Posts Tagged ‘Renewable Energy’

Va. leaders urge Gov. McAuliffe to reject Dominion’s climate-polluting plan

Thursday, January 28th, 2016 - posted by brian
This week, a wide array of Virginia leaders released a letter asking Gov. McAuliffe to reject efforts by Dominion Power that would increase carbon pollution in the Commonwealth. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

This week, a wide array of Virginia leaders released a letter asking Gov. McAuliffe to reject efforts by Dominion Power that would increase carbon pollution in the Commonwealth. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Here’s the latest news from Appalachian Voices’ Press Room:

Earlier this week, a wide array of Virginia civic, health, faith, and environmental leaders released a letter asking Governor Terry McAuliffe to reject all efforts by Dominion Virginia Power to push for implementation of historic federal clean power rules in a way that would increase carbon pollution in the Commonwealth.

Leaders representing 50 organizations, including Appalachian Voices, reminded McAuliffe that only he, as governor, is authorized to make the final decision on how to implement the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan” in Virginia. It is therefore his explicit responsibility to reduce carbon emissions while strengthening Virginia’s economy and helping improve public health. Anything less will support more pollution, which is “fundamentally contrary” to existing U.S. policy and the interests of Virginia residents, the groups write.

Tell Governor McAuliffe: Create a Bold Clean Power Plan for Virginia

“I cannot remember such a diverse range of groups weighing in on a pollution issue in Virginia before,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of the group New Virginia Majority. “This letter calls for action on what we hope will be the governor’s greatest legacy. The governor can adopt a plan that will strengthen our economy while protecting people’s health now and for generations to come.”

The letter states that Virginia should reduce its total carbon pollution from power plants at least 30 percent by 2030, by applying the same standards to both existing and new power plants, and increasing our use of energy efficiency and renewable energy.

But Virginia utilities, led by Dominion CEO Tom Farrell, want a plan that would apply the federal rule only to old, existing power plants – not new fossil fuel power plants. This would allow Dominion to increase carbon pollution for decades more.

Read our full press release here.

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North Carolina’s reckless approach to the Clean Power Plan: Part 1

Monday, January 11th, 2016 - posted by rory

Editors’ Note: This is the first of three posts in a series that we’ll share this week about North Carolina and the Clean Power Plan. Friday is the final day for North Carolinians to demand the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality abandon its efforts to block the Clean Power Plan. Add your voice here | Read part 2.

Concept graphic from iStock images by Appalachian Voices staff

Concept graphic from iStock images by Appalachian Voices staff.

North Carolina’s elected leaders and agency officials, with little say from the citizens they represent, have placed us on a reckless course in regard to our future energy mix and our ability as a state to determine that future.

But together we can change that.

Appalachian Voices, as part of a wide network of organizations and citizens from across the state, is working hard to convince North Carolina’s decision makers to change course and chart a path that meets or exceeds the federal government’s requirements for our state under the Clean Power Plan.

Back in October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published the final rule for the Clean Power Plan — a new regulation that requires states to achieve specific targets for reducing carbon emissions from electric generating power plants by 2030. States may choose either to improve the average emissions per-unit of electricity generated, a “rate-based” approach, or to develop a plan for reducing overall emissions, a “mass-based” approach.

demand_clean_power_action

The Clean Power Plan provides states with flexibility in determining how they will achieve their specific targets, and even incentivizes the early development of programs that will result in renewable energy generation or energy efficiency gains for low-income communities. For North Carolina, the rate-based approach would require a 32 percent improvement in emissions rate by 2030 for an overall 12.5 percent reduction in annual carbon emissions.

While many states are legally challenging the EPA’s authority to enact the Clean Power Plan, most of those states are still moving ahead and developing plans that meet EPA’s requirements. North Carolina, on the other hand, has wasted taxpayer dollars by developing a plan that the government admits is designed to fail.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s “plan to fail” focuses only on four coal-fired power plants while requiring nothing of the state’s natural gas plants. The “plan to fail” also fails to even mention renewable energy or energy efficiency. Despite the EPA’s requirements, the “plan” was developed without any stakeholder input; the state only involved stakeholders during a series of three public hearings that came after the plan had already been developed.

DEQ Secretary Donald van der Vaart falsely justifies the agency’s plan by stating that the EPA does not have the legal authority to require anything other than what the state plan addresses, which is emissions reductions for coal-fired power plants. This is problematic because if the state ends up being wrong, as numerous legal analyses show it is, then the EPA will impose its federal plan on North Carolina.

Given the current attitude of our state’s leaders toward clean energy and environmental protection, this may prove to be a blessing. It would be a far more preferable approach, however, if state officials were to develop a plan that reflects the desires of North Carolinians, and that builds upon the substantial growth in the clean energy economy that the state has experienced over the past seven years.

