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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reached the right conclusion this week in rejecting a DOE proposal to essentially subsidize money-losing coal-fueled and nuclear power plants. The five-member panel also rendered its decision forcefully, voting unanimously in finding existing market rules were not "unjust, unreasonable, unduly discriminatory or preferential" – all conditions that must be present under the law to adopt Energy Secretary Rick Perry's plan. Last August, Perry called on FERC to issue new rules to ensure that power generating facilities with a 90-day fuel supply – nuclear and coal – be compensated for the reliability they add to the grid, in addition to the power they supply. A grid reliability study ordered by Perry and delivered to him last August clearly showed that the ongoing decline in the so-called "base load" energy sources – increasing coal and nuclear plant closures – was attributable primarily to less expensive natural gas, flatlining energy demand and significant increases in net generation capacity since 2002. FERC did give regional grid owners and operators 60 days to offer their own positions on grid resilience, including how they define and assess it within their service areas, and whether there is any action the commission can take to help them. It's a smart move. It will give FERC commissioners a chance to take a truthful, holistic look at the energy market. And it will give power system operators the opportunity to fully show policy makers that they have included deeper renewable energy penetration in their grids in addressing resiliency and reliability in recent years.
Clean Energy Advocates Cheer FERC Rejection of Perry Resiliency Proposal
A proposal from Energy Secretary Rick Perry to issue new rules to ensure that power generating facilities with a 90-day fuel supply – including nuclear and coal – be compensated for the reliability they add to the grid, in addition to the power they supply, was unanimously rejected by the five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Monday.
The ruling drew praise from virtually all energy interests, except nuclear power and coal industry groups.
Critics of the proposal, including 25x'25, said such an order would essentially subsidize money-losing coal and nuclear facilities at the expense of ratepayers.
A DOE study requested by Perry earlier this year found that the ongoing decline in the so-called "baseload" energy sources was attributable primarily to less expensive natural gas, flatlining energy demand, significant increases in net generation capacity since 2002, and the dramatic drop in the price of installing renewables like wind and solar, which has led to wider implementation of wind turbines and solar panels across the country.
Opposition to the proposal brought together a widely diverse group of renewable energy trade groups, advocacy groups, independent power suppliers and marketers, energy storage interests, natural gas organizations and the nation's leading petroleum trade association.
In a joint statement issued following the FERC vote Monday, the nine energy groups said, "We are very encouraged by the action taken by FERC today. We look forward to engaging with FERC, DOE, and grid operators in an examination of what resilience of the electric power system means and requires, and to demonstrating the contribution of our industries to ensuring reliable power for all."
Signing on to the statement were the Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), American Petroleum Institute (API), American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Energy Storage Association (ESA), Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA), Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
FERC's five members – three Republicans and two Democrats, four of whom appointed by President Trump – unanimously ruled that existing market rules were not "unjust, unreasonable, unduly discriminatory or preferential," all requirement under the law to adopt Perry's proposal. FERC also rejected assertions from Perry "that an adequate record exists through the commission's price formation efforts to support the proposed rule's action regarding bulk power system resilience."
However, FERC did give regional grid owners and operators 60 days to offer their own positions on grid resilience, including how they define and assess it within their service areas, and whether there is any action the commission can take to help them.
"The resilience of the bulk power system will remain a priority of this Commission. We expect to review the additional material and promptly decide whether additional Commission action is warranted to address grid resilience," FERC wrote.
Despite repeated assertions that the resiliency pricing rule he proposed was a matter of national security, Perry's response to Monday's FERC ruling was relatively accepting.
"As intended, my proposal initiated a national debate on the resiliency of our electric system," the energy secretary said in a statement. "What is not debatable is that a diverse fuel supply, especially with onsite fuel capability, plays an essential role in providing Americans with reliable, resilient and affordable electricity, particularly in times of weather-related stress like we are seeing now." he said.
E&E News quoted a DOE spokesperson as saying that Perry was "pleased that FERC heard his call and is directing the regional [grid operators] to take steps to continue to address these important issues. He looks forward to working with the Commissioners to ensure that Americans will have a reliable, resilient and affordable supply of electricity in the years to come."
The critical need for the proposed rule was called into question this past week when the entire East Coast was slammed with record low temperatures, major blizzards and heavy winds – the kinds of conditions cited by Perry in calling for the resiliency reward rule – yet suffered little in the way of power disruptions. No calls for additional power from coal and nuclear plants were made as natural gas and renewable energy power plants readily met their obligations.
Reaction to the vote from renewable energy groups was virtually unanimous.
