Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Utilitiesu

Author: Miner & Kasch       Published: 01/15/20         Utility Dive

Thanks to digital transformation, electric utilities have endless opportunities to thrive in the 21st century. However, many have been hesitant to move their computing workloads to the cloud and  embrace artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize their data.

AI can help utilities realize efficiencies that might not otherwise be possible, such as computer vision, outlier protection and deep learning techniques. Our new playbook highlights how AI can help utilities realize insights that might not otherwise be possible. This playbook explores:

  • Utility use cases for AI
  • National Grid’s investment in AI for utilities
  • How to overcome barriers to utility AI adoption
  • Initial steps toward an AI-enabled utility future

New law says newly constructed homes in California must have solar panels

Author:  MARIE EDINGER   Published: 01/12/2020      Fox26News

FRESNO, Calif. (FOX26) – A law that kicked in at the start of the New Year mandates that from now on, every new home that’s built must have solar panels installed on the roof.

The California Energy Commission says the goal is meant to zero-out energy consumption.

The California Rooftop Solar Mandate applies to homes, and complexes up to three stories high.

The size of the solar panel system that’s built is based on the square footage of the building, so it can meet the energy usage of the people living in it.

Brandon De Young, of De Young Properties’ says California is the first in the nation to create a law like this.

“Energy codes in historical times have only been about the energy efficiency component of the home – so, making sure the home consumes less energy through the year. This new code is – what’s very different is the solar aspect. So now they’re also requiring a certain amount of solar, which produces energy, right? Two sides of the equation.”

The De Young family says for modern day builders, this change shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.

And it’s one that’s good for the homeowner, of course, but also the environment, and the community.

“Of course, the solar companies are loving it, too. They’re going to really grow here. And it’s great for everyone in the Central Valley, because it’ll grow jobs. This is going to be a huge industry now.”

The new law should make home ownership more affordable, since homeowners would save on their utility bills.

The Energy Commission says those savings top the corresponding increase in mortgage payments by about $420 a year in total.

De Young says that means people no longer have to sacrifice comfort to save on their bills.

Brandon De Young/’De Young Properties’: “This gives you the best of both worlds. Lower energy bill, but still comfortable.”

The rules around energy storage devices are also changing.

Those devices now generate a credit toward the minimum building efficiency standard, which will give builders more flexibility in how they meet the state’s energy efficiency codes.

There are a few exceptions to the solar mandate — for instance, if a home is under the shade of trees or other pre-existing buildings, and that makes zeroing out energy consumption impossible, the builders get a break.

More than 2 years after Hurricane Maria, earthquake shows Puerto Rico electric grid remains ‘fragile’

Author: Robert Walton       Published: 01/08/2020      Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • After a week of seismic activity, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Puerto Rico on Tuesday morning, causing widespread power outages across the island’s electric system, which has been rebuilt after the 2017 Hurricane Maria.
  • According to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), some of the of power outages can be traced back to automatic emergency response systems that are designed to shut down in an emergency. The utility restored power to some areas in the hours following the earthquake.
  • The earthquake directly impacted diesel generators on the south of the island. While the island is considering how distributed energy resources can help the American territory maintain power stability, progress on the ground has so far been limited.

Dive Insight:

PREPA’s long-term plan calls for a system of eight “mini grids” that would utilize distributed resources to improve reliability during disasters. It includes a focus on renewables, storage and distributed resources — just the kind of system that could help maintain power during a catastrophe, say experts.

But the status of the utility’s integrated resource plan (IRP) remains uncertain, with hearings starting next week at the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau.

Distributed energy resources “have been proposed through the IRP process, but that process is taking forever,” Sierra Club representative Pedro Cruz told Utility Dive. Though he added, “that is not a bad thing: it’s good they are moving slow, to allow input from different stakeholders.”

Cruz, who is the senior clean infrastructure representative for Sierra Club’s Labor and Economic Justice Program, was on the island working with local organizers and activists when the power went out.  “The earthquake shows Puerto Rico is not ready for this kind of disaster,” he said.

The largest recent earthquake impacted several generators, including the PREPA-owned Costa Sur power plant and Aguirres power plant, which are fueled by diesel.

The Aguirre power plant is being restored to service, which could supply 650 MW into the region, PREPA CEO José Ortiz said in a statement. Operations have been carried out to stabilize the system, with the expectation of supplying 2,650 MW of power with contributions from other power plants, he added.

“If another incident beyond our control does not occur and all processes (are effective), we are confident that at least 70% of customers may have power as soon as possible,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló​ said in a statement.

The epicenter of the earthquake was along the southern coast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, where seismic activity has been occurring for days and a pair of earthquakes registered 5.8 or above.

“The situation there is tense after the two earthquakes,” Roy Torbert, a principal with the Rocky Mountain Institute, told Utility Dive in an email. “Most of the damage is in the south of the island, with particular damage at the Costa Sur power plant and the water tanks there. Guanica and other towns in the south are on edge.”

Most of Puerto Rico’s generation is on the south side of the island, while the island’s highest demand, including in its capital San Juan, is in the north. The need for long-distance transmission lines means power is particularly susceptible to disruption. The utility’s mini grid vision would change this, but in the immediate wake of Hurricane Maria, the electric system was rebuilt largely as it previously existed.

Rubble on Tuesday evening in Guayanilla, in southern Puerto Rico.

|

While some hardening has been done, the system “has remained pretty fragile, and power outages are still a fact of daily life for some,” according to Michael Deibert, journalist and author of “When the Sky Fell: Hurricane Maria and the United States in Puerto Rico.”

“A lot of the issues that bedeviled Puerto Rico and held it back before the hurricane continue to exist vividly today,” Deibert told Utility Dive. “I haven’t seen a whole lot change.”

Much of the island’s generation is now fueled by diesel and combined cycle gas plants. However, last year the island’s state legislature adopted a 100% renewable portfolio standard by 2050. 

PREPA’s IRP could cost more than $14 billion, but the utility points to major potential benefits following disruptive storms.

“The business case for transforming the grid architecture is straightforward: it provides the least cost approach to achieve resilience against major hurricanes, meet and exceed compliance with the renewable portfolio standard, engage customers, and lower cost,” according to the IRP.

However, Sierra Club’s Cruz said cost is a serious issue for island residents. “Nobody knows how long it will take to get that plan going, and nobody knows where the money will come from,” he said.

The utility has proposed raising rates, and a tax could be levied on residential solar panels, said Cruz. But Sierra Club fears those actions could force more residents to join the island’s exodus, making the transition to renewables even more difficult. About 200,000 residents left the island following Hurricane Maria, by some estimates.

Raising utility rates “would be horrible for the economy, because it will push more people to leave the island, which means less people to pay back the debt, and that’s a cycle,” said Cruz.

 

 

Maryland regulators urged to consider climate, grid benefits of energy storage

Author:  Matthew Bandyk              Published: 01/08/2020        Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Maryland regulators should create new value streams for energy storage projects that would compensate them based on their ability to reduce emissions and defer the need for distribution grid upgrades, among other factors, a group of utility and government stakeholderssaid in a filing with the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC).
  • The document is the next step toward determining how Maryland utilities will solicit energy storage projects 5 MW to 10 MW in size, as the state’s investor-owned utilities are mandated to do as part of apilot program created by the state legislature last year.
  • The outlined compensation methods could determine how energy storage in the state is monetized under several business models, including utility-owned, third-party-owned or a “virtual power plant” model in which customer-owned storage projects such as batteries are aggregated.

Dive Insight:

The ideas for how to value storage came from members of the Maryland PSC’s Energy Storage Working Group, which includes representatives of Exelon Corp., Exelon subsidiaries Baltimore Gas & Electric and Pepco, the Energy Storage Association and wholesale electricity market operator PJM Interconnection.

An example of a value stream is an “air emissions reduction value.” Energy storage can create reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by storing electricity generated by non-emitting sources like wind and solar, and then discharging that electricity at times when renewable energy is less available.

Under the working group’s proposal, the megawatt-hours discharged by a storage project could be converted into an equivalent number of tons of CO2, and then that number could be multiplied by a CO2 price to calculate a greenhouse gas reduction value. When this value is combined with other potential value streams, the electricity discharged by a storage project would be worth much more on a dollar basis than would be captured by the price of electricity alone.

The filing mentions that the emissions reductions allowed by potential storage projects can help Maryland reach its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 2006 levels by 2030.

Maryland is only the third state to propose substantive analysis of the costs and benefits of storage, Energy Storage Association State Policy Director Nitzan Goldberger said in an email to Utility Dive.

“Currently, only two states—California and New York—have sought to implement [benefit-cost analysis] frameworks beyond simplistic estimates of distribution investment deferral or replacement value,” she said.

“Absent reforms to most current [benefit-cost analysis] frameworks—along with regulatory and market reform that facilitates business models that can provide multiple applications from the same asset—energy storage economic impact analyses would not illustrate the full value of storage,” according to Goldberger.

