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Bipartisan Governors Coalition Wants to Prepare Nation's Grid For More Wind Energy
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A coalition of governors who advocate for wind energy want to work with the nation's energy regulators to prepare the grid for more wind.
Members of the Governors Wind Energy Coalition got the ball rolling earlier this month in a meeting with Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioners (FERC), discussing transmission development, grid modernization, regional cooperation, coordinated regional operations and other ways in which the parties can promote the deployment of wind energy.
“The value of wind energy resources to our states’ economies cannot be unlocked unless they have access to a market,” South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, chairman of the Coalition, said in a statement. “Long-distance transmission is the critical link between these resources and the customers who want clean and less expensive energy.”
The coalition outlined several actions governors would take in the next year with regard to grid improvements. They include:
- Inform the nation’s other governors about the positive economic impact of improving our transmission infrastructure.
- Support state and regional cooperation on transmission development by collaborating with state policy makers, state utility commissions and system operators. The Upper Midwest Transmission Development Initiative is an excellent example of governors collaborating to advance transmission development, while the Southwest Power Pool’s regional plans show that interstate initiatives can work with FERC’s support.
- Remove state legislative barriers to transmission siting, particularly ones that don’t allow state utility commissions to consider economic, reliability, environmental and functional benefits beyond state boundaries.
- Establish one-stop shops for transmission siting in states. About half of the states use this approach, which better enables transmission development, according to the coalition. One-stop-shopping can streamline the process for states while identifying unnecessary bottlenecks and showing developers that states would welcome modernization.
- Examine how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's anticipated existing power plant greenhouse gas standard could help wind development.
- Support state and regional demand response and smart grid policies that improve overall system efficiency, reliability, and resilience and aid in the integration of increasing amounts of distributed energy resources such as wind energy.
“The Commissioners and we come from different backgrounds, but we all agree the revitalization of the nation’s electrical transmission system must be a national priority and accomplished on a regional and cooperative multi-state basis,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is also vice chairman of the Coalition. “The electrical transmission system is as important today to our states’ economic development as the nation’s interstate highway system was 50 years ago.”
The governors formally asked Congress to extend the wind Production Tax Credit back in November before it expired. This week, Dave Camp, chairman of the U.S. House of Representative Committee on Ways and Means, proposed a renewal of the credit that would dramatically decrease its value and eventually phase it out.
"Expanding and modernizing the nation’s domestic electrical transmission system, both on shore and off shore, is an essential component in revitalizing the nation’s economy and creating jobs,” Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said. “The nation’s high voltage networks are aging. Most were planned and built for yesterday’s electricity markets and uses and were intended for power systems based on large power plants common in the mid 20th century. The transmission system is inadequate for the electrical demands of the states’ modern information-based economies.
"Robust transmission infrastructure increases connectivity and provides a foundation for competitive business frameworks that states can offer to retain existing businesses as well as those in the future.”
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
- Is California heading for another drought? - Los Angeles Times ›
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- California weather stays dry as rain and snow come up short | The ... ›
- California Emerged From Drought and Is Still Catching Fire - The ... ›
A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?