"We're encouraged by FERC's action because it recognizes that no past or planned power plant retirements threaten grid resilience," said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. "This action starts a thorough look at how to assess the grid's resilience, and how FERC and the RTOs might apply further market-based approaches to protect it."
Kiernan said wind power "plays an important and growing role in diversifying the grid's sources of energy. Wind turbines can provide important grid services that make our electricity supply more reliable and resilient against extreme events."
Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), said his group was also pleased that FERC rejected the DOE proposal and instead embarking "on a new process seeking more information from grid operators about whether there really is a problem with grid 'resilience,' and if so what should be done about it."
"One thing we do know for sure," he said, (is) "whenever America's power grid has come across real world resilience issues, renewable energy played an essential role in supporting grid reliability, ramping up, for example, to provide more power in the 2014 Polar Vortex event when coal piles froze."
Malcolm Woolf, senior vice president for policy at Advanced Energy Economy, joined in commending FERC commissioners "for rejecting an unwarranted bailout of uneconomic power plants in order to solve a problem that doesn't exist."
He said his group is looking forward "to engaging in a holistic look at what it takes to keep the lights on, and to demonstrating the contribution of advanced energy technologies to an affordable, reliable, resilient grid."
The Union of Concern Scientists (UCS) had a similar reaction, lauding FERC for rejecting a proposal it said would "force energy markets to provide failing coal-fired power plants and nuclear plants guaranteed profits – at the cost of consumers."
Mike Jacobs, UCS senior energy analyst, said federal regulators were right "to reject a proposal that would have amounted to nothing more than giving coal and nuclear power plants billions of dollars in guaranteed profits," and adding that providing a "'resilience' benefit that doesn't exist would have increased carbon emissions, raised costs to consumers, and distorted competitive markets."
Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Green America, an environmental advocacy group that lists 250,000 individual and 2,000 business members, said the proposed policy "would have been bad for Americans, forcing them to pay higher rates for polluting and dangerous technologies."
He noted that Perry's assertions that incentives for coal and nuclear were necessary to preserve grid resilience were contradicted by DOE's own research, and argued that the proposal "was clearly designed to slow the progress of low-cost solar and wind technologies that benefit consumers and the environment.
"At a time when businesses are increasingly looking to purchase power from renewable sources, and when renewables are increasingly cost-competitive and part of a reliable grid, we should be looking at ways to further enhance our use of clean energy, and we encourage FERC to support an electric grid increasingly fed by renewable energy," Larsen said.
FERC Report: Potential Doubling of Solar and Wind Capacity by 2020
Net additions to generating capacity by utility-scale wind and solar could total 115,984 megawatts (MW) by December 2020, doubling the current installed capacity of 115,520 MW, the latest "Energy Infrastructure Update" from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) finds.
Reflecting data through Nov. 30, 2017, the report shows coal could see a net decline of 18,723 MW, about 6.6 percent of its of current capacity, while nuclear power drops by 2,342 MW, or 2.1 percent of current capacity.
The update also reports the potential retirement of 10,803 MW of natural gas capacity by the end of 2020. But that drop would be offset by a possible addition of 92,489 MW – a net gain of 81,686 MW, an amount representing a nearly 16 percent increase in current natural gas capacity.
Oil-generated power, a relative small portion of U.S. generating capacity, would likely stay pretty much the same, with the likely retirement of 571 MW and the addition of 762 MW.
Renewable sources exhibit by far the largest potential for increase. Proposed additions for wind total 72,526 MW, with only 68 MW of capacity being retired, while solar could add 43,528 MW and see just 2 MW in retirements. Hydropower would retire 706 MW, but grow by 12,732 MW by 2020. Biomass is slated to drop 47 MW, but add 945 MW, while geothermal could expand by 1,610 MW without any retirements. In total, proposed net generation additions for the mix of renewable sources totals 130,518 MW.
At the rate of net additions suggested by the FERC numbers, renewables could make up 26.57 percent of the nation's total installed generating capacity, up from the current level of 19.91 percent. FERC says solar and wind combined would equal nearly 17 percent of capacity in three years.
NREL Launches Electrification Futures Study Series
Two days after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejects a DOE proposal to economically boost coal and nuclear power plants, the department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the nation's premier clean energy research institute, launched a study collaboration that is likely to lead to even wider implementation of renewable energy.
NREL is spearheading a research alliance, the Electrification Futures Study, to explore the impacts of widespread electrification in all U.S. economic sectors – commercial and residential buildings, transportation, and industry.
