Challenges on Several Fronts to Ohio Utility Bailouts FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Kathiann M. Kowalski for Midwest Energy News:Despite unanimous approval by Ohio regulators last week, opponents of income guarantees for two utilities’ power plants still have multiple avenues to challenge the plans.The deals, involving certain coal plants and a nuclear plant owned by FirstEnergy and American Electric Power (AEP), are expected to trigger requests for rehearing and court appeals.Also, litigation by the utility affiliates’ competitors is proceeding before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Others challengers are involved in those cases too.Both AEP and FirstEnergy have argued that the power purchase agreements are necessary and will save consumers money in the long term.Critics call the deals “bailouts” to prop up uncompetitive power plants and say they will cost Ohioans billions of dollars over the next eight years. They also argue that the plans interfere with customer choice and competition in the generation market.The Electric Power Supply Association, Dynegy and other organizations and companies already have cases underway at FERC that aim to have federal regulators review and prevent the AEP and FirstEnergy power purchase agreements from taking effect.Challengers also have a potential argument under Ohio’s law mandating competition in the electricity generation market. Under that law, passed in 1999, a distribution utility generally cannot favor its own affiliates.As a general rule, most cases involving long-term power purchase agreements for electricity use them to lock in a price for the energy’s end users.Under AEP and FirstEnergy’s plans, however, electricity purchased from their unregulated generation affiliates will not go directly to their utilities’ non-shopping customers. Instead, both FirstEnergy and AEP have said that they intend to resell the electricity into the wholesale market for the grid managed by PJM.The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC), various local governments and others have moved to intervene in one or more of the FERC cases.Approval of the deals “could distort market clearing prices, resulting in unjust and unreasonable rates in PJM’s markets,” said OCC in one of its briefs.Another argument will likely focus on the magnitude of customers’ potential losses.Challengers also have a potential argument under Ohio’s law mandating competition in the electricity generation market. Under that law, passed in 1999, a distribution utility generally cannot favor its own affiliates.“These affiliate agreements that insulate the shareholders of the parent corporation from any risk blur the lines of corporate separation — which is the cornerstone protection of Ohio’s customer-choice centered energy policy,” said Dougherty.“In a certain sense, it’s ironic in that a lot of the rhetoric around ‘freezing’ [Ohio’s] renewable energy and energy efficiency standards was based on not wanting the government to mandate certain technologies, whereas the PUCO ruling is locking customers into uneconomic coal plants,” said Cathy Kunkel, an analyst for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.“But, in reality” Kunkel continued, “both the recent PUCO ruling and the freezing of the standards were part of the same strategy on the part of Ohio’s main utilities, particularly FirstEnergy, to reduce competition to their own generation.”Full article: ‘This isn’t over’: Opponents still fighting Ohio ‘bailout’ plans
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:European investment in the wind industry could accelerate to 100 billion euros ($111 billion) in total over the next three years, breaking records along the way.That injection of capital would translate to an extra 53 gigawatts of wind power capacity being added by 2021, according to research from Brussels-based trade association WindEurope. Europe currently has about 190 gigawatts of wind power installed.Last year, a record 65 billion euros was raised for the building of wind farms, refinancing, project and company deals as well as money from public markets.Investment in new onshore wind projects hit 16.4 billion euros in 2018, representing almost 40 percent of all new power investments in Europe. Northern and western Europe accounted for 35 percent of all new financial investment decisions last year, WindEurope said.More: European wind industry investment could hit $111 billion by 2021 Trade group says European wind investment could total $111 billion through 2021
Boom in Illinois around corporate and utility-scale solar FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Chicago Tribune:State lawmakers are backing a proposal called Path to 100, which would provide increased funding for the future and which is sure to be subject to debate in Springfield this year and next. A proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act would also expand solar — and both would cost consumers on their electric bills.For now, advocates say the solar industry is seeing a boom in Illinois. Big-box retailers are among those jumping on the solar bandwagon. Target announced plans for rooftop solar panels at 500 locations nationally by 2020 and for a wind farm in downstate Illinois.Last year, Walmart announced plans to install solar systems at 21 sites in Illinois. But this week, the