Ron Kotrba | May 16, 2013
In a vote of 96 to zero, the U.S. Senate confirmed Ernest Moniz as the nation’s new energy secretary. Moniz was nominated by President Obama in March as a replacement for Steven Chu, who announced his resignation Feb. 1.
Moniz is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, Director of the Energy Initiative, and Director of the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Physics, serving on the faculty for 40 years.
He served as undersecretary of the U.S. DOE from 1997 until January 2001 and, from 1995-‘97, as associate director for science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy under President Bill Clinton. At MIT, Moniz served as head of the physics department and as director of the Bates Linear Accelerator Center. His major research contributions have been in theoretical nuclear physics, energy technology and policy studies. He has also been serving on Obama’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology.
“Throughout his career, Ernest Moniz has supported efforts to move beyond fossil fuels to a cleaner, more secure energy future in which renewable sources play a prominent role,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board. “He knows that advanced biofuels like biodiesel are critical to our long-term energy and environmental security, and he has supported practical policies aimed at developing renewables in order to reduce our dependence on petroleum, create jobs and reduce harmful emissions. He is also an internationally recognized expert on renewable technology who truly understands the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. As a result, we believe he will be an excellent leader at the energy department and look forward to working with him.”
In addition to being welcomed by NBB to his new
Joanna Schroeder – May 17th, 2013
According to recent study by FAPRI-MU higher biofuel blending requirements through the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) increase the incentives to use higher biofuel blends, as seen by high Renewable Identification Number (RIN) prices so far this year. The study began with baseline projections for biofuel and agricultural markets and then built on a series of assumptions about how the RFS will be implemented and how market participants will respond.
One key question of the study: what will happen when the RFS requires greater levels of biofuel use than can be achieved with 10 percent ethanol blends and mandated levels of biodiesel use?
The baseline assumes that domestic ethanol use will exceed the 10-percent “blend wall” if the effective cost of ethanol to blenders and fuel consumers drops low enough, long enough to encourage the use of higher-level blends such as E85 and E15; yet, how low and how long. The baseline assumes that use of these higher-level blends will only increase significantly if the consumer-level cost of these fuels is at a slight discount to conventional fuels, even after taking into account the lower energy value of ethanol-blended fuels.
The report looked at these questions from different perspectives using alternative assumptions about the implementation of the RFS and the behavior of biofuel market participants:
1. The first section calculates hypothetical RIN prices that would cover costs and discounts necessary to encourage expanded use of E85. Under one set of assumptions, the implied RIN values are very close to those recently observed in the market, but plausible changes in assumptions yield estimates that range from $0.28 to $2.34 per gallon.
2. The second section examines a scenario that assumes ethanol-blended fuel must sell at a deeper discount to conventional gasoline to encourage use of high-level blends—a somewhat steeper
Zack Colman - 05/17/13 01:30 PM ET
The Energy Department (DOE) on Friday approved a controversial application allowing liquefied natural-gas exports to nations that lack a free-trade agreement with the United States.
The department gave the green light to Freeport LNG Expansion and FLNG Liquefaction’s proposal to send 1.4 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas overseas from a terminal on Quintana Island, Texas, for 25 years.
The DOE said that project opponents “have not demonstrated that the requested authorization would be inconsistent with the public interest,” which is the standard proposals for exports to nations lacking a free-trade pact with the U.S. must satisfy.
The project is the second to get DOE approval to send natural gas to non-free trade nations. The developers will now take their plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
The decision comes less than 24 hours after the Senate confirmed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, whose position on exporting natural gas had been somewhat ambiguous.
President Obama, who has faced congressional pressure to approve some of the contentious proposals, has also signaled in recent weeks that he plans to move on some of the 20 applications in the DOE’s queue.
The DOE decision will likely stir an already roiling Capitol Hill debate on exports.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee already has completed one of three natural gas “roundtables” planned for this month. The next roundtable, scheduled for Tuesday, will cover exports.
Several Democrats — such as Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — and some chemical manufacturers have warned against an unfettered expansion of exports. They worry shipping too much natural gas abroad would cause domestic prices to spike.
Wyden, in a statement Friday, said he was pleased with the DOE's approach.
Harris Roen, Editor
Roen Financial Report
May 14, 2013
SolarCity (SCTY) has been one of the hottest alternative energy stocks since its Initial Public Offering five short months ago. Yesterday it shot up 24% in one day, on the largest one-day volume since it opened, in anticipation of its quarterly earnings release. It is up 95% in the past three months, and has more than tripled from its initial trading price. As of this writing SCTY has given back about a third of yesterday’s stratospheric gains.
