1. Oil Spill & No Climate Bill: Where Do We Go From Here?
The 111th Congress had a promising start: $80 billion of the 2009 Recovery Act funding was specifically earmarked for clean energy & efficiency programs. To our disappointment, however, much of this Congress’ critical work on energy reform remains unfinished. Mid-term elections are now just a month away, and despite the fact that we still desperately need substantive work on energy policies, legislative attention is focused elsewhere until the elections are over. A Gulf Oil spill response; Homestar and other energy and fuel efficiency programs; creation of a national Renewable Energy Standard (RES); and setting carbon limits are now on the proverbial back burner until December at the earliest.On a brighter note, the elections may also grant a temporary delay to continued assaults on the Clean Air Act and its authority to regulate air pollutants (including carbon dioxide) that threaten human health. We hope that as Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) takes up where Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) left off, Congress will ultimately be unsuccessful in rolling back these protections, and that we will see the first reductions in carbon pollution early next year when the largest stationary sources (such as coal-fired power plants and refineries) are required to obtain operating permits through the New Source Review process. With so many critical pieces of the energy policy landscape still pending, the importance of this upcoming election cannot be over stressed. Supporting clean energy candidates is one way to ensure that enough champions will return to the 112th Congress to meaningfully address the range of needed energy reforms. In order to elect clean energy candidates, you must ensure your voter registration is up to date – particularly if you have moved or changed names in the last 2 years.
NonProfitVote.org has a helpful, voter-resource website with state specific pages for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Note: For most Southeastern states (Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee) the deadline for voter registration was October 4, 2010, so please check with your Secretary of State’s office today to ensure you are eligible to vote in time for the upcoming election!
2. CleanEnergy Advances in Knoxville
In August we celebrated a victory for renewable energy in the South. SACE proudly joined Efficient Energy of Tennessee to unveil a 1MW solar array just outside of Knoxville. This is the largest renewable installation in the TVA region, and demonstrates the capacity of Southern communities to make clean, renewable energy at a large scale. SACE played a key role in securing this new sustainable energy source for the Valley. Click the solar panel photo on the left to be directed to a video on our website highlighting this momentous occasion, or visit our blog to read our review of this exciting event.
3. TVA Moving in the Right Direction; Draft IRP Leaves Room to Improve
The past two months have been busy ones for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and its board of directors. TVA’s Integrated Resources Planning (IRP) process is nearing completion, and a draft IRP was recently circulated. When the report is finalized and released in the spring of 2011, it will be the first long-term plan published by TVA since 1995. TVA’s board of directors met on August 20 and announced a new strategic vision that includes becoming the nation’s leader in improving air quality and the Southeast’s leader in energy efficiency. In order to achieve these goals, TVA will retire thousands of megawatts of older coal units; increase their energy efficiency budget by 50% in 2011; transition to time-of-use rates; and move forward with the next phase of the Bellefonte nuclear project. SACE applauds three out of four of these measures – but we continue to have significant concerns regarding TVA’s enthusiasm for nuclear generation. “Nuclear power is a high-risk energy choice for both economic and environmental reasons, and we remain concerned with TVA’s prioritization of this generation technology,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, SACE’s Executive Director. The Bellefonte project will cost $250 million in 2011 alone.
On August 24, TVA took an important first step toward achieving the goals outlined in the strategic vision by publicly announcing plans to retire nine units, totaling 1,000 megawatts, of dirty old coal-fired units at three power plants in the Tennessee Valley: Shawnee Unit 10 near Paducah, Ky.; John Sevier Units 1 and 2 near Rogersville, Tenn.; and Widows Creek Units 1-6 near Stevenson, Ala.
SACE was pleased with this announcement and hopeful that this was the beginning of a larger-scale coal retirement plan for coming years. We were, however, somewhat disappointed when the draft IRP released on September 16 called for the ‘layup’, rather than retirement, of between 2,000 and 5,000 additional megawatts of coal-fired power plants by 2017. “Using the term ‘layup’ leaves the option open for these plants to be brought back on-line in the future,” Dr. Smith remarked. “These dirty, inefficient power plants need to be shut down once and for all as we transition to cleaner sources of energy.” SACE graded TVA’s draft IRP on several levels. You can see the report card and a more in-depth explanation in our press release.
