Monday, August 20, 2018

Federal Briefs

Only 14% of Renewable Additions Last Decade PURPA-Qualifying

Of the more than 103 GW of renewable generation that came online in the U.S. between 2008 and 2017, only 14 GW, or 13.6%, had qualifying small power producer status under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The top category of PURPA-qualifying renewable generation added over that period was utility-scale solar, which is solar with 1 MW or more of capacity; more than 8 GW of it was added. Four gigawatts of onshore wind were added, placing it second.

During the past decade, PURPA-qualifying facilities have accounted for 31% of the country’s solar PV capacity additions, 5% of its onshore wind capacity additions and 6% of its total generating capacity additions.

More: Energy Information Administration

Trump’s Selection to Head ARPA-E Dodges Questions on Funding

Lane Genatowski, who was nominated by President Trump to head the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, wouldn’t say at his Senate confirmation hearing on Aug. 16 whether he thinks the agency should continue to be funded.

Trump didn’t provide funding for the agency in his proposed budgets for fiscal 2018 or 2019.

Genatowski told members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that he would be happy to put his “oar in the water” at the agency if it were funded, but he added that he supports Trump’s budget.

More: The Hill

WaPo: Trump Plans to Unveil CPP Replacement this Week

President Trump plans to unveil the administration’s replacement for the Clean Power Plan this week, possibly as soon as Tuesday during a visit to West Virginia, according to two administration officials who asked for anonymity because the White House was still finalizing the details on Aug. 17.

The proposal, which would give states the ability to establish emissions standards for coal-fired power plants, is expected to result in at least 12 times as much carbon dioxide being emitted by coal-fired power plants over the next decade as would have been emitted under the Clean Power Plan.

EPA estimates that the proposal will affect more than 300 plants, giving companies incentives to keep them running rather than replace them with natural gas or renewable energy projects.

More: The Washington Post

Pilgrim Workers Exceeded Permitted Hours, NRC Says

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station | Entergy

Personnel at Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., worked more hours than allowed by federal regulations on 19 occasions between December 2017 and April 2018, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s latest report on the plant.

Federal law prohibits nuclear plant employees from working more than 16 hours in any 24-hour period and 72 hours in any seven-day period. They also can’t average more than 54 hours a week over a six-week averaging period.

The agency categorized the infraction as a “green” finding, which is considered minor because no problems resulted from it.

More: Cape Cod Times

Despite Stoppage Orders, FERC Allows Work to Continue on Pipelines

Shortly after issuing work stoppage orders to the developers of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, FERC gave them permission to keep working on the projects.

FERC issued a stop work order to Mountain Valley Pipeline on Aug. 3, then on Aug. 15 allowed work to resume on the first 77 miles of the 303-mile-long natural gas pipeline (CP16-10). The commission issued a stop work order to Atlantic Coast Pipeline on Aug. 10, then on Aug. 11 gave it permission to continue construction on road bores and a compressor station in West Virginia for the natural gas pipeline.

Despite being allowed to resume some work, Mountain Valley Pipeline said Aug. 16 that it has laid off as much as half of its workforce and pushed back the pipeline’s expected in-service date to the fourth quarter of 2019. Atlantic Coast’s goal remains to have the natural gas pipeline in service by the end of 2019.

More: Charleston Gazette Mail; Mountain Valley Pipeline

Enviros Ask Court to Review FERC Pipeline Decisions

The Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed a lawsuit on Aug. 16 with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals asking it to review FERC’s Oct. 13, 2017, decision to grant the Atlantic Coast Pipeline a certificate of public convenience and necessity.

The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of 14 environmental organizations, also asked the court to review FERC’s Aug. 10, 2018, decision to deny a rehearing on its decision to grant the certificate.

More: The Daily Progress

China Files Complaint over Solar Tariffs with WTO

China’s Ministry of Commerce said it filed a formal complaint about U.S. tariffs on solar panels and modules with the World Trade Organization in Geneva on Aug. 14.

The ministry said the 30% tariffs imposed by the Trump administration in January improperly help U.S. solar panel manufacturers in violation of WTO rules.

In addition to China, the tariffs apply to solar cells and modules imported from Canada, Mexico, Europe and South Korea.

More: The Associated Press

Family Disputes Puerto Rican Utility Power Restoration Claim

Puerto Rico’s electric utility said Aug. 14 it has completed restoring power to all its customers who lost power from Hurricane Maria, but one resident told CNN that power has yet to be restored to his family’s home and business in the El Yunque National Forest.

Jose Saldana Jr. said his family has not been able to get power because of a dispute between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and the U.S. Forest Service.

“We are confident that this will be resolved soon,” a spokesman for the power authority said.

More: CNN

NREL Chooses New High-Performance Computing System

The Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory said Aug. 14 it has selected its next high-performance computing system, which will be used to advance early-stage research and development on energy technologies spanning multiple programs in the department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

NREL said it will install the new system, which is named Eagle, in its Energy System Integration Facility data center this summer and put it into production use next January.

