Joel Page for The New York Times

Turbine blades bound for a wind farm on Kibby Mountain, Me. The technology has changed, but energy turf wars are familiar.

By MATTHEW L. WALD
Published: July 13, 2009

WASHINGTON — While most lawmakers accept that more renewable energy is needed on the nation’s grid, the debate over the giant climate-change and energy bill now before Congress is exposing a fundamental rift. For many players, the energy not only has to be clean and free of carbon-dioxide emissions, it also has to be generated nearby.

The division has set off a fight between Eastern and Midwestern politicians and grid officials over parts of the bill dealing with transmission lines and solar and wind energy. Many officials, including President Obama, say that the grid is antiquated and that thousands of miles of new power lines are needed to allow construction of wind farms and solar fields in the most promising spots. Many of the best wind sites are in the Midwest, far from the electric load in populous East Coast cities.

An influential coalition of East Coast governors and power companies fears that building wind and solar sites in the Midwest would cause their region to miss out on jobs and other economic benefits. The coalition is therefore trying to block a mandate for transcontinental lines.

They want the wind farms built in rural New England and offshore from Massachusetts to Delaware, and for now it appears that they may get a chance to do that. They are campaigning to keep a provision out of the legislation that would mandate a huge super-high-voltage grid, with the cost spread among millions of electric customers.

“While we support the development of wind resources for the United States wherever they exist,” the governors warned in a May 4 letter to House and Senate leaders, “this ratepayer-funded revenue guarantee for land-based wind and other generation resources in the Great Plains would have significant, negative consequences for our region.”

Dan W. Reicher, an assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration who now leads energy initiatives at Google, said the debate exposed a conundrum. “The areas with the most attractive renewable energy resources often don’t overlap with the places where the push for job creation is strongest,” Mr. Reicher said.

For example, a wind machine in North Dakota would produce more energy than the same machine in some Eastern states — but energy projects tend to get built in places where they are most wanted.

The East Coast advocates may have won a crucial first round. When the House passed its sweeping energy and climate-change bill on June 26, it included a provision that lets the federal government overrule state objections to new power lines — but only west of the Rockies. Western states would be unlikely to oppose the new power lines in any case: the region has long been accustomed to huge generation projects built at a great distance from load centers.

But the bill would not give the federal government a mandate to overrule the Eastern states on transmission lines. The issue will be on the table again as the Senate takes up the bill in the next few weeks.

A two-year effort by transmission authorities in the eastern half of the country to draw up plans for a strong grid collapsed after grid officials in New York and New England pulled out, saying that the plans were too centered on moving Midwestern energy eastward.

In an interview, Ian A. Bowles, the Massachusetts secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said he questioned “whether or not we need national transmission legislation at all.”

Mr. Bowles suggested that all Congress needed to do was impose a cap on carbon-dioxide emissions and mandate a national renewable energy quota. Then the market could determine whether resources should be in distant spots with long transmission lines or places closer to load centers, he said.

The debate echoes others in past years about whether to build conventional power plants locally or build stronger connections to distant conventional plants.

The governors’ concern, said James B. Robb, a senior vice president of Northeast Utilities, was not only the optimal cost and use of the electricity but also “any fringes that come along with it — the local tax base, local employment, all those kinds of things.”

For years, some planners have talked about a grid powerful enough to allow for “postage-stamp rates,” transmission charges that are small and independent of distance, so that power will be produced wherever it is most economical, even if that is half a continent away from where it is needed. But for local economic reasons some people resisted that idea, even in the days before tapping wind on the plains and sun in the desert became a national goal.

And a weak grid helps some electric companies. Local generators have often been able to charge more by being in the right place at the right time, with no competition because the long-distance lines are already fully loaded, experts say.

“When you have a constrained transmission system and you seek to unconstrain it,” said Mary Ellen Paravalos, the vice president for transmission at National Grid, a New York and New England company, some local parties stand to lose. This is true “even if the wider societal benefit is net positive,” Ms. Paravalos said.

Complicating the debate, many proposed power lines that could carry renewable energy to market could also end up carrying coal-fired power. An improved national grid would end the situation that prevails at many hours in the East today, when coal plants that can produce power cheaply sit idle while cleaner natural gas plants are running full tilt, able to sell their more expensive power because grid traffic is so bad that the coal power cannot reach the market.

That configuration costs consumers money but also reduces emissions of the carbon-dioxide emissions that cause climate change. So contrary to expectations, one effect of a stronger grid, although ardently sought by supporters of renewable energy, could be to push costs down but nudge coal-fired emissions up.

