U.S. Federal Energy Policy Outlined

a guest post by Ken Whiteside, Director of Business Development at ONTILITY, LLC.

U.S. Federal Energy Policy Outlined

President Obama spoke at Georgetown University in late June about his plans to broadly address climate change. Those plans include a mix of greenhouse gas emission curtailment measures, initiatives to further improve the energy efficiency of buildings and transportation, and the continued development of renewable energy sources.

A couple of parts of the president’s plan have a direct impact on the electric energy industry. First, he identified power plants as major contributors to carbon pollution and called on the EPA, working with states, industry, and other stakeholders, to establish new carbon pollution standards. "Tough new rules" will be established similar to those that exist for toxins like mercury and arsenic. These new rules, as anticipated, will target existing power plants as well as new ones.

Next, the president announced that the Department of the Interior (DOI) will be pressed to permit enough renewable energy projects (wind and solar) on public lands by 2020 to power 6 million homes. The DOI also will designate the first-ever hydropower project for priority permitting, and establish a new goal of 100 MW of renewables on federally assisted housing by 2020 (while maintaining a commitment to deploy renewables on military installations).

The DOI has been moving forward on the renewables-on-public-lands front. Last summer it broadly designated 285,000 acres of public land for solar development in six Western states, providing potential sites for more than 23 GW of energy production development — enough to power 7 million American homes. And three weeks ago it approved three renewable energy projects in the southwest U.S. including the 350-megawatt Midland Solar Energy Project, the 70-MW New York Canyon Geothermal Project in Nevada and the 100-MW Quartzsite concentrated solar energy (CSP) project in Arizona, collectively representing up to 520 MW, enough to power nearly 200,000 homes.

It is always interesting to this writer and others inside the industry when these household-serving numbers are used to indicate production capacity. Clearly it's an attempt to put these matters into popular language – few people know how much electricity they use or what a kWh is, but we’ll save that conversation for another day. The president’s directives, though, are unclear about whether the number-of-homes-powered numbers refer to delivery from peak generation of solar and/or wind combined (or either), or whether and how that's in combination with whatever other generation is required to join them. As is typically the case with presidential directives, the details are left to other agencies to work out. This one is no exception and it will be interesting to observe how the plans put forth by the White House are implemented as they make their way through the other branches of government.

Ken Whiteside photo Ken Whiteside has been a fan of solar energy for decades. His first hands-on experience was installing solar on off-grid houses around Telluride, Colorado in the 1990’s (summer in the San Juan Mtns. - somebody had to do it). From his home in Austin, Ken writes and works for widespread adoption of solar electricity, smart energy production and use, and sustainability.

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