Over the next two years, NREL and its research partners – Electric Power Research Institute, Evolved Energy Research, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Northern Arizona University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory – will use a suite of modeling tools to develop and assess electrification scenarios designed to answer the following questions:
- What end-use electric technologies are available for the highest energy-consuming services today, and how might the technologies advance over time?
- How might widespread electrification impact national and regional electricity demand and consumption patterns?
- How would the U.S. electricity system need to transform to meet changes in demand from an electrified economy?
- What role might demand-side flexibility play to support reliable operations of a clean electricity grid?
- What are potential costs, benefits, and impacts of mass electrification?
"With significant improvements in electric technologies – particularly in electric vehicles but also in other sectors – we've seen a dramatic increase in interest in electrification from electric utilities, equipment manufacturers and others," said Trieu Mai, NREL senior researcher and principal investigator of the study. "Widespread electrification could have major energy, economic and environmental impacts to the entire U.S. power system and broader economy. In this study, we plan to quantify some of these impacts."
NREL has just released the first in the series of reports under the study, Electrification Futures Study: End-Use Electric Technology Cost and Performance Projections through 2050.
This report uses a combination of recently published literature and expert assessment to develop future cost and performance projections for end-use electric technologies, including light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, and residential and commercial heat pumps.
Three advancement trajectories, spanning a large but plausible range given historical trends and innovation possibilities, are developed for each end-use technology considered for the transport and buildings sectors. The report also provides a comprehensive assessment of the literature on industrial electro-technologies and highlights significant research gaps for that sector.
Data from the End-Use Electric Technology Cost and Performance Projections through 2050 report is available on the Electrification Futures Study website. The data will be used in the Electrification Futures Study scenario analysis, which will explore the extent of end-use technology adoption, energy and electricity consumption patterns, and supply-side futures under different levels of electrification.
Ultimately, the electric technology cost and performance projections will be used to estimate the range of incremental costs and fuel use in the electrification scenarios to be examined in future publications.
"Beyond our use, we hope the technology projections and literature review presented in this first report will be an informative source for R&D managers, planners, and researchers interested in electrification technologies," said lead author Paige Jadun, energy analyst in NREL's Strategic Energy Analysis Center.
For more information on the Electrification Futures Study and data sets, visit www.nrel.gov/efs.
NREL is DOE's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development.
Trump Sends White Nomination for CEQ Chair Back to Senate
The White House this week sent back to the Senate the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White to chair the Council on Environmental Equality (CEQ), despite strong opposition to the nod.
In November, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee narrowly approved her nomination, 11-10, along party lines, but the full Senate declined to consider her nomination to the top White House environmental job over the days remaining in last year's congressional session and returned it to President Trump.
Nominations that the Senate does not take up are often withdrawn by the administration. But Trump this week chose to resubmit White's name for the CEQ leadership position, where, if approved, she would be advising the president Trump supervising the implementation of his executive orders on energy and the environment.
She has served as a member and chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Prior to 2001, she served as then-Gov. George W. Bush's appointee to the Texas Water Development Board, where she sat until appointed to TCEQ. Most recently, White has served since 2008 as the distinguished senior fellow-in-residence and director of the Armstrong Center for Energy & the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a conservative think tank.
Positions she has taken in recent years on energy and environmental issues raised serious concerns from renewable energy stakeholders, agricultural producers and rural America advocates. Many see Hartnett-White's views as a failure to recognize the many economic and environmental contributions cleaner energy alternatives are making to farming operations and rural communities.
Just as recently as 2014, she called for the repeal of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which sets biofuel-blending requirements for our nation's transportation fuel supply. The RFS has been a major economic driver for corn and soybean producers who gain additional value when growing and selling ethanol and biomass-based diesel feedstocks to renewable fuel producers.
Also while at the TPPF, Hartnett-White, a strong gas and oil supporter, consistently condemned the RFS, one time calling it "counterproductive and ethically dubious."
She stepped back from that criticism during her confirmation hearing before the Senate committee in November. But many members of the committee, as well as biofuel advocates, questioned the sincerity of the nominee's turnaround on the issue, suggesting her sudden embrace of the standard during the hearing was a ploy aimed at tamping down opposition to her nomination.
At other points during the hearing, committee members also raised concerns about her past characterizations of the ongoing shift of electricity generation to clean energy power resources, including wind and solar, which she called "green folly" and "a false hope."
Amidst the criticism, Democrats stalled her confirmation last year, so Senate leaders returned her nomination rather than table it until this year.
