FERC move to raise PJM capacity market bids shows ‘clear bias’ against new, clean generation: Glick

Author: Catherine Morehouse    Published:12/20/19 Utility Dive

Credit: Senate ENW

Dive Brief:

  • Federal regulators on Thursday voted to effectively raise the bids of subsidized resources selling their power into PJM Interconnection’s wholesale capacity market.
  • Under the plan, new resources receiving subsidies will now be subject to the Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR), which raises the price floor for those resources attempting to sell their power into the wholesale market. The move is intended to prevent potential “unacceptable market distorting effects” caused by state clean energy policies, according to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Neil Chatterjee. Commissioner Richard Glick was the sole dissenting vote of the three commissioners.
  • States, clean energy advocates and market observers fear FERC’s move will severely hinder incentives intended to bring new zero emissions resources online, while favoring incumbent fossil fuels. A range of estimates have found the plan could raise market costs from a range of $2.4 billion to $8.4 billion annually.

Dive Insight:

FERC’s Thursday decision is consistent with Chatterjee’s previous efforts to steer federal energy policy away from renewables subsidies, based on his assessment that resources such as solar and wind have matured in the market and can compete on their own.

“This was about new entrants to the market competing on a level playing field. And if there’s not a price suppressive impact, then they ought to be able to compete without subsidies,” Chatterjee told reporters.

Stakeholders have been awaiting a final decision on a reform to PJM’s market since the grid operator’s market monitor first submitted the proposal in April of 2018 in order to address suppressed market prices, which the grid operator blamed on increased state subsidies for carbon-free resources, including nuclear and renewables. Others have blamed the grid operator’s low capacity market bids on low natural gas prices and an oversupply of generation.

Commissioner Glick and clean energy advocates expressed frustration over FERC’s decision, decrying it as an overstep in the markets that will hamper growing state interest in building out higher levels of renewable energy resources.

“There’s a clear bias against new generation,” Glick told reporters. “There’s no reason to treat existing generation differently unless you’re trying to promote existing generation to stay online, which is what I think is happening.”

The majority of resources exempt from the MOPR are incumbent resources, including existing renewables procured under state renewable portfolio standards, existing energy efficiency, demand response and storage, and any resource that doesn’t receive state subsidies. Federal subsidies for entrenched technologies, including fossil fuel plants, are not addressed in the order, a hypocrisy Glick and clean energy groups called out.

“Somehow we’re not going to address those particular subsidies, even though those subsidies are having an effect under the chairman’s theory of price suppression as well,” said Glick.

“PJM is pretending there aren’t subsidies in the markets they run, but the irony is they’re everywhere,” Mike Jacobs, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a statement.

State level subsidies are broadly categorized as any direct or indirect “financial benefit” that would be used to build or procure new resources. That could particularly hinder the growth of storage and solar pairings and other resource technologies still nascent to the market, advocacy groups fear.

Chatterjee maintains the ruling is “resource neutral,” though he ties the necessity of the move directly to state clean energy policies.

“I think I can almost assure you that, had no action been taken, the capacity markets absolutely would have unraveled,” he told reporters. “State subsidization would have proliferated and that absolutely would have led to the demise of these capacity markets.”

But stakeholder reactions fell squarely across resource lines, with nuclear and renewables advocates protesting the order and coal groups voicing their support.

“Far too much of the nation’s essential coal fleet has been lost to market manipulation,” National Mining Association President and CEO Rich Nolan said in a statement. “The expanded MOPR aims to restore fairness to the marketplace and is a timely first step in addressing the loss of the nation’s baseload generating capacity.”

“FERC’s order is an unfortunate and unnecessary transformation of a limited rule designed to prevent market manipulation into a price support scheme for existing coal and natural gas power plants,” Jeff Dennis, general counsel and managing director at Advanced Energy Economy, said in a statement.

Several states have been watching this proceeding closely and Illinois and New Jersey have both threatened to pull out of the market altogether if the MOPR is finalized, fearing impact on their state clean energy policies. And the broad definition of subsidies has put the effectiveness of larger clean energy initiatives, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, up in the air, just as more states are considering joining, noted Glick.

States initially had an opt-out option — the Fixed Resource Requirement — which would have allowed them to procure resources outside the wholesale market without fully leaving the market, but FERC determined that mechanism “would have had unacceptable market distorting effects that would have hampered competitive investment over the long term​,” Chatterjee told reporters.

PJM has 90 days to comply with the order and give FERC a timeline for its next auction. The grid operator is withholding comment until it is able to review the order, released Thursday night.

House foregoes new tax credits for storage, offshore wind as it approves $1.4T spending bill

Author: Iulia Gheorghiu  Published: Dec. 18, 2019  Up Date: 12/20/19 Utility Dive

The Senate approved the spending bills on Thursday. President Donald Trump must sign the bills by midnight to prevent a government shutdown.
Dive Brief:
  • The U.S. House of Representatives approved a broad spending bill on Tuesday extending tax credits for wind energy, which expire at the end of 2019, for another year.
  • The House had proposed a wide-reaching clean energy package of tax credits, including new incentives for energy storage and offshore wind, and extensions for electric vehicles and solar. Those proposals were not included in the $1.4 trillion spending measure.
  • On Monday night, House Republicans and Democrats agreed to a slew of extensions of other credits that had already expired, from biodiesel energy to geothermal. The bipartisan legislation includes credits for energy efficient homes and Native American-owned coal plants.

Dive Insight:

Renewable energy stakeholders were disappointed in the deal, having hailed the previous House Democratic draft bill as a crucial way to advance clean energy deployment.

The Senate is expected to pass the package, which includes an extension of a biodiesel tax credit, a key priority for Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

“Historically, over the past more-than-a-decade, it’s typically been almost a no-brainer that Congress will at the end of the year just reauthorize a whole grab-bag of different tax provisions,” but that changed in 2017 and 2018, Erica York, an economist at the conservative think tank Tax Foundation, told Utility Dive.

Several expired tax credits have been awaiting reauthorization, adding to investment uncertainty. “That’s why in general it’s not a good idea to have a temporary tax code,” York said. “If the Congress does decide to have industry specific carve-outs, they should be permanent.”

The wind tax credit extension through the end of the 2020 tax year would therefore still create a sense of uncertainty for industry, she said.

However, energy lobbyists are not giving up, despite the disappointment.

The clean energy extensions included in the agreement “do little for renewable growth and next to nothing to address climate change,” Greg Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, said in a statement.

For some, like the energy storage industry, establishing new tax credits was the top priority of the year. An energy storage tax credit bill also had bipartisan support, according to the Energy Storage Association (ESA).

Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., Earl Blumenauer , D-Ore., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., as well as Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., supported an energy storage investment tax credit (ITC). The technology currently qualifies if paired with solar power.

“Despite this missed opportunity, ESA and our members are not dissuaded from continuing our effort to finally include energy storage in the ITC,” Kelly Speakes-Backman, ESA CEO, said in a statement.

The 2020 Fiscal Year spending bill does include a bipartisan provision supported by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) to ensure these utilities can accept government grants without losing their tax-exempt status, an unintended consequence of the 2017 tax law.

The bill allows co-ops to “leverage federal and state grants for economic development, storm recovery and rural broadband deployment,” NRECA CEO Jim Matheson said in a statement.

House green bank bill aims to leverage $35B in government funding into $1T in private investment

Author:  Iulia Gheorghiu      Published: 12/16/19     Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., introduced on Thursday a House version of a Senate bill to establish a National Climate Bank, which the federal government would capitalize with $35 billion over six years.
  • The bank is meant to mobilize up to $1 trillion in private investment over a decade, enabling the creation of more green banks in the country and supporting efforts of existing state and local green banks. Dingell’s state green bank, Michigan Saves, has been around for nearly a decade and needs additional funding to support energy efficiency and clean energy programs, its president and CEO, Mary Templeton, told Utility Dive.
  • The bill matches a Senate version introduced this summer by a group of Democratic senators. Stakeholders see the bill as an opportunity to consider the policy in broader climate solutions discussions in hopes of getting enough traction for passage in 2021.

Dive Insight:

Green banks in the U.S. have driven a lot of investments in solar power and energy efficiency, according to Jeff Schub, executive director of the Coalition for Green Capital. “By definition, almost all of the activity that’s being financed is done in a way that lowers energy costs with end users,” which has garnered the bill bipartisan support in the past.

Schub said the bill has enough support to pass the House today. However, stakeholders including Coalition for Green Capital are hoping to see Congress pass this bill in 2021, as that is “a realistic reflection of the amount of time and effort it takes to create something like this,” he told Utility Dive.

