Santorum, Sanders Miss Energy Boat, Chafee Pro Hydro

There are a lot of candidates vying to be the next president of the United States floating around the Iowa State Fair, but for being in Iowa, many are missing the boat on two very important issues to the state – energy and agriculture. This weekend, presidential candidates Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator of Pennsylvania (Republican); Lincoln Chafee, former Governor of Rhode Island (Democrat); and Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator from Vermont (Independent running for the Democratic nomination) all pushed their economic and military agendas as part of the Des Moines Register Soapbox series while laying low on other major issues. Let’s recap their remarks.

Rick SantorumRick Santorum touted his military expertise by noting that “no one in this race has the record I do on national security”. If elected, he will defeat ISIS and how he will do this is being explained in his 2020 Perfect Vision for the Future. Like George Pataki (R-NY) he wants to cut corporate taxes. Santorum was silent on renewable energy, agriculture and climate change.

Listen to why Rick Santorum wants to be president here:Rick Santorum at the Iowa State Fair

Bernie SandersBernie Sanders had quite the crowd and has set himself apart as being the only candidate to speak on the soapbox so far who wants to expand social security. He plans on doing this by lifting the cap on taxable income. Several other hot button issues: make all higher education free; overhaul campaign finance; end racism by bringing about major reform in the criminal justice system; equity pay for women in the workforce; and economy – “We need an economy that works for working people”.

And, climate change is real. He said, “When we talk about our responsibilities, as adults, as parents, as citizens of this Earth, we have a moral responsibility to make certain that we leave this planet in a way that is habitable for our kids and grandchildren. The debate is over. Climate change is real. Climate change is caused by human activity. Climate change is already causing devastating problems in our country and around the world. What the United State must do, and I will do as president, is lead the world in working with other countries to transform our energy system.”

Listen to why Bernie Sanders wants to be president here:Bernie Sanders at the Iowa State Fair

Lincoln ChafeeLincoln Chafee believes that when electing legislators, voters need to look at past performance, character and vision. He told the crowd that while he was governor, he worked to curb climate change; fought for marriage equality; made investments in education a priority; and helped to lead the nation in the rollout of Obama Care. In terms of national security, he will work hard to end wars if elected saying, “Prosperity comes with peace”.

While he didn’t address renewable energy during his remarks, he did answer the question on his stance on renewable power for rural America. His answer: hydropower. He was part of a group who worked with Canada to bring hydropwer down to the northeast. He stressed that it is reliable, affordable and clean and needs to have a more prominent position in the energy discussion. He also supports other forms of renewable energy including geothermal, wind and solar.

Listen to why Lincoln Chafee wants to be president here:Lincoln Chafee at the Iowa State Fair

None of the candidates specifically addressed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this time around. But at some point all candidates in the race will have to discuss their position to win the state’s nomination- Iowa is the leader in biofuels production including ethanol and biodiesel and has been leading several campaigns to save the RFS.

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.

Mid-Year Renewable Energy Check-Up

Heading in to the second half of 2015, renewable energy accounted for nearly 70 percent of new electrical generation for the firs six months as reported by the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The report finds wind accounts for more than half (50.64%) of the 1,969 MW of new installed capacity. Solar accounted for 549 MW, bimomass with 128 MW, geothermal with 45 MW and hydropower with 21 MW. The rest of the new capacity was added using natural gas (1,173 MW).

© Metalmaster | Dreamstime.com - Solar Panels Photo

© Metalmaster | Dreamstime.com – Solar Panels Photo

FERC reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from oil or nuclear power and just 3 MW from one unit of coal. Thus, as calculated by the SUN DAY Campaign, new capacity from renewable energy sources during the first half of 2015 is 904 times greater than that from coal and more than double that from natural gas. For June alone, wind (320 MW), biomass (95 MW), and solar (62 MW) provided 97 percent of new capacity with natural gas providing the balance (15 MW).

Renewable energy sources now account for 17.27 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.61 percent, wind – 5.84 percent, biomass – 1.40 percent, solar – 1.08 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.34 percent (for comparison, renewables were 16.28 percent of capacity in June 2014 and 15.81% in June 2013).

Renewable electrical capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.20%) and oil (3.87%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. On the other hand, sources the SUN DAY Campaign, generating capacity from coal has declined from 28.96 percent in mid-2013 to 26.83 percent today.

“With Congress now debating whether to extend the federal tax incentives for renewable energy sources, it is reasonable to ask whether the American public has gotten a good return on these investments to date,” noted Ken Bossong, executive eirector of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The latest FERC data confirms that the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’.”

HydroPower Opportunities Abound in Oregon

HydroVision took place this week in Oregon and during the event, Voith Hydro President and CEO Bob Gallo said that the state provides, “the perfect setting to shine a light on the value of hydropower”. The company has an office in Springfield, Oregon in addition to offices in several other states.