With Trump renewing the nomination, the confirmation process will begin anew, with considerable resistance against the nod expected.
MN, IL, UT and MD Named to IREC 'Honor Roll'
Minnesota, Illinois, Utah and Maryland have been named to the 2017 Clean Energy States Honor Roll by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), a policy think tank.
"As we reflect on a year of hard work and a dizzying volume of energy policy activity occurring across the states, we call out some of our favorite success stories," said Larry Sherwood, IREC president and CEO.
Minnesota was cited for offering the most growth potential after overcoming initial challenges to community solar, tackling interconnection reforms and providing leadership on grid modernization in the Midwest.
"At the start of 2017, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission officially initiated a proceeding to revise and update the state interconnection procedures, responding to a motion from IREC and its partners," Sherwood said. And while the commission has not yet issued a final order, "the stakeholder workgroup process conducted over the past year has helped establish a strong foundation to support substantial interconnection reforms. "
Sherwood says that there are currently some 100 new community solar projects are now on line in Xcel's service territory, providing about 170 Megawatts of new solar, and the market is only expected to grow. Other Minnesota utilities, like MN Power, are also establishing community solar programs.
He also cites the state's addressing a number of related efforts to support future growth of distributed clean energy resources – such as rooftop solar, wind and energy storage.
"Leading the way in the Midwest on grid modernization, Minnesota also plans to tackle bigger issues to improve the financial and technical incentives to integrate more renewable energy," the IREC executive said.
Illinois was cited for coming up with the most creative policy solution by approaching clean energy policy comprehensively, integrating clean energy workforce provisions into new clean energy legislation, promoting equitable access to clean energy for all and advancing collaborative community solar solutions.
"Illinois' passage of landmark legislation in 2017, the Future Energy Jobs Act, is noteworthy for many reasons, as it will spur a strong clean energy economy in the state for decades to come," Sherwood said, citing three provisions of the lengthy bill as stand outs: (1) integration of a strong jobs component to ensure the clean energy economy supports a robust, well-trained local workforce; (2) a new "Illinois Solar For All" program which aims to ensure solar policies benefit all citizens of the state, including low-income and environmental justice communities; and (3) a new community solar program, which should expand solar access to residents and businesses that cannot take advantage of on-site solar.
Utah was cited by IREC as being the most surprising to be named to the honor roll after rising quietly in the ranks to be sixth in the nation for installed solar capacity in 2016, and for brokering a net metering settlement that protects existing solar customers and preserves the more than 4,400 solar jobs in the state.
"Utah has been hard at work to create and grow its clean energy economy, often quietly and under the radar relative to other western states," Sherwood said. "With a strong policy and regulatory foundation to thank, driven by stalwart local advocates and a growing solar industry, Utah made its way to the coveted Top 10 Solar States List in 2016 and is currently ranked sixth in the nation for installed solar capacity.
He also noted that Utah stakeholders spent much of the year working toward a more comprehensive settlement on net metering policy, which ultimately resulted in some important solar wins and compromises. Those include provisions that grandfather existing rooftop solar customers under the existing net metering policy through 2035. In addition, future solar customers will have the opportunity to take advantage of slightly reduced compensation rates during a three-year transition period (and those rates are guaranteed through 2033).
Maryland was cited for being the first state in the country to adopt an energy storage incentive and for tackling regulatory reforms on energy storage.
"While many states are beginning to tackle energy storage in different ways, in 2017 Maryland opted to energize its nascent storage market with direct incentives, becoming the first state in the country to offer a tax credit for energy storage systems," Sherwood said "The state is simultaneously taking a number of steps to ensure that the energy storage market has a smooth glide path for sustainable growth over the long term."
State Roundup: FPL Closes Coal Plant, Opens Four Solar Plants
In Florida, the nation's third largest utility announced this week the retirement of one of the state's largest coal-fired power plants and the opening of four new solar power plants comprised of more than 1 million solar panels.
Late last week, the aging coal-fired, 1,300-megawatt (MW) St. Johns River Power Park in Jacksonville, was officially retired by co-owners FPL and thee Jacksonville Electric Authority, the municipal electric provider for the City of Jacksonville.
In a press release, the utility said the "advancements will further improve FPL's carbon emissions profile, which is already approximately 30 percent cleaner than the U.S. industry average. At the same time, FPL's typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill remains approximately 25 percent lower than the U.S. average. Moreover, FPL's typical customer bill is lower today than it was during the year 2008."