For now, the state’s “plan” achieves less than 3 percent of the total reduction in annual carbon emissions required by EPA and does nothing to advance the state’s clean energy economy. It also leaves the citizens and businesses of our great state vulnerable to the inevitable increase in energy costs resulting from a continued reliance on fossil fuels and a federally imposed compliance plan.

North Carolina can do better. It should do better. And millions of North Carolina residents need their leaders to lead and chart a path toward a clean energy future, instead of setting us on a crash course that will have severe economic and environmental consequences.

A state compliance plan that focuses more on renewable energy and energy efficiency can create tens of thousands of jobs and help alleviate poverty while improving air and water quality for us all. Failing short of that will halt seven years of progress in clean energy development, leave us vulnerable to future contamination of our air and waterways from fossil fuel generation and coal ash disposal, and likely result in higher energy bills that negatively affect everyone — especially those already struggling to afford their energy bills.

Appalachian Voices is calling on North Carolinians to let the DEQ know that we won’t stand for its recklessness. Take a moment to comment on the state’s “plan to fail” and let the administration know that we need a clean energy future. The deadline to comment is this Friday, Jan. 15.

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NC DEQ’s blatant bid for control

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015 - posted by Ridge Graham

State agency clashes with the EPA and Coal Ash Management Commission

Donald van der Vaart, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality

Donald van der Vaart, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality

Over the past few months, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has seemed determined to have complete environmental regulatory control of the state, showing little regard for federal or public input.

In this endeavor, DEQ has taken every chance it can to highlight how external forces, including citizens groups and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are simply getting in its way. Upholding the best interests of North Carolina’s citizens and the environment only becomes a priority when the agency is threatened with losing power.

Rejecting the Clean Power Plan

DEQ joined a lawsuit with more than two dozen of the nation’s largest carbon-emitting states against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. In October, DEQ submitted a proposal that would only address coal-based emissions because it believes the first component of the Clean Power Plan — improving coal fired power plant efficiency — is the only aspect the EPA has the legal authority to regulate under the Clean Air Act.

TAKE ACTION: Demand a REAL Clean Power Plan for North Carolina.

But if the Clean Power Plan survives in court, and the EPA rejects North Carolina’s plan, federal regulators can intervene in North Carolina’s emission reductions process. So, in case their strategy fails, state officials plan to submit an alternate plan that aligns with the EPA’s proposal.

EPA threatens to take away DEQ’s permitting authority

This year, DEQ permitted a cement plant in Wilmington that would emit more than 5,000 tons of particulates, mercury and other air pollution annually. The agency also OKed a quarry in Blounts Creek that would discharge up to 12 million gallons of waste a day into the Pamlico River. Residents of these areas, along with coastal environmental advocacy and conservation groups, challenged these permits. The state dismissed those challenges on the grounds that the groups did not have standing.

The EPA sent a letter to DEQ Secretary Donald van der Vaart stating that the inability of citizens to appeal permits was troubling. The letter warned that if DEQ continued to skirt federal regulations, the EPA would revoke its authority to issue pollution permits under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

DEQ responded by shifting the blame to a court decision and presented a list of regulations required by the EPA but not by state law — insinuating that the public process for challenging permits is less burdensome on the state level. State officials said they have no intention of losing permitting authority.

DEQ takes on the Coal Ash Management Commission’s responsibilities

UPDATE: A draft summary by DEQ classified 27 of Duke Energy’s 32 coal ash ponds in North Carolina as posing a “high” or “immediate” risk. If the ratings stand when they are finalized on Dec. 31, Duke would have to excavate the coal ash from those sites.

In another isolationist move, DEQ wants to move forward on the priority classification of coal ash containment sites without the Coal Ash Management Commission. But the commission was created by the Coal Ash Management Act to be housed under the N.C. Department of Public Safety because the General Assembly determined that DEQ was ineffectual and untrustworthy in regulating coal ash.

These site classifications will determine timelines for the cleanup of coal ash at each site, with up to a decade of difference in cleanup response. Sites deemed low priority could be closed using “cap-in-place,” a method that would leave nearby waterways and communities at risk. The commission has 60 days to review the classifications before they go into effect.

However, the state Supreme Court has not yet ruled on Governor Pat McCrory’s lawsuit challenging appointments to the commission, so the group is unable to reach a quorum. When Commission Chairman Michael Jacobs wrote a letter to McCrory and legislative leaders to point this out, van der Vaart responded to say DEQ has it under control.

“Fortunately, legislators had the foresight to include provisions in the coal ash law that prevent delays to the cleanup process including a provision that ensures the prioritization and public participation processes can proceed in the absence of the Coal Ash Management Commission,” van der Vaart wrote.

He did not mention why the commission was not housed under DEQ in the first place.