retailer also filed suit against Tesla Inc., claiming its negligence installing solar panels on store rooftops nationwide caused seven fires in recent years, forcing the retailer to disconnect 244 solar systems.Under the state’s program, the biggest plans call for building utility-grade solar farms, many of them downstate. One farm in Marengo would cover 235 acres, cost up to $30 million to build and generate 40 megawatts.In Illinois, solar power produces less than in most states, but the average household uses less electricity than in most other states, so that 40-megawatt plant would power about 6,000 homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.Much of the state’s money will go to community solar projects — typically large fields of solar panels built by a private developer, which then recruits homeowners and businesses to subscribe. Those customers will in turn get credits from the state to reduce their electric bills. This allows people who live far from the solar farm — for instance, someone in a condominium in Chicago — to help pay for and benefit from solar power.More: Solar power popularity growing in Illinois, despite obstacles
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Liberty Mutual Group Inc. will no longer accept underwriting risk for companies that derive more than 25% of their profit from the extraction or production of energy from thermal coal.Liberty Mutual announced Dec. 13 that in addition to an enhanced focus on environmental, social and governance issues, it will not make new investments in debt or equity securities of companies generating more than 25% of their revenues from thermal coal mining or utility companies that obtain more than 25% of their electricity production from thermal coal. Existing coverage and investments exceeding the threshold are to be phased out by 2023.“We understand the shift from coal to clean energy is a journey and we recognize the role the insurance industry plays in supporting that evolution for our customers,” said Francis Hyatt, Liberty Mutual’s first chief sustainability officer, whose appointment the company also announced Dec. 13.Environmental activists are leading campaigns to push the insurance and investment industry away from the coal sector. In a recent report showing the number of insurers pledging to abandon the coal sector doubled in 2019, members of the Unfriend Coal campaign said U.S. insurers were slower to adopt exclusionary coal policies than their European peers.Boston-based Liberty Mutual is among the world’s largest insurers of fossil fuel companies, according to the Insure Our Future Campaign, a movement backed by environmental activists including 350.org, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club. Campaigners focused on insurance companies in the U.S. specifically targeted Liberty Mutual.Liberty Mutual is the 18th global insurance company to adopt restrictive coal policies, the release added.[Taylor Kuykendall]More ($): Liberty Mutual rolls out new coal exclusions; existing ties to phase out by 2023 Liberty Mutual to stop insuring thermal coal projects
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Guardian:The global coal industry will “never recover” from the Covid-19 pandemic, industry observers predict, because the crisis has proved renewable energy is cheaper for consumers and a safer bet for investors.A long-term shift away from dirty fossil fuels has accelerated during the lockdown, bringing forward power plant closures in several countries and providing new evidence that humanity’s coal use may finally have peaked after more than 200 years. Even before the pandemic, the industry was under pressure due to heightened climate activism, divestment campaigns and cheap alternatives. The lockdown has exposed its frailties even further, wiping billions from the market valuations of the world’s biggest coal miners.As demand for electricity has fallen, many utilities have cut back on coal first, because it is more expensive than gas, wind and solar. In the EU imports of coal for thermal power plants plunged by almost two-thirds in recent months to reach lows not seen in 30 years. The consequences have been felt around the world as well.This week, a new report by the US Energy Information Administration projected the US would produce more electricity this year from renewables than from coal for the first time. Industry analysts predict coal’s share of US electricity generation could fall to just 10% in five years, down from 50% a decade ago. Despite Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to “dig coal,” there are now more job losses and closures in the industry than at any time since Eisenhower’s presidency 60 years ago. Among the latest has been Great River Energy’s plan to shut down a 1.1-gigawatt thermal plant in North Dakota and replace it with wind and gas.More importantly, in India – the world’s second-biggest coal consumer – the government has prioritised cheap solar energy rather than coal in response to a slump in electricity demand caused by Covid-19 and a weak economy. This has led to the first year-on-year fall in carbon emissions in four decades, exceptional air quality, and a growing public clamour for more renewables.“The economics of coal were already under structural pressure before the pandemic,” said Michael Lewis, the head of climate change investment research at French bank BNP Paribas. “And coming out of it these pressures will still be there – but now compounded by the impact of the pandemic.”[Jonathan Watts and Jillian Ambrose]More: Coal industry will never recover after coronavirus pandemic, say experts Experts say global coal industry will not recover from Covid-19 pandemic
