The Virginia Sierra Club's 2014 Generaly Assembly Climate & Energy Scorecard is out, and there's a lot of interesting information in there regarding who's great, who's good, and who's not so good when it comes to protecting Virginia's environment and promoting clean energy. There were some definite surprises in the rankings, but one thing was sadly NOT a surprise: Republicans were almost uniformly horrible (e.g., all "F"s "D"s and "C"s in the Senate; mostly bad grades in the House, with a few exceptions like Robert Bloxom's "A+;" Chris Stolle's "A;" Gordon Helsel's "B," Randy Minchew's "B," Bobby Orrock's "B," Riley Ingram's "B," Chris Jones' "B," Keith Hodges' "B," Michael Webert's "B," and Tony Wilt's "B"). What about the Democrats, all of whom you'd hope would get "A"s on the environment? Here's a ranking of Virginia Democratic legislators from best to worst.
"A+" grades: Delegates Rosalyn Dance, Alfonso Lopez, Monty Mason, Sam Rasoul and David Toscano. Thank you to everyone who got a perfect, 100%, "A+" grade from the Sierra Club. You guys rock! :)
"A" grades: Senators Creigh Deeds, Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, Janet Howell, Mamie Locke, Louise Lucas, Dave Marsden, Donald McEachin, Chap Petersen, Phil Puckett (!!!) and Toddy Puller; Delegates David Bulova, Betsy Carr, Matthew James, Mark Keam, Kaye Kory, Rob Krupicka, Jennifer McClellan, Scott Surovell, Roslyn Tyler and Jeion Ward. Nice job by all these folks too, except for the vote in favor of SB 459 - which the Sierra Club correctly calls "Dominion's Accounting Sleight of Hand." General rule of thumb: if Dominion's for it, vote against it unless there's some overriding reason not to. Finally, I'm pleasantly amazed that "coal country "Sen. Phil Puckett got an "A."
"B" grades: Senators John Edwards and John Miller; Delegates Mamye Bacote, Eileen Filler-Corn, Michael Futrell, Charniele Herring, Patrick Hope, Algie Howell, Delores McQuinn, Ken Plum, Mark Sickles, Marcus Simon and Luke Torian. Pretty good, but they did vote for SB 459 ("Dominion's Accounting Sleight of Hand"), plus in the cases of Edwards and Miller for SB 25 (establishes a "woefully inadequate to address impacts of [an offshore oil] spill or other accident").
According to Appalachian Voices: "More than 210,000 Virginians have spoken and they want the commonwealth to lead the new energy economy. Many of them are in Richmond this morning to urge legislators to grow Virginia's economy, improve public health and address the cause of climate change by supporting the EPA's Clean Power Plan." (note: most photos courtesy of the VA Sierra Club)
Faith-Based, Public Health, Student and Environmental Groups Gather to Demand Climate Action
RICHMOND, VA - Today, over 200 Virginians from across the state gathered at the State Capitol to support government action to reduce carbon pollution, the leading cause of climate disruption and demand action to dramatically scale up clean energy in the Commonwealth. Residents came from Hampton Roads, Williamsburg, Richmond, Blacksburg, Arlington and Manassas.
The rally followed a Joint Legislative Meeting of the Virginia House and Senate Commerce and Labor Committees on the Clean Power Plan. Supporters packed the hearing, carrying "Clean Energy Now" signs, and several made themselves heard during the public comment session before joining the crowd on the Capitol grounds, noting the economic benefits of clean energy as well as the urgency of addressing climate change.
The rally included a Mom's Clean Air Force "Play-in" featuring parachute games and coloring activities, and a moment of silence for those affected by climate disruption followed by a "moment of noise" to sound the alarm on climate and demand action.
Speakers included: Senator A. Donald McEachin, Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman; Clark Mercer, Chief of Staff to Lieutenant Governor Northam; Freeda Cathcart, Legislative Chair, General Federation of Women's Clubs of Virginia - Blue Ridge Region; and Michael James-Deramo, Vice President of the VCU Environmental Coalition and representative of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition.
"A comprehensive Clean Energy Plan will reap rewards for our families, for our communities and for the health and well-being of our Commonwealth," said Senator McEachin. "We are very fortunate that instituting a Clean Energy Plan to help the environment will have the added benefit of saving citizens' money and creating jobs. Altogether, it's a win-win for Virginians."