“Oregon is the perfect showcase for hydropower’s past, as well as its future potential,” said Gallo. “Though hydropower accounts for over 50% of Oregon’s power generation, the state has the capacity to double the clean and renewable hydropower it already provides to power its homes and businesses. With the right policies in place, we can truly unleash hydropower’s vast untapped potential, and Voith Hydro has the environmentally-friendly hydropower equipment and technology to power the future.”

Francis-Turbine for the hydro power plant Bratsk, Siberia. Awarded picture of the year and product image of the year at the German "PR Bild Award 2014".

Francis-Turbine for the hydro power plant Bratsk, Siberia.
Awarded picture of the year and product image of the year at the German “PR Bild Award 2014”.

Hydroelectric power provides Oregon with half of the state’s power. According to a 2014 Department of Energy New Stream-reach Development report, Oregon could more than double its current 8,000 MW in installed capacity and its potential, finds the report, is greater than any other state. The potential capacity is part of 65,000 MW of available but untapped hydropower across the country.

The same report said the U.S. can develop this potential by powering many of the approximately 80,000 dams that currently do not produce hydroelectric power and spread up the process to hydropower by streamlining an often burdensome and timely licensing process. Congress is currently attempting to build on 2013 legislation that streamlined the process for many small hydropower projects by exploring further regulatory reforms that will reduce inefficiencies and redundancies in the licensing process for projects both large and small. The need, agress Gallo, for timely reform is important given that 250 projects representing 11,000 MW of installed capacity are up for relicensing over the next 10 years.

While hydropower’s direct environmental benefits are immense, explained Gallo, its other attributes are significant. It supports the development of other renewables through baseload power generation, provides for flood control, creates recreational opportunities, and supports irrigation projects. It also creates jobs. By one estimate, with the proper policies in place, hydropower could create 1.4 million cumulative jobs by 2025, on top of the 300,000 jobs already supported by American hydropower.

“Hydropower is a win-win for both the environment and the economy,” Gallo concluded. “Voith Hydro looks forward to continued progress to bring more of America’s largest renewable resource online.”

Renewables “Rock” U.S. Energy Growth

The SUN Day Campaign’s Ken Bossong, has noted once again that renewable energy sources are dominating the new energy landscape according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The reports shows wind and solar accounted for all new generating capacity placed in-service in April. For the month, two “units” of wind (the 300 MW Hereford-2 Wind Farm Project in Deaf Smith County, TX and the 211 MW Mesquite Creek Wind Project in Dawson County, TX) came on line in addition to six new units – totaling 50 MW – of solar.

In addition, wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower together have provided over 84 percent (84.1%) of the 1,900 MW of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service during the first third of 2015. This includes 1,170 MW of wind (61.5%), 362 MW of solar (19.1%), 45 MW of geothermal steam (2.4%), and 21 MW of hydropower (1.1%). The balance (302 MW) was provided by five units of natural gas.

Hereford Wind ProjectFERC has reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from biomass sources nor any from coal, oil, or nuclear power.

The reports finds the total contribution of geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind for the first four months of 2015 (1,598 MW) is similar to that for the same period in 2014 (1,611 MW – in addition to 116 MW of biomass). However, for the same period in 2014, natural gas added 1,518 MW of new capacity while coal and nuclear again provided none and oil just 1 MW. Renewable energy sources accounted for half of all new generating capacity added in 2014.

“Members of Congress and state legislators proposing to curb support for renewable energy, such as Renewable Portfolio/Electricity Standards and the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit, are swimming against the tide,” noted Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “With renewable energy’s clear track record of success and the ever-worsening threat of climate change, now is not the time to pull back from these technologies but rather to greatly expand investments in them.”

Today renewable energy sources now account for 17.05 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the country: water – 8.55 percent, wind – 5.74 percent, biomass – 1.38 percent, solar – 1.05 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent (for comparison, renewables were 13.71 percent of capacity in December 2010 – the first month for which FERC issued an “Energy Infrastructure Update”).

For renewable energy supporters, what may be the best news: renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.14%) and oil (3.92%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. In addition, total installed operating generating capacity from solar has now reached and surpassed the one-percent threshold – a ten-fold increase since December 2010.

Know the Down Low on RPS Legislation

csu-new-energyThere is a lot of activity happening throughout the United States with respect to Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) legislation for the year. To keep people informed, the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE) has published a Summary of State Renewable Portfolio Standard Legislation in 2015 brief. To date, 87 distinct bills have been introduced in 32 states although only two bills have actually been enacted.