Now that earnings have been released, let’s take a grounded-in-reality look at this innovative solar company.
SolarCity’s earnings results were mixed, showing steady revenues, but also a net loss for the first quarter of 2013 (chart above). It’s disconcerting that net income has been negative for the past four quarters, and on a per share basis, the most recent losses were 28% greater than analyst expectations. Revenues, on the other hand, came in ahead of analyst estimates, but just barely.
If SolarCity is to make it as a company, it needs to successfully implement a business plan that grows its customer base in a big way. It therefore makes sense to look at data relating to its clients. The chart below shows data for each of the past four years, and compares it to the most recent quarter.
Customer growth remains robust for the first quarter of 2013. 2012 was off the charts, with SolarCity adding on 30,950 new clients. The first three months of 2013 added close to a quarter of that number, which is good news for FY 2013 projections.
Total revenue per customer is declining steadily, but that is to be expected as the number of customers dramatically increases. What is occurring though (and what we want to see) is that the net loss per customer is steadily decreasing. It has changed from a low of around $5,000 in 2010 and 2011, to about $500 in the most recent quarter. If
May 17, 2013 Nathan
Commercial production of solar windows, using the patented SolarWindow spray-on solar power coating system, may be just around the corner. A recent announcement from US building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) developer New Energy Technologies Ltd. (which we’ve been following for years) has us feeling that the time may soon come.
As per New Energy Technologies’ recent announcement, the big news is that the fabrication time of the technology has been greatly reduced. The fabrication process, which involves methodically spraying layers of extremely small solar cells onto glass, has been reduced from a couple of days to only a couple of hours. According to the company, the process has been cut to 1/6 of the previous fabrication time.
And perhaps as significantly, New Energy has also reported that it has achieved “a two-fold increase in power conversion efficiency” and improved the transparency if the glass. Here are some more notes from the company:
Researchers achieved today’s advances by way of a novel, patent-pending breakthrough, which enables fabrication of large-scale mini-module SolarWindow™ devices, important to commercial deployment of the world’s first-of-its-kind glass window capable of generating electricity.
Generating electricity on glass windows is possible when New Energy researchers spray ultra-small, see-through solar cells on to glass surfaces. These novel spray-on techniques have been pioneered, advanced, and unveiled in operating prototypes by scientists who initiated early research efforts with New Energy Technologies under a Sponsored Research Agreement at the University of South Florida (USF). The Company’s SolarWindow™ technology has since progressed significantly beyond early research, and is now in advanced product development.
For more details about the most recent announcement, check out the full press release
Erik Wasson - 05/17/13 04:30 PM ET
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will support moving the House farm bill forward, Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) told reporters Friday.
“Leader Pelosi is behind us. I’ve talked to her, and she will be supporting us,” he said.
Pelosi’s support could prove critical for getting the $940 billion farm bill out of the House when it comes up for a vote in June. The bill faces opposition from liberals for its food stamp cuts and from conservatives who want deeper cuts to both food stamps and farm payments.
“We’ve got to get 218 votes in the House. That’s a tricky thing because you have some Democrats who have taken the position that SNAP can’t be cut one penny, which I think is not defensible — I think that’s a ridiculous position,” Peterson said.
“And we have people on the other side who want $130 billion in cuts, and that’s ridiculous. So we have got to find out where that balance is,” he said.
Pelosi's office clarified Friday that the minority leader supports moving forward on a farm bill, but has not weighed in on the substance of the Agriculture Committee bill.
"As Ranking Member Peterson stated today, Leader Pelosi is supportive of getting a five year farm bill reauthorized. She is hopeful that the Republican leadership will bring the committee-passed bill to the floor under an open rule so that Members will have an opportunity to weigh in. Sixteen million jobs are on the line, including 800,000 jobs in California," spokesman Drew Hammill said.
Peterson said Democrats should realize that the food stamp issue will be resolved in a conference committee with the Senate, and the Senate farm bill has only $4 billion in food stamp cuts.
Both bills limit a current link between receiving heating aid and qualifying for food stamps, but the House bill eliminates a system of qualifying for
May 17, 2013 at 11:21 am by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
You wouldn’t know it from the oil industry’s angry reaction, but the Obama administration’s latest plan to tighten standards for drilling on public lands gives more ground to the private sector at the expense of environmentalists who pushed for tougher protections.