"The truth is progress like this doesn't happen by accident," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "It's because of our culture of responsible innovation and an unwavering commitment to customers that we're able to deliver cleaner, more reliable energy while keeping electric bills among the lowest in the country,"
"FPL has a forward-looking strategy of making smart, innovative, long-term investments, including solar, to reduce emissions while providing affordable clean energy for its customers," said Julie Wraithmell, interim executive director of Audubon Florida.
"Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical to addressing climate change," said Greg Knecht, deputy executive director of the Florida chapter of The Nature Conservancy. "Any time we can replace less-efficient sources of energy with cleaner fuels or solar, it's a benefit for people and nature. Investments such as FPL's in clean-energy technologies are key to Florida's future health and prosperity."
In addition to the four solar facilities that went online Jan. 1, FPL says four more solar plants will be in service by March 1. Together, the eight facilities will offer nearly 600 MW of new zero-emissions energy capacity.
In Massachusetts, the state's Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has approved rate changes for regional utility Eversource Energy that solar advocates say will present obstacles to customers seeking to make clean energy choices, including the installation of solar, adoption of storage, energy efficiency and, potentially, electric vehicles.
The new Monthly Minimum Reliability Contribution (MMRC) charge approved in the order from the DPU will apply to new net metering customers as of Dec. 31 of this year. It includes a higher customer charge and imposes demand charges on all net metering customers, including residential. The move makes Massachusetts the first state commission to approve mandatory demand charges for residential customers
Additionally, and in contrast with states around the country that have offered customers "time-of-use" rates that signal to customers when it costs more to use electricity, the order eliminates optional residential time-of-use rates. It also closes a time-of-use rate available to commercial and industrial customers as of Feb. 1 – less than a month's notice.
The Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) expressed strong disappointment and serious concern with the department's decision.
"This order is a huge step backwards for a state that was one of the early national leaders in grid modernization and solar policy," said NECEC Executive Vice President Janet Gail Besser. "It will discourage customer adoption of clean energy across the Commonwealth, further slowing clean energy job growth and investment and threatening to undermine the Baker-Polito Administration's goal to achieve another 1,600 megawatts (MW) of solar.
"Mandating a demand charge for residential customers at this scale is unprecedented," she said. "These changes are particularly concerning because Eversource lacks the 'smart' metering needed to inform customers about their peak demand and energy usage."
"This approval from the DPU is precedent-setting in all the wrong ways," said Sean Gallagher, SEIA's vice president of state affairs. "With a sweep of a pen, DPU has made it harder for customers to be properly informed on how to manage their electricity use. This is a step in the wrong direction for solar in the Commonwealth and will undoubtedly make it tough for Massachusetts to reach its goal of installing another 1,600 MW of solar."
NECEC and SEIA said they were pleased with the DPU's decision not to consolidate commercial and industrial ("C&I") rates at this time, which would have significantly harmed municipal and other solar projects already in operation or development. The groups also lauded DPU's decision to address extra charges related to interconnection upgrades in a new proceeding in 2018.
In California, the state's Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved the Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program, an initiative that aims to spend $1 billion over the next decade to provide low-income residents with on rooftop solar systems.
At $100 million annually over the next 10 years, the program will be funding by California's greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program.
To meet program eligibility requirements, a building must have at least five income-restricted affordable units, with 80 percent of its tenants earning no more than 60 percent of area median income. Building located in "disadvantaged" areas are also eligible.
The program pays that portion of solar electricity serving tenants up to $3.20 per watt, while the solar power serving common areas are eligible for $1.10 per watt in program funds.
The state legislature created and approved the framework for the program in 2015 as a part of California's efforts to meet its reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) goals.
"While it's generally cost effective to install solar without incentives for market rate housing, it's not the same for low-income and affordable housing," CPUC solar program manager Sara Kamins told the Next City nonprofit urban advocacy group. "If the state wants to ensure all Californians have access to solar, this will help achieve that goal."
In New Jersey, the legislature passed a bill this week that raises the state's solar energy goal and will enable continued growth of its solar industry and the sector's its 6,000-strong workforce.
New Jersey's solar market is at risk of coming to a halt in mid-2018 after the state meets its renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which is on track to do so by this May, a full decade ahead of schedule. Senate Bill 2276 updates New Jersey's RPS goal to require 5.3 percent of the state's electricity to come from solar by 2022, up from 4.1 percent.
"The legislation approved this week provides a crucial short-term fix that will enable the state's solar industry to keep growing and adding jobs, while the state works on an even more ambitious long term plan," said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the national trade group, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The New Jersey solar market "is delivering economic and environmental benefits throughout the state, making it a national leader. This legislation is critically important for preserving that growth."
