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Choosing Tom …

by Adam Siegel Virginia Democrats face a real choice in the primary as to who will be the Democratic nominee for (and next) Governor of...

Why Trump won’t stop the clean energy revolution

by Ivy Main, cross posted from Power for the People VA A protest in Manhattan against the presidency of Donald Trump, held the day after...

Surprise endings to a week of bad news on energy and...

More than a hundred representatives of energy efficiency and renewable energy businesses descended on Richmond Tuesday for Clean Energy Lobby Day. After meetings with legislators, many of them stayed to attend a critical subcommittee meeting where most of this year's clean energy bills came up for votes. And they came away with one overpowering impression: the only bills that can make it out of committee are the ones supported by the state's utilities, especially Dominion Power.

But that wasn't quite the end of the story. Because by the end of the week, they also found that the groundwork they had laid with their lobbing, and their tenaciousness before the subcommittee, created an opening they would not otherwise have had.

First, the bad news, and plenty of it
Things started bleakly. The House Commerce and Labor Subcommittee on Energy turned back multiple proposals that would have benefited Virginia's small renewable energy and energy efficiency businesses, as well as their customers. Going down to defeat were bills to improve the renewable portfolio standard (HB 1913), create an energy efficiency resource standard (HB 1730), require a more rigorous study before utilities can impose standby charges (HB 1911), make third-party PPAs legal across the state (HB 1925), and enable an innovative vehicle-to-grid (V2G) project (HB 2073).  

Your 2015 legislative session cheat sheet: Clean energy bills

I'm starting my review of 2015 energy legislation with a look at bills dealing with renewable energy and energy efficiency. Most of these bills will be heard in the committees on Commerce and Labor, though bills that cost money (tax credits and grants) usually go to Finance.

Bills referred to Senate Commerce and Labor are heard by the full committee, which meets on Monday afternoons. It consists of 14 members: 11 Republicans and 3 Democrats. They form a tough lineup; none of these senators received better than a "C" on the Sierra Club's Climate and Energy Scorecard.

The House bills are typically assigned to the 13-member Special Subcommittee on Energy (10 Republicans and 3 Democrats, no fixed schedule, but we've heard February 3d is the likely date). Bills that do not meet the approval of Dominion Power can expect a quick death here on an unrecorded voice vote, never to be heard from again. But on the plus side, the meetings are often quite lively, like old-fashioned hangings.

Net metering bills

Net metering is the policy that allows owners of solar (or other renewable) energy systems to be credited for the excess power they feed back into the grid when the systems produce a surplus; the owners use the credits when their systems aren't supplying power and they need to draw electricity from the grid. Virginia law restricts who can use net metering, and how much. Expanding net metering is a major goal of renewable energy advocates, who argue it offers a free market approach to growth-give customers the freedom to build solar projects, get the utility out of the way, and solar will thrive.

This year's initiatives include:  

An End to Clean Energy in Virginia???

Today's news from the Washington Post that Dominion Virginia Power and Attorney General Cuccinelli have reached an agreement on Virginia's renewable energy law, if true, could mean a dagger through the heart for Virginia's clean energy industry.

Some within the environmental community will disagree with me, and they would probably tell you the law was so bad that it should be repealed and replaced with a new more effective clean energy standard.  I would agree if that were a possibility but, it is not.

Here are a couple of the realities which come to fruition if Virginia's voluntary RPS is repealed:

First, investments in clean, renewable energy are now subject to the strictest interpretation of the Virginia State Corporation Commission.  The commission has never approved a full clean energy proposal put forward by Dominion.  It has limited the size of the utility's energy efficiency and solar programs.

Virginia Republicans Skip Tea Party Attack on Clean Energy

Wind FarmingThis week, 47 House Republicans sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner asking him to let key federal incentives for wind energy expire. The list of sign-ons range from swing seat Republicans desperate to fire up the Tea Party base (Maryland's Andy Harris) to genuine wackos (Texas' Louie Gohmert). But what's most notable is how many Republicans refused to sign the letter - 194 House Republicans refused to sign on. Not one Virginia Republican joined the clean energy attack:
Although GOP districts hold 81 percent of the nation's wind power capacity, Republicans are deeply split on investing in wind (Mitt Romney, for example, drew criticism from fellow Republicans for opposing the PTC). Boehner's home state supports up to 6,000 wind jobs.

The GOP remains less divided on issues favoring Big Oil. Of the 47 Republicans asking Boehner to end the wind investments, 46 voted in March 2011 against closing tax loopholes that let Big Oil collect $4 billion in annual subsidies. The one outlier, GOP Rep. Richard Hanna, was a no-vote that day. According to OpenSecrets, these representatives have received a total $2.2 million from the oil and gas industry, in an election cycle where Republicans have collected 89 percent of the oil industry's contributions. Republicans have maintained these tax breaks are "essential" to an industry posting record-breaking profits.