“A number of [Democratic] preside?ntial candidates have put green banks or climate banks … into their campaign plans,” he said, which could potentially increase the likelihood of a climate solutions package in 2021. However, he said the bill represents a fiscal policy that could get support from Republican administrations as well.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is putting together a comprehensive climate bill, which Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., announced earlier this year.

“We know for near certain that [the National Climate Bank Act] is going to be included in that package,” Schub said.

The bill is also central to other conversations with Congressional staff and the House Climate Crisis Committee, according to him.

Having other committees consider this bill puts the concept of national green banks “into the bloodstream… increasing its chances of being seen as part of the established set of [climate] solutions,” Schub said.

Supporting state-level green banks

The U.S. has 12 green banks at the state, county and city levels, supporting the emergence of new markets. However, they’re limited in funds, and vulnerable to political backlash.

“We would see a national climate bank supporting our work by helping us to expand and fill additional gaps,” Templeton said, referring to projects that don’t have a large pay-off to be supported by the market, such as large-scale renewables.

For Michigan Saves, that means supporting loan programs in low-to-moderate income communities, and providing longer term, low-interest rate programs for small commercial businesses to invest in energy efficiency and clean energy. Other funding opportunities within market gaps include community solar projects, solar power purchase agreements for nonprofits and affordable multi-family housing, Templeton said.

“Most state and local green banks” have focused on residential, small-commercial or community solar, and building efficiency upgrades, Schub said. These banks lack the capital to finance a utility-scale wind project, but “it so happens to be the case that those [solar and energy efficiency] products tend to be the ones that are underserved by private capital markets.”

“To support the work that we do … we need additional funding,” Templeton said.

Michigan Saves says it has enabled more than $200 million in public and private investment in the past decade, with an “extremely strong” leverage ratio between private and public funds. “For every single public dollar that we receive,” there’s around $30 of private investment the bank makes by working with private lenders, she said.

“The sooner that we can have support at the national level like that, the sooner that other states can get started,” Templeton added.

Without a national bank commitment, green banks are limited from financing available innovations in emerging clean energy markets, like transportation electrification, Schub said. Local green banks could help finance charging infrastructure buildout and EV leasing in underserved communities, as well as battery swap structures and other “necessary” financial innovations on the transportation side, he said.

First Energy Solutions bankruptcy judge must reconsider FERC authority on contracts: 6th Circuit

Author: Junk Fund      Published: 12/16/19      Utility Dive

Dive Brief

  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled Thursday that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge presiding over the reorganization of FirstEnergy Solutions (FES) must reconsider a decision about the status of power purchase agreements in its Chapter 11 reorganization.
  • Judge Alan Koschik, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio, had ruled in August 2018 that the bankruptcy court could treat a contract requiring federal regulatory approval like all other contracts, allowing FES to walk away from a power purchase agreement approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) and a smaller contract with a solar energy provider. But a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit ruled Koschik should have allowed FERC a say in the matter and considered the public impact of breaking OVEC’s 21-year contract.
  • If FES still wants to reject its contract with OVEC, the bankruptcy court would have to listen to FERC’s objections in another round of briefs and possibly in another hearing, according to attorneys familiar with the case. Alternatively, FES could appeal the three-judge panel’s decision to the full Sixth Circuit court, a move that would add even more time in the case that has gone on for nearly 18 months.

    Dive Insight:

    The appellate panel’s ruling comes as the FES bankruptcy case wraps up and the company prepares to emerge from bankruptcy protection as a newly constituted privately held company operating under a new name, Energy Harbor.

    FES sought bankruptcy protection on Mar. 31, 2018, and immediately in a separate filing asked the bankruptcy court to prevent FERC from interfering with its plans to break its contract with OVEC. Koschik ultimately agreed withFES that the contract with OVEC could be treated like any other contract, a decision that made OVEC just another unsecured creditor.

    FERC, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) and other parties appealed Koschik’s ruling. ​The OCC argued that allowing FES to break the OVEC contract would lead to higher consumer electric rates around the state because OVEC would have to replace the cash shortfall that FES’ departure would create.

    FES held 4.85% of the electricity generated by two 65-year-old OVEC coal-fired power plants for a contract that still had 21 years until expiration. The distributor estimated it would lose $268 million over that period. FERC argued that under the Federal Power Act and federal energy case law, the rates FES paid OVEC for its share of power generated by OVEC’s plants were subject to FERC’s jurisdiction.

    The appellate panel agreed that the bankruptcy court had the final authority on the issue, FES said in a statement.

    “Today’s decision by the Sixth Circuit confirms our assertion that the bankruptcy court is ultimately the decision maker on whether purchase power contacts can be rejected in bankruptcy,” the company said in a statement. “We appreciate the Sixth Circuit’s attention and deliberation in their ruling. We are confident, upon remand, the bankruptcy court will find again that the rejection of these burdensome contracts meets the applicable standard.”

    “With this favorable appellate decision, we will again seek to protect Ohioans from having to subsidize millions of dollars in coal plant costs that bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions was allowed to stop paying,” Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston said in a statement.

University of Maryland Climate Action Plan 2.0uthor

Author: sustainability.umd.edu   Published:  12/16/19

Students holding up pictures


The University of Maryland became a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (now called the Carbon Commitment) in 2007 and finished its first Climate Action Plan (CAP) in 2009. Many faculty, staff, and students worked tirelessly over the years implementing CAP strategies and keeping the university on track with meeting its targets. By 2018, the university had achieved its targets of reducing its carbon emissions by 50% and enhancing opportunities for all students to learn about sustainability and climate action.

CAP 2.0 is an update to the original CAP and clarifies the university’s strategies for meeting upcoming targets, including a 60% reduction in carbon emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2025. This is an aggressive target to hit, which is why this CAP 2.0 focuses on strategies that are currently being implemented or need to be implemented within the next several years to meet near-term goals. The university is committed to achieving carbon neutrality for all scopes of emissions by 2050 and will make major updates to CAP at least every five years to include strategies that are based on the best knowledge and technology available at that time.

This new online format and numbering system (2.x) is a flexible format for CAP, making it easy to publish minor updates (ex. version 2.1, 2.2, etc.), including annual status reports on each strategy. As a “living document,” the Office of Sustainability welcomes your feedback and ideas to help the university meet and exceed its goals. Please email sustainability@umd.edu to share your thoughts.



University of Maryland's Greenhouse Gas Emissions (MTCO2e; from 2005 to 2018) by Source Type

The University of Maryland has already achieved many of its original CAP goals. Notable accomplishments include:

  • Reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions 50% from 2005 to 2018 despite campus growth
  • Getting 89% of its purchased electricity from renewable sources in 2018
  • Offsetting 100% of the university’s air travel emissions associated with faculty, staff, and student travel
  • Implementing several performance contracts, reducing energy consumption 20% or more in select buildings
  • Increasing the percentage of commuters who choose alternative transportation for daily commuting
  • Creating a Sustainability Studies Minor – one of the largest minors at UMD
  • Educating more than 18,000 students in their first semester at UMD about sustainability challenges and opportunities

The US Federal Government occasionally uses the Social Cost of Carbon to estimate economic damages associated with an increase in carbon dioxide emissions in a given year. Damages include decreased agricultural productivity, impacts on human health, property damages from increased flood risk, etc. Based on these government estimates, the University of Maryland has reduced its carbon liability and benefited the economy by $37 Million by preventing approximately 1,034,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) from entering the atmosphere since 2005.



Planned Emissions TrajectoryThe university is striving to meet the following ambitious targets for all scopes of emissions:

  • 50% reduction in carbon emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2020 – Achieved!
  • 60% reduction in carbon emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2025
  • Carbon neutrality (net-zero carbon emissions) by 2050



The University of Maryland is estimated to save $120 Million whilepreventing 4.3 Million MTCO2e from entering the atmosphere between 2016 and 2040 by implementing the following strategies. Using the Social Cost of Carbon, the additional economic benefit to the world is approximately $216 Million from this level of carbon reduction. The university’s impact will become even greater as it develops and implements additional strategies in the future to reach its goal of carbon neutrality.