Cross posted from Scaling Green. For Blue Virginia readers, I'd just point out that yet again, progressives and environmentalists are strongly in the majority on the issues.
A new survey from George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication and Yale's Project on Climate Change Communication has some encouraging results about U.S. public opinion on climate change and clean energy. Here are three graphs we thought were well worth sharing The key points are: 1) 67% of Americans support what is, essentially, the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution from existing, coal-fired power plants; 2) Americans overwhelmingly support policies - like Renewable Portfolio Standards, R&D, tax rebates - to promote clean energy; and 3) only 16% of Americans actively refuse to believe the science on climate change. Now, we just need policymakers to translate the wishes of the American people into action.
The cost-benefit analysis was mandated by the legislature, is relied upon by the Governor, and is included in the Virginia Energy Plan. As we’ve reported before, Karmis is a curious choice to author this foundational document. The Clean Power Plan gives states wide flexibility on how to meet standards. Logically, such an analysis should consider a variety of solutions to cut power plant pollution, including fast-growing renewable energy sources that have created 290,000 jobs in neighboring mid-Atlantic states in recent years.
Yet, Karmis’s Coal Center is heavily oriented to only one, highly-polluting energy source – coal. The Center’s website lists a number of significant players in the coal industry as Sponsors that provide “generous financial contributions.” High ranking members of those same companies serve on the Center’s Advisory Board. Of its eight in-house “experts,” seven have strong financial ties to the coal industry – but none to clean energy sources.
State law mandated that Karmis’s Center be consulted, but not be the lead author of the analysis – a big difference in the level of power a coal-centric perspective would have in driving the process.
(UPDATE 6:20 pm: It looks like this boondoggle, polluting monstrosity/project from hell has gone down to defeat in the U.S. Senate. Great work by everyone who cares about our planet; shame on everyone who doesn't! - promoted by lowkell)
I'll post video when it's done uploading. It's great to see real leadership on this issue from Sen. Kaine. As for Virginia's other Senator...not so much, it would appear.
Mr. President, I rise in opposition to the bill mandating approval of the Keystone Pipeline. I oppose the project because accelerating the development of tar sands oil is contrary to our national interests, our economic interests, national security interests and environmental interests.
I believe there is no way to fully analyze this question without grappling with another question-is carbon pollution from human activity affecting the world's climate in a negative way? Because, if carbon pollution doesn't affect the climate, then tar sands would not be a significant issue for me. But, if we accept the general scientific consensus-and Virginians do-that carbon pollution does cause negative changes in climate, stopping or even slowing the development of tar sands oil is good for the United States and good for the world.
Some who have encouraged me to support this project, duck when I ask this question: Do you think manmade carbon pollution affects our climate? One Virginia CEO, whose company is filled with scientists, basically told me, "I don't know, I'm not a scientist," and a representative of the United States Chamber of Commerce testified similarly before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this year. But those of us who take an oath to serve here have a responsibility to consider the scientific evidence.
This doesn't look good to me, but let's hope the details are better than the "top line" appears. Bottom line: of course there should be no "fracking" in the GW National Forest, that's just crazy. Why do I say that? See the presentations by Earthworks and DC Water and I think you'll quickly get the picture.
New George Washington National Forest Plan Balances Multiple Uses
Provides for Recreation, Wildlife and Water Quality, Sets Oil and Gas Availability
ROANOKE, Va., November 18, 2014 - Today, the U.S. Forest Service's Southern Regional Forester released the Final Forest Plan that will direct management of the George Washington National Forest. The plan revises the 1993 plan, as required by the National Forest Management Act, and contains guidance for managing nearly 1.1 million acres of national forests in Virginia and West Virginia.
"This forest plan provides a balance of management direction that addresses both the long-term ecological sustainability of the George Washington National Forest, as well as the long-term social and economic needs of those that depend on or are impacted by the Forest," said Southern Regional Forester Ken Arney.
The plan works to fulfill the Forest Service's mission of managing national forests for multiple uses and reflects extensive input from many deeply committed individuals, organizations, and communities representing diverse interests and uses, who have worked closely together over six years. As a result of this collaborative input, implementation of this plan will:
*It's time for opponents of clean energy to stop acting like the reign of fossil fuels as our dominant energy source constitutes some sort of inviolable theology.