The initiative, unveiled by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management on Thursday, aims to boost the integrity of oil and gas wells to prevent contamination, would force companies to disclose the chemicals they pump underground and would make drillers adopt plans for managing water at the sites.
Building off a proposal released last May — and later withdrawn — regulators rewrote the entire measure in response to nearly 200,000 public comments and make a number of big concessions to the oil industry in the process. For instance, the new rule would apply narrowly to hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands, rather than broadly to all well stimulation activities. The proposal would let oil and gas companies reveal the chemicals they use at wells on public land — and withhold some details as trade secrets — using the industry’s preferred disclosure system, FracFocus. And federal officials could effectively exempt whole states or tribal territories from the mandates.
Plus, according to the government’s analysis, the price tag of the proposed requirements would be less than $20 million annually industry-wide — or about $6,000 extra per well, a figure that analysts at FBR Capital Markets noted represents less than half of a percent of the cost of a typical well.
While some provisions go the other way and tighten requirements for industry further than the proposal released a year ago, on most major, high-profile issues, the administration moved in the direction of oil and gas companies’ demands.
Analysts said that’s a fresh sign that the
May 17, 2013 at 11:42 am by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
The Energy Department on Friday gave Freeport LNG conditional approval to broadly export domestically harvested natural gas, marking only the second time a U.S. company has won that authority and suggesting the Obama administration may grant similar licenses later this year.
The export license allows the Texas-based project to sell liquefied natural gas to Japan and other countries that do not have free-trade agreements with the United States. The company still must win approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to convert its existing Quintana Island, Texas import terminal into a facility capable of liquefying natural gas and shipping it overseas. And the Energy Department reserved the right to review Freeport’s application again before issuing a final export license.
The move is the first of its kind since the Energy Department granted a similar export license to Cheniere Energy in April 2012, giving that Houston-based company the right to export as much as 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day for the next two decades. The Energy Department had put other export applications on hold while it considered the economic effects of more broadly selling domestic natural gas overseas.
Benjamin Salisbury, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets, called the Energy Department’s move “a crucially important stepping stone,” because it clarifies the way the Obama administration will review the remaining 19 applications and puts the U.S. on track for additional approvals.
A federal law dictates that the Energy Department must affirm proposed exports are in the public interest before granting licenses to sell the fossil fuel to countries that don’t have free-trade agreements with the United States — a
New U.S. corn to be harvested September through November
By Hugh Bronstein
BUENOS AIRES, May 15 (Reuters) - A record 2 million tonnes of South American corn is being sent to the United States this season to compensate for last year's weak harvest, industry sources based in Buenos Aires have told Reuters.
The Brazilian and Argentine corn - mainly being used in Virginia and North Carolina as chicken and hog feed - is expected to keep flowing northward until September, when the new U.S. crop starts being harvested, they said.
After the worst drought in decades parched the Midwest farm belt in 2012, U.S. commercial-use corn stocks are thinner than they have been since the 1990s. This is bad news for pork, poultry and beef producers facing historically high prices for corn-based animal feed.
"The United States bought about 1.5 million tonnes of corn from South America between September 2012 and February 2013. That was mainly Brazilian corn," said a trader at a major exporting company, who asked not to be identified.
"In the second half of the corn year, between March and August, the United States will buy 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes, mainly from Argentina. Eighty percent of this volume has been closed but not executed yet. The balance will be closed soon," said the trader, who has direct knowledge of the transactions.
The data was confirmed by a Buenos Aires-based grains broker, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. Both said they did not anticipate a repeat of such big northbound trades next year, as U.S. corn stocks are expected to recover.
"These days, Argentina is one of the cheapest sources of corn in the world," the broker said. "We expect to keep seeing Argentine corn go to the United States through June, when Brazil will take over again as the source through August."
The U.S. government expects 3.2 million tonnes of corn imports this season, with Canada providing
Friday, May 17, 2013
The USDA's May 10 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report contained supply and consumption projections for the 2013-14 marketing year for U.S. corn and soybeans. For the most part, the market focused on the projections of crop size, but according to University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good, the most important information is in the projections of marketing year consumption.