The campus receives most of its power from a combined heat and power plant (CHP), which uses natural gas to produce steam and electricity simultaneously. CHP is already an efficient process but planned projects will make it and campus buildings even more efficient, thereby decreasing the carbon intensity of each facility. By 2020, all electricity coming from sources other than CHP must be produced renewably and any carbon emissions associated with powering new facilities must be offset. New technologies including algae-based carbon capture may drive carbon emissions even lower. There is plenty of opportunity for every person on campus to contribute toward reaching these goals! The UMD campus community can collectively save over 44,000 MTCO2e by 2025 through everyday behaviors like turning off computers, lights, and other equipment when not in use.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

President’s Energy Conservation Initiative: Facilities Enhancements

719,577 MTCO2e


President’s Energy Conservation Initiative: Behavior Change

126,984 MTCO2e


President’s Purchased Power Initiative

643,888 MTCO2e


President’s Carbon Neutral New Development Initiative

489,774 MTCO2e


On-Campus Renewable Energy

0 – Covered by the Purchased Power Initiative


Heat and Power Plant Improvements

450,000 MTCO2e


Carbon Capture Technology

120,000 MTCO2e


Additional Capital Investment for High Performing Energy Efficient Buildings

0 – Contributes toward other strategies



Many faculty, staff, and students are choosing alternative transportation and those who drive alone are increasingly choosing fuel-efficient cars. New federal fuel-efficiency standards are making it easier to find vehicles that save on gas and reduce carbon emissions. By 2025, these standards alone may reduce carbon emissions by 53,000 MTCO2e from just commuters’ trips to and from campus. The more people who choose carpooling, vanpooling, public transit, walking, or biking as a means of getting from one place to another, the greater those reductions will be. New housing projects located throughout College Park will increase options for living where you work/study. Those who want to eliminate their carbon footprints associated with commuting will have the option of offsetting their emissions when they register for parking permits.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

Additional Student Housing On and Near Campus

23,851 MTCO2e

N/A – This project will happen regardless of CAP

Increase Use of Vanpools for Commuting

23,680 MTCO2e

N/A – This project will happen regardless of CAP

Increase Use of Carpooling for Commuting

4,280 MTCO2e

N/A – This project will happen regardless of CAP

Addition of Purple Line Light-Rail Service

7,461 MTCO2e

N/A – This project will happen regardless of CAP

Develop a Plan for Effective Transportation Demand Management Programming

0 – Contributes toward other strategies


Improved Fuel Efficiency of Commuter Vehicles

223,868 MTCO2e

No cost to UMD

Install More Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

1,214 MTCO2e


Offer Voluntary Carbon Offsets for Commuters

33,182 MTCO2e


Support Projects that Improve Bicycle Connectivity between UMD and Local Neighborhoods



Air Travel

Whereas the university has control over its energy infrastructure and some influence on commuting behaviors, it has little effective control of air travel emissions. Given the university’s goal of being globally connected, restricting air travel would hinder important university work. Faculty travel for research, students study abroad, athletes fly to competitions, and staff travel to conferences; all of which support university functions. To address the environmental impact of this travel, the university will implement a carbon offset program to negate 100% of the carbon emissions associated with air travel starting in 2018. A Carbon Offset Fund Committee reporting to the University Sustainability Council will select verified projects that sequester or prevent carbon emissions and determine the best process for administering the program.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

Carbon Neutral Air Travel

1,400,212 MTCO2e


Solid Waste

Emissions from solid waste decreased 99% since 2005! Today, solid waste emissions account for less than 1% of the university’s carbon footprint. The university accomplished this by greatly expanding recycling and composting efforts over the past decade and sending remaining solid waste to landfills that capture and destroy methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Looking ahead, the campus can achieve carbon neutrality in this category by getting more recyclable and compostable materials in their correct receptacles and reducing the total amount of solid waste (including recyclable, compostable, and landfill waste) generated.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

Recycle Appropriate Solid Waste & Compost Appropriate Organic Solid Waste

7,548 MTCO2e


Divert Solid Waste from Landfill

No additional CO2e reductions

No additional cost

Reduce Solid Waste Generation

5,471 MTCO2e


Education and Outreach to Promote Waste Reduction

0 – Contributes to achieving other strategies


Land Use and Maintenance

As Maryland’s land grant institution, the University of Maryland owns and operates research farms located from the mountains of Western Maryland to the coastal plain of the Eastern Shore. Approximately 2,000 MTCO2e is emitted each year from cows on research farms (methane emissions from digestion) and from fertilizer applied to crops and campus grounds. A bit more carbon dioxide is emitted from farm and landscape equipment, which predominantly run on gasoline and diesel. Based on a study conducted last decade, trees on the College Park campus sequester approximately 683 MTCO2e annually. The university is working on decreasing carbon emissions associated with agriculture and landscaping and plans on quantifying the carbon sequestration of university owned forests located around the State.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

Carbon Neutral Grounds and Landscaping



Quantify the Carbon Sequestration of Forests on University Land and Increase the Tree Canopy on Campus

Potential offsets from UMD-owned forests



Although the university does not currently track the carbon footprint of purchasing, it certainly has the opportunity to reduce the environmental impact associated with the manufacturing, transportation, and use of the food, equipment, and other goods that it buys. By reducing consumption of goods, selecting goods that meet sustainability criteria, and working with contractors who practice a similar environmental ethic, the university’s carbon reductions in this area could be greater than those across all other areas of this Climate Action Plan. The Department of Procurement and Strategic Sourcing and Department of Dining Services are leading efforts to drive sustainability into the core of the university’s purchasing decisions.


Expand Sustainable Food Purchasing

Add Sustainability Language to Active UMD Procurement Procedures and Mechanisms

Achieve Compliance with Environmentally Preferable Procurement Policy (EPP)

Implement eProcurement System with EPP Guidance

Create Sustainable Procurement Policies and Practices for Vendor Contracts

Education and Research

As a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the University of Maryland set an ambitious goal to educate all students about sustainability. UMD is progressing toward that goal through its broad array of degree granting programs, living-learning programs, and initiatives such as the Sustainability Advisors and Chesapeake Project. Year by year, students are increasingly likely to receive an introductory lesson on sustainability during their first semester, grapple with sustainability concepts in various courses spanning the academic disciplines, and get involved with sustainability-focused action-learning or research activities. Sustainability and climate change research at UMD continues to be among the best in the world and groups like the Council on the Environment help those research activities flourish.


Educate First Year Undergraduate Students about Sustainability

Integrate Sustainability across the Curriculum

Offer more Sustainability Courses in General Education

Foster Active Learning Programs on Sustainability and Climate Change

Develop New Sustainability Graduate Degree and/or Certificate Programs

Assess Students’ Sustainability Literacy

Foster Research on Climate Change, Energy, and Sustainability

Support Research on Campus Sustainability through the Sustainability Fund

Deploy Research Technologies Developed on Campus


The Office of Sustainability is grateful to its many partners who helped develop this Climate Action Plan. The UMD Environmental Finance Center was instrumental in conducting carbon and financial impact calculations for all carbon reduction strategies. Thank you to the following partner organizations for helping develop and implement these strategies and for everything else they do to make the University of Maryland a national model for a Green University.

  • Facilities Management
  • Transportation Services
  • Procurement and Strategic Sourcing
  • Dining Services
  • Extension
  • Resident Life
  • Residential Facilities
  • Sustainability Council

Outreach Team

  • Students holding up pictures
  • Students with president Loh
  • Students
  • Students sitting on brick wall
  • Student with bike helmet on
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The Sustainability Outreach Team is a group of student leaders promoting a culture of sustainability at UMD.

The Outreach Team is also known as LEAF: Lead, Educate, Act, Facilitate!

Invite the Outreach Team to bring sustainability tabling, activities, and workshops to your group, team, or area.

Apply to join the outreach team!Bring sustainability outreach to your event!

What does the Outreach Team do?

  • Help students get registered and certified as a Green Terp
  • Inspire and empower students on ways to take action: reduce waste (reuse, recycle, compost), save water, eat ethically, commute smart, conserve energy, and live greener
  • Promote sustainability programs and resources to the student body
  • Identify barriers to sustainable actions and habits, and find solutions
  • Recommend sustainable choices and actions you can make and why they are important

Being part of this team allows me to exude my enthusiasm for sustainability in the hopes of sprouting enthusiasm in others in the UMD community.”– Andrea, LEAF Team Lead

What we bring to your event:

  • Energy and excitement around the topic of sustainability.
  • Tips and resources for making your event more environmentally responsible and sustainable.
  • Prizes, games, crafts and educational activities.​

The Outreach Team loves campus events! We have been to:

  • First Look Fair
  • UMD Bike Fair
  • Terp Market
  • The Farmers Market at Maryland
  • Maryland Day
  • Active Minds Carnival
  • Denton Community GreenFest
  • Stamp All Niter
  • PARK(ing) Day
  • Earth Day
  • Late Night at The Diner
  • The Commuter Breakfast
  • Stamp Fest
  • and more… !

Funding Opportunity Announcement: Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) FY 2020 Phase 1 Release 2

Author: DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office   Published:  12/16/19

Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

Solar Energy Technologies Office


SBIR/STTR Webinar December 18 2PM ET

Small businesses with a great idea to advance solar energy technologies can apply for up to $200,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program through their FY20 Phase 1 Release 2 Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). The SBIR and STTR programs encourage U.S.-based small businesses to engage in high-risk, innovative research and technology development with the potential for future commercialization.