*Even for those who don't "believe" in climate science, or who think clean energy is a science project, it's still common sense to move ahead aggressively with energy efficiency and clean energy. Unless, of course, they want America assigned permanent international follower status on the technologies other counties want to lead.
*If we find out in 50 years that the climate science was wrong, we're still ahead by getting off the dirty stuff. If the 98% of practicing climate scientists were right and we let clean energy pass us by, we'll deeply regret it.
As for Virginia's other Senator, the one who loves to blame "both sides" for everything and pretend to be what he calls a "radical centrist" (reward to anyone who can get a clear answer out of Warner about what that means?), he's just completely wrong when it comes to Keystone XL, making the bizarre claim that somehow Keystone's spur to tar sands development is needed "to make sure we decouple Europe's dependence on Russian oil and gas so they can become more independent." WTF? I mean, I worked on international oil markets for 17 years, and I really have no idea what he's blathering about on this. Regardless, any spur to development of the Canadian tar sands would be a huge mistake if we care about, ya know, the planet not burning up and stuff? Apparently, Warner's more concerned with more important things, like...uh....
Virginians’ Support for EPA’s Proposed Clean Power Plan and Tackling Climate Change
Richmond, VA – Since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first began collecting them, more than 7 million Americans have already submitted public comments in support of national standards to limit dangerous carbon pollution from power plants, including 210,825 public comments submitted from Virginians. This reflects the strong desire of Virginians across the commonwealth for solutions to address climate change and its impact on our health and the economy.
At a press conference in Richmond’s Capitol Square, a coalition of Virginia groups supporting these essential clean air safeguards gathered to showcase this public support and urge Virginia’s leaders to support the Clean Power Plan. Following the event, a sample of these comments will be delivered to Virginia’s leaders such as the Department of Environmental Quality and Virginia’s U.S. Senators.
Speakers included Sarah Bucci with Environment Virginia, Bob Keefe, Executive Director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), and Terra Pascarosa, Virginia Representative with Mom’s Clean Air Force and her 2-year old son.
These organizations offer the following statement in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan:
I received the following press release a little while ago and thought it was well worth passing along. On a related note, I just finished reading Virginia Climate Fever, which makes abundantly clear what's at stake for Virginia if we don't take strong action ASAP.
Richmond, VA – Today, 15 climate scientists from top universities across the Commonwealth are urging Governor Terry McAuliffe to address climate change impacts on Virginia’s economy and health by meeting the carbon reduction targets under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The scientists, who have offered to meet with the Governor, also write that reducing fossil fuels combined with energy efficiency would create jobs, diversify Virginia’s energy supply and revitalize the state’s flagging economy. In addition, Virginia’s efficiency and renewables goals alone, if achieved, would satisfy the Commonwealth’s obligation under EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
"Surveys show that most people in Virginia correctly understand that climate change is happening, and that it is already causing our weather to become more extreme," said Dr. Edward Maibach, Director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. "They are beginning to understand that climate change isn't just a problem for people in the future, it is our problem, here and now, and we need to make good decisions about how best to deal with it."
Projections in recent reports by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this month and the National Climate Assessment in May have starkly laid out how humans are driving climate change and what’s at stake for Virginia and the United States as a whole if we do not reduce carbon pollution. Both reports show that Virginia communities face flooding, particularly in areas such as Newport News, from rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, ocean acidification coupled with periods of drought and heavy rain.
“The changes are happening here and now—sea level rising, hotter and drier weather for longer periods of time, intense rainfall events—that trend will continue and increase and it demands action,” said Dr. James L. Kinter III, Director of the Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies and Professor of Climate Dynamics at George Mason University. “We look forward to being a resource for Governor McAuliffe and the Commonwealth in developing strategies to address the threats climate change represents to our society, our health and our economy.”
Of its eight staff experts, all appear to be closely tied to the coal industry. Neither Dr. Karmis, nor anyone else on the Center's staff have any discernable experience with energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, which have in recent years created 290,000 jobs in neighboring Mid-Atlantic states.