"The U.S average corn yield is projected at 158 bushels per acre, below our calculation of trend yield near 161.5 bushels, and production is projected at a record 14.14 billion bushels," Good said. "The U.S. average soybean yield is projected at 44.5 bushels per acre, above our trend-yield calculation near 44 bushels, and production is projected at a record 3.39 billion bushels. The projected corn yield reflects the expectation that yield potential has been compromised by the likelihood that a much larger-than-average percentage of the 2013 crop will be planted later than is optimal for maximum yield potential. The soybean yield forecast reflects an opportunity to plant much of the crop in a timely fashion with much improved soil moisture conditions in many areas."
According to Good, the yield of both crops will be determined by weather conditions yet to unfold, so considerable uncertainty will persist for another three months. In addition, the magnitude of planted acreage is not yet known with more information to be available in the USDA's June Acreage report.
"The consumption projections for both crops reflect judgment about the size of the market under conditions of ample supplies and much lower prices," Good said. "These projections are valuable because they provide context for evaluating the price implications of production potential as it unfolds over the next few months."
For corn, use for ethanol and by-product production is forecast at 4.85 billion bushe
Mike Lillis - 05/16/13 05:43 PM ET
The top House Democrats are urging the government of Bangladesh to adopt tougher worker protections in the wake of last month's deadly garment factory collapse outside the capital of Dhaka.
In a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the lawmakers suggest that Bangladeshi authorities, under pressure from business interests, have neglected such protections at the expense of workers' lives.
They're calling on Hasina to "put the highest priority on aggressively enacting and enforcing comprehensive reforms … to ensure that workers in Bangladesh are assured basic safety and internationally-recognized rights."
"We fully understand that there are multiple factors which brought about this tragedy and others like it, and it is critical that all key stakeholders take action," the Democrats wrote. "However, we believe there is simply no substitute for tough, comprehensive, uncompromising government support for legislation and fully-resourced law enforcement … – including the right to organize and form unions … – that both empowers workers and prevents more accidents from happening."
Spearheaded by Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the letter was also endorsed by Reps. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), the Democratic leader; Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip; Sander Levin (Mich.), senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee; and 20 other House Democrats.
The April 24 collapse of the eight-story Rana Plaza building in a suburb of Dhaka killed more than 1,100 people – mostly low-paid garment workers – and renewed scrutiny of worker protections in Bangladesh, which trails only China among the world's leading apparel exporters.
The day before, an engineer had warned the building owner that the structure was unsound and urged people to keep out. Instead, thousands of workers were allowed to re-enter the
Ryan Koronowski on May 16, 2013 at 4:48 pm
Conservative states, business groups, fossil fuel companies, and politicians who deny the science of climate change are petitioning the Supreme Court to reverse Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on greenhouse gases and to weaken the Clean Air Act. This would involve the Court either limiting or reversing its own 2007 decision, Massachusetts v. EPA, which found that the EPA is required to regulate carbon pollution as pollution.
Reuters reported that the Court’s decision of whether or not to take up the petitioners’ case will have a significant impact on future efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The appeals to the Supreme Court follow the DC Circuit Court of Appeals’ refusal to reconsider the matter. The Court is expected to decide whether to hear the petitions in October.
The nine petitions, filed over the last few months, seek review of EPA regulations. Petitioners include: states with fossil fuel-friendly governors like Texas, Alaska, and Virginia; industry groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, and the National Association of Manufacturers; as well as fossil fuel companies like Peabody Energy (the world’s largest private-sector coal company). The petition led by Texas includes as fellow petitioners Gov.Rick Perry (R), Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), and Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), who deny the reality of climate science.
Since the Court ruled that CO2 is a pollutant, the EPA found that it was a threat to public health through an endangerment finding:
“Pursuant to CAA section 202(a), the Administrator finds that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare.”
In August of 2012, EPA implemented new mileage standards
U.S. Gold Jewelry Demand Rises for the First Time in Eight Years
By Rob Bates, Senior Editor
Posted on May 16, 2013
U.S. demand for gold jewelry rose 6 percent in the first quarter of 2013, the first time it has risen since 2005, according to the World Gold Council’s Gold Demand Trends report.
The report attributes the demand jump to the decline in the gold price, as well as the continued improvement in the U.S. economy.
Mass-market retailers “re-introduced their gold offerings at key price points in recognition of solid underlying demand," the report said.
In addition, the report noted that many consumers now view gold through a “quasi-investment lens, with a focus on ‘heirloom’ pieces that can be gifted and passed on.”
Worldwide gold jewelry demand was up 12 percent in the first quarter over the year before, the report said, driven mainly by demand from China and India.