Once companies successfully complete Phase I funding, they can apply for Phase II funding, which can total $1.1 million.

The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) will host a webinar to promote participation in the upcoming FOA with a focus on its solar topic. The webinar will be on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at 2PM ET. Register for this webinar here.

The solar subtopics in the funding opportunity include:

  • 11a: Technology Transfer Opportunity: Microwave Photoconductance Spectrometer for Roll-to-roll Deposited Semiconductor Materials:SBIR/STTR is looking for a partner to develop the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s lab-scale microwave photoconductance instrument into a prototype of a viable commercial metrology tool.
  • 11b: Affordability, Reliability, and Performance of Solar Technologies: The Solar Energy Technologies Office is seeking solutions that can advance solar energy technologies by lowering costs as well as facilitate its secure integration into the nation’s electric grid. Applications should fall within one of these areas: advanced solar systems integration technologies, concentrating solar-thermal power technologies, or photovoltaic technologies.

Join SETO staff on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at 2PM ET as they discuss the solar topic of the upcoming SBIR/STTR FOA. Register for the webinar today.


Author:  energeticinsurance.com      Published: 12/16/19

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We’ve spent our careers in energy. We appreciate and embrace the nuances like no generalist could. We draw on our experience as well as feedback from the energy project development community to design products that we know will work.



A managing general underwriter (MGU) is a type of insurance company that evaluates risk, sells and binds policies on behalf of a large insurance carrier.



A recent survey of 9 top brokers of trade credit/non-payment insurance revealed that 97% of claims were paid on time and in full.  A single policy trigger and pre-defined claim payment schedule make our process much more predictable and easier than other commercial insurance claims.



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We can help recover value after default. If you have a project where you are experiencing or expect a payment default, contact us to discuss how we can mitigate the losses and maintain project cash flow.

New York outlines new ways to compensate distributed solar users as it looks beyond net metering

Author: Matthew Bandyk    Published:  12/11/19  Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • The New York Department of Public Service (DPS) on Monday released recommendations on new ways to compensate residential and small commercial distributed solar users as the state works to move past net metering, proposing a one-year extension for “mass market” net metering eligibility.
  • The New York DPS staff recommended in the white paper to continue net metering for new distributed energy customers starting in 2021, but also charge them somewhere between $0.69 and $1.09 per kW based on their solar array’s capacity.
  • The New York DPS staff did not endorse a proposal from a group of New York utilities, including Consolidated Edison, National Grid and Rochester Gas and Electric, to replace net metering with charges based on customer demand.

Dive Insight:

In order to give the distributed solar industry time to adjust to changes, the white paper recommends that the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) extend the deadline for “mass market” customers to be eligible for net metering from Jan. 1, 2020 to Jan. 1, 2021. The secretary of the PSC is likely to agree to extend that deadline, Solar Energy Industries Association Senior Director of State Affairs for the Northeast Dave Gahl told Utility Dive.

Previously, New York regulators said that after the end of this year they would start cutting back on the full retail rate that new rooftop solar users receive for exporting their excess energy to the grid under net metering.

The “mass market” definition includes residential customers as well as smaller commercial customers like small businesses. The New York PSC is separately dealing with compensation for larger distributed energy users, and earlier this year made changes to the Value of Distributed Energy Resources tariff.

“We are relieved to see the Department of Public Service Staff’s request to extend the deadline from 2020 to 2021 for moving small residential and commercial solar projects to a new compensation mechanism for their local, clean power,” Vote Solar Senior Director, Northeast Sean Garren said in an email to Utility Dive. “The Value of Distributed Energy Resources tariff is too complicated and dynamic at the moment to be suitable for family or small commercially owned projects, and there is no other solution beyond existing net metering that has been thoroughly investigated and publicly vetted.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, and the state legislature have set an ambitious goal of 6 GW of distributed solar in New York by 2025, and the charge on solar arrays proposed by the white paper represents a “conservative” approach away from net metering while not placing a burden on solar installations that would make that goal harder to achieve, according to Gahl.

The white paper calls its proposed charge on solar arrays “relatively minor” compared to the cost that rooftop solar users shift onto customers who do not have solar installations.

The solar industry still has questions about the economic impact of the charge, however.

“How will the size of the charge affect the solar industry? Does it affect companies’ sizing of their projects?” Gahl said, adding that the potential effects will be evaluated over the coming months. The white paper estimates that the charge would have a 3.6% to 7.8% impact on the simple payback of a solar system.

The DPS had asked for suggestions from stakeholders on a new tariff for smaller distributed energy customers, and a group of major New York utilities proposed rate designs based on different charges for levels of customer demand. The white paper, however, said that rates with “demand-based price signals” don’t provide customers with enough data to understand how to size distributed energy projects under that kind of rate design.

Gahl called the utility rate design proposal “unworkable.”

“Customers don’t know when they are going to hit maximum demand,” he said.

A community-led plan for climate justice

Author: Tom Steyer   Published: 12/9/2019      TOM 20/20

Tom 2020 Logo
I use the term “climate justice” a lot, Ronald, and I wanted to take a moment to tell you why.
Climate justice acknowledges that the people hit first and worst by the climate crisis are not the ones causing it. The worst of America’s pollution has been placed disproportionately by the fossil fuel industry into communities of color.
Big corporations continue to treat low-income communities, communities of color, and vulnerable rural communities as dumping grounds for their environmental waste for greater profit — and they’ve been allowed to get away with it.
American land-use and environmental policies have historically been intentionally racist and discriminatory, and continue to result in environmental and health inequity. Add your name if you agree that justice needs to be front and center as we work toward a sustainable future.
Climate change directly affects so many of the other challenges we face as a country. Our access to health care, affordable housing, and job opportunities are changing with our environment. For many, coping with those changes puts them at a serious disadvantage.
Regardless of who you’re voting for, you’re living on this planet and you’re going to feel the effects of the climate crisis. And if we’re going to address this crisis and create a healthy country, we have to start by recognizing that it’s hurting low-income communities and communities of color more than others.
Climate justice is central to my strategy to preserve our planet, address historic inequities, and grow our economy in a way that serves the American people instead of corporations. Read more about why I advocate for climate justice here, and join the conversation.
Yours in the fight,

On day one as president, Tom will declare the climate crisis a national emergency. This means he will take immediate action to tackle the climate crisis and begin investing in local community plans to address the issue.

Battery prices fall nearly 50% in 3 years, spurring more electr

Author: Matthew Bandvk            Publishd: 12/3/2019           Utility Dive

2019 was the year electric cars grew up

Author: Micheal Coren     

Tell Congress to extend the federal EV tax credit

Electric cars had their biggest year ever in 2019, even as storm clouds gathered over their future. The numbers were huge. Automakers committed $225 billion to electrification in the coming years. Electric vehicles (EVs) grabbed 2.2% of the global vehicle market over the first 10 months of 2019 as a slew of new models hit the road. Ford, which has yet to sell an all-electric vehicle, showed off the upcoming electric Mustang Mach-E (a crossover SUV) and an electric F-150 pick-up. Tesla, of course, shocked everyone by turning a profit and previewing a strange future with its “cybertruck,” potentially the Hummer for Millenials.

But it wasn’t all rainbows. Outside of China and Norway, where car buyers enjoy generous incentives, the market is still driven by early adopters rather than the mainstream. EV sales for the year have been sluggish. While some states such as California have seen EVs capture 8% of new sales (all-electric and plug-in hybrid), the rest of the country has not yet caught on. After doubling between 2017 and 2018, EV market share in the US had crept up from 1.6% last March to 1.8% a year later (pdf).

That hasn’t slowed automakers’ ambitions. They’re betting it’s better to get ahead of the now-inevitable shift to EVs than play catch up to established rivals and Tesla. But if demand fails to pick up the big bet may mean consolidation and bankruptcy for some.

Here are the highlights from 2019.

EVs sold even as the car market dipped. The Model 3 can claim most of the credit.

The year started off strong for electric cars. After selling a record 361,000 EVs in 2018, automakers foresaw a robust 2019. Yet for carmakers not named Tesla, sales sputtered out mid-year. Sales for the three dozen or so other EV models on the market declined by an about 20% in 2019 compared to a year earlier, while Tesla’s Model 3 sales tripled between January and September. Tesla represented an astonishing 78% of US EV sales as of October, estimated CleanTechnica, delivering about 123,000 Model 3s, and 30,000 Model S and Model X vehicles. But EVs proved to be a rare bright spot amid what appears to be a long-term decline in global auto sales now entering its third year, what industry analysts call “peak car.”

Tesla proved unstoppable, so far.