Research institute CSIRO says rooftop solar in Australia could rise to nearly 60GW by 2050 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Renew Economy:Australia’s main scientific research body, the CSIRO, has significantly upgraded its forecasts for small scale rooftop solar in Australia for the next few decades, suggesting that the total capacity on the rooftops of homes and businesses could multiply from its current levels of less than 10 gigawatts to nearly 60GW by 2050.The new scenario modelling – a 50 per cent jump in capacity from its previous estimates – is revealed in a newly published assessment by CSIRO prepared for the Australian Energy Market Operator’s 20-year blueprint for the main grid, known as the Integrated System Plan.AEMO already describes the future of Australia’s main grids as “distributed, democratised, and digital”. The only question is to what extent. And the new forecasts by the CSIRO suggest that it will be a lot.The CSIRO says there are a number of factors playing on its revised forecasts. The first is the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, which will likely mean near term forecasts are below those assumed last year. But long term growth will resume, more rapidly than previously thought, because of the continuing falls in rooftop solar costs, and the attraction of the technology for homes and businesses.The new 2050 forecasts represent a near 50 per cent jump on the previous assumptions made by the CSIRO last year when it was feeding its modelling into the ISP.“This reflects that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, rooftop solar adoption was trending higher than expected and this trend is expected to at least partially reassert itself post-pandemic through a wide range of drivers,” it says.[Giles Parkinson]More: Australia may reach nearly 60GW of small scale solar – new CSIRO modelling
Swimmers and kayakers participate in Chattanooga’s River Rocks Festival. Photo: Randall HolcombeMust Do AdventuresRiver Rocks in Chattanooga Canoe jousting, trail running, mountain biking, bouldering, hot air ballooning…if you’ve got an outdoor pursuit, it’s probably on the docket for Chattanooga’s River Rocks, a 10-day celebration of mountain pursuits. Sept 30-Oct. 9. riverrockschattanooga.comWatch a video of all the Chattanooga River Rocks fun!Paddle the Upper Ocoee 1600 cubic-feet-per-second of dammed water is released into the Upper Ocoee the first three Saturdays in September. The class III-IV Upper Ocoee is home to the Olympic Whitewater Course. americanwhitewater.orgUSA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships Watch the best downhill pros sort out the podium on new lift-served downhill courses designed by North Carolina native and former national champion Christopher Herndon. Sept. 22-25. skibeech.comThe Ultra Race of Champions The best ultra runners in the world will go toe to toe at the Ultra Race of Champions, a new event to be held at the Wintergreen Resort, outside of Charlottesville, Va. The 100K course features 32 miles of singletrack, 25 miles of gravel road, and five miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. There’s a $10,000 cash purse, half of which will go to the first female and male finisher, and a belt buckle for anyone who can finish the race in under 17 hours. The race is open to all runners, but a few of the notable pros already committed are Geoff Roes, the Western States 100 Mile course record holder; Dave Mackey, the USATF 100K trail champion; and Karl Meltzer, who has more 100-miler wins to his name than any other runner. Sept. 24. ultraroc.comGreenville Sets 5K World Record Within the last year, three Southern running clubs have set Guinness World Records for the successive 5K relay. In Florida, 100 members of the Florida Striders set the first 100x5K relay world record (37 hours, 12 minutes, 53 seconds) last December. But that record was quickly beaten this past March by the Charlotte Running Club, which had 100 members run successive 5Ks in 30 hours, 56 minutes, and 49 seconds. Then, in May, the Greenville Track Club usurped Charlotte by running 100 successive 5Ks in 30 hours, 1 minute, and 15 seconds.“There was only one point where we had doubts about beating the record,” says Ed Hughes, a runner and one of the directors of the event. “It was early in the attempt. One of our runners was overcome with heat exhaustion, and he was on lap 10 of 12.5. We were concerned he might collapse and that would mean giving up the attempt if he had to be carried off the track. He is a very determined individual and he made it by walking the last 2.5 laps, and fainted immediately after making the handoff. The rest of the event went smoothly. We hosed everyone, whether they wanted it or not.”Hughes says the club is now looking at setting a 100x8K relay world record.Quote of Note The bike is the key. It can be transportation to school or a job, or it can mean freedom, fitness, and fun.– Stephen Janes, director of Trips for Kids WNC, a nonprofit that takes at- risk youth mountain biking