But the basic conflict remains distant energy versus local energy.

“Some states dealing with this issue see it not only as an environmental and least-cost-supply question but also as a potential economic development tool,” said Branko Terzic, a former member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates some power lines.

Mr. Terzic added, “Those three goals are not always concurrent and could be in conflict.”

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ANGELA CHARLTON | May 28, 2009 05:01 PM EST | AP

PARIS — The top U.S. environment official says it’s time for the United States to shed its energy-wasting image and lead the world race for cleaner power sources instead.

After several years with a relatively low profile under President George W. Bush, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “is back on the job,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told The Associated Press on Thursday during a trip to Paris.

What the EPA does domestically this year will be watched closely overseas. Nations worldwide are working toward a major meeting in Copenhagen in December aimed at producing a new global climate pact. The U.S. position on curbing its own pollution and helping poor countries adapt to global warming is seen as key to any new pact.

Jackson was in Paris for international talks on how rich governments can include global climate concerns in overall development aid.

She dismissed worries that economic downturn was cutting into aid commitments or investment in new energy resources. She said the United States should take the lead on clean energy technology, recession or no.

“We have to get in the race now _ and win it,” she said. “I don’t expect a moving backwards because of recession.”

At climate talks in Paris earlier this week, European environment ministers welcomed greater U.S. commitment to environmental issues under the Obama administration _ but said it still wasn’t aiming high enough in its targets for cutting U.S. emissions.

Jackson said a shift in the American mindset is only beginning.

Talking about energy efficiency and saying companies should pay to pollute _ “that’s a revolutionary message for our country,” she said.

For a long time, she said, “People didn’t even expect the EPA to show up” at events, much less set policies that could be seen as examples for the rest of the world.

“Now it seems like every day we’re rolling back or reconsidering a Bush era policy on clean air,” she said.

She said it was time for the United States to take a more active role in limiting chemical pollutants, after falling behind Europe in that domain.

The U.S. also has lessons to learn from countries such as the Netherlands, she said, after visiting its low-lying, flood-prone lands to study ways cities like her native New Orleans can better manage water.

Our Perspective:

It is good to hear the administration making positive comments about our energy’s future. Alternative energy is a growth business and the correct path for insuring our future energy indepenence.

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

Would you like to know more about the financial opportunities that drive this investment. Feel free to contct us.

Written by T. Boone Pickens

Earlier this month I made a point of going to WINDPOWER 2009, the world’s largest conference on wind energy. Yes, it was in the Windy City, but the truth is it’s not always in Chicago. Next year’s conference will be here in Dallas and you need to put it on your calendar.

A decade ago you could have packed everyone who showed up at an event like this in a pint-sized 7-11. Those days are gone. Last year, attendance at this event topped 13,000. This year? More than 23,000. And it wasn’t just exhibitors (though there were close to 2,000 of them there as well). The roster of key policymakers who participated at WINDPOWER 2009 was impressive, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghof. All of them echoed the statements made by President Obama that alternative energy and renewables are important elements in this administration’s energy plan.

That’s not just sound energy policy but it’s good for the economy as well. Business is booming in the wind energy sector, and you know who is most keenly aware of that? America’s governors. Over the last year as I’ve been promoting the Pickens Plan, I’ve met wind state governors such as Brian Schweitzer of Montana, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, and Jon Huntsman of Utah. Back when she was Governor of Kansas, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hosted the very first Pickens Plan Town Hall Meeting in Topeka.

But what really stood out was the governors who attended WINDPOWER in Chicago were not from traditional wind power states. They were from Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and of course, Illinois. If you take a look at the Energy Department’s wind map, you’ll see that these states are not in the Wind Corridor, which runs the length of the Great Plains from the Texas Panhandle to the Canadian border. Yet, they are profiting from wind energy, thanks to the enormous number of job that are being created to manufacture turbines and other equipment, build infrastructure, and improve efficiency. These states have a vested interest in wind energy.

We all do. Right now there are wind farms and manufacturing facilities in 48 out of 50 states. While our country is fighting its way out of a recession, this industry and others in the burgeoning green economy are bright spots, creating permanent, good-paying jobs, putting people to work, and helping America cement its status as a global leader in the energy industry.

This is one of the basic principles of the Pickens Plan, and it goes straight to the heart of what I’ve been talking about since I launched the plan last July. Right here in America, we’ve got plenty of energy waiting to be tapped. The only problem is that for the last four decades we haven’t had the leadership to harness it or develop it or drill for it. Instead, we took the easy way out. Cheap imported oil became the crutch that everyone leaned on, only now we know it’s not cheap anymore.