DEQ blames EPA for delay in coal ash cleanup

DEQ is currently making a public fuss about the EPA taking time to review a state-issued permit to dewater the coal ash pond at Duke Energy’s Riverbend Steam Station in Mount Holly, N.C. DEQ claims that this is the fifth permitting delay this year from the EPA, and that North Carolina is receiving different treatment than other states with regard to its coal ash cleanup projects.

Duke Energy's retired Riverbend Steam Station, Photo from Flickr.

Duke Energy’s retired Riverbend Steam Station, Photo by Duke Energy, licensed under Creative Commons.

Duke’s plants are permitted a discharge rate of coal ash pond water as part of a multi-step treatment process. The nearby bodies of water, many of which supply drinking water to nearby cities and towns, are monitored to determine how much impact the discharge has on the surrounding environment and watershed. DEQ is rushing to dump the entirety of the coal ash pond water into Mountain Island Lake, which is already polluted from the coal ash ponds at the Riverbend plant.

Water samples taken from Mountain Island Lake in 2013 indicated there were levels of constituents in the surface water that exceeded public health standards. Tissues samples taken from fish caught in the lake were found to have high levels of heavy metals, which led to a state-issued fish consumption advisory. Mountain Island Lake is the drinking water source more than 750,000 people.

With these considerations, is it not reasonable to take more than 15 days to analyze such a permit? Or does DEQ just want to have its way regardless of what happens to the people downstream.

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Organizing Around the Clean Power Plan

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015 - posted by interns

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized the first limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants earlier this year. Known as the Clean Power Plan, the rules give states a wide degree of flexibility to determine how to reduce their carbon emissions.

Our teams are hard at work in the Appalachian states to ensure that energy efficiency and renewable energy are priorities and our dependence on fossil fuels is replaced with sustainable energy choices.

In North Carolina, the Clean Power Plan has met resistance from government environmental officials. Our team’s focus is on generating citizen input at the state’s December public hearings to demand a true clean energy plan. In preparation for the hearings, we are drafting public and technical comments and partnering with environmental justice groups, faith organizations and health groups.

In Tennessee, we are launching an on-the-ground campaign to educate Volunteer State residents about the plan and encourage state officials to include clean energy in their power mix.

And in Virginia, we are calling for a state plan that will meet and exceed the 38% pollution reduction target, supporting a citizen movement to press decision-makers to address carbon pollution in a significant, long-term way through emissions trading with other states.

Learn more about our work regarding carbon pollution and climate change.

Sizing up APCo’s plan, through customers’ eyes

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 - posted by hannah
Customers of Appalachian Power Company gather in Roanoke to learn about the company's resource plan and the benefits of expanding clean energy's role going forward.

Customers of Appalachian Power Company gather in Roanoke to learn about the company’s resource plan and the benefits of expanding clean energy’s role going forward.

Dozens of energy customers gathered in Roanoke on Tuesday evening for one reason: the electricity system in this country is undergoing some exciting changes, yet utilities’ choices can still hold Virginia back from rapid progress toward a diverse energy mix.

Residents are showing they want to learn more and get involved in these critical decisions.

Utilities in Virginia must submit plans, called Integrated Resource Plans, discussing their intended approaches to meeting customer demand. State regulators require these plans at intervals, providing a window for customers to engage with their electricity provider. The State Corporation Commission is currently considering Appalachian Power Company’s latest plan, which is set to be heard in an official proceeding before a regulatory panel on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

This newest plan is notable in many ways. The company acknowledges that market changes have made renewable energy economically advantageous. Meanwhile, federal standards on carbon pollution are in a final form, another factor that can drive change. But here are a few points that illustrate how APCo’s plan stands to impede Virginia from harnessing its full renewable energy potential at the scale that would most benefit for customers and the economy.

The Effect of the Clean Power Plan

The CEO of APCo parent company American Electric Power, Nick Akins, recently stated that “The Clean Power Plan is no doubt a catalyst for the investments … to support not only the movement of the customers but also reducing the environmental footprint.”

Though rather non-specific, this comment is encouraging and reflects a recognition of the beneficial nature of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s actions.

The flexibility, even leniency, that characterizes the Clean Power Power offers protection against legal challenges but is also a potential shortcoming when it comes to achieving long-term pollution reductions while states go about complying with the standard. Sophisticated computer modeling can help utilities determine cost-effective ways of meeting targets. At this point, APCo has only modeled the consequences of a carbon tax. The review process for its current resource plan is an opportunity for regulators to ask the company to show different possible approaches for reducing carbon emissions enough to meet new standards. If they do, it could present ways to meet the standards that will economically benefit customers, like greater reliance on bill-shrinking energy efficiency programs to meet demand.

