Who Are the “Green,” “Orange” and “Red” Governors on Climate, Energy?

January 26th, 2015

Over at the Center for American Progress (CAP), they do a lot of great work, including on energy and the environment. For instance, this morning they came out with their “2015 Climate Guide To Governors,” which ranks the 50 governors into three categories:

Green governors not only accept climate change science but are proactively implementing policies to fight climate change and prepare their states for the impacts of extreme weather. Orange governors either accept climate science or have not openly denied it but also either have mixed climate and energy records or have not yet taken serious action to help their state prepare for its impacts. If a governor has made no public statement on climate science, has not taken action, or has openly objected to federal safeguards that help blunt the impacts of climate change, they are placed in the red category. Governors who deny the reality of mainstream climate science are added to the red “Climate Deniers” category, further marked by striped lines.

So who are the “greenest” governors when it comes to promoting climate action and clean energy? According to CAP, the honors go to California Gov. Jerry Brown, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, Delaware Gov. Jack Martel, Hawaii Gov. David Ige, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, and Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee.  Congratulations to all of them, and keep up the great work! Also check out the “orange”-rated governors, who have a mixed record, with definite room for improvement in promoting energy efficiency, wind and solar power.

Some of the worst governors in the country when it comes to clean energy and climate, not surprisingly, tend to come from major fossil fuel-producing states like West Virginia and North Dakota. However, a few of the lowest-ranked governors actually come from states, such as Florida, South Carolina and Arizona, with few fossil fuel resources but abundant sun and wind. Clearly, those governors are missing out on a major business opportunity for their states, not to mention one that’s overwhelmingly popular. It seems to us that those governors might want to figure out how to move from “red” to “green” – and quickly!

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (1/26/15)

January 26th, 2015

Here are five recommended reads for today (1/26/15).

  1. Climate Progress reports, “President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Sunday that the two countries will work together to fight global climate change, laying out a set of goals that the two countries hope ‘will expand policy dialogues and technical work on clean energy and low greenhouse gas emissions technologies.’”
  2. Barron’s explains “Why China’s Solar Industry Will Shine.”
  3. The New York Times reports, “Although the subsidy, known as the Investment Tax Credit, is to remain in place until the end of 2016, when it will drop to 10 percent, that does not give developers enough time to get through the long process of securing land, permits, financing and power-purchase agreements, executives and analysts say.”
  4. According to the Boston Globe, “The developer of Cape Wind has terminated contracts to buy land and facilities in Falmouth and Rhode Island, the latest sign that the $2.5 billion effort to become the nation’s first offshore wind farm may never produce a kilowatt of energy.”
  5. Greentech Media reports: “Jon Wellinghoff, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, did not mince words when talking about the potential outcome if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to review FERC Order 745, which was vacated last May by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. ‘If the Supreme Court takes this case, we’re going to win,’ he said during a webinar hosted by the Advanced Energy Economy, an association of businesses that support clean energy. ‘We will win this hands down.’

Solar Power Grows by Leaps and Bounds in USA…But NOT in Virginia

January 23rd, 2015

The other day, I ran into yet another article – on the superb website Greentech Media – regarding the rapid rise of clean energy in America. The numbers this article (“America Installed 22 Times More Solar in 2014 Than in 2008“) presents are truly eye popping.

In 2008, the U.S. installed 263 megawatts (AC) of solar PV and CSP. In 2014, based on GTM Research’s conservative estimates, the U.S. installed at least 5.7 gigawatts (AC). The PV figures were discounted into AC from DC in order to make an accurate comparison and include concentrating solar.

More than 80,000 new jobs have been created in the industry since then. Today, one company, SolarCity, is booking almost as much solar capacity in one quarter as the entire industry put on-line in all of 2008.

So, yeah, solar power installation in this country is growing by leaps and bounds as the cost of solar plummets. And no, the fastest-growing states are not just in the Desert Southwest, but also in northern and mid-Atlantic states like Colorado, Delaware, Massachussetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Vermont, Maryland, Connecticut, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Notice a state missing here? That’s right, Virginia, also known as the “Old Dominion, with the emphasis on the word “Dominion” – as in Dominion Virginia Power, a largely fossil-fuel (and nuclear) utility which essentially owns the Virginia General Assembly, as well as the powerful State Corporation Commission, which ostensibly is supposed to regulate Dominion.

