‘Great Day for Clean Energy’ as Supreme Court Gives Renewables a Boost

SCOTUS upholds rule meant to incentivize electricity conservation and idle dirty fossil fuel power plants normally used during periods of high demand

— by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

“Demand response provides tremendous benefits to our environment, helps consumers save money and makes our electricity grid more reliable,” says Earthjustice. (Photo: Image Catalog/flickr/cc)

In a decision heralded as “great news for consumers and the environment,” the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld a rule meant to incentivize electricity conservation and idle dirty fossil fuel power plants normally used during periods of high demand.

As Timothy Cama explains for The Hill, the court ruled (pdf) that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) “did not exceed the authority Congress gave it when it wrote its ‘demand response’ rule, mandating that electric utilities pay customers to reduce use during peak demand periods.”

At the Natural Resources Defense Council blog, senior attorney Allison Clements offered further background:

In 2011, FERC (the agency that regulates our country’s high voltage electric transmission grid) issued a landmark rule called Order 745, which set compensation for demand response in wholesale energy markets. Under the rule, grid operators are required to pay demand response participants the same rates for reducing energy use as those paid to power suppliers for producing energy from resources like coal, natural gas, and wind and solar power. FERC said the rule reflected the common sense view that “markets function most effectively when both supply and demand resources have appropriate opportunities to participate.”

With its ruling on Monday, the Supreme Court essentially affirmed FERC’s position—and in turn, gave clean energy “a huge boost,” Clements said in a press statement. That’s because, she explained, “[i]f grid operators can count on fast-acting customer responses rather than plants that need more advanced notice to come online, they will have greater flexibility to meet electricity demand in situations when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.”

What’s more, said Sierra Club staff attorney Casey Roberts, “demand response programs make energy cheaper, ensure the reliability of the grid, and protect our air and water from fossil fuel pollution.”

As Politico points out:

The agency’s win is seen as a big loss for large “baseload” power sources like coal, natural gas and nuclear in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest, which have seen their profits decline over the last several years as electricity consumption has eased and renewables grew. Now they have to compete with industrial customers and others who will at times be paid at market rates to reduce their electricity use without having the costs of operating and maintaining a power plant themselves.

“This is a great day for clean energy and the health of a more affordable, stronger power grid,” added Earthjustice managing attorney of clean energy Jill Tauber on Monday. “Demand response provides tremendous benefits to our environment, helps consumers save money and makes our electricity grid more reliable.”


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6 Things Every American Should Know About the Clean Power Plan

By EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Gina McCarthyToday, President Obama will unveil the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan—a historic step to cut the carbon pollution driving climate change. Here are six key things every American should know:

  1. IT SLASHES THE CARBON POLLUTION FUELING CLIMATE CHANGE.
    Carbon pollution from power plants is our nation’s biggest driver of climate change—and it threatens what matters most – the health of our kids, the safety of our neighborhoods, and the ability of Americans to earn a living. The Clean Power Plan sets common sense, achievable state-by-state goals to cut carbon pollution from power plants across the country. Building on proven local and state efforts, the Plan puts our nation on track to cut carbon pollution from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, all while keeping energy reliable and affordable.
  2. IT PROTECTS FAMILIES’ HEALTH.
    The transition to clean energy is happening even faster than we expected—and that’s a good thing. It means carbon and air pollution are already decreasing, improving public health each and every year. The Clean Power Plan accelerates this momentum, putting us on pace to cut this dangerous pollution to historically low levels. Our transition to cleaner energy will better protect Americans from other kinds of harmful air pollution, too. By 2030, we’ll see major reductions of pollutants that can create dangerous soot and smog, translating to significant health benefits for the American people. In 2030, we’ll avoid up to 3,600 fewer premature deaths; 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children; 1,700 fewer hospital admissions; and avoid 300,000 missed days of school and work. The Clean Power Plan is a historic step forward to give our kids and grandkids the cleaner, safer future they deserve.
  3. IT PUTS STATES IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT.
    The Clean Power Plan sets uniform carbon pollution standards for power plants across the country—but sets individual state goals based on states’ current energy mix and where they have opportunities to cut pollution. States then customize plans to meet their goals in ways that make sense for their communities, businesses, and utilities. States can run their more efficient plants more often, switch to cleaner fuels, use more renewable energy, and take advantage of emissions trading and energy efficiency options.Because states requested it, EPA is also proposing a model rule states can adopt right away–one that’s cost-effective, guarantees they meet EPA’s requirements, and will let their power plants use interstate trading right away. But states don’t have to use our plan—they can cut carbon pollution in whatever way makes the most sense for them.

