Overnight Energy: Feds see big boost for wind, solar power

Thinkstock

A JOLT FOR RENEWABLE POWER: The renewable energy tax credits Congress extended last year are likely to increase solar and wind power in the United States and decrease the country's carbon emissions.

That's the conclusion of a study from federal scientists, who said Monday that the five-year extension of the wind and solar tax credits will lead to up to 53 gigawatts of additional renewable energy power by 2020 than if the credits had lapsed.

The study said the new renewable energy will decrease carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by between 540 million metric tons and 1,400 million metric tons between 2016 and 2030.

ADVERTISEMENT
Both figures are contingent on the price of natural gas. If prices remain at their current low levels, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory said in its report, utilities are likely to move more slowly to deploy wind and solar power than if the price increases.

But either way, the report said, "these findings suggest that tax credit extensions can have a measurable impact on future renewable energy deployment and electric sector carbon dioxide emissions under a range of natural gas price assumptions."

The White House touted the study on Monday, with Dan Utech, Obama's deputy assistant for energy and climate change, calling the new tax credits "one of the biggest investments in clean energy in our country's history."

Read more here.

Solar and wind groups hail study: Unsurprisingly, the heads of top solar and wind power industry groups hailed the results of the study.

"The [tax credit] extension will continue and extend and expand the deployment of wind throughout the U.S. over the next few years," said Tom Kiernan, the CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, who noted that wind power was the fastest growing energy source in the U.S. last year.

"The tax credits are essential for our industries to grow and that was absolutely the case for solar," said Rhone Resch, the president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

"The [credit] works for us, we're thrilled we have this long term extension. Where we see this industry going is nothing short of remarkable."

EMISSIONS UP SLIGHTLY IN 2014: Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States increased slightly between 2013 and 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency said in new data released Monday.

In a draft version of an annual emissions report, the EPA said the U.S. released 0.9 percent more greenhouse gases in 2014 than the preceding year, which itself saw slightly more emissions than in 2012.

Total emissions are still about 7.5 percent less than in 2005, the baseline used for Obama administration greenhouse gas reduction goals. But 2014's emissions ticked up due higher fossil fuel consumption in the energy and transportation sectors, driven by a cold winter, more industrial production and more miles driven by vehicles.

The draft study released this week comes as the EPA finalizes its annual emissions report, which is due to the United Nations in April.

Read more here.

'BREATHTAKING EXPANSION' OF EPA POWER? Opponents of the EPA's Clean Power Plan argued the agency overstepped its power, firing their opening salvo in the court case against the rule.

They contend that the Clean Air Act does not allow what the EPA is trying to do, and the rule should be overturned.

"EPA's audacious assertion of authority in this Rule is more far-reaching than any previous effort by the agency," the litigants, led by West Virginia and a group of utilities, told the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit late Friday.

"If upheld, the rule would lead to a breathtaking expansion of the agency's authority. The rule's restructuring of nearly every state's electric grid would exceed even the authority that Congress gave to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the federal agency responsible for electricity regulation," they said.

The Supreme Court has stopped the rule's implementation temporarily, but the opponents still have to make their case on the merits to the lower court.

Read more here.

SCIENCE GROUP URGED TO DUMP EXXON: More than 100 activist geoscientists are asking the American Geophysical Union to kick Exxon Mobil Corp. out as a sponsor, citing its history on climate change.

Through a group called the Natural History Museum, the scientists say that Exxon's previous work to discredit climate science puts it squarely at odds with the work of AGU members.

"By allowing Exxon to appropriate AGU's institutional social license to help legitimize the company's climate misinformation, AGU is undermining its stated values as well as the work of many of its own members," the scientists wrote.

Exxon fought back, telling The Guardian that the group mischaracterized its research history.

"This is an inaccurate distortion of ExxonMobil's nearly 40-year history of climate research that was conducted publicly in conjunction with the Department of Energy, academics and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," it told the newspaper.

ON TAP TUESDAY: Interior Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellOvernight Energy: Obama toughens rules on fossil fuel royalties Regulators close 'loophole' in fees for fossil fuel extraction Interior chief reprimands employees on ethics, sexual harassment MORE will testify at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on President Obama's 2017 budget request for the department. Obama is seeking a small boost in funding for Interior programs, as well as policy changes to a key federal conservation program.

AROUND THE WEB:

The EPA is poised to mandate that Massachusetts towns clean up the Charles River, with federal help, the Boston Globe reports.

Residents in Silverton and San Juan County, Colo., will vote on whether to ask the state to seek Superfund status for nearby abandoned mines, including the one that spilled 3 million gallons of wastewater last year, the Denver Post reports.

Mexico will start asking for bids for deepwater offshore drilling rights in December, the Houston Chronicle reports.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Monday's stories...

-Rays may be endangered, feds say
-China set to close 1,000 coal mines in 2016
-Fracking pioneer to advise Rubio on energy
-Federal study: Tax credits will cut emissions, add new wind and solar power
-Court to hear case against Obama's water rule
-EPA: US greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2014
-Study: 'Good time' for gas tax hikes
-Obama climate rule is 'breathtaking expansion' of power, opponents say
-Week ahead: Obama's energy budget under scrutiny

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com; and Devin Henry, dhenry@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama@dhenry@thehill