Tag Archive: renewable energy

Norcross and Sires – again, these two – vote with Republicans on KeystoneXL

Here’s the list of Democrats who voted with the Republicans today to approve the $5.4 Billion Keystone XL pipeline. Two of the 29 are from New Jersey; Donald Norcross (NJ-1) and Albio Sires (NJ-8). House vote was 270-152, on a bill identical to one passed by the Senate in late January.

If you want to say anything to them about it, you can use Twitter. Tweet to:

@DonNorcross4NJ.

@RepSires.

Neither has posted on this vote; both know it wouldn’t be their best play (Norcross’ Twitter account is inactive since Jan. 21).

Oddly enough, the tweets at the top of both congressmen’s accounts are about jobs; Sires here (from today) and Norcross here (pinned form Oct. 22, 2014).

President Obama will have 10 days to issue a veto, which he’s very likely to do. Speaker John Boehner says the president is “standing with a bunch of left-fringe extremists and anarchists. (Watch). Norcross and Sires are standing with Boehner and the Republicans.  

Christie Acknowledges Man-Made Climate Change While Simultaneously Ignoring It

Yesterday, Governor Christie issued some rules pertaining to rebuilding homes on the Jersey Shore – homes that were destroyed or demolished by Hurricane Sandy. These rules are tough and will be expensive to home owners to comply with. But they are necessary. In effect, the Governor acknowledged that future storms and sea surges will become more frequent and severe, thus acknowledging the fact that predictions made decades ago by global climate scientists are now coming to fruition.

Yet, the Governor still refuses to acknowledge that there are things we can do to alleviate the frequency and severity of these events. His cozying up to the Koch Brothers and withdrawal of the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative just work toward making the situation worse. His less-than-enthusiastic support for renewable energy like wind and solar power guarantees that New Jersey’s dependence on dirty global-climate-changing energy will be with us long after he’s gone from the political scene.

Why does the Tea Party fear children with kites?

Oh the humanity! Children flying kites on the beach! You'd think New Jersey was under attack by terrorists with Predator Kites if you believed the panic Americans for Prosperity are in over a planned celebration of Global Wind Day by the Sierra Club.

 The Koch-backed AFP is organizing a counter-protest to uphold the “rights” of the billionaire carbon fuel barons, and defend oil and coal subsidies from attack by “Kids with Kites” supporting clean, renewable energy. How daring and patriotic of AFP!

Just what are these “environmental extremists” thinking in their support public investment in a local clean-energy industry? Big tax subsidies belong solely to big oil & coal companies, right? 

Wrong!

The “Battle on the Beach” is garnering national attention, as witnessed by this Maddow Blog entry, and a write-up by Stephen Lacey on the ThinkProgress Cllimate Progress blog.

The Right Way to Create Jobs in New Jersey

There are ways to create jobs, and there are ways not to create jobs. Over the past several years, it has been proven time and again that the Republican mantra of giving tax breaks to the wealthy does not create jobs. Providing stimuli to incentivize worthwhile endeavors does create jobs.

The solar power industry in New Jersey has been a fantastic jobs creator in part due to incentives. Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) have been one of those incentives, but they have been a victim of their own success. Sold on the open market, SRECs have lost value due to the glut of credits resulting from the expansion of the industry in New Jersey.

Today, the Assembly Utilities Panel will review Bill A2507, introduced by Assemblyman Vincent Prieto that gives the renewable energy industry a shot in the arm. The “Solar Thermal Expansion and Jobs Creation Act” will provide loans and grants to promote green energy.  And green energy means jobs. Not jobs that don’t add value by pushing paper and dollars around on Wall Street exchanges, but jobs that help keep our air and water clean and reduce our dependency on foreign imports. That’s the kind of leadership we need in Trenton and Washington.  

