Clean Energy Initiative

Detroit Auto Show Unveils ElVs and Hybrids, Solar Farm to serve 5000 in Austin, TX, Admnistration to Use Regulatory Process

In the race to claim ever-higher fuel-economy numbers and keep up with government regulations, automakers are rolling out hybrids and electric cars at this week’s Detroit auto show. However the public is not yet buying them in great numbers.  McKinsey said hybrids could account for up to a quarter of sales by 2020, with battery-powered cars making up 5 percent, but internal-combustion engines would dominate the industry through at least 2030.

Ribbons were cut last Friday on the Webberville Solar Farm, an array of 127,000 solar panels set to provide enough electricity to power 5,000 homes in the Austin area. The farm will be the largest of its kind in Texas and the largest solar project of any public power utility in the United States, according to Austin Energy CEO Larry Weiss.  ERCOT is projecting a growing need for energy in the state in the coming years and this solar facility will contribute to the state's energy needs.  Weldon said the real benefit of solar, the fact that it comes free of polluting emissions,  should be taken into account when consumers consider the price competitiveness of energy sources.

Given the partisian gridlock in Congress, especially on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, expect the Administration to take a harder look at its existing legal authorities in the realm of energy and environmental policy, building on its energy efficiency, sustainability, and infrastructure development initiatives in 2011, according to the Van Ness Feldman energy law firm.

Oil Patch sets up Keystone Pipeline in 2012 election, ComEd files for Huge Grid Upgrade, Mandates Don't Make Public Policy

The oil and gas sector is set to play a big political role this 2012 election year as President Obama must decide whether or not to approve the controversial Keystone Pipeline which would send tar sands crude from Alberta to Texas. Last week at his annual "State of American Energy" speech, American Petroleum Institute head Jack Gerard proclaimed that President Obama faces "huge political consequences" if he does not approve the proposed 1,700-mile Keystone XI pipeline that would link Alberta's oil stands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The Obama administration must decide by February 21 to accept or deny a permit for the project.

ComEd filed with Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) its 10-year, $2.6 billion Infrastructure Investment Plan which includes  investments of $1.3 billion to strengthen the electric system and another $1.3 billion to add new, digital smart grid and advanced meter technology that will transform the delivery of electricity to homes and businesses throughout northern Illinois.  The filing also included the utility's $233 million Investment Plan for 2012 and its plan for a smart grid Test Bed to provide entrepreneurs "on-grid" locations for testing of smart grid-related technologies and services.

Unlike ComEd and the Illinois mandate, many utilities have been stunned by public pushback on smartgrid technology.  Interesting article in Greenbag highlights some of the reasons for comsumer backlash on smartgrid installation.

A Discussion With the EPA’s Gina McCarthy on New National Standards for Mercury

Please join us for a luncheon discussion on the Environmental Protection Agency's recent ruling to set the first ever national standards to reduce mercury and other toxic air emissions.  Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA will spotlight the broad implications of these newly instituted standards which will require deep cuts in emissions and most liekly reshape the utility industry in the process. 

Please RSVP to


NDN Event Space
729 15th Street
Washingtond, DC
United States

Invite: January 20 - Discussion With the EPA’s Gina McCarthy on New National Standards for Mercury

On December 21, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency issued an historic ruling which set the first ever national standards to reduce mercury and other toxic air emissions.  This ruling will not only impact our air quality and environment but will significantly impact the utility sector, the business industry, and other related entities.     

To better understand this ruling, NDN/New Policy Institute has invited Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA to speak to our Clean Energy Initiative.  Please join us for a luncheon discussion on Friday, January 20, at 12noon at the NDN event space which is located at 729 15th Street on the first floor.  Ms. McCarthy will spotlight the broad implications of these newly instituted standards which will require deep cuts in emissions and most likely reshape the utility industry in the process.  

Gina McCarthy’s presentation is the sixth in our “Clean Energy Solution Series" to showcase the leaders, companies, ideas and policies who are hastening our transition to a cleaner, safer and more distributed energy paradigm of the 21st Century.

Please RSVP today at or 202-384-1216.

New Hampshire Republican Primary: Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman & Mitt Romney on Energy Issues

Rick Santorum is the one Republican Presidential candidate who would score 100% rating from conservative and tea party Republican primary voters.  The grandson of a Pennsylvania coal miner, he  is pledging to champion fossil fuels while taking an axe to energy subsidies, but it is on the issue of climate change that he can draw the sharpest distinction from Romney.  "I've never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative," states Santorum, who is opposed to any notion of climate change.

