Category Archives: Clean Energy

A pipeline-loving agency could be key to Biden’s climate plan

From Grist. A new commission chair could change the way FERC regulates energy projects.  February 18, 2021

There’s a saying about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: It’s never seen a pipeline it didn’t like. But the commission’s new chair could make that adage a thing of the past.

Established by Congress in 1977 to regulate the United States’ energy landscape. FERC wields an enormous amount of power, overseeing the nation’s pipelines, natural gas infrastructure, transmission lines, hydroelectric dams, electricity markets, and, by association, the price of renewables and fossil fuels. It’s made up of up to five commissioners — no more than three members of the same party can serve at a time — including one chair, who sets the commission’s agenda.

Historically, the commission has not done a good job of taking climate change and environmental justice into account as it has approved and regulated energy projects across the U.S. A system for accounting for climate impacts isn’t baked into FERC’s structure. That could change as President Joe Biden executes a “whole of government” approach to tackling climate change.

In January, President Joe Biden appointed Richard Glick, formerly the sole Democratic vote on the commission, to chair FERC. Some of Glick’s priorities? Environmental justice and climate change mitigation and adaptation. At his first press conference since being appointed to lead the commission, Glick announced that FERC will create a senior-level position dedicated to assessing the environmental justice impacts of proposed projects. For the first time, the commission will take a look at how developments like natural gas pipelines affect surrounding communities to make sure they don’t “unfairly impact historically marginalized communities”.

Experts say Glick’s influence on the commission will extend far beyond the new environmental justice position. Under Glick, FERC could liberate renewables from “artificial impediments” and allow clean energy to hit the grid at the lowest possible cost. In addition to taking a hard look at MOPR (Minimum Offer Price Rule that keeps energy prices at a level gas generators needed in order to operate in a profitable manner), Glick is expected to develop a more cooperative attitude toward states and their green energy objectives. Glick could also update electricity transmission policy to encourage more transmission infrastructure — the backbone of America’s power system, without which power from power plants wouldn’t be able to flow to customers. System reliability is going to be a priority, too, especially considering the power issues Texas and other states are experiencing right now.

Glick is in a powerful position as head of FERC, but he still has to work with the Republicans on the commission, at least until June, when Republican commissioner Neil Chatterjee retires and Biden appoints his replacement.

Electric school buses would be good for Virginia, but it has to be done right

From Power for the People VA. Buses present a strong case for electrification because they serve more people of all income levels, and are mostly diesel now. February 15, 2021

Switching to electric buses, especially school buses, would save money on fuel and improve air quality, especially for children riding them. The only electric school bus bill that would have much immediate impact is so deeply flawed and counterproductive that the environmental community is largely united in opposition.


The proposed bill allows Dominion to deploy an unproven technology, electric school bus batteries used to support the electric grid, and collect the costs from ratepayers. The bill, SB1380 (Lucas), specifies that these school buses connected to the grid are in the public interest, and therefore ratepayers must pay for them, including the guaranteed profit for the utility. Also of concern is that the bill does not ensure that the buses will always be available when the schools need them for transporting kids.


While vehicle-to-grid technology is not new, it has never been deployed at this scale to support a utility’s electric grid. SB1380 will allow Dominion to charge ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars for this unproven technology, without a thorough State Corporation Commission evaluation.


The environmental community supports battery storage as a key part of the transition to renewable energy, and adding battery storage to the grid is needed for utilities to meet storage targets of 250MW by 2025 and 1200MW by 2030. However, the vehicle-to-grid technology that enables electric buses to support the electrical grid has never been implemented at this scale. Dominion has begun a pilot program, but it is in its infancy.

Biden’s Early Climate Blitz Goes Faster, Further Than Expected

From Bloomberg Green. “In my view we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis” – Joe Biden. January 27, 2021

We knew that President Joe Biden campaigned on tackling climate change, but no one expected fossil fuels to come under such an immediate attack.

Biden didn’t quietly sidetrack the Keystone XL pipeline with legal maneuvers, but cancelled the permit on his very first day.