The naysayers are not done betting against Tesla CEO Elon Musk. But Tesla’s profitable quarter, surging Model 3 sales, the new Model Y, and the new Blade Runner-style pick-up truck mean its street cred and stock price are close to all-time highs. On Wall Street, its prospects are helped by a nearly complete China factory, plans for a European factory outside Berlin in Germany, the birthplace of the modern automobilea move weighted with symbolismand a cash stockpile totaling $5.3 billion, according to Sentieo. In 2019, Tesla barely escaped “production hell” after Model 3 production problems pushed Tesla within “single-digit weeks” of bankruptcy. Now it must replicate the feat with a new vehicle lineup starting with the Model Y.

VW, Ford, GM, and others are on Tesla’s tail

Legacy automakers have yet to build the equivalent of a Model 3: an affordable EV that people covet. But they’re spending billions of dollars to make it happen. “The whole market is moving toward electrification this year,” says Devin Lindsay of IHS Markit. While that transformation is still years (or perhaps decades) away, 2019 was the year they put money behind their talk, he says. Automakers and the suppliers collectively put $225 billion on the table for EV investments over the next five years. Volkswagen (VW) led the way with a $44 billion “electric offensive,” a promise to abandon the development of all new fossil fuel vehicles by 2026 and sell 40% EVs by 2030. Ford, after years of ambivalence, invested $500 million into electric truck startup Rivian on top of least $11 billion in new EV investments and launched the all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV.

EVs are still for early adopters in the US

For now, internal combustion engines aren’t going anywhere, especially in the US. AlixPartners’ global survey of customer demand for EVs asked if buyers’ next car would be electric in 2018. The average share in countries like Germany, Japan, Norway, and the UK topped 40% and rose as high as 73% in China. But in the US, only 14% of potential buyers planned to go electric this year. EVs will only go mainstream in the US, GM notes, once range, ease of ownership, and cost are addressed.

Layoffs rocked the auto industry

The auto industry’s sprint to embrace electric and autonomous vehicles didn’t include all of its factories and workers. Softening global auto sales didn’t help. Daimler, the parent of Mercedes-Benz, cut at least 10,000 jobs including 10% of its management. Volkswagen’s Audi announced 10% of its global workforce, 9,500 employees, would be let go by 2025. Ford made two rounds of steep job cuts this summer totaling more than 15,000.  Nissan made similar reductions. The bloodletting probably isn’t over yet: Bloomberg predicts at least 80,000 more auto jobs will be cut in the coming years.

Incentives began to phase out

Price is still a primary consideration for most car buyers, and incentives are still needed to attract buyers in most markets. In Norway, for example, generous incentives have pushed EV market share close to 60%. However, China pulled back on the incentives fueling its red-hot EV market. The UK did the same. In the US, tax-breaks awarded for manufacturers’ first 200,000 EVs have begun to phase out: Tesla and GM both crossed that threshold this year (credits phase out over time), and others will soon follow. The Trump Administration has proposed eliminating all incentives enacted during the Obama administration from renewable energy to EVs. “We pay a lot of attention to what any president says,” said Dan Turton, vice president for North American policy at General Motors, speaking to industry insiders after the announcement. “But this electrification movement is going forward anyway.”

Charging stations are outnumbering Tesla’s proprietary network in the US

For years, Tesla’s proprietary Supercharger system was the biggest one out there. But independent charging networks are catching up.  EVgo, Greenlots, EV Connect, and Electrify America are all in the business of building out thousands of new stations to mirror their gasoline counterparts (Ford partnered with some of them to make recharging similar to swiping your credit card at the pump). While the US remains far behind Europe and China, the number of public charging stations in the US has soared from just 506 at the end of 2010 to over 20,000 in May 2019, according to US Department of Energy (DoE) data. Tesla’s fast Supercharger network has 1,636 stations in addition to its destination charging stations (with many more on the way).

EV range has finally come in range

It turns out 300 miles of electric range is what it takes for most people to feel comfortable in an EV, notes GM President Mark Reuss. Almost 90% of EVs sold were the six models with the highest range (238 miles or more)—Tesla’s, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the Hyundai Kona and the Kia Niro. EVs have been making strides in that direction since 2011. The range for top-selling EVs has risen about 20% annually since 2011. Today, the median EV range is more than 125 miles while the top end is 335 miles, according to the DoE to estimates. As automakers finally enter mass-production, expect that range to keep rising well after 2019.

Hello, e-trucks

Fleets discovered electric vehicles. Electric buses have long been a favorite of government agencies, but the private sector is realizing electric delivery trucks can save them money. The biggest news was Amazon’s order of 100,000 electric delivery vans from the Detroit startup Rivian, highlighting a year of big orders across EV classes for trucking and deliveries, says Tony Seba, co-founder of RethinkX, a Bay Area think tank. And it wasn’t just businesses. Electric pick-ups and sport trucks entered the limelight with Tesla’s Cybertruck, Rivian’s $69,000 Rivian R1T, and Ford’s all-electric F-150 prototype which towed 1 million pounds.

Auto shows went electric

It’s hard to know if EVs should make their debut at gadget-obsessed affairs like the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas or automotive shows showcasing vehicular power and performance. In 2019, the answer was both. While CES has long been a showroom for electric (and self-driving) cars for a while, this year the buzz at the world’s biggest auto shows from Tokyo to Los Angeles hovered around automakers’ EVs as they tried out new sizes (hulking SUVs) and concepts (e-scooters).

Karma’s SC2 electric concept car

Budget-conscious EVs joined the high-end

Better range, more refined styles, and zippier acceleration all hit the market at or below the median cost of a car in the US: Kia’s $34,000 e-Soul (280-mile range) and $38,500 Niro (239-mile range), and the $36,500 Hyundai Kona Electric (258-mile range). The budget offerings present rivals to the Chevy Bolt and the Model 3, and herald the day when affordable doesn’t mean underperforming. The new arrivals round out a luxury line-up such as Audi’s $74,800 e-tron, Porsche’s $103,800 Taycan and Tesla’s premium Model S and Model X starting around $75,000.

Build it and they will come?

Carmakers’ very, very ambitious EV sales targets started to outpace industry forecasters in 2019. “The transition to EVs is likely to be gradual, once again confounding the expectations of futurists,” J.P. Morgan asserted (pdf). The bank predicts by 2025 the global share for EVs will reach just 7.7% of the market, or 8.4 million vehicles.

Major automakers are banking on global sales growth far exceeding that mark. Nissan-Renault is aiming for 20% to 30% by 2025, while GM hopes to hit for 10%–15% of total sales by 2026 despite slower US growth. By 2030, VW plans to see EVs account for 40% of sales. Mercedes and BMW are close behind. “These companies are so invested, they can’t any longer say it’s going to take much, much longer,” says Sven Beiker, the founder of the consulting firm Silicon Valley Mobility and former BMW engineer. “Now they are part of the gang.”

But if overcapacity develops, automakers aren’t entirely out of luck. They can ship those vehicles to where demand exists. In the near term, that’s probably Europe and China. They can also curtail production since the number of EVs rolling off assembly lines remains relatively low: measured in the thousands, not millions.

But Lindsay of IHS Markit predicted hockey stick growth could arrive in the near future. While market forces alone suggest a gradual increase, a White House in 2020 (or 2025) that imposes stricter emissions controls on the transportation sector (as Obama promised) could drive exponential EV growth automakers are seeking.

Tech CEOs Visit Africa As ‘Source Of Innovation And Talent’

Author: Toby Shapshak            Published:  12/6/2019        Forbes

Tech giant CEOs have increasingly been visiting Africa.

Tech giant CEOs have increasingly been visiting Africa.  MAX CUVELLIER

As Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey demonstrated with his month-long trip in November, the importance of Africa for global companies keeps growing.

The increasingly frequent visits by high-level CEOs shows the importance of the continent, says Max Cuvellier, head of programmes at the GSM Association (GSMA) Mobile for Development (M4D).

Since 2015, the heads of the world’s biggest tech businesses have visited Africa. It started with Airbnb’s Brian Chesky and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella in 2015, with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg visiting Kenya and Nigeria in 2016. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai came in 2017, while then Alphabet’s Sergey Brin visited the following year. Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has come to Africa in 2017, twice in 2018 and again this year.

“What I like the most when I look at tech giant CEO visits is that they seem to recognise the potential of the continent not only as a market, but as a source of innovation and talent,” Cuvellier told me. “They dedicate more and more time on these trips to meeting local entrepreneurs, discussing emerging technologies with local experts and going to universities to interact with local students. Some might too quickly dismiss this as anecdotal, but when Jack Ma awards you with a prize (Temie Giwa-Tubosun of LifeBank in Nigeria last week) – or Jack Dorsey endorses you on social media as ‘the most incredible soul in all the world’ (Betelhem Dessie of iCog Labs in Ethiopia), I like to believe these things reflect positively not only on the individuals, but on the whole community.”

