NREL helping rural cooperatives with computer models to test local grid configurations to determine which power source goes where

How a rural utility struggled to quit coal

E&E News | John Fialka

Rural electric cooperatives have a long and proud history in the United States. Beginning in the mid-1930s, they brought electricity to rural America, lighting up 56 percent of the nation’s landmass and providing power to 90 percent of its poorest counties. They did it mostly with the cheapest energy source America had at the time: coal. There are now more than 900 local co-ops, and they are supplied by 62 regional cooperatives that provide wholesale generation and transmission services. But they are facing a major transition because solar and wind power is now cheaper than coal in many parts of the United States. That has provoked disputes between the co-ops and their power suppliers, arising in situations that have been, at times, not so cooperative. […] “We want to be as carbon creative as we can,” explained Reyes, the CEO of Kit Carson, who said the combination of more renewables and local storage will make the local network more resilient, able to minimize the damage from storms and help crews make repairs more quickly by shutting down some power lines and switching to others. “Experts and environmental groups will talk about 100 percent renewables,” he said. “But it’s like opening a puzzle box. You know all the answers are there, but you have to put the pieces together.”

To get help, Kit Carson and Guzman are participating in a Department of Energy program sponsored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that uses computer models to test local grid configurations to determine which power source goes where. Joyce McLaren, a senior energy analyst at NREL’s Solar Energy Innovation Network, said Kit Carson has been selected as the only rural co-op among a group of small and large cities, regional planning commissions, states and others exploring how to reach renewable energy goals. The idea is that over an 18- to 21-month period, the groups will develop case studies to help others meet renewable energy goals. “As renewables become cheaper and folks increase their knowledge and interest in it, I think there’s a bigger push now for that kind of transmission,” McLaren said. “We don’t help them set goals, but they may come to us and say, ‘We have this goal. How do we meet it?

The rollback that automakers don’t want E&E News | Maxine Joselow

The White House held a call with automakers last month urging them to publicly support its rollback of Obama-era clean car rules, multiple news outlets reported yesterday. Joining the call were senior officials from EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who told automakers to support the rollback or risk angering President Trump by siding with California’s more stringent tailpipe emissions rules. But since the call, not one automaker has issued a statement of support. That begs the questions: If the automakers don’t want the rollback, who does? And how did things get to this point? […] Oil and gas companies have an obvious financial reason to seek the rollback: It stands to increase their profits at the pump. Under the Trump administration’s proposal, Americans will use 20 percent more gasoline per year by 2035, according to an analysis by Energy Innovation, a San Francisco-based energy and environmental policy firm. And nationwide, Obama-era rules were projected to cut oil consumption by 200 billion gallons through 2040, according to an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The real beneficiaries of this policy are absolutely the oil companies,” Dave Cooke, senior vehicles analyst at UCS, told E&E News when the analysis came out last year. The second party is a select group of political appointees in the Trump administration who view the Obama-era rules as an example of regulatory overreach.

Idaho lawmakers hold 1st climate change hearing – and no one argued about its existence, causes Idaho Statesman | Rocky Barker

Idaho lawmakers had their first official hearing about climate change – and no one argued about its existence or causes. The House Environment, Energy and Technology committee hearing on Wednesday, carefully scripted through negotiations between the Republican majority and Democrats, represented a new phase in an evolving transformation. The impacts of a changing climate on Idaho are not new to residents who now annually suffer through “smoke season” in the summer. Climate change isn’t new to residents who, in early March, flock to earlier spring runoffs that show why Shoshone Falls on the Snake River at Twin Falls is “the Niagara of the West.” […] At the hearing Wednesday, they heard Idaho experts talk about ways to adapt to the changes in our environment and also heard about opportunities that combating global warming presents to the state. They heard Idaho National Laboratory Director Mark Peters talk about the soon-to-be-expected breakthrough in battery development that will unleash the promise of renewable energy. And he prompted enthusiasm when he talked about INL research into micro grids that can give communities large and small power stability, from rooftop solar options and small modular nuclear reactors.

It’s 2050 and this is how we stopped climate change

NPR | Dan Charles

When NPR interviewed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in February about her Green New Deal, she said that her goal was bigger than just passing some new laws. “What I hope we’re able to do is rediscover the power of public imagination,” she said. Well, we’re unleashing our imagination and exploring a dream, a possible future in which we’re bringing global warming to a halt. It’s a world in which greenhouse emissions have ended. So – what does this world look like? Mass Electrification (Batteries Hold The Power) […] This is the foundation of a zero-carbon world: Electricity that comes from clean sources, mainly the sun and the wind, cheap and increasingly abundant. Today, it powers this house; tomorrow, it could drive the world. Last year, Kiliccote quit her job at Stanford University and launched a startup company, eIQ Mobility, helping companies replace their fleets of vehicles, such as delivery vans, with electric-powered versions. “In order to have impact, timely impact, I figured that I need to leave research and focus on impactful things that I want to do. And fast,” she says. […] The Urbanization Of Everything (A Desire Named Streetcars): […] Meanwhile, thousands of people have been moving into this downtown neighborhood, buying condos and renting apartments. [Jennifer Keesmaat, former Toronto cheif city planner] knows one of them. He’s the father of one of her friends. “He said to me a few weeks ago, he thinks he takes out his car about once every two weeks,” Keesmaat says. He walks to shops, restaurants and basketball games. His neighbors walk to jobs in the financial district right down the street. He’s not heating a big free-standing house, either. He’s cut his energy use, and his greenhouse emissions, dramatically. “That wasn’t the driver for him,” Keesmaat says. “He didn’t say, ‘How do I in fact live smaller?” It just happened naturally in this new urban geography. For a city planner, like Keesmaat, this is totally inspiring. “When we provide people with real choices, better choices, it can open up our minds!” she says. “We can change our minds about what we thought was the only way to live.”