Power Generation

The Obama administration released the final version of the Clean Power Plan last week at a White House ceremony attended by a crowd of administration officials, members of Congress and environmental advocates. This highly anticipated plan is the first comprehensive federal rule to target carbon emissions from existing, new and modified power plants. It is touted as the most ambitious regulation ever aimed at combating climate change.

Interest in using solar energy to power homes continues to skyrocket and rural electric cooperatives are taking notice. Rural co-ops--nonprofit consumer-owned utilities--are responding to demands from their members looking to invest in community solar projects. Utilities are developing these programs, which allow customers to pay for the cost of one or more panels in exchange for a credit on their bill based on the energy the panels produce. This eCademy session features experts discussing the national trend of community solar programs and specific examples to help state policymakers better understand this emerging trend.

Interest in using solar energy to power homes continues to skyrocket and rural electric cooperatives are taking notice. Rural co-ops --nonprofit consumer-owned utilities-- are responding to demands from their members looking to invest in community solar projects. Utilities are developing these programs, which allow customers to pay for the cost of one or more panels in exchange for...

While the country has been enjoying a surge in domestic energy production due to hydraulic fracturing, it has led to more development of wells close to homes and, in some cases, within city limits. Some cities are pushing back. Residents of the city of Denton, Texas, in November 2014 passed a ballot to ban hydraulic fracturing—often called fracking—within city limits, making it the first major Texas city to do so and igniting a public policy debate. In Texas, state law gives the railroad commission authority and jurisdiction over oil and gas wells. State law, however, also gives local governments the power to impose reasonable health and safety regulations—a specific concern cited in the ballot initiative language for the ban.

State verses local control is not a new issue, but it is an important one for the nation’s top oil and gas producer and is likely to be settled by the courts or the state legislature.

Last week the President unveiled his $4 trillion budget for Fiscal Year 2016.  The budget highlights the President’s continued support on several energy and environmental topics with emphasis on clean energy.  He reiterated his support for the Climate Action Plan he released in 2013 and called for an increase in funding support for the plan. 

Several agencies made the request for larger...

Federal and state tax credits coupled with state policies like net metering were intended to make residential solar installations more affordable for consumers and help states meet their state renewable portfolio standards. Their intent seems to have worked—residential rooftop solar is growing but the growth looks different than state leaders anticipated. Instead of homeowners making the upfront purchase of rooftop solar, an increasing number of consumers are choosing to enter third-party leasing contracts with solar leasing companies. In a third-party lease, a homeowner pays to have the solar leasing company finance, permit, install and maintain the system. The contract is attractive to homeowners because solar is installed without the large upfront costs and their solar utility rate can be set if the rate increased in the future.

The Solar Foundation, an independent nonprofit with a mission to increase understating of solar energy, recently published its annual National Solar Jobs Census 2014 report.  The report found the U.S. solar industry created jobs at a rate nearly 20 times higher than the average employment growth for a second consecutive year.

Distributed generation—mainly rooftop solar—is transforming the way electricity is generated, transmitted and distributed. In 2015, state lawmakers will likely continue debates about the most appropriate way to balance consumer demand for distributed generation while recognizing the real and substantial fixed and variable costs incurred by electric utilities and the potential impact of these policies on nonsolar consumers. This CSG eCademy session features perspectives from the electric power industry and a former utility ratepayer consumer advocate. Panelists share their thoughts on how to balance the challenges and opportunities the growth of distributed generation has brought to the forefront and how to address consumer concerns.

Federal regulations will continue to be a primary driver for energy and environment policy in the states for 2015.   Multiple rule proposals from the EPA related to air and water quality will remain at the forefront of conversation as the rules stay on schedule to be finalized in 2015.  Increasingly, the theme of conversation for states in 2015 is true flexibility when it comes to federal, state interaction.  It is a theme that will be tested with not only EPA rules but other federal, state interactions like endangered species and tackling the issue of grid reliability.  The following is a review of the top five issues for states related to energy and environment in 2015.  

Increasing popularity of small scale, on-site power sources known as distributed generation has surged because of policies like net energy metering. Distributed generation—mainly rooftop solar—is transforming the way electricity is generated, transmitted and distributed. In 2015, state lawmakers will likely continue debates about the most appropriate way to balance consumer demand for distributed generation while recognizing the real and substantial fixed and variable costs incurred by electric...

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