Meanwhile, the influential Boston Globe endorsed Jon Huntsman in an editorial today citing among many reasons, Huntsman's desire to lead for the U.S. to lead the world in renewable energy. Normally newspaper endorsements have only marginal effect on election outcome, but the New Hampshire primary is wholly different and an endorsement from the Boston Globe can make a difference. Having said that, Jon Huntsman's chances at winning the NH primary are, at best, a long shot. 

Mitt Romney routinely gets accused of flip flopping on issues and I'll give you yet another example of his heinous hypocrisy.  Romney has been a loud critic of the Department of Energy's stimulus program that gave the $535 million loan to Solyndra.  But  under his administration as Massachusetts Governor, two energy firms that received state loans later defaulted.  Sound familiar?


Smart Grid Trend to 'Cloud-Based" Hosted Services, Napperville, IL First Community to install Smart Grid, Meanwhile Mayor of Chi

Two recent wins for General Electric's Grid IQ suggest two important trends for 2012. First, the move to "cloud-based" hosted services is under way in earnest. Second, many of the sector's biggest players are targeting coops and municipals for their next round of deals.

Speaking of Munis, Naperville, IL, a Chicago suburb, on Wednesday became one of the first communities in Illinois to begin installing "smart meter" grid technology for all its electricity consumers — even as opponents with privacy and health concerns sought a court order halting the $22 million project.  The crews in Naperville, a city of 145,000 west of Chicago, started fitting the wireless devices that broadcast electricity usage directly to utilities at homes and businesses on Wednesday. Officials say it will take several months to install all 57,000 devices.

The City of Chicago is in early stages of implementing smart grid technology on their grid.  Touting a promise of 2,400 jobs for Chicago, ComEd on Wednesday launched the hiring blitz it promised in exchange for a $2.6 billion rate hike that will finance “smart-grid” technology.  Mayor Emanuel held a news conference with ComEd President Anne Pramaggiore to tout the benefits of legislation - hiring will begin with 350 to 400 Chicago jobs this year and up to 2,400 over the next decade according to Pramaggiore and Mayor Emanuel.

US Residential Energy Use Declined and Expected to Level Off, China invests in US Shale Fields, Revenue from Microgrids to Rise

Business Week has a great story about declining residential electricity use.  A significant reason is the energy efficiency standards for refrigerators, air conditioners and other appliances set in place during the Clinton Administration.  From 1980 to 2000, residential power demand grew by about 2.5 percent a year. From 2000 to 2010, the growth rate slowed to 2 percent. Over the next 10 years, demand is expected to decline by about 0.5 percent a year.  According to Michael Lapides, a utilities analyst at Goldman Sachs,  "It's already having an impact and we may just be in the early innings of this." Other reasons for decline include a growing awareness of energy efficiency and a need to cut back due to a lackluster economy.  

China's state owned energy company, Sinopec, has made a deal with Devon Energy Corporation to develop several shale fields in Michigan and Ohio.  Sinopec has a one third stake in this development.  China is the third foreign company to venture into the development of United States shale oil fields in as many months.

According to Forecasters from Pikes Research, revenue from remote microgrids will reach $10.2 billion by 2017.  This growth is  especially driven by a more economical solar industry.  According to Pikes senior analyst Peter Asmus, "The global remote microgrid segment is the most attractive of all microgrid segments from a revenue perspective. Recent research indicates that this sector is far more robust than previously reported, and with solar PV prices continuing to decline, is poised for substantial growth, even without government incentives."

New Jersey Faces Tough Energy Decisions, Cape Wind on Track in MA, NYT Says Jobs Future in Renewable Energy

New Jersey faces tough challenges and tougher decisions on energy policy. The price of Solar Renewable Energy Certifcates (SRECS) are on the slide and the Democratic Legislature is poised to act on legislation to strenghen the power of SRECS.  Both the Governer and the Legislature agree that offshore wind is important to the state's energy portfolio and to job creation and plan to work together on legislation to provide major government assistance to offshore wind projects.  Driving down power prices is another huge issue for New Jersey which has some of the nation's highest utility rates.  Developers of three power projects given much-contested ratepayer subsidies will bid in an annual energy auction, seeking the right to begin providing electricity.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court throws out Challenge to Cape Wind, in all probability cementing this massive offishore wind project as a go.  Earlier in 2010, National Grid signed a major purchase agreement to purchase half of power generated by the Cape Wind the massive offshore wind project off the shore of Massachusetts.  But the Alliance to Protect Nantucket.

