Well, we finally might have a chance to breathe now that Congress has headed back home for the August Work Period. It has been a pretty crazy nine months since election day 2016. I’m sure there will be plenty of action outside the Beltway in August given the results (or lack thereof, depending on your political view).
We will not report weekly in August but will update you when necessary. Some events for August include AWEA launching its inaugural #AmericanWindWeek this week. Throughout the week, AWEA members will highlight America’s wind energy leadership—modern wind power was born in the U.S., and is home to some of the world’s most productive wind turbines. #AmericanWindWeek will feature on-the-ground events across the country so click on the link to catch one in your area.
Next week, the ITC holds its public hearing on Tuesday looking at the injury phase of the 201 trade petition filed by Suniva which aims to impose tariffs that place the recent success of the entire solar industry and its workforce at risk. You will hear a bunch this week and next from the solar industry, as well as a broader coalition of affected parties like utilities, union workers, retailers and conservative/free trade advocates, weighing in on the high cost and devastating impacts any potential tariffs could have.
The follow week, the country will focus on the upcoming solar eclipse, which occurs on August 21st. EIA says that solar eclipse will obscure the sunlight needed to generate electricity at approximately 1,900 utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants in the United States. However, relatively little solar PV capacity lies in the path of totality. See the full EIA analysis here. If you really want to “Science Nerd” out that week, the American Chemical Society holds its 254th annual national meeting during the entire week and will feature tons of events on really complex STEM issues, as well as highlight many important and innovative technological advances.
Before Congress vaulted, the Senate did address one HUGE need when late Thursday, they approved FERC nominees Robert Powelson and Neil Chatterjee to the Commission to restore its quorum, which had been absent and limiting action since April. More on the reaction for this long-awaited relief below. The Senate also approved DOE #2 Dan Brouillette and our former Bracewell colleague and ex-TX Sen. Kay Baily Hutchinson to be the Ambassador to NATO, among others.
Finally, August break also means we have to start getting ready for the Society of Environmental Journalists annual meeting, this year held in Pittsburgh on October 4-8th. Of course, Bracewell’s PRG will again sponsor its Thursday Night Extravaganza. More on this as we get closer, but mark your calendar.
When we return in September, football will be in full swing, my college field hockey umping season (as well as Hannah’s 2nd Wellesley and Olivia’s 1st HS seasons) will be underway and tennis’s final major, New York’s US Open will hitting the Quarterfinal rounds. Enjoy and see you then…We will be around nearly all August, so if you’re in DC, let’s grab a lunch or coffee and as always, call with questions.
“I have been attacked in cartoon form. I have officially arrived.”
New FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee, who was approved unanimously late Thursday by the Senate, on social media over the weekend after seeing the following editorial cartoon:
IN THE NEWS
FERC Approves Nominees to Restore Quorum – The Senate approved FERC nominees Robert Powelson and Neil Chatterjee late last week before heading out on August work period. Senators’ unanimous votes Thursday approved Senate energy aide to Majority Leader McConnell Neil Chatterjee and Pennsylvania utility regulator Robert Powelson that restores a voting quorum. Only one commissioner currently serves on the panel, leaving it unable to make decisions on interstate pipelines and other projects worth billions of dollars.
Segal Praises Powleson, Chatterjee – ERCC Director Scott Segal offered relief that “the long day’s journey into night for energy infrastructure is over, regarding the voice vote confirming Powelson and Chatterjee. “This ends the first missing quorum in 40 years of regulatory activity for the Commission. As ERCC reported to Senate Leadership earlier last week, some $50 billion in private capital was hamstrung by FERC inaction for major pieces of energy infrastructure like interstate natural gas pipelines so essential for bringing clean energy all over the country and the world. As well, more than 75,000 jobs were in jeopardy as projects were delayed. Chatterjee brings a long record of work on major energy policies to the FERC, and Powelson brings an important state perspective from a major energy-producing state. With the FERC quorum shortly restored, business confidence will be restored – and it will be time to get back to work.”
INGAA Pleased Quorum Restored – INGAA CEO/President Don Santa applauded the Senate for confirming Chatterjee and Powelson to serve as members of FERC, thereby restoring the commission’s quorum, which has been absent for six months. Santa, a former FERC Commissioner who in a group of 4 that was approved just before losing a quorum in 1993, said “the commission now can get back to work thoroughly reviewing the many energy infrastructure projects of national importance that have been sidelined in recent months.” Santa also said INGAA looks forward to seeing quick action on nominees Republican Kevin McIntyre (designated as chairman) and Democrat Richard Glick, noting encouragement that the Senate Energy Committee had already scheduled a hearing for the two nominees in September. Santa: “INGAA hopes that the Senate can confirm McIntyre and Glick as soon as possible.”