Last year, as our economy stalled, we spent $475 billion on imported oil. Can you believe that? I can’t. Half a trillion dollars. The greatest transfer of wealth in recorded history. And to make matters worse we still haven’t learned our lesson. According to figures just released, our trade deficit on oil imports widened in March for the first time in eight months. We’re still importing more than two-thirds of the oil we consume, and that’s got to stop.

The purpose of the Pickens Plan was to put a lot of ideas on the table in order to help our country develop the energy plan it so desperately needs and deserves. Wind energy is one of the best, and if you don’t believe me come to Dallas next year and see for yourself at WINDPOWER 2010.

As reported in Huffington Green

BEIJING (AFP) – China has more than tripled its target for wind power capacity to 100 gigawatts by 2020, likely making it the world’s fastest growing market for wind energy technology, state press said.

China is aiming for an annual wind power growth rate of 20 percent for the foreseeable future, Feng Junshi, an official with the National Energy Administration, told a Beijing conference, according to the China Daily.

The new target for 2020 is up from a goal of 30 gigawatts announced by the government 18 months ago, the report said.

China currently has 12 gigawatts of installed wind power, but that is set to grow to 20 gigawatts by next year, the newspaper said.

“China is powering ahead with no visible signs of slow down,” the report quoted Steve Sawyer of the Brussels-based Global Wind Energy Council as saying.

“They intend to become the largest market in the world, very clearly, and they probably will unless things take off in the US again in the relatively near term.”

China is currently the fourth largest producer of wind power after the United States, Germany and Spain.

In addition to vast wind power facilities in its arid north and northwest regions, China is also actively building wind farms off its eastern and southern coasts.

The country is the world’s second largest energy producer, but is struggling to wean itself off its dependency on coal, which is highly polluting and blamed for emitting the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Our Perspective:

This is good news. China has been in an expansion mode. I have friends who go there for business and they say that construction is booming.

I am glad they are looking to alternative energy to help support this growth. Should they have relied on fossil energy solutions, they would have had 1 foot in the grave.

There is no one solution that will address our growing energy needs. There will be a combination of viable solutions, when coordinated together, will power America’s future.

Let us know your thoughts?

You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

 

Daniel C. Esty

Posted April 20, 2009 | 03:50 PM (EST)  As reported in Huffington Post Green

Talk has begun to turn to the new economy that will emerge from the present collapse. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt has suggested that the current crisis is not just a recession but a fundamental “reset” of how business gets done. And Time magazine has taken up this theme with a reset cover story. But there has been little discussion of exactly what changes – in principles and practices — should be made so that we rebuild our economy on firmer foundations. As we celebrate Earth Day this week, it is a good time to commit to “sustainability” as a centerpiece of a revitalized regulatory system.

For the past three decades, debate has raged over whether and how to deregulate. But while markets offer the prospect of promoting innovation, growth, and prosperity, few now believe that capitalism is self-correcting or that the private sector needs only minimal supervision. From the demise of Lehman Brothers and AIG to the skullduggery of Bernie Madoff and Allan Stanford, the signs of inadequate regulation and market failure surround us.

Two particular forms of market failure underlie the meltdown of the past year and make sustainability the right touchstone for our regulatory reset efforts:

• Externalized costs and risks
• Incomplete information

Both of these problems require that we rethink our approach to regulation — and re-establish the fundamentals of our economy on a more sustainable basis. And note that this principle should apply broadly, not just in the financial arena.

We need regulations which ensure that companies cannot structure their operations so that any upside gains accrue to their owners (or worse yet their managers), while risks or costs get shifted onto society as a whole. In the banking sector, rules against over-leveraging are urgently required. The recently released Turner Report in the UK outlines the first steps in this direction that should be taken. More generally, financial reporting rules must be designed to expose hidden risks and externalized costs.

We should likewise insist that companies which send emissions up a smokestack or out an effluent pipe cease their pollution or pay for the harm inflicted on the community. In our “reset” world, economic success cannot come at the price of harms imposed on the public in the form of contaminated air and water or risk of climate change. Thus while we lay the foundation for a more sustainable economy, let’s similarly adopt rules that provide for a sustainable environmental future. This will require overhauling the traditional approach to environmental regulation which countenances way too much in the way of externalities by offering “permits” up to a certain level of harm.