The mid-Atlantic enjoyed one of the most delightful summers in memory this year, causing a lot of snickering to the effect that if climate change means moderate temperatures and low humidity, then bring it on, baby! Elsewhere on the planet, though, "bringing it on" translated into a whole lot of hot. For a good laugh at our own parochial mindset, check out the map of relative temperatures that accompanies this article about NOAA declaring 2014 on track to be the hottest year on record.
This sad reality check shows that global warming has not paused or gone away, and Virginians had better try to understand what's coming so we can start preparing. It turns out our problems go well beyond sea level rise, as we learn this week from guest blogger Seth Heald.
Virginia climate activists (and indeed all Virginians) should cheer Stephen Nash, whose Virginia Climate Fever (just published by The University of Virginia Press) lays out clearly the costs of our decades of inaction on global warming. The book's subtitle nicely sums up the point: How Global Warming Will Transform Our Cities, Shorelines, and Forests.
Why a climate book focused on just one state?
One of many confounding challenges of global warming is how to get people (and politicians and businesses) to take action commensurate with the size of the problem. As the popular British social scientist Roman Krznaric asks, "how can we close the gap between knowledge and action on climate change?" Krznarik's answer is to seek ways to increase our empathy for people who live in distant places, or will live in future times. Certainly that is needed. (The U.S. edition of Krznarik's book on empathy comes out in November.)
(Add in other diseases too, like Ebola, which has almost certainly spread due to deforestation and other human depradations on the environment. When (if ever) will we learn? - promoted by lowkell)
A few days ago I received a shocking email from Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). Subject line: "Mike diagnosed with Lyme Disease."
Oh no! As a CCAN board member, I knew that Mike had been dealing with miserable, flu-like symptoms, joint pain, and muscle stiffness for sometime. I felt terrible to learn this news. Lyme Disease is a frightening illness that is hard to cure and sometimes leaves lasting damage.
I felt sad to think of this prospect for Mike. In addition to being a great guy, Mike is an inspiration to climate activists in the mid-Atlantic region, where CCAN operates, and beyond. One of the most dedicated climate warriors I know, Mike is also an effective organizer, writer, speaker, and fundraiser. He is a mentor to a great many of us, and we need him to be healthy!
Mike noted in his email that he knows many people in the mid-Atlantic region who have had Lyme Disease. I have to admit that I can say the same. Just in the last year or so, the number of people I know with Lyme Disease has increased dramatically.
Yes, I know that a warming world means many diseases are on the move. For example, tropical diseases, never before seen in the United States, are expected to move northward from the tropics into the American south. When I first heard about Lyme Disease 25 years ago, it was in places north of us, places like New England and northern Minnesota.
If climate change is pushing diseases toward the poles, then it would seem that the explanation for the increased incidence in our region must lie elsewhere. So I wondered, what might the answer be? Clearly, something is going on that is making the mid-Atlantic region hospitable to the tick that transmits the disease.
I'm cross posting this here from Scaling Green, as it's directly relevant to Dominion Power, the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), and all the ignorant, stupid s*** I've heard recently from the likes of Bill "ALEC" Howell about clean energy, the future of Dominion Power, etc, etc. Do these folks know anything at all about energy markets? Based on what they've been saying in recent days, it sure doesn't seem that way. Now, here's someone who actually DOES know what he's talking about...David Roberts of Grist, who frankly is smarter than the entire SCC, Dominion Power executives and Virginia House of Delegates "leadership" put together. And no, that wasn't meant as a backhanded compliment to David Roberts. :)
UPDATE 11:10 am Wednesday: It appears that even a hyper-conservative coal country legislator (State Sen. Bill Carrico) says he can live with the Clean Power Plan. No doubt because he knows, deep down, that it's a winner for Virginia jobs and the economy. Meanwhile, the Bill Howells of the world are hard at work actually (albeit unintentionally/cluelessly) hastening the demise of Dominion Power.
The headline of this post is quite possibly the energy-related quote of the day, maybe the week or even month. It's courtesy of David Roberts of Grist, back to providing us with consistently incisive analysis after a year-long sabbatical. Today, Roberts has a must-read post (in his case, maybe we should call it an "even-more-must-read-than-usual-for-David-Roberts" post) entitled, "Rooftop solar is just the beginning; utilities must innovate or go extinct." It's really worth your time to read the whole thing, and we strongly recommend you do that if you're interested in the future evolution of clean energy (which of course you are if you're reading this blog!). For now, here are the key points, including Roberts' awesome quote.