More: Department of Energy

DOE Investing $38 Million in 28 Hydrogen, Fuel Cell Projects

The Department of Energy on Aug. 14 announced it is investing $38 million in 28 projects to support early-stage research and development of innovative hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

The department said the projects selected for investment focus on key early-stage technical challenges related to non-precious metal catalysts, fuel cell membranes, reversible fuel cells and electrolyzers to produce hydrogen, and innovative concepts to reduce the costs and improve the efficiency of hydrogen vehicle refueling infrastructure.

More: Department of Energy

DOE Providing $9 Million in Funding to 15 Tribal Projects

The Department of Energy said Aug. 15 it is providing nearly $9 million in funding to 15 tribal energy infrastructure projects.

The department said the funding through its Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs is meant to help Native American and Alaska Native communities harness their undeveloped energy resources to reduce or stabilize their energy costs and increase their energy security and resilience.

More: Department of Energy

North Dakota Awarded Attorneys’ Fees in Minnesota Energy Law Case


The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 14 affirmed a federal judge’s order awarding North Dakota more than $1.3 million in attorneys’ fees and other costs in a battle over a 2007 Minnesota law barring utilities from buying power from new power plants that produce carbon dioxide emissions.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem sued Minnesota in 2011, saying the law hurt the ability of generation companies to build — and sell electricity from — coal-fired power plants in his state.

A federal judge ruled in 2014 that the Minnesota law illegally regulates out-of-state utilities.

More: The Associated Press

Politico: Trump Admin Readying Release of CPP Replacement

The Trump administration is preparing to release a replacement for the Clean Power Plan that would allow states to write their own emissions regulations for coal-burning power plants or seek permission to opt out of regulating the plants, Politico reported Aug. 14.

Politico said it reviewed part of an unpublished draft of the proposal, which the White House Office of Management and Budget has returned to EPA after reviewing it.

The publication also attributed some of its reporting to a source who reviewed a different part of the proposal than it did.

More: Politico

Markey Asks Agencies, Utilities for Cyberattack Information


Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) on Aug. 13 wrote letters to FERC, NERC, 10 utilities, the power marketing administrations and the departments of Homeland Security and Energy, asking about Russia’s reported cyberattack on U.S. utilities last year and the steps being taken to identify vulnerabilities in the utilities’ systems and protect them from future attacks.

Markey asked the utilities, among other things, if they had been victims of Russian cyberattacks and, if so, how their systems were infiltrated. He asked the agencies to provide information about their roles in identifying, analyzing and responding to electric utilities’ cyber vulnerabilities, as well as in crafting rules and standards to address them.

More: Sen. Edward Markey

DOE Announces $9M Funding Opportunity for Hydropower Innovation

The Energy Department’s Water Power Technologies Office said it will make up to $9 million available to fund innovations that reduce the cost and maximize the value of new stream-reach hydropower development and pumped storage hydropower.

Under the funding opportunity, which it issued Aug. 9, the unit of the department’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy is seeking applications in two topic areas: Innovative Designs for Low-Head Hydropower and New Use Cases for Pumped Storage Hydropower.

The funding opportunity follows a report issued last month by the water office that identified 1.7 GW of hydropower potential in undeveloped sites and waterways and said innovative technologies and designs could enable an additional 15 GW of hydropower potential.

More: DOE Water Power Technologies Office

Bill Lawrence Named NERC Vice President, Chief Security Officer


NERC’s Board of Trustees has named Bill Lawrence vice president and chief security office, effective Aug. 16.

Lawrence will lead all the NERC security programs executed through the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC), directing security risk assessments and mitigation initiatives to protect critical electricity infrastructure. He also will lead coordination efforts with government agencies and stakeholders on cyber and physical security matters, including analysis, response and the sharing of critical sector information.

Lawrence joined NERC in July 2012 and has held a variety of positions with the E-ISAC, where he is senior director.

More: NERC

Court Ruling Causes FERC to Halt Atlantic Coast Pipeline Work

FERC on Aug. 10 told pipeline developers they must halt work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The commission took the action in response to an Aug. 6 ruling by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that the National Park Service acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner when it granted the pipeline a right-of-way permit to cross under the Blue Ridge Parkway. The court also said the Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t do enough analysis to ensure the protections of five endangered or threatened species and vacated the pipeline’s “Incidental Take Permit.”

Without the permits, FERC said, Atlantic can’t continue work on the $5.5 billion pipeline, which would transport natural gas from central West Virginia to eastern Virginia and North Carolina.

More: WV Public Broadcasting

Renewables Topped Nuclear in US Generation in First Five Months

Renewable generation produced 20.17% of U.S. electricity in the first five months of the year, slightly more than nuclear generation’s 20.14%, according to Energy Information Administration data compiled by Ken Bossong of the Sun Day Campaign.

Renewables also provided a larger share of U.S. power than nuclear generation in the first three months of last year.

Additionally, they provide more power than nuclear generation in more than half the states, according to Sun Day, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote sustainable energy and phase out nuclear power.

