Here’s how local governments are replacing California’s biggest utilities

The Climate Center is cited in the article below. We continue to advocate for Community Choice Energy as a preferred model for many communities because Community Choice agencies’ objectives are aligned with local government climate goals and these agencies do not have any obligation to maximize profits for private shareholders. 

by Sammy Roth, LA Times

Seventy miles north of downtown Los Angeles, where the Mojave Desert gives way to the San Joaquin Valley, three newly built wind turbines stand atop a ridge overlooking State Route 58. Strong gusts emerge from the mountain pass below, making this an especially windy spot in one of the windiest parts of California.

A few new turbines aren’t normally a big deal in the Golden State, which has been building wind farms for decades.

But these particular machines are at the heart of a revolution in California’s energy industry, which for millions of people, homes and businesses could mean an end to buying power from monopoly utilities such as Southern California Edison.

Read more:

Wind is cheapest, followed by solar

by Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News

There was a time when utility companies could say coal plants were a bargain. Many of the same companies viewed wind and solar as too expensive to do on a large scale.

I’m not talking about ancient history. This was 2008, when I started covering energy.

Since then, the costs of wind and solar have fallen so dramatically that they have upended the economics of energy generation. I see this as the most exciting economic story of our time.

Read more:

Massachusetts and Rhode Island Contract for 1,200MW of Offshore Wind

Massive new projects put New England states on the forefront of the U.S. offshore wind market.

By Jeff St. John and Julia Pyper

Massachusetts and Rhode Island, two states on the forefront of the nascent U.S. offshore wind market, have awarded a combined 1,200 megawatts of contracts to build out what could become the country’s largest offshore wind complex.

On Wednesday, Massachusetts announced that Vineyard Wind, a project backed by Iberdrola’s Avangrid Renewables and Danish investment firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, had won a contract to build up to 800 megawatts of wind turbines off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The consortium beat out two other contenders, Bay State Wind and Deepwater Wind, which also hold leases on the stretch of windy coastline.

This is the first contract to meet a goal set by Massachusetts lawmakers in 2016 to build 1.6 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2027. Vineyard Wind expects to have the wind farm operational and selling power to Massachusetts utilities by 2021.

Also on Wednesday, Rhode Island announced it would award a 400-megawatt offshore wind project to Deepwater Wind. That’s not an unexpected choice, given that Deepwater is also the developer of the 30-megawatt demonstration-scale Block Island project off the state’s coast — the only offshore wind power installation in the country to date.

The Revolution Wind project is more than 10 times the size of Block Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo noted in a press release. “Rhode Island made history when we built the first offshore wind farm in the United States,” said she said. “Today, we are doing it again.”

Massachusetts, meanwhile, is the home of Cape Wind, the country’s first failed attempt to build offshore wind turbines. Launched with great fanfare and plans for $2.6 billion in investment, Cape Wind fell apart after its utility partners canceled their offtake agreements in 2015, and then officially called it quits in December.

The short project execution timeline Vineyard proposed in Massachusetts will present a challenge for the nascent U.S. offshore wind industry, said Anthony Logan, research analyst at MAKE Consulting. The scale of capacity for both projects will also push the limits of what the industry can do without access to a domestic turbine installation vessel.

On the plus side, both projects are leveraging recent European technology advances that have brought down the levelized cost of energy for offshore wind there, Logan added.

“Vineyard, for example, will require a very long export cable compared to its U.S. [counterparts], but EU developers have been aggressively developing ways to mitigate increasingly long distances to shore,” he said.

Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said today’s announcements light the way for the U.S. offshore wind industry — and the nation — going forward. “With world-class wind resources, infrastructure and offshore energy expertise, the U.S. is primed to scale up this industry and lead it,” he said, in a statement.

MAKE Consulting’s Global Offshore Wind Power Market report forecast that the U.S. offshore wind market will see an compound annual growth rate of more than 50 percent to grow to 5.3 gigawatts by 2026, mainly by state-level procurement in the absence of major federal policy incentives.

That’s a significant jump from MAKE’s previous projection of 2.3 gigawatts by 2026. The increase stems primarily from a new executive order from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, committing the state to 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030. Murphy also signed legislation today requiring the state to reach that target.