Another value stream envisioned by the working group would be the savings created when storage defers, or negates the need for transmission and distribution upgrades. Fewer wires and substations need to be built if there are more ways to store electricity, which enhance the reliability of the grid.

More energy conservation at times of peak demand should also be treated as a value stream for storage, according to the working group.

“By reducing the overall need to supply customers during periods of peak demand, the utilities will save money for ratepayers by reducing the overall need to serve the system during period of high demand,” the filing said.

The group also proposed that utilities and regulators should also take into account “non-quantifiable” value streams of storage. For example, battery storage projects can help boost adoption of electric vehicles by serving as additional charging stations.

In addition, because the storage pilot program will embrace various ownership models, another qualitative value stream is “the development of a robust market of vendors” serving Maryland customers with a variety of storage technologies, the filing said.

Maryland’s pilot program for storage follows the state’s 2017 creation of an investment tax credit for residential, commercial and industrial storage installations.

The biggest storage project in Maryland is the 10-MW Warrior RunAdvancion project from AES Corp., Goldberger said. The pilot program would create an additional 10 MW of energy storage for Maryland by around 2022.

Bipartisan bill aims to end Dominion’s distribution monopoly in Virginia

Author: Iulia Gheorghiu            Published: 01/08/2020          Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Virginia Delegates Mark Keam, D, and Lee Ware, R, announced a bill on Tuesday to establish electric retail competition in the state, rehashing prior attempts to end Dominion Energy’s monopoly on distribution.
  • The bill closely mirrors one introduced by Ware in December, according to the Virginia Energy Reform Coalition. It would institute a system for customer choice by mandating the decoupling of power generation activities from distribution and transmission.
  • Dominion, the largest investor-owned utility in the state, did not have access to a bill draft but opposes efforts to deregulate retail markets, citing costs. “When you look at what customers in deregulated states are paying, they are paying rates that are more than 40% higher on average … [while Dominion rates in Virginia] are low or below the national average,” spokesperson Rayhan Daudani​ told Utility Dive.

Dive Insight:

Various state efforts to decouple retail energy services are expected to continue this year, Frank Caliva, spokesperson with American Coalition of Competitive Energy Suppliers (ACCES), told Utility Dive.

Several state legislatures have considered bills in recent years to create customer choice, including Nebraska and Kansas. Colorado, which is motivated to decouple transmission and distribution in order to allow consumers to prioritize clean energy services, is expected to introduce another bill this year, Caliva said.

In 2020, ACCES expects Florida to continue decoupling efforts through a ballot initiative, similar to the one Nevada attempted in the 2018 election.

“It really depends on the politics and the dynamics of the state,” Caliva said. For instance, in Arizona, “regulators have the ability to make policy decisions more broadly than in other states.”

Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Bob Burns last August directed regulatory staff to draft a proposed rule for retail choice access in the state.

“This can be a challenge to [the utilities’] business model,” Caliva said, but other opportunities exist. “There is a compelling case to be made here for cooperation, but… oftentimes, there’s a political challenge in the short term that prevents that.”

Utilities, including Dominion, point to predatory behavior from energy retailers in Maryland and in Massachusetts.

“We’ve seen a number of states where [retail choice] has been tried,” Daudani said. “The states that I have seen … to the northeast especially, have not been successful in trying to use deregulation as a way that’s going to give customers either lower prices or better consumer protections.”

“Bad actors who engage in these kinds of [predatory] practices need to be identified and appropriate action needs to be taken,” Caliva said. “There’s a way to have a functioning competitive market while keeping consumers protected.”

One approach states have taken to counteract such practices is to try to provide more visibility into price comparisons through marketplaces.

“Pennsylvania and Texas, they’ve built, at a considerable expense,” online marketplaces for consumers to “shop for their energy products,” Caliva said. Such websites have “increased shopping numbers” and instilled consumers with more confidence in choosing their energy service providers.

That can still be exploited, Glen Andersen, energy program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, told Utility Dive. In Texas, where an online marketplace of retail choice providers exists, website operators have had to change requirements as some participants made their rates appear cheaper, he said.

“Basically, there’s always going to be that incentive for those folks offering [to serve energy loads] to try to get a leg up on the competition, and that might include approaches that look good at first but may, over the long term, not be,” Andersen said.

However, while challenges exist with retail choice for residents, less debate occurs about benefits to the commercial and industrial (C&I) sector.

C&I “participants have a lot of knowledge and can really focus on energy procurement, [making] sure that they utilize the competition that is there in retail choice markets,” Andersen said.

Various corporations using large amounts of energy, from the tech sector to retail, have sought to exit Dominion’s service. Dominion has reached a number of green energy deals with companies and has pledged to continue helping its customers meet their clean energy goals in an effort to keep large energy users in its service.

The Virginia Energy Reform Act, being introduced in the Assembly by Keam and Ware, is the latest in a string of bills targeting retail choice in the state. Another proposal from Democrats in the Assembly, backed by Direct Energy, a competitive service provider, seeks to allow large companies to shop around for energy more easily.

The Assembly is back in session today.

N.A.A.C.P. Tells Local Chapters: Don’t Let Energy Industry Manipulate You

Author: 

When utilities around the country have wanted to build fossil-fuel plants, defeat energy-efficiency proposals or slow the growth of rooftop solar power, they have often turned for support to a surprisingly reliable ally: a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In 2014, the top officials of the N.A.A.C.P.’s Florida division threw their organization’s weight behind an effort to stymie the spread of solar panels on residential rooftops and cut energy efficiency standards at the behest of the energy industry. The group’s Illinois chapter joined a similar industry effort in 2017. And in January 2018, the N.A.A.C.P.’s top executive in California signed a letteropposing a government program that encourages the use of renewable energy.

Most Americans know the N.A.A.C.P. as a storied civil rights organization that has fought for equal access to public facilities, fairness in housing and equality in education. But on energy policy, many of its chapters have for years advanced the interests of energy companies that are big donors to their programs. Often this advocacy has come at the expense of the black neighborhoods, which are more likely to have polluting power plants and are less able to adapt to climate change.

The activities of the N.A.A.C.P. chapters, which operate with significant autonomy, have so unnerved the group’s national office that it published a report titled the “Top 10 Manipulation Tactics of the Fossil Fuel Industry” in April. It is also sending its staff to state and local chapters to persuade them to fight for policies that reduce pollution and improve public health even at the risk of losing donations from utilities and fossil fuel companies.

From New Orleans to San Diego, consumer and environmental groups have criticized power companies for using their largess in minority communities to get church pastors, nonprofit groups and organizations like the N.A.A.C.P. to back industry objectives.

“The utilities have essentially asked communities of color to be props for them,” said William Funderburk Jr., an environmental lawyer and former board member of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. “It appears utilities are turning back the clock a hundred years.”

From 2013 to 2017, 10 of the country’s largest utilities gave about $1 billion in donations. Those contributions often went to groups representing minority communities, and many of the recipients promoted the interests of utilities in front of government regulators, according to the Energy and Policy Institute, an environmental group.

The N.A.A.C.P. has a long record on environmental issues, including fighting to reduce the health threats posed by lead paint and asbestos. But its national office has been slower to stake a clear position on climate change and the pollution caused by power plants. It established a group dedicated to environmental justice only a decade ago.

Derrick Johnson, the N.A.A.C.P.’s president, said the group had established a department dedicated to that work that is larger than any of its other programs, with 11 full-time staff members and three consultants.

“We care about the education of our children,” Mr. Johnson said. “But if the children are in unhealthy environments, we know that it impedes their learning. We care about health and access to health care, so we must care about the decisions that create mega health impacts.”

As solar panels and other renewable energy sources tumbled in price in recent years, making them attractive alternatives to coal and natural gas in power plants, electric utilities in Florida began pressing regulators and lawmakers to limit their growth.

Rooftop solar in particular posed a threat to the utilities. When the electric grid was designed, engineers did not foresee that consumers would generate their own power and even sell it to the utilities. That could reduce revenue for the companies.

ImageFlorida Power & Light’s plant in Cocoa, Fla. Invoices obtained by The New York Times show that the utility gave the N.A.A.C.P.’s Florida conference at least $225,000 from 2013 to 2017.
Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy and other utilities argued that as more affluent homeowners installed solar panels and reduced their reliance on the electric grid, lower-income residents would be forced to pay higher rates to maintain power lines. Many energy experts have disputed that argument, saying energy-efficiency programs and increasingly affordable solar panels can reduce electricity costs for low-income households. But utilities have successfully made their case around the country, often with the help of the N.A.A.C.P. and other nonprofit groups that are advocates for communities of color.

In Florida, utilities found a ready partner — for a time — in Adora Nweze, the president of the N.A.A.C.P.’s Florida conference. She and her staff repeated industry talking points in newspaper opinion articles, written comments to state regulators and testimony in public hearings.

Utilities often sought the group’s support around the time that the state conference was in the middle of raising money for programs and its annual gathering, held in September, Ms. Nweze said.