Atlantic Wind Connection, 350 mile, 7kMw offshore wind project

The Atlantic Wind Connection starts with a 5.5 billion dollar HVDC offshore trunkline from central New Jersey to Southern Virginia. Capable of a 6-7 gigawatt capacity, the undersea supergrid project is led by independent transmission company Trans-Elect, CEO Bob Mitchell hopes to accelerate wind power development by building the 350 mile long supergrid backbone to attract wind turbine installers. Ultimately the 350 mile long AWX could support over 1700 4Mw wind turbines,

The eastern seaboard has terrific potential for offshore wind. With more than 60,000 MW of offshore wind potential in the relatively shallow waters off the continental shelf. The HVDC backbone of the AWC will be 15-18 miles offshore, have a limited number of landfall points, lessening environmental impact and keeping wind turbines out of sight.

Saving money for NJ consumers while planning for a new energy infrastructure.

The Christie administration has just issued the draft of the 2011 Energy Master Plan.  Two of the overarching goals are “Drive down the cost of energy for all consumers” and “Promote a diverse portfolio of new, clean, in-State generation”.

Since 2003, the State of New Jersey has had legislation that allows local governments to play a leading role in implementing the two goals above.

Unluckily, this opportunity has been completely ignored.

The Government Energy Aggregation Act of 2003   (PL. 2003, C24), authorizes municipalities and/or counties of New Jersey to establish Government Energy Aggregation (GEA) programs simply by passing an ordinance or a resolution.  A GEA program allows municipalities, working alone or in a group, to aggregate the energy requirements of residential, commercial and municipal accounts at the same time.  This approach gives the opportunity to qualified Third Party Suppliers (TPS) to bid on contracts for substantial quantities of energy (electricity and/or natural gas) that are put on the market by municipalities participating in a GEA program.

New Jersey residents are already receiving offers to procure electricity and gas from suppliers, other than the local utilities, based on an array of, sometimes confusing, plans with potentially expensive early termination clauses.   GEA programs allow municipalities, working alone or in a group, to offer their constituents a substantially higher level of protection and assurance without any additional risk to themselves.

The current NJ legislation and the subsequent BPU rules, contain clauses that make implementation of GEA programs extremely favorable to the end users. Among the most notable features are:

Negawatts save Megabucks

The Newark Star Ledger reported (here) that Public Service Electric and Gas, PSE&G is installing a the UMDNJ is installing a  2,700-ton chiller as part of an $11.4 million investment in negawatts. The Star Ledger reported that UMDNJ will save $1.3 million per year on energy costs.What’s the payback? An $11.4 million investment will save $1.3 million per year. That means the system will pay for itself in about 8 years 9 months, assuming the price of energy remains constant.  I think it’s a much more reasonable to assume that the price of energy will go up.

The system will work long after it is paid for. It will save at least $13 Million over the next 10 years and $26 Million over the next 20 years – assuming electricity costs are constant, assuming electricity costs are constant.  Assuming electricity costs increase an average of 5% per year, this will save $16.35 Million over the next 10 years, and $42.99 over the next 20 years.

  • Projected Savings of $11.4 Million investment.
  • After 1 Year: $1.3 Million. 11.4%
  • After 5 Years: $7.18 Million (63%) with a 5% annual increases in cost of energy.
  • After 10 Years: $16.35 M (143.4%).
  • After 15 Years: $28.05 M (246%)
  • After 20 Years: $42.99 M (377%).

We have Governor Corzine to thank. as well as Governors Whitman, McGreevey, Codey, and Christie.

Solar Energy and the Tax Cut Deal

While Senator Bernie Sander’s old-fashioned filibuster has become a trending topic on twitter and is being live-streamed, our Senator Bob Menendez announced his support for the tax cut deal. I was intrigued by one of the reasons Menendez gave:

It also has several provisions I championed, including tax relief for transit riders and to spur the use of solar energy.