So, what have the results been in Virginia (note: we’re focusing on Virginia because Tigercomm is located there, and also because it’s an excellent case study into the effect of clean-energy-unfriendly policies), with Dominion and its fossil-fuel-funded friends in the state legislature blocking and tackling for dirty, carbon-based fuels, while doing their utmost to stymie the explosion of clean energy (wind, solar, energy efficiency, etc.) we’re seeing in the rest of the country and world?

In two words: not good. Here’s the sad story, courtesy of the Solar Energy Industries Asssociation (SEIA):

In 2013, Virginia installed 6 MW of solar electric capacity, ranking it 27th nationally…The 9 MW of solar energy currently installed in Virginia ranks the state 30th in the country in installed solar capacity. There is enough solar energy installed in the state to power 1,000 homes.

Wow, 1,000 homes out of millions. Yes, that number really is as pitiful as it looks. The frustrating thing is that the situation is pitiful not because Virginia is lacking in sunshine, wind, or potential for energy efficiency gains, but simply because of bad policies.

On the upside, policy is something we can change, at least in theory. Of course, the “powers that be” could decide not to change policy, but that won’t help their pals at Dominion Power in the long run. For more on that, see David Roberts’ superb article, Rooftop solar is just the beginning; utilities must innovate or go extinct.

So, Dominion (and Virginia more broadly) has a stark choice: 1) continue to fight inevitable change, saddle Virginians with dirty energy for years to come, yet eventually see the entire business model collapse anyway (what Roberts calls the “death spiral”); or 2) adapt to a changing world, one in which even oil-rich Middle Eastern countries are moving heavily into solar power for purely economic reasons — because its price is low and heading lower. It seems like an easy call to make, but as we saw just this morning, with the defeat of a Virginia renewable energy tax credit bill (by Del. Rip Sullivan) in a House of Delegates committee, there are a lot of politicians who still don’t “get it.”

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (1/23/15)

January 23rd, 2015

Here are five recommended reads for today (1/23/15).

  1. Renews reports, “The US will next week auction development rights to the 5GW Massachusetts offshore wind lease area in what will be the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s fourth and largest sale to date.”
  2. According to PV Magazine: “U.S. CIGS manufacturing aspirant Siva Power has picked up a cooperative award from SunShot to continue to develop its technology. Siva has set the bold goal of manufacturing its thin film modules in the U.S. with a cost of US$0.40/W in its first year of operations and $0.28/W two years after that.”
  3. Climate Progress reports, “Almost 3 million gallons of saltwater drilling waste spilled from a North Dakota pipeline earlier this month, a spill that’s now being called the state’s largest since the North Dakota oil boom began.”
  4. Greentech Media presents the “most important charts from the Q4 2014 Solar Executive Briefing covering pricing, installations, financing, policy and business models.”
  5. DeSmogBlog reports, “Fracking Boom Expands Near Chaco Canyon, Threatens Navajo Ancestral Lands and People.”

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (1/22/15)

January 22nd, 2015

Here are five recommended reads for today (1/22/15).

  1. Climate Progress reports from “Inside A Coal Ash Community That Can’t Use Its Tap Water.”
  2. According to Greentech Media, “Grid-Edge Investments Total $1.3 Billion in 2014.”
  3. Bloomberg reports, “Apex Clean Energy Inc., a Charlottesville, Virginia-based wind-power developer, agreed to sell 50 megawatts of capacity from an Oklahoma project to Western Farmers Electric Cooperative Inc.”
  4. According to Greentech Media, “A legal struggle over the future of demand response took another step forward last week, as the federal government officially filed a Supreme Court challenge to a lower court ruling that it says ’seriously misinterpreted’ federal law, with results that could be ‘tremendously damaging to the electricity system.’”
  5. Reuters reports, “India will look to the United States for more private sector partnerships and technology to support a drive to expand its use of clean energy, as Washington looks to secure political support for a global climate change deal in 2015.”