing: a slightly greener grid in one of America’s most coal-dependent regions.

How much credit, or derision, lawmakers can claim is unclear. Coal was already under siege from cheap natural gas in the Midwest. Wind, too, has made inroads — especially in Illinois, where it accounts for the majority of new capacity.

“On the margin, some of the legislation will have an impact,” said Travis Miller, an analyst who tracks the power sector at the investment research firm Morningstar. “But these are very large power markets, and at the end of the day, economics are going to drive what type of generation is in the energy mix.”

That’s not to dismiss the entirety of what lawmakers did, particularly in Illinois. Subsidies for Exelon Corp.’s two nuclear plants make the economic landscape for Dynegy Inc.’s coal plants even more challenging, analysts said. The Illinois Power Generating Co., an Dynegy subsidiary, filed for bankruptcy a few days after the bill passed.

Lawmakers in Springfield, Ill., provided a fix to Illinois’ renewable portfolio standard, ensuring an annual budget of $200 million in renewable energy credits. Greens are especially excited that roughly half of that sum will go toward distributed and community solar.

“Illinois will have more wind power and solar energy, as they receive policy support and are increasingly economic in the marketplace,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago. “The public wants more clean renewable energy, and the public is going to get more clean renewable energy.”

Read the full story at: http://www.eenews.net/climatewire/2016/12/19/stories/1060047392

 

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