Grant to Assist Bear Safety in the SmokiesGreat Smoky Mountains National ParkThe nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy recently awarded a $4,000 grant to assist with bear safety in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The grant, administered by the Friends of Smokies, will be used to upgrade cable and pulley systems used to keep food out of the reach of bears at the park’s backcountry campsites. In related news, the A.T. Conservancy also announced that revenue received from the sale of Appalachian Trail specialty license plates, first released in 2005, in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, exceeded $1 million.All Air Travel Goes Through AtlantaAtlanta, Ga.If you’ve ever waded through the sea of people at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this will not be a surprise, but the Airports Council International recently confirmed that it is indeed the busiest airport in the world. According to a recent report, Hartsfield-Jackson was visited by more than 94 million travelers last year. The Georgia airport saw nearly 10 million more people than the second busiest airport, in Beijing, China. Another Southern airport, Charlotte’s Douglas International was the 23rd busiest with more than 43 million travelers in 2013.Southern City Tops Obesity PollHuntington, W.Va.A recent Gallup Poll found that residents of the Huntington-Ashland, W.Va.-Ky.-Ohio metro area had an obesity rate of 39.5 percent. That’s tops in the nation among 189 U.S metropolitan areas surveyed. According to Gallup, Huntington-Ashland has been among the 10 most obese communities every year since the poll started in 2008. Other Southern cities in the top 10 include Hagerstown-Martinsburg, Md.-W.Va., Charleston, W.Va., and Clarksville, Tenn.-Ky. On the flip side, Charlottesville, Va., at a percentage of 18.7, landed at number four on the list of the least obese U.S. communities, a ranking that was topped by Boulder, Co., at 12.4 percent. Gallup also noted that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 program had a goal of reducing obesity to 15 percent in each state, but no state and only one U.S. metro area has achieved this goal.Troubled Waters in the SouthTroubled waters are running in the South. Two regional waterways recently made a list of the country’s top 10 endangered rivers, as named annually by watchdog nonprofit American Rivers. Coming in at number 6, South Carolina’s Edisto River is being threatened by excessive agriculture withdrawals, which, according to American Rivers, can take up to 35 percent of the river’s flow during the summer months. As the longest free-flowing blackwater river in the country, the Edisto runs for more than 250 miles from its headwaters between Columbia and Aiken to the Atlantic Coast, along the way serving as a popular waterway for both paddling and fishing.To the north, the Haw River was named the ninth most endangered on the list, at risk from millions of gallons of wastewater and polluted runoff. The 110-mile central North Carolina river and its watershed provide drinking water to nearly one million people between Greensboro and parts of the Triangle area, and the Haw is also a beloved city escape for paddling, fishing, and swimming. But population growth, antiquated wastewater systems, and recent protection rollbacks are all now threatening the long-term health of the river.Biking: Just What the Doctor OrderedBoston, Ma. In an effort to get its residents moving, the city of Boston recently started a program that allows some doctors to prescribe biking to low-income patients. According to a story in the Boston Globe, the new “Prescribe-a-Bike” enables doctors at Boston Medical Center to prescribe low-income patients with a $5 yearlong membership to Hubway, the city’s bike-share program. With an obesity rate of 1 in 4 among Bean Town’s low-income residents, city officials hope the incentive to ride will help some people become wicked slim. Paying Top Dollar for Mountain AirBeijing, ChinaCitizens in rapidly industrializing China are finally becoming vocal about their dangerous smog-filled skies. In one well-publicized awareness stunt, artist Liang Kegang took a business trip to the craggy Provence region of France and came back home with a jar of fresh mountain air. He then sold it at auction for 5,250 yuan ($860). In the story he said: “Air should be the most valueless commodity, free to breathe for any vagrant or beggar. This is my way to question China’s foul air and express my dissatisfaction.”Driver After Hitting Cyclist: “I Just Don’t Care” Koroit, AustraliaFortunately Kimberly Davis of Koroit, Australia won’t be on the road for a while. She lost her license for nine months and was fined $4500 after showing little remorse for hitting a cyclist from behind with her car. Following the incident, Davis, who used her phone 44 times leading up to incident, told police: “I just don’t care because I’ve already been through a lot of bullsh*t and my car is like pretty expensive and now I have to fix it. I’m kind of pissed off that the cyclist has hit the side of my car. I don’t agree that people texting and driving could hit a cyclist.” The cyclist spent three months recovering from a spinal fracture, an injury that required surgery and could have resulted in paralysis. Davis eventually pled guilty to dangerous driving.
