117th Congress opens to new energy, environment fights

Source: By Nick Sobczyk, Geof Koss and Kelsey Brugger, E&E News reporters • Posted: Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

The new Congress will have a relatively clean slate after lawmakers passed a long-awaited energy innovation bill and a federal phase-down of climate-polluting hydrofluorocarbons as part of the year-end spending and stimulus package last month. Here are a few of the energy and environmental battles that will play out in the coming weeks and months.

Home Solar Is Growing, but Big Installers Are Still Losing Money

Source: By Peter Eavis and Ivan Penn, New York Times • Posted: Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

The home solar business is growing fast as thousands of homeowners install panels on their roofs to save money. Yet the biggest companies that install and finance home solar systems are reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. Those losses are an ominous reminder of how hard it can be to make money in an industry widely viewed by political leaders and business executives as an important part of the global effort to address climate change. Solving this problem could help determine whether the use of residential solar power is quickly and widely adopted.

FERC at 5

Source: BY KELSEY TAMBORRINO, Politico • Posted: Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

Virginia utility regulator Mark Christie was sworn in at FERC Monday, bringing the commission to its full five members for the first time since 2018, Eric also reports. Christie, who just wrapped up his term as chair of the Virginia State Corporation Commission, now gives Republicans a majority on the commission.

Former Cuomo adviser heads to FERC

Source: By Lesley Clark, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

An energy analyst and former policy adviser for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced today that he’s joining the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as a legal adviser to new Commissioner Allison Clements. “New year, new job,” Miles Farmer said on Twitter, adding that he was excited to announce the move to the five-member panel charged with overseeing regional energy markets and large-scale natural gas infrastructure.

Ga. could decide if the U.S. gets clean cars

Source: By Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

Biden campaigned on a climate platform that called for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Meeting that goal depends on slashing emissions from transportation, the country’s largest source of greenhouse gases, by getting more people into clean cars and onto public transit. A key policy lever for reducing the cost of clean cars is the federal EV tax credit, which allows EV buyers to receive up to $7,500 back after filing their tax returns. The credit expires after an automaker has sold 200,000 eligible vehicles. Both Tesla Inc. and General Motors Co. have reached the cap.

Mining the sky for CO2 with metal trees, towers and pumps

Source: By John Fialka, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

In the 1990s, a physicist at the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory made a prophetic discovery that might help reverse today’s climate change. Klaus Lackner was helping his daughter, Claire, with an eighth grade science project. She was using an aquarium air pump and a chemical, sodium hydroxide, to pull carbon dioxide out of the air. It worked. She won a prize. That got Lackner thinking about ways to pull billions of tons of CO2 out of the air, which, he envisioned, might be the cheapest way to tackle the climate change problem.

Oil and gas regulator begins public meeting on methane rules

Source: By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press • Posted: Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

New Mexico oil and gas regulators yesterday kicked off a public hearing on proposed rules for managing venting and flaring by the industry, as environmentalists, residents and some religious leaders said the practices are affecting the environment and resulting in lost royalties and revenues for the state. Oil and gas revenues underpin the state’s budget, but Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has promised that her administration would adopt some of the toughest rules in the U.S. for cracking down on methane and other emissions. Under the proposal, operators would need to reduce their waste by a fixed amount every year to achieve an ultimate gas capture rate of 98% by December 2026.

OPEC, allies adjourn meeting over oil production levels

Source: By Associated Press • Posted: Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

Members of the OPEC oil cartel and allied countries including Russia yesterday adjourned a meeting weighing whether to increase production further next month as the pandemic continues to sap demand for energy and create uncertainty about when recovery might come. The oil-producing countries were to meet again today. In December, the group decided to add back a modest 500,000 barrels per day to the oil market, and to review production monthly with a goal of restoring 2 million barrels a day.

N.M. sets U.S. record with renewable project launch

Source: By Edward Klump, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

San Francisco-based Pattern Energy Group LP announced yesterday that it has wrapped up financing and is ramping up construction on the Western Spirit Transmission line and a 1,050-megawatt-plus group of Western Spirit Wind projects. The wind element represents “the largest single-phase construction of renewable power in U.S. history,” Mike Garland, Pattern’s CEO, said in a statement. Commercial operation is expected by the end of this year. Pattern said the Western Spirit Wind projects will be eligible for federal production tax credits.Western Spirit is happening as New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) prioritizes climate action in the state. She signed the Energy Transition Act in 2019 that includes renewable energy standards and put New Mexico on a path toward zero-carbon resources from investor-owned electric utilities by 2045. Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), the state’s biggest electric utility, has said it plans to provide 100% emissions-free power by the end of 2040.

4 ways 2021 could be the year of the EV

Source: By David Ferris, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

Whether you look to the manufacturing floor or the Oval Office, 2021 is shaping up as pivotal year for the electric vehicle. “I’m becoming more optimistic that 2021 could become a breakout year for EVs,” said Nick Nigro, the founder of Atlas Public Policy, echoing a common view among industry observers. The billions of dollars that major automakers have sunk into vehicle development are starting to manifest into mainstream vehicles with features people want. And the EV will have an ally in President-elect Joe Biden, who has made it a centerpiece of his plan to combat climate change. Yet several factors could make the party fizzle.