Well, we wrapped up the legislative year with a bang on Friday. There was a lot in the legislation beyond the big ticket items like crude exports and wind and solar tax credits. One great piece that passed the Senate is the Electrify Africa Act of 2015. (see below)
If you were trapped in the budget bill, you might have missed two other Interesting things:
- DOE released its long-awaited commercial air conditioning efficiency rule which will ultimately save the nation considerable energy. The basis of this rule is a consensus agreement worked out by affected stakeholders, including AHRI, which is the preferred process for developing federal efficiency standards.
- The long-awaited TSCA legislation passed the Senate after a series of delays over non-related controversies.
- I am still waiting to see if Steve Harvey is going to announce that Keystone decision actually was approved, but the President just read it wrong.
The President’s year-end news conference really focused on bigger issues, but it did feature some conversation about the recent climate deal. He said he expects a lot of complaints about the climate policies during the 2016 election. He also managed to veto the two Congressional Review Act disapproval resolutions aimed at the new and existing GHG rules for power plants. While the vetoes were widely expected, it seems strange that he actually “pocket vetoed” the bipartisan resolutions by just not signed or formally vetoing them.
And just so you know no good deed for the environmental community goes unpunished, please read this excellent piece in the New Yorker in which a pro-climate columnist Michael Specter exposes social science gadfly/activist Naomi Oreskes new attack to the policy debate labeling NASA ‘s Jim Hansen, Ken Caldeira and others as “climate deniers.”
Hope you finished you shopping. If not, EPA has a tip for you: consider giving gift cards for Christmas presents this year to save the environment. In its tips to “Reduce Waste for Greener Holidays,” the agency instructed readers to think about how much wrapping paper they use.
Finally, we are assuming that the Wall Street Journal is NOT taking EPA’s shopping tips. Over the weekend, it hammered EPA with government emails obtained by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute that show the EPA secretly worked with environmental lobbyists to craft its Clean Power Plan regulating greenhouse gases. The emails show the secret alliance designed a standard that would be impossible or economically ruinous for existing coal plants to meet—in order to force their closure. The New York Times first reported on the issue in July saying lawyers, David Doniger and David Hawkins, and scientist Dan Lashof, worked with a team of experts to write a 110-page proposal, widely viewed as innovative and audacious, that was aimed at slashing planet-warming carbon pollution from the nation’s coal-fired power plants.
As you know, every year, before Christmas, I do a Christmas Note filled with holiday cheer and some good quips…so , here we go:
It is the week of Christmas and all through DC; we finally have a Budget that allows Congress to flee.
Congress traded the Oil Exports for renewables annoying greens; who argue that Paris should make us more mean.
But new Wind turbines will spin and solar’s Ivanpah will shine bright; and there’s major relief we won’t have the annual tax credit fight.
GHG rules remain the biggest issue we face, I’m sure we’ll be arguing about it on each and every case.
You may have heard that Wellesley is on my daughter plate; now only to figure out how to pay for the freight.
Dropping gas prices and crude tumbling could help too; pretty good for the economy but makes the oil industry seems blue.
Still, energy independence remains closer than ever; and that’s mostly because the oil and gas industry is always getting better.
And the Paris climate agreement seems to be somewhat historic; our environmental leaders that support it seem overly euphoric.
Mostly because while bold no one will follow, a crazy agreement that is surely very hollow.
It is why we continue to push new climate techs game; but it is uncertain to work is the global debate stays lame.
For this New Year there’ll be new President, elections, battles over rights; all become more prominent if we can’t turn on the lights.
So as we wrap another crazy energy year, I hope you will take a few minutes to share…
Some fun, peace and joy… and more holiday cheer, mostly because it really is the best time of year.
We’re always working hard to be there for you; interviews, sources, background – something is always new.
So as you settle in for the holidays during this week and next; The Winter Classic, some football, some well-deserved rest.
From Our Bracewell family to yours, have a great holiday season; Can’t wait to make next year even better for whatever reason.
IN THE NEWS
Congress Finalizes Budget, Moves to 2016 – On Friday, Congress approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill and $680 billion tax package with a two strong bipartisan votes. The House moved first, passing the government funding bill on a 316-113 vote. The Senate followed suit just a few hours later, clearing the legislation on a 65-33 tally.
What is in the Legislation – Here are a few items to look for:
Africa Electrification Big Winner in Year-End Bill – Another big winner the year end Senate action that may have slipped under the radar was the Electrify Africa Act of 2015. Given the recent Paris agreement and the focus on Developing Country partnerships, this move is an important step forward for providing reliable power in places that are in desperate need. The bill encourages meaningful public-private partnerships that will bring electricity to 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and help to lift impoverished African communities out of subsistence living. NRECA supported the legislation praising the bill’s emphasis on electricity distribution and expanding access. “Poles and wires are what move electricity from power plants to people, and this bill will promote economic development by expanding access to electricity will benefit people on both sides of the Atlantic,” NRECA President Jeff Connor said.
