Forbes: AEP Power Plants Largest U.S. Carbon Polluter

5/28/2014 by Jeff McMahon

American Electric Power Company was the largest emitter of carbon pollution from power plants in the U.S. in 2012, according to a report released this morning by Ceres, Bank of America, several utilities and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

AEPs fleet of coal, natural gas, and oil-fired power plants emitted 141,226,882 tons of carbon in 2012, according to the Benchmarking Air Emissions report. The next runner up, Duke Energy, emitted 134,277,330 tons.

AEP is the fifth largest producer of electricity, while Duke is the largest.

AEP spokesperson Tammy Ridout noted, “The important point in this report is the reduction in emissions, including CO2, from our plants.” She went on to say, “AEP’s CO2 emissions have been cut 21 percent since 2005, and they will continue to go down as we retire another 6,600 megawatts of coal-fueled generation in the next few years. AEP is one of the largest generators of electricity in the United States, and about 60 percent of our generating capacity uses coal, so it is not surprising that we produce the highest CO2 emissions by volume. But, the CO2 emissions rate from our coal plants is ranked much lower in the report – at No. 61 on the list – which means we produce the power we make very efficiently.”

In the report, larger carbon emissions generally correlate to use of coal.

AEP relied on coal to produce 73 percent of the electricity it generated in 2012, according to the report, delivering electricity in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The Benchmarking Air Emissions report analyzes NOx (Nitric Oxide), SO2 (sulfur dioxide), CO2 (carbon dioxide) and mercury emissions of the nation’s 100 largest electric power producers, which collectively operate 2,700 power plants and generate 86 percent of the country’s electricity. It comes about a week before the EPA is expected to release new rules regulating carbon emissions from power plants.

After AEP and Duke, the largest carbon emitters included Southern Company, NRG, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Although AEP produced the most gross carbon, it did not produce carbon at the highest rate. That distinction goes to the Kentucky-based Big Rivers Electric Corporation, which relies on coal for 84 percent of the electricity it generates.

Big Rivers emitted 2,267 pounds of carbon per MWh hour of electricity produced, compared to 1,729 for AEP.

Kentucky topped the 50 states with the greatest carbon emission rate—2,099 pounds of carbon per MWh—while Texas emitted the most carbon overall, by far—261.2 million tons of carbon compared to 117.7 for Florida, the next runner-up.

The lowest carbon emitting state, for both gross emissions and emissions rate, was Vermont.

The report’s sponsors emphasized good news, including these four key findings:

  • NOx and SO2 emissions in 2012 were 74 percent and 79 percent lower, respectively, than they were in 1990 when Congress passed major amendments to the Clean Air Act.
  • Mercury emissions decreased 51 percent since 2000. ”What these reductions show us, once again, is that the power sector can successfully meet air pollution standards while keeping our lights on and making sure our economy continues to grow,” said Ceres President Mindy Lubber. “There is no reason to think they can’t do the same with carbon dioxide.”
  • CO2 emissions have declined 13 percent between 2008 and 2012. Energy efficiency improvements, displacement of coal generation by natural gas and renewable energy sources, and slower economic growth all contributed to the decline.
  • U.S. reliance on coal declined by 5 percent from 2011 to 2012. Coal accounted for 39 percent of the power produced by the 100 largest companies in 2012, down from 44 percent in 2011. Also, average utilization of coal plants (how often the plants are run) has dropped from 73 percent in 2008 to 60 percent in 2013.
  • Across the entire electric sector, renewable energy electricity generation increased 31 percent since 2010 (by more than 50,000 gigawatt hours) even as total electricity generation declined modestly.
  • “The data shows that the power sector has already begun to decarbonize, to increase investment in natural gas, renewables, and energy efficiency,” Lubber said. “We see the trend nationally, and we see it among individual power providers in all regions of the country.


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Fossil Fuel Interests Attack Renewable Energy

A new report details the extreme measure that the fossil-fuel industry has taken to attack clean energy.

Fossil fuel-funded front groups repeatedly spread disinformation on renewable energy standard and net metering policies in an effort to overturn pro-clean energy laws in 2013 and 2014.

A new report details the efforts of these front groups to eliminate clean energy policies across the country. The fossil fuel lobby aggressively uses lobbying and propaganda to achieve their goals. Self-identified “free market think tanks” are among the most effective advocates for the fossil fuel industry to lobby for policy changes. Dozens of these so-called free market organizations, a majority of which are members of the State Policy Network (SPN), worked to influence state level energy policies and attack the clean energy industry.