    The uniform national rates in the Clean Power Plan are reasonable and achievable, because no plant has to meet them alone or all at once. Instead, they have to meet them as part of the grid and over time. In short, the Clean Power Plan puts states in the driver’s seat.

  4. IT’S BUILT ON INPUT FROM MILLIONS OF AMERICANS.
    The Clean Power Plan reflects unprecedented input from the American people, including 4.3 million comments on the draft plan and input from hundreds of meetings with states, utilities, communities, and others. When folks raised questions about equity and fairness, we listened. That’s why EPA is setting uniform standards to make sure similar plants are treated the same across the country.

    When states and utilities expressed concern about how fast states would need to cut emissions under the draft Plan, we listened. That’s why the Clean Power Plan extends the timeframe for mandatory emissions reductions to begin by two years, until 2022, so utilities will have time to make the upgrades and investments they need to.

    But to encourage states to stay ahead of the curve and not delay planned investments, or delay starting programs that need time to pay off, we’re creating a Clean Energy Incentive Program to help states transition to clean energy faster.

    It’s a voluntary matching fund program states can use to encourage early investment in wind and solar power projects, as well as energy efficiency projects in low-income communities. Thanks to the valuable input we heard from the public, the final rule is even more fair and more flexible, while cutting more pollution.

  5. IT WILL SAVE US BILLIONS OF DOLLARS EVERY YEAR.
    With the Clean Power Plan, America is leading by example—showing the world that climate action is an incredible economic opportunity. By 2030, the net public health and climate-related benefits from the Clean Power Plan are estimated to be worth $45 billion every year. And, by design, the Clean Power Plan is projected to cut the average American’s monthly electricity bill by 7% in 2030. We’ll get these savings by cutting energy waste and beefing up energy efficiency across the board—steps that make sense for our health, our future, and our wallets.
  6. IT PUTS THE U.S. IN A POSITION TO LEAD ON CLIMATE ACTION.
    Today, the U.S. is generating three times more wind energy and 20 times more solar power than when President Obama took office. And the solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. For the first time in nearly three decades, we’re importing less foreign oil than we’re producing domesticallyand using less overall.

    Our country’s clean energy transition is happening faster than anyone anticipated—even as of last year when we proposed this rule. The accelerating trend toward clean power, and the growing success of energy efficiency efforts, mean carbon emissions are already going down, and the pace is picking up. The Clean Power Plan will secure and accelerate these trends, building momentum for a cleaner energy future.

    Climate change is a global problem that demands a global solution. With the Clean Power Plan, we’re putting America in a position to lead. Since the Plan was proposed last year, the U.S., China and Brazil – three of the world’s largest economies – have announced commitments to significantly reduce carbon pollution. We’re confident other nations will come to the table ready to reach an international climate agreement in Paris later this year.


Editor’s Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone’s rights or obligations.

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Statement from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Photo of Ernest Moniz by John Shinkle/POLITICO

“Today’s announcement between the P5+1 and Iran is a historic accomplishment.  Building on the Lausanne framework, it will ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is – and will remain – a peaceful one, or that the international community will have more than enough time to respond if Iran’s program proves otherwise. This deal will extend the time it would take for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a first nuclear explosive device to a year for at least ten years, from the current breakout time of just two to three months.

Drawing on the vast scientific and technological expertise from across the Department of Energy’s National Laboratory system, Department and Lab experts helped shape the nuclear negotiations through rigorous technical analysis. The Department of Energy backs the deal and stands ready to assist in its implementation.

This agreement will be implemented in phases – with some provisions in place for 10 years, others for 15 and others for 20 or 25 years. Iran has committed to the Additional Protocol indefinitely as part of its adherence to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime.

This agreement is the result of tireless work from our experts at the Department and the National Labs, our interagency colleagues and specifically, Secretary of State John Kerry and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman. The U.S. multi-agency delegation worked together collegially and seamlessly, and the P5+1 displayed remarkable cooperation and cohesion throughout this complex endeavor. These are tributes to Secretary Kerry’s personal commitment and leadership.