May 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm by Emily Pickrell
Shareholders voted down a proposal to raise executive pay at Apache at a shareholders meeting on Thursday morning in Houston, a visible rebuke to top management for recently sagging stock prices and concerns about investment in Egypt.
Apache CEO G. Steven Farris announced that the compensation plan to increase executive pay at Apache fell short of a majority approval, receiving only 49.82 percent of the vote. The vote comes after a rough year for Apache, which fell short of its 2012 production growth targets.
Natural gas investment: Pickens buys Apache, Goodrich shares in first quarter
Farris extolled Apache’s long-term performance, noting that the company has increased its production by 34 percent in the last four years, but acknowledged that poor commodity prices and political unrest have led to lower stock prices.
“Why is our stock where it is?” Farris said. “One is, we have a great company and have done a great job, but we have not done what we said we were going to do. The second is, our position in Egypt. We can talk about success but it is still an area of concern for our shareholders.”
In recent years Apache has fueled production growth through a series of acquisitions, but has had more trouble in transitioning the company to organic growth. The company wowed investors at its analyst’s meeting last June with an ambitious 6 to 9 percent growth target, but has since pulled these goals back to 3 to 5 percent, leaving investors jittery about its prospects.
“In June last year, they set a production target, then lowered the production target,” said Phil Weiss, an analyst with Argus Research. “They have been underperforming in terms of how much they are producing off these assets.”
Analysts have also expressed frustration with the rising debt generated by the acquisitions.
“They paid to grow essentially – they
Prime minister attends NYC session with Council on Foreign Relations
By Meagan Fitzpatrick, CBC News
Posted: May 16, 2013 12:50 PM ET
Last Updated: May 16, 2013 7:07 PM ET
Read 589 comments589
Prime Minister Stephen Harper told an American audience today that the Keystone XL pipeline "absolutely needs to go ahead."
Harper made the pipeline pitch while taking questions at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.
He laid out the case for why U.S. President Barack Obama's administration should approve the proposed pipeline that would connect Alberta's oilsands to the Gulf Coast, touting job creation prospects. Harper said the project will create 40,000 jobs south of the Canadian border and that can't be ignored.
"This is an enormous benefit to the U.S. in terms of long-term energy security," Harper added.
He acknowledged environmental challenges, but said that the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the Alberta oilsands have dropped by 25 per cent over the last decade and that the government is continuing to invest in technology to further reduce emissions.
The prime minister also said that the amount of emissions from the oilsands plays a small part in total global emissions.
"It's almost nothing globally," he said, adding later that Canada is a small contributor compared to other big oil producers such as Venezuela.
"I don't have to tell you there are probably reasons beyond just emissions why you would want to have your oil from Canada rather than Venezuela," he said.
Harper said when all the economic and other factors are weighed, it's clear why there is such broad support for the Keystone XL project in the U.S.
Technology key to cutting emissions
"I think this absolutely needs to go ahead but you can rest assured that making our emissions targets including in the oilsands sector is an important objective for the government of Canada," he said.
Monte Shaw - 05/16/13 04:00 PM ET
I grew up in Iowa and witnessed E10, or fuel made with 10 percent ethanol, enter the marketplace. I watched ethanol displace methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) in California, the Northeast and then nationwide. And as crude oil prices continued their inexorable march from $20 per barrel to more than $100, I’ve seen E10 become the ubiquitous fuel in our nation. What does each of these things have in common? The oil industry said they couldn’t be done, and they were wrong.
Not surprisingly, Big Oil is back to its old tricks, this time trying to convince Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency that the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) cannot work and should be eliminated.
To combat Big Oil’s monopoly on transportation fuels, the RFS requires refiners to gradually increase the amount of renewable fuels available to consumers over time. However, refiners now say it cannot be done. Once again, they are wrong.
We call this the Big Oil Bluff.
The Big Oil Bluff claims that blends above 10 percent ethanol cannot be sold — the so-called E10 blend wall. So, as the RFS increases, oil refiners can’t use more ethanol, and instead have no choice but to artificially reduce U.S. fuel supplies to meet the RFS percentage.
The Bluff’s logic maintains that less gasoline would spike prices and the threat of high gas prices would serve as the justification necessary for Congress or the EPA to eliminate the RFS.
There’s just one problem. The central argument of the Big Oil Bluff is the existence of a real E10 blend wall. However, the E10 blend wall does not exist. Increasing consumer access to lower-cost E15 and E85, 15 percent and 85 percent ethanol respectively, solves the problem.