Invoices obtained by The New York Times show that Florida Power & Light gave the N.A.A.C.P. at least $225,000 from 2013 to 2017 and that Duke Energy gave $25,000. Florida Power & Light’s annual donations doubled in 2014 just as the utility was pressing state regulators to restrict rooftop solar power and weaken the state’s energy efficiency goals.

For example, the N.A.A.C.P.’s Florida conference issued a $50,000 invoice to the utility on Sept. 11, 2014, a couple of months after Ms. Nweze wrote an essay in The Tallahassee Democrat opposing a solar-energy rebate program and in support of a utility-backed change to state efficiency goals.

“In many cases, nonparticipants tend to be the poor, creating a shockingly inequitable situation in which high-income households capture all of the benefits while low-income households shoulder all of the costs,” the essay said. Ms. Nweze said her staff wrote that article and similar ones, often copying verbatim from text sent by Florida Power & Light and other utilities.

In addition to the article, the conference filed comments with the state Public Service Commission. The commission later cited those comments in ruling for the utilities. The commission reduced the state’s energy-efficiency goals by about 90 percent.

The utilities’ policy victory in the 2014 case has had a lasting impact.

Florida utilities have some of the country’s least ambitious energy-efficiency goals. The Sunshine State also trails several states, including Massachusetts and New Jersey, in how much electricity it gets from solar panels.

Credit…Zack Wittman for The New York Times

Florida Power & Light declined to answer questions about its work with the N.A.A.C.P.’s state conference and other civil rights organizations. The utility said its primary focus had been to keep electricity rates as low as possible.

“We are proud of our longstanding relationship with the N.A.A.C.P. and of our ability to constructively work together on issues that benefit customers,” said Alys Daly, a company spokeswoman.

In an interview, Ms. Nweze said she had signed on because of the utilities’ financial support to her group, and because she believed what executives had told her about solar panels and energy efficiency.

“I felt that if we wanted the money, we had to do it,” she said. “The shortcoming on my part was that I didn’t have the necessary knowledge to know that it was a problem.”

Ms. Nweze, 77, said she decided about two years ago that her advocacy for the utilities was wrong. That was when the N.A.A.C.P.’s national office worked with her conference on a report about the impact that climate change and pollution have on low-income families. The report concluded that seven power plants had a disproportionate impact on people of color. It also found that Latino adults in Florida had the highest prevalence of asthma at some time in their lives and that African-American adolescents were the most likely to have ongoing asthma.

Jacqueline Patterson played an important role in Ms. Nweze’s conversion. Once focused on becoming a teacher, Ms. Patterson, 51, became interested in environmental issues while in Jamaica as a Peace Corps volunteer, in New Orleans as a relief worker after Hurricane Katrina and in sub-Saharan Africa as an official of a nonprofit group that works on health issues.

She often found that local residents were not involved in the discussions when officials debated and decided environmental and energy policy — white men frequently had the final say.

“What struck me after all of that was the number of rooms I went into where I was the only person of color,” Ms. Patterson said. “Too often, we’re just completely not there.”

As Ms. Patterson began recognizing the need for more African-Americans in the climate-change debate, so did the N.A.A.C.P.

The organization saw a growing need to address climate change and clean energy when it was drawn into a debate over a climate bill in Congress in 2009.

A lobbying firm working for the coal industry, Bonner & Associates, had sent out letters opposing the measure that seemed to be from the N.A.A.C.P.’s chapter in Charlottesville, Va. The group’s national office, in Baltimore, felt it had to make clear that it supported the legislation, which would have established a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Jack Bonner, the founder of Bonner & Associates, declined to comment.

Then the organization began digging deeper, creating an environmental justice program and appointing Ms. Patterson to lead it.

Under her leadership, the group began connecting the dots between climate change and the impact of disasters like Katrina on African-American communities. The group also took a closer look at how rising sea levels and more intense storms might affect low-income, minority neighborhoods. And it started examining how air pollution from power plants affected nearby residents, many of them black.

“Seeing all of those intersections and more, we really saw this as a civil rights issue,” Ms. Patterson said. “The N.A.A.C.P. is now engaging around pushing for policies and pushing for access to clean energy.”

One of her priorities, Ms. Patterson said, is to educate state conferences and chapters. A milestone was the 2017 report with its Florida conference, which got the state organization to reverse its position on solar panels, energy efficiency and other clean-energy programs.

“I looked at it differently than I do now,” Ms. Nweze said. “The more you look at the issue, you realize this isn’t really working.”

But the national N.A.A.C.P. message has not found traction in every state.

The president of the group’s Illinois conference, Teresa Haley, said that her group typically got $5,000 to $10,000 a year from the energy industry and that the money did not influence the group’s activities. “They do have their lobbyist who contacts us and says, ‘We need your support.’”

Ms. Haley added that her group’s local branches held votes on which initiatives they support, sometimes backing utilities and sometimes opposing them. In 2012, for example, the Chicago branch successfully fought to close two coal-fired power plants in minority neighborhoods.

In California, the N.A.A.C.P. conference has more consistently taken positions that align with those of the state’s largest utilities.

Alice Huffman, the president of that state conference, has signed letters opposing government-run electricity providers known as Community Choice Aggregation, which allow consumers to choose solar power and wind with lower rates while leaving billing and transmission in the hands of investor-owned utilities. Ms. Huffman and the heads of other nonprofit organizations joined the utilities in sending a letter to state regulators contending that those programs could shift more of the grid’s cost to those who could least afford it. Studies have found that those in community choice programs typically have lower electric bills, but that state fees charged for grid maintenance could hurt low-income customers.

California’s three investor-owned utilities have donated about $180,000 to the N.A.A.C.P.’s state conference and its local chapters over the last five years, the companies said. Ms. Huffman and her conference did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Funderburk, the environmental lawyer, said the utility donations pressured nonprofit organizations to support the industry in ways undisclosed to members and the public.

“The only way to get real equity is to make things much more transparent,” he said.

Ms. Patterson said the N.A.A.C.P. was working on alternative revenue sources for chapters that stood to lose financial support from utilities.

In Florida, Ms. Nweze said that she realized that reversing support for fossil-fuel interests could jeopardize the state conference’s funding, but that she could no longer ignore the effect of climate change on her members.

“I’m not naïve,” she said. “I’m concerned, but I’m more concerned about the impact on the lives of the people throughout the country and this state in particular.”

 

 

Washington fails to extend the federal EV tax credit; what’s next?

Author: Plug In America           Published  01/8/2020

Despite a flurry of activity in December and thousands of emails and phone calls to Congressional offices (thank you!), an extension of the federal EV tax credit was left out of the final federal spending bill. According to Senator Debbie Stabenow, it was left out due to “extreme resistance from the president,” despite support from both sides of Congress. While the tax credit has been phasing out for Tesla and GM vehicles, it is still in place for automakers that have yet to sell 200,000 vehicles.

While this outcome is obviously not what we wanted, there are a few positives. The EV tax credit extension went from being a mostly unknown credit to one of the top Democrat priorities because of the strength we were able to demonstrate—and with a good number of sympathetic Republicans too. There were multiple letters sent from House Democrats to House Leadership calling for extending the EV tax credit. There were numerous op-eds written in papers around the country calling for extending the EV tax credit. There were advocacy days on Capitol Hill attended by the top utilities in the country calling for extending the EV tax credit. All this attention to the EV tax credit and EVs will certainly lead to more supportive policies at the state level and will set the stage for the next opportunity at the federal level to pass supportive policies.

And what are the next opportunities to extend the EV tax credit? Some members of Congress are looking to revive negotiations on extenders and energy tax credits in 2020. Others are looking to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to bring a bipartisan energy package together. Or, there’s also the possibility that a broad transportation infrastructure package moves through the House and back to the Senate. And of course, there’s always the lame duck session of Congress in November and December, which is probably the next big chance, though that also may depend on the election outcome. With new jobs and EV manufacturing being created in OhioTennessee, andGeorgia, that certainly could help to bring some bipartisan support to the table, as well.

And what’s the math after the EV tax credit for Tesla and GM? Is an EV still a good deal? Is a Tesla or a Chevy Bolt still an amazing car? Definitely! While we still need the federal EV tax credit to work for more consumers for a longer period of time, EVs still offer a better ride and will save consumers money in the long-term compared to a gas vehicle. Demand for these clean cars continues to rise, despite any negative news articles or any ploy from the oil industry.

Plug In America has been fighting for the EV ever since the days of Who Killed the Electric Car? in the early 2000s. Now, 20 years later, we continue to keep fighting.

FERC move to raise PJM capacity market bids shows ‘clear bias’ against new, clean generation: Glick

Author: Catherine Morehouse    Published:12/20/19 Utility Dive

Credit: Senate ENW

Dive Brief:

  • Federal regulators on Thursday voted to effectively raise the bids of subsidized resources selling their power into PJM Interconnection’s wholesale capacity market.
  • Under the plan, new resources receiving subsidies will now be subject to the Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR), which raises the price floor for those resources attempting to sell their power into the wholesale market. The move is intended to prevent potential “unacceptable market distorting effects” caused by state clean energy policies, according to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Neil Chatterjee. Commissioner Richard Glick was the sole dissenting vote of the three commissioners.
  • States, clean energy advocates and market observers fear FERC’s move will severely hinder incentives intended to bring new zero emissions resources online, while favoring incumbent fossil fuels. A range of estimates have found the plan could raise market costs from a range of $2.4 billion to $8.4 billion annually.

