Author: Stem 4US Staff Published 6/6/2021 Stem4US
Author: Stem 4US Staff Published 6/6/2021 Stem4US
The Department of Energy (DOE) is sponsoring full-time fellowships to work at Public Utility Commissions (PUCs) across the country on cutting edge solar and other distributed energy resource (DER) issues.
This is a 1-year program with the option to extend for a 2nd year.
To be considered, fellowship candidates and a PUC need to submit a joint application to DOE.
We’re identifying potential fellowship candidates to pair with interested PUCs. Current fellows represent a range of academic backgrounds and professional experiences.
Interested candidates should send a resume and cover letter directly to Kat Burnham to begin the application process.
Current fellows represent a range of educational disciplines and professional backgrounds. Candidates with policy and energy experience are encouraged to apply.
Step 2 — Match with PUCs
If an opening aligns with your skillset and geographic preference, we’ll help match you!
Step 3 — PUC Interview
Step 4 — Final Joint Application
PUCs will determine the fellow’s mentor and work plan prior to your shared application submission.
Interested in applying?
Author: Emily Pontecorvo Published: 5/12/2021 Grist
But it turns out renewable energy has not only survived COVID-19 — it’s thrived. A new report by the International Energy Agency, or IEA, found that the world added 280 gigawatts of wind, solar, hydropower, and other renewables to its electrical grids last year. To put that in perspective, that’s about a quarter of the United States’ total utility-scale electricity generating capacity. It’s also a 45 percent increase in new renewable installations from 2019 — the highest year-over-year increase since 1999.
Ultimately, pandemic-induced supply chain slowdowns affected certain countries more than others. India was hit particularly hard, with construction delays and challenges in connecting new projects to the grid leading to a 50 percent decline in new capacity there. Brazil and Ukraine also saw slowdowns. But in the United States, China, and Vietnam, where developers were racing to complete projects in order to meet deadlines for government subsidies, there was unprecedented growth.
China, which has been developing renewable energy faster than the rest of the world for years, was responsible for half of the new installations in 2020. The IEA projects that China will slow down over the next two years but that increased development in other countries — particularly in Europe — will pick up the slack, leading to a similar rate of growth in worldwide renewable capacity for the next two years.
Fears that the recession would shift interest away from investing in renewable energy also turned out to be unfounded. The IEA found that governments awarded nearly 75 gigawatts’ worth of new renewable energy contracts in competitive auctions last year, a 20 percent increase from 2019. Corporate procurement of renewable energy also increased by a record-breaking 25 percent.
Solar power grew more than any other form of renewable energy last year, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the capacity additions. The IEA reports that solar has become the cheapest form of power in many countries and will continue to grow at a faster clip than other technologies.
In the United States, solar is expected to continue to grow for the next two years, but onshore wind development is expected to decline in the near term. That’s because a key tax credit offered to wind developers was originally scheduled to expire in 2020. Congress extended the credit in December, but the IEA does not expect that to drastically change projections for 2021 and 2022.
However, one thing that could speed up progress in the U.S. is if Congress passes policies proposed as part of President Biden’s infrastructure plan. The plan includes a 10-year extension of clean energy tax credits that would give developers more certainty about their net costs. It also proposes a “direct pay” system for these tax credits that would allow renewable energy developers to receive full tax refunds for projects regardless of their tax liability. A similar provision included in then-President Barack Obama’s 2009 Recovery and Reinvestment Act gave wind a big boost in the following years.
The world needs rapid and continuous growth in renewable energy in order to meet international emissions reduction targets and slow climate change. But one should not mistake the upward trend in renewables for emissions reductions. Renewables are meeting new energy demand, but they aren’t necessarily leading to a phase-out of fossil fuels, or at least not everywhere. The IEA expects 270 new gigawatts of renewable energy in 2021, but it also projects a historic rise in global carbon dioxide emissions due to an expected 4.5 percent increase in coal demand.
“This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the Covid crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director in a statement about the emissions project last month.
Author: Daily Kos Staff Published: 6/2/2021 Daily Kos
Author: Landon Stevens and Mark Pischea Published: 6/1/2021 Utility Dive
The following is a contributed article by Landon Stevens, Director of Policy & Advocacy, and Mark Pischea, President & CEO, at the Conservative Energy Network.
In 2020, Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested and subsequently resigned his speakership after an FBI investigation found that the influential lawmaker accepted $61 million dollars from electric utility FirstEnergy in exchange for passage of a nuclear bailout bill. The legislation sought to subsidize two of the company’s failing nuclear plants by charging Ohioans a monthly fee.