SEIA officials say they will work with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the new administration and other stakeholders to develop a long-term solar strategy for the state, including a successor for its Solar Renewable Energy Certificates program, part of New Jersey's ongoing energy master plan process.
According to SEIA/GTM Research's U.S. Solar Market Insight report, New Jersey is currently the 5th largest solar state in the nation with 2,234 megawatts of cumulative solar capacity installed.
U.S. Biodiesel Production Still Increasing Despite Expiration of Tax Credit
A recent analysis from DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that through the first nine months of 2017, U.S. biodiesel production levels were slightly higher than 2016 levels, despite the expiration of a federal biodiesel blender's tax credit at the end of 2016.
Furthermore, the agency says, domestic biodiesel production may continue to increase because of changes to import policies such as those recently announced by the U.S. Department of Commerce on biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia.
Biodiesel production increased over time largely because of state and federal incentives, the analysis finds. The federal biodiesel blender's tax credit, valued at $1 per gallon (gal), expired several times prior to 2016, most recently at the end of 2014. In those earlier years, Congress ultimately voted to reinstate the tax credit retroactively.
Biodiesel qualifies as an advanced biofuel as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a program implemented by EPA to promote the incorporation of biofuels into the nation's fuel supply. To demonstrate compliance with the RFS, refiners and importers of petroleum products must either blend advanced biofuels such as biodiesel or buy credits called renewable identification numbers (RINs).
Biodiesel is often combined with petroleum diesel in blends ranging from 5 percent to 20 percent biodiesel. On average, biodiesel accounted for about 4 percent of total diesel consumption in 2016. Similar to corn ethanol, biodiesel production is concentrated in the Midwest and delivered by rail and truck across the country.
Since 2014, foreign biodiesel imports – primarily from Argentina and Indonesia – have increased in the East Coast and Gulf Coast regions. In 2016, biodiesel imports from Argentina reached 449 million gallons and accounted for nearly 20 percent of U.S. biodiesel consumption.
However, in April 2017, the Department of Commerce (DOC) initiated two investigations into whether biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia put U.S. biodiesel producers at a disadvantage. The two investigations have focused on countervailing duties – when a foreign government provides subsidies for the production of a product – and antidumping – when a foreign government sells a product at less than its fair value.
In November, the DOC issued an affirmative final determination on countervailing duties for Argentina and Indonesia, assigning rates ranging from 34 percent to 72 percent, based on the producer or importer of biodiesel. The U.S. International Trade Commission reached a similar finding in December, allowing for DOC to issue final countervailing duty orders.
Depending on the outcome of the antidumping investigation, the combined effect of the final orders may more than double the price of biodiesel from these two countries.
In response to the investigations, new U.S. contracts for cargos of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia have slowed. Imports from Argentina remained relatively high through August 2017 because of contracts that were already in place prior to the investigations, but these imports ended as of September 2017. Biodiesel imports from Indonesia last occurred in December 2016. Imports from these countries are likely to remain low unless a settlement is reached or U.S. biodiesel prices rise to offset the final duties.
U.S. biodiesel consumption in 2016 totaled 2,189 million gallons, of which 1,569 million gallons (72 percent) were produced domestically. U.S. biodiesel facilities ran at 69 percent of nameplate capacity during 2016. Annual production capacity at the beginning of 2016 totaled 2,270 million gallons.
U.S. biodiesel production capacity has since increased slightly to 2,348 million gallons as of September 2017, but the pace at which biodiesel facilities might increase production to address possible supply shortfalls from reduced imports is unclear.
Biodiesel is typically more expensive than petroleum-based diesel, so the loss of lower-cost imports from Argentina and Indonesia might further decrease its price competitiveness. During 2016, the average spot price of Gulf Coast biodiesel was $3.17 per gallon, which was $1.85 higher than its petroleum counterpart.
Energy Storage Company Unveils New Technology Platform for Solar PV
Fluence, an energy storage company owned by Siemens and The AES Corporation, announced this week a new technology platform the company says can eliminate solar power variability across the day.
SunFlex Energy Storage both improves and expands the capabilities of photovoltaic solar generation, the company said, adding that the new energy storage technology platform enables solar facilities to deliver up to 50 percent more clean energy per site and expands the delivery of energy into the night, creating an on-demand solar resource.
