CLEAN ENERGY

Inside Climate News: Can Illinois Handle a 2000% Jump in Solar Capacity? We’re About to Find Out

Can Illinois handle a 2000% jump in solar capacity? We’re about to find out

October 30, 2018

By Dan Gearino

Illinois is about to learn what it takes to manage a nearly 20-fold increase in solar power.

A new state law requires utilities to dramatically increase their purchases of renewable energy, with a goal of getting at least 25 percent of the state’s electricity from clean energy by 2025, a large part of it from solar.

For a state starting with very little solar power now—less than 100 megawatts—becoming a Midwest solar leader will mean building an industry infrastructure almost from scratch, and doing it fast.

To ramp up by the deadline, the state needs two things: workers and projects.

People involved in the effort describe an atmosphere of almost chaotic progress. State officials and clean energy advocates want Illinois to be a model for how to expand clean energy in a way that provides targeted help to the local communities.

“The stakes are high,” said David Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, a Chicago-based consumer advocacy group involved in the process. “I think we have a good plan and we have reasons to be optimistic in general, but there’s no question we’ll face some roadblocks and things we didn’t think of.”

Hundreds of people have enrolled in job-training programs across the state, organized by nonprofit groups as part of the law. Developers are submitting proposals for new solar projects. And some of the established developers are starting to complain that the process for selecting projects—designed to give a wide number of developers a chance—is flawed.

Catapulting Illinois to a Midwest Solar Leader

Illinois ranks 35th in the country in solar power right now, with 98 megawatts, less than 1 percent of its electricity generation. Development has been slow here in part because the state lacks the supportive policies from the government and utilities that have boosted solar elsewhere.

Five years from now, analysts expect to see nearly 2,000 megawatts of solar power in Illinois and the state in 17th place nationally, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association. No other state has Illinois’ combination of starting from so low and being on track to rise so high during that period.

“It’s going to catapult Illinois to the forefront of the solar market, and put our state on the path to the renewable future we need to limit the worst impacts of climate change,” said MeLena Hessel, policy advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

This boom in renewable energy stems from the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act, a 2016 law that provided subsidies for two nuclear power plants and also set the target to get 25 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025, among other requirements. The renewable energy provisions were part of a legislative compromise to get enough votes to approve the nuclear power subsidies. (The law was upheld by a federal court in September.)

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Energy News Network: Michigan PURPA Rulings a ‘Mixed Bag’ for Independent Power Producers

Michigan PURPA Rulings a ‘Mixed Bag’ for Independent Power Producers

By Andy Balaskovitz

Independent power producers say recent rulings by Michigan regulators provide short-term development opportunities but also more uncertainty in the coming years as they negotiate contracts with a major utility.

On October 5, the Michigan Public Service Commission issued multiple orders related to the prices Consumers Energy pays to independent producers under federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) contracts.

One ruling allows for up to 150 megawatts worth of projects to qualify for PURPA contracts at rates that advocates say are more favorable for developers. The rates had been on hold for months as regulators settled questions around avoided costs and contract terms. Avoided costs are the rates paid by law to independent producers based on the price of the utility building the generation itself.

However, it’s unclear how long those terms will stay in place or how much opportunity there will be in the future. In the coming months, the MPSC may allow Consumers to restructure those rates and contract terms in ways that developers say would stifle PURPA contracts. While the most recent rulings apply to Consumers, DTE Energy’s avoided costs are also under consideration.

Clean energy advocates and independent power producers have been closely following the cases for more than two years as PURPA rules could determine the level of third-party solar development in the state. The debate over PURPA and solar development has played out in multiple states in recent years.

Margrethe Kearney, staff attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which intervened in Consumers’ rate cases, said the rulings effectively delay certainty over PURPA contracts by pushing them into Consumers’ IRP, which won’t be finalized for another six months.

“That undercurrent is a troubling,” Kearney said. “Do we really want a commission that isn’t making timely decisions and bouncing issues from one contested case to another?”
If the MPSC doesn’t agree with Consumers’ proposed avoided costs and contract terms, the company still has the ability to withdraw its IRP, while granting the utility’s request could harm developers, Kearney said.

“They’ve suggested that if any part of their plan is not approved, they could pull the whole thing,” Kearney said. “The change in the contract terms would strike a huge blow to independent power producers.”