President Obama’s call for a price on carbon dioxide emissions represents a good first step in the “no externalities” direction. But let’s broaden the push and make polluters pay for all the harm they cause. If companies — and each one of us in our personal lives — had to pay for our waste and pollution, behavior would change. Putting a price on harm-causing creates incentives for care and conservation — efficiency and resource productivity.

More importantly, these price signals will drive a market response. Companies that are positioned to help others reduce their waste or cut their emissions will find customers eager for their goods and services. And where no easy solutions are available, harm charges will motivate “cleantech” innovation as inventors and entrepreneurs recognize the prospect of making money by solving environmental problems.

In parallel with a commitment to internalizing externalities, we must adopt transparency as a watchword. Market capitalism does not work without adequate information about economic actors. This reality has been understood in theory, but now needs to be advanced in practice. Government has a critical role to play in establishing the terms of disclosure about companies, markets, products, investment vehicles, and more. Public officials must also be empowered to ensure that disclosures are complete and accurate.

Well-designed reporting rules make it easier to spot externalized costs or risks and harder to hide malfeasance. Widely available metrics also facilitate benchmarking across companies, which offers a mechanism for assessing performance, highlighting leaders and laggards, and spurring competitive pressures that drive all toward better results. Studying the leaders offers an important way to identify best practices in everything from corporate strategy to pollution control. Likewise, outliers (such as those who make 10% returns year after year without fail) can be isolated for special review and scrutiny.

Such transparency would make it easier to refine our compensation systems to reward superior performance and real value creation. Carefully constructed disclosure rules could help, on the other hand, to unmask mere financial engineering, which should not be credited with outsized rewards.

There is a great deal of work to be done to re-establish prosperity across our country and the world. Smart regulation can channel corporate behavior and individual effort toward sustainable economic growth — that is durable because it rests on solid underpinnings not hidden risks or externalized costs.

Daniel C. Esty is the Hillhouse Professor at Yale University with appointments in both the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He is the co-author (with Andrew Winston) of the prize-winning book, Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage (just released in a revised and updated edition published by John Wiley). A former Deputy Assistant Administrator at the US Environmental Protection Agency, Professor Esty advised the Obama Campaign on energy and environmental issues and served on the Obama Transition Team.

by Brian T. Murray/The Star-Ledger

Sunday April 05, 2009, 7:12 AM

The relicensing last week of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, the nation’s oldest nuclear power plant, guarantees that nuclear energy is here to stay in New Jersey, for at least a few more decades, even as state officials continue to push alternative sources of energy.

The Garden State draws about 53 percent of its electricity from four nuclear plants — a reliance on nuclear energy far above the national average of about 20 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Along with Oyster Creek in Lacey Township, which was cleared by federal regulators for a new license on Thursday to operate another 20 years, the state’s electricity flows from the Hope Creek and the twin Salem Creek reactors in Salem County.

 

“Right now, one of every two households in New Jersey gets its electricity from nuclear energy. If you take nuclear energy off line, where will the energy come from?” said David Benson, a spokesman for Oyster Creek.

Gov. Jon Corzine has vowed to have 30 percent of the state’s electricity produced through wind and solar power by 2020 — an initiative that even his supporters call ambitious.

Renewable sources, including solar, wind and landfill gases, currently provide only 3 percent of New Jersey’s electrical energy. Coal-burning plants generate 20 percent, natural gas generates 21 percent and petroleum plants generate 16 percent.

Even critics acknowledge that New Jersey’s nukes are not about to be replaced.

“We know it will take at least 20 years, maybe longer, for us to generate enough power to replace them. We would like it to be quicker, but we know they are not going away anytime soon. … Our issue is, we need to find cleaner, safer, more reliable sources,” said Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Sierra and the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group allege Oyster Creek is unsafe because of corrosion found in the late 1980s in the drywell liner or shell that encases the reactor. Federal regulators contend the problem has been repaired and the plant is safe.

Regardless, NJPIRG contends renewable power is safer — and that all four nuclear plants could be replaced by 2,139 windmills.

“That being said, efficiency improves every year in wind turbine technology, unlike nuclear generation, and over the next decade will increase dramatically, making it highly unlikely that we would need anywhere near that number,” said Jacob Koetsier of NJPIRG.

“In 2005, Congress passed a subsidy bill that included $5.7 billion in operating subsidies for the nuclear industry and $2 billion to insure companies for costs in delays in getting licenses for six new reactors. If that kind of money had been switched to renewable energy back then, we’d already be up and running,” he added.

DIFFERENCE OF OPINION

But windmills require miles of space, and plans to begin erecting about 300 of them off the Jersey Shore have divided even environmental groups, with some organizations fearing a negative impact on marine life. The potential costs pose a greater obstacle.