"Solar and energy storage are the cheapest way to provide power in a number of markets today, and will reach economic parity in many more countries over the next five years," said Stephen Coughlin, president and CEO of Fluence. "With Fluence's SunFlex Energy Storage platform, customers can now deliver clean, abundant and low-cost solar energy on-demand, day or night."
The growth in solar generation globally has been exponential, with the share of photovoltaics as a percentage of total generation doubling seven times between 2000 and 2015, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
However, the industry faces headwinds as increasing solar generation creates challenges for network operators, who are tasked with controlling system reliability, to manage the uncertainty caused by the variable resource. Fluence's new technology, the company says, can deliver solar energy when it is needed most, not just when it is available.
"This innovation eliminates the need for back-up generation, such as peaking gas plants or reciprocating engines, to manage solar variability," the company says in a press release, adding that the technology "is especially critical on many microgrids and islands, where solar and storage combined are now the cheapest and most reliable form of energy available."
"The Fluence team originally developed energy storage solutions to replace inefficient or underutilized traditional power infrastructure assets such as power reserves, peaking, or wires," said John Zahurancik, COO of Fluence. "Today, as new power investment is flowing mainly into new solar generation, we have the chance to make this more efficient from the start. With our solution, we can get more solar energy from the same site and make the best use of our power networks."
The company says the SunFlex platform builds upon many of the industry-leading controls and architectural principles from Advancion and Siestorage, the company's two technology platforms, and the experience gained from working with leading solar developers such as sPower and AES Distributed Energy.
The new platform captures solar energy that otherwise would be lost during daily peak solar hours, and will increase the volume of energy delivered from a single site by up to 50 percent by allowing developers to add more solar panels without the cost of changing their interconnection.
In addition, the new platform improves plant stability by smoothing and limiting the ramping of solar output, and in many areas, simplifies the interconnection process for combined solar and storage facilities, the company says, adding that energy storage can expand the capabilities of utility solar facilities by increasing the capacity factor of the plant and adding new sources of revenue from frequency regulation and other grid services.
GEA, GRC Members Overwhelmingly Vote for Unification
The Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) and the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) announced their unification this week, stating that combining the groups "strengthens the voice of our industry with a single organization devoted to advancing the science, education and development of renewable geothermal energy resources.'
Members of both organizations voted on the decision to unify and the results were overwhelmingly in favor. Officials say members will benefit from an increased value for their dues and improved networking relationships.
The activities of the GEA will be transitioned into the GRC in early 2018.
One of the key activities is already underway through the establishment of the GRC Policy Committee, which will focus on educating and lobbying leaders at state and federal levels to expand their knowledge about the geothermal industry.
The committee will also assist the geothermal community in its awareness of opportunities to expand renewable energy projects, building a stronger platform for the entire U.S. energy grid.
"Together, the now unified GRC and GEA can advance the geothermal community in more ways to connect with the larger energy industry and create a clean environment for future generations to enjoy," stated Maria Richards, president of the GRC Board of Directors.
Doug Glaspey, president of the Board of Directors for the GEA said his members "look forward to working within a single organization to advocate for and advance sound geothermal law and policy that will expand our industry. The unification of our two organizations will allow us to pursue this mission in the most efficient manner possible."
The GRC will continue as a non-profit, 501(c)3 corporation serving as the professional educational association for the international geothermal community, as a focal point for continuing professional development through outreach, information transfer and education services.
The GRC's Policy Committee will file an annual 501 (h) election, which allows them to conduct legislative and regulatory advocacy. An additional membership fee to join the Policy Committee will raise the funds for their activities, providing the GRC with a mechanism to keep their primary members' dues and funding completely separate.
The headquarters for the unified organization will be in Davis, CA, and operate under the name "Geothermal Resources Council" until further discussion of a possible name change is completed.
Editor's Note: We here at 25x'25 welcome companies and organizations with a major stake in the continued growth and development of renewable energy across America. We invite those interests to increase visibility and demonstrate a commitment to a clean and economically vibrant energy future by taking advantage of opportunities to sponsor The 25x'25 Weekly REsource, a highly acclaimed newsletter distributed to key state and federal policy makers, their staff and a wide range of stakeholder organizations. For sponsorship information, click HERE.
Headlines of Note
News of interest to our 25x'25 Partners and advocates for a clean energy future:
Energy Independence Summit 2018 Set for Feb. 11-14
Energy Independence Summit 2018, the nation's premier clean transportation policy summit, is set for Feb. 11-14 in Washington, D.C.
The event will be staged by Transportation Energy Partners (TEP) is a national non-profit organization that brings Clean Cities coalition leaders together with the clean transportation industry to advance policies that will reduce American dependence on petroleum-based fuels.