Along the coast, shelves of water and bread are empty at grocery stores and supermarkets. Generators, gas cans, and plywood are flying off the shelves at major retailers like Home Depot and Lowes. Currently located about 625 miles southeast of Bermuda, the storm has sustained winds of 115 mph and gusts of up to 140 mph. We’re in the peak of hurricane season. Make sure you have a plan in place. For the latest updates, follow the National Hurricane Center. Update: As of 1:11 p.m., Hurricane Florence is now a Category 4 storm with winds near 130 mph.As of 11 a.m. on September 10, Hurricane Florence is officially a Category 3 storm, poised to hit our region as a Category 4 by Thursday morning.Governers for South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia have declared a state of emergency as the storm sets its sights on the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. The latest rendering (below) released by the National Hurricane Center shows Florence making landfall between South Carolina and North Carolina around 8 a.m. on Thursday morning.The first mandatory evacuations are in effect for the Outer Banks, a series of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. The latest statement released by the National Hurricane Center warns of life-threatening storm surge across the coastlines of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Inland areas are expected to see a significant amount of rainfall, causing severe freshwater flooding in rivers and streams. Inland areas from Northern Georgia to Virginia could see as much as two-feet of rainfall. A Hurricane Watch is expected to be released tomorrow morning.
Public invited to review South Carolina Draft Aquatic Plant Management Plan As winter hangs on in the mountains, a new study out of Appalachian State University is measuring how road salt impacts local waterways. When it snows in the NC mountains, tons of salt are laid down on the roads. The salt keeps the roads safe for travel, reducing accidents by 51 to 88 percent. Once the snow is gone, however, the salt dissolves and is carried into streams. For the past decade, Appalachian State University has been monitoring the salinity of the water and the soil of eight streams that flow into the Upper South Fork New River by measuring it for conductivity. Because saltier water conducts more electricity, conductivity can be measured to determine how much salt is in the water. Researchers have found that the streams get so salty in the winter months that the water is equivalent to estuarine water at the coast—where the rivers meet the ocean. The fish and insects that live in the streams aren’t evolved to live in salty water, so sensitive species like trout, mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies are affected. To keep the salt runoff down, the city of Boone, NC is experimenting with a mixture of 80 percent salt brine and 20 percent beet juice. The cost of beet juice is significantly higher, and its impact on conductivity is unknown. The public is invited to review and provide comments on the draft 2019 South Carolina Draft Aquatic Plant Management Plan. Each year the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources staff and the South Carolina Aquatic Plant Management Council prepare a plan that identifies aquatic weed problem areas, prescribes management strategies and determines needed funding. Since the program began in 1981, over 190,000 acres of invasive aquatic vegetation in public waters have been controlled to improve wildlife and fisheries habitat, public recreational access, and drinking water supplies. Comments or suggestions must be submitted in writing or by email and received by March 30, 2019. The plan is available to review at www.dnr.sc.gov/invasiveweeds/draftplan.html. Comments can be submitted to Chris Page at [email protected] North Carolina study finds that road salt impacts local waterways 44th Annual Assault on Mt. Mitchell sold out The 2019 Assault on Mt. Mitchell, one of the premier cycling experiences in the southeast, is sold out. Organizers are offering a special for the Assault on Mt. Mitchell’s shorter race, the Assault on Marion, a 74.2-mile ride from downtown Spartanburg, SC to the Tom Johnson Campground in Marion, NC. Marion registrants will have the opportunity to register early for the 2020 Assault on Mt. Mitchell. Now through March 31, the registration fee for the Assault on Marion is $55, increasing to $60 from April 1- May 17.