Capping the Amount of Solar APCo Develops

The headlines over the summer when APCo released its resource plan were striking: “Appalachian turns toward sun and wind for future energy.” It sounded like a major shift was taking place. And there was a perceptible change in tone in the plan itself: “In the recent past, development of [renewable] resources has been driven primarily as the result of renewable portfolio requirements. That is not universally true now as advancements in both solar [photovoltaic] and wind turbine manufacturing have reduced both installed and ongoing costs.”

But how big a shift is APCo really proposing, how fast would it happen? After several weeks of analysis, we can say this much: the shift could be bigger, but APCo is imposing some strict, arbitrary limits on the solar projects and energy efficiency programs it’s pursuing.

Coal is decreasing in APCo’s resource mix, as one plant goes out of service and other is converted to natural gas, which seems as though it would make room for increased use of a popular, proven technologies like solar. But APCo’s preferred plan includes 835 megawatts of new natural gas-fired power, which detracts from renewable energy investments. A new gas-fired power plant would lock us into decades of dependence on a fossil fuel with potentially more volatile price swings and an environmentally degrading life-cycle that includes fracking and transmission by pipeline.

Why does APCo propose to stop at 510 MW of solar between now and 2029, when the fuel source is free and the resource is cost-effective? It appears these limits are without reason or rhyme, so regulators will likely ask APCo to explain where its numbers come from and demonstrate why is preferred plan is the best deal for customers.

An Energy Efficiency Economy under APCo’s Plan?

Energy efficiency programs seek to capture energy that otherwise gets wasted, capitalizing on home auditing technology and expertise, modern appliance and HVAC design, and other strategies to make sure customers enjoy the same amount of comfort and convenience while using less energy. Utilities including Duke Energy and Georgia Power are reducing demand through from efficiency programs, in the neighborhood of 1 percent energy saved every year,, avoiding the need for some costlier new peak or baseline generation additions — like natural gas fired plants. The question is: does APCo approach energy efficiency in a way that values these benefits as lasting and quantifiable?

APCo’s plan only expects a 1 percent improvement in energy efficiency over the next 15 years. As with the company’s solar modeling, it’s our sense that APCo is artificially limiting efficiency as a resource in its plans. The company also cites customer “acceptance and saturation” as a factor that stands to determine program cost and potentially the total impact on energy use. We know from listening to customers that people are eager to better control their energy use, and efficiency programs are a popular, basic service. When several new programs become available Jan. 1, 2016, we look forward to seeing them promoted and Appalachian Voices will do its part to get the word out about how residents can shrink their bills.

APCo does provide much-needed weatherization programs for its low-income customers that are managed by providers in the service area, which can provide work in good, often career-length jobs. But program offerings that are not income-qualified remain limited, and in order to reach Virginia’s voluntary goal of 10 percent energy efficiency by 2020, a non-binding target endorsed by General Assembly and Governor McAuliffe, APCo must design and get approval for much more robust programs.

Meanwhile, more and more APCo customers are opting to go solar each year, investing in their energy future and using less energy from the grid. Yet, that trend is also not encouraged in APCo’s plan — rather, the company tacitly subscribes to the existing system of fees, system size limitations, permit waiting periods, and other restrictions.

Plans Are Not “Set in Stone” — Stay Committed to Change

Clean energy investments proposed in APCo’s plan such as solar farms and wind installations aren’t exactly set in stone; they are contingent on approval by the State Corporation Commission, which may depend on whether current federal tax incentives are extended, reduced, or allowed to expire. According to APCo’s plan,decisions about whether or not to proceed will be made later, based on whether there are “suitable opportunities.”

It is critical that APCo customers remain engaged to support energy freedom and diversifying Virginia’s energy mix with renewables during the review of APCo’s energy plan and beyond. So take a moment to send a comment now.

Want to help spread the word? How about taking a picture of yourself holding a handwritten message or captioned with text about APCo’s plan? Try something like:

  • APCo: Don’t CAP Solar in your plan — Re-evaluate clean energy
  • Stop whittling our energy freedom away — Let people go solar
  • ​I urge APCo to expand efficiency programs for affordable bills

Tag us on social media or email your photo to hannah@appvoices.org, and thanks for supporting clean energy!

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Considering Clean Power Compliance

Friday, October 16th, 2015 - posted by brian

States Respond to the Clean Power Plan

By Brian Sewell

States reactions to the Clean Power Plan. Map by Haley Rogers

States reactions to the Clean Power Plan. Click to enlarge. Map by Haley Rogers

Almost everyone agrees: the Clean Power Plan is a game changer. In form and function, the recently finalized regulations take an innovative approach to incentivize states to reduce carbon dioxide pollution and invest in cleaner energy.

Beyond that, arguments about the Clean Power Plan are often deeply colored by politics and disconnected from the plan’s intention or expected outcomes.

Developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the plan is the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s efforts to combat climate change and cut power plant carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to it.