New York Times has interesting editorial  last week about the 'real jobs in America'.  According to the NYT editorial, the 20,000 new jobs from Keystone Pipeline is wildly inaccruate, 6,000 is more accurate and most of those are temporary.  Real jobs, they say are in the expansion of clean energy stating that power plant upgrades required by the new rule governing mercury emissions are expected to create about 45,000 temporary construction jobs over the next five years, and as many as 8,000 permanent jobs as utilities install pollution control equipment.  The Energy Department predicts that its loan guarantee programs could create more than 60,000 direct jobs in the solar and wind industries and in companies developing advanced batteries and clean energy technologies.


The Environmental Protection Agency official unveiled important new standards regarding mercury emissions yesterday.  These standards would require deep cuts in emissions of mercury, acid gases and soot from coal-fired power plants and are likely to help reshape the industry as companies turn off old plants and decide whether to clean up existing ones or switch to cleaner-burning fuels such as natural gas.  

The White House is billing this as a health measure, stating that although it will cost $9.6 billion annually to implement, it will provide much more in health benefits including 100,000 fewer heart and asthma attacks. According to the Administration, "This crucial step forward will bring enormous public health benefits. By substantially reducing emissions of toxic pollutants that lead to neurological damage, cancer, respiratory illnesses, and other serious health issues, these standards will benefit millions of people across the country, but especially children, older Americans, and other vulnerable populations. Cumulatively, the total health and economic benefits to society could reach $90 billion each year."  

Understandably many power plants and manufacturers  have concerns and fear that  these regulations will have a significant negative impact.  Republican officials have criticized the rule and are likely to challenge it in court and in Congress. They say it is too expensive and would force the premature closing of scores of power plants, eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs and threaten the supply of electricity in some parts of the country.

In a New York Times article, Scott H. Segal, who represents utilities that would be affected by the rule, said the E.P.A. was playing down the costs and double-counting the benefits. “The bottom line,” he said in an analysis of the regulation, is that “this rule is the most expensive air rule that E.P.A. has ever proposed in terms of direct costs."  

The Wall Street Journal points out that the rule is sure to fact legal challenges and Republicans will continue efforts to delay it with legislation.  Revisions to the Clean Air Act. passed by Congress in 1990. required reductions of mercenary and other pollutants.  

On the other hand, Sierra Club President, Michael Brune in a press release today stated "President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson marks a milestone for parents and families across the country. It means that, after decades of delay, we now have strong nationwide protections against toxic mercury, and most of all, it means peace of mind for the parents of more than 300,000 American babies born every year that have been exposed to dangerous levels of mercury".

Bottom line  this ruling will face legislative challenges by Republicans in Congress and court challenges by the utilities and manufacturing industry.  These challenges will be fought in Congress by many Democrats and defended in court by Environmentalists.  The regulations will stick.  They are a result of legislation passed by Congress in 1990 and for over twenty years legislators and industry have known that these regs would come to pass. In the meantime, hopefully our air quality will siginificantly improve. 

EPA MACT Rules Announced Today, Google Makes Big Investment in Solar, Strategies for Keystone Communication

Lisa Jackson of EPA will release the EPA's first rules for mercury and air toxics emissions from utility power plants today at 2pm.  The Republican leadership on the House Energy and Commerce Committee admantly opposes this ruling which is not surprising because they oppose most everyting EPA.  Morning Politico hints that the  finalized rules include so-called safety valve provisions that would give some power plants an extra year - beyond the three or four usually allowed under the Clean Air Act - to comply with the utility MACT.  Details will be linked in tomorrow's blog.

Internet Company Google announced that it is putting $94 million into Recurrent Energy projects construction of solar panels.  These solar panels will feed into  Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), raising it's investments in clean energy to an extrodinary $915 million.  

David Roberts writes in Grist that the enviromental community needs to re-work their messaging because the Keystone Pipeline presents a perfect opportunity for environmentalists.  Roberts argues that the compromise throws the decision on whether to move forward on the pipeline to the State Department, where they will most likely kill it.  He suggests the enviro messaging be positive and proactive.

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