As Climate Deniers Block Federal Action, New Energy Booms in States

May 18, 2017


Funny thing about new technologies – once they become viable, cost effective, and compelling – keeping people from using them is pretty hard. No matter how much fossil fuel funding and propaganda is deployed.

So, while the Trump administration will do its best to sabotage American leadership in the renewable revolution (not a slam dunk at all) real people, who need to solve the real problems of the real world, are racing ahead with the best available technology solutions.


Here – some examples from the field.

Utility death spiral. Remember that phrase, because it’s going to be a big deal for the states, and the electric producers, who do not make room for a technological paradigm shift – happening now.


While California’s big three investor-owned utilities remain the provider of last resort for the state’s energy consumers, an increasing share of their customers are being lost to existing retail energy access programs, to city and county community-choice aggregators (CCAs), and of course, to the rising share of power generated by rooftop solar and other distributed energy resources.


Between rooftop solar, CCAs and large “direct access” customers that work with energy service providers, as much as 25 percent of retail electric load will be effectively unbundled and served by a source other than an investor-owned utility sometime later this year, the paper noted. And these trends are only accelerating. Over 85 percent of retail load could be served by sources other than the investor-owned utilities by the mid-2020s — effectively putting the state on a path toward a competitive market for consumer electric services.

Finally, after a slow start, CCAs — entities formed by cities and counties to buy their electricity outside of the traditional utility framework — are really starting to take off. Marin Clean Energy formed California’s first CCA in 2010 and now serves 255,000 customers in Marin County, Napa County and six cities. Along with others such as Sonoma Clean Power, Lancaster Choice Energy, Clean Power San Francisco and Peninsula Clean Energy, 915,000 customers currently get their retail energy through CCAs. This is deeply worrying to investor-owned utilities.

The state’s IOUs are seeing a decline in their volumetric sales of electricity, which pay for the “vast network of connected infrastructure and services” that keep the lights on in California. This could end up shifting an increasing share of the costs of maintaining the network for fully bundled customers — thus raising rates, and potentially pushing more customers to seek alternative sources of energy, in what industry observers have dubbed the utility death spiral.



Virginia’s governor issued an order on Tuesday to lay the groundwork for a cap-and-trade system to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, saying it would “fill the void” left by the Trump administration which has been rolling back federal climate rules.

Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe signed Executive Directive 11 instructing Virginia’s environmental regulators to craft rules targeting power sector carbon emissions by Dec. 31.

McAuliffe specifically asked regulators to propose a rule for the state air pollution control board that would enable Virginia to participate in a multi-state carbon permit trading program such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for northeastern states.

“As the federal government abdicates its role on this important issue, it is critical for states to fill the void. Beginning today, Virginia will lead the way to cut carbon…,” McAuliffe said in a statement.

The main federal environmental regulator, the Environmental Protection Agency, has been actively rolling back Obama administration rules aimed at combating climate change, including the Clean Power Plan that aimed to slash carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

McAuliffe said Virginia was especially sensitive to the impact of climate change and dealt with the frequent threat of storm surges and flooding.

..and in flyover country..

US News and World Report:

Iowa’s largest utility is in the midst of a $3.6 billion investment in wind power and intends to keep spending on the towers with a goal of producing 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources.

MidAmerican Energy plans to build 1,000 more turbines over the next couple of years on top of the more than 2,000 it already has around the state, The Des Moines Register ( ) reported. When it’s completed, the utility’s share of its energy that comes from renewable sources will jump from 55 percent to nearly 90 percent.

“It would set a new precedent for the U.S.,” said Daniel Shurey, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “It will require a company that really knows what it’s doing. It will be challenging for them to provide security of supply, and that’s not something MidAmerican will take lightly.”

CEO Bill Fehrman says it’ll take about $2 billion and 550 turbines more to bring MidAmerican close to 100 percent. He said wind energy helps keep electricity costs down, adding that MidAmerican has agreed to freeze rates until at least 2029.

“There’s not another utility in the country — gas, water, cable, electric — that’s held rates steady for 12, 13 years,” Fehrman said.

He said MidAmerican’s rates have increased only once since 1998. They’re the ninth-lowest in the country.

“A lot of that is because of the wind investment,” Fehrman said. “The beauty of wind is there’s no fuel costs. We will be able to virtually serve 89 percent of our customers’ needs with an energy resource that requires no fuel.”

