SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

May 2012


header_wiredin.jpg1. Smart Transportation for Your Summer
2. Connecting the Dots on Climate Change
3. Along the Coasts of the Southeast
4. The Rising Costs of New Nuclear Power

1. Smart Transportation for Your Summer
Lowering your costs & carbon impact this season
Well, it’s that time of year again. As Memorial Day has come and gone and we’ve officially entered summer, it’s time once again to start making travel plans. Every trip begins with a checklist, and with gas prices on the rise all over the country and a greater awareness of climate change and carbon pollution, one item on more and more people’s checklists is deciding the best way to get there. As you begin to make your summer travel plans, consider this information when picking your modes of transportation. Hopefully these tips and ideas will help you lower your carbon impact this summer while saving you money and reducing the stress of vacation planning. Consider driving over flying to your destinations whenever possible. Already this year we’ve seen airfare prices go up an average of 6 to 10% across the country, and experts are predicting costs will continue to rise through the summer months. According to AAA, expensive airfare will force some travelers out of the air and onto the road this year. While many see flying as a more convenient and timesaving travel method, there are several benefits to driving that make it a hassle-free option. For example, when driving to your destination, you don’t need to budget for things like baggage fees, airport parking and rental cars. If you’ve decided to drive, it’s important to think about the type of vehicle you’ll drive when hitting the road. Do you happen to live in Tennessee, which boasts a well-developed Electric Vehicle (EV) infrastructure, or near any of the over 2,000 charging stations across the country? More and more hotels are adding EV charging stations to their parking garages as well, offering a hassle-free place to plug-in overnight. Perhaps for your trip you can join the EV revolution and opt to buy or rent one of the several different EVs already available in the U.S. You can lower your carbon footprint even more if you find one of the new solar-charged EV stations. Even if the distance of your planned trip would make an EV impractical, you can still save money on gas and cut back on emissions by driving a hybrid or simply renting a more fuel-efficient car. Though gas prices may not remain as high as analysts initially feared, a national average of $3.727 per gallon is still enough to make some travelers hesitant about the cost of committing to a long distance journey. Not only would renting a hybrid cut back on your carbon output, but even the additional cost of a rental might still be cheaper than purchasing gas for your normal vehicle with a higher MPG. The bottom line: do some research on transportation options when making your summer travel plans. Choose your methods of transportation wisely instead of going for what’s most convenient. Use a website like this one to compare the costs of flying and driving between destinations. Then, take a moment to see the carbon impact your trip will have if you travel by plane or by car with a carbon calculator. You can even figure out the best make or model of car to rent or take on your trip by using this website to compare fuel costs between vehicles. By incorporating some of these travel tips into your summer vacation plans, you’ll be well on your way to lowering both your carbon impact and your travel budget this season.

2. Connecting the Dots on Climate Change
The importance of cleaning up our airOn May 5th, residents of Tuscaloosa, Alabama gathered to highlight the threat of super-powerful tornados while another group gathered in Miami, Florida to draw attention to the risks that storm surges and sea level rise pose to coastal residents. These groups joined with thousands of citizens around the world through’s Climate Impacts Day to help visually connect the dots between climate change and extreme weather.Decades of research have proven that human activities are increasing the amounts of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and changing the Earth’s atmosphere. Ongoing studies are confirming the link between climate pollution and the type, frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a new rule to limit the amount of carbon pollution that new fossil fuel plants can release. SACE is strongly supportive of this rule and will co-host a Citizens Hearing on June 11 in Charlotte, NC to give Southeastern residents the opportunity to speak in support of carbon limits on new power plants. If reducing climate pollution wasn’t reason enough for SACE to prioritize coal plant retirements in our region, there’s also a benefit to our pocketbooks as coal plants become more expensive to maintain and less efficient as they age. In order to reduce our over-dependence on coal-fired electricity, SACE is actively working throughout the region to build support for energy efficiency programs and promote the development of renewable energy sources. Energy efficiency, the cheapest, easiest and quickest way to meet energy demand, saves money and benefits the environment. In addition, the Southeast’s significant renewable energy potential (which includes biomass, offshore wind and solar power) can provide our region with clean energy solutions that create jobs while reducing climate pollution.