Dive Insight:

FERC’s Thursday decision is consistent with Chatterjee’s previous efforts to steer federal energy policy away from renewables subsidies, based on his assessment that resources such as solar and wind have matured in the market and can compete on their own.

“This was about new entrants to the market competing on a level playing field. And if there’s not a price suppressive impact, then they ought to be able to compete without subsidies,” Chatterjee told reporters.

Stakeholders have been awaiting a final decision on a reform to PJM’s market since the grid operator’s market monitor first submitted the proposal in April of 2018 in order to address suppressed market prices, which the grid operator blamed on increased state subsidies for carbon-free resources, including nuclear and renewables. Others have blamed the grid operator’s low capacity market bids on low natural gas prices and an oversupply of generation.

Commissioner Glick and clean energy advocates expressed frustration over FERC’s decision, decrying it as an overstep in the markets that will hamper growing state interest in building out higher levels of renewable energy resources.

“There’s a clear bias against new generation,” Glick told reporters. “There’s no reason to treat existing generation differently unless you’re trying to promote existing generation to stay online, which is what I think is happening.”

The majority of resources exempt from the MOPR are incumbent resources, including existing renewables procured under state renewable portfolio standards, existing energy efficiency, demand response and storage, and any resource that doesn’t receive state subsidies. Federal subsidies for entrenched technologies, including fossil fuel plants, are not addressed in the order, a hypocrisy Glick and clean energy groups called out.

“Somehow we’re not going to address those particular subsidies, even though those subsidies are having an effect under the chairman’s theory of price suppression as well,” said Glick.

“PJM is pretending there aren’t subsidies in the markets they run, but the irony is they’re everywhere,” Mike Jacobs, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a statement.

State level subsidies are broadly categorized as any direct or indirect “financial benefit” that would be used to build or procure new resources. That could particularly hinder the growth of storage and solar pairings and other resource technologies still nascent to the market, advocacy groups fear.

Chatterjee maintains the ruling is “resource neutral,” though he ties the necessity of the move directly to state clean energy policies.

“I think I can almost assure you that, had no action been taken, the capacity markets absolutely would have unraveled,” he told reporters. “State subsidization would have proliferated and that absolutely would have led to the demise of these capacity markets.”

But stakeholder reactions fell squarely across resource lines, with nuclear and renewables advocates protesting the order and coal groups voicing their support.

“Far too much of the nation’s essential coal fleet has been lost to market manipulation,” National Mining Association President and CEO Rich Nolan said in a statement. “The expanded MOPR aims to restore fairness to the marketplace and is a timely first step in addressing the loss of the nation’s baseload generating capacity.”

“FERC’s order is an unfortunate and unnecessary transformation of a limited rule designed to prevent market manipulation into a price support scheme for existing coal and natural gas power plants,” Jeff Dennis, general counsel and managing director at Advanced Energy Economy, said in a statement.

Several states have been watching this proceeding closely and Illinois and New Jersey have both threatened to pull out of the market altogether if the MOPR is finalized, fearing impact on their state clean energy policies. And the broad definition of subsidies has put the effectiveness of larger clean energy initiatives, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, up in the air, just as more states are considering joining, noted Glick.

States initially had an opt-out option — the Fixed Resource Requirement — which would have allowed them to procure resources outside the wholesale market without fully leaving the market, but FERC determined that mechanism “would have had unacceptable market distorting effects that would have hampered competitive investment over the long term​,” Chatterjee told reporters.

PJM has 90 days to comply with the order and give FERC a timeline for its next auction. The grid operator is withholding comment until it is able to review the order, released Thursday night.

House foregoes new tax credits for storage, offshore wind as it approves $1.4T spending bill

Author: Iulia Gheorghiu  Published: Dec. 18, 2019  Up Date: 12/20/19 Utility Dive

The Senate approved the spending bills on Thursday. President Donald Trump must sign the bills by midnight to prevent a government shutdown.
Dive Brief:
  • The U.S. House of Representatives approved a broad spending bill on Tuesday extending tax credits for wind energy, which expire at the end of 2019, for another year.
  • The House had proposed a wide-reaching clean energy package of tax credits, including new incentives for energy storage and offshore wind, and extensions for electric vehicles and solar. Those proposals were not included in the $1.4 trillion spending measure.
  • On Monday night, House Republicans and Democrats agreed to a slew of extensions of other credits that had already expired, from biodiesel energy to geothermal. The bipartisan legislation includes credits for energy efficient homes and Native American-owned coal plants.

Dive Insight:

Renewable energy stakeholders were disappointed in the deal, having hailed the previous House Democratic draft bill as a crucial way to advance clean energy deployment.

The Senate is expected to pass the package, which includes an extension of a biodiesel tax credit, a key priority for Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

“Historically, over the past more-than-a-decade, it’s typically been almost a no-brainer that Congress will at the end of the year just reauthorize a whole grab-bag of different tax provisions,” but that changed in 2017 and 2018, Erica York, an economist at the conservative think tank Tax Foundation, told Utility Dive.

Several expired tax credits have been awaiting reauthorization, adding to investment uncertainty. “That’s why in general it’s not a good idea to have a temporary tax code,” York said. “If the Congress does decide to have industry specific carve-outs, they should be permanent.”

The wind tax credit extension through the end of the 2020 tax year would therefore still create a sense of uncertainty for industry, she said.

However, energy lobbyists are not giving up, despite the disappointment.

The clean energy extensions included in the agreement “do little for renewable growth and next to nothing to address climate change,” Greg Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, said in a statement.

For some, like the energy storage industry, establishing new tax credits was the top priority of the year. An energy storage tax credit bill also had bipartisan support, according to the Energy Storage Association (ESA).

Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., Earl Blumenauer , D-Ore., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., as well as Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., supported an energy storage investment tax credit (ITC). The technology currently qualifies if paired with solar power.

“Despite this missed opportunity, ESA and our members are not dissuaded from continuing our effort to finally include energy storage in the ITC,” Kelly Speakes-Backman, ESA CEO, said in a statement.

The 2020 Fiscal Year spending bill does include a bipartisan provision supported by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) to ensure these utilities can accept government grants without losing their tax-exempt status, an unintended consequence of the 2017 tax law.

The bill allows co-ops to “leverage federal and state grants for economic development, storm recovery and rural broadband deployment,” NRECA CEO Jim Matheson said in a statement.

House green bank bill aims to leverage $35B in government funding into $1T in private investment

Author:  Iulia Gheorghiu      Published: 12/16/19     Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., introduced on Thursday a House version of a Senate bill to establish a National Climate Bank, which the federal government would capitalize with $35 billion over six years.
  • The bank is meant to mobilize up to $1 trillion in private investment over a decade, enabling the creation of more green banks in the country and supporting efforts of existing state and local green banks. Dingell’s state green bank, Michigan Saves, has been around for nearly a decade and needs additional funding to support energy efficiency and clean energy programs, its president and CEO, Mary Templeton, told Utility Dive.
  • The bill matches a Senate version introduced this summer by a group of Democratic senators. Stakeholders see the bill as an opportunity to consider the policy in broader climate solutions discussions in hopes of getting enough traction for passage in 2021.

Dive Insight:

Green banks in the U.S. have driven a lot of investments in solar power and energy efficiency, according to Jeff Schub, executive director of the Coalition for Green Capital. “By definition, almost all of the activity that’s being financed is done in a way that lowers energy costs with end users,” which has garnered the bill bipartisan support in the past.

Schub said the bill has enough support to pass the House today. However, stakeholders including Coalition for Green Capital are hoping to see Congress pass this bill in 2021, as that is “a realistic reflection of the amount of time and effort it takes to create something like this,” he told Utility Dive.

“A number of [Democratic] preside?ntial candidates have put green banks or climate banks … into their campaign plans,” he said, which could potentially increase the likelihood of a climate solutions package in 2021. However, he said the bill represents a fiscal policy that could get support from Republican administrations as well.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is putting together a comprehensive climate bill, which Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., announced earlier this year.

“We know for near certain that [the National Climate Bank Act] is going to be included in that package,” Schub said.

The bill is also central to other conversations with Congressional staff and the House Climate Crisis Committee, according to him.

Having other committees consider this bill puts the concept of national green banks “into the bloodstream… increasing its chances of being seen as part of the established set of [climate] solutions,” Schub said.

Supporting state-level green banks

The U.S. has 12 green banks at the state, county and city levels, supporting the emergence of new markets. However, they’re limited in funds, and vulnerable to political backlash.

“We would see a national climate bank supporting our work by helping us to expand and fill additional gaps,” Templeton said, referring to projects that don’t have a large pay-off to be supported by the market, such as large-scale renewables.

