Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Giant utility rejects net zero power, big fight follows

Dominion Energy, Virginia’s big electric utility, is telling the State it does not foresee complying with the 2045 net zero power target in the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). The preferred option in Dominion’s latest Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) retires no fossil-fueled power generators, other than the few old ones that are already in the process of retirement. In fact, it adds a lot more fossil juice.

Up front in the IRP, Dominion puts it this way: “Due to an increasing load forecast, and the need for dispatchable generation, the Alternative Plans show additional natural gas-fired resources and preserve existing carbon-emitting units beyond statutory retirement deadlines established in the VCEA. The law explicitly authorizes the Company to petition the SCC for relief from these requirements on the basis that the unit retirements would threaten the reliability or security of electric service to customers.”

So, in effect, this is a notice to Virginia’s utility regulator, the State Corporation Commission (SCC), that Dominion is prepared to petition for permission to not comply with the net zero power generation mandate in the VCEA.

In fact, this IRP may constitute such a petition. The anti-fossil forces apparently think so because they have petitioned the SCC to reject the IRP because it includes more gas-fired generation. In response, the SCC has initiated a formal legal proceeding to consider this request. A number of green groups have joined the proceeding; there has been a hearing, public comments have been taken, etc. The whole rulemaking deal.

The impetus for this unexpected bout of rationality from Dominion is, as the quote says, an increased load forecast. Specifically, the SCC requires Dominion to use the load forecast from the regional grid operator, which is PJM. They issued a whopping new forecast that is roughly double their earlier ones going back years.

So Dominion is saying they don’t think we can service this enormous new load and comply with the VCEA net zero mandate. They specifically propose not to retire most of their fossil fleet, plus adding almost 3,000 MW of gas-fired generation over the next 15 years. No wonder the anti-fossils are apoplectic.

Unfortunately, they also add a ridiculous amount of renewables. This is about 11,000 Megawatts (MW) of solar and 3,000 MW of mostly offshore wind, on top of the 2,600 MW of offshore already in process. With their usual smoke and mirrors, there is virtually no storage to make this intermittent junk reliable despite costing tens of billions of dollars. If the gas-fired power does that, why not just use it instead of the renewables? Plus, offshore wind is hell on whales. But I digress.

Dominion has 7 million customers in 16 States, so its Virginia no net zero action has much wider implications. Beyond that, it could be a national precedent, so other utilities, States, and interest groups should be watching closely.

What the SCC decides could be very important. Ironically, in a ridiculous sense, the SCC does not exist at this time. Due to a political stalemate, there is only one Commissioner, out of the called-for three, and it takes a quorum of two to issue a formal order. It looks like the most that can happen is that an administrative law judge can render an opinion on the anti-fossil petition.

The SCC legal mess is beyond my knowledge or understanding. Rejecting an IRP seems odd to begin with. Then, too, the VCEA seems to allow what Dominion is describing specifically. Nor is it at all clear that an IRP is a petition when the matter is just presented as an option. Perhaps it is a petition to be allowed to suggest it. The whole fight strikes me as an absurd confusion, but alarmism is like that. Maybe that is the message. Anti-fossil alarmism is an absurd confusion.


FERC approves gas projects despite calls for fossil fuel phaseout

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted to approve the expansion of two liquefied natural gas projects on the Gulf Coast, potentially locking in planet-warming emissions for decades to come.

During its monthly meeting Thursday, FERC granted certificates for the expansion of Sempra Energy’s Port Arthur Phase II project in Jefferson County, Tex., and Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass project in Cameron Parish, La.

The first certificate will allow Sempra to increase a terminal’s capacity to liquefy natural gas for export from 13.46 million tons per year to 26.92 million tons annually. The terminal could be in operation for nearly 30 years.
The second will enable Venture Global to boost the peak capacity of a facility that has allegedly violated its air permits on more than 100 occasions.

“In the middle of this climate emergency, the Biden administration is lighting the fuse to massive carbon bombs,” Jamie Henn, founder and director of Fossil Free Media, told The Climate 202 of the certificates.

