Energy

The Council of State Governments will host its 2017 National Conference from December 14th-16th in Las Vegas, Nevada. The meeting will offer engaging policy sessions geared toward state officials in all three branches of government. To access copies of speaker presentations, please visit the individual session pages below.

In states across the country, few topics are as hot with state policymakers as grid modernization. From California and New York to Ohio and Nevada, states and utilities are investigating how best to upgrade the electric power grid to enhance its efficiency and integrate more clean energy technologies. At the same time, large scale investment in grid modernization triggers key questions: Is it worth it? How can states maximize the potential benefits of grid modernization? As utilities come to the table for grid modernization funds, state policymakers have an opportunity to plan now to get ahead of the process and generate the most benefits from those investments. This session will explore strategies for wisely designing a grid modernization program that can guide utility investment and increase the chances that customers get the most out of grid modernization efforts.

CSG Midwest
In Midwestern communities that host nuclear power plants, the utilities generate more than just electricity. The Nuclear Energy Institute estimates that, on average, a nuclear power plant pays almost $16 million in state and local taxes each year.
Today’s energy markets are being driven by abundant and inexpensive natural gas, which is good for ratepayers, but bad for nuclear generators.
“Nuclear plants make the bulk of their income by energy sales, and the average price of a megawatt hour is down sharply in energy markets around the country,” says Matt Wald, a spokesman for the institute. “In some places, this price is lower than the cost of operating the nuclear reactor.”
Unfavorable market conditions led FirstEnergy, the utility that owns the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants in Ohio, to seek a devaluation — or reduction in the taxable value — of its plants. The devaluations were granted by the Ohio Department of Taxation in early October, meaning municipalities will see the first impact of the tax payment changes in 2018. State officials approved a 73 percent reduction in the tax valuation of Davis-Besse, from $184 million to $49 million.
Climate Adaptation

The states of Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island released three reports (see here, here, and here) last week that together set out a roadmap for the development of offshore...

CSG Midwest
In the northwest part of Ohio that he represents, state Sen. Cliff Hite says, “wind is our shale,” an energy resource that has the potential to boost revenue on agricultural land and improve the region’s entire economy.
And the comparisons don’t stop there.
Just as the hydraulic fracturing boom has raised questions about siting and government regulations, so too has wind power. Three years ago, responding to concerns about the impact of wind-turbine installations on adjacent landowners, the Ohio Legislature tripled the state’s setback requirements for turbines, a move that Hite and others say halted the development of wind energy. 
Under the 2014 law, for any operation with generating capacity of 5 MW or more, Ohio now requires a 1,125-foot minimum setback from the base of the wind turbine (plus the length of its blade) to the edge of the property line. That marked a big change from the state’s previous standards — first, a requirement that the setback from the property line be 1.1 times the height of the turbine, which amounts to about 550 feet; second, that there be a 1,125-foot setback from the turbine to the nearest home (the 2014 law changed the requirement from home to property line).
As a result of this statutory change, wind-energy proponents say, Ohio now has the most stringent siting rules in the country. In states such as Illinois and South Dakota, for example, a turbine must be set back at a distance from the property line that is 1.1 times its height. Under the Ohio law, it is approximately 2.3 times the height of the average turbine.  
Climate Adaptation

Twenty-Three regulators and legislators from around the country attended the CSG “Building Relationships Between Regulators and Legislators” Policy Academy on September 13-15 in Washington DC. The policy academy provided a forum for state regulators and legislators to engage and collaborate with each other on energy resource planning. In addition to participating in breakout discussions, attendees heard from representatives of the electric utility industry, industry associations, academics, think tank researchers, and others about...

Community Solar and Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, are two relatively new, increasingly pursued, and still evolving strategies helping to transform the U.S. electricity system. These approaches put local governments at the center of energy purchase and development decision-making efforts. States should pay attention to these two potentially overlapping approaches as they can address a number of energy-related challenges. Their effectiveness depends on the form they take, including whether they are enabled by state legislation. This article describes these programs and recommends support for strategic energy planning to gain a full awareness of challenges and opportunities.

The coal industry has been on a bumpy ride in recent years. The industry has seen a wave of bankruptcies and mine closures in the face of falling demand and efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Jobs losses in the industry have led to economic devastation in already struggling communities across eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia, and southwestern Virginia.

Bringing back coal mining jobs and reviving the coal industry is at the top of President Donald Trump’s energy agenda. But it is unclear whether the federal government has the power to disrupt a complex set of trends that have to do with market forces and technology, in addition to regulations.

This brief first looks at the current state of the U.S. coal industry. It then discusses a variety of trends that have impacted the coal industry over the past several decades as well as in the last few years. While environmental regulations have certainly played a part, this brief argues that there are other, likely stronger influences at work. The brief closes by discussing the outlook for coal’s future.

The mix of energy sources used to generate electricity across the country has changed significantly in the last decade as coal, while still the largest single source of fuel, has lost its share of the generation market to natural gas and renewables like wind and solar. States’ electricity generation includes such sources as coal, natural gas, nuclear power, hydropower, and renewables. The electricity generation mix varies significantly from region to region and even state to state, depending on available resources and regional market prices.

The U.S. Department of Energy released its highly anticipated grid reliability study on Wednesday. The report’s main conclusion faults low natural gas prices as the driving factor for most baseload power plant retirements, rather than environmental regulations and renewable energy incentives—a conclusion that should not come as too much of a surprise to anyone in the power sector.

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