Energy in the News: Friday, August 25
Are environmental rules really job killers?
E&E News, feat. John DeCicco
Shortly after last year's election, President-elect Trump pledged to "cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy."
Rolling back these federal regulations, Trump said in a video, would lead to the creation of "many millions of high-paying jobs."
Since taking office, Trump has made rolling back regulations a top priority for his administration. In January, he signed an executive order requiring that two federal regulations be revoked for every new one issued (Greenwire, Jan. 30). And in February, he signed another executive order establishing task forces at agencies for "removing job killing regulations and increasing economic opportunity" (Greenwire, Feb. 24).
Ann Arbor calling on Congress to impose carbon fees to reduce emissions
Ann Arbor is calling on federal lawmakers to put a price on carbon to help reduce pollution and fight climate change.
Once again calling climate change a serious threat and reiterating the city's commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, the City Council voted 9-0 this week to voice support for a national carbon fee and dividend program as advocated by the Citizens' Climate Lobby.
"A carbon fee aims to account for the societal cost of carbon pollution," states the resolution brought forward by Council Members Jason Frenzel, D-1st Ward, and Chip Smith, D-5th Ward, at the recommendation of the city's Energy Commission.
Perry's policy review pivots on grid resiliency
An Energy Department policy report that started out as a rescue mission for the coal industry ended up, four months later, described as an evenhanded but inconclusive diagnosis of challenges facing the U.S. electric power system, from coal-burning plants and nuclear reactors to power produced by wind turbines and natural gas generators.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry had launched the study in April with a memo warning that coal and nuclear plants that he called essential to a reliable electricity supply were being undermined by environmental regulation and "market-distorting effects of federal subsidies that boost one form of energy at the expense of others."
The 187-page study released last night concluded on the contrary that the grid is operating reliably. Coal plant retirements have more than been made up for by new gas, wind and solar power and demand-side electricity conservation programs.
Power sector's response to solar eclipse highlights need for flexible resources
The United States power grid didn't blink as the sun slipped behind the moon for a brief time this week. The much-heralded eclipse did have a significant impact on solar energy--utilities saw several gigawatts of clean energy vanish for a few minutes — but with ample preparation, customers saw no impact.
Is that a big deal? Maybe not — yet.
Because of cloudy weather, and changes to customer behavior related to the eclipse, the impact was muted. California had expected utility-scale solar output to drop 4,200 MW during the event, but saw a drop-off of only 3,400 MW. PJM Interconnection experienced a net decrease in demand of about 5,000 MW throughout the eclipse, for a variety of factors. Utilities were prepared, but ultimately the United States just isn't that reliant on renewable power — yet.
The threat of tariffs is already reshaping the U.S. solar market
Simple economics tells us that the tariff price increase will reduce demand from residential, commercial and utility customers.
Let’s consider what is happening throughout the entire solar supply chain. First, solar module manufacturers are already reacting by accelerating shipments to the U.S. before mid-November. Any shipments that arrive after a tariff decision would be penalized. Building U.S. inventory is a low-risk way to continue to supply the market, but shipments that arrive after the tariff is imposed will be subject to an unknown cost increase.
As soon as this ITC action was initiated, suppliers to worldwide solar module manufacturers started ramping up deliveries of “ingredients” such as glass, aluminum and wafers. But there is only a limited amount of surplus component capacity that can be manufactured into modules -- so shortages are already occurring.
NREL: Solar-plus-storage could be competitive by 2020
The NREL report underscores the market distortions associated with the investment tax credit for solar-plus-storage systems. The ITC currently is only available for energy storage systems that are charged mostly from renewable energy sources.
In the current environment, assuming about 6% solar penetration, it is more economic to give up revenue from load shifting in order to charge the system with solar power in order to qualify for the ITC.
The NREL study was modeled based on a facility in Southern California with a 50 MW fixed-tilt solar PV array tied to a 30 MW, 120 MWh storage system. If battery costs continue to decline, the benefit-cost ratio would likely increase, but as solar penetration rises, the benefit-cost ratio will decrease, the report found.
Audi working to add solar panel roofs to future electric cars
After watching the grid suffer while families traveled across the U.S. for the solar eclipse, a well-known problem became more apparent: there aren't enough chargers to sustain the amount of charging required by the increasing number of electric vehicles on the road. Volkswagen's luxury brand, Audi, has reportedly announced their intent to work with a Chinese solar manufacturer to produce an interesting charging concept for their new EVs: solar cells integrated into the car's glass.
The German automaker will work with a solar cell manufacturer Alta Devices to embed solar cells into the glass that will be placed in a panoramic roof. This concept, which is expected to be installable on a test vehicle by end-of-year 2017, has the possibility of reaching full-scale development on a future Audi model which would be released alongside its E-Tron lineup.