Distributed solar power poses a serious threat to power utilities, and "utilities are fighting back, attempting to impose additional fees and restrictions on solar customers."
The problem is, the way the utilities are fighting back - "cling[ing] to their familiar business model" while trying to recoup lost revenues through "rate-tweaking" - is not going to save them. Instead, they need to undertake "a wholesale rethinking of the utility business model" -- "sooner" rather than later if they're smart.
Two new analyses -- "Financial Impacts of Net-Metered PV on Utilities and Ratepayers" by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and "Does Disruptive Competition Mean a Death Spiral for Electric Utilities?" by Elisabeth Graffy and Steven Kihm -- zero in on the core problem(s) facing utilities faced with the "disruptive threat" of rapidly growing distributed solar power. For instance, what happens "if solar PV penetration rose to between 2.5 and 10 percent of total retail sales by 2022?" The answer: utilities equity and earnings fall a lot, while rates go up only a little. Which leads us right to Roberts' superb quote: "Solar PV is mostly a threat to utility investors and shareholders, not ratepayers."
The problem for utilities is that their whole business model is based on building "more power plants and power lines," which as Roberts points out is both "insane" (in that it's not just diametrically opposed to "our social and environmental goals"), but also the polar opposite of where power markets are headed -- towards more distributed power and more consumer autonomy.
Does all this mean an inevitable "death spiral" for investor-owned utilities? Not necessarily, according to the Graffy and Kihm analysis, as long as utilities are willing and able to muster "the organizational foresight and habits needed to respond proactively to disruptive threats." The problem, in Roberts' view, is that after "a century of enjoying regulated-monopoly status, with returns guaranteed by law and expansion as far as the eye could see, utilities have virtually none of [that]."
Another, short-term option for utilities is to try to recover their costs by raising rates, fees, etc. to consumers. The problem with this approach, of course, is that it only leads to "a bunch of dissatisfied customers seeking non-grid alternatives," and "a growing market that will attract more and more entrepreneurial attention, thus accelerating customer defections." In short, "The longer utilities try to hold back the wave with legal or regulatory roadblocks, the harder it will hit them when it finally comes."
The bottom line is that utilities need to adapt to the distributed solar power revolution, and fast. If they try to resist this revolution, their demise - the "death spiral" - will only be more assured (and probably more sudden). The alternative: "Instead of viewing ratepayers as passive sources of cost recovery, utilities ought to view them as, y'know, customers. Offer them products and services that satisfy their evolving preferences." We'll see if they're smart enough to do that, but as Roberts points out, "regulated-monopoly" utilities are simply "not prepared for this sh*t." In other words, the next few years will be crucial - not to mention fascinating to observe as this process plays out.
(That's a photo of SCC headquarters, by the way. I wonder if it's LEED certified. Heh. ;) - promoted by lowkell)
In recent years paleontologists have come to believe that the dinosaurs did not go extinct; they evolved into today's chickens and other birds. It turns out, however, that some of them did not evolve. Instead, they took jobs at Virginia's State Corporation Commission.
Now they've put their DNA on full display with comments they filed on the EPA's Clean Power Plan. The proposed EPA rules, under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, would require states to reduce the power plant CO2 emissions driving climate change. The staffers assert primly that they "take no position on the broad policy issues," but that they feel "compelled" to point out all the ways the plan is "arbitrary, capricious, unsupported, and unlawful." These mostly boil down to their claims that the plan will force coal plant closures, raise rates significantly and threaten service reliability-claims experts say are badly off-base.
Note that the commissioners themselves didn't sign onto these comments. They come from the career staff at the Energy Regulatory Division, led by Bill Stevens, the Director, and Bill Chambliss, the General Counsel. This is pretty peculiar. I can't think of a single other agency of government where the staff would file comments on a federal rulemaking without the oversight of their bosses.
Bill and Bill acknowledge in a footnote that the staff comments represent only their own views and not those of the commissioners. But that distinction has already been lost on at least one lawmaker. Today Speaker of the House William J. Howell released a statement declaring, "The independent, nonpartisan analysis of the State Corporation Commission confirms that President Obama's environmental policies could devastate Virginia's economy."