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Affordable Clean Energy Rule Hearing Testimony

Testimony of Howard A. Learner,
Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

On the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Proposed Rule:
Emission Guidelines for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Existing Electric Utility Generating Units; Revisions to Emission Guideline Implementing Regulations; Revisions to New Source Review Program, called Affordable Clean Energy Rule. 83 Fed. Reg. 44,746

The Midwest produces more electricity from coal plants than any other region of the country, and our residents bear the full range of pollution harms to human health, the Great Lakes and our overall environmental quality.

EPA’s proposed new ACE will reverse United States’ efforts to cut carbon pollution and will allow more old coal plants to keep polluting our air and water. The 2015 Clean Power Plan established the first federal standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing coal plants. The Clean Power Plan can help drive the United States’ economy toward modern renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that improve public health, and boost clean energy jobs in the Midwest and elsewhere. The EPA’s new proposal undermines smart climate change solutions and a growing clean energy economy future.

America’s Heartland is well positioned to lead us forward by delivering climate change solutions powered by wind power and solar energy and maximizing energy efficiency in ways that are good for Midwest jobs and economic growth. Last week, ELPC released our new report: Indiana Wind Power & Solar Energy Supply Chain Businesses: Good for Manufacturing Jobs, Good for Economic Growth and Good for Our Environment. This report highlights 89 Indiana businesses engaged in the clean energy business supply chain at 112 locations across Indiana. Policies drive markets. ELPC’s report explains in detail how Indiana should step up its policy support to compete effectively in the growing clean energy economy. You can download the ELPC report here. This report adds to ELPC’s other Midwest state reports detailing clean energy jobs.

Midwest wind power and solar energy development are good for business growth and the environment together. Renewable energy development creates many thousands of skilled manufacturing and construction jobs, and development, design and professional services jobs.

The EPA’s proposed ACE plan, however, would move our nation backwards and cost American jobs. This morning, I will make three specific points about this flawed proposal:

First, EPA’s proposed ACE is legally flawed. EPA’s proposal is contrary to any reasonable interpretation of “best system of emissions reduction” and does not fulfill the Agency’s responsibilities under the Clean Air Act to reduce harmful air pollution.

EPA’s proposal would replace the Clean Power Plan’s reasonable and achievable goal of reducing carbon pollution from the power sector by 32% with a flawed policy that instead sets no such pollution limits. The Clean Power Plan carries out the Clean Air Act’s requirement to protect public health that is endangered by carbon pollution. It provides states with clear standards and flexible tools to reduce carbon pollution. The ACE plan, however, does not.

EPA’s ACE proposal provides an incomplete menu of technologies that nominally improve the heat rate of coal plants, but provides states the option of requiring nothing at all from power plants. The ACE proposal imposes no deadlines for implementing control measures to the extent that any are required. This proposal is inconsistent with the Clean Air Act, and it abandons EPA’s responsibility to take effective actions to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, which has been found by sound science to endanger public health.

Second, the proposed ACE rule will encourage more investment in old, inefficient coal plants that should be winding down. If states require one or more improvements from the “menu,” which plant owners are not now making, that will lead to greater dispatch of these coal plants and will disrupt the market trends away from old coal plants towards new, clean energy production. EPA should not cause any industry to be more polluting, but its own analysis shows that the proposed ACE rule would do exactly that.

Third, the New Source Review changes proposed in the ACE rule are a giveaway to owners of old coal plants with no acknowledgement of who will pay the bill. EPA provides anecdotes to support its claim that coal plant owners have supposedly decided to not improve plant operating efficiency because they would need to get an air permit and might be required to install modern air pollution controls as many other coal plant owners have already done. This should not justify excusing coal plant owners from new source review requirements. The only time this change matters is when a source is actually going to increase its emissions of air pollution by a significant amount.

EPA’s own analysis shows that this proposal puts the health and safety of families and communities at risk from increased pollution. If the ACE proposal is adopted and finalized, by EPA’s own calculations that could lead to as many as 1,630 early deaths per year in 2030 compared to leaving the Clean Power Plan in place.

ELPC will be submitting additional written comments to the docket. This proposal to replace the Clean Power Plan undermines EPA’s core mission of protecting the public and our environment from harmful air pollution under the Clean Air Act. It should be withdrawn.

It’s time for America to move forward not backwards with clean energy solutions to our climate change problems. Thank you for your consideration.