Chamber Says ‘Finally’ – The Chamber’s Global Energy Institute also expressed released that the quorum was finally restored. Institute President and CEO Karen Harbert said for months, an increasing number of critical energy infrastructure projects have been stalled due to a lack of a quorum at FERC. Harbert: “We’re pleased that the Senate has finally acted to confirm Neil Chatterjee and Rob Powelson. Both nominees are exceptionally well qualified and will serve with distinction. While overdue, the Senate’s action will now allow American energy companies the ability to move forward with projects that will create jobs and improve our security.” The U.S. Chamber led a coalition of over 90 business groups which sent a letter earlier today urging quicker action on nominees, and specifically objecting to forcing even non-controversial nominees to the cloture process, which is a departure from previous norms.
Segal Discusses CPP Follow Up in POWER Magazine Piece – Segal was also featured in POWER magazine this month regarding the future of power-sector regulation in a post-Clean Power Plan world. Segal says it is possible to have a sensible approach to regulating baseload power even as investments continue in alternative energy sources that reflect the broad range of American innovation. Renewable and nuclear power sources will continue to expand as cost-effectiveness improves, tax policy remains conducive and state legislation is appropriate. Durable and sensible regulatory reform will be in the best interest of all forms of power development.”
Denver Post Editorial: Starving Coal Plants is Misguided – The Denver Post Editorial board, not the most conservative editorial board out there, wrote an editorial on Sunday saying that starving coal power plants to save the environment is a misguided policy approach when referring to opposition over two coal mine expansion applications. “The buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is distressing and contributing to the global warming that poses a real — albeit distant — threat to our environment, wildlife and coastal cities,” they said. “But the place to effect meaningful change is not on the front end by eliminating the extraction of coal and gas from the ground. Interfering with efforts to meet our nation’s demand for coal will hurt nearly every community in America where 32% of the U.S. power market still depends on burning this dirty fossil fuel to power cities. Forcing coal power plants out of commission by starvation will hurt far worse than carefully planning a transition and continuing this inexorable march away from coal over time.
ON THE SCHEDULE FOR AUGUST
AWEA Launches First ‘Wind Week’ – This week, AWEA launches its inaugural #AmericanWindWeek. The week will highlight America’s wind energy leadership—modern wind power was born in the U.S., and is home to some of the world’s most productive wind turbines. #AmericanWindWeek will feature on-the-ground events across the country, from ribbon cuttings and public tours at wind projects to a charity 5K through a wind farm. The week culminates when AWEA hosts the Fowler Wind Fair in Fowler, Indiana. Fowler perfectly encapsulates how wind is creating a future full of good jobs and new opportunities across rural America.
Forum to Look at Oil Corruption Issues – The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will hold a forum next Tuesday August 8th at Noon on how the US can counteract oil corruption. The oil industry has been entangled in serious corruption controversies, from the legality of some companies’ stance on climate change to dealings with producer-country governments. In response, the U.S. government has shown leadership over the past decade in helping bring more transparency to the sector. The event will offer an engaging discussion of new findings by Global Witness on Shell’s activities in Nigeria, why corruption in this key economic sector matters, and how the U.S. government-and companies-can be part of the solution. Speakers will include former WaPo reporter and dean of the Columbia School of Journalism Steve Coll (who wrote a book on Exxon). Others include Olarenwaju Suraju, a Nigerian anticorruption and environmental activist and Simon Taylor, co-founding director of the international anticorruption organization Global Witness. Carnegie’s Democracy and Rule of Law fellow Sarah Chayes will moderate. She is a co-author of “The Oil Curse: A Remedial Role for the Oil Industry.”
Beyer to Address Forum on Paris Implications – The United Nations Assn of the USA will hold a forum tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. in 2168 Rayburn to discuss the Paris Treaty and the potential consequences and risks associated with this recent withdrawal. The keynote speaker will include Rep. Don Beyer, the Vice Ranking Member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The program will also look at the current situation as addressed by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #17 (Partnerships for the Goals) as catalyst for the UN Association to reaffirm efforts to inform, educate and advocate for global cooperation.
Clean Energy Bootcamp Set – The Clean Energy Leadership Institute, in partnership with the Duke University Energy Initiative, will hold its inaugural Clean Energy 101 Bootcamp on Saturday, August 12th. The Clean Energy 101 Bootcamp is designed to give current students, recent graduates, and those interested in pursuing a career in clean energy an introduction to fundamental concepts of clean energy technology, finance, business development and policy. The Bootcamp will also offer extensive opportunities to network and learn from current professionals about what it means to work in government, industry, advocacy, science, and entrepreneurship roles across the clean energy sector.