To be clear, FERC is an independent agency that does not directly answer to President Biden. Although its five commissioners are nominated by the president, no more than three may be of the same political party, and it is currently split 2-2 between each party.

Still, Henn argued the commission’s decisions undermined the climate record of Biden, who skipped the summit in New York on Wednesday, instead sending climate envoy John F. Kerry.

‘Enough is enough’
Environmental justice activists said the first project in particular could increase not only planet-warming emissions — but also health-harming air pollution — in overburdened communities of color.

At a rally outside FERC’s headquarters before the meeting, activists emphasized that the mostly Black and Latino residents of Port Arthur, Tex., already live near three oil refineries, two liquefied natural gas terminals and at least 40 other facilities that release toxins into the air.

“We don’t want to see any of these projects approved. Enough is enough,” John Beard, founder and executive director of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, told The Climate 202 before the rally. “We refuse to be sacrificed anymore.”

Activists also alleged the second facility has violated its air permits more than 138 times, citing reporting by New Orleans Public Radio. Some unauthorized emissions lasted more than a week, according to a compliance order issued in June by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which could impose hefty fines.

Spokespeople for Sempra did not respond to a request for comment. But Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman for Venture Global, disputed activists’ assertions about the permit violations.

“Environmental compliance and safety is Venture Global’s highest priority and our team is committed to meeting all state and federal regulatory requirements,” Hynes said in an email. “We have complied with all annual emissions limits under our air permits and do not agree with the claim that we have violated our air permits more than 138 times.”

Internal divisions

Yesterday’s meeting came as FERC struggles to decide whether — and how — to weigh greenhouse gas emissions caused by pipelines and other gas projects.

In February 2022, the commission voted to approve landmark rules that would require consideration of new gas projects’ effects on climate change and environmental justice.
But a month later, FERC backtracked in the face of pushback from Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), voting to recategorize the policies as mere drafts.

Then in January, the White House Council on Environmental Quality issued interim guidance that strongly encouraged all agencies — including FERC — to consider all projects’ emissions under the National Environmental Policy Act.

FERC Chairman Willie Phillips, a Democrat, still hasn’t said how the commission will interpret this guidance. But at its July meeting, the commission abruptly struck six gas projects from its agenda, a move that seemingly stemmed from internal divisions over the matter.

Commissioner James Danly, a Republican, has argued that FERC “has no means to determine the significance” of greenhouse gas emissions. But Commissioner Allison Clements, a Democrat, has strongly rejected that notion, and she dissented in part from yesterday’s orders approving the gas certificates.

“I continue to disagree with my colleagues’ view that it is impossible to determine the significance of greenhouse gas emissions,” Clements said yesterday.

For his part, Phillips told reporters after the meeting that the commission would “continue to review” the guidance, although he declined to share specific next steps.


European emission laws to be weakened after car-makers push back – report

The European Union’s proposed ‘Euro 7’ emissions laws are reportedly expected to be weakened, as car-makers believe the tight environmental restrictions will result in a delay to their electric-car plans.

News agency Reuters reports a proposal by Spain has led to the Euro 7 emissions standards – due to be introduced for passenger vehicles from 2025 – being watered down, with EU countries largely agreeing on the compromised laws.

The Euro 7 regulations aim to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) and tailpipe particulate emissions from petrol and diesel vehicles by 35 per cent and 13 per cent compared to current levels, respectively – as well as limit the amount of particulate matter caused by tyres and brakes.

The original proposal called for a 25 per cent reduction in NOx from diesel cars, bringing them into line with their petrol counterparts.

Car-makers have previously complained the costs of adhering to Euro 7 would impact their investments towards the development of electric cars.

In April 2023, Volkswagen called for the regulations to be pushed back to the northern hemisphere autumn (September to November) in 2026 at the earliest.

As previously reported, the European Union will effectively ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035, as its regulations will require a 100 per cent reduction in tailpipe emissions – effectively leaving electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles as the only alternatives.

German car-maker BMW has also criticised the proposed Euro 7 regulations for making an insignificant difference to emissions.