New York and Maryland are also showing promising initiatives that will kick-start the market, MAKE noted.

New York plans to solicit 800 megawatts of offshore wind over the next two years and 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. Its first project, a 90-megawatt farm off New York’s Long Island, to be delivered to the Long Island Power Authority, saw the first public unveiling of its plans earlier this month. Last year, utility regulators in Maryland approved 368 megawatts of offshore wind capacity for two developers.

Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s office announced Tuesday that the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy is looking to craft a strategic plan to make Virginia an offshore wind energy hub.

“Virginia should be the prime location for the offshore wind industry, from the supply chain to the full build-out of our offshore wind assets off the coast,” said Northam.

Texas wind turbines went right on turning under Harvey’s impact, as refineries shut down

by Juan Cole, Common Dreams

Extreme weather is in our future. Caribbean hurricanes of the future will be more and more violent and destructive because of manmade global heating. Sea level rise will open the coast to bigger storm surges. The number of coastal floods has already doubled since the 1980s because of people driving their gasoline cars and running their air conditioners off burning lumps of coal. Hotter air over hotter water will have more moisture in it, setting the stage for regular flooding. Hotter water creates more powerful winds within hurricanes.

So the bad news is that a fossil fuel energy system does not deal well with extreme weather.

Even just by Thursday, Harvey had shut down so many oil refineries that it had taken 20% of daily US gasoline production off line. By Friday it was being announced that so many refineries had been damaged that the major pipeline that brings 3 million barrels a day to the east coast, had been shut down. Altogether, 4.4 mn b/d of refinery capacity is off line now. About half a million barrels a day of refining capacity will remain shut down well into next winter.

Reuters quoted a market analyst as saying, “Imports can’t make up for this. . . This is going to be the worst thing the U.S. has seen in decades from an energy standpoint.”

Not only is gasoline going to be more expensive as a result, but the pollution dangers from the damaged refineries are horrific.

But guess what? Texas’s wind turbines weathered Harvey. Some were pushed to the max by its powerful winds, but they just went on making electricity! Turbines shut down if the wind is 55 mph or more, but most wind farms affected by Harvey were able to keep operating. One shut down because the electrical wires were knocked down, not because the turbines stopped working!. On an average day, Texas gets 20% of its electricity from wind. That only fell to 13% the day of Harvey’s landfall.

Harvey also menaced a nuclear reactor, a la Fukushima, but we dodged that bullet this time.

Nuclear reactors no longer make any sense, and they remain dangerous and vulnerable to extreme weather events. Even if wind turbines did get damaged by a storm, they don’t explode or spread around radioactive fallout.

Duke Energy has just abandoned plans for a nuclear reactor and is instead putting $6 bn into solar and wind.

So it turns out that not only would a rapid turn to 100% green energy, as California plans, forestall further global heating, it can help keep us safe during the extreme weather caused by . . . burning fossil fuels in the first place.

The problem of fossil fuels and global heating is only going to get worse. The National Institutes of Health warns,

“The public health impacts of climate change in U.S. Gulf Coast states—Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida—may be especially severe and further exacerbated by a range of threats facing the coastline areas, including severe erosion, subsidence, and—given the amount of energy production infrastructure—the ever-present potential for large-scale industrial accidents. The Gulf Coast population is expected to reach over 74 million by 2030 with a growing number of people living along the coastlines. Populations in the region that are already vulnerable because of economic or other disparities may face additional risks to health . . . The Gulf region is expected to experience increased mean temperatures and longer heat waves while freezing events are expected to decrease. Regional average temperatures across the U.S. Southeast region (which includes Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolina as well as the Gulf Coast) are projected to increase between 4 °F to 8 °F (2.2 °C to 4.4 °C) throughout the century. Hurricanes and sea level rise, occurring independently or in combination with hurricane-induced storm surge, are major threats to the Gulf Coast region [11]. Some portions of the Gulf Coast—particularly coastal Louisiana and South Florida—are especially vulnerable to sea level rise due to their low elevation.”