The plan sets custom pollution-reduction targets for states based on their existing energy mixes and emissions. It also encourages states to come up with their own approach to reach those targets. By 2030, the EPA hopes to see nationwide emissions drop 32 percent below what they were in 2005.

From President Obama’s perspective, “It’s not radical.” After all, dozens of states had already either established market-based programs to cut carbon emissions or set renewable energy goals prior to the rule’s release.

“Washington is starting to catch up with the vision of the rest of the country,” President Obama told a White House crowd the day of the Clean Power Plan’s release. “And by setting these standards, we can actually speed up our transition to a cleaner, safer future.”

"How Each State Generates Electric Power (2004-2014)," graphics by Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Avie Schneider/NPR

How Each State Generates Electric Power (2004-2014),” graphics by Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Avie Schneider/NPR

But in many central Appalachian states, policymakers remain adamant in their opposition. Claims of skyrocketing energy costs and economic ruin that began long before details of the final plan became clear are still frequent talking points.

“The battle continues,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wrote in a September newsletter. “I’ve fought this administration and its EPA every step of the way in the President’s war on coal, and I don’t intend to stop now.”

It’s no surprise that the technical details of the plan, namely its achievability and the compliance options available to states, have not gotten as much coverage as the political reactions. But between those highly oppositional stances is the spectrum of actions already being taken by states to either challenge the EPA or find ways to realize the Clean Power Plan’s potential.

Where Appalachian States Stand

How Each State Generates Electric Power (2004-2014)," graphics by Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Avie Schneider/NPR

How Each State Generates Electric Power (2004-2014),” graphics by Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Avie Schneider/NPR


KENTUCKY

The final Clean Power Plan came at the height of summer and, in the Bluegrass State, a heated gubernatorial race. Candidates for both parties strongly oppose the plan and have pledged to ignore it if elected. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, who is also the Democratic nominee for governor, sued the EPA in an attempt to prevent the agency from finalizing the plan and, more recently, joined an effort to prevent the final rules from taking effect. The commonwealth’s current governor, Steve Beshear (D), hardened his opposition after reviewing the final rule, which increased the emissions Kentucky is required to cut. Still, analysts say that even without the Clean Power Plan, Kentucky is on track to meet its emissions target a decade early because of coal plants already scheduled to retire.

"How Each State Generates Electric Power (2004-2014)," graphics by Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Avie Schneider/NPR

“How Each State Generates Electric Power (2004-2014),” graphics by Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Avie Schneider/NPR


NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has been outspoken in his opposition to the Clean Power Plan and has vowed to fight it in court. But Donald van der Vaart, the secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, has led the state’s charge. In an op-ed for the News & Observer, van der Vaart characterized the plan as a “one-size-fits-all” program and criticized state Attorney General Roy Cooper for encouraging lawmakers to develop a compliance plan. The state legislature, which is dominated by Republicans, seems somewhat divided on the best path forward. In April, the N.C. House of Representatives approved a bill to establish a stakeholder group and direct DENR to begin preparing a plan to comply. A few months later, a Senate committee voted to bar the state from writing a plan.

How Each State Generates Electric Power (2004-2014)," graphics by Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Avie Schneider/NPR

How Each State Generates Electric Power (2004-2014),” graphics by Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Avie Schneider/NPR


TENNESSEE

Unlike his counterparts in surrounding states, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) has said little about the substance of the Clean Power Plan or discussed the state’s approach to compliance, even after 20 state legislators sent a letter to the governor urging him to defy the EPA. This silence may be due to how the final Clean Power Plan treats nuclear power plants currently under construction. Under the final plan, soon-to-be completed nuclear facilities like the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2 can play a larger role in compliance. Other factors that have positioned TVA to meet Tennessee’s emissions goal include the utility’s recent long-term planning process and a historic Clean Air Act settlement in 2011 that forced a spate of coal plant retirements that continues today. As a result of that agreement with the EPA, a TVA spokesperson said the Clean Power Plan “won’t have much impact at all,” on the utility’s plans for its coal and gas fleet.

"How Each State Generates Electric Power (2004-2014)," graphics by Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Avie Schneider/NPR

“How Each State Generates Electric Power (2004-2014),” graphics by Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Avie Schneider/NPR

VIRGINIA

UPDATE: Shortly after this story went to press, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe published an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch adamantly supporting the Clean Power Plan for creating “a pathway for clean energy initiatives that will grow jobs and help diversify Virginia’s economy.”

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) welcomed the Clean Power Plan and said he looks forward to “creating the next generation of clean energy jobs” in Virginia. Even Dominion Virginia Power, the state’s biggest power generator, commended the EPA for easing Virginia’s emissions targets and pledged to work with state agencies toward a compliance plan. But some Virginia policymakers remain skeptical. In an August op-ed for The Virginian-Pilot, state delegates Israel O’Quinn and Scott Taylor promoted legislation that would require the General Assembly’s oversight and approval of Virginia’s compliance plan because Gov. McAuliffe is “working to develop a plan without input from hard-working Virginians.” To the contrary, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality began a series of listening sessions across the state in September to gather general input from the public, placing a special emphasis on low-income communities and areas most vulnerable to climate change.