Another recent scandal in Illinois saw Michael Madigan, the longest serving state Speaker of the House in U.S. history, lose his position when the state’s largest utility, ComEd, confessed to giving jobs and contracts to Madigan associates for nearly a decade in an effort to sway legislation at the state capitol.
Sadly, stories like these are nothing new — and they aren’t surprising. We’ve long known that unregulated monopolies necessarily lead to higher costs, less efficiency and limited innovation. The very nature of our monopoly electric utility model leads to companies who are beholden to their shareholders — not their customers. To compound this issue, bad actors among monopoly companies expend unlimited time, money and resources on achieving regulatory capture. Regulatory capture occurs when the lawmakers and officials who are supposed to protect public interests and regulate these monopolies instead begin working to benefit those very same companies.
Ever since Edison fired up the first commercial power plant on Pearl Street in NYC in 1882, many have believed that building, operating and maintaining the electric grid and delivering power to families and businesses should be a vertically integrated industry under monopoly control. For over a century that sentiment was arguably true. After all, who needs dozens of companies running redundant power lines and infrastructure across the country from house to house in every town and city.
The historic cost associated with these investments and the local impacts warranted assigning this job to a single regulated actor. However, advances in technology today have led to a reimagining of the traditional utility industry and have made it possible for alternative models centered around competition and free markets to emerge — and most importantly, find success.
This threat of competition is understandably scary to many utilities who, for too long, have enjoyed their position as the only show in town. In many ways, they have never had to worry about innovation, efficiency, competition, customer service, etc. The thought of moving to a market structure where they must compete to earn and keep business has driven them to fight back and fight back hard.
Stories like those in Illinois and Ohio are just the most recent public examples of utility corruption. Sadly, there is a widespread and long-standing pattern of manipulation, influence and illegal activity among utilities.
For instance, a 2018 investigation into Entergy found that the company funneled money through the utility’s subcontractors to pay actors to show up at New Orleans City Council meetings as the lawmakers debated allowing Entergy to build a controversial natural gas power plant (which was ultimately given the green light). The actors were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements with one participant saying, “It was very shady, very secretive, especially when we got paid. They literally paid us under the table.” Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who voted against the plant, labeled the utility tactics “morally reprehensible,” adding that, “I think it had a phenomenal impact on public opinion.”
In 2009, in South Carolina, the Public Service Commission approved the development of a new nuclear plant by utilities SCANA and Santee Cooper. The project was to break ground in 2012 with fuel loaded in 2015 and the first reactor online in 2016. The project was estimated to cost $9.8 billion. Instead, a former SCANA executive pled guilty to committing fraud with U.S. attorney Peter M. McCoy explaining, “As noted in the record, the Defendant conspired with others to lie about the progress of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station so SCANA could wrongly increase rates on hard-working South Carolinians and qualify for up to $1.4 billion in tax credits.” According to the Department of Justice, “…false and misleading statements, among others made by his co-conspirators, allowed SCANA to obtain rate increases imposed on SCANA’s rate-paying customers and used to finance the project.”
Pick a year, and you will find some scandal among monopoly utilities. The corruption shows no sign of slowing down. Instead, the breadth, depth and cost of such scandals only seems to multiply.
So how can these trends of utility malpractice be handled? Acknowledging the historical bad behavior of utilities, we at the Conservative Energy Network have created utilityplaybook.com, a website aimed at educating policymakers, regulators and the general public of the long history of corruption, manipulation and — in many cases — criminal behavior of monopoly electric utilities across the country.
Resources like these are needed to help those in states whose electric markets are dominated by one or two powerful monopoly companies better understand how these utilities have operated in the past, and why this model hurts the average consumer. We hope that greater acknowledgement will drive louder calls for reform.
In these regulated monopoly territories innovative changes to regulatory structures are needed that match today’s shifting energy landscape. The monopoly model of old is no longer sustainable.
In the short term, legislators and regulators need to be insulated from undue influence from utilities by limiting political spending and instituting strict anti-revolving door policies. Complex rate case proceedings need greater oversight from third-party experts and the development of innovative tools to promote transparency, protect ratepayers and incentivize desired performance by companies.
Ideally, however, the entire utility model should be reimagined and reformed to leverage the power of competition, market-based principles and customer choice. Until customers are free to choose how, when and who serves them as well as under which terms, the headlines of corrupt utilities fighting the interests of those they serve to pad the pockets of their shareholders will continue without an end in sight.