We will continue to participate in the comment period. SACE staff will use all means available to encourage TVA to publish a solid, well-informed final IRP. It is our hope that the IRP will include a strong commitment to energy efficiency and clean renewable energy, and call for the long-term retirement of old, dirty inefficient coal-fired power plants.
4. How Does Coal Pollution Affect Your Community?
Although Southern utilities have made great strides toward reducing pollutant levels in recent decades, coal-fired power plants still remain one of the top contributors to particulate matter air pollution and cause over 13,000 premature deaths, 10,000 hospitalizations, and 20,000 heart attacks every year in the United States. In mid-September the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) released a new report entitled “The Toll from Coal”, detailing this health burden that Americans bear from coal-fired power plant pollution. Southeastern states shoulder a disproportionate amount of that burden due to our heavy dependence on coal for power. In fact, the eight states in SACE’s coverage area tally over 3,100 deaths each year from coal-fired power plant particulate matter pollution. Health impacts and the pollution that causes them have approximately halved since CATF’s last report in 2004. This reduction is due mainly to the implementation of federal and state laws that SACE promoted, and has come to pass without noticeably affecting electricity prices or consumer bills, natural gas prices, or the reliability of the power system. “The Toll from Coal” is accompanied by an interactive web tool that lets you see the health impacts of coal in your own county, as well as the deaths and hospitalizations caused by particular coal-fired plants. Check it out by clicking on the map to the right or visiting Clean Air Task Force’s website where you can compare your community’s vulnerability to coal-related illness and link directly to “The Toll from Coal.”
5. Tennesseans Call for Coal Ash Oversight
In December of 2008, the residents of Roane County in East Tennessee were victims of the worst coal ash spill in U.S. history when TVA’s Kingston plant spilled enough coal ash to cover hundreds of acres and effectively ruin 12 homes. Since this tragedy, SACE has worked consistently to raise awareness about toxic coal combustion waste and has called for long-overdue appropriate federal oversight. In response to the spill, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is considering two options for the regulation of coal ash. SACE staff then amplified our efforts to mobilize southeastern residents in this critical opportunity to call for the strongest regulatory option for this toxic and dangerous waste substance. We recommend that EPA treat coal ash as ‘special waste’ and regulate it as such under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), rather than as ‘nonhazardous waste’ under the more lenient Subtitle D of RCRA. For an in-depth description of these classifications, see EPA’s explanation of the alternative classifications for coal ash. We also fought strongly to ensure that EPA includes the communities in our region that are most affected by coal ash in the official hearing process during the comment period for this regulation.SACE sent two letters requesting that EPA hold an official hearing in East Tennessee. In these letters we expressed our deep concern that “[f]ailure to [hold a hearing in Tennessee] is an injustice, diminishing the comprehensiveness of the public hearing process and ignoring all those individuals who have the most experience with coal ash’s real-world dangers…”When EPA continued to overlook Tennesseans, SACE and nine ally-organizations formed the Citizens’ Coal Ash Hearing Committee to organize a People’s Hearing on the matter in Roane County, Tenn. The September 2nd People’s Hearing gave eastern Tennessee community members the chance to voice their concerns about coal ash and to tout the need for strict regulation. EPA officials, Senator Alexander’s staff, and 70 lawyers, scientists, students, activists, retirees and citizens were present at the hearing. 25 attendees spoke; all were in favor of strong coal ash regulations. On September 8, EPA finally announced plans for an official hearing in Knoxville. The hearing will be held on October 27, and will give those residents most impacted by the Kingston disaster a chance to speak officially. If you are interested in attending or speaking, see the details in our Upcoming Events section below. SACE staff also participated in the official EPA hearing in Charlotte on September 14 where nearly 300 speakers turned out predominantly calling for regulation of coal ash under Subtitle C. To review our testimony and to follow these efforts, please visit our blog. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Bloated Costs for Floirda IOU Energy Efficiency Programs
Progress Energy Florida recently claimed that proposed energy efficiency and renewable energy programs will cost customers $17 per month. Then, practically in the same breath, the big power company claims that the “programs will be refined before they go into effect.” Earlier this summer, SACE provided detailed analysis and findings to the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC). Our thorough evaluation of proposed energy efficiency programs filed by Florida power utilities left us believing that Progress Energy’s efficiency programs do indeed leave room for refinement. We found that the four major investor-owned utilities’ projected costs are more than twice those reported by five peer utilities we reviewed in order to establish benchmarks.