Trade petition Hearing Set – The US International Trade Commission will hold its first hearing on the injury phase of the Solar 201 trade petition filed by Suniva on August 15th beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the USITC in Washington, DC. In the event that the Commission makes an affirmative injury determination or is equally divided on the question of injury in this investigation, a second hearing on the question of remedy will be held beginning at 9:30 a.m. on October 3rd.
USEA Forum to Look at Energy-Water Nexus – The US Energy Association will host a forum on Tuesday August 15th at 10:00 a.m. featuring Verdant Power looking at the water-energy nexus. According to DOE’s “The Water Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities” report, several trends are increasing urgency to address the water-energy nexus in an integrated and proactive way: climate change, which is affecting precipitation and temperature patterns throughout the world; population growth and regional migration trends that are likely to increase, which complicate management of energy and water systems; new technologies in energy and water domains that shift water-energy demands; and developments in policies that are introducing additional incentives and challenges for decision making. Verdant Power is addressing the water-energy nexus in an integrated and proactive way resulting from its successful R&D efforts at the company’s Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) Project in New York City’s East River – the world’s first grid-connected array of marine renewable energy (MRE) turbines systems. Verdant Power’s Trey Taylor will look at their holistic, strategic approach in helping build sustainable communities through MRE-based integrated energy and hybrid power systems, microgrids, and water management.
ACS to Host National Meeting, Innovative Technologies Event – The American Chemical Society hosts Its 254th national meeting and expo on August 20th through 24th in DC at the Walter Washington Convention Center focusing on chemistry’s impact on the global economy. The week will be filled with more science and chemistry events than anyone could ever want. They will also honor innovative technologies toward the end of the conference and we will have more Information about that closer to the event.
IN THE FUTURE
McIntyre, Glick Head to Confirmation Hearing – The Senate Energy Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. for Rich Glick and Kevin McIntyre to join FERC.
Platts Forum to Look at Pipeline Issues – Platts will hold its 12th annual conference in Houston at the Houstonian on September 7th and 8th looking at pipeline development and expansion. During the conference, my colleague George Felcyn and our friend George Stark of Cabot will be featured on a panel on building pipeline support from the grassroots. This workshop will focus on ways for pipeline companies to build public support, shape media coverage, influence regulators and successfully see their planned projects through to completion.
TX Renewable Summit Set – On September 18th – 20th, the Texas Renewable Energy Summit will be held in Austin at Omni Southpark. The summit will offer the latest insights into the market and hear from key players about the key trends impacting renewable energy project development, finance and investment in Texas. The falling price of solar panels is driving a surge in interest by public utilities and corporate customers in contracting for solar power, while a huge queue of wind projects is forming. As much as 16 GW of new wind and solar projects could come to fruition in Texas. However, development and financing challenges must be surmounted to assure project success and bankability. Large quantities of solar may drive the dispatch curve and market prices in unpredictable directions.
Ideas Conference Set – The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute holds its 9th annual Washington Ideas conference on September 26-28. “Washington Ideas” convenes the nation’s leaders in politics, business, health, science, technology, arts, culture and journalism for three days of can’t miss conversation and connections. In the heart of the nation’s capital, we will tackle the most consequential issues facing the country and the world.
Coal Event to Hear from Alpha CEO – The 40th annual Coal Marketing Days forum will be held on September 26-27 at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh. The event hosts a variety of coal suppliers and buyers, coal transport companies, and industry-wide analysts who exchange in-depth knowledge on the current state of the global and domestic coal-producing markets and focuses on the current trends and challenges shaping the business. Alpha Natural Resources CEO David Stetson is the keynote.
EEI Comms Conference Set – Our friends at EEI hold their annual Communicators Conference On Monday October 2 and Tuesday October 3rd in Washington. Utility Communicators from across the Country will be in town to discuss policy and best practice issues, among other items.
SEJ Set for Pittsburgh – Speaking of Pittsburgh, SEJ’s 27th annual conference is set for October 4-8 in Steel City.
Vets in Energy Forum Set – Veterans In Energy will hold a forum on October 5th through 7th at NRECA in Arlington. VIE provide transition, retention and professional development support to the growing population of military veterans who have chosen energy careers. Speakers will include Chris Hale Of GI Jobs and Gen. John Allen, former Dep Commander of US Central Command.
Renewable Tour Set for October Shenandoah Fall – JMU’s Center for Wind Energy joins the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and hundreds of solar-savvy installers and grassroots organizations throughout America to showcase thousands of solar-powered homes, schools and businesses in Virginia and across North America — for the 22nd Annual National Solar Tour, the world’s largest grassroots solar event. The ASES National Solar Tour shows families and businesses real-life examples of how their neighbors are harnessing free energy from the sun to generate electricity, warm and cool their homes, heat water and slash monthly utility bills.