Scientists Fear Trump Will Dismiss Blunt Climate Report

8.7.17

The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.

“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” a draft of the report states. A copy of it was obtained by The New York Times.

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JPMorgan Chase's New Plano Campus Will Soon be Powered by Wind Energy

7.28.17

New York banking giant JPMorgan Chase is giving Texas' renewable energy industry an extra tailwind.

The company announced Friday it plans to switch all its facilities to 100 percent renewable power by 2020. In Texas, 75 percent of JPMorgan Chase's facilities will run on wind energy by the end of this year. That covers 584 branches and 8 million square feet, including a new 1.2 million-square-foot Plano campus.

To power those locations, JPMorgan Chase previously announced a 20-year deal to buy more than half the electricity generated by a new wind farm southwest of Fort Worth. NRG Energy's Buckthorn facility in Erath County is scheduled to start operating by the end of this year.

The financial firm also is planning to install solar panels on 1,400 bank branches and 40 commercial buildings worldwide, including the Chase Legacy West Complex.

The renewable push is part of a broader sustainability effort by the company, including a commitment to provide $200 billion for "clean financing" through 2025 — such as helping with fundraising and underwriting for renewable energy companies or efforts. 

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SWEPCO Project Targets Low-cost, Renewable Energy

8.1.17
Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) recently announced plans for a major clean energy project that will provide 6 million megawatt-hours (mWh) of new wind energy annually to SWEPCO customers. SWEPCO filed applications July 31 with utility regulators in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas to request approval for the project.

As proposed, SWEPCO will own 1,400 megawatts (MW) of a 2,000-MW wind farm under construction in Oklahoma. SWEPCO also will help build an approximately 350-mile, dedicated 765-kilovolt (kV) power line from the Oklahoma Panhandle to Tulsa to deliver the wind energy to customers.

“This is an exciting opportunity to provide a significant amount of clean, renewable energy and long-term cost savings for SWEPCO customers,” said Venita McCellon-Allen, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer. “We are working to meet the future energy needs of our customers in the cleanest, most efficient and cost-effective ways possible, and at the same time continuing to diversify our energy resource mix.”

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Alternative Energy Fact: Texas and Other Red States Still Lead the Nation in Wind Farms

2.9.17

Wind power capacity has surpassed hydroelectric as the nation's leading renewable energy, thanks in part to Texas' booming wind farms, according to Department of Energy figures.

The news was announced in Arlington this morning during the release of the American Wind Energy Association's fourth-quarter report. The 6,478 megawatts installed nationally at the end of 2016 was the second best quarter ever. And that was just enough to push wind to the front in renewable capacity, though hydroelectric still produces more electricity. 

"It's reliable. It's affordable. It just makes good business sense," said Tom Kiernan, the association's CEO.

He pointed out that the cost of wind energy has dropped by about two-thirds during the past seven years. The industry group's research showed that Texas still leads the nation with triple the capacity of any other state. 

The wind capacity in Texas — 20,321 megawatts — is enough to power the equivalent of 5.7 million average homes. That capacity is nearly one-quarter of the 82,183-megawatt U.S. total. 

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The Future of Renewable Energy is in Texas

7.27.17

Renewable energy isn't at a crossroads in the U.S. so much as on a two-lane highway: While the federal government hits the gas on fossil fuels, states are speeding ahead to develop renewable energy -- and reaching new milestones.

For example, enough solar energy is being collected every year to power all the single-family homes in Florida. Three states generate more than one-third of their energy from wind and solar. Some 160,000 electric cars were sold last year -- enough to supply the entire population of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. And earlier this year, wind and solar produced one-tenth of the nation's energy for an entire month.

A recent report highlights the states that are most quickly embracing renewable energy. And the leaders are not what many people might expect. Yes, California has some of the most pro-environment laws on the books. But the state that produces the most renewable energy in terms of sheer quantity? It's Texas. The states that generate the largest portion of their power from renewables: Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas and the Dakotas

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Warren Buffett Unveils Deal to Buy Big Piece of Texas Electric Grid

7.7.17

Warren Buffet is making a play for Texas’ largest electric transmission utility.

Berkshire Hathaway, the famed billionaire’s multinational conglomerate, unveiled a roughly $18 billion deal Friday to buy Oncor, whose roughly 120,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines deliver power to more than 3 million homes and businesses in North and West Texas.

If approved, the deal could help deliver Energy Future Holdings, Oncor’s parent company and Texas’ largest power conglomerate, from one of the largest corporate bankruptcies in American history. That company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2014, is saddled with about $50 billion in debt.

“Oncor is an excellent fit for Berkshire Hathaway, and we are pleased to make another long-term investment in Texas — when we invest in Texas, we invest big,” Buffett said in a joint news release from Berkshire Hathaway and Oncor.

The proposed merger would need the sign-off of the Delaware judge overseeing Energy Future Holdings’ bankruptcy, along with approvals from the Public Utility Commission of Texas and federal regulators.

Berkshire Hathaway would pay $9 billion cash for Oncor and assume its debt, making the deal worth roughly $18 billion.  