The brief categorizes the bills into three categories:

  • Rollback: includes outright repeals, reductions to targets delays in target dates, exceptions for utilities and bills to extend eligibility for non-renewable fuels or existing large capacity hydroelectric resources;
  • Increase: would create a larger market by expanding renewable generation targets, creating new carve-outs or requiring compliance by additional utility-types; and
  • Modification: addresses the mechanics of how an RPS program is implemented.

Here is the topline for 2015:

  • To date, RPS legislation has been introduced in 32 states. Of the 87 bills, only two have been enacted. A bill in West Virginia repealed the state’s standard and legislation in New Mexico enacted a modification to include a new definition for thermal energy and include Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to be issued to rural electric cooperatives for generating thermal energy from geothermal resources.
  • The percentage shares by category of legislation have shifted over the last three years. RPS increase legislation was more common in 2015 as a percentage of all introduced legislation, than in 2013 and 2014.
  • Legislation to increase or rollback an RPS does not appear to be correlated with state policy target dates.
  • The most common policy type continues to be modifications to existing RPS policies with revisions to resource eligibility clauses have making up the majority of these bills for the past three years.

Many states’ legislative sessions are still underway and the Center for the New Energy Economy keeps real-time track of changes. Click here to download the brief.

DOE Releases 2014 Hydropower Market Report

The Department of Energy has released its 2014 Hydropower Market Report. The study quantifies the current size, scope and variability of U.S. hydropower supplies. Today, the renewable energy source provides nearly 7 percent of the U.S. electricity supply – enough to power more than 20 million homes – and its growing with federal support. The report also highlights how hydropower can be rapidly integrated with other renewable energy sources into the electric grid.

“This report outlines the diversity of our nation’s hydropower fleet, shows its tremendous contribution to the U.S. clean energy mix, and points to promising future growth,” said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy 2014 Hydropower Market reportDavid Danielson. “With an expanding industry and continued investment, hydropower remains one of our nation’s most cost-effective and reliable sources of renewable energy and provides an important tool for boosting our clean energy supply.”

The 2014 Hydropower Market Report also highlights the critical investment of more than $6 billion throughout the last decade to strengthen the existing hydropower fleet and the economic benefits that have resulted from support of the industry. Today, the hydropower manufacturing supply chain spreads across 38 states, with more than 170 companies producing one or more of six major hydropower components: turbines, generators, transformers, penstocks, gates, and valves according to the study.

Presenting a unique analysis of the current project development pipeline in the hydropower sector, this report shows that America has more than 77 GW of untapped hydropower resource potential. By making use of existing water resources and infrastructure, the vast majority of new hydropower projects built over the last decade have added electric generating equipment to dams that were previously not powered. The current hydropower development pipeline contains a diverse mixture of projects proposed at non-powered dams, conduits, and previously undeveloped rivers and streams.

Renewables Exceed 75% Of New Gen Capacity

Renewable energy sources including wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower provided over 75 percent of the 1,1229 MW of new electrical generating capacity that went online in first quarter of 2015. The results were published in the recent “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The remaining 302 MW added was from natural gas. FERC reported no new capacity from biomass sources for the quarter nor any from coal, oil, or nuclear power.

© Kennytong | Dreamstime.com - Solar Panels And Wind Turbine Power Photo

© Kennytong | Dreamstime.com – Solar Panels And Wind Turbine Power Photo

During Q1 2015, eight new “units” of wind came online with a combined capacity of 647 MW — accounting for 52.64 percent of all new generating capacity. Solar provided 30 units (214 MW), geothermal steam provided one unit (45 MW), and hyrdropower provided one unit (21 MW). Five units of natural gas provided the new capacity from that sector.

According to the SUN DAY Campaign, the numbers for the first three months of 2015 are similar to those for the same period in 2014 when renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) provided 1,422 MW of new capacity and natural gas 159 MW while coal and nuclear provided none and oil just 1 MW. Renewable energy sources accounted for half of all new generating capacity last year.

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.92 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.53 percent, wind – 5.65 percent, biomass – 1.38 percent, solar – 1.03 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent. Renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.11%) and oil (3.92%) combined. Moreover, as noted, total installed operating generating capacity from solar has now reached and surpassed the one-percent threshold.

“The trend lines for the past several years have been consistent and unmistakable,” said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Each month, renewable energy sources – particularly wind and solar – increase their share of the nation’s generating capacity while those of coal, oil, and nuclear decline.”

U.S. Continues Support for Hydropower

Three federal U.S. agencies have renewed their support of hydropower in America. The Department of Interior and the Department of Energy (DOE) in conjunction with the Civil Works division of the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers, have extended their MOU for hydropower for five additional years. The purpose of the MOU is to meet the need for affordable energy, in part, through hydropower.