Some Florida Utilities Propose Energy Efficiency Programs with Bloated Costs
There are three principal reasons that the projections in Florida are unrealistic (though we may very well find more!):
- Without explanation, Progress Energy Florida incorporates an “escalation factor” into its estimates. This factor adds more than $1 billion to the cost of energy efficiency programs. No “escalation factor” is applied to the benefits of these same programs, and no other utility uses an “escalation factor” or anything resembling one.
- Florida utilities have not fully utilized the most cost-effective energy efficiency programs currently being used nationwide in their estimates.
- Throughout the proposal there are multiple instances of excessive costs for specific measures or programs.
Progress Energy Florida responded by saying that our comments “should not be considered” by the Commission. But at least some of this message made it through to the commission. The Florida PSC sent Progress, TECO and Gulf back to the drawing board (FPL is pending; JEA and OUC got a pass). For more detailed information on this story, see our blog posting: “Energy Efficiency Struggles to Overcome Inertia of the Past in Florida.”
7. Upcoming events
October 14 & 15: Biomass South 2010. Memphis, Tenn.
Biomass South 2010 builds on years of work by many organizations to develop strong and vibrant bio-based products industries that will sustainably revitalize the economy and help the environment. This is not just a conference, but a strategic gathering of leaders to push the industry forward in a sustainable manner. Of special interest to SACE staff and supporters, this event highlights speakers and perspectives on climate and environmental impact. A keynote debate will address "The Future of Southern Forests in Bioenergy" while a breakout panel will explore the ways biomass energy-conversion technologies impact efficiency, carbon-life-cycle, sustainability, and economics. As with Biomass-South 2008, SACE will co-sponsor to underscore our commitment to the pursuit of sustainable policies and practices in the development of these new industries. Details are available on SACE’s events page or on Biomass South 2010’s blog.October 26: SACE Monthly Webinar Series.
October’s webinar will feature a discussion of Integrated Resource Planning. TVA’s current IRP is our case study. Through this free webinar service, SACE members can directly engage with staff and discuss the important issues that SACE works on every day. Please join us online at 1:00 pm EST. Visit our website to learn more and register.October 27: EPA Coal Ash Hearing. Knoxville, Tenn.
The EPA has scheduled an official hearing for eastern Tennesseans to comment on the rulemaking process for regulating toxic coal ash. The hearing will be held at the Knoxville Marriott, 500 Hill Avenue S.E. Speaking slots are still available at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 6p.m., but spots are filling up quickly. If you’d like to reserve a speaking slot, register soon by clicking here. For more information on the hearing process, contact Josh Galeprin, SACE Policy Analyst and Research Attorney, at email@example.com. To find out more about the proposed rules, see SACE’s “Learn More” page. November 2: Midterm Elections. Nationwide
Be sure that you are registered to vote in this year’s important mid-term elections. If you have moved or changed your name since last time you voted, you need to update your information. If you have any doubt about your eligibility, go to NonProfitVote.org. Then, make sure your vote supports clean renewable energy; you can research candidates by looking at the Clean Energy & Climate Action Scorecard for congressional candidates. November 2-4: Southeast BIOMASS Conference & Trade Show. Atlanta, Ga.
SACE staff will attend the Southeast BIOMASS Conference & Trade Show to learn more about sustainable biomass utilization for electricity, industrial heat and power, and advanced biofuels. The conference program includes more than 60 speakers, with technical presentations on topics ranging from anaerobic digestion and gasification to CHP and large-scale biomass combustion. The program is structured on a framework of plenary sessions and customized tracks on Electricity Generation, Industrial Process Heat & Power, Biorefining, and Biomass Project Development & Finance. Additionally, SACE will be promoting important aspects of sustainable bioenergy development such as the consensus definition of biomass, effective carbon policies, water conservation, and efficiency. See SACE events for more information, or visit the Conference’s website.
December 10: Dollar Donation Day.
SACE will be offering $1 memberships all day. Join us and be part of the solution! Visit our Donate Page starting November 1st for more information.