Compared to the tax cuts for the rich and payroll tax issues, the solar energy energy bit is minor, but a description is in The Solar Home & Business Journal:

A bill that embodies the controversial tax-cut deal negotiated by President Obama’s administration and Republican congressional leaders includes an extension of a Treasury Department grant program for solar energy installations…

The Treasury grant program has approved nearly 1,500 awards totaling more than $5.5 billion in payments, mostly for wind and solar electricity projects.

So far, the largest awards have been for wind projects, ranging up to about $218 million for a project in the state of Washington. Solar electricity projects have received the highest number of awards, with almost 1,200. Solar electricity awards have ranged from a few thousand dollars to about $62 million for a Florida Power & Light Co. project.

Basically, developers can get “cash back” instead of a 30% tax credit that often has little value, but if they didn’t start construction by the end of the month they’d have been out of luck. The tendency to offer subsidies and then let expire, then bring them back, then expire, has really hurt the wind industry over the years. Indeed, solar energy stock prices are soaring, showing that the uncertainty was hurting them.  

Hopefully besides encouraging solar energy, these grants will also encourage construction projects to start up now while people really need the jobs.

No, Senator Klobuchar, More Corn Ethanol is NOT the Answer!

According to The Hill newspaper, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) “is introducing legislation to expand use of renewable electricity and transportation fuels that she says is a way to increase political support for broad energy legislation among farm-state lawmakers.” Reuters adds that Klobuchar's legislation would promote “a long-term extension of biofuel tax breaks.”  Klobuchar says, “it is time to look at home-grown energy and that includes biofuels and they should be part of this.”

At first glance, that all sounds innocuous enough, but there's a major problem: Sen. Klobuchar is (cleverly) baiting the hook with a strong Renewable Energy Standard, which most environmentalists support, but at the same time she's also including the worst of the worst biofuels proposals – corn ethanol.  For instance, as Nathanael Greene of NRDC points out, Klobuchar's proposal includes a 5-year extension of the corn ethanol tax credit, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $30 billion.  Klobuchar's legislation also appears to redefine old-growth forests as “biomass,” potentially promoting deforestation.   And Klobuchar's legislation would harm the development of truly advanced biofuels, in favor of corn ethanol.   There's more, but that's sufficient to give you a good idea of how misguided and potentially harmful this bill happens to be.

More broadly, the problem is that promoting corn ethanol actually would set us backwards on our climate and clean energy goals.   NRDC has written a great deal about corn-based ethanol, most of which is not flattering.

*From an NRDC article published in March 2010, we learn that “the current corn ethanol tax credit is effectively costing tax payers $4.18 per gallon and is driving up grain prices.”  The author, Nathanael Greene, concludes that “[w]e don't need an additional 1.4 billion gallons of corn ethanol, or the higher prices for grains and more deforestation that come with it…It's time to transition from corn ethanol's pollution and pork to a new generation of more sustainable biofuels that brings us closer to real energy independence.”

*From this NRDC article published in January 2010, it turns out that “The old, dirty ethanol industry is dominated by big companies like Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Poet.” The author, Roland Hwang, adds, “It’s baffling why an industry that benefits from $4 billion a year in government subsidies can’t find a way to compete on environmental merits.”

*As Nathanael Greene points out here, “the nitrogen runoff from corn grown all along the Mississippi causes a huge dead zone in the Gulf every summer.”  And, “[w]ith about a third of the corn crop going to make corn ethanol, it should be clear that more corn ethanol is not a real solution.”

In addition to NRDC, Barack Obama also weighed in during the 2008 presidential campaign, declaring that “we're going to have a transition from corn-based ethanol to cellulosic ethanol, not using food crops as the source of energy.”

Last but not least, Earth Policy Institute founder Lester Brown and Clean Air Task Force Jonathan Lewis, writing in April 2008, explained in devastating terms why corn ethanol is so problematic:

It is now abundantly clear that food-to-fuel mandates are leading to increased environmental damage. First, producing ethanol requires huge amounts of energy — most of which comes from coal.

