Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

* In testimony at last week’s US House Energy Subcommittee hearing one witness commented that “bringing on more baseload (electric) generation in today’s marketplace is akin to bringing sand to the beach.” Energy policy makers, particularly in areas making large and relatively fast moves towards renewables – obviously, California, but also neighboring states soon to become California’s energy colonies – are facing new and different challenges than supply. Transmission, inter-connectivity, time-of-day and related costs and lengthy implementation schedules are moving to the policy forefront. Oh, and who’s in charge of all of that…

* With electricity, in the very near future, actually, probably right now, system efficiency and control will be key to integrating renewable power in vast, expansive decentralized grids. Importantly, one now gets the sense of endless power – reachable, if it can be harnessed and controlled. Think of a team of Belgian draft horses but with harness and equipment for a pony – not much work despite plenty of power. However it’s not just power: think of a team of strong ponies with the harness and equipment for drafts – not much work, despite what very likely could be all of the power you need for the task at hand. New energy software is critical and FERC has scheduled another in its series of conferences focusing on software to increase market and planning efficiency, think load forecasting that reads the future with instantaneous decisions. All details aren’t set but conference is scheduled for June. Advise if you want updates as this draws closer.

* The Conference of Great Lakes Governors and Premiers is evaluating how to rejuvenate the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Maritime Transportation System (MTS). This effort will continue through the end of the year, with a likely draft study for review early in the summer. The Conference wants to show that targeted federal investments and policy changes will boost MTS competitiveness. Goals are to double maritime trade, shrink environmental impacts of the region’s transportation network (including roads, trains) and support the region’s industrial core. Some policy ideas are emerging now. Just as important, many Great Lakes states, e.g., Ohio, are evaluating how to best use their inland waterways. Navigable rivers and the Great Lakes: surely two complementary assets!

Tom Ewing