“The Department of Energy’s own numbers estimate the cost of offshore wind will be more than twice that of coal, twice that of advanced nuclear, with or without government subsidies. There is reason you don’t have a lot of wind power — it is more expensive,” said Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, a Washington, D.C. research group that supports free-market models for energy production.

The statistics were cited as projected consumer costs in the Department of Energy’s Annual Energy Outlook for 2009. While market prices on energy may fluctuate, Kish said windmill power also faces the added financial complexities of bringing the new electrical power into the nation’s existing power grid — the national system by which power is delivered to households and businesses.

The problem is being realized in Texas, which is leading the nation in developing renewable energy sources, but must expand its grid to deliver it.

“To anybody who believes New Jersey is going to be 30 percent on solar panels and wind power by 2020, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. It’s just not going to happen,” Kish said.

Additionally, the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine. That raises concerns about what is known in the energy industry as “baseload” — the ability to constantly generate electrical energy, as do nuclear and coal plants.

“But that is more of an issue for land-based wind-turbines,” Tittel countered. “The further offshore you go, which New Jersey plans to do, the steadier the wind. The efficiency increases 60 percent offshore, as opposed to 30 percent on land.”

While building windmills may have obstacles, so does a future reliance on nuclear energy, experts say.

The nation’s 104 existing plants are operating at about 90 percent, and no new ones are being built largely because federal officials have not determined where to bury the radioactive waste and there is a 30-year-old federal prohibition against reusing it.

There also is the growing price-tag on building new reactors — $7.5 million for a 1,000 megawatt facility such as the ones in Hope Creek and Salem Creek, according to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission figures released last year.

TRUST IN THE WIND

April 8, 2009

ATLANTIC CITY – Windmills off the East Coast could generate enough electricity to replace most, if not all, the coal-fired power plants in the United States, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said yesterday.

His view was challenged as “overly optimistic” by a coal-industry group, which noted that half the nation’s electricity currently comes from coal-fired power plants.

The secretary spoke at a public hearing in Atlantic City on how the nation’s offshore areas can be tapped to meet its energy needs.

“The idea that wind energy has the potential to replace most of our coal-burning power today is a very real possibility,” he said. “It is not technology that is pie-in-the sky; it is here-and-now.”

A spokesman for Salazar said yesterday evening that the secretary does not expect wind power to be fully developed, but was speaking of its total potential if it were.

Offshore energy production might not be limited to wind power, Salazar said. A moratorium on offshore oil drilling has expired, and President Obama and Congress must decide whether to allow drilling off the East Coast.

“We know there are some people who want us to close the door on that,” he said. “We need to look at all forms of energy as we move forward into a new energy frontier.”

Salazar said ocean winds along the East Coast can generate one million megawatts of power, roughly equal to 3,000 medium-sized coal-fired plants, or nearly five times the number of coal plants now operating in the United States, according to the Energy Department.

Salazar could not estimate how many windmills might be needed to generate one million megawatts, saying it would depend on their size and how far from the coast they were located.

Jason Hayes, a spokesman for the American Coal Council, said he was puzzled by Salazar’s projections. He said wind-power plants face roadblocks including local opposition, concerns about the impact on wildlife, and problems in efficiently transmitting power from far offshore.

“It really is a stretch,” he said of Salazar’s estimate. “How you put that many new [wind] plants up, especially in deep water, is confusing. Even if you could do what he said, you still need to deal with the fact that the best wind plants generate power about 30 percent of the time. There’s got to be something to back that up.”

Yesterday’s hearing was hosted by Salazar and was the first of four nationwide to discuss how energy resources including oil, gas, wind and waves should be used as the Obama administration formulates its energy policy. It was held at the Atlantic City Convention Center, whose roof-mounted solar-energy panels are the largest in the nation.

Salazar said it is essential that the nation fully exploit renewable energy resources to reduce its reliance on imported oil.

By buying oil from countries hostile to the United States, “we have, in my opinion, been funding both sides in the war on terrorism,” he said.

Environmentalists are urging the Obama administration to bar oil and gas drilling off the East Coast, and invest heavily in wind, solar and other energy technology.

Our Perspective:

I have found there is no silver bullet. There are multiple forms of alternative energy solutions, each playing a unique part in the overall solution.

To install wind mills out in the ocean and rid ourselves of the mining of coal would amount to a homerun! Safety is always a concern. Not only the safety of our workers mining the coal but also the safety of the environment. All the pollutants discharged into the air from its’ use.

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

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