According to the Tea Party, $5 billion a year to back hundreds of thousands of jobs harvesting clean, domestically-produced wind energy? Unaffordable! The billions we shovel to already-massively-profitable oil companies even though the top 5 oil companies alone banked $137 billion in profit just last year? Indispensable!

It's just more proof the Tea Party is a fraud. They don't care about fiscal responsibility or keeping the boot of big government off the little guy's neck - they care about whatever their billionaire corporate funders tell them to care about.

How to ruin a country: George Allen’s energy and environmental playbook

To more clearly elucidate their mutual views on energy, government regulations, and President Obama's healthcare reform, George Allen and 12 local business leaders met for a morning roundtable discussion Friday in Springfield.  

Without stepping too far out of bounds of his limited political lexicon, George Allen stated that "My thoughts on energy are that it should be affordable, reliable and preferably American." The ironic thing about this comment is that if he were to become Virginia's next U.S. senator and he were to help approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, it's unclear how much of the crude would stay in the U.S.! Oh, and the price of oil would also increase in the U.S.  

What's more, George Allen and his political and business allies clearly have a good time annihilating the environment, at least if it means "more jobs." Last I checked, though, the clean energy sector also exists in the U.S., a sector which also creates "more jobs."  But in the world of George Allen, there are "immediate" sources of energy ready to be sucked up and spewed out into the atmosphere, so why not use them?  

Cleaner energy means cleaner air means healthier Virginians & a healthier...

If you didn't already know about the potential of clean energy to create jobs and clean our air in Virginia and the wider United States, you soon might thanks to a "seven-figure TV ad buy" by The National Wildlife Federation Action Fund and Earthjustice that began airing in Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania on Thursday.  

In Virginia, the ads will play in Richmond, Norfolk, and Roanoke.

The TV ad discusses a recent U.S. Department of Labor study which found that moving towards a green economy will both create jobs in the U.S. as well as clean up our air. The ad also seeks to raise the public's awareness and support for the Environmental Protection Agency's new standards for clean air to reduce industrial air pollution from our country's power plants.

For a lot of Virginians, the benefits of clean energy remains a hard sell (hence the advertisements). Many Virginians apparently believe there is a grave conspiracy under way to clean our air and save the planet from self-induced catastrophe!

Whatever the reasons, the TV ads could not have come at a better time as environmental groups inside the commonwealth, like the Sierra Club and CCAN, have ramped up their pressure on Virginia's utilities to move away from fossil fuels like natural gas, coal, and oil towards cleaner forms of energy like wind and solar.  

As Virginia GOP Fights Clean Energy, MA Creates Thousands of Clean...

Governor PatrickWhile Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) is vetoing bills to promote solar power, Massachusetts is showing Virginians what could've been had the state chosen to embrace clean energy.

A new Center for American Progress report details how the Bay State's clean energy policies have the industry booming, with 64,000 people now working in clean energy jobs in Massachusetts and growing at an annual rate of 7 percent. That's compared to just 16,907 in Virginia, according to the most recent data I could find in a 2009 Pew report. But even that relatively low number of clean energy jobs dwarfs the number of coal mining jobs in Virginia - just 5,164 in 2011. Across Appalachia, just 59,059 people work in coal mining - and that represents a 14-year high.

Meanwhile, Gov. McDonnell and the Republican-controlled, Dominion Virginia Power-funded General Assembly aren't just protecting tax giveaways to the coal industry, they're adding new loopholes to let coal companies like Consol increase their already sky-high profits by polluting more.

Even with a slightly improved 2011 job assessment, "Virginia's job losses in 2011 were in construction, manufacturing and the information sector" - some of the same industries that would benefit from the move to clean energy. Imagine if Virginia had set strong, mandatory clean energy & energy efficiency standards at the same time Massachusetts did. How many of these stories would we be hearing from across Virginia?

Watch the video:

Climate Activists Blow the Whistle on “Dominion’s Foul Trouble”

350.org's Bill McKibben and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network's Mike Tidwell says when it comes to investing in clean & secure energy sources, Virginia fouls out:
The problem is the state's largest utility, Dominion Virginia Power. While states like Minnesota and Iowa get 10 to 20 percent of their electricity from wind power alone, creating thousands of jobs, Dominion generates zero electricity for Virginia ratepayers from wind or solar.

Instead, the utility invests overwhelmingly in dirty fossil fuels. Despite rising global warming concerns and smog-filled summer skies in Shenandoah National Park, Dominion plans to increase the renewable-energy slice of its cumulative energy pie by a microscopic 0.4 percent over the next 15 years. You read that right: 0.4 percent.

There's no sign things will change without some loud and much-deserved booing from the crowd. Which is why ratepayers from across the state have set Saturday as "The March to End Dominion's Power Madness."

The rally will be Saturday (March 24) at noon outside Dominion's Richmond headquarters, sign up at EndPowerMadness.com.