These organizations are usually described in neutral, nondescript terms, such as “think tank,” “institute,” or “policy group,” but publicized internal documents from the American Tradition Institute, Heartland Institute, and the Beacon Hill Institute suggest that these types of organizations embrace transactional relationships with the corporate lobbying interests that fund their operations.

The Beacon Hill Institute, a “think tank” based out of Suffolk University (and a Koch-funded member of SPN) submitted a controversial grant request to the Searle Freedom Trust, a prominent conservative foundation, in they expressly stated: “Success will take the form of media recognition, dissemination to stakeholders, and legislative activity that will pare back or repeal [the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or RGGI)].” In other words, the Beacon Hill Institute proposed to pursue biased economic research to support the express goal to “pare back or repeal” a regional climate change accord — all before the institute performed any research determining the economic effect of the law.

Another example of the pay-to-play nature of these so-called “think tanks” comes from Heartland Institute’s Internal fundraising documents which stated: “Contributions will be pursued for this work, especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate [change] policies.”

Despite positioning themselves as ideologically-focused on smaller government, dozens of these organizations aggressively denounce policy investments in clean energy as market-distorting and unnecessary, while remaining silent on the far-larger, decades-old stream of taxpayer dollars and policies supporting oil, gas, and coal interests.

Over the years, government support for fossil fuels has come from a variety of sources: tax deductions, tax credits, direct subsidies, cheap access to public property, pollution remediation, research and development, and entire government agencies devoted to helping promote and assist fossil fuel industry growth. By all credible measurements, fossil fuel subsidies are massive and extremely unpopular, and are flowing to some of the most highly profitable industries on earth. Yet, fossil fuel subsidies go largely unmentioned by these “free market” groups, such as the Heartland Institute, despite their avowed opposition to wasteful government spending.

Fossil fuel-funded front groups operate in multiple areas to influence the policy-making process in their attempts to eliminate clean energy policies. First, groups like the Beacon Hill Institute provide flawed reports or analysis claiming clean energy policies have negative impacts. Next, allied front groups or “think tanks” use the flawed data in testimony, opinion columns, and in the media. Then, front groups, like Americans for Prosperity, spread disinformation through their grassroots networks, in postcards mailed to the public, and in television ads attacking the clean energy policy. Finally, lobbyists from front groups, utilities, and other fossil fuel companies use their influence from campaign contributions and meetings with decision makers to push for anti-clean energy efforts.

Instead of advocating for a fair and free market for electricity, over the past year and a half, fossil fuel front groups have advocated to repeal, freeze, and eliminate pro-clean energy policies across the country on behalf of allies and funders in the fossil fuel industry.

This is an excerpt from a new report, issued today by the Energy and Policy Institute entitled “Attacks on Renewable Energy Standards and Net Metering Policies by Fossil Fuel Interests and Front Groups 2013-2014.” You can download the 35-page report at this link.


PUCO Cites Columbus Among Ohio’s Highest Electric Bills

In their Ohio Utility Rate Survey issued May 15, 2014, the Public Utilities Commission Ohio (PUCO) cited the rising cost of energy in Columbus as among the state’s highest. Many people — homeowners, farmers, business owners — are concerned about rising energy costs. That’s why interest in solar is exploding now. Solar is an effective hedge against rising electric rates, and allows you to lock in stable energy costs for the next 30 years.

Ask yourself: If you had locked in 30 years of buying gas back when it was $1.28/gallon, wouldn’t you feel pretty good right now?

Solar can give you 30 years or more of energy cost predictability, along with a nice internal rate of return on the solar investment. That could make you and your family feel really good — knowing you are also taking positive steps for the climate, the planet, and your future generations.



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Third Sun Solar Commissioning Process

Once a system is installed, one of our solar technicians completes an extensive inspection/system commission before the system can be energized. A commissioning form is filled out and kept on record for every installation.

Once the system has been commissioned and all solar components are operating within their design parameters, the system may be energized.

In addition to the Third Sun Solar commissioning process, the State of Ohio and the Electric Utility must inspect the system to ensure that it complies with all applicable building and electrical codes before the solar electric system is permitted to remain in operation.