And really, "devastate"? But that's the kind of hysteria you hear from opponents of the Clean Power Plan. While the rest of us see healthier air, huge opportunities for job growth in the clean energy sector, and the chance to avoid the worst effects of climate disruption, the Friends of Coal see only devastation. And no wonder: according to the Virginia Public Access Project, Howell accepted $14,000 from the coal industry just this year alone.
This morning, one of the most powerful entities in Virginia (that almost nobody has ever heard of) said something so stupid, so seemingly crazy, so contrary to verifiable facts, that at first it almost seemed like an "Onion" parody. But no, apparently it was real, if you believe the news reports. The question is, why did the SCC do it? Are they really a bunch of climate science deniers, as the Virginia Sierra Club says? Or are they "playing politics with climate change science...bringing discredit on the commission," as Virginia Sierra Club Director Glen Besa believes?
Actually, I'd say this goes way beyond climate science denial or playing politics (although certainly both of those are possibilities, maybe even likelihoods) into another seriously problematic area: namely, that the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) simply does the bidding of...yep, corporations, as its name might indicate. More to the point, the SCC does NOT serve the interest of the public, unless perhaps you believe that "corporations are people, my friend," as Willard "Mitt" Romney infamously claimed. Meanwhile, there's yet another huge problem with the SCC: as a Virginia Democratic elected official explained to me, the SCC is "totally unaccountable," with "zero oversight or sunshine," and that's absolutely "crazy."
Just to demonstrate what a bunch of control freaks these people are, see Battle for Transparency at State Corporation Commission Moves Online. As the article correctly points out, SCC deliberations "take place behind closed doors," and "when commissioners meet to consider guidelines for utility companies or payday lenders, the meetings are closed," but the SCC doesn't want anyone to know that. Believe it or not, the SCC isn't even subject to the Freedom of Information Act. This is, in short, the exact opposite of good, honest, open, transparent government, and we should all demand that it change.
But back to the subject at hand: the SCC's utterly laughable "analysis," which basically consists of a bizarre, outrageously false trashing of renewable energy and perversion of economics. The reality is that, outside of the secretive bunch of corporate tools that make up the SCC, basically every other serious analyst out there sees the exact opposite of what the SCC claims to be seeing here when it comes to energy efficiency, solar and wind power. Let's throw out a few facts, not that they will get in the way of the SCC's slavish shilling for its corporate masters, climate science denial, or whatever else they're up to.
1. In fact, the price of renewable energy, particularly solar power, is plummeting. See, for instance, this recent article at Greentech Media, which reports: "After a second round of bidding from developers seeking to build hundreds of megawatts' worth of solar plants in the state, Georgia Power reported that the average price of electricity came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That's 2 cents cheaper than last year's bids."
On Tuesday, I was in Richmond for Gov. McAuliffe's unveiling of the 2014 Virginia Energy Plan. I had an opportunity to pursue questions about why Dr. Michael Karmis, Director of Virginia Tech's Center for Coal Research, was chosen to write the critical cost-benefit analysis for Virginia's response to the federal Clean Power Plan (CPP).
A cost-benefit analysis would normally be an obscure, bureaucratic document. But this year the Virginia legislature mandated a cost benefit analysis be included in the third annual state energy plan. How Virginia responds to the federal CPP standards is a big deal. People ask me why a coal backer was tasked with writing this foundational document that the legislature will rely upon. I typically respond, "Good question!"
As I see it, here are some important questions that need to be answered:
Why was Dr. Karmis chosen?
Why did Dr. Karmis choose Clean Air Markets LLC, J. E. Cichanowicz Inc., and Chmura Economics and Analytics and no firms with renewable energy experience?
Did Dr. Karmis consult with any renewable energy experts during his execution of the cost benefit analysis?
Did anyone on Dr. Karmis's staff provide input on renewable energy in preparation of the analysis? If so who are they and what are their credentials?
Why did Dr. Karmis not ask his Virginia Tech colleague and renewable energy expert Dr. Saifur Rahman for his input on renewable energy?
Did any lobbyists recommend to Dept. of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) that Dr. Karmis be hired?