Cuvellier has created a map of these CEO visits which demonstrate “things are getting serious”.

Although it might be easy to dismiss the importance of these trips, especially as many people only see a few quotes or a handful of selfies with locals. The most popular article on Brian Chesky’s visit to South Africa in 2015 – the first visit recorded on the map – focuses on how short his visit was, says Cuvellier.

“But I do believe that the trips in themselves are an indication of growing interest in the continent from ‘tech giants’. Jack Ma is on his third visit to the continent since July 2017 and has now visited seven countries, Jack Dorsey just spent a full month in Africa.”

By comparison, in the same period the Chinese president only made one visit to Africa (visiting four countries in July 2018) and none by the American president.

“Most importantly, and beyond the visits, actual commitments are made: Google’s first AI lab in Africa (in Accra, Ghana) was announced by Sundar Pichai in June 2018 and was opened earlier this year; while Ethiopia and the Alibaba Group just inaugurated a global trade platform on Monday. I am hopeful the deals and the partnerships, not just the trips, will keep coming.”

He highlights that much of Africa’s innovation successes are based on the widespread adoption of mobile phones.

“These tech giants wouldn’t be looking at Africa if it weren’t for mobile technology,” says Cuvellier.

As of July 2019, the GSMA estimated there were 456-million unique mobile subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa alone, and it remains the fastest growing region globally (4.6% year-on-year). Some 52% of these mobile subscribers (239 million) use mobile internet on a regular basis.

Connectivity is also getting much better:  in 2019, 3G has overtaken 2G to become the leading mobile technology in the region.

“Mobile money – with 396-million registered mobile money accounts – provides access to financial services to many. Last but not least, the demographic bulge will result in large numbers of young consumers becoming adults and owning a mobile phone for the first time. They will account for the majority of new mobile subscribers and, as ‘digital natives’, will significantly influence mobile usage patterns in the future, not to mention they often are a key target of ‘tech giants’.”

The full list, according to Cuvellier, of tech CEO visits:

  • Brian Chesky, Airbnb (2015)
  • Satya Nadella, Microsoft (2015)
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook (2016)
  • Sundar Pichai, Google (2017)
  • Jack Ma, Alibaba Group (2017, 2018*2, 2019)
  • Sergey Brin, Alphabet (2018)
  • Jack Dorsey, Twitter (2019).


Duke Energy SC Green Source Advantage (GSA) program

Author: Duke Energy Corporate   Published: 12/6/2019 sc-greensource@duke-energy.com.

Duke Energy Progress

Green Source Advantage: A proposed sustainability program for large business customers

South Carolina Program Status

In 2018, Duke Energy filed the Green Source Advantage (GSA) program with the Public Service Commission of South Carolina. GSA is specifically designed for South Carolina large business customers who wish to balance their energy consumption with renewable energy to meet their sustainability goals.

This summer, the South Carolina General Assembly passed the SC Energy Freedom Act, also referred to as Act 62, which established comprehensive renewable energy legislation for the state. The act created a pathway for utilities to offer new, voluntary renewable energy programs. The Public Service Commission of South Carolina is currently reviewing Duke Energy’s proposed Green Source Advantage program. Upon approval, the program will become available for customer participation.

More about the Proposed Program and Eligibility Requirements

  • Open to nonresidential customers with at least 1 megawatt (MW) of peak energy demand at a single location or an aggregated annual peak demand at multiple South Carolina service locations of 1 MW.
  • Total reserved program capacity is 150 MW (113 MW in the Duke Energy Carolinas region and 37 MW in the Duke Energy Progress region), available for 18 months following initial program approval.

Program updates will be posted here as they become available.

Stay Informed

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Senate Education Leaders Propose Bipartisan Solution to Simplify FAFSA for 20 Million Families and to Permanently Fund HBCUs and MSIs

Author: U.S._Department of Education    Published: 12/5/2019

US Senate

Legislation provides $255 million annually for HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions, cuts up to 22 questions from the federal student aid application form, and eliminates bureaucratic verification nightmare for most students

WASHINGTON, December 3, 2019 — Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Senators Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) today released a bipartisan amendment to the House-passed FUTURE Act to make permanent $255 million in annual funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions, simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for 20 million American families, and streamline income-driven repayment for nearly 8 million borrowers.

“It’s hard to think of a piece of legislation that would have more of a lasting impact on minority students and their families than this bill,” Senator Alexander said. “First, it provides permanent funding for HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions attended by over 2 million minority students. Second, it takes a big first step in simplifying the FAFSA for 20 million American families, including 8 million minority students, and eliminating the bureaucratic nightmare created by requiring students to give the federal government the same information twice.”

“While this funding should never have lapsed in the first place, I’m glad that we were able to reach a deal that provides minority-serving institutions with the certainty of funding they deserve—and I truly appreciate the work done on both sides of the aisle to get us to this point,” Senator Murray said. “By permanently extending funding for these valuable institutions and streamlining our student aid system, this deal is a win-win. Now, I look forward to continuing to work with my Republican colleagues on efforts to overhaul the Higher Education Act in a comprehensive, bipartisan way that does right by all students.”

“The FUTURE Act will provide much-needed long-term financial stability to our nation’s HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions,” Senator Scott said. “I am proud to support this bipartisan solution, which reauthorizes HBCU and MSI funding without putting taxpayers on the hook, and which takes a vital first step towards streamlining and simplifying the FAFSA form. This bill is a win for students, families, and taxpayers.”

“The permanent renewal of federal funding is a huge win for our nation’s minority-serving institutions, which have faced growing uncertainty and anxiety since their $255 million in annual funding expired in September,”Senator Jones said. “Instead of making tough decisions to cut programs and staff this holiday season, they can now count on permanent funding that will enable them to plan long-term and focus on their educational mission. With our proposal today, we also take an important first step toward simplifying our federal student aid application and helping more students achieve the dream of a college education. I thank my colleagues Senators Alexander and Murray for working to find a bipartisan compromise on two issues that are deeply important to the people we serve.”

“North Carolina is home to more HBCUs than any other state in the nation,” Senator Burr said. “The number one concern for HBCUs is unpredictable funding. This amendment alleviates that problem by providing certainty not just for two years, but for many years to come. I applaud Chairman Alexander for leading the effort to better preserve these historic learning institutions for current and future students.”

“HBCUs have played a critical role in helping to ensure that every American is able to access higher education,” Senator Coons said. “I’m honored to work with colleagues from both parties to permanently fund these incredibly important American institutions.”

Background on the Amendment:

  • Permanently reauthorizes and provides $255 million in annual mandatory funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions
  • Is fully paid for by including the FAFSA Act which passed the Senate unanimously last year and which:
    • Allows Providing Tax Information only Once—Students do not have to give their tax information to the federal government twice
    • Eliminates up to 22 Questions—Students give permission to the Department of Education to request tax return data already given to the Internal Revenue Service, which reduces the 108 questions on the FAFSA by up to 22 questions
    • Eliminates Verification Nightmare—For most students, eliminates so-called “verification” which is a bureaucratic nightmare that 5.5 million students go through annually to make sure the information they gave to the Department of Education is exactly the same as they gave to the IRS
    • Eliminates $6 Billion in Mistakes—According to the Department of Education, helps taxpayers by eliminating up to $6 billion each year in mistakes (both overpayments and underpayments) in Pell grants and student loans
    • Enables 7 million applicants who are currently unable to access their IRS data for their FAFSA to verify that they do not file taxes without requesting separate documentation from the IRS
    • Streamlines student loan repayment by eliminating burdensome annual paperwork for 7.7 million federal student loan borrowers on income-driven plans
  • According to the Congressional Budget Office, the FAFSA Act saves taxpayers $2.8 billion over ten years which will be used to pay for the permanent funding for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.

Marketplace Exchanges Offer Hemp Farmers Harvest-Saving Opportunities

Author: William Summer       Published:  12/4/2019        New Frontier Data


Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and the rise of CBD as a nutritional supplement has led to a boom in hemp cultivation over the past year. According to the U.S. Hemp Market 2019 State Rankings Report, the acreage for licensed hemp cultivation has risen by 328%, from 112,163 acres in 2018 to 480,334 acres in 2019. Though the explosive growth in the hemp industry has been received positively, cultivators have run into a significant issue: Where do they sell the hemp they’ve grown?

Though cultivators can negotiate supply agreements with companies on a one-on-one basis, many have been left in a lurch looking for someplace to offload their excess biomass. Aiming to meet the needs of those cultivators, a multitude of online marketplace exchanges has emerged.

One example is PanXchange. Founded in 2011 by former Cargill commodities trader Julie Lerner, PanXchange was initially conceived to help facilitate trade in the international sugar market.

