Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

* According to an EIA report the share of U.S. electricity fueled by coal is expected to slowly begin growing when compared to the same period last year. But the full story is, well, more complicated and the growth is temporary. Supply, demand, weather forecasting, proximity to fuels, all are in play. EIA concludes: “By the middle of 2017, increased generation from renewable energy sources is expected to reduce the generation shares of both coal and natural gas. In July 2017, projected generating capacity from utility-scale solar and wind plants is 57% and 10% higher, respectively, than in July 2016.” Note the reduction of natural gas – that’s an important indicator.

* Seems like yesterday. Last January EPA pressers wrote how after the “2016 State of the Union address, (EPA) Administrator McCarthy hopped on a plane to the Buckeye State to learn how universities, colleges and businesses in the state are driving clean energy innovation.” That tour included a visit to First Solar, Inc., the biggest U.S. manufacturer of solar panels. Last week Yahoo! Business reported that First Solar Inc., is cutting a quarter of its jobs worldwide and will reduce production in Toledo, OH, eliminating 450 factory jobs. Earlier, Yahoo! said, the company reported challenging market conditions and needed to retool operations to begin making a more efficient, thin-film solar panel. The Toledo Blade reported in 2013 that First Solar had received $27.1 million in government assistance.

* EPA posted a rather puzzling grant opportunity last week, seeking research “Anticipating the Environmental Impacts and Behavioral Drivers of Deep Decarbonization.” What is DD? That’s when the world has pretty much completely done away with fossil fuels, not too far off for EPA, say about 2050. EPA believes that DD itself holds environmental problems that need to be anticipated, and described. And “behavioral drivers?” Not fully spelled out. But it seems to pose the question: what will it take to get consumers to behave the right way versus the, uh, well, wrong way regarding energy choices? Is it just me or does it seem a bit creepy when government documents ask about getting certain behavior from citizens? Is there a schoolmarm standing in the shadows…with a club? This agency has a looooong reach! If you’re a PhD and you know how to work the jargon EPA has $6 million available.


Tom Ewing