For Michigan Saves, that means supporting loan programs in low-to-moderate income communities, and providing longer term, low-interest rate programs for small commercial businesses to invest in energy efficiency and clean energy. Other funding opportunities within market gaps include community solar projects, solar power purchase agreements for nonprofits and affordable multi-family housing, Templeton said.

“Most state and local green banks” have focused on residential, small-commercial or community solar, and building efficiency upgrades, Schub said. These banks lack the capital to finance a utility-scale wind project, but “it so happens to be the case that those [solar and energy efficiency] products tend to be the ones that are underserved by private capital markets.”

“To support the work that we do … we need additional funding,” Templeton said.

Michigan Saves says it has enabled more than $200 million in public and private investment in the past decade, with an “extremely strong” leverage ratio between private and public funds. “For every single public dollar that we receive,” there’s around $30 of private investment the bank makes by working with private lenders, she said.

“The sooner that we can have support at the national level like that, the sooner that other states can get started,” Templeton added.

Without a national bank commitment, green banks are limited from financing available innovations in emerging clean energy markets, like transportation electrification, Schub said. Local green banks could help finance charging infrastructure buildout and EV leasing in underserved communities, as well as battery swap structures and other “necessary” financial innovations on the transportation side, he said.

First Energy Solutions bankruptcy judge must reconsider FERC authority on contracts: 6th Circuit

Author: Junk Fund      Published: 12/16/19      Utility Dive

Dive Brief

  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled Thursday that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge presiding over the reorganization of FirstEnergy Solutions (FES) must reconsider a decision about the status of power purchase agreements in its Chapter 11 reorganization.
  • Judge Alan Koschik, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio, had ruled in August 2018 that the bankruptcy court could treat a contract requiring federal regulatory approval like all other contracts, allowing FES to walk away from a power purchase agreement approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) and a smaller contract with a solar energy provider. But a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit ruled Koschik should have allowed FERC a say in the matter and considered the public impact of breaking OVEC’s 21-year contract.
  • If FES still wants to reject its contract with OVEC, the bankruptcy court would have to listen to FERC’s objections in another round of briefs and possibly in another hearing, according to attorneys familiar with the case. Alternatively, FES could appeal the three-judge panel’s decision to the full Sixth Circuit court, a move that would add even more time in the case that has gone on for nearly 18 months.

    Dive Insight:

    The appellate panel’s ruling comes as the FES bankruptcy case wraps up and the company prepares to emerge from bankruptcy protection as a newly constituted privately held company operating under a new name, Energy Harbor.

    FES sought bankruptcy protection on Mar. 31, 2018, and immediately in a separate filing asked the bankruptcy court to prevent FERC from interfering with its plans to break its contract with OVEC. Koschik ultimately agreed withFES that the contract with OVEC could be treated like any other contract, a decision that made OVEC just another unsecured creditor.

    FERC, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) and other parties appealed Koschik’s ruling. ​The OCC argued that allowing FES to break the OVEC contract would lead to higher consumer electric rates around the state because OVEC would have to replace the cash shortfall that FES’ departure would create.

    FES held 4.85% of the electricity generated by two 65-year-old OVEC coal-fired power plants for a contract that still had 21 years until expiration. The distributor estimated it would lose $268 million over that period. FERC argued that under the Federal Power Act and federal energy case law, the rates FES paid OVEC for its share of power generated by OVEC’s plants were subject to FERC’s jurisdiction.

    The appellate panel agreed that the bankruptcy court had the final authority on the issue, FES said in a statement.

    “Today’s decision by the Sixth Circuit confirms our assertion that the bankruptcy court is ultimately the decision maker on whether purchase power contacts can be rejected in bankruptcy,” the company said in a statement. “We appreciate the Sixth Circuit’s attention and deliberation in their ruling. We are confident, upon remand, the bankruptcy court will find again that the rejection of these burdensome contracts meets the applicable standard.”

    “With this favorable appellate decision, we will again seek to protect Ohioans from having to subsidize millions of dollars in coal plant costs that bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions was allowed to stop paying,” Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston said in a statement.

University of Maryland Climate Action Plan 2.0uthor

Author: sustainability.umd.edu   Published:  12/16/19

Students holding up pictures

INTRODUCTION

The University of Maryland became a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (now called the Carbon Commitment) in 2007 and finished its first Climate Action Plan (CAP) in 2009. Many faculty, staff, and students worked tirelessly over the years implementing CAP strategies and keeping the university on track with meeting its targets. By 2018, the university had achieved its targets of reducing its carbon emissions by 50% and enhancing opportunities for all students to learn about sustainability and climate action.

CAP 2.0 is an update to the original CAP and clarifies the university’s strategies for meeting upcoming targets, including a 60% reduction in carbon emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2025. This is an aggressive target to hit, which is why this CAP 2.0 focuses on strategies that are currently being implemented or need to be implemented within the next several years to meet near-term goals. The university is committed to achieving carbon neutrality for all scopes of emissions by 2050 and will make major updates to CAP at least every five years to include strategies that are based on the best knowledge and technology available at that time.

This new online format and numbering system (2.x) is a flexible format for CAP, making it easy to publish minor updates (ex. version 2.1, 2.2, etc.), including annual status reports on each strategy. As a “living document,” the Office of Sustainability welcomes your feedback and ideas to help the university meet and exceed its goals. Please email sustainability@umd.edu to share your thoughts.

 

PROGRESS

University of Maryland's Greenhouse Gas Emissions (MTCO2e; from 2005 to 2018) by Source Type

The University of Maryland has already achieved many of its original CAP goals. Notable accomplishments include:

  • Reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions 50% from 2005 to 2018 despite campus growth
  • Getting 89% of its purchased electricity from renewable sources in 2018
  • Offsetting 100% of the university’s air travel emissions associated with faculty, staff, and student travel
  • Implementing several performance contracts, reducing energy consumption 20% or more in select buildings
  • Increasing the percentage of commuters who choose alternative transportation for daily commuting
  • Creating a Sustainability Studies Minor – one of the largest minors at UMD
  • Educating more than 18,000 students in their first semester at UMD about sustainability challenges and opportunities

The US Federal Government occasionally uses the Social Cost of Carbon to estimate economic damages associated with an increase in carbon dioxide emissions in a given year. Damages include decreased agricultural productivity, impacts on human health, property damages from increased flood risk, etc. Based on these government estimates, the University of Maryland has reduced its carbon liability and benefited the economy by $37 Million by preventing approximately 1,034,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) from entering the atmosphere since 2005.

 

TARGETS

Planned Emissions TrajectoryThe university is striving to meet the following ambitious targets for all scopes of emissions:

  • 50% reduction in carbon emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2020 – Achieved!
  • 60% reduction in carbon emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2025
  • Carbon neutrality (net-zero carbon emissions) by 2050

 

STRATEGIES

The University of Maryland is estimated to save $120 Million whilepreventing 4.3 Million MTCO2e from entering the atmosphere between 2016 and 2040 by implementing the following strategies. Using the Social Cost of Carbon, the additional economic benefit to the world is approximately $216 Million from this level of carbon reduction. The university’s impact will become even greater as it develops and implements additional strategies in the future to reach its goal of carbon neutrality.

Power

The campus receives most of its power from a combined heat and power plant (CHP), which uses natural gas to produce steam and electricity simultaneously. CHP is already an efficient process but planned projects will make it and campus buildings even more efficient, thereby decreasing the carbon intensity of each facility. By 2020, all electricity coming from sources other than CHP must be produced renewably and any carbon emissions associated with powering new facilities must be offset. New technologies including algae-based carbon capture may drive carbon emissions even lower. There is plenty of opportunity for every person on campus to contribute toward reaching these goals! The UMD campus community can collectively save over 44,000 MTCO2e by 2025 through everyday behaviors like turning off computers, lights, and other equipment when not in use.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

President’s Energy Conservation Initiative: Facilities Enhancements

719,577 MTCO2e

$99/MTCO2e

President’s Energy Conservation Initiative: Behavior Change

126,984 MTCO2e

$120/MTCO2e

President’s Purchased Power Initiative

643,888 MTCO2e

$12/MTCO2e

President’s Carbon Neutral New Development Initiative

489,774 MTCO2e

-$8.48/MTCO2e

On-Campus Renewable Energy

0 – Covered by the Purchased Power Initiative

N/A

Heat and Power Plant Improvements

450,000 MTCO2e

-$23/MTCO2e

Carbon Capture Technology

120,000 MTCO2e

$80/MTCO2e

Additional Capital Investment for High Performing Energy Efficient Buildings

0 – Contributes toward other strategies

N/A

Commuting

Many faculty, staff, and students are choosing alternative transportation and those who drive alone are increasingly choosing fuel-efficient cars. New federal fuel-efficiency standards are making it easier to find vehicles that save on gas and reduce carbon emissions. By 2025, these standards alone may reduce carbon emissions by 53,000 MTCO2e from just commuters’ trips to and from campus. The more people who choose carpooling, vanpooling, public transit, walking, or biking as a means of getting from one place to another, the greater those reductions will be. New housing projects located throughout College Park will increase options for living where you work/study. Those who want to eliminate their carbon footprints associated with commuting will have the option of offsetting their emissions when they register for parking permits.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