Please Governor, Stop SB310

Please contact Governor Kasich & ask him to veto Ohio SB310
Please contact Governor Kasich & ask him to veto Ohio SB310
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SB-310 Darkening Ohio’s Energy Future

Ohio poised to slide into the dark on its energy policy

By Terry Smith, Athens News, May 7 2014

The state of Ohio is poised this week to continue its gleeful slide into backward, reactionary energy policy, with a state Senate Committee expected to approve an amended Senate Bill 310.

This bizarre back-pedaling is happening as most of the rest of the nation and world have accepted both the intrinsic good of ratcheting back on dirty fossil-fuel-driven energy, and the economic opportunities that come with promoting energy efficiency and a shift toward green alternatives such as solar and wind.

Before an amendment proposed Wednesday, S.B. 310 would have frozen at their current modest levels energy efficiency and renewable energy standards and benchmarks passed nearly unanimously by the Ohio Legislature in 2008. It would have canceled the 2008 legislation’s progressive stair-step of benchmarks ending in 2025. Sub. S.B. 310, unveiled Wednesday after negotiations with Gov. John Kasich’s offer, doesn’t appear much better.

It’s the predictable result of the intersection of flat-earth-society climate-change denial – now a firm plank in Republican ideology – and electric utilities and major manufacturers (or deep-pockets outside groups that support them) who are eager to contribute to state legislators who will promote and advance the doomed cause of fossil fuels. In fish-bowl Ohio, they’re all swimming heartily against the historic and scientific tide, as well as a growing business segment in advanced and alternative energy.

YOU SEE THE SAME SORT of willful resistance to reality and good government in the Ohio General Assembly’s refusal to consider raising oil and gas severance taxes to levels even approaching what they are in other frack-heavy states such as Texas and West Virginia.

The latest version of a severance tax bill in the Ohio House of Reprentatives has a top rate of 2.5 percent, which represents a compromise between Gov. Kasich’s proposal for 2.75 percent and the House’s recent proposal for 2.25 percent. It’s similar to a compromise between Bud Light and Miller Lite, basically no compromise at all.

The House Republicans had resisted Gov. Kasich’s proposal, which was still less than half of what drillers face in Pennsylvania. In West Virginia, the effective rate is 11.3 percent.

As an April 27 editorial in the Columbus Dispatch pointed out, “Kasich’s proposed severance tax could double in size and still be under those of Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Michigan, Arkansas, Texas and West Virginia – in the case of the latter four, well below.” (It should be noted that the Dispatch‘s editorial board is arguably the most conservative of Ohio’s major dailies.)

While comparing the severance taxes from state to state is difficult (the taxes are structured in different ways), no matter how you drill it, the 2.50 percent compromise proposal for Ohio is much lower than the tax in other states that Ohio is supposedly competing against to lure oil and gas drillers, entrepreneurs and investors.

Yet, there’s no public clamor to open up the state’s oil and gas sector to all comers, nor is there any groundswell for doing away with incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. Meanwhile, there’s growing public recognition of the environmental hazards of industry run rampant, especially with regard to fracking and its resulting waste disposal.

SENATE BILL 310, AS EXPLAINED in an April 4 op-ed by Jereme Kent in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, have frozen freeze in place the renewable portfolio standards and energy-efficiency standards set in Ohio’s 2008 energy policy bill. “This would be the first time in any state, anywhere in the entire United States, that a renewable portfolio standard would be reduced, frozen or repealed.” (Kent is general manager of One Energy LLC, a Findlay company that helps industrial energy users explore the use of wind energy.)

The amendment to S.B. 310, released Wednesday, would replace the permanent freeze with one lasting two years. As Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, explained in the Columbus Dispatch, a special committee, with six House members and six senators, would determine whether to make other changes to the energy rules during the two-year freeze, and recommend resulting changes, if any, to the General Assembly. If lawmakers do not set a new energy course during that time, annual increases in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources – as set in the 2008 energy bill – would re-start in 2017 and continue until 2027.

In the widely supported 2008 bill, the General Assembly required utilities to take three steps to slow the growth in spiraling electric rates: 1) achieve savings of 22 percent by lowering electric consumption through energy efficiency by 2025; 2) achieve a 12.5 percent integration of renewable energy into the state’s electrical supply by 2025; and 3) achieve a 12.5 percent integration of advanced energy (cleaner and higher-efficiency forms of conventional technologies). These goals would be achieved through regular benchmarks up until 2025.

Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, introduced S.B. 310, and reportedly was responsible for the amendment proposed on Wednesday. It should be noted that the top two campaign contributors to Balderson in 2012, after the Republican Senate Campaign Committee and Ohio Republican Party, were FirstEnergy Group, one of the main advocates of S.B. 310, and American Electric Power, donating $12,500 apiece. Balderson’s 20th District includes the very northern part of Athens County.

In an article in the March 28 Plain Dealer, Ted Ford, CEO of the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, predicted, “If enacted, Senate Bill 310 will systematically dismantle Ohio’s clean energy law, which was reaffirmed and improved in a comprehensive energy policy bill (SB 315) enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor just two years ago. This radical departure will devastate the advanced energy industry in Ohio, which includes more than 400 advanced energy businesses, employing over 25,000 Ohioans.”

Ford followed up Tuesday evening with an equally negative response to amended S.B. 310. “It is a very bad bill that is, in some ways, worse than S.B. 58 and S.B. 310. None of the proponents of the current (from 2008) standards were involved in shaping this ‘compromise.'” Ford urged other advanced-energy companies, the public and stakeholders to heavily lobby their senators and the governor against the substitute bill. “It is another attempt to take Ohio backward. It will destroy jobs, raise electricity costs, and put Ohio in a poor competitive position.”

In an email Tuesday before the Senate released its compromise to S.B. 310, Geoff Greenfield, president of Athens-based Third Sun Solar, predicted that retreating from the state’s current energy policy will cripple the growing solar energy industry in Ohio.

“If SB 310 went forward as written, it would make the economic payback for solar longer and harder to finance… Passing this law as is would probably cut in half the number of residential customers that go solar… Many would still do it even though the payback is slower,” he said. “For business customers and large projects, it would be devastating and probably shut down 90 percent of the projects, as these are much more financially driven. If this law passed as is, we (Third Sun) would stop hiring and growing in Ohio and focus on other states.” He didn’t appear to be any more impressed by the substitute bill released on Wednesday.

DEFENDERS OF S.B. 310 SAY the measure would protect Ohio electric energy consumers from the high costs of complying with standards in the 2008 energy legislation. In an April 12 op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch, Sen. Balderson claims that the 2008 energy standards were “fabricated to conform with a catchy gimmick or slogan…” Later in the opinion piece, he asserts that his legislation will allow Ohio’s energy policy to be “based on what evidence and science tell us, not the exaggerated rhetoric, slogans or how the political winds blow at a particular time.”

Anyone familiar with the rhetoric of climate-change deniers will see some of their rhetorical flourishes in Balderson’s vague references to gimmicks and slogans gussied up with a gratuitous fealty to science. That’s their perverse way of casting doubt on the overwhelming global scientific consensus that climate change is happening now, is getting worse, and is mainly caused by human-kind’s burning of fossil fuels.

Plus, as critics of S.B. 310 have pointed out and the utilities themselves have admitted, money spent on energy-efficiency standards will recoup twice as much in savings.

If Ohio wants to continue sliding backward into the darkness, while its elected representatives happily collect rent from the fossil-fuel and electric utility industries, and their allies in the dark world of Koch, it makes perfect sense to double down on coal- and gas-fired electric power and flea-market-level severance taxes for oil and gas.

One might hopes, however, that Ohio citizens would have a different idea and show it at the ballot box.

Senate Bill 310 jeopardizes national security: Letter to the Editor

Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 01, 2014 by Robert F. Shields, Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Coast Guard (retired)

The Ohio Senate plans to freeze in place the progress Ohio has made in energy consumption and utilization of renewable energy sources. In addition to the economic arguments against it, passage of Ohio Senate Bill 310 runs counter to the national security needs of the United States.

In the Department of Defense’s recently published Quadrennial Defense Review, climate change is identified as a national security threat as it will lead to increased economic and political instability throughout the world, changes that will affect the United States. The Armed Forces are already implementing improvements in energy consumption and use of renewables from Afghanistan to Ohio. The military is leading the way.

SB 310 is intended to keep coal as the primary energy source for electricity in Ohio, much to the benefit of First Energy. A 19th century energy source, coal is a major factor in this security threat to the United States in the 21st century. Our Senators can either place the wants of First Energy and the 19th century over our 21st century needs, or they can guide the Senate to stand as one with the young men and women who serve our country. SB 310 is bad for Ohio and bad for our national security.


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