“Euro 6 and in particular Euro 6d are effective and already cover 95 per cent of all statistically relevant driving situations," a spokesperson for BMW told German publication Automobilwoche earlier this year.

"However, the (European Union's) draft focuses precisely on such special cases – instead of reducing the limits for everyday traffic more strongly, as proposed by the (European Automobile Manufacturers Association)."

The Euro 7 regulations are yet to be formally signed off and enforced, though it is likely the approved version of the proposal will affect cars, SUVs and light commercial vehicles (utes, vans) sold in Europe from mid-2025.


Over 300 Threatened Eagles Killed or Injured by Wind Turbines in Tasmania: Study

Over the past decade, wind turbines and transmission lines have led to the deaths or injuries of 321 threatened eagles in Tasmania, according to a study.

More cases are believed to be unreported due to a lack of systemic research on wind farms and public information.

It found that from 2010-2022, wind farms caused the deaths of 268 eagles and injured 53, with state-owned power company TasNetworks reporting 139 deaths, and eagle rescuers witnessing 91 deaths and 50 injuries.

Study author Gregory Pullen said the number of eagle deaths was a “stark reminder” that an urgent solution was needed to mitigate further harm to the vulnerable species.

“The real number can only be higher since surveying at wind farms is incomplete,” Mr. Pullen noted in the study.

“Specifically, it is only close to turbines, is periodic, and does not involve all turbines or all habitat around each turbine, scrub often being excluded.”

Of great concern is that 272 deaths involved the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, and 49 of the vulnerable white-bellied sea eagles.

Both species could face further risk as the expansion of wind turbine construction continues amid the federal government’s net-zero push.

“Accelerated deaths of the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and white-bellied sea-eagle are a grim reality if thousands of new wind turbines and hundreds of kilometres of transmission lines are erected across Tasmania to meet a legislated doubling of renewable energy production by 2040,” Mr. Pullen said.

The study estimated that less than 1,000 Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles remain and emphasised ongoing monitoring to ensure the species does not become extinct.

It includes observing the number of eagles, stability of breeding pairs, nesting success and surviving chicks, presence of juvenile birds, and whether disruption to the natural habitat causes dislocation.

While the Tasmanian government has guidelines in place to protect threatened eagles, Mr. Pullen found that these have not contributed to real-life decisions regarding wind farm placement.

For instance, despite great differences in eagle densities across Tasmania, there are currently no designated "no turbine zones."

Some researchers have suggested Tasmanian eagles be fitted with GPS trackers, but the concept has been slow to establish and has yet to be used in wind farm planning.

The study comes as Tasmanian authorities continue their push towards net zero, recently inking a deal with the German city Bremen.

State Energy Minister Guy Barnett said the collaboration was evidence of the state's plan to become a leader in large-scale green hydrogen production by 2030 to meet both domestic and international demand.

“This joint declaration demonstrates the opportunity the rest of the world sees in Tasmania and confidence in the government’s renewable energy agenda,” Mr. Barnett said in a statement on Sept. 17.

“Tasmania is well placed, with our 100 percent renewable electricity, abundant water supplies, and excellent port infrastructure to seize these important opportunities with international partners.”

Scientist Questions Wind Power Reliability

There are concerns, however, over the viability of large-scale renewable energy generation. One Oxford University mathematician and physicist has criticised wind power saying it is historically and scientifically unreliable, noting that governments are prioritising "windfarm politics" over numerical evidence.

Professor Emeritus Wade Allison made the assertion in response to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where the “instinctive reaction” around the world was to embrace renewables.

“Today, modern technology is deployed to harvest these weak sources of energy. Vast ‘farms’ that monopolise the natural environment are built, to the detriment of other creatures,” Mr. Allison said in the report, published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

“Developments are made regardless of the damage wrought. Hydro-electric schemes, enormous turbines, and square miles of solar panels are constructed, despite being unreliable and ineffective.”


My other blogs. Main ones below

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM )

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

http://jonjayray.com/blogall.html More blogs


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