3. Along the Coasts of the Southeast Energy resources in an area vulnerable to climate changeThe Southeastern coast is among the most vulnerable regions in our country to climate change — in recent years we have been hit particularly hard with drought, rising sea levels and salt water intruding upon freshwater supplies. Worse, we expect to see hurricanes increasing in intensity in the coming years. Trying to save some of our treasured coastal places from devastating climate impacts gives SACE’s work a sense of urgency and poignancy by bringing together all of our program areas to hit on the nexus of climate mitigation and adaptation, opposing high risk energy and pushing for clean energy solutions. Our coastlines are also in the unique position of having a variety of energy resources offshore: namely oil, natural gas and wind. Oil and gas drilling pose grave economic and ecological risks to the coast for what would likely be a scant amount of resources – and the fuel’s subsequent use will further contribute to climate change. For these reasons, SACE actively opposes the federal government’s push for offshore oil and gas exploration in the mid- and south- Atlantic (read about our efforts here), and continues to push for the development of offshore wind instead. Offshore wind is an immense opportunity for the Southeast. In fact, the Southeast has about two-thirds of the country’s near-term developable offshore wind resources. SACE managed a study in 2011 using conservative citing scenarios which concluded that the Carolinas could produce more electricity from just offshore wind than is currently generated in-state by all other sources combined. SACE has played a crucial role in advancing offshore wind in the region by participating on the North Carolina Wind Working Group, the Georgia Wind Working Group and the South Carolina Regulatory Task Force on Coastal Clean Energy. As part of a Department of Energy grant, we have been able to host dozens of stakeholder meetings throughout South Carolina and Georgia, educating community leaders and members of the public about the opportunities of offshore wind. Our Georgia staff has even worked with the Tybee Island City Council to pass a municipal resolution stating that the city is in support of wind energy. Similar resolutions are in various stages of development in other coastal communities within our region, and SACE is eagerly working with local governments to ensure their articulation of support.For nearly five years, SACE continues to provide regional leadership by managing the Southeast Coastal Climate Network and Florida Climate Alliance, regional networks that facilitate communication and collaboration among individuals and organizations working on coastal responses to climate change. SECCN’s main tools are its Groupsite online platform, where members can utilize digital tools for communication, and the SECCN webinar series, where coastal climate issues are addressed. To listen to these webinars and see future opportunities for learning more, visit SACE’s webinar webpage.

4. The Rising Costs of New Nuclear Power
Revisiting the cost of nuclear developmentWhat do you think customers of Southern Company’s Georgia Power, TVA and Progress Energy Florida all have in common? Unfortunately, they are all the involuntary victims of an electric utility that has chosen to put the pursuit of new nuclear power generation before the financial well-being of their customers. Worse yet, these companies are experiencing problems with these risky reactor projects, which we predicted, and their customers will be saddled with the financial burden of the mistakes these power companies continue to make. Within a span of just one month, each of these electric utilities have announced that their proposed nuclear project will cost significantly more than originally thought, with some substantially delaying the completion schedule. As we all know, money doesn’t grow on trees, but in this case what’s another billion dollars to these utilities – especially when it’s coming out of someone else’s pocket?Here’s what transpired:
At the end of April, we watched dumbfounded as TVA’s Board of Directors unanimously approved CEO Tom Kilgore’s request for another $1.5 to $2 billion in construction costs as well as a three-year schedule delay to complete the Watts Bar 2 reactor in Tennessee. Despite significant information calling into question the management oversight, and despite the ongoing unresolved issues at the second reactor located in the shadow of the Watts Bar dam, the board unanimously approved both the budget increase and the construction extension as though they were approving minutes from a past meeting. Though they assure us that there are currently no plans to adjust customer’s rates, history tells us otherwise. At the beginning of May, we then shook our heads as Progress Energy Florida also announced additional cost overruns and delays for their proposed two Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 design reactors in Levy County. Progress now estimates a 2024 completion date and costs of up to $24 billion. Originally the project was estimated at $14 billion with completion expected by 2016/17. We have been working with many concerned parties in Florida, including state lawmakers, to challenge this plagued project as Progress customers deal with ever-increasing electric bills. And most recently, we were not surprised when Southern Company’s Georgia Power announced possible cost increases of $900 million for the proposed two Vogtle reactors ($400 million is Georgia Power’s share), just three months after receiving their federal licensing approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And more cost overruns are expected to surface in the future. We also found out in late May more details about the secret nuclear deal that Southern Company and its utility partners were initially offered regarding the $8.3 billion conditional taxpayer-financed nuclear loan guarantee for Vogtle. What did we learn in our tremendous legal victory of getting the Department of Energy to finally release these financial documents? Basically it’s another sweetheart deal for the power companies and a raw deal for taxpayers. It’s clearly been a frustrating first half of the year for SACE, other clean energy and consumer advocates and utility customers concerned about and fighting against these risky, costly new nuclear proposals. But the tides may be shifting as our initial predictions come true – cost overruns, delays and mismanagement are today’s reality for the so-called “nuclear renaissance.” This last month has shown just how important our work is. And we will continue this push as billions of dollars and the well-being of our region and future generations are at stake.