Lakeshore Public Radio: State Policies Making Indiana Clean Energy Businesses Less Competitive

September 25, 2018
Reports: State Policies Making Indiana Clean Energy Businesses Less Competitive
by Rebecca Thiele

 

Nearly 90 companies in Indiana play some role in renewable energy projects, which bring jobs to the state. But these businesses can’t be as successful without the policies to support them, according to a new report by the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

The ELPC says lately Indiana hasn’t been creating a good business environment for renewable energy. The state opted to phase out net metering last year and eliminated statewide energy efficiency standards in 2014. Chris Rohaly is the president of Green Alternatives Inc., a small solar installation company in Kokomo.

“I’m bidding against companies out of Ohio or Illinois and they — because of the strength of their home markets — are pretty well funded,” he says.

ELPC Clean Energy Business Specialist Tamara Dzubay co-authored the report. She says the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects two renewable energy jobs will grow substantially in the next eight years — but without the right policies, Indiana could miss out on the opportunity.

“Solar energy installation and wind turbine technician jobs cannot be outsourced, so many jobs are there to stay,” Dzubay says.

Among other things, the ELPC suggested developing a statewide energy plan and making it mandatory for utilities to get half of their energy from renewables by 2030.

LISTEN TO RADIO CLIP

NEW ELPC REPORT: Indiana Clean Energy Business Supply Chain Report Finds 89 Companies, Good for Hoosier Economy, Good for Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ELPC REPORT:  89 Indiana Clean Energy Businesses –

Good for Indiana’s Economy and Environment Together

 

INDIANAPOLIS – A report released today by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) highlights 89 Indiana companies engaging in accelerating wind power and solar energy as manufacturers, developers, designers, contractors, installers and professional and other services, These companies are employing more than 10,000 Hoosiers across the state.

“Indiana wind power and solar energy development are good for business growth and the environment together,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of ELPC. “Renewable energy development creates manufacturing jobs, including for the tower cables and wires to the protective covers that shield blades from harsh weather, for skilled workers in places like Bremen and Elkhart, and for Indiana construction workers doing the installations.”

The report identified that clean energy supply chain companies are widespread. Wind power and solar energy businesses are located in all 9 congressional districts, in 40 of the 50 state senate districts, and in 56 of the 100 state house districts.

However, Indiana has recently taken major backward steps on its clean energy policies, such as eliminating retail net metering by July 2022 for distributed solar energy generation, and ending its mandatory energy efficiency resource standard that created jobs and saved people money on their utility bills.

“The report demonstrates that Indiana changed course and is moving its clean energy initiatives in the wrong direction,” said Learner. “State leaders must take strong targeted policy actions for Indiana to regain momentum and advance clean energy growth that will lower Hoosiers’ utility bills and reduce carbon pollution.”

Additional groups that participated in ELPC’s report included Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana, Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance and others. The report calls for Indiana to adopt new policies to support accelerated growth of renewables and energy efficiency to remain competitive in the growing clean energy economy. Some of those policies, addressed in the report, should include:

  • setting strong clean energy targets by adopting a mandatory renewable energy standard
  • developing a stronger Integrated Resource Planning Process (IRP);
  • providing stronger tools for clean energy financing by reinstating net metering;
  • enacting a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program;
  • requiring utilities to comply with the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA)

“Energy is an important part of the infrastructure that businesses look to when deciding where to open up shop,” said Janet McCabe, Senior Law Fellow at ELPC, former US EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, and assistant director for policy and implementation at Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute. “We know many businesses have embraced sustainability and placed a priority on renewable energy. Indiana has the companies and workforce to bring more solar powered businesses here and to develop more wind energy across the state using parts manufactured by Hoosiers.”

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News-Press Now: Energy Efficiency, Spending Headed for Big Drop

September, 23 2018
Energy Efficiency, Spending Headed for Big Drop
by Erin Murphy

DES MOINES — Proposed energy efficiency plans offered by Iowa utility companies would be a shell of what they had been in recent years.

The new and scaled-back energy efficiency plans are a result of legislation passed this spring and signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds. The new law caps the percentage of a customer’s utility bill that can be put toward energy efficiency programs.

Iowa’s utility companies this summer detailed to the state’s regulatory board new 5-year energy efficiency plans starting with 2019. Some of the proposals show a dramatic reduction in energy efficiency program spending and energy savings.

The utility companies say the new plans will result in lower bills for customers, which they can use to invest in energy efficiency if and in any way they choose, and that advancements in technology have rendered some programs unnecessary.

Critics say it is just as they warned during debate over the legislation: that it would gut the state’s energy efficiency programs, and that customers will pay more in the long run.

The state board must act on the proposals by March 31.

