Tuesday, April 6, 2010

With the tragic explosion and collapse of the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, operator Massey Energy's stock is tumbling. Coal mining has always been dangerous. Will the Big Branch disaster influence policymakers away from coal as a fuel source for electric generation? At least some financiers believe not, at least not enough to deviate from their "buy" rating. It will be interesting to see how the big coal lobby responds to the certain calls for greater government oversight of mine safety regulations.

Google and 46 other companies have asked the President for better real-time information on electricity usage. The group, including AT&T, Comcast, Hewlett-Packard, Verizon and Best Buy, wants better executive-branch support for technologies and devices that will help consumers measure their energy use in real time, and thereby to make better decisions -- the Prius effect. Beyond the social good that this would empower, no doubt Google wants to sell you the technology and interfaces to make this happen.

Premier Power Renewable Energy, Inc. has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with REgeneration Finance, LLC to fund solar PV projects ranging in size from 250kW to 2MW, in California, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

In offshore ocean energy news, a University of Delaware study concludes that it has figured out how to link offshore wind arrays to avoid the need for onshore backup power.

Maryland is pushing for a more rapid ramp-up of its solar RPS. Maryland law now requires utilities to source 2 percent of their power from solar sources by 2022, but there is a proposal afoot to accelerate deployment and increase penalties. 15-year projections suggest residential consumers might pay $2 more per month, beyond the current average monthly bill of $150 -- which some say will add to $1 billion over 15 years. Interestingly, there isn't enough solar PV in Maryland today: utility companies paid $1.2 million in penalties in 2008, and if penalties increase further, that number will rise. If the policy objective is to increase renewable deployment, you have to wonder if increasing penalties is the most effective way to get there.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has signed several green energy bills passed by the General Assembly this session. Key features include: a $500 tax credit to employers per green job created; increased funding and organizational support for clean energy research; the creation of the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority; and bonuses for investor-owned electric utilities who use wind energy.

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