TEP officials say the summit provides a unique opportunity for Clean Cities Coalitions and leaders in the clean transportation industry to network and build partnerships with each other, and with key congressional and Trump administration policymakers in Washington.
Attendees will have the opportunity to:
The summit will take place at the Renaissance Dupont Circle Hotel in downtown Washington.
For more information and registration, click HERE.
ACORE Sets Renewable Energy Forum for March 14
The American Council on Renewable Energy is staging a forum on the many federal policy challenges the renewable sector has faced in the last year and how best to respond to them in the year ahead.
The forum is set for March 14 at the Washington Marriott at Metro Center.
"As we look ahead to further defend and promote a range of policies that will expand the renewable energy marketplace, there is no better venue to convene than ACORE's Renewable Energy Policy Forum," ACORE says.
The forum, the group says, is where public sector, private sector and power sector meet to advance renewables.
Agenda highlights include Andy Ott, CEO of PJM as keynote speaker, and sessions on:
Initial speakers will be announced soon
To view the forum agenda, click HERE.
To register, click HERE.
Interested in Sponsoring?
Showcase your business to investors, developers, manufacturers, utilities, policymakers, and other influencers. For information on sponsorship opportunities, please contact Cindi Eck at email@example.com.
Save the Date
On the eve of the forum, ACORE is hosting the American Renewable Energy Gala, an annual networking dinner and award ceremony. The 2018 American Renewable Energy Gala will be held on Tuesday, March 13, at the Reagan Building and International Trade Center, where more than 400 financial, corporate, industry leaders and policymakers will gather to reflect on the achievements, challenges and growth opportunities for the renewables sector.
Table sponsorships for the event are now available. Please contact Cindi Eck at firstname.lastname@example.org
Registration Available for ACE's 10th Annual D.C. Fly-In
The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) formally announces the organization's 10th annual Washington, D.C. fly-in will take place March 21-22. Registration for this event and ACE's 2018 advertising and sponsorship guide for this opportunity and others are available at ethanol.org/events/fly-in.
"The purpose of our fly-ins is to put a human face on the ethanol industry and to communicate our policy priorities to Members of Congress and Executive Branch decision makers," said Brian Jennings, ACE CEO. "The most effective lobbyists aren't lobbyists at all, but rather farmers, ethanol producers, Main Street business leaders, retailers selling higher ethanol blends, and other grassroots individuals whose daily lives benefit from ethanol."
This past spring, 75 ethanol advocates met with more than 120 Members of Congress from 35 states. Participants included ethanol company investors and management, corn farmers, scientists, fuel marketers and gas station owners, with representation from Jetz, Cresco Fast Stop, Midway Service, Good & Quick, Sheetz, and Propel Fuels.
"In ACE's 10 years of hosting D.C. fly-ins, we've found that the most successful ones strike a balance between Hill visits with our champions and those with Members of Congress who may be new, opponents of our policy priorities, or live outside the Corn Belt," said Shannon Gustafson, ACE senior director of Operations and Programming. "We encourage participants to share personal stories – Members of Congress and their staff hear from lobbyists and association staff regularly, but a deeply personal perspective of how the ethanol industry has directly benefitted a participant may help them view a topic with fresh eyes."
During Capitol Hill meetings, ACE and its fly-in attendees have emphasized the need to maintain support for the Renewable Fuel Standard, urged Members of Congress to cosponsor legislation to extend Reid vapor pressure (RVP) relief to E15 (S. 517 and H.R. 1311), and discussed the importance of the biofuels sector to a robust rural economy.
"While we are pleased the statutory 15-billion-gallon volume for conventional biofuel will be maintained in 2018 and EPA rejected pleas to change the point of obligation, more can and should be done to overcome regulatory hurdles which prevent market access to higher ethanol blends," Jennings said. "We encourage people from all walks of life who support ethanol to register for this important opportunity to tell this industry's success story."
The meetings will take place at the Liaison Capitol Hill hotel and on Capitol Hill. To register and find out more information about the event, please contact Shannon Gustafson at email@example.com.
ACE's Ethanol Today magazine released its lineup of themes and sponsorship opportunities for 2018. The editorial calendar and media kit are available at ethanoltoday.com. The newly released sponsorship and advertising guide offers bundled Ethanol Today advertising opportunities with ACE event sponsorships. Contact Chuck Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can maximize your reach while minimizing the expense.
Other events of interest to 25x'25 partners and other renewable energy stakeholders can be found by clicking here.