“It’s a huge cut and we’re really disappointed,” said Kerri Johannsen, energy program director with the Iowa Environmental Council, a nonpartisan coalition of organizations dedicated to preserving Iowa’s environment.

“The Iowa Environmental Council has a vision of 100 percent renewable energy for the state of Iowa, and we think that that goal is entirely achievable. But we need a wide variety of resources to get there,” Johannsen said. “We just think (the new law and new energy efficiency plans are) a deviation from the path that Iowa has been on toward a really clean energy grid.”

MidAmerican Energy, the Des Moines-based utility company that serves more than 750,000 customers in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota, in 2018 spent nearly $80 million on electric energy efficiency programs and nearly $31 million on gas energy efficiency programs.

Under their new proposal, MidAmerican in 2019 would spend less than $43 million on electric energy efficiency programs, a cut nearly in half, and just more than $6 million on gas energy efficiency programs, a drop by more than 85 percent.

MidAmerican’s energy savings would drop as well: their gas efficiency plan would save 80 percent less than 2017 and their electricity plan will save nearly 50 percent less, according to calculations made by the Iowa Environmental Council. Spokespeople for the utilities did not dispute the figures.

“Utilities have had really robust energy efficiency programs for many years in Iowa. Since 2009 alone the programs have saved the equivalent of building two-and-a-half baseload power plants,” Johannsen said. “The customers pay for the energy efficiency programs, but they’re paying less (overall). They haven’t had to pay for that generation.”

Johannsen said on the new trajectory under the utilities’ reduced energy efficiency plans, Iowans could have to pay more in the long run because less energy efficiency will lead to a need for more energy production to meet customers’ needs.

“Load growth in Iowa has been pretty flat for a number of years. Electric demand just hasn’t grown because of our efficiency programs,” Johannsen said. “So what we’re going to see is, without doing efficiency we’re going to see load growth and utilities will be forced to invest in new (power) generation.”

Josh Mandelbaum, an attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said the reduced programs also could threaten the jobs of more than 20,000 Iowans working in energy efficiency-related jobs across the state.

“In the past, Iowa has been a clean energy leader with strong energy efficiency plans, but this is a major step backward,” Mandelbaum said in a statement.

READ MORE

BLM’s Misguided Rule Weakens Methane Flaring Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes

Bureau of Land Management’s Misguided Rule Weakens Methane Flaring Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment  

Statement by Howard A. Learner

In response to the Trump Administration’s rollback of the existing Methane Waste Reduction Standards avoid waste from oil and gas drilling on public and tribal lands in North Dakota and across the country, Environmental Law & Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Administration is turning its back on common sense methane reduction standards that reduce wasteful energy flaring and protect the public from harmful smog-forming pollution. The current standards call for the use of known technologies and good industry practices to reduce wasteful methane leaks. The new rule would allow more flaring of methane gas—a valuable natural resource. Flaring harms human health, wastes energy resources and costs Americans $1 billion in wasted energy and pollution.

“In North Dakota this rollback will mean more wasted natural gas, less money for impacted communities, and more air pollution from oil and gas drilling on public lands.

“The Bureau of Land Management is ignoring the strong support from more than half a million Americans who favored the existing Methane Waste Reduction Standards and oppose its repeal. The Trump Administration apparently doesn’t care enough about wasting energy, protecting public health or collecting fair revenues from the oil and gas industry drilling on our public lands,” Learner said.

Click Here to read the full rule. 

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Public News Service: Clean Power Plan Replacement Would Weaken Air Protections

BISMARCK, N.D. – The public can now comment on the Trump administration’s proposal to replace the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era rule aimed at drastically cutting carbon emissions from coal power plants.

Under what’s being called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, states would come up with their own reduction goals and submit their plans within three years to the Environmental Protection Agency.

…..
Janet McCabe, a senior law fellow at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, is a former EPA assistant administrator who worked on the Clean Power Plan.

She’s concerned the new proposal would delay implementing meaningful air quality improvements in a number of ways, including changing the way an older coal plant’s remaining life is factored into how it should be handled.

“The proposal gives the states, really, ultimate discretion to require nothing at all,” she points out. “What this rule would allow is for a state to say, ‘Well, given the remaining useful life of this plant, it doesn’t make sense to require it to do anything.'”

McCabe notes the Affordable Clean Energy plan would cut emissions, at most, to 1.5 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The Clean Power Plan was projected to cut emissions by 19 percent.

