Energy News WIR: DOE Offers $8.5 Billion Transform the Grid

Energy news week in review: DOE offers $8.5 billion to transform the grid, U.K. ups its climate ambition, and more

Americans learned about the potential economic benefits of the energy transition when President Joe Biden hosted the Leaders Summit in late April. Meanwhile, the Department of Energy announced it would offer more than $8 billion in loans to help companies working on projects that would support the nation’s utility grids in integrating the use of renewable energy.

Biden Tells Leaders Summit Economic Benefits of Clean Energy

President Joe Biden told world leaders at the climate summit he hosted on Earth Day that clean energy holds tremendous potential for the economy and for the creation of quality jobs.

He said there were a range of jobs — from capping abandoned oil wells to laying renewable energy transmission lines to engineering technology.

This emphasis on clean energy is in support of the United States pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 50% between now and 2030, in keeping with its obligations under the Paris Agreement. Experts said, however, that steeper cuts would be needed to align the country with the 1.5 degrees Celsius aspirational goal of the agreement.

The country’s National Climate Task Force looked at where emissions could be cut in each sector of the economy when determining the U.S. pledge. One target is for 100% elimination of CO2 emissions from electricity by 2035. Other areas earmarked for reductions include transportation and industry.

The clean energy transition could create a global market worth $23 trillion by 2030, the Biden administration estimates.

Biden hopes it will also lead to the creation of good-quality union jobs that he said helped build the country’s middle class.

In 2019, the renewable energy industry employed just over 400,000 people and has the potential to add 22% more jobs over the next five years.

Economists also say the pay range for people in the renewable energy industry is comparable to those in the oil and gas industry for similar-level jobs and in some cases even better.

Some job skills from the fossil fuels industry are also transferable, such as electrician jobs involving installation of transmission lines. There will also be many new jobs available in making buildings and homes energy efficient.

DOE Offers Loans for Transmission Upgrades

The U.S. Department of Energy announced it has over $8 billion in loans available for projects to upgrade the nation’s electrical power grid.

Of that money, $5 billion is available as loan guarantees for innovations in transmission technology, as well as for transmission projects owned by tribal nations.

The department said the idea is to facilitate the movement of clean energy from where it is being produced to where it is most needed, and the fund will support transmission projects for offshore wind and high-voltage lines, among others.

The remaining $3.5 billion is for transmission projects in the West under the Western Area Power Administration transmission infrastructure fund.

A report by the Americans for a Clean Energy Grid, published the same day as the loans announcement, stated there are currently 22 different transmission projects under development that will soon be in a position to start supplying clean energy to the grid. Citing the report, the White House said these projects could supply 60 gigawatts of clean energy.

Biden Urged to Stop Russian Pipeline to Europe

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently passed legislation requiring President Joe Biden to either impose sanctions on companies involved in building Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Europe or provide a good explanation why he does not.

Both Republicans and Democrats are pushing for sanctions against the Russian and European companies involved in the pipeline’s construction, a project that is 95% complete.

The U.S. fears that the pipeline will make Europe even more dependent on Russia for its energy and increase Russia’s influence in the region.

Former President Donald Trump had imposed penalties on several Russian companies involved with the Nord Stream project before leaving office in January.

Pipeline Expansion on Hiatus to Protect Nests

Pipeline Expansion on Hiatus | Birds Nest Protectionsource

A CA$12.6 billion pipeline expansion project in British Columbia has been halted until August to ensure migratory birds are not disturbed during their nesting season.

Trans Mountain will have to wait until August 20, 2021, before it can begin construction work again in a 900-meter area where hummingbirds and other migratory birds are currently nesting.

The company was ordered to stop working in the area after authorities received complaints that the company’s work, including cutting trees and using bulldozers and chainsaws, was unduly disturbing the creatures.

The pipeline expansion project is designed to triple the delivery of fuels between Edmonton and the shipping terminal in Burnaby to about 890,000 barrels per day.

Trans Mountain was bought by the Trudeau administration in 2018, and its project has been experiencing cost overruns in recent times. The project has also been the target of opposition and numerous protests.

Maine Establishes Moratorium on New Wind Power

In response to escalating tensions with fishermen, Maine’s Democratic governor passed a law putting a stop to wind power projects in state waters.

Gov. Janet Mills, however, determined that offshore wind projects in federal waters will continue, including a research array for floating offshore wind technology. She said the 10-year moratorium would protect state waters for fishing and recreational activities. The Gulf of Maine is a prime fishing area for lobster.

However, she said, wind power research projects would continue farther offshore in federal waters to allow the state to determine the best way it can make use of wind power for economic and environmental benefits.

Local fishermen oppose the research array, citing concerns over its impact on the ocean and fishing communities. They also say the research array is, in fact, a full-scale commercial project, which the governor denies.

Mills said offshore wind power and fishing are not mutually exclusive, and most lobster fishing is done within state waters and not in federal waters where the wind turbines will be located.

U.K. Plans to Cut Emissions 78% By 2035

Emissions Cut in UK | Biker Ridingsource

The U.K. has increased its emissions reduction target to 78% by 2035 from its earlier target of 68%.

This display of increased ambition comes in the lead-up to the important COP26 climate conference the U.K. will host this year in Scotland. The emissions reduction target was set in relation to 1990 levels and is perhaps the most ambitious of any developed country.

However, the government faces skepticism from some observers who note contradictory behaviors, including the issuing of new licenses for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, approval of a new coal mine, and reduction of support for electric vehicles.

The decision to increase emissions reduction comes on the advice of the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) and will require major changes in the way things are done.

The U.K. will need to make greater use of renewable electricity and low-carbon heating, eat less meat, and drive less, perhaps cycling instead. The CCC advised the government it will need to spend 50 billion pounds on low-carbon investments.

The changes include extending the U.K.’s climate law to cover international aviation and shipping.

Australia Mulls Charging Solar Owners for Excess Supply

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) is proposing charging rooftop solar owners for exporting excess energy to the utility grid when the grid is oversupplied.

The proposal has not gone over well with the country’s rooftop solar owners, many of whom invested in the technology on the basis of incentives and subsidies offered by the Australian government to encourage uptake of the technology.

Australia currently has one of the highest penetrations of rooftop solar in the world, with 20% of all households receiving some of their electricity from rooftop solar systems. Australia operates a usual feed-in tariff system whereby solar owners can send any energy they produce that they do not need for their own consumption to the public utility’s grid.

Rooftop solar owners typically receive a payment for the service. But the AEMC says the amount of energy solar owners are feeding to the grid is becoming excessive and risks overpowering it so that there is a very real danger of the power supply failing.

The commission is also arguing that the 20% who have rooftop solar systems are in effect enjoying a subsidy at the expense of the 80% who do not because of the government subsidies and incentives for investment in rooftop solar. It said implementing a more flexible pricing mechanism would discourage excessive exporting of power to the grid and allow for a more equitable fee structure for the power supply.

Some homeowners who had invested in solar systems with the expectation that they would make money from selling power to the grid have been prevented from doing so by utility companies due to the large numbers already benefiting from the arrangement.

The AEMC says their proposal is an adaptable one with different packages to suit varying circumstances. Further, the proposal is subject to the Australian energy regulator that will ensure consumers are protected.

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Opinion writer: Jewel Fraser

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