Beer1970 Dreamstime.com - Hydropower Station Construction Photo“This agreement among three key federal agencies is great news for the federal hydropower system, and even greater news for the millions of American homes and businesses that rely on clean, affordable, and reliable hydropower,” said Voith Hydro U.S. President and CEO Bob Gallo. “In the MOU’s first five years, the agencies have already made significant progress in laying the groundwork for expanded hydropower production, with tangible results to show for their efforts. Voith is pleased to support efforts to strengthen the backbone of American hydropower, and believe the agencies’ continued collaboration will create jobs and economic growth throughout the U.S.”

According to Voith, Phase II of the MOU will focus on several key areas:

  • Improving the accuracy and reducing costs of water flow measurement technology.
  • Reducing the size and weight of generators for new hydropower projects, potentially leading to reduced costs and increased generator output for existing facilities.
  • Developing low-impact, low-cost hydropower technologies suitable for demonstration and deployment at non-powered dams and conduits, potentially providing power for 1.5 million homes.
  • Enhancing the environmental performance of hydropower turbines for responsible deployment.
  • Assessing the risks to U.S. hydropower generation and water infrastructure posed by climate change.

Since the last MOU, signed in 2011, non-federal development at Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps facilities has increased, with over 70 additional projects in some stage of development.

Bennet Files Amendment for Bridge to Tax Reform

Trade groups are calling for national support of the Bennet Amendment for Bridge to Tax Reform. U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) has filed an amendment to the annual budget resolution being considered this week by the Senate that would make room for renewable and efficiency tax credits. The amendment specifies “a fund for “creating clean energy jobs, including extending over a reasonable period of time, as a bridge to tax reform, expired and expiring tax credits for renewable energy production and investment.”

The renewable tBennet Tax Reform Amendment Trade Group Supportersrade groups endorsed the amendment in a letter:

Dear Senator:

The U.S. Senate begins debate this week on the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Resolution. Senator Michael Bennet will be offering an amendment (#715) which expresses support for the extension of expired and expiring federal tax credits for renewable energy production and investment as the bridge to tax reform. On behalf of the thousands of American companies and over 500,000 Americans working in the renewable energy sector, we strongly encourage you to support the Bennet Amendment.

Over the past five years, nearly 44% of all new domestic power generation capacity has come from renewable energy resources, including more than 56% of all new power generation capacity in 2014 – surpassing all other energy sources. The investment tax credit (ITC) and the production tax credit (PTC) have been the primary federal policy drivers for this growth, spurring private sector investment, creating jobs, and driving down costs significantly, making renewable and clean technologies more cost competitive.

The clean energy sector has the potential to be one of the greatest engines of middle class job growth in the 21st century, while providing our nation with secure sources of clean and renewable domestic energy. To realize that objective, however, we must have a supportive and certain tax policy environment.

Again, on behalf of our thousands of member companies and more than half a million Americans working in our industries, we ask you to send an unambiguous signal of support for clean and renewable energy. Please vote for the Bennet Amendment to the Senate Budget Resolution in support of continuing tax incentives for clean and renewable domestic energy sources.

The letter is signed by representatives of the Solar Energy Industries Association, American Wind Energy Association, Alliance for Industrial Efficiency, Geothermal Energy Association, American Biogas Council, Energy Recovery Council, National Hydropower Association, Biomass Power Association, Distributed Wind Energy Association and Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association.

KenGen Commissions Geothermal Plant in Kenya

Kenya continues to rise as one of the leading countries tapping into geothermal energy. The Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) has inaugurated the 140 MW Oklaria 1 power plant, the last phase of the 280 MW geothermal facility. KenGen believes the additional electricity produced will help further stabilize volatile electricity costs throughout the country.

H.E PresideKenGen logont Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda presided over the geothermal plant commissioning event accompanied by his host H.E President Kenyatta.

According to KenGen, who says the plant has been supplying power to the national grid since December 2014, the Fuel Cost Component (FCC), the single biggest item on the bills, fell to to a low of KShs/kWh 2.51 in February 2015. This represents a 65 percent drop in the FCC. As a result, it has led to a decline in the overall cost of power to consumers. The addition of geothermal power has also helped to mitigate dependence on hydro power; in recent months, Kenya has had no rainfall and as a result, there has been below average inflow of water into hydro dams.

“KenGen is proud to be on the lead in moving the country towards self sufficiency of reliable and affordable and renewable source of energy, which is also available almost 24/7,” said Managing Director and CEO Eng. Albert Mugo.

Today, KenGen is adding 1575 MW of power geothermal power to the national grid, surpassing hydro for the fourth month in a row. At U.S. 7.2 cents per kilowatt hour,  geothermal energy is among the cheapest renewable sources of electricity in the country and the world.

“The country has not experienced power rationing despite low water levels in the hydro generation dams on the Tana Cascade. “This is because the 280 MW project has helped to bridge the power deficit,” concluded Mugo.