"How Each State Generates Electric Power (2004-2014)," graphics by Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Avie Schneider/NPR

“How Each State Generates Electric Power (2004-2014),” graphics by Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Avie Schneider/NPR


WEST VIRGINIA

Days after the final plan’s release, West Virginia and 15 other states asked a federal court to block the rule until all legal battles are resolved and ensure “no more taxpayer money or resources are wastefully spent in an attempt to comply with this unlawful rule.” But the secretary of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Randy Huffman, is wary about refusing to develop a compliance plan. “You won’t have a seat at the table if you just say no,” Huffman told West Virginia Public Broadcasting in August. A new state law requires the DEP to complete a “comprehensive analysis” of the Clean Power Plan’s impact on West Virginia by early 2016.

Other Regional Players

GEORGIA

Officials say that new nuclear facilities and state policies driving solar growth will make reaching Georgia’s emissions targets relatively easy. Despite sharply criticizing the draft rule, Public Service Commission Chairman Chuck Eaton says his state is moving forward to craft a compliance plan and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division will hold a public hearing to review the final rule in October.

PENNSYLVANIA

Pennsylvania has taken a proactive approach to the Clean Power Plan and the state Department of Environmental Protection is pushing to submit a compliance plan by next September. The state’s Republican-controlled legislature will also have a say. A law signed before Gov. Tom Wolf (D) took office gives lawmakers the ability to review and revise any proposal the state submits to the EPA.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Similar to stakeholders in Tennessee, South Carolina officials were pleased that under-construction nuclear capacity can now count toward compliance. But that concession was not enough for the Attorney General Alan Wilson, who believes the Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is convening utilities, regulators and the public to develop a plan.

“How Each State Generates Electric Power” Notes:
• “Renewables” includes biomass, geothermal, solar and wind
• Energy categories where both the 2004 and 2014 values were 1 percent or lower have been omitted for clarity.
• Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
• Credit: Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Avie Schneider/NPR

MARYLAND

As a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a northeastern carbon-trading market, Maryland is well-positioned to meet its Clean Power Plan goal. The state is also committed under a 2009 law to reducing greenhouse gas pollution by 25 percent by 2020 — two years before the interim deadline set by the Clean Power Plan.

A Solution Revolution

Thursday, October 15th, 2015 - posted by interns

Renewable Energy and the Energy-Efficient Electric Vehicle

By Jeff Deal

This map shows public (green) and high-power (tan) charging stations in the area.  Image from plugshare.com

This map shows public (green) and high-power (tan) charging stations in the area. Image from plugshare.com

While the electricity grid that powers much of the 21st century continues to benefit from the adoption of renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal, vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel have lagged behind. But here’s some good news: the coming partnership of renewable energy — especially solar — and tailpipe-free electric vehicles can change that for the better! Here’s how:

GREATER ENERGY EFFICIENCY:

Electric vehicles use between 59 and 62 percent of the fuel they expend “at the wheel,” or to power the movement of the automobile. Today’s gasoline vehicles only use 17 percent to 21 percent of the fuel they consume “at the wheel,” making electric cars 290 percent more efficient than their gasoline-powered cousins.

AFFORDABLE TRANSPORTATION:

The U.S. Department of Energy currently states that fueling electric vehicles costs the equivalent of $1.22 per gallon of gasoline versus $2.78 for the average American gasoline-powered car. The equivalent “per gallon of gasoline” price to fuel an electric vehicle can drop to $0.61 for families charging their electric vehicles with solar electricity generated by panels on their home that were purchased with state and federal tax credits. The fuel price can plunge even lower for businesses that additionally depreciate or ”write-off” these panels.

EVERY HOME & OFFICE A CLEAN FUEL REFINERY:

It is difficult, or perhaps impossible, for citizens and businesses to construct and operate their own gasoline or diesel fuel production facility — not to mention acquiring the unrefined petroleum or vegetable oil to produce the fuel. For electric vehicle owners that own or have access to solar panels at their homes or workplace, creating automobile fuel is as easy as plugging in a lamp, hair dryer or smartphone.

TRANSPORTATION FUEL “MADE CLEAN IN THE USA”:

The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that the United States will import 21 percent or more of its oil in 2015 — the country imported 27 percent of its oil in 2014. Not only do U.S. dollars leave local economies to buy this oil, domestically produced fuel demands a price both at the pump and in terms of human health and air, water and environmental degradation as a result of drilling, transport, refinement and waste products. Renewably powered electric vehicles don’t require these additional fuel costs — and national renewable energy sources don’t decrease with usage.