US Crude Exports Panned By Enviros – In light of the crude export ban being lifted, About 100 environmental advocacy groups, joined in a recent call looking for ways to stop oil exports from proceeding without restrictions again. “To lift the crude oil export ban flies in the face of climate progress less than a week after the United Nations Paris Agreement,” the group stated. Some felt hoodwinked because when they headed off to Paris, they believed President Obama would veto any bill that included lifting the ban. That no longer seems to be the case. Ouch…
India Already Not Following Deal – As You saw above, environmental groups say the US oil export legislation undermines the goals of Paris and they let Democrats and the President have it on the topic. But the export fight was only the first sign that no one will really follow the agreement. Just two days after, India said it would double its coal use no matter what they agreed to in Paris.
Japan, S Korea Doing Same – Less than a week since signing the global climate deal in Paris, Japan and South Korea are pressing ahead with plans to open scores of new coal-fired power plants, casting doubt on the strength of their commitment to cutting CO2 emissions. Asia’s two most developed economies are burning more than ever and plan to add at least 60 new coal-fired power plants over the next 10 years. Officials at both countries’ energy ministries said those plans were unchanged. South Korea did scrap plans for four coal-fired power plants as part of its pledge to the Paris summit, but 20 new plants are still planned by 2021. In Japan, 41 new coal-fired power plants are planned over the next decade, and taxes favor imports of coal over cleaner-burning natural gas.
Britain Cutting Renewable Subsidies – Britain cut more renewable energy subsidies last week and it is drawing criticism for losing credibility in tackling climate change after the landmark deal in Paris. Britain cut the tariff for domestic-scale solar up to 10 kilowatts in capacity, such as rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, to 4.39 pence per kilowatt hour. The government also capped spending on the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) scheme at a maximum 100 million pounds a year for new installations from February next year to April 2019.
Solar Extension Will Increase Installations – A five-year extension to the solar investment tax credit (ITC), which is currently included in the omnibus spending bill under consideration in Congress, would result in 25 gigawatts (GW) of additional solar capacity over the next five years – a 54 percent increase over a no-extension scenario. According to GTM Research, which today released preliminary updated state- and segment-level forecasts based on the current omnibus language, ITC extension will foster $40 billion in incremental investment in solar between 2016 and 2020. The impact will be most pronounced in the utility-scale sector, where ITC extension will increase deployments 73 percent through 2020. In the distributed solar market, residential installations will see a 35% impact versus no extension, while commercial solar will increase by 51%.
CFR Emissions Analysis Says Renewable Tax Extension Outweighs Oil Exports – A new Council on Foreign Relations analysis says extending federal tax credits for wind and solar “will do far more to reduce carbon dioxide emissions over the next five years than lifting the (crude oil) export ban will do to increase them.” Varun Sivaram and Michael Levi focused on 2016-2020 for three reasons: (a) it’s the period for which we have the best data; (b) beyond 2020, complex interactions with the Clean Power Plan make things much tougher to model; and (c) most important, beyond 2020, the primary effect of the ITC/PTC extension should be to make reducing emissions cheaper, and thus enable stronger policy. While they offered no judgement on the budget deal, they said it looks like a win for climate.
AAPCA Releases Info Graphic on Compliance – The Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies (AAPCA) released a new infographic/timeline, State Clean Air Act Deadlines, 2016 – 2021. The timeline includes requirements affecting many environmental agencies under the Clean Power Plan, National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone (2008 and 2015), sulfur dioxide, lead, and fine particulate matter, regional haze, and the Startup, Shutdown, and Malfunction State Implementation Plan Call.
For context, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Director recently testified: “In an era of diminishing appropriations and seemingly ever-increasing regulation complexity and burden, each action taken by EPA to mandate a response by my state forces us to make critical decisions involving programs, spending and personnel.” For the revised ozone NAAQS, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality estimated “that the agency’s level of effort required to develop an attainment demonstration and reasonable further progress [State Implementation Plan] revision for a moderate nonattainment area is 45,000 to 55,000 hours of staff time, with an estimated cost of over $1 million dollars.”
SoCo Wind Project Operational – Southern Company said its 299MW Kay Wind facility in Kay County, Oklahoma, is fully operational. Kay Wind is Southern Power’s first wind project. The electricity and associated renewable energy credits (RECs) generated by the facility will be sold under 20-year power purchase agreements with Westar Energy Inc. in Kansas and Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) in Oklahoma. Westar Energy has contracted for approximately 199 MW, and GRDA has contracted for approximately 100 MW. Both companies will have the option to either keep or sell the RECs. Apex Clean Energy developed and will operate and maintain the facility. Blattner Energy Inc. served as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor. The Kay Wind project consists of 130 wind turbines manufactured by Siemens and is capable of generating enough electricity to help meet the energy needs of approximately 100,000 average U.S. homes.
