Federal bill would allow clean energy companies to structure like oil companies

Renewable electricity beat out coal for the first time in April

Enlarge / Wind turbines near Palm Springs, California. (credit: nate2b / Flickr)

A remarkable thing happened in the US in April. For the first time ever, renewable electricity generation beat out coal-fired electricity generation on a national level, according to the Energy Information Agency (EIA). While renewable energy—including hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass—constituted 23 percent of the nation’s power supply, coal-fired electricity only contributed 20 percent of our power supply.

There are seasonal reasons for this happening in April. Wind power generation tends to be higher in spring and fall, hydroelectric generation usually peaks as winter snow melts, and lengthening days mean more solar power can be fed to the grid.

In addition, people use less electricity in spring, as it’s not cold enough to need a lot of heating and not warm enough to require lots of air conditioner use. Coal-fired power plant owners, expecting this

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A 10-year-old natural gas plant in California gets the coal plant treatment

A 10-year-old natural gas plant in California gets the coal plant treatment

Enlarge / Inland Empire Energy Center outside of Riverside, California. (credit: Oohlongjohnson)

Late last week, General Electric told a California regulator that it would close down a 10-year-old Southern California natural gas plant because it’s no longer economically competitive in California’s energy market.

The news, first reported by Reuters, is surprising because natural gas plants tend to have 30-year lifespans on average, and natural gas is currently the cheapest fossil fuel on the market today. But the two 376 megawatt (MW) turbines at the Inland Empire Energy Center (IEEC) outside of Riverside, California, are not built to play well with the increasing amount of renewable energy on California’s grid. On top of that, renewables’ low marginal cost and ubiquity throughout the state mean that during certain times of day, they’re often the cheapest energy option.

Natural gas needs quick-start options

GE told the California Energy Commission on

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Ohio lawmakers pass bill to cut renewable requirement, help nuclear and coal

Ohio lawmakers pass bill to cut renewable requirement, help nuclear and coal

Enlarge / Water vapor is emitted from the cooling towers of the FirstEnergy Corp. Perry Nuclear Generating Station in Perry, Ohio, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010. (credit: David Maxwell/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

This week, lawmakers in Ohio’s House of Representatives voted 53-43 in favor of a controversial bill that would permit a consumer-funded subsidy for nuclear plants and possibly for ailing coal plants as well.

The bill would also end Ohio’s renewable portfolio standard, which required that the state’s utilities to obtain 12.5 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2027. Instead, that renewable portfolio standard is replaced by smaller steps to bolster renewable power, but environmental groups say the bill is a step in the wrong direction.

A version of House Bill 6 has now been introduced to the state’s Senate. If it passes there, it will likely become law due to the Governor’s support of the

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China’s saber-rattling on rare-earths trade has US officials looking for options

China’s saber-rattling on rare-earths trade has US officials looking for options

Rare earth oxides. Clockwise from top center: praseodymium, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, samarium, and gadolinium. (credit: Peggy Greb, US Department of Agriculture)

On Wednesday, Chinese newspapers ran commentaries warning the United States that escalating trade tensions would result in China cutting off its rare-earth-minerals trade with the US.

China is the dominant supplier of rare-earth minerals around the world. The minerals are used in all sorts of advanced materials and play a prominent role in the operation of electric motors, wind turbines, and military-related material.

According to Reuters, China’s official People’s Daily ran an article saying: “Undoubtedly, the US side wants to use the products made by China’s exported rare-earths to counter and suppress China’s development. The Chinese people will never accept this!”

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Fourth-largest coal producer in the US files for bankruptcy

Fourth-largest coal producer in the US files for bankruptcy

Enlarge / WRIGHT, WY – OCTOBER 19: Train cars full of 100 tons of coal leave a mine near Wright, Wyoming on October 19, 2006. Empty cars head to the facility. (credit: Photo by Andy Nelson/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

Cloud Peak Energy, the US’ fourth-largest coal mining company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy late last week as the company missed an extension deadline to make a $1.8 million loan payment.

In a statement, Cloud Peak said it will continue to operate its three massive coal mines in Wyoming and Montana while it goes through the restructuring process. Colin Marshall, the president and CEO of the company, said that he believed a sale of the company’s assets “will provide the best opportunity to maximize value for Cloud Peak Energy.”

Cloud Peak was one of the few major coal producers who escaped the significant coal industry downturn between

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UK goes a whole week without using coal-fired electricity

UK goes a whole week without using coal-fired electricity

Enlarge / The cooling towers of Willington Coal-Fired Power Station, first commissioned in 1957, contains four 104MW generating units. Each unit, when on full load, burns approximately 1,000 tons of coal per day, which produces 200 tons of ash. Willington, Derbyshire, United Kingdom. (credit: Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images)

On April 21 in 2017, the UK had its first coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution. Now, just two years later, the UK’s National Grid confirmed that it had gone 168 hours, or seven days, without using any coal-fired power. The electricity system operator said that it expected coal-free stretches to become more frequent in the coming years.

In 2015, the UK pledged to remove coal from its grid by 2025. In a statement to the Financial Times on Thursday, the National Grid’s director, Fintan Slye, said he expected the grid to be able to

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Department of Justice opens investigation into failed carbon-capture plant

Department of Justice opens investigation into failed carbon-capture plant

Enlarge / Cranes stand at the construction site for Southern Co.’s Kemper County power plant near Meridian, Miss., on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. (credit: Gary Tramontina/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Earlier this week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) notified Southern Company that it is opening an investigation “related to the Kemper County energy facility,” according to Southern’s most recent financial statement (PDF).

The Mississippi-based facility had received $387 million in federal grants to build a state-of-the-art coal gasification and carbon-capture power plant (otherwise known as an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle, or IGCC, plant). But in 2017, Southern’s subsidiary, Mississippi Power, decided to scrap the cutting-edge tech and only use the power plant to burn cheaper natural gas, in a major blow to the proponents of carbon capture.

Bad timing

Kemper was a complicated project. It was located near a lignite coal mine, which was intended to serve Kemper exclusively.

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