Bob Shapard, Oncor’s CEO, called the latest proposal “a great outcome for Oncor.”

“By joining forces with Berkshire Hathaway Energy, we will gain access to additional operational and financial resources as we continue to position Oncor to support the evolving energy needs of our state,” he said in a statement. 

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NRG Sees Buyers Circling for Renewables Unit Amid Cost-Cut Plans

7.18.17

NRG Energy Inc. says buyers are hungry for the company’s renewable-energy business as the power generator looks to cut debt and sell assets under pressure from billionaire investor Paul Singer.

Almost a week after the largest U.S. independent power producer disclosed that it’s looking to slim down, the company is seeing “robust engagement from a variety of potential co-sponsors or sponsors” for its clean-energy units, Craig Cornelius, senior vice president of renewables, said in a phone interview Tuesday. NRG is moving to shed as much as $4 billion of assets, including a stake in its NRG Yield Inc. yieldco, as part of a deal with Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. and turnaround titan C. John Wilder’s Bluescape Energy Partners.

“In almost every dimension, it’s a pretty substantial renewable-energy enterprise,” Cornelius said. “It exceeds the scale of anything that’s going into a process like this.”
NRG is pursuing a sale at an opportune time. While yieldcos -- companies formed to own assets with predictable cash flows -- have amassed little equity in the public markets recently, a large and deepening pool of buyers covets the assets they own: wind and solar farms that benefit from long-term contracts with utilities. These buyers include pension funds and insurance companies with long-term liabilities that neatly dovetail the utility contracts.

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Renewable Energy Not a Threat to Grid, Draft of U.S. Study Finds

7.14.17

Wind and solar power don’t pose a significant threat to the reliability of the U.S. power grid, Energy Department staff members said in a draft report, contradicting statements by their leader Rick Perry.

"The power system is more reliable today due to better planning, market discipline, and better operating rules and standards," according to a July draft of the study obtained by Bloomberg.

The findings -- which are still under review by the department’s leadership -- contrast with Perry’s arguments that "baseload" sources such as coal and nuclear power that provide constant power are jeopardized by Obama-era incentives for renewable energy, making the grid unreliable.

“I’ve asked the staff of the Department of Energy to undertake a critical review of regulatory burdens placed by the previous administration on baseload generators,” Perry said last month. “Over the last several years, grid experts have expressed concern about the erosion of critical baseload resources.”

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Texas Is Too Windy and Sunny for Old Energy Companies to Make Money

6.20.17

As attractive a renewable-energy concept as wind power is, it’s plagued by a fundamental flaw. It blows the most in the dead of night, precisely when there’s the least demand for electricity. That’s true for just about every wind-blown spot across the U.S., from the foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains in California to the coastal plains of North Carolina.

And then there’s South Texas.

It is to wind, engineers have discovered in recent years, a bit like what Napa Valley is to wine and Georgia is to peaches. For not only does the state’s Gulf Coast generate strong evening gusts, but it also blows fiercely in the middle of the day, just as electricity consumption is peaking.

It’s the result of something called convection currents—a phenomenon caused by the gap between the temperature on the water and land—and it’s allowing wind farms owned by Apex Clean Energy Inc. and Avangrid Inc. to tap into the midday spike in electricity prices that comes as air conditioners start to hum.

In the cut-throat Texas energy market, the construction of these coastal wind turbines—some 900 in all—has had a profound impact. It’s been terrific for consumers, helping further drive down electricity bills, but horrible for natural gas-fired generators. They had ramped up capacity in recent years anticipating that midday price surge would mostly be theirs, not something to share with renewable energy companies. Without that steady cash influx, the business model doesn’t really work, the profits aren’t there and companies including Calpine Corp., NRG Energy Inc. and Exelon Corp. are now either postponing new gas-fired plants or ditching them all together.

Wind power “is a disruptive technology and it’s increasing,” said Paul Patterson, a utility analyst at Glenrock Associates LLC in New York. “That’s a problem for other resources that are competing in that market.”

And it’s not just the coastal turbines that are cutting into gas-fired plants’ business. When inland farms are included, wind power now supplies about a fifth of Texas’s electricity market. Solar power is also growing in the state. All of this helped push the average on-peak price set by Ercot—the grid operator that controls most of the Texas market—down 55 percent the past five years to $25.34 per megawatt hour, according to data compiled by Genscape Inc.

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Searing Heat Is Hurting Texas Wind Power

7.5.17

Temperatures are soaring across Texas, and that’s bad news for the state’s wind power generators.

Wind farms -- which now account for about a fifth of the state’s power mix -- are forecast to generate significantly less electricity this week as the heat builds and keeps turbines from spinning. Wind generation may peak at about 5,900 megawatts on Thursday and 6,900 megawatts Friday, less than two-thirds of what they totaled a week earlier, according to grid manager Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or Ercot.

The decline in power supplies may hit just as Texas needs them most. Temperatures are forecast to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) in some areas, a heat that’ll have people using more power to blast their air conditioners. That may touch off a rally in Texas’s wholesale electricity prices as more costly fossil-fuel generators such as coal and natural gas plants step up to help meet demand.

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