Michigan utilities commit to major GHG cuts – in good part because it’s “what their largest customers are seeking..”.

Midwest Energy News:

Michigan’s two largest utilities announced separate plans this week to increase their commitments to renewable energy based on the continued transition away from coal and in response to customer demand.

On Tuesday, DTE Energy committed to cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050, which includes adding 6,000 megawatts of renewable energy from wind and solar. DTE plans to retire all of its coal power plants by roughly 2040, when 60 percent of its portfolio will come from wind, solar and nuclear. The utility plans to add 3,500 megawatts of natural gas generation in that time, rounding out the remaining 40 percent of its portfolio.

On Monday, Consumers Energy announced a tariff it filed with state regulators that allows large commercial customers to purchase generation specifically from new renewable energy projects. Consumers said the three-year, voluntary pilot program is in direct response to growing demand from corporations for renewable energy.

Taken together, the plans reflect a broader shift utilities are making toward clean energy based on economics and interest from their customers, said Dan Scripps, senior advisor with the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council.

“It reflects where the industry is going with or without the Clean Power Plan,” Scripps said. “Utilities are making decisions by looking at what ratepayers want, what shareholders are seeking and what their largest (customers) are seeking and positioning themselves to respond.”

Coal phase-out

In a statement, DTE chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson said not only are the 2050 targets achievable, but also “affordable and reliable.”

Final Pro tip – while the Michigan utility goals – 80 percent by 2050, are not quite enough, history shows that those who step down this path typically meet with much greater success, much faster, and much more cheaply than they imagined.
Strap in.


6 Responses to “As Climate Deniers Block Federal Action, New Energy Booms in States”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    Trump Plans to Slash Renewable Energy Budget by 70%

    Meanwhile, a new report shows China and India currently have greater potential for renewable energy growth than the United States, Fuel Fix report.

    => Under Trump, U.S. less attractive for renewable energy investment

  2. J4Zonian Says:

    This statization and localization of efforts to avoid catastrophe are great and should be supported,

    but let’s not forget that without strong national and international action we probably can’t succeed in avoiding raising the temperature beyond the limits of civilization’s survival, and the extinctions of millions of species.

    1. Lots of states and cities won’t do what’s needed.

    2. The advantage of national action is that budgets to fight for sustainability begin to approach 1/100th or even 1/20th of the budgets being used to fight against sustainability by corporations and industries backing political institutions, PR firms masquerading as think tanks, etc. At the state and local level they can be outspent by thousands to one, and the reality-based national networks and organizations can’t be sufficiently reproduced in every place, especially in poor, rural and minority places that don’t have the money or political power to fight huge rich corporations.

    3. Everything crosses imaginary lines; this has to be tasked at levels above those lines, everywhere at once by organizations broad enough and united enough to stand up to destructive impulses backed by money.

    4. Even building the resistance that’s possible on local levels will take time we don’t have.

    We have to work together at every level–inner personal, outer personal, community, city, state, federal, world.

  3. […] in states like California, Virginia, and across the midwest, are frustrating the Trump team’s anti-planet agenda – as one of its architects recently […]

  4. nickreality65 Says:

    RGHE theory exists only to explain why the earth is 33 C warmer with an atmosphere than without. Not so. The average global temperature of 288 K is a massive WAG at the ”surface.” The w/o temperature of 255 K is a theoretical S-B ideal BB OLR calculation at the top of – the atmosphere. An obviously flawed RGHE faux-thermodynamic “theory” pretends to explain a mechanism behind this non-existent phenomenon, the difference between two made up atmospheric numbers.

    But with such great personal, professional and capital investment in this failed premise, like the man with only a hammer, assorted climate “experts” pontificate that every extreme, newsworthy weather or biospheric flora or fauna variation just must be due to “climate change.”

    The Earth’s albedo/atmosphere doesn’t keep the Earth warm, it keeps the Earth cool. As albedo increases, heating and temperature decrease. As albedo decreases, heating and temperature increase.

    Over 9,500 views of my five WriterBeat papers and zero rebuttals. There was one lecture on water vapor, but that kind of misses the CO2 point.

    Step right up, bring science, I did.

    Nick Schroeder, BSME, PE (LinkedIn)—We-don-t-need-no-stinkin-greenhouse-Warning-science-ahead-

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