“I was trying to address what traders needed,” she said. “I built it as a trader, and when you do that you have to ask, ‘what does a broker do that you like and what do they do that they don’t like?’”

As the platform grew, Lerner began to add other commodities to the platform. In the lead up to the 2018 Farm Bill, she recognized hemp’s potential as a commodity, and began adapting the PanXchange platform for hemp before launching it this year.

Servicing 50 members, the PanXchange hemp marketplace styles itself as an institutional trading platform and employs a rigorous vetting process for its members. As part of that process, prospective members must provide their company’s articles of incorporation, two utility bills in the applicant’s name, proof of licensure, and three references.

“We want to know you’re actually a serious player in the market,” Lerner explained. “You can be a small farmer, but you need to show up and perform.”

In addition to the vetting, PanXchange weeds out bad marketplace actors by making the deals made on its platform legally binding. For the companies that overpromise and under-deliver, there is a third-party arbitration process in place to help settle disputes.

“If there is a bid, it is a potentially legally binding contract,” Lerner noted. “There’s no hints, no price fishing, no indications; these are firm market orders.”

Another marketplace that takes a hands-on approach to facilitating honest hemp transactions is Cannamerx. Founded by Diewald Claus, Cannamerx was originally founded as an online cannabis trading marketplace. However, as markets in both the U.S. and Canada began to unfold, Cannamerx added hemp to its platform.

So far, Cannamerx has around 50 members in the U.S., and over a dozen companies in Canada. Valuing honesty and transparency, Claus asserted that Cannamerx does its best to help mediate disputes between buyers and sellers. He cited an incident in which an inexperienced seller provided the buyer with a product that failed to meet its quality standards.

Instead of penalizing the seller, Cannamerx was able to negotiate a settlement, and the buyer purchased the product at a lower price.

“As a general rule, we assume goodwill on both sides,” says Claus, “but if there is evidence of malicious intent, legal or illegal, we remove them from the platform.”

While Claus is generally pleased with the development of Cannamerx, he notes that buying and selling hemp as a commodity is still very much in its infancy, though he hopes that the hemp platform will continue to help cultivators struggling to find a buyer.

“Lots of people want to sell, but there are too few people that want to buy. It’s a buyer’s market.”

Road to 100: How a demolished Kansas town became a model of DOE renewables resilience

Author:  Catherine Morehouse           Published:  12/4/2019           Deep Dive

The destruction wrought by a 2007 tornado gave the federal government an opportunity to build up a fully renewable town in a conservative part of the country.

This is the third of a four part series based on Utility Dive visits to cities that produce more renewable power than they consume. The first installment looks at Rock Port, Missouri, and the second looks at Georgetown, Texas.

GREENSBURG, KANSAS — On May 4, 2007, an almost two-mile wide tornado flattened the town, killing 12 people, decimating 95% of the town’s buildings and leaving the rest severely damaged.​ The mass force of the wipeout and the tragic destruction it left garnered national attention from the news media, Hollywood and the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Energy.

“The Department of Energy’s interest was twofold, I would say,”  former National Renewable Energy Laboratory Senior Project Leader, Lynn Billman, who led the DOE’s recovery efforts in Greensburg, told Utility Dive. “They saw it as an opportunity to demonstrate a fully high efficiency, fully renewable town from the ground up. And since Greensburg had been basically wiped by 90%-plus, they thought this would be an interesting experiment. … They were also interested to see what would happen in a conservative part of the country.”

Falling wind prices in the gusty state made renewable energy attractive from a cost perspective, but DOE’s involvement made the city’s sustainability ambitions even greater.

Rebuilding from the ground up

Greensburg’s tornado was ranked an EF5, meaning wind speeds reached over 200 miles per hour. The town of around 1,400 people dropped to a population of below 800 — where it remains today — in the years after the storm.

“We all lost everything. It didn’t matter your social economic status. We were all homeless,” former Mayor Bob Dixson told Utility Dive. “And so we had the opportunity in that first few weeks to start the process of thinking about rebuilding a town. And there was never a question of whether we were going to do it or not. It was just ‘How are we going to do it?'”

Greensburg, Kansas, from above before the tornado hit. |
Credit: City of Greensburg
The city after the tornado hit. |
Credit: City of Greensburg
Almost every building in the city was reduced to rubble after the storm. |
Credit: FEMA

Meanwhile, the wheels were already turning at the federal level. NREL hit the ground quickly, not wanting to lose their opportunity to demonstrate the value of efficiency and renewables. But people weren’t ready to listen quite yet.

“One of the lessons learned was that if the Department of Energy shows up a week after a natural disaster and says, ‘Hey, we’re here to help you with your energy,’ they are not going to be paid any attention to whatsoever because people are worried about getting emergency electricity, getting fresh water, finding a doctor and so on,” said Billman.

Within six weeks, the town was in conversations with power providers, anxious to get their power sorted out and ready to sign a long-term contract, according to Billman.

“And I said ‘Holy smokes,’ we’re going to lose an opportunity to influence a wind-powered system here if they’re going to commit to taking in the next 20 years worth of electricity,” she said.

But the city was then brought into conversations with developer John Deere Renewables — whose assets are now owned by Exelon — and turbine supplier Suzlon, seeking to site 10 turbines totaling 12.5 MW.

The city entered an agreement with the developers to site the wind. Greensburg consumes around one-fourth to one-third of that power at any given time, so the city is able to claim 100% renewables. The city gets the renewable energy credits and sells the excess power to the Kansas Power Pool, which has a peak load of 20% renewables. Energy costs are down $4,209 annually, according to DOE.

Greensburg’s 10 turbines, at 1.25 MW each. |
Credit: Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive

But the city did not stop at 100% renewable energy. Energy consumption itself is curtailed through “passive” solar installations, which soak up even more of the city’s energy, as well as ultra-efficient building design.

Insulation, ground-based heating and cooling pumps, as well as daylighting strategies to minimize lightbulb use are all easy drivers of efficiency used in the Greensburg case, according to an NREL report on the buildings’ performance. And some rubble from the storm was even reused — 75,000 of Greensburg city hall’s bricks are reclaimed from the rubble of the storm.

Credit: Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
Credit: Kiowa County

Water also became central to the city’s plan, with emphasis on conservation and stormwater management. Native plant species now line sidewalks to mitigate stormwater runoffs and water is reused for irrigation and toilet flushing in some buildings.

“It did really launch stronger interest at Department of Energy in … the resiliency question about electric grids and about communities in view of natural disasters,” Billman said. The lab’s work in Greensburg influenced other natural disaster projects, including efforts in New York after Superstorm Sandy and other communities using a combination of federal and local funds, she said.

“Natural disaster response, natural disaster rebuilding, sustainable communities, all that kind of thing got a big shot in the arm from the successes at Greensburg.”

Selling wind and solar to an oil and gas town

Since and during the city’s rebuilding, Greensburg has gotten a lot of attention. Rebuilding the city became even more complicated when the Discovery Channel used the city to help launch its Planet Green channel through a series on Greensburg created by Leonardo DiCaprio.

The show was bringing in advertisers through product donations, which would prove advantageous for the city. But its Chamber of Commerce was “chomping at the bit to rebuild, rebuild, rebuild,” said Billman. Others in the town whose primary industries are agriculture, oil and gas were put off by the political message, said Dixson.

“People had to get past the thinking of 1968 powder blue, double knit bell bottom pants, with a tie-dyed shirt and hair down to the middle of your back, possibly on mind-altering chemicals, hugging a tree,” he said. “And on the high Plains, that’s what we perceive environmentalism to be because that’s what we saw in the news … For 50 years, nothing was ever talked about, about being good stewards of our environment, and at the same time being financial stewards.”

Ultimately, the financial practicality of a Hollywood partnership along with projected savings from reduced energy consumption and cheap power won over the town’s leadership. Framing the transition as a practical financial decision, rather than a purely carbon footprint-oriented one was huge, said Dixson and Billman.

“We also appealed to the sense, in a farming community, of relationship with the land, respect for resources, not wanting to waste things,” said Billman. The interest in wind was almost emotional, she said, in that there was a sense of strength drawn from the fact that wind would power, not destroy them.

The city has won dozens of awards and been recognized nationally for its sustainable rebuilding. |
Credit: Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive

Since then, the city has won several awards for sustainability and green leadership, and city leaders involved in the rebuild have been asked for advice in cities across the country struggling to rebuild.

“I’ve had people ask me over the years when I’ve been out speaking ‘Wouldn’t it have been awful easy just to pack up the tents and leave?’ And I said, well, there’s two things wrong with that. Number one is it’s our home,” said Dixson. “And the other thing is, people would say, ‘Well, you’re just a small town in the middle of nowhere.’ And I said, ‘Well, you got that wrong too. We are in the middle of everywhere.'”