Is Dr. Karmis too conflicted to write a document the Governor and legislature will depend upon as an unbiased, informed look at how Virginia can best respond to the CPP?
On pages 94 and 95 of his cost-benefit analysis, Dr. Karmis states:
(This is basically my reaction as well; some good stuff in this plan, but also some bad stuff, and generally not enough specifics about how to get any of the good stuff past our Dominion-bought-and-paid-for General Assembly. - promoted by lowkell)
On October 1, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy released the McAuliffe administration's rewrite of the Virginia Energy Plan. Tomorrow, on October 14, Governor McAuliffe is scheduled to speak about the plan at an "executive briefing" to be held at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond. Will he talk most about fossil fuels, or clean energy? Chances are, we'll hear a lot about both.
Like the versions written by previous governors, McAuliffe's plan boasts of an "all of the above" approach. But don't let that put you off. In spite of major lapses of the drill-baby-drill variety, this plan has more about solar energy, offshore wind, and energy efficiency, and less about coal, than we are used to seeing from a Virginia governor.
Keep in mind that although the Virginia Code requires an energy plan rewrite every four years, the plan does not have the force of law. It is intended to lay out principles, to be the governor's platform and a basis for action, not the action itself. This is why they tend to look like such a hodge-podge: it's just so easy to promise every constituency what it wants. The fights come in the General Assembly, when the various interests look for follow-through.
Here's a summary of some of the major recommendations:
Renewable energy. Advocates and energy libertarians will like the barrier-busting approach called for in the Energy Plan, including raising the cap on customer-owned solar and other renewables from the current 1% of a utility's peak load to 3%; allowing neighborhoods and office parks to develop and share renewable energy projects; allowing third-party power purchase agreements (PPAs) statewide and doubling both the size of projects allowed and the overall program limit; and increasing the size limits on both residential (to 40 kW) and commercial (to 1 MW) net metered projects, with standby charges allowed only for projects over 20 kW (up from the current 10 kW for residential, but seemingly now to be applied to all systems).
It also proposes a program that would allow utilities to build off-site solar facilities on behalf of subscribers and provide on-bill financing to pay for it. This sounds rather like a true green power program, but here the customers would pay to build and own the project instead of simply buying electricity from renewable energy projects.
Yes, you guessed it: our state, Virginia, is the one missing out on the national solar power boom that's well underway (note: click on the map to "embiggen"). For more, check out the Solar Means Business Report, released this morning. Among other things, the report finds that the "average price of a completed commercial [solar] PV project in Q2 2014 has dropped by 14 percent year over year and by more than 45 percent since 2012." A few more factoids:
*"Since 2010, U.S. businesses have installed solar systems at their facilities more than 32,000 times."
*"For the second straight year, U.S. businesses, non-profits and government organizations added more than 1,000 MW of new PV solar installations. As of mid-2014, there were 4,531 MW of commercial solar PV installed on 41,803 business, non-profit and government locations throughout the U.S."
*"American businesses are turning to solar because it's good for their bottom line. For many companies, electricity costs represent a significant operating expense, and solar provides the means to reduce costs and hedge against electricity price increases."
*"While retailers have installed the most capacity, auto manufacturers, pharmaceuticals and food servicers, as well as companies in many other industries, have all looked to solar to lower operating costs."
*"The rest of the U.S. is catching up to the likes of California and New Jersey, the first and second largest state markets for commercial solar. Leaders in those states and others like them have put in place smart, effective policies that have enabled businesses to invest in solar." (note: thanks in large part to the strongly negative influence of Dominion "Global Warming Starts Here" Power, Virginia has NOT put in place "smart, effective policies that have enabled businesses to invest in solar")
*"In total, 129 million people in 33 states and Puerto Rico live within 20 miles of at least one of the 1,110 commercial solar installations that were analyzed in this report." (again, Virginia is missing out)
Oh, and if that's not enough to make you really angry that Virginia has not seized this opportunity, see an article which just came out a few minutes ago, Georgia Is the Latest State to Procure Dirt-Cheap Solar Power, which reported: "After a second round of bidding from developers seeking to build hundreds of megawatts' worth of solar plants in the state, Georgia Power reported that the average price of electricity came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That's 2 cents cheaper than last year's bids."