Driving on Sunshine

Thursday, October 15th, 2015 - posted by interns

Appalachia’s Solar Electric Vehicle Charging Company

Brightfield charging station in Asheville, N.C.

Brightfield charging station in Asheville, N.C.


Brightfield Transportation Solutions, an Asheville, N.C.-based company, has harnessed the world’s largest and longest transportation fuel pipeline. This nearly 93-million-mile wireless pipeline wasn’t constructed by a large corporation, isn’t causing a political fist fight, never leaks toxic substances and powers every living thing in Appalachia. Now thanks to Brightfield TS — with a lot of help from nature — the sun can power your electric automobile too.

Through its partnerships with automakers, electric vehicle support equipment manufacturers and policy groups, Brightfield TS is deploying solar electric vehicle charging stations across the Southeast, including North Carolina destinations such as Boone, Waynesville and Salisbury. Brightfield TS is now expanding its network of sun-powered fueling stations into Tennessee. To explore the benefits of driving electric vehicles on 200-proof Appalachian sunshine, visit BrightfieldTS.com/Solar-Driven-Calculator
— By Jeff Deal

Light Speed

Racing on the Sun

The Apperion solar-powered race car, photo courtesy of Appalachian State University.

The Apperion solar-powered race car, photo courtesy of Appalachian State University.


Students and faculty on the Solar Vehicle Team at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., have finished their construction of “Apperion,” a solar-powered racing vehicle.

The team has set their sights on the Formula Sun Grand Prix in July 2016. The race is a qualifying competition for the American Solar Challenge, a 1,200 to 1,800-mile race across North America. In October 2017 the team hopes to go to the World Solar Challenge in Australia to compete in the “cruiser class” race alongside cars designed for speeds up to 90 miles per hour.

The team is led by two faculty advisers working with 18 university undergraduate students from a diverse collection of disciplines. While winning races may be a goal for the solar vehicle team, their ultimate aspiration is to inspire people to live more sustainably and raise awareness of the impacts that individuals can make.
Learn more at appstatesvt.com
— By W. Spencer King

Electric Batteries in Motion

Reducing one’s carbon footprint is no easy feat, but the collective movement toward less environmentally harmful modes of transportation is growing, and growing with it is interest in creating more efficient electric car batteries.

The Kentucky-Argonne battery manufacturing center in Lexington, Ky., received a $120,000 grant from Ford in February 2014 for research and development on improved electric vehicle battery technology such as shorter production times, increased range and performance quality.

Researchers at North Carolina State University are developing technology to better estimate the amount of battery power a trip will use by analyzing the planned route a driver will take using GPS, and factoring in weather conditions and traffic patterns.

New technologies are also being developed to make recharging a battery more akin to refilling a conventional vehicle’s gas tank. A research team at the Illinois Institute of Technology is designing a battery that can be “refilled” in a matter of minutes, making long trips in electric vehicles more viable.
— By W. Spencer King

Reaching for Virginia’s clean power potential

Thursday, October 8th, 2015 - posted by hannah
Virginia has an tremendous opportunity to meet its Clean Power Plan goals by expanding clean energy. But it is critical for Virginians to engage as the state develops its compliance plan.

Virginia has a tremendous opportunity to meet its Clean Power Plan goals by expanding clean energy. But it is critical for Virginians to engage as the state develops its compliance plan.

In a commentary in Capitol Connections magazine out this week, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia characterizes the job of meeting new climate change pollution reduction goals this way: “In 1962, President Kennedy challenged our nation to go the moon by 1969. If America can get to the moon in 7 years, emitting one-third less air pollution in 15 years is surely within our grasp.”

A major goal of Appalachian Voices’ and our partners’ in recent years has been to set Virginia on the track toward a safe, reliable and affordable energy future, which has meant working hard to shake our state out of the status quo. Virginia has never had a binding state renewable energy standard, and advocates have long stressed the need for both utility-owned and non-utility projects to harness clean power on a large scale.

So where does the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan put Virginia? The rule represents the first requirement for fighting climate change by cutting pollution from power plants. If we use it well, the Clean Power Plan can incentivize energy efficiency programs and drive growth in solar — two ways to ensure a more secure grid and shrink bills for electric customers. But there are possible pitfalls too.

One way in which a national plan aiming for a 32 percent reduction of carbon pollution from power plants helps Virginia is by the signal it sends. It’s a further indication as to the direction the market is going. There’s a wrinkle, however, that has some renewable energy advocates worried, and it’s very relevant in Virginia: the role of new natural gas-fired power plants.