I also want to thank the Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Salehi (MIT PhD ’77) for his dedication to this process. His professionalism, dedication and commitment to advancing Iran’s nuclear science and education programs, while at the same time building the international community’s trust in Iran’s nuclear program, were key to this agreement.

This is a good deal for America, for our allies, and for our global security. Most important, this deal is based on hard science and analysis. The facts of this agreement meet the nuclear objectives set down by President Obama: verification of a peaceful Iranian nuclear program and sufficient lead time if it proves otherwise.”

Bio Fuels and Jobs in Your Community

biofuels___09_by_ademcFrom farmers to small business owners, the renewable fuel industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in wages in rural communities across the United States. These are homegrown jobs that can’t be outsourced and that’s good news for our rural economies

While other industries have been shipping jobs overseas, the biofuels sector has been creating jobs and spurring investment right here at home. That’s thanks to the Renewable Fuel Standard.  And, as long as we have a strong Renewable Fuel Standard, America’s rural economies will continue to grow and thrive.

But, there’s a catch.  Right now, the EPA is finalizing a multi-year version of the Renewable Fuel Standard that will determine how much renewable fuel must be blended into the U.S. fuel supply. This will have long-term implications for renewable fuel, and in turn for America’s rural communities. The EPA has to get this right.

Fuels America just released some key facts about the impact of renewable fuel on America’s rural economies. It’s all there: jobs, wages, and economic impact. We need policymakers to understand just how important the Renewable Fuel Standard is to this growing industry, and our economy.

From North Carolina to California, renewable fuel is driving economic growth in rural communities across the country. Since the passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005, the renewable fuel industry has grown by leaps and bounds — and along with it the communities that rely on this rapidly growing sector. As the EPA finalizes the 2014 renewable fuel targets, it’s important to remember that:

  • The RFS supports more than 852,000 jobs across the United States.
  • The workers of the renewable fuel sector take home $46.2 billion in wages every year.
  • The direct output of the renewable fuel industry is greater than the economic activity generated by the beef cattle sector.
  • There are over 840 facilities supporting renewable fuel production and distribution; research and development; and other activities throughout the country.
  • Iowa is the top state for biofuels jobs. The renewable fuel sector supports more than 73,000 jobs and $5 billion in wages for Iowa farmers, workers, and small business owners.

With so much on the line, Americans need to know that the President, Congress, and the EPA will stand up for these homegrown jobs — and strong, vibrant rural economies.  Your voice is powerful as well. Use it to help your friends, neighbors, and family members understand how renewable fuel powers rural America.

Not from Nevada? Go here to find out how the Renewable Fuel Standard has impacted your community. Click on your state and then the district in which you live in that state.

As Expected, Amodei Voted “Aye” for yet Another Onerous Bill

Knowing that HR 2824, the Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America bill, would be coming up for a vote this week, I decided to write to Rep. Amodei to express my concerns regarding this onerous bill:

Dear Rep. Mark Amodei:

IAmodei15 strongly oppose passage of HR2824, the Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America. This bill would misdirect limited resources and limit State discretion in regulating industries within their borders, stomping the crap out of any future “State’s Rights” argument you might wish to make. The bill requires State surface coal mining regulatory agencies to implement the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule for a mandatory implementation period. In case you missed it, that rules does NOT adequately protect drinking water, nor does it protect watersheds from strip mining.

We’ve just see a few massive spills in streams that supply drinking water, yet HR2824 would limit each of those State’s abilities to tailor stream safeguards or to even maintain their currently adopted standards. For all the time Republicans harp about needless regulatory and legal uncertainty, this bill is a quintessential example for both. But worst of all, HR2824 requires States to waste significant taxpayer dollars adopting a rule that has been vacated by a Federal court.

The Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is currently developing a proposed Stream Protection Rule that provides for responsible development while protecting our communities and environment. Let them do their jobs. Updates in the proposed rule will reflect the significant technological and scientific advances in mining practices that avoid, minimize, and mitigate environmental damage from coal mining.

HR2824 does not adequately address the community, environmental, and health impacts of strip mining. And, if that isn’t bad enough, HR 2824 actually undermines efforts to better support public health, revenue generation and job creation in the Nation’s coal-producing regions.

Please vote NO when this bill comes to the floor for a vote.

So much for that.  My effort, once again, was in vain.  The vote was taken today, and Rep. Amodei voted ‘Aye,’ en bloc with the Republiban majority.