How cheap is that? According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Average Retail Price of Electricity to Virginia residential users as of July 2014 was 11.98 cents per kilowatt-hour, while the average cost to all Virginia power users was 9.79 cents per kilowatt-hour. Again, the new solar power bidding in Georgia came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Remind me again, why aren't we going solar big-time in Virginia (not to mention energy efficiency, which is even cheaper than 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour in most cases)? Oh yeah, our pals at Dominion Power...
I don't have time to review this right now, but hopefully I'll get to it later today. The bottom line, though, is that we need to move as urgently as possible to a clean energy economy. No cowardly half measures or "all-of-the-above" bull****, the science clearly tells us we need clean energy all the way!
Richmond, Va. – Governor Terry McAuliffe today formally unveiled the 2014 Virginia Energy Plan at an event co-sponsored by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. The Governor laid out his strategic vision for energy policy in Virginia in front of a mixture of members of the business and conservation communities.
The Governor’s energy plan highlights his commitment to a true “all of the above” energy strategy that will promote the use and development of all available resources.
In his remarks, Governor McAuliffe said, “If we are going to build the economy Virginia families deserve, we must begin by giving them the energy plan our economy demands. The plan we are rolling out today is focused on growing our energy economy (particularly in the renewable sector), emphasizing energy conservation, strengthening our energy infrastructure and training the workforce we need for the future.
“By working together, I am confident that four years from now we will live in a stronger Commonwealth that is less dependent on external forces and is fueled by cleaner, cheaper and more abundant Virginia energy.”
Barry DuVal, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and event co-host stated, “We commend Governor McAuliffe’s commitment to an all-of-the above strategy for energy and look forward to working with his administration on strengthening Virginia’s energy infrastructure and growing this important sector of our economy.”
Michael Town, Executive Director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, and also a co-host, added, “Governor McAuliffe campaigned on clean energy job creation. The good news is that his Energy Plan recognizes that smart pollution cuts can mean a business opportunity to create clean energy jobs and save consumers and businesses money. Neighboring states have created 290,000 clean energy jobs in recent years while Virginia stood still. He has an opportunity to change that with his response to the Clean Power Plan standards."
Key highlights of the Energy Plan include:
Strategically grow the energy sector by promoting increased development of renewable generation and supporting innovation in nuclear technology.
Reduce energy consumption by aggressively pursuing energy efficiency measures in government, businesses and residences.
Invest in reliable and resilient energy infrastructure to strengthen Virginia’s already strong business climate.
Prepare Virginia’s workforce to drive the future energy economy.
If you ever hear anyone talk about fracking being a merit-driven process, here's Exhibit A as to why that's just not true.
A federal water study commissioned by the Cuomo administration as it weighed a key decision on fracking was edited and delayed by state officials before it was published, a Capital review has found.
The study, originally commissioned by the state in 2011, when the administration was reportedly considering approving fracking on a limited basis, was going to result in a number of politically inconvenient conclusions for Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to an early draft of the report by the U.S. Geological Survey obtained by Capital through a Freedom of Information Act request.
A comparison of the original draft of the study on naturally occurring methane in water wells across the gas-rich Southern Tier with the final version of the report, which came out after extensive communications between the federal agency and Cuomo administration officials, reveals that some of the authors' original descriptions of environmental and health risks associated with fracking were played down or removed.
The final version of the report also excised a reference to risks associated with gas pipelines and underground storage-a reference which could have complicated the Cuomo administration's potential support for a number of other controversial energy projects, including a proposed gas storage facility in the Finger Lakes region that local wine makers say could destroy their burgeoning industry.
This is important reading for concerned citizens not just in New York, but in other states as well. That includes Virginia, where Gov. McAuliffe recently expressed strong support for a massive, 550-mile natural gas pipeline (originating in West Virginia and terminating in North Carolina), about which the Chesapeake Climate Action Network correctly noted that it would only "encourage more hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking." Another problem is that, just as in New York State, any serious, unbiased, scientific study wouldn find the same "environmental and health risks associated with fracking" that were found there --but conveniently "played down or removed." Is there any reason to think that sequence of events wouldn't happen in other states, like Virginia? Far more likely, to paraphrase the classic song "New York, New York," if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. Just make sure it doesn't happen in your state next.
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