Additional Student Housing On and Near Campus

23,851 MTCO2e

N/A – This project will happen regardless of CAP

Increase Use of Vanpools for Commuting

23,680 MTCO2e

N/A – This project will happen regardless of CAP

Increase Use of Carpooling for Commuting

4,280 MTCO2e

N/A – This project will happen regardless of CAP

Addition of Purple Line Light-Rail Service

7,461 MTCO2e

N/A – This project will happen regardless of CAP

Develop a Plan for Effective Transportation Demand Management Programming

0 – Contributes toward other strategies

N/A

Improved Fuel Efficiency of Commuter Vehicles

223,868 MTCO2e

No cost to UMD

Install More Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

1,214 MTCO2e

-$710/MTCO2e

Offer Voluntary Carbon Offsets for Commuters

33,182 MTCO2e

-$0.17/MTCO2e

Support Projects that Improve Bicycle Connectivity between UMD and Local Neighborhoods

TBD

TBD

Air Travel

Whereas the university has control over its energy infrastructure and some influence on commuting behaviors, it has little effective control of air travel emissions. Given the university’s goal of being globally connected, restricting air travel would hinder important university work. Faculty travel for research, students study abroad, athletes fly to competitions, and staff travel to conferences; all of which support university functions. To address the environmental impact of this travel, the university will implement a carbon offset program to negate 100% of the carbon emissions associated with air travel starting in 2018. A Carbon Offset Fund Committee reporting to the University Sustainability Council will select verified projects that sequester or prevent carbon emissions and determine the best process for administering the program.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

Carbon Neutral Air Travel

1,400,212 MTCO2e

-$7.80/MTCO2e

Solid Waste

Emissions from solid waste decreased 99% since 2005! Today, solid waste emissions account for less than 1% of the university’s carbon footprint. The university accomplished this by greatly expanding recycling and composting efforts over the past decade and sending remaining solid waste to landfills that capture and destroy methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Looking ahead, the campus can achieve carbon neutrality in this category by getting more recyclable and compostable materials in their correct receptacles and reducing the total amount of solid waste (including recyclable, compostable, and landfill waste) generated.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

Recycle Appropriate Solid Waste & Compost Appropriate Organic Solid Waste

7,548 MTCO2e

-$1,411/MTCO2e

Divert Solid Waste from Landfill

No additional CO2e reductions

No additional cost

Reduce Solid Waste Generation

5,471 MTCO2e

$37/MTCO2e

Education and Outreach to Promote Waste Reduction

0 – Contributes to achieving other strategies

N/A

Land Use and Maintenance

As Maryland’s land grant institution, the University of Maryland owns and operates research farms located from the mountains of Western Maryland to the coastal plain of the Eastern Shore. Approximately 2,000 MTCO2e is emitted each year from cows on research farms (methane emissions from digestion) and from fertilizer applied to crops and campus grounds. A bit more carbon dioxide is emitted from farm and landscape equipment, which predominantly run on gasoline and diesel. Based on a study conducted last decade, trees on the College Park campus sequester approximately 683 MTCO2e annually. The university is working on decreasing carbon emissions associated with agriculture and landscaping and plans on quantifying the carbon sequestration of university owned forests located around the State.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

Carbon Neutral Grounds and Landscaping

TBD

TBD

Quantify the Carbon Sequestration of Forests on University Land and Increase the Tree Canopy on Campus

Potential offsets from UMD-owned forests

TBD

Purchasing

Although the university does not currently track the carbon footprint of purchasing, it certainly has the opportunity to reduce the environmental impact associated with the manufacturing, transportation, and use of the food, equipment, and other goods that it buys. By reducing consumption of goods, selecting goods that meet sustainability criteria, and working with contractors who practice a similar environmental ethic, the university’s carbon reductions in this area could be greater than those across all other areas of this Climate Action Plan. The Department of Procurement and Strategic Sourcing and Department of Dining Services are leading efforts to drive sustainability into the core of the university’s purchasing decisions.

STRATEGY

Expand Sustainable Food Purchasing

Add Sustainability Language to Active UMD Procurement Procedures and Mechanisms

Achieve Compliance with Environmentally Preferable Procurement Policy (EPP)

Implement eProcurement System with EPP Guidance

Create Sustainable Procurement Policies and Practices for Vendor Contracts

Education and Research

As a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the University of Maryland set an ambitious goal to educate all students about sustainability. UMD is progressing toward that goal through its broad array of degree granting programs, living-learning programs, and initiatives such as the Sustainability Advisors and Chesapeake Project. Year by year, students are increasingly likely to receive an introductory lesson on sustainability during their first semester, grapple with sustainability concepts in various courses spanning the academic disciplines, and get involved with sustainability-focused action-learning or research activities. Sustainability and climate change research at UMD continues to be among the best in the world and groups like the Council on the Environment help those research activities flourish.

STRATEGY

Educate First Year Undergraduate Students about Sustainability

Integrate Sustainability across the Curriculum

Offer more Sustainability Courses in General Education

Foster Active Learning Programs on Sustainability and Climate Change

Develop New Sustainability Graduate Degree and/or Certificate Programs

Assess Students’ Sustainability Literacy

Foster Research on Climate Change, Energy, and Sustainability

Support Research on Campus Sustainability through the Sustainability Fund

Deploy Research Technologies Developed on Campus

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The Office of Sustainability is grateful to its many partners who helped develop this Climate Action Plan. The UMD Environmental Finance Center was instrumental in conducting carbon and financial impact calculations for all carbon reduction strategies. Thank you to the following partner organizations for helping develop and implement these strategies and for everything else they do to make the University of Maryland a national model for a Green University.

  • Facilities Management
  • Transportation Services
  • Procurement and Strategic Sourcing
  • Dining Services
  • Extension
  • Resident Life
  • Residential Facilities
  • Sustainability Council

Outreach Team

  • Students holding up pictures
  • Students with president Loh
  • Students
  • Students sitting on brick wall
  • Student with bike helmet on
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5

The Sustainability Outreach Team is a group of student leaders promoting a culture of sustainability at UMD.

The Outreach Team is also known as LEAF: Lead, Educate, Act, Facilitate!

Invite the Outreach Team to bring sustainability tabling, activities, and workshops to your group, team, or area.

Apply to join the outreach team!Bring sustainability outreach to your event!

What does the Outreach Team do?

  • Help students get registered and certified as a Green Terp
  • Inspire and empower students on ways to take action: reduce waste (reuse, recycle, compost), save water, eat ethically, commute smart, conserve energy, and live greener
  • Promote sustainability programs and resources to the student body
  • Identify barriers to sustainable actions and habits, and find solutions
  • Recommend sustainable choices and actions you can make and why they are important

Being part of this team allows me to exude my enthusiasm for sustainability in the hopes of sprouting enthusiasm in others in the UMD community.”– Andrea, LEAF Team Lead

What we bring to your event:

  • Energy and excitement around the topic of sustainability.
  • Tips and resources for making your event more environmentally responsible and sustainable.
  • Prizes, games, crafts and educational activities.​

The Outreach Team loves campus events! We have been to:

  • First Look Fair
  • UMD Bike Fair
  • Terp Market
  • The Farmers Market at Maryland
  • Maryland Day
  • Active Minds Carnival
  • Denton Community GreenFest
  • Stamp All Niter
  • PARK(ing) Day
  • Earth Day
  • Late Night at The Diner
  • The Commuter Breakfast
  • Stamp Fest
  • and more… !

Funding Opportunity Announcement: Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) FY 2020 Phase 1 Release 2

Author: DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office   Published:  12/16/19

Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

Solar Energy Technologies Office

Divider

SBIR/STTR Webinar December 18 2PM ET

Small businesses with a great idea to advance solar energy technologies can apply for up to $200,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program through their FY20 Phase 1 Release 2 Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). The SBIR and STTR programs encourage U.S.-based small businesses to engage in high-risk, innovative research and technology development with the potential for future commercialization.

Once companies successfully complete Phase I funding, they can apply for Phase II funding, which can total $1.1 million.

The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) will host a webinar to promote participation in the upcoming FOA with a focus on its solar topic. The webinar will be on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at 2PM ET. Register for this webinar here.

The solar subtopics in the funding opportunity include:

  • 11a: Technology Transfer Opportunity: Microwave Photoconductance Spectrometer for Roll-to-roll Deposited Semiconductor Materials:SBIR/STTR is looking for a partner to develop the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s lab-scale microwave photoconductance instrument into a prototype of a viable commercial metrology tool.
  • 11b: Affordability, Reliability, and Performance of Solar Technologies: The Solar Energy Technologies Office is seeking solutions that can advance solar energy technologies by lowering costs as well as facilitate its secure integration into the nation’s electric grid. Applications should fall within one of these areas: advanced solar systems integration technologies, concentrating solar-thermal power technologies, or photovoltaic technologies.