Second, the production process creates a number of hazardous byproducts, and some production facilities are reportedly dumping these in local water sources.

Third, food-to-fuel mandates are helping drive up the price of agricultural staples, leading to significant changes in land use with major environmental harm.

Most troubling, though, is that the higher food prices caused in large part by food-to-fuel mandates create incentives for global deforestation, including in the Amazon basin. As Time magazine reported this month, huge swaths of forest are being cleared for agricultural development. The result is devastating: We lose an ecological treasure and critical habitat for endangered species, as well as the world's largest “carbon sink…”

Meanwhile, the mandates are not reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Last year, the United States burned about a quarter of its national corn supply as fuel — and this led to only a 1 percent reduction in the country's oil consumption.

In short, the problem is that while “biofuels” sounds as benign as apple pie, corn ethanol – the main biofuel available today – is actually bad for the environment both in the U.S. and abroad, bad for the poor, and bad for the American taxpayer.

Just to be clear, ethanol from cellulosic material is a completely different – and far superior – story from other, advanced biofuels (e.g., cellulosic), but advanced biofuels are not what Senator Klobuchar's talking about here.  To the contrary, Senator Klobuchar is using this once-in-a-generation chance for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation, to push through a big agribusiness, corn ethanol boondoggle that will harm the environment, do nothing to reduce U.S. dependence on oil or to help strengthen U.S. national security.

Yes, we want increased production of renewable energy like wind and solar. Yes, biofuels done the right way could be an important part of the U.S. energy mix.  But no, Sen. Klobuchar's approach – promoting dirty, old corn ethanol – is simply not the correct approach to the energy and environmental challenges we are facing.

Christie sued for destroying solar market, costing jobs and closing businesses

The Christie administration has put their heavy hand down to raid the solar market piggy bank virtually collapsing an extremely successful program:

Many small, clean-energy businesses will have to shut their doors within a month because Gov. Christie is raiding the New Jersey Clean Energy Trust Fund of $158 million, which is intended to be used to create incentives for New Jersey consumers, houses of worship and commercial businesses to purchase and install solar energy systems and energy-efficient retrofits. Already, there is far less money for clean energy incentives, a major disruption in a nascent but promising industry, and little funding for the rest of year. The result will set back business plans and pending contracts that rely on these programs.

In place since 1999, the New Jersey Clean Energy Trust Fund has created a new renewable energy economic sector: clean energy jobs. It has created more than 260 new small and mid-size businesses and earned New Jersey the reputation of being a national leader in clean energy — but no longer. This large chunk of clean energy funds will be commingled into general state operations to fill the budget “gap.” It will cost the state clean energy jobs. Yet the 1999 law authorizing the trust fund and the New Jersey Clean Energy Program made it very clear that the money was to be used only to support the growth of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Closing small businesses that are open, stopping the creation of new businesses, a loss of jobs and a set back in business plans. Is that really what the Christie administration is trying to tell us they want? The thing is, the money Christie is raiding to help balance the general budget isn’t even taxpayer dollars:

The New Jersey Clean Energy Program and its trust fund are completely funded by the state’s electricity and natural-gas ratepayers and do not use one cent of state money. No bond, appropriation, property tax or sales tax money is used. The 1999 law allowed part of the consumer benefit fee (the Societal Benefit Charge on every electric bill) to be used for the development of clean energy. That fee is collected and transferred to the New Jersey Clean Energy Trust Fund by the electricity utility companies.

We’ve already questioned the constitutionality of this money grab by the Christie administration here at Blue Jersey. We’re not alone as New Jersey’s solar trade association, the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association (MSEIA), has sued the Christie administration, saying that taking $158 million in clean energy funds is unconstitutional and that the governor or Legislature cannot appropriate funds into the state budget that are not state money. Hopefully the courts go along because this is yet another penny-wise and pound foolish decision by Christie that will end up hurting our state much more than helping in the long run.