Yet, Big Oil has not worked to expand consumer access to these fuels. In fact, the oil industry has engaged in a relentless effort to obstruct the introduction of E15 and
May 16, 2013 at 1:53 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled a new plan to tighten standards for drilling on public lands and force companies to reveal the chemicals they use in the process, after making significant concessions to the oil industry.
Although it is poised to be the first major federal rule governing the hydraulic fracturing process that is unlocking vast domestic oil and gas reserves, the measure would apply only on the small sliver of U.S. land under the Interior Department’s control.
Rewritten in response to a flood of criticism from both environmentalists and the oil industry, the new proposal left both groups unsatisfied. Conservationists said it doesn’t go far enough to protect drinking water near drilling sites, and industry officials said the mandates could hike costs and cause delays in drilling.
In Canada: Quebec proposes law to ban fracking
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell cast the proposed rule as a pragmatic approach to protecting environment and public health while allowing oil and gas development on federal lands.
“We are proposing some common-sense updates that increase safety while also providing flexibility and facilitating coordination with states and tribes,” Jewell said. “As we continue to offer millions of acres of America’s public lands for oil and gas development, it is important that the public has full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place.”
To a striking degree, Interior Department officials emphasized their desire for a final set of mandates that protects public health and the environment while providing flexibility and avoiding duplicate regulation. Jewell acknowledged that the measure was sure to be criticized on all sides.
“You’re going to hear from folks that we caved to industry or we’re bowing to pressure from environmentalists,” J...
May 16, 2013 Guest Contributor
By Chris Robertson
Large-scale solar power plants are now economic in Oregon. This is one of the surprising findings of the Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association’s recently published “Vision to Integrate Solar in Oregon” (VISOR). Produced by Chris Robertson & Associates, LLC, with support from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the VISOR study can be accessed at chrisrobertsonassociates
The cost of producing solar electricity from large-scale power plants is less than the regulated avoided costs of the two largest electric utilities in the state (Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp). The Oregon Public Utility Commission regulates their avoided costs, which are published as part of the utility rate schedules. Power plant owners can get long-term contracts to sell solar energy to the utilities at the avoided cost rates.
Solar power plants would be even more profitable to build if plant owners were paid for the non-energy benefits their PV power plants create. Many benefits to the utility system are not now priced, but nevertheless are real. Here are three (of many) examples: A fleet of PV power plants would reduce risk of electric price volatility associated with natural gas generation and the region’s hydroelectric system. The three-phase inverters in PV power plants can provide valuable power factor correction services to the power grid. And avoided carbon emissions alone could be worth $20 or more per megawatt-hour, as the following chart illustrates.
The new reality of cost-effective solar energy power plants caught many in the Northwest’s energy policy community by surprise. The influential Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s 2010 regional power plan regarded utility-scale PV as not cost effective by a wide margin; by the end of 2012, their 2010 forecast of PV capital cost was too high by a factor of five.
May 16, 2013 Zachary Shahan
Herman Trabish of Greentech Media has happened across a pretty interesting find — 97% of new electricity generation capacity in line to be added to the California grid in the second half (2H) of 2012 is from solar power projects.
This is according to the California Independent System Operator (the ISO), as published in the 2012 Annual Report on Market Issues and Performance. In total, 1,633 megawatts of generation capacity are in line to be added to the grid in 2H 2013. A whopping 1,581 megawatts (MW) are from solar projects. 52 MW are from biomass projects.
That’s a big shift from the first half of the year (and, well, all of previous history). Herman writes: “By the end of the first half of the year, the ISO will have added 3,391 megawatts of nameplate capacity, of which 2,296 megawatts will be natural gas, 565 megawatts will be wind and 530 megawatts will be solar.” Here’s a chart for a visual display of these points and the situation in 2012:
Image Credit: California ISO
Herman spent a lot of time discussing various factors related to natural gas in his post (I’d recommend checking it out). A few key points I’d pull out of it are as follows (images added):
1.Natural gas prices seem to have gotten too low to warrant investment in new natural gas projects. From the report: “The 2012 net revenue estimates for hypothetical combined-cycle and combustion-turbine units continued to fall substantially below the estimates of the annualized fixed costs for these technologies. For a new combined-cycle unit, net operating revenues earned from the markets in 2012 are estimated to be about $38 per kilowatt-year in Southern California, compared to potential annualized fixed costs of $176 per kilowatt-year.” (See 3 charts above.)
2.More periods like 2H 2013 to come — this is the future.
National Weather Service Enhanced Radar Image Loop