More: Greentech Media

Politico: Trump to Nominate DOE Official to FERC

Citing three sources, Politico reported Aug. 8 that President Trump intends to nominate Bernard McNamee, executive director of the Energy Department’s Office of Policy, to fill the vacancy left by departing Commissioner Robert Powelson at FERC.

McNamee has been with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and served as aides to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

The vetting process for McNamee is still ongoing, Politico said.

More: Politico

Documents Show Trump Admin Edited Lab Report

The Trump administration pushed the authors of a report to highlight outages of natural gas-fired generation during extreme weather events to tout the value of coal-fired plants, newly released documents show.

Correspondence obtained by the Sierra Club shows Energy Department officials hoping for more cold snaps like the so-called “bomb cyclone” that hit the Northeast in January. They told researchers at the department’s National Energy Technology Laboratory that such events show “the need for system planners to more strongly consider generator performance during extreme weather events, particularly for natural-gas fired units.”

The report was cited by FirstEnergy Solutions in its request under Federal Power Act Section 202c that the department issue an emergency order that PJM to compensate coal-fired and nuclear power plants that have 25 days of onsite fuel. (See FES Seeks Bankruptcy, DOE Emergency Order.)

More: Bloomberg

Puerto Rico Nearly Back to Full Service

Energy Information Administration data show that commercial and industrial electricity sales on Puerto Rico are back to pre-Hurricane Maria levels, while residential sales are still lagging slightly behind.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority on Aug. 3 reported that only 104 customers remain without power. The island territory’s blackout of more than 10 months constitutes the longest in U.S. history.

More: Greentech Media

Senators Urge Caution on Nuke Decommissioning Rule

Four senators wrote to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Aug. 3, expressing concern over a proposed rule that would, among other things, eliminate the need for nuclear plant operators to send requests for exemptions from certain decommissioning requirements.

“The proposed rule, as presented by NRC staff, would not establish the proper checks to ensure the safety and security of these plants as they move through the full decommissioning process,” the senators wrote.

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) signed the letter.

USDA Awards $345.5M in Loans for Rural Tx

The Department of Agriculture on Aug. 6 announced it has awarded $345.5 million in loans for 20 transmission projects to improve electric service in rural areas.

The department granted the loans through its Electric Infrastructure Loan Program, which finances projects in communities with less than 10,000 residents.

The loans include $7.75 million to Goodhue County Electric Cooperative Association in Minnesota to build 28 miles of transmission and improve 72 miles of existing line. They also include a total of $7.9 million for smart grid technology that the department said would improve reliability and efficiency.

More: USDA

FERC Orders Mountain Valley Work Stoppage

FERC on Friday ordered an immediate halt to construction of the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia.

The commission cited the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent ruling that remanded approvals by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service for a segment of the pipeline that runs through a national forest. While it said it did not have any reason to believe the agencies would not be able to comply with the court’s orders, the commission said it could not predict when they would, or if they will alter the pipeline’s route.

“Accordingly, allowing continued construction poses the risk of expending substantial resources and substantially disturbing the environment by constructing facilities that ultimately might have to be relocated or abandoned,” FERC said.

More: The Roanoke Times

No Carbon Capture Plans for 8 of 10 Largest IOUs

Despite Congress recently tripling a subsidy for carbon capture and storage projects, eight of the country’s 10 largest investor-owned electric utilities have no plans to buy and install equipment, a Reuters survey found.

American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Exelon, Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern Co. and Xcel Energy cited the equipment’s high costs and uncertain demand for the carbon dioxide it produces. Edison International and NextEra Energy Resources declined comment.

Three small utilities that industry observers say are well positioned to use carbon capture and storage technology also said they had no plans to adapt it.

More: Reuters

Nuke Developer Sought Cohen’s Help in TVA Purchase

Franklin Haney agreed in early April to pay President Trump’s then-personal attorney Michael Cohen $10 million if Cohen helped him obtain funding for his company to buy the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant from the Tennessee Valley Authority and finish building it, according to people familiar with the matter.

A May 23 announcement by U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said Haney was trying to attain $5 billion in loans from the Department of Energy for his company, Nuclear Development. Brooks, three other representatives from Alabama and one from Tennessee sent Trump a letter supporting Haney’s effort to get the loans.

More: The Wall Street Journal

Dragos: Hacking Group Breached US Utilities

A hacking group has breached the business networks of U.S. electric utilities and could develop the capability to access their operational networks in 18 to 24 months, according to cybersecurity firm Dragos.

The group, which Dragos calls “Raspite,” has been penetrating targets in the U.S., Middle East, Europe and East Asia for at least a year. Symantec, which calls the group “Leafminer,” has linked it to Iran.

More: The Hill

BLM Authorizes Pumped Storage Project’s Tx, Water Lines

The Bureau of Land Management on Aug. 1 authorized the construction of a transmission line and water line on land it manages as part of Eagle Crest Energy’s planned $2.5 billion pumped storage project in Riverside County, Calif.

The 500-kV, 12-mile transmission line would connect the project to Southern California Edison’s Red Bluff substation, which also is located on BLM lands in Riverside County.

FERC approved the project in 2014.

More: Bureau of Land Management

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