Exelon promotes Baltimore utility executive to post overseeing Pepco

Author:  Holden Wilen                Published:  12/5/2019           Baltimore Business Journal


Calvin Butler, previously CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., has been named senior executive vice president of parent company Exelon Corp. and permanent CEO of Exelon Utilities

Exelon Corp. has tapped a Baltimore utility executive to oversee its utility operations, including D.C.-based Pepco.

Calvin Butler, who has been CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. since 2014, has been named senior executive vice president of parent company Exelon and permanent CEO of Exelon Utilities. Butler had been serving in the role on an interim basis since Oct. 15.

Carim Khouzami, currently senior vice president and chief operating officer of Exelon Utilities, is succeeding Butler at BGE. Both appointments are effective immediately.

In his new role, Butler will oversee Exelon’s six local electric and gas companies — Pepco, Atlantic City Electric, BGE, ComEd, Delmarva Power and PECO. Butler will remain a resident of Baltimore and work out of Exelon’s D.C. offices, according to the company.

As CEO of BGE, Butler was responsible for implementing the utility’s strategic priorities, including its initiatives related to safety, reliability, customer service, innovation and diversity and inclusion.

Butler has become a prominent face in Baltimore and active community member since joining BGE after it was acquired by Chicago-based Exelon in 2012. He is the vice chairman of the Greater Baltimore Committee and a board member for the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. Butler also serves on the board of governors for the Center Club. He was previously a director for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and a member of the Maryland Zoo’s board.

“Under Calvin’s leadership, BGE has made significant advancements in customer service and electric reliability, resulting in record customer satisfaction and solid financial results,” Exelon CEO Christopher Crane said in a statement. “His strong track record will be invaluable as we further our commitment to provide clean, affordable and reliable energy in the communities we

Khouzami has worked for BGE and Constellation Energy for 14 years. During that time he was chief integration officer for Exelon’s merger with Pepco Holdings Inc. in 2016. Prior, he was BGE’s CFO during its merger with Exelon and before that was executive director of investor relations for Constellation.

He previously held investment banking and financial analyst positions with Bear Stearns and Bank of America.

“Carim’s deep understanding of our business from his previous roles at BGE and across each of Exelon’s utilities is an asset not only to Exelon but to the communities that BGE serves,” Butler said in a statement. “He has led safety, operational, financial and customer-focused initiatives that are contributing to Exelon’s utilities setting new industry standards for exceptional performance. We are excited to continue building on this momentum for our customers, employees, and shareholders.”


Author: Emily Frias     Published: 12/4/2019     Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Be part of Maryland’s next big climate plan!
Join this exciting one-day conference with faith leaders,
labor activists, environmental groups, and more!

DECEMBER 14, 2019

Free entry, suggested donation to cover
lunch, snacks and space $25.
RSVP and more info: bit.ly/rebuild-md

Cosponsored by:

Maryland Climate Coalition, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Maryland League of
Conservation Voters, Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club, Interfaith Power & Light, Maryland
Legislative Coalition, 350 dot org, Howard County Sunrise, HoCo Climate Action, MoCo Students
for Climate, Climate Law & Policy Project, ClimateXChange, Maryland League of Women Voters,
Takoma Park Mobilization Environment Committee, Climate Reality Montgomery County, Elders
Climate Action, DoTheMostGood, Eastern Panhandle Green Coalition, Envision Frederick
County, Young Voices for the Planet, Friends of the Earth US

Rebuild Maryland: Climate Action Summit

Special Report: Special Report: Investing in Lithium Batteries

Author: Keith Kohl                  Published: 12/4/2019               Energy and Capital

Special Report: Special Report: Investing in Lithium Batteries

The only word to describe the lithium battery market today is mixed.

A look at a chart of the most recognizable names in the biz — Panasonic, LG Chem, Johnson Controls, Samsung, etc. — illustrates this perfectly:

Lithium Update SM

(Click Image to Enlarge)

Since the beginning of 2016, stocks in the battery sector have turned in performances ranging from negative 27% to positive 37%, and everywhere in between.

Indeed, the NASDAQ OMX Energy Storage Index (NASDAQ: GRNSTOR) was up 5.8% by February, 2017, leaning more to the up-side of the market than the middle ground.

And the main topic of battery conversation this year was wildly positive, despite the drawbacks from some of the major producers…

Of course the biggest name in the game has been Tesla, with its Japanese partner Panasonic. Together, the two constructed and have brought online the world’s first Gigafactory. The $5 billion factory will manufacture lithium batteries for Tesla’s line of electric vehicles and Powerwall systems.

This has sparked a new round of interest in electric vehicles. Most — if not all — of the world’s major car-makers are planning to roll out one or more EV’s in coming years. Most are due to be on the road by 2020.

Oddly enough, it’s not front-running Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) that’s getting the biggest boon out of this, but its partner, Panasonic. For three years running, the company has been the biggest supplier of EV batteries worldwide, a title it’s not likely to lose any time soon.

But one of the biggest deals in the sector was between LG Chem and General Motors’ Chevrolet, who teamed up to work on the car-marker’s first all-electric vehicle. The Chevy Volt is already one of the most popular choices in hybrid cars, and the upcoming Chevy Bolt may well take the EV spotlight from Tesla.

The Bolt and the Tesla Model 3 are both expected to be out in late 2017, and will have a similar battery capacities and price.

But not matter who wins, there’s no denying the amazing growth of the EV market, and consequently of the lithium battery market.

But these positives are only part of the story…

As is happening with solar, the growth of any industry means some competitors will fail.

Across the cleantech space, international conglomerates are merging and acquiring their way into the space. And as I see it, that means two things…

#1 Commoditization

It’s a long word, but a simple concept.

In the early days of any industry, there are many competitors. And it’s human nature to try to pick who the winner will be. But as the industry matures, products become more and more similar until there are few discernible differences — that is, the product becomes a commodity.

In many cases, it’s not the product’s but the manufacturer’s ability to cut costs and increase profits that determines who the winner will be. And that can sometimes be a matter of who can make the most in the cheapest way possible.

Tesla’s may be the biggest factory around, but many companies produce from megafactories whose capacity is booming with demand:

lithium demand

Inevitably, only the best companies will survive the next wave of acquisitions and mergers.

Computers and televisions are the prime examples of this phenomenon: The product becoming a commodity is why Chinese-owned Lenovo now makes ThinkPads instead of IBM. It’s the same reason LG Chem now owns Zenith, which pioneered remote controls and HDTV.

Now the same thing is happening in batteries. And it’s not in the least because business is bad.

The lithium battery market is expected to grow monumentally. Navigant Research estimates that the automotive battery market will grow from just $7.8 billion in 2015 to $30.6 billion by 2024! Utility scale energy storage will add another $8.44 billion annually.

And that’s not even counting the usual suspects: mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and other rechargeable household devices.

As this happens, the selling price is falling. And that’s what is hurting companies.

Selling prices for lithium ion batteries today range from $250 to below $190 per kilowatt-hour, down from the average of $500-$600/kWh just a few years ago. That’s expected to fall below $100/kWh within the next six years.

Those who can’t stay profitable as prices fall will fail. Take, for example, the story of Seeo.

The startup was founded in 2007, and aimed to improve upon a nano-structured battery design originally developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

But Seeo quickly found out how competitive and costly the lithium battery industry really is. High cash burn and low success rate made it ripe for buying.

Bosch bought the company out in late 2015. And it wasn’t because Seeo’s ideas were bad; in fact, its solid-state battery design was an extremely valuable one.

The startup just couldn’t afford to keep it up alone. And now its research — and its profits — fly under the banner of Robert Bosch LLC.

#2 Resource Scarcity

The M&A action isn’t just going on in the battery production segment: miners of the most important ingredient are in the game as well.

Two of the top holdings in the Global X Lithium (NYSE: LIT) ETF — FMC Corp. (NYSE: FMC) and Sociedad Quimica y Minera De Chile S.A., better known as SQM (NYSE: SQM) — are each up more than 40% on the year.

Lithium by End Use 2017

Currently, about 39% of produced lithium goes to making batteries. With the lithium battery market slated to grow at over 22.8% annually, it will begin to put a strain on lithium supply, and send prices higher.

In fact, prices are already rising. In 2009, lithium carbonate hit $5,000 per tonne; today, it can be sold for over $20,000/tonne.

Companies with high production and high-quality product are winning out here. Lithium mining has quickly become the place to be, with even oil majors buying up-and-coming lithium players.

As the lithium battery market continues to mature — which will include continued consolidation — it seems the smartest way to play it is through the international manufacturers and miners with access to the best resources. Don’t get caught betting on an unproven entrant into this highly competitive market!

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