And a Solar Project – Southern Company has also acquired a controlling interest in the 200-megawatt (MW) Garland solar facility under construction in California from Recurrent Energy, a subsidiary of Canadian Solar Inc. Southern Power now owns more than 650 MW across nine operating or planned facilities in California. One of North America’s largest solar developers, Recurrent Energy is constructing the facility and will retain the remaining interest in the project. Southern Power and Recurrent Energy have now announced the development of three jointly owned projects that together are expected to generate more than 550 MW of solar electricity in California and Texas. Upon completion, the Garland solar facility is expected to be capable of generating enough solar energy to meet the energy needs of approximately 45,000 homes.
Fanning Praised As Energy Leader – The 2015 edition of SNL Energy’s 10 Most Influential People highlights the work of Southern CEO Thomas Fanning, Ahmad Chatila, Robert Murray, Pope Francis and several other people whose actions had a major impact on the direction of the North American energy industry over the past 12 months. The selection process for SNL Energy’s 10 Most Influential People list relied on the industry expertise in the SNL Energy newsroom. SNL Energy reporters and editors nominated people who had an impact on various sectors of the energy industry over the past year. The final list of people was selected by a committee of veteran energy journalists at SNL Energy.
DOE Announces Commercial AC Rules Agreement – As I mentioned earlier in the week, the DOE released its new efficiency standards for commercial air conditioners and furnaces. Developed with industry, utilities, and environmental groups, these standards will save more energy than any other standard issued by the Department to date. Over the lifetime of the products, businesses will save $167 billion on their utility bills and carbon pollution will be reduced by 885 million metric tons. AHRI’s President & CEO Stephen Yurek said the basis of this rule is a consensus agreement worked out by affected stakeholders, including AHRI. Yurek: “While we are still reviewing the final rule, we hope and expect that it includes the provisions agreed to by the parties. This is an agreement that will ultimately save the nation considerable energy and we are proud of the role our member companies played in its development. It is a good example in a sometimes cynical city that when disparate parties come together in good faith, good things can happen.”
ON THE SCHEDULE THIS WEEK
New Year’s Day
API State of Energy Set– API will host its annual State of Energy event On Tuesday January 5th at 11:30 a.m. at the Ronald Reagan Building Atrium Ballroom featuring API head Jack Gerard. The event will kick off America’s energy policy discussion ahead of the critical 2016 elections. In order to take best advantage of America’s tremendous energy potential, API will continue to keep the national energy conversation focused on the facts for the public and for lawmakers, both current and prospective.
Detroit Auto Show Set to Go – The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) run from January 11th to 24th in the Motor City. The official press conference schedule for the 2016 NAIAS begins with Press Preview, Jan. 11-12. With more than 5,000 credentialed journalists from 60+ countries expected to attend the upcoming show, automakers and suppliers exhibiting at NAIAS garner considerably greater global visibility and impact when compared to other domestic shows. The 2016 NAIAS Press Conference Schedule is available on the NAIAS website under the main Press tab. In its 28th year as an international event, the NAIAS is among the most prestigious auto shows in the world, providing unparalleled access to the automotive products, people and ideas that matter most – up close and in one place.
Washington Auto Show Sets Policy Bar – Green Car Journal has announced finalists for the 2016 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ and 2016 Connected Green Car of the Year™ awards that will be presented at the 2016 Washington Auto Show on January 21. Focused on aspirational vehicles with exceptional green credentials, nominees for 2016 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ include the BMW X5 xDrive40e, Lexus RX 450h, Mercedes-Benz C350e, Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid, and Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV. Vying for the all-new 2016 Connected Green Car of the Year™ award are the Audi A3 e-tron, BMW 330e, Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, Toyota Prius, and Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV. Finalists previously announced for the 2016 Green SUV of the Year™ award that will also be presented at The Washington Auto Show® are the BMW X1 xDrive 28i, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. The 2016 Green Car Awards recognize vehicles that exhibit laudable environmental achievement. Along with improved environmental performance, traditional buyer touchstones like functionality, safety, quality, value, and performance are also considered. Affordability and availability are important to ensure honored models are accessible to a wide range of buyers. Honoring continual environmental improvement places emphasis on new vehicles and those in the very early stages of their model lifecycle. The Connected Green Car of the Year™ award considers these elements plus the integration of connected technologies that enhance efficiency, safety, and the driving experience.