One reason for concern about possible increased gas use in Virginia is that our state’s emissions target is fairly easy to achieve. Though one wouldn’t know it from the histrionics of some politicians who oppose the standards. In a troubling development that threatens to derail Virginia’s compliance process, some state legislators are using dire-sounding warnings about electricity reliability and costs — the same red herring arguments that surfaced last year — to attempt to take away the McAuliffe administration’s authority to implement a state plan. Some insist on General Assembly approval of Virginia’s implementation plan.

The adverse effects if Virginia dramatically increases its use of natural gas are clear: higher demand for a fuel with a lifecycle that’s harmful to communities and dangerous to the environment, from the risks to water from fracking, to the impacts of dirty pipelines, to the methane released during production and transportation. More investments in a fossil fuel source are also bound to diminish the incentive for utilities to incorporate renewable energy projects into their plans. Think of how much solar power Virginia could build for the same price as 8,000 megawatts worth of new natural gas plants.

When it comes to the cost of electricity, a report by Public Citizen shows that the Clean Power Plan can cut Virginians’ electricity bills by between 7.7 and 8.4 percent by 2030, and that greater reductions are possible when well-designed energy efficiency programs are launched — programs that will also boost the economy by creating outsource-proof jobs.

Unfortunately, these affordability conclusions are in spite of and not because of Virginia’s enactment of a so-called “rate freeze” law, which is apparent in two major ways: the “freeze” goes into effect now and expires in 2020, and it turns out that the law creates a rate floor rather than a rate ceiling by blocking increases to base rates but not increases to cover infrastructure costs (which are the exact kind of costs that would ostensibly result from the need to comply with a pollution rule.)

That action is an example of why it will be so critical for Virginians to engage during this upcoming 2016 legislative session. We can press our elected officials to take steps that advance a vision of safe, affordable and reliable energy if we all take the time to participate.

Stay connected and watch for updates as we support the McAuliffe administration’s role in setting Virginia’s compliance plan, and if you have not yet provided a comment to officials about our state’s approach to the Clean Power Plan, do so here or via ghg@deq.virginia.gov by the Oct. 13 deadline.

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Energy Efficiency Made Affordable

Monday, July 13th, 2015 - posted by Cody Burchett

Giving Credit to Energy Efficiency

The Warehouse for Energy Efficiency Loans is a self-sustaining lending platform for home energy financing. WHEEL helps states leverage funds from public and private investors to increase the number of low-interest loans available to homeowners through the ReHome Loan Program for energy efficiency upgrades.

The low interest rates offered by the program create an incentive for homeowners to make the most energy-efficient choices, says Colin Bishopp, who oversees WHEEL, and the customer’s monthly payments more closely resemble amount of money saved on their utility bill. WHEEL is currently operating in Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and will soon launch in Virginia, Florida and Indiana. Visit: renewfinancial.com/financing-solutions/rehome

Solarize Success in WV

A grassroots effort to make solar panels more affordable for homeowners has taken off in the Southeast. Through the Solarize model, homeowners interested in installing rooftop solar can join together to apply for discounts, free energy audits and solar panel assessments.

Using this model, a solar cooperative in West Virginia installed seven new systems last fall, adding about 36 kilowatts of solar power to Fayetteville, W.Va. Now, two solar cooperatives in Wheeling and Morgantown are accepting applications, while cooperatives in Fayette and Monroe County filled their membership, with 30 and more than 80 members signed up, respectively. Sixteen Solarize programs in North Carolina and eight in Virginia have run or are currently running, while three programs in South Carolina are receiving applications.

Access to Energy Savings

Financing programs are helping homeowners invest in upgrades that make residences more comfortable while lowering electric bills and reducing a home’s carbon footprint. Read more here.

Another Community Solar Farm Sprouts

Leasing solar panels provides rural electric cooperatives with a way to incorporate solar into their energy portfolio, and for homeowners to invest in solar, with lessened costs to both. The cooperative builds a solar farm and offers a lease on a panel or half-panel to members. Those members receive credit on their utility bill for the energy generated by their leased panel.

Duck River Electric Membership Cooperative in southern Tennessee funded a 26-kilowatt solar farm in 2012 and members have already become partial owners of 87 of its 108 panels. Once the rest are sold, the cooperative plans to double the solar farm’s capacity, says Steve Odell of Duck River EMC. In April, the Appalachian Regional Commission granted BARC Electric Cooperative in rural Virginia $500,000 to build a 250 to 350-kilowatt solar farm and a community learning center that will offer leasing options. Electric cooperatives in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina are using this model as well.

Energy Savings Launch in Harlan County, Ky.

The town of Benham launched an on-bill energy efficiency financing program in April. Benham$aves, modeled after Mountain Association for Economic Development’s How$mart program, will pay for energy efficiency upgrades upfront, and members will repay the loan on their utility bill with their energy savings. A resolution passed by the Benham Power Board formally recognizes community partners including Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Appalshop and MACED.