Join SETO staff on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at 2PM ET as they discuss the solar topic of the upcoming SBIR/STTR FOA. Register for the webinar today.

ENERGETIC INSURANCE

Author:  energeticinsurance.com      Published: 12/16/19

logo _ name copy-01-01.png

DO MORE SOLAR PROJECTS, DEPLOY MORE CAPITAL

ENERATE CREDIT COVER    MAKES EFFICIENT SOLAR PROJECT FINANCING POSSIBLE. EVEN WHEN AN ORGANIZATION IS UNRATED OR BELOW INVESTMENT GRADE.

According to industry-leading project Developers and Lenders, EneRate Credit Covercan:

Increase levered IRR by up to 200 bps

  • Reduce DSCR to 1.2
  • Enable up to 80% advance rate/LTV
  • Speed up financial close to less than 60 days

WHAT WE DO

OUR APPROACH

ENERGETIC INSURANCE IS UNIQUE

HOW WE OPERATE

WE KNOW ENERGY PROJECTS

We’ve spent our careers in energy. We appreciate and embrace the nuances like no generalist could. We draw on our experience as well as feedback from the energy project development community to design products that we know will work.

HOW WE OPERATE

WE ACT AS A MANAGING GENERAL UNDERWRITER (MGU)

A managing general underwriter (MGU) is a type of insurance company that evaluates risk, sells and binds policies on behalf of a large insurance carrier.

HOW WE OPERATE

WE PAY CLAIMS

A recent survey of 9 top brokers of trade credit/non-payment insurance revealed that 97% of claims were paid on time and in full.  A single policy trigger and pre-defined claim payment schedule make our process much more predictable and easier than other commercial insurance claims.

HOW WE OPERATE

MONITORING

We stay engaged in the project lifecycle, ensuring that

 

 

ENERGETIC INSURANCE FOCUSES ON THE REAL PROBLEM WITH COMMERCIAL SOLAR FINANCING: COUNTERPARTY CREDIT RISK.

OUR ENERATE CREDIT COVER    PRODUCT CAN SATISFY LENDER AND TAX EQUITY UNDERWRITING REQUIREMENTS WHILE KEEPING POLICY PREMIUM COSTS LOW, ALLOWING MORE ORGANIZATIONS TO ACCESS SOLAR PROJECTS. THE PROCESS IS FASTER AND MORE SCALABLE THAN ANY EXISTING FINANCING OPTIONS.

OUR APPROACH

ENERGETIC INSURANCE IS UNIQUE

HOW WE OPERATE

WE KNOW ENERGY PROJECTS

We’ve spent our careers in energy. We appreciate and embrace the nuances like no generalist could. We draw on our experience as well as feedback from the energy project development community to design products that we know will work.

HOW WE OPERATE

WE ACT AS A MANAGING GENERAL UNDERWRITER (MGU)

A managing general underwriter (MGU) is a type of insurance company that evaluates risk, sells and binds policies on behalf of a large insurance carrier.

HOW WE OPERATE

WE PAY CLAIMS

A recent survey of 9 top brokers of trade credit/non-payment insurance revealed that 97% of claims were paid on time and in full.  A single policy trigger and pre-defined claim payment schedule make our process much more predictable and easier than other commercial insurance claims.

HOW WE OPERATE

MONITORING

We stay engaged in the project lifecycle, ensuring that operations meet requirements and collecting data that allows us to focus on continuous product improvement.

HOW WE OPERATE

WE HELP IN DISTRESSED SITUATIONS

We can help recover value after default. If you have a project where you are experiencing or expect a payment default, contact us to discuss how we can mitigate the losses and maintain project cash flow.

New York outlines new ways to compensate distributed solar users as it looks beyond net metering

Author: Matthew Bandyk    Published:  12/11/19  Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • The New York Department of Public Service (DPS) on Monday released recommendations on new ways to compensate residential and small commercial distributed solar users as the state works to move past net metering, proposing a one-year extension for “mass market” net metering eligibility.
  • The New York DPS staff recommended in the white paper to continue net metering for new distributed energy customers starting in 2021, but also charge them somewhere between $0.69 and $1.09 per kW based on their solar array’s capacity.
  • The New York DPS staff did not endorse a proposal from a group of New York utilities, including Consolidated Edison, National Grid and Rochester Gas and Electric, to replace net metering with charges based on customer demand.

Dive Insight:

In order to give the distributed solar industry time to adjust to changes, the white paper recommends that the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) extend the deadline for “mass market” customers to be eligible for net metering from Jan. 1, 2020 to Jan. 1, 2021. The secretary of the PSC is likely to agree to extend that deadline, Solar Energy Industries Association Senior Director of State Affairs for the Northeast Dave Gahl told Utility Dive.

Previously, New York regulators said that after the end of this year they would start cutting back on the full retail rate that new rooftop solar users receive for exporting their excess energy to the grid under net metering.

The “mass market” definition includes residential customers as well as smaller commercial customers like small businesses. The New York PSC is separately dealing with compensation for larger distributed energy users, and earlier this year made changes to the Value of Distributed Energy Resources tariff.

“We are relieved to see the Department of Public Service Staff’s request to extend the deadline from 2020 to 2021 for moving small residential and commercial solar projects to a new compensation mechanism for their local, clean power,” Vote Solar Senior Director, Northeast Sean Garren said in an email to Utility Dive. “The Value of Distributed Energy Resources tariff is too complicated and dynamic at the moment to be suitable for family or small commercially owned projects, and there is no other solution beyond existing net metering that has been thoroughly investigated and publicly vetted.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, and the state legislature have set an ambitious goal of 6 GW of distributed solar in New York by 2025, and the charge on solar arrays proposed by the white paper represents a “conservative” approach away from net metering while not placing a burden on solar installations that would make that goal harder to achieve, according to Gahl.

The white paper calls its proposed charge on solar arrays “relatively minor” compared to the cost that rooftop solar users shift onto customers who do not have solar installations.

The solar industry still has questions about the economic impact of the charge, however.

“How will the size of the charge affect the solar industry? Does it affect companies’ sizing of their projects?” Gahl said, adding that the potential effects will be evaluated over the coming months. The white paper estimates that the charge would have a 3.6% to 7.8% impact on the simple payback of a solar system.

The DPS had asked for suggestions from stakeholders on a new tariff for smaller distributed energy customers, and a group of major New York utilities proposed rate designs based on different charges for levels of customer demand. The white paper, however, said that rates with “demand-based price signals” don’t provide customers with enough data to understand how to size distributed energy projects under that kind of rate design.

Gahl called the utility rate design proposal “unworkable.”

“Customers don’t know when they are going to hit maximum demand,” he said.

A community-led plan for climate justice

Author: Tom Steyer   Published: 12/9/2019      TOM 20/20

Tom 2020 Logo
I use the term “climate justice” a lot, Ronald, and I wanted to take a moment to tell you why.
Climate justice acknowledges that the people hit first and worst by the climate crisis are not the ones causing it. The worst of America’s pollution has been placed disproportionately by the fossil fuel industry into communities of color.
Big corporations continue to treat low-income communities, communities of color, and vulnerable rural communities as dumping grounds for their environmental waste for greater profit — and they’ve been allowed to get away with it.
American land-use and environmental policies have historically been intentionally racist and discriminatory, and continue to result in environmental and health inequity. Add your name if you agree that justice needs to be front and center as we work toward a sustainable future.
Climate change directly affects so many of the other challenges we face as a country. Our access to health care, affordable housing, and job opportunities are changing with our environment. For many, coping with those changes puts them at a serious disadvantage.
Regardless of who you’re voting for, you’re living on this planet and you’re going to feel the effects of the climate crisis. And if we’re going to address this crisis and create a healthy country, we have to start by recognizing that it’s hurting low-income communities and communities of color more than others.
Climate justice is central to my strategy to preserve our planet, address historic inequities, and grow our economy in a way that serves the American people instead of corporations. Read more about why I advocate for climate justice here, and join the conversation.
Yours in the fight,
Tom

On day one as president, Tom will declare the climate crisis a national emergency. This means he will take immediate action to tackle the climate crisis and begin investing in local community plans to address the issue.

Battery prices fall nearly 50% in 3 years, spurring more electr

Author: Matthew Bandvk            Publishd: 12/3/2019           Utility Dive

2019 was the year electric cars grew up

Author: Micheal Coren     

Tell Congress to extend the federal EV tax credit

Electric cars had their biggest year ever in 2019, even as storm clouds gathered over their future. The numbers were huge. Automakers committed $225 billion to electrification in the coming years. Electric vehicles (EVs) grabbed 2.2% of the global vehicle market over the first 10 months of 2019 as a slew of new models hit the road. Ford, which has yet to sell an all-electric vehicle, showed off the upcoming electric Mustang Mach-E (a crossover SUV) and an electric F-150 pick-up. Tesla, of course, shocked everyone by turning a profit and previewing a strange future with its “cybertruck,” potentially the Hummer for Millenials.