McCabe notes public comments, which will be accepted through Oct. 30, are important to the rulemaking process.

“When I was at EPA, every single rule I worked on got better between proposal and final because of comments that we got,” she points out. “And those are important expressions from taxpayers in this country about what they feel their government should do, to protect them or to stay out of the way.”

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

EPA’s New Power Plan Will Reverse U.S. Efforts to Cut Carbon Pollution and Allow Old Coal Plants to Keep Polluting Our Air

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes

EPA’s New Power Plan Will Reverse U.S. Efforts to Cut Carbon Pollution and Allow Old Coal Plants to Keep Polluting Our Air
Clean Power Plan had U.S. poised for shift to renewable energy growth, better public health, boosting clean energy jobs

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to replace its 2015 Clean Power Plan, which established the first federal standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing coal plants, ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Trump administration’s EPA is actively seeking to undermine smart climate change solutions and a clean energy future. The Clean Power Plan helps drive the U.S. economy toward modern renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that improve public health and boost clean energy jobs in the Midwest and elsewhere.

“Instead, the Trump administration is putting its political donors and polluters ahead of public health, climate solutions and clean energy jobs. America’s Heartland is well positioned to lead us forward in delivering climate change solutions powered by wind power and solar energy and maximizing energy efficiency that are good for Midwest jobs and economic growth.  The Trump administration’s plan would move our nation backwards and cost American jobs.

“It’s time for America to move forward not backward with clean energy solutions to our climate change problems.”

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Press Release: Solar Industry and Illinois Farm Bureau Collaborate to Guarantee Tax Revenue for Rural Communities and Protect Farmland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Solar Industry and Illinois Farm Bureau Collaborate to Guarantee Tax Revenue for Rural Communities and Protect Farmland

New law will protect farmland and help ensure $250-350 million in tax revenue for rural Illinois

Springfield, Illinois – August 13, 2018 – Governor Rauner has signed two bills that will help ensure solar development benefits farmers and rural communities in Illinois.  The state’s solar industry worked with the Illinois Farm Bureau, local authorities and other stakeholders to shape SB 486, which creates a standard tax assessment value for solar farms in Illinois, and SB 2591, which sets standards for the construction and deconstruction of solar farms on agricultural land. The Illinois House and Senate passed both bills unanimously and Governor Rauner signed the final piece of legislation on August 10th.

The solar property tax legislation (SB 486) sets a standard tax assessment value for large solar installations, creating certainty around the property tax revenue that solar farms will pay to local taxing bodies, helping to fund schools, roads and other critical services. Under the legislation, each megawatt (MW) of ground-mounted solar installed in Illinois will generate an average of $6,000-$8,000 per year in property tax revenue. The industry expects to install up to 2,000 MW of ground-mounted solar farms by 2021, which will create a total $250-$350 million in property tax revenue over a 25-year lifespan. Under Illinois’ funding formula, approximately 70% of this revenue will be dedicated to funding schools.

“Solar energy is a rapidly growing industry in Illinois, and it’s good not only for the environment but also for the economy,” said Illinois Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), sponsor of SB 486. “It is my hope that the revenue generated from this industry can benefit local schools and communities and encourage the continued growth of solar power in our state.”

“Solar businesses are ready and willing to create new jobs, clean energy and tax revenue to support Illinois communities. This bill provides a framework for us to move forward,” said Lesley McCain, executive director of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. “The solar industry was proud to work with the Farm Bureau, county tax assessors and school districts to develop smart solar legislation that benefits all Illinoisans.”

The solar industry worked in partnership with Environmental Law & Policy Center and other advocates to support smart solar policy in Illinois.

“ELPC has helped drive clean energy development in Illinois, and we are pleased that Governor Rauner has signed the solar energy legislation that the General Assembly passed this spring,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  “The stage is set even better to accelerate solar energy development that is good for job creation and good for a cleaner energy future in Illinois.”

The farmland legislation (SB 2591) ensures that solar farms can coexist with agriculture in Illinois while providing long-term benefits to soil and water quality. SB 2591 requires that solar developers enter into an Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement (AIMA) with the Illinois Department of Agriculture prior to solar farm construction. The AIMA will set standards for solar construction and deconstruction and require financial assurances from developers that land will be restored to its prior use at the end of a solar farm’s life.

Governor Rauner signed SB 486 on August 10th and SB 2591 on June 29th. These bills will help Illinois reach its statewide goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025 while also driving economic development, new jobs and reducing pollution from electric generation.

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