Biden didn’t simply rejoin the Paris climate pact as promised, but had his climate advisor, Gina McCarthy, commit to “the most aggressive” carbon cut the U.S. can make.

Then, Biden signed a climate-related executive order suspending new oil and gas leases on public lands, directing federal agencies to purchase electric cars by the thousands and seeking to end fossil-fuel subsidies.

Biden is also weaving climate considerations into decision-making across the federal government. His directives established a National Climate Task Force, with members drawn from 21 federal departments and agencies.

An early look at climate and energy bills in the 2021 session.

From Virginia Mercury. Potential Climate and Energy bills in the 2021 session. January 4, 2020.

Last year, Virginia’s general assembly passed more than 30 separate clean energy bills, putting the state on a path to zero-carbon electricity by 2050. Building on last year’s progress will be hard this winter due not only to COVID complications, but also to an exceptionally short and tightly controlled legislative session.


Below are some of the bills that are far along in the drafting process and are likely to be filed this year.

  • Building codes – Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, is expected to introduce legislation that would require the Board of Housing and Community Development to adopt the latest International Energy Efficiency Code within 12 months.
  • Right to buy– Del. Jeffrey Bourne, D-Richmond, patroned a bill that would give customers the right to go outside their utility to buy renewable energy. most Virginia customers still can’t buy solar energy unless they install it on their own property.
  • Solar for public schools and other government buildings– a bill from Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke clarifies that the VCEA and Solar Freedom legislation in Appalachian Power territory applies to non-jurisdictional customers as well as jurisdictional customers. The bill also expands a pilot program for municipal net metering that will allow a local government to use surplus electricity generated by solar panels on one building for another building also owned by the locality
  • Transportation – Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, is expected to carry a bill called the Clean Car Standard, simply requires manufacturers of electric vehicles to send some of their vehicles to Virginia dealers, so consumers can actually buy them. A bill from Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun, would have Virginia offer incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles. Another bill would require a Transit Modernization Study, which would gather information about how the public is currently being served by the existing transit system
  • Environmental justice– Del. Shelly Simonds, D-Newport News, and Keam are expected to introduce a bill that will expand last year’s Environmental Justice Act to change how the state forms and carries out environmental justice policies within agencies, and to ensure greater public involvement in the permitting process at DEQ
  • Pipelines– A bill from Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, adds specificity to the currently vague process that governs small to medium changes in pipeline routes and may impact permit conditions like erosion control measures. Currently it is unclear under what conditions DEQ must re-examine plans it has previously approved. The legislation will bring clarity and explicit direction to all parties involved.
  • Fossil Fuel moratorium– Del. Joshua Cole, D-Fredericksburg, is expected to introduce legislation expanding the Virginia Clean Economy Act’s two-year moratorium into a permanent moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure, to take effect in 2022
  • Utility Reform– We should expect to see legislation to strengthen oversite of utility companies and pare back the ability of utilities to pocket overearnings.
  • ‘Bad’ Bills– we should expect to see a few bills from Republicans attempting to roll back parts (or all) of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, or trying to block Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

To Cut Emissions to Zero, U.S. Needs to Make Big Changes in Next 10 Years

From The New York Times. New research details major infrastructure work that would need to start right away to achieve Biden’s goal of zero emissions by 2050. December 15, 2020 


Princeton Researchers used some of the most comprehensive models of America’s energy system to lay out several detailed scenarios for how the country could slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as endorsed by President-elect Biden. The scenarios look at what combinations of technologies could zero out emissions at lowest cost, as well as assessing the staggering amount of infrastructure that would need to be built in just the next 10 years.

Reaching Net Zero Emissions in Virginia Could Increase State GDP

From Forbes Reaching Net Zero Emissions in Virginia Could Increase State GDP More Than $3.5 Billion Per Year. December 9, 2020

An ambitious policy package, going above and beyond the Virginia Clean Economy Act signed in April, would implement climate policies across the transportation, buildings, industrial, land, and agricultural sectors. It could put Virginia on a 1.5°C pathway and generate massive economic benefits: By 2050, this scenario could achieve net-zero emissions, generate more than 12,000 job-years, and increase state GDP by more than $3.5 billion per year.