But it wasn’t all rainbows. Outside of China and Norway, where car buyers enjoy generous incentives, the market is still driven by early adopters rather than the mainstream. EV sales for the year have been sluggish. While some states such as California have seen EVs capture 8% of new sales (all-electric and plug-in hybrid), the rest of the country has not yet caught on. After doubling between 2017 and 2018, EV market share in the US had crept up from 1.6% last March to 1.8% a year later (pdf).

That hasn’t slowed automakers’ ambitions. They’re betting it’s better to get ahead of the now-inevitable shift to EVs than play catch up to established rivals and Tesla. But if demand fails to pick up the big bet may mean consolidation and bankruptcy for some.

Here are the highlights from 2019.

EVs sold even as the car market dipped. The Model 3 can claim most of the credit.

The year started off strong for electric cars. After selling a record 361,000 EVs in 2018, automakers foresaw a robust 2019. Yet for carmakers not named Tesla, sales sputtered out mid-year. Sales for the three dozen or so other EV models on the market declined by an about 20% in 2019 compared to a year earlier, while Tesla’s Model 3 sales tripled between January and September. Tesla represented an astonishing 78% of US EV sales as of October, estimated CleanTechnica, delivering about 123,000 Model 3s, and 30,000 Model S and Model X vehicles. But EVs proved to be a rare bright spot amid what appears to be a long-term decline in global auto sales now entering its third year, what industry analysts call “peak car.”

Tesla proved unstoppable, so far.

The naysayers are not done betting against Tesla CEO Elon Musk. But Tesla’s profitable quarter, surging Model 3 sales, the new Model Y, and the new Blade Runner-style pick-up truck mean its street cred and stock price are close to all-time highs. On Wall Street, its prospects are helped by a nearly complete China factory, plans for a European factory outside Berlin in Germany, the birthplace of the modern automobilea move weighted with symbolismand a cash stockpile totaling $5.3 billion, according to Sentieo. In 2019, Tesla barely escaped “production hell” after Model 3 production problems pushed Tesla within “single-digit weeks” of bankruptcy. Now it must replicate the feat with a new vehicle lineup starting with the Model Y.

VW, Ford, GM, and others are on Tesla’s tail

Legacy automakers have yet to build the equivalent of a Model 3: an affordable EV that people covet. But they’re spending billions of dollars to make it happen. “The whole market is moving toward electrification this year,” says Devin Lindsay of IHS Markit. While that transformation is still years (or perhaps decades) away, 2019 was the year they put money behind their talk, he says. Automakers and the suppliers collectively put $225 billion on the table for EV investments over the next five years. Volkswagen (VW) led the way with a $44 billion “electric offensive,” a promise to abandon the development of all new fossil fuel vehicles by 2026 and sell 40% EVs by 2030. Ford, after years of ambivalence, invested $500 million into electric truck startup Rivian on top of least $11 billion in new EV investments and launched the all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV.

EVs are still for early adopters in the US

For now, internal combustion engines aren’t going anywhere, especially in the US. AlixPartners’ global survey of customer demand for EVs asked if buyers’ next car would be electric in 2018. The average share in countries like Germany, Japan, Norway, and the UK topped 40% and rose as high as 73% in China. But in the US, only 14% of potential buyers planned to go electric this year. EVs will only go mainstream in the US, GM notes, once range, ease of ownership, and cost are addressed.

Layoffs rocked the auto industry

The auto industry’s sprint to embrace electric and autonomous vehicles didn’t include all of its factories and workers. Softening global auto sales didn’t help. Daimler, the parent of Mercedes-Benz, cut at least 10,000 jobs including 10% of its management. Volkswagen’s Audi announced 10% of its global workforce, 9,500 employees, would be let go by 2025. Ford made two rounds of steep job cuts this summer totaling more than 15,000.  Nissan made similar reductions. The bloodletting probably isn’t over yet: Bloomberg predicts at least 80,000 more auto jobs will be cut in the coming years.

Incentives began to phase out

Price is still a primary consideration for most car buyers, and incentives are still needed to attract buyers in most markets. In Norway, for example, generous incentives have pushed EV market share close to 60%. However, China pulled back on the incentives fueling its red-hot EV market. The UK did the same. In the US, tax-breaks awarded for manufacturers’ first 200,000 EVs have begun to phase out: Tesla and GM both crossed that threshold this year (credits phase out over time), and others will soon follow. The Trump Administration has proposed eliminating all incentives enacted during the Obama administration from renewable energy to EVs. “We pay a lot of attention to what any president says,” said Dan Turton, vice president for North American policy at General Motors, speaking to industry insiders after the announcement. “But this electrification movement is going forward anyway.”

Charging stations are outnumbering Tesla’s proprietary network in the US

For years, Tesla’s proprietary Supercharger system was the biggest one out there. But independent charging networks are catching up.  EVgo, Greenlots, EV Connect, and Electrify America are all in the business of building out thousands of new stations to mirror their gasoline counterparts (Ford partnered with some of them to make recharging similar to swiping your credit card at the pump). While the US remains far behind Europe and China, the number of public charging stations in the US has soared from just 506 at the end of 2010 to over 20,000 in May 2019, according to US Department of Energy (DoE) data. Tesla’s fast Supercharger network has 1,636 stations in addition to its destination charging stations (with many more on the way).

EV range has finally come in range

It turns out 300 miles of electric range is what it takes for most people to feel comfortable in an EV, notes GM President Mark Reuss. Almost 90% of EVs sold were the six models with the highest range (238 miles or more)—Tesla’s, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the Hyundai Kona and the Kia Niro. EVs have been making strides in that direction since 2011. The range for top-selling EVs has risen about 20% annually since 2011. Today, the median EV range is more than 125 miles while the top end is 335 miles, according to the DoE to estimates. As automakers finally enter mass-production, expect that range to keep rising well after 2019.

Hello, e-trucks

Fleets discovered electric vehicles. Electric buses have long been a favorite of government agencies, but the private sector is realizing electric delivery trucks can save them money. The biggest news was Amazon’s order of 100,000 electric delivery vans from the Detroit startup Rivian, highlighting a year of big orders across EV classes for trucking and deliveries, says Tony Seba, co-founder of RethinkX, a Bay Area think tank. And it wasn’t just businesses. Electric pick-ups and sport trucks entered the limelight with Tesla’s Cybertruck, Rivian’s $69,000 Rivian R1T, and Ford’s all-electric F-150 prototype which towed 1 million pounds.

Auto shows went electric

It’s hard to know if EVs should make their debut at gadget-obsessed affairs like the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas or automotive shows showcasing vehicular power and performance. In 2019, the answer was both. While CES has long been a showroom for electric (and self-driving) cars for a while, this year the buzz at the world’s biggest auto shows from Tokyo to Los Angeles hovered around automakers’ EVs as they tried out new sizes (hulking SUVs) and concepts (e-scooters).

LA AUTO SHOW
Karma’s SC2 electric concept car

Budget-conscious EVs joined the high-end

Better range, more refined styles, and zippier acceleration all hit the market at or below the median cost of a car in the US: Kia’s $34,000 e-Soul (280-mile range) and $38,500 Niro (239-mile range), and the $36,500 Hyundai Kona Electric (258-mile range). The budget offerings present rivals to the Chevy Bolt and the Model 3, and herald the day when affordable doesn’t mean underperforming. The new arrivals round out a luxury line-up such as Audi’s $74,800 e-tron, Porsche’s $103,800 Taycan and Tesla’s premium Model S and Model X starting around $75,000.

Build it and they will come?

Carmakers’ very, very ambitious EV sales targets started to outpace industry forecasters in 2019. “The transition to EVs is likely to be gradual, once again confounding the expectations of futurists,” J.P. Morgan asserted (pdf). The bank predicts by 2025 the global share for EVs will reach just 7.7% of the market, or 8.4 million vehicles.

Major automakers are banking on global sales growth far exceeding that mark. Nissan-Renault is aiming for 20% to 30% by 2025, while GM hopes to hit for 10%–15% of total sales by 2026 despite slower US growth. By 2030, VW plans to see EVs account for 40% of sales. Mercedes and BMW are close behind. “These companies are so invested, they can’t any longer say it’s going to take much, much longer,” says Sven Beiker, the founder of the consulting firm Silicon Valley Mobility and former BMW engineer. “Now they are part of the gang.”

But if overcapacity develops, automakers aren’t entirely out of luck. They can ship those vehicles to where demand exists. In the near term, that’s probably Europe and China. They can also curtail production since the number of EVs rolling off assembly lines remains relatively low: measured in the thousands, not millions.

But Lindsay of IHS Markit predicted hockey stick growth could arrive in the near future. While market forces alone suggest a gradual increase, a White House in 2020 (or 2025) that imposes stricter emissions controls